Category Archives: short stories

A Short Story

Pneumonia and Mom

“Mom, Emine Hoca will make the first selections today! Then, all teachers will narrow down the candidates to 3. From those 3, only 1 will get to be the queen, and the other 2 will walk behind her as her maids of honor. I so want to be the queen!”

            “Hülyam, it’s alright if someone else is chosen. Every one of the girls in your class has a chance to be the queen or a maid of honor. And so do you. Your teacher’s task is not easy. You all are so very pretty.”

            “Yes, but, Mom, I really, really want to be the queen! Emine Hoca showed us the drawings of the queen’s costume and what her princesses will wear. The queen’s dress is the most beautiful!”

            “Sweetie, please, keep in mind that you may not be among the 3. That won’t mean you are not as pretty as your classmates. Don’t forget: your teacher can only choose 3 from among you all.”

            “I know, Mom. But I think she will pick me. She loves me so. I am her best student. Whenever I go back to school after being sick, she hugs me and welcomes me back with a big shout to class. You know that!”

            “Yes, darling, I know. But still . . .”

            Without waiting to hear the end of Mom’s sentence, I left for my room merrily. I had my schoolwork yet to finish before I could start my day-dreaming of the day.

◊ ◊ ◊ ◊

            “MOM! MOOOOOM! I got it!!!! I am the queen!”

            “Oh, Sweetie, I am so happy for you!”

            “Thanks, Mom. I am so excited. You will start sewing my costume right away, right?”

            “Of course, my darling. But first, I have to buy the materials.”

            “Can you do that now? Please!”

            “Once your Dad is home, we will both go out and get everything I need. Okay?”

            “Thanks, Mom!”

Swimming in glee, I went to my room again. Schoolwork could not wait. And “23 Nisan” was just around the corner. What a marvelous day that was going to be! I, the queen of the entire children’s parade, was going to walk in our city’s biggest stadium, 19 Mayıs Stadı that I had seen only in pictures. And on one of our most important national holidays, at that. In front of thousands of people. Oh Ankara, I so love you! Emine Hoca, I so love you!

            As soon as Dad came home from work, Mom left with him to buy the materials for my costume and headwear. I was going to have a tiara on my head!

            Time went by too slowly for me. Whenever Mom had an hour or more to spare from all the household chores she did every day, she was working on my queen outfit. She was coughing a lot. Her face was quite red. Her eyes were red and a little swollen. Her nose was running. After dinner one evening, right before I went to my room to try to sleep early, I noticed Mom resting her head against the top of one of the arm chairs in our sitting room (the formal living room was kept for the many guests who visited my parents quite frequently). She didn’t look like Mom. Her face was even redder; her nose, even more so. Her overall demeanor was sluggish. She did not even notice that I was standing at the doorway looking at her intently.

            “Good night, Mom. I’m going to bed. You know about my exams tomorrow. I will study a bit more and then will go to sleep.”

            “Alright, Sweetie. Don’t be too long. You need your rest. I’ll see you in the morning. Good night, my darling.”

            I couldn’t just leave her there like that. I turned around and asked: “Mom, are you alright? You look different.”

            “I’m fine, Sweetie. Just a little tired, I guess. You go ahead and get a good night’s sleep.”

◊ ◊ ◊ ◊

23 Nisan Çocuk Bayramı was a dream come true! The stadium was full. The long walkway in front of the many stations where the parade stopped to receive applauses was dry enough after the heavy rain that had hit the entire city earlier that morning. I felt like what I thought queens would feel every single day: on cloud nine. My costume was perfect. My tiara was perfect. The way Mom made my hair was perfect. Everything was perfect.

            On that Sunday, I overheard Dad talking to Mom in their bedroom. He was trying to convince her to see the doctor asap in the morning. Pneumonia was nothing to mess with.

            Only much later would Dad tell me how sick Mom was throughout the time I kept pushing her to finish my costume. She had been running a high fever all along. It is only after Dad’s confession that I put two and two together to understand why Mom was wearing a heavy coat on a beautiful day in April and had even a scarf around her neck.

Thank you, Mom. Not only for that stunning costume you made for me. But for your selfless love.

*This short story is currently placed in my upcoming new book of prose, Once upon a Time in Turkey . . .

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A Proem

Proem

Bir varmış, bir yokmuş . . .

The phrase above echoes the opening lines of a fairy tale in Turkish. How often have I heard them as a child! Little did I know that, one hot summer day in 2016 while sitting on my small patio, I would conceive in those four words the title of this book, my first fictional prose – or better yet, my first autobiographical fiction. I cannot count the nights when my mother would read to me my most favorite children stories from classical Turkish literary traditions, each time starting with “Once upon a Time”. I do not remember at what age I began to talk legibly, but I suspect my first utterances were, “bir varmış, bir yokmuş” . . .

In our human existence, there is one core three-way reality: We are born, we live, and we die. Throughout that in-between-phase, we hope that our lives have mattered to our beloveds. It is the hope for permanence; that we live on beyond our death. This collection is my attempt to seek such a permanent memory for my loved ones. At the same time, it is my tribute to those beloveds of mine who are no longer here in the realm of what we perceive to be our reality. It is my way of proving to myself that their lives mattered and continue to matter.

Once upon a Time in Turkey is anything but a fairy tale. Hence, my reference above to the hybrid genre, fictional autobiography. In my stories, I indulge myself in taking the liberty to work hand-in-hand with those elements of literature that are inherent in and integral to creative fiction: the stories I share with you inside are true indeed. They are, however, dressed in imaginary attires – masks and costumes, if you will. While flashbacks comprise their stronghold, they do not come to surface in any particular chronological order. As a stream of consciousness, I have taken poetic license randomly in helping them step out of their cold-blooded and often sad realities. My intent was to construct a short-prose assembly in order to put in writing how I remembered my interactions with my loved ones over the many magical years throughout which they had gifted me with immense love, joy, happiness, and unconditional support.

Laughter, tears, surprises, enchantments, anticipations, fears, suspicions, regrets, resentments and loves . . . decided on that hot summer day in 2016 to wake up my spirit which had been asleep for too long. All the emotions, thoughts and experiences no longer wanted to be pushed back to the most remote corners of my consciousness. Nor did any of them choose to stay numbed inside my heart anymore. They demanded to be listened to. So, my unforgotten memories began to voice themselves in me.

It is my hope that you will join me around this gathering of tales; tales that traveled from my country of birth, Turkey to reach your  hearts. May you receive them in their intended spirit and feel joy, however small, alongside mine with which I have been privileged to live throughout my life as a Turkish girl, teenager and young woman. 

~ ~ ~ ~ ~
The preface to my pending book of autobiographical short stories, Once upon a Time in Turkey

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A Short Story

“Sister, I Love You But . . .”

I remember the setting as if I am there today. My grandfather’s home in Istanbul, that is. For many years, he lived in one of the many picturesque old multi-story houses. To my eyes as a little girl then, the decorative iron gate seemed gigantic. A flagstone walkway surrounded by a garden of a large variety of flowers led to the entry door. Entering the grounds alone was magical. Unless my parents made an effort to take us to neighborhoods with private homes, such sight was not at all common in Ankara where we lived. Flats in tall apartment buildings were most popular in Turkey’s capital. My Mom always compensated the lack of nature by filling our home with plants and fresh flowers. Still, her father’s place mesmerized us all.

Grandpa also had a fenced-off vegetable garden, which stood in the back on a large piece of land. He had had a swing set installed for my brother and me so that we could have fun whenever we visited him and his wife. That delightful entertainment piece sat very close to the low-lying stone walls way in the back. Together with the many sets of big trees, the walls were separating Grandpa’s home from those of the neighbors. The house had several balconies. One was situated on the second floor right outside the kitchen and offered a clear view of the swing set. My brother and I loved spending our time there, while Mom and Grandpa’s wife prepared a delicious meal for us to enjoy on that balcony.

It was almost breakfast time one day. The adults were making the preparations. My brother and I asked Mom if we could go to the backyard. Before she could finish saying, “Yes, just be careful”, we were out the door. Off to the swing set we went. We took turns pushing. During the last round of our fun activity, I was on the swing. All of a sudden, a dog appeared along the stone wall. At first, he kept its distance, but was barking at us nonstop. In a soft voice, my brother said, “Hülya, don’t be scared. I am here. He can’t do anything to you. I am not going to push you anymore, because we should race home once you get down.” I remember being terrified. I shut my eyes so tightly that I felt a little dizzy. I don’t know anymore how many minutes it took for the swing to lose its speed. I heard my brother’s voice again. This time, it was coming from a distance. He was shouting, “Mom and Grandpa are on their way to get you. The dog ran toward the trees. Hülya, I love you but I have to make a go for it!”

When I finally opened my eyes – still sitting on the swing, Mom and Grandpa were right beside me. No sight of that dog. No sight of my brother, either. To this date, I don’t know how he did it (and forgot to ask him every time I had a chance to find out that morning’s details). But he somehow had managed to climb up the stone wall to safety – waving at us all, beaming shyly.    

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