“Truth in a Bottle” Short Story

By: Carrington Chung

“What is it ?” Diana asks looking down at the hole.

“It’s a bottle — obviously,” Cassie said rolling her eyes “with some sort of paper in it.”

I pick up the bottle, took it inside and carefully placed it on my pitch black countertop. I shook the bottle and took the piece of paper out from inside, brushing it off carefully. I hold a magnifying glass up to the document and I try to decipher the writing on the aged, yellow piece of paper.

“It’s an old document. Seems official too, like it’s from the second half of the 20th century.”

“Elijah how can you even tell ? Does it have a date ?” Denzel inquires.

“Yeah, at the top it says February 1963,” I reply.

I scan the paper to find pictures of some sort of vest but I can’t be too sure, I’m not a fashion expert. Flipping the paper on the back, at the top it says “Stefan Chamberlin.” The paper has all sorts of measurements and drawings all over it. A light flicked on in my head and I remembered the name. Chamberlin was the name of the person who lived in this house before my friends and I moved in. I always liked this house because of the big backyard. Mr. Chamberlin had spent most of his time out there.  Mr. Chamberlin passed a couple years back though and now I live in his house. Funny how life comes full circle.

“Cassie come check this out. What is it?” Christopher calls from across the room

“It’s Kevlar, you know the bulletproof vest military guys use.”

In my head I was thinking “Why is Mr. Chamberlin’s name on this document, and why does he have this at all?”

“Yo, wouldn’t it be so funny if the old guy who lived in this house before us actually invented Kevlar,” Denzel exclaims.

We all laugh at Denzel as he always has these “great epiphanies,” but to be honest this one makes some sense to me. I mean I know Stephanie Kwolek invented the vest but it just seems sketchy that Mr. Chamberlain would even have this document.

“That’s not actually that stupid Denzel. We should dig into this.” I said.

“Elijah, he’s joking and even if we wanted to what are we supposed to do with a random document and an assumption? It’s not like we can ask Chamberlin– he’s in the ground remember. ” Diana states.

“We can ask Selena,” Christopher says.

“Selena who?” I ask with great interest.

“Selena Chamberlin. The old man’s daughter. She lives up in New Jersey. Let’s pay her a visit. College classes aren’t gonna be back on until September and we’ve got nothing but time.”

“I’m down for a road trip! Let’s get packing!” Diana squeals

I know my friends are doing this just to get a free road trip but to me this is important. This could rewrite a moment in history making me question everything in history and whether or not what they tell you to believe is true. I cared about old man Chamberlin even though we never spoke. Some people just have unspoken connections.   

“OKAY! Load up the RV! Jersey here we come!” Diana hollered from the driver’s seat, the week after.

Seeing that we had time on our hands and Massachusetts was only 4hrs away from New Jersey, Cassie, Denzel, Christopher and I all start to brainstorm as to why old man Chamberlin had original sketches of Kevlar.

“Maybe it’s not his,” Denzel and Christopher agreed.

“It has his name at the top but if it was his the patent would be in his name and he would have been credited for the original invention. If Chamberlin actually invented Kevlar the prints must have been stolen or maybe he couldn’t carry out the designs for some reason,” I state trying to come up with logical explanations.

“Elijah I agree but we need to come up with a plan as to what we are going to say to Selena, I mean we can’t just show up at her door and ask about her dead father and demand explanations of his property that we dug up. I say that we explain that we knew her father and we were curious as to the origins of this documents if it is okay with her,” Cassie says confidently.

Cassie always comes up with plans as she is the most level-headed out of all of us. She always knows what to do and is in control of everything. She used to be student body president, head cheerleader and captain of the volleyball team in high school. Leadership runs through her veins like blood pumping to your jugular.  Denzel, Christopher and Diana are the wild ones–reckless and you have to keep them on a tight leash. Bless their hearts but if you don’t keep them in order they can burn down a building. We all met freshman year of high school in detention when Diana, Chris and Denzel were in trouble for burning down the chem lab. Cassie, of course, was in charge of them because she was teacher’s aid and well, for me, I guess being late first day of school, at a new school, in a new state wasn’t the best way to make a good first impression but hey one hour of all of us in a room birthed a great friendship.

 

At the door of Selena Chamberlin’s House

 

“This neighborhood is horrible. I think I just stepped on a dead rat.” Chris whined

“Doesn’t matter — just knock lightly,” Cassie says

*tap tap*

“Oh please,” Diana says

*BOOM BOOM BOOM*

“Diana!” Cassie snaps

The door slightly opens and a hazel eye is in between the crack of the door

“What do you want ?” The shaky voice says

“Hi Miss Chamberlin, I’m Elijah and these are my friends. We live in your father’s old house and we had some questions to ask if you don’t mind,” I ask politely

“My father is dead I can’t help you,” Selena states

I shoved my foot in the door before she could close it completely.

“Wait — it’s about the Kevlar Document!” I rush to mention trying not to pay attention to the pain in my foot.

She looks at us up and down then down at the document then back at us and next thing we knew, we were in Selena Chamberlin’s living room.

“My father created the original design for Kevlar bulletproof vests in 1961 and finished the sketches in February 1963. It was named Kevlar after my grandfather, Kevlar Chamberlin. My father worked so hard on those. It was his passion to invent but his designs were stolen by the hands of an insecure Cullen– Stephanie Kwolek,” Selena explains

“Why would she steal your father’s designs?” Denzel asks

“Stephanie and my father were in a relationship for a while after my mother fled ship when she had me young. My father grew sick at a young age and he thought it would be a good idea to break up with her so she wouldn’t have to have him as a burden but Stephanie took offense and was madly in love with my father. She knew about the Kevlar designs and stole them and took them as her own. I guess for insurance my father buried one of the design sheets. My father’s early dementia made him forget that he ever created the designs and Stephanie ended up taking credit, recognition and money from my family which are three things you can see by living standards, that I need.” Selena explains

We were all in shock at this story. In shock that what we read in history books may not even be the real thing I mean when you think about it, history is written from one person’s perspective; a perspective that may be different from yours.  

“Well here we have the original document! It’s yours! You can use this to get the money you need and get your father’s recognition!” Diana suggests with wide smile.

Selena stares at her through her aging, hazel eyes and with a crooked smile but a smile that meant well. She looked about late 40’s to early 50’s and her house is dank and dark and I don’t think she was ever married since we call her Miss Chamberlin.

“That’s very kind sweetheart but I’ve already gotten my closure about my father’s death. No need to reopen closed wounds,” Selena says with her hands crossed in her lap.

“Are you sure you don’t want to at least keep the document ?” Cassie asks

“I want you kids to keep the document. It is truly something special to hold a piece of history in your hands especially true history, the kind with an untold story to go along with it,” Selena says showing her pearly whites.

After leaving Selena Chamberlin’s house I felt as if I had learnt an important life lesson, that you should question everything twice before you perceive it to be true.

“Believe none of what you hear and only half of what you see” -Benjamin Franklin.

 

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“Gypsies in the Sixties” Short Story

Sunburned, yes, but it’s 1965. No one really cares whether your skin is scrunched up and boiled like a lobster or fried crisp like an overdone chicken wing because this is the time of the gypsies and being in the sun is a way of life. There is miles and miles of trailers, caravans and tents as far as the eyes could see and people are sprawled half-dressed or almost butt naked on the grass and veranda chairs they brought with them. There is an electric buzz in the air and heightened shouts and low whisperings masked by a thick smoke of sweet sensimilla that intoxicates even those not interested to smoke.

 

A girl passes with a cherry red face and flower headband print in the forehead that compliments the long peasant skirt that sweeps the grass.  A bright, carefree personality covered miles and miles of peeling skin peeped out from above her shoulders and gave her a questioning glance as he asked “This waiting is such a drag…where’s the Pope.” “He should know gypsies don’t wait around”. “Maybe it’s worth the wait” she replies “I’m beginning to think he’s one of us. His dress certainly fits!” “In Rome ?”

“Out of Many, One People” Creative NonFiction Piece

“Out of ma-a-ny, one pe-people, that’s confusing mama, what does it mean?’ hopscotched the little girl as she read the Jamaican Motto. It was emblazoned on the great wall leading out of immigration to the Delta Boeing 747 and the great big USA, land of the free and the brave, Orlando in particular. I didn’t hear the mother’s response because of my hurried steps to board but as a static state of calm replaced  the gut wrenching fear of take- off, my scrambled brain slowly settled back on the subject, musing on how appropriate it was for that motto to be there. The words were loud and unapologetic, painted among the lower-cased, scattered historical facts about victories won or battles scarcely lost by a country no bigger than a pea on the map. Its was noticed by a child not more than eight – confusing though it may be but to the droves of sun-kissed tourists, the multitudes of reluctant, returning resident aliens and immigrants or to the bonafide, roots, Jamrock Jamaican like myself, it should be anything else but.

 

As I obeyed the fasten seatbelt sign I thought of the ever changing kaleidoscope of racial hues, black, white, brown, light brown, red, chocolate and the occasional albino that defines the Jamaican population of which I am a part, I grew up oblivious of the color of my skin. Not for want of being aware, “having eyes but seeing not, nor ears but hear not” –  but simply because skin color was irrelevant.The essence of existing was facing everyday the “no problem mon” style, surrendering to the melting pot of becoming “one people” resorting to racial references only in the voice of “many” seeing and announcing cultural accolades.

 

The plane bucked and shivered as if trying to digest something larger than itself, I gripped my seat and tried to do the same, for my thoughts troubled me. How will that little dark skinned girl I saw earlier survive the clear racial barriers and battle lines drawn in every facet of the society  in which she was headed. Here in this brave and free land she will find race does not define you but degrades you, does not shout with many voices but has crisp white overtones, shady red monotones and deep dark undertones. She will feel overwhelmed, like I am, not in a melting pot of hues but in a melt down of bigotry, innuendos, hate, condescension, ridicule and political correctness. If like me, though her Jamaican foundation was carefully laid then racism will only become a ladder that you climb to find the better part of yourself.

 

If you look closely at that wall and scroll slowly down to the edge of the large lettered motto you will find a list that starts with an important fact. “Jamaica is the only country in the world with a church every 5sq. Miles”. Then below that “….the only country with a prayer as their national anthem.” Here is a place where freedom rings and fear, in a people, is non-existent. For me the land of the free and home of the brave was behind us– the country that we just left. That small, insignificant, pea-sized, third land with the Great Wall.

 

“Shadows of Fear” short story

The night breathed through the apartment like a dark animal. Never before had I  seen such darkness. It was opaque and iridescent all at the same time.  One minute it was a thick, impenetrable  wall then next a swirling luminous curtain that wafted close to my face, allowing me to see nothing unless pushed aside.  I was standing on the doorstep of a pale yellow house with enormous red doors that seems too large for its small structure.The light that struck the house was as incomprehensible as the darkness I had just left behind, its brightness was blinding and direct like a beam from a spotlight. It shone directly at the house and cast no shadows, making the darkness around it almost palpable. Fear clutched at the center of my chest, crushing  my heart against my lungs making breathing impossible. The huge red doors opened with the flourish  one would expect on being ushered into a formal function but what it revealed tore a blood curdling scream from the center of my being. A monstrous wooden door stood before me from which hung a large padlock, its color tainted by the congealed blood that came from the crooked, grotesque letters above it that spelt my name. I awoke with a start and sat bolt upright as my bedroom door crashed open and my mother rushed in with concern and puzzlement written all over her face.

 

“ Another  dream?” she asked, which sounded more like a statement than a question.

 

“Yeah” I said, trying to find my matter-of-fact voice as I pulled my soaking wet sleepshirt over my head. She sat on the bed and held my chin to gain access to my eyes

 

“ You know dreams are normal, right? Even if they come couple days in a row, happens a lot to normal people, don’t take it too seriously ok?”

 

“Sure, I know mom it’s ok, it was nothing” My matter-of-fact voice was now spot on.

 

“ Tell me about it when you’re ready” she said as she exited the room.

 

I swung my clammy legs off the bed and went into the bathroom and headed straight for the shower. I leaned my head back to let the water beat directly against my face in

an effort to wipe away the memory of the horrible nightmare. “And yes mom, it was a nightmare not a dream” I said aloud. This was the second night and the second nightmare, the first one as indelible as the one I just awoke from. I remember it was the same darkness, the same rough pavement under my feet and the same house. I was standing on its doorstep only this time it had no door. The image of my face was barely visible in the steam covered mirror which seems to evaporate in tandem with the clarity of vision in my head. My nightmares were not random, they were connected and each one took me further into a story I was not willing to read.

 

I need to talk to Jessica” I thought feverishly, as I hurriedly towelled dry my hair and stepped into my jeans. “Its Saturday” my brain double checked, I knew exactly where to find her.

 

Jessica was my best friend from as far back as I can remember and we have gone to the same school and lived in the same neighborhood up until two weeks ago. Her family downsized because of a divorce and now she lived in a small house with her mom just a few miles out of the city. I have not visited her house yet because of our crazy schedule but we have been meeting at

the public library for everything else other than to read books. As I leapt up the Library stairs doubletime my need to confide in Jessica about my nightmares became unbearable.  

 

“Jessica, gue…” only to have the words frozen mid air, for the table was empty, The few occupants who were there shot me disdainful glances for my above- the-decibel voice.

 

She was late and that was not Jessica, that was me, i’m always the late one.  I made the decision, i’d go find Jessica. She would be at her new house and If I can recall, Jessica said it was one bus from the station straight to her gate.

 

As I slowly stepped off the bus and looked at Jessica’s house a deep hysteria that enveloped me and the surreality of the moment was only belied by the loud roar of a lawn mower somewhere to my right. The house that stood before me was pale yellow with large white columns that flanked a large red door. My legs felt heavy and as  I glanced down at them part of my brain registered that they were still attached  while the other noted the rough concrete slabs that lead the pavement up to the door. I was in the midst of a deep panic attack before I knew what was happening. What If I opened the door only to find that ugly door behind it? Whose name would be written on it? Jessicas or mine? Whose blood was on the door and where is she?  In the muddled mess of my mind I know one thing to be true, I must stop dreaming.“I have to save Jessica, or myself’ I said aloud as my vision slowly blurred and I felt myself sink to the ground.

 

A Collection of Poems: My Top Three

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(Source: Pexels.com- a man with pain represents the type of pain you can feel when guilty.)

This poem is my all ‘round number one poem that I have written. This piece is about the strong guilt one can feel– so strong to the point where you go insane and the guilt literally eats at you. Through this poem I hope my audience learns that to get over the guilt to feel and to finally have peace you must first go through a period and unexplainable pain. This is defiantly one of top 3 poems because it is relatable. At one point or another we have all felt extremely guilty about something and it affects us severely.

“Gut Wrenching Guilt”

I awoke in a haze, hunched, hearing screams of terror.

Beside me lays a shrieking army of savages slain,

The guilt in my abdomen was disemboweling.

 

Was I my own procurer ?

My memory was a blur,

A ricochet effect on my heart,

Causing me to squall —

The bloodcurdling sight .

One cannot just dislodge guilt,

First you go through a plateau period.

 

 

pexels-photo.jpg

(Source: Pexels.com – The person hiding behind the wood represents the different places where poetry hides)

Number two on my list of my three is my poem about all the different places where poetry can hide. Through this poem I would like the audience to learn that a meaningful poem can be hidden right in front of you or carefully hidden away. Wether that place is physical or in your emotions. Why is this one of my top three?  I think it’s vey inspiring. It can motivate people to want to create something unique. It makes people curious and interested as if finding the right words is a quest that one cannot resist.

“Where Poetry Hides”

Poetry hides in between my words,

Poetry hides in my self reflection right before I sleep,

Poetry hides in my dreams,

Poetry hides in my nightmares,

In the noises I hear at night,

 

Poetry hides in the crevices between my teeth,

Poetry hides in the laughter I put on when I’m hurting,

Poetry hides in the words I carefully don’t say,

Poetry hides behind the image that people care so much to maintain,

The lies that we are told everyday.

 

Poetry hides in my struggles and mistakes,

Poetry hides in the place where my heart breaks,

Poetry hides in the uniqueness in my eyes

Poetry hides in the authenticity of my smile

Oh poetry– only the right souls will find,

That’s why poetry always hides.

pexels-photo-57862.jpeg

(Source- Pexels.com the girl smiling represents what I would like my audience’s reaction to be when they read my poem)

My last poem is about being care free in life. About seeing the good in life and taking notice of the little things. Through my poem I hope to achieve my goal of having my audience have a more easy going mindset. I want it to be a breath of fresh air for people when they read it. I want it to make other happy and bring a smile to their faces. This is one of my top three for so many reasons but the biggest one is because sometimes we all need a reminder that even though there is a lot of evil in this world there is beauty at the same time, a beauty we al should acknowledge.

“Kaleidoscope”

 

The buzz in the atmosphere,

is a slight emptiness that was almost lucite,

Sometimes at a jog,

Sometimes meandering,

Bursting with colors like magenta.

I said Bonjour to the Kaleidoscope.

 

What is Good Writing?

Unique style

If a writer can convey their thoughts to the reader and evoke a certain feeling then the writer would have achieved it’s goal. Writing is personal and relative to place and time. People use writing to vent, show a point of view, take you out of your comfort zone, inform, or to troll. In all of these situations, the writer should make a connection to its audience and maintain it throughout. Not all of the time will the theme (s) or topic delved into, be of paramount interest to the reader but a good writer, with good writing skills can and will captivate the reader’s interest. The reader should walk away feeling anything, except nothing.

Source: pexels.com

 

Amazing Prose

Writing that takes you out of your comfort zone for me is the best kind.  Misery by Stephen King  is the perfect example. Reasons being, the plot thickens and the protagonist is someone you love to hate. The suspense is killer and even though you want to stop reading because the main character is evil – it is the very reason why you can’t! You are compelled along by an unpredictable plot, unique style complemented by almost simple, direct prose. On the other hand  Frankenstein by Mary Shelley takes effort for me to finish leaves me flatlining, emotionally. The book is meandering with limited dialogue and seems to be filled with irrelevant information.

 

Disconnection with the reader marks poor writing as it underscores good. For afterall, we write so someone might read, what stands in the way of that can only be delivery. Good writing can be easier with specific categories and some writer’s genius can be limited to one or widely varied. Because writing is such a powerful and far-reaching tool,  I believe that  those who understand their genius should stick to what they do best , if they want to be heard. On a whole, good writing must be a personal point of view delivered with excellent vocabulary and unique style.