Excerpts from The Cardinal and the Monarch (modified)


Modified excerpts from my short story, The Cardinal and the Monarch

You’re sitting in the library of an old, log cottage that has faint, woodsy scents of oak and pine. You glimpse the pile of splintery wood that sits and waits for its turn to feed the fire, letting off a delicate, yet dirty aroma. The fire itself, which is surrounded by an array of granite stones, crackles and pops, whispers and sizzles. The flames dance and devour the wood, and embers descend like vivid raindrops. You’ve been sitting here for a while now, taking in the earthy, rich steam from your cup of French Roast. But its boldness is slowly overpowered by the fire’s thick, primitive aromas of ash and smoke. Suddenly you’re whisked away to your sixth grade camping trip, something which you would rather not remember. You decide to distract yourself from the memory, so you stand up from the comfort of the sofa and wander over to the bookshelf. You pick up the old books and flip through their worn, stained pages. You note the hints of vanilla and almonds and dust. Then you start to wonder if any of the pages have absorbed the distinct scents of its readers, because you’ve forgotten that sometimes a smell can not only take you back to a certain place, but also a certain person. Because then you would know exactly who blissfully flipped through the pages and absorbed the story the way the pages absorbed them. Maybe it was your grandmother, so you start searching for the scent of her perfume, with its floral notes, soapy, pure. You fail, but you have a better idea. You make your way from the library to the winding, creaking staircase, up to the room where she used to sleep. Bottles of perfume still line the dresser, Chanel No. 5, Norell, some with unknown names. You pick up the classic and timeless Chanel No. 5 and gracefully inhale a complex, woodsy mixture of citrus and linen. You don’t remember Grandma ever having worn this one, so you continue your search. And you find it, that comfort, that familiarity. It’s the Norell, with its golden bottle and floral, cedar-like scent. You inhale and it’s like hugging her all over again. It’s like being at her house again, with frozen snicker bars and greasy Luigi’s pizza. You linger by the dresser for a few more minutes, contemplating whether you should spritz the Norell, one time on each of your wrists. But you decide not to, because it was sacred, something that didn’t belong to you, and so you make your way back downstairs to the library. The fire is dying down; what was once a kaleidoscope of proud and blazing flames is now a subtle, fading crackling of lightly-glowing ashes. You glance in its direction before heading to the cottage kitchen, where you pour yourself a small glass of Chardonnay. Meandering back to the library, you sit by the dying fire, wine in hand. You try to smell the harmonious aroma of rich, buttery vanilla and citrus fruits that you know so well. But for some reason, all you can smell is that floral, cedar-like scent. It lingers just like a memory, like a past that won’t let you go…


A Quick History of the Ouija Board

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This article was previously published on www.myingmag.com. ing Magazine is Michigan State University’s student-run publication covering life, arts, entertainment and more.

A 1920 short film shows a janitor and cartoonist playing around with a Ouija board. Fast forward to 1944, and the board made another appearance in the horror film “The Uninvited,” and then of course in the 1964 classic “The Exorcist.” The game seems pretty straightforward; on the board are the letters of the alphabet, the words “yes,” “no,” and “goodbye,” numbers 0 to 9, and a few other symbols. Participants simultaneously place their fingers on the planchette and wait for the spirits to start spelling out messages.

Ouija boards have been prevalent in cinema for several years, generally used as a fun way to spook audience members. And it’s still very much present in contemporary pop culture; in 2016, another movie based on the mystical board was released — Ouija: Origin of Evil.

These films often show protagonists theatrically dusting off a Ouija board found hidden somewhere in a basement or attic. They may gather a few of their friends to help set up the board, form a circle around it and light some candles. Cue the dramatic music, and the characters are ready to start communicating with spirits.

But it turns out that the Ouija board is not just a simple game. It has a much longer and more enigmatic history, filled with unknowns and controversies.

A Talking Board

Hints of the Ouija board, otherwise known as a “talking board” can be traced back to the 1840s, when a new movement called Spiritualism started gaining popularity. Spiritualists claimed that the dead and living could communicate with one another. In 1886, not long after the arrival of Spiritualism, the New York Daily Tribune released an article in which a Western man reported about a “mysterious talking board” in Ohio: “I have seen and heard some of the most remarkable things about its operations — things that seem to pass all human comprehension or explanation.”

Success and Criticisms

It wasn’t until 1890 when American businessmen Elijah Bond, Charles Kennard and William H.A. Maupin decided to patent the Ouija board as a game. Its unique, ancient Egyptian name translates to “good luck.” After the patent was granted, the board became a great success. According to an article by Smithsonian.com, the board was marketed as “both mystical oracle and as family entertainment, fun with an element of other-worldly excitement.”

Despite the Ouija board’s commercial success, it also gained a bit of controversy. Some Christians believe the board can be extremely dangerous, leading to demonic possession. Others criticize it as a capitalist scam.

Nevertheless, whether you think of the Ouija board as a silly game, overused plot device or a way to contact malevolent spirits, there’s no denying its fascinating history.

To learn more about the Ouija board, Time published an interesting interview with Ouija historian Robert Murch, which you can read here: Ouija: Origin of Evil and the True History of the Ouija Board.

The Red Bow


The house is less like a castle now and more like a feeling. A little bit of emptiness. I’m sitting in the living room with my grandma and my mom orders me to stand next to her so she could take a photo of us. I go over to stand next to my grandma, and she has this smile on her face that radiates the sparkles in her cocoa brown eyes, her round childlike cheeks seem rosier than normal, mimicking the vibrant, bright, radiant red of that bow I saw on her dresser so many years ago. A color can be a feeling, of course. But the thing is, I stand right next to her and notice that she is wearing that very same bow in her hair (which probably began as a simple ribbon, classified as silk, and I start to picture it as it’s being wound and spun for the first time), and I instinctively reach out my hand to fix it because it was a little lopsided. But the contrast, oh the contrast. My grandma’s beautiful, long, snow-white hair wrapped in that bright red bow creates the most beautiful image. And I channel the sneakiness I had as a child and take my own photo of that bow in her hair. Because I thought it was so pretty sitting on her dresser so many years ago, but it became even prettier sitting against her hair now.

I have no idea where she first bought or received that bow. She had her own story for it, I’m sure, or maybe it meant nothing to her, it was just a pretty bow to wear. But it means something to me, and I often scroll through the photos in my phone, and when I come across that one, I always stop and stare at it for a little while, the way I stared at it on the dresser when I was little. Today, both my grandparents are gone and so is the house. The house that I used to get lost in, the house I used to explore, and the house where I couldn’t find that very same bow after my grandma died. It was lost just like the house. And just like her.

I always admired my grandmother. She would tell me stories of when she was younger about her volunteer ventures. There was a room at the Flint Institute of Arts for called Art Rentals, where community members could rent lovely pieces of art for their homes. It’s not there anymore, it’s lost just like the house, just like the bow, just like her, but yet I can still picture her sitting there, volunteering her time so that others could borrow a beautiful painting or drawing to hang in their home. Maybe she wore that red bow as she carefully read a novel, waiting for someone to visit and explore. And maybe that red bow matched some of the watercolors surrounding her, and I’m sure my grandmother was as gorgeous and rare as those pieces of artwork.


I remember when my sisters and I were younger; we would visit my grandparents’ house. It was such a big house, and it looked like a castle. It was easy to get lost in. It’s so strange now thinking back. We were curious, a little mischievous. We’d sneak into my grandparents’ bedroom and rummage through their closets. My grandpa’s many hats and jackets and my grandma’s makeup, purses, shoes, faux fur coats, jewels. I remember specifically finding that red bow with a clip on the back of it. It was the most radiant, striking bright red I had ever seen, and I remember that I really wanted to take it. But as mischievous as I was, I was not a thief, so I just held it in my hand and admired it.

My dad used to tell me so many stories about my grandparents, and somehow I would always picture my grandma wearing that bow while she saved the world. (Because why not look fabulous at the same time?) And now I like to picture how she came across it. (I never did ask her, though I wish I would have.) Maybe she found the bow at some flea market years and years and years ago, when she was young and road-tripping through the states. I can see it now, the flea market a vast array of colors with smiling, jovial people all around. Booths scattered across a long stretches of grass, selling everything you could think of. Maybe there was furniture, jewelry, vintage clothes, shoes, bags, handmade soaps, dream-catchers, flowers, paintings, coffee, and of course, bows.

Maybe this was the year my grandma started her collection, before she embarked on her many adventures. Maybe it started with that very red bow…

Rosh Hashanah: The Jewish New Year is a time for reflection and introspection

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This article was previously published on www.myingmag.com. ing Magazine is Michigan State University’s student-run publication covering life, arts, entertainment and more.

Rabbi Israel Baal Shem Tov once told a parable about a king who had an only son. In order for his son to acquire a great deal of knowledge and experience diverse cultures, the king sent him to a faraway land. Provided with a substantial amount of gold and silver, the son foolishly wasted his wealth, eventually becoming impoverished. Alone and desperate, the son returned to his father; however, when he arrived, he found that he had forgotten his native language. He struggled to identify himself to the guards and began to cry out. Recognizing his son’s voice, the king brought him into the house, kissing and embracing him.

Often times, rabbis will include ethical narratives such as the one above during Rosh Hashanah services. In this story between a king and his son, the king represents God and the prince represents the Jewish people. Rabbi Eli Friedman of Chabad of Calabasas explains how the king (God) “sends a soul down to fulfill the Torah and mitzvot.” When that soul (the prince) becomes distant, letting out a cry of remorse, this symbolizes the blowing of the shofar (a ram’s horn, similar to a trumpet). However, the cry is not only one of remorse, but also perseverance to improve his future. Ultimately, God forgives the soul.

Parables are used to emphasize the meaning and values of Rosh Hashanah, also called the Jewish New Year, a holiday commemorating the creation of the world. It is a time for celebration, but also for introspection and prayer. The idea is to take time to reflect on the mistakes of the previous year and ask God for forgiveness. Rosh Hashanah provides an opportunity for improvement; it is a period to start anew for the year ahead.

There are two High Holy Days in the Jewish religion: Rosh Hashanah, observed for two days, and Yom Kippur, which comes ten days after.

“Rosh Hashanah is the first day of the Hebrew month of Tishrei and Yom Kippur is the tenth day of the month of Tishrei,” said Rabbi Amy Bigman of Congregation Shaarey Zedek. “The theme of making amends or repenting for our misdeeds begins with the month prior to these holy days and culminates on Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement.”

Rabbi Bigman then went on to explain how the holy days are biblically-based.

“The Jewish Bible sets the date and the basic customs for each holy day,” she said. “All of the ritual and liturgical practices that we have today are based on the Biblical references, which were then further developed in the Talmud.”

Speaking of customs and practices, Rosh Hashanah has many. One of the more significant traditions includes attending synagogue services for prayer, where the sounding of the shofar (ram’s horn) takes place. Another common observance is to eat a variety of symbolic foods.

“It is a tradition in the Jewish religion to dip apples in honey to bring in a ‘sweet’ new year,” said Carly Rosen, a former MSU student.

Rosen also shared how important Rosh Hashanah is for her. She sees it as a time to look back on her life during the past year.

“It reminds me of all the things that I take for granted: family, friends, health, happiness. And it makes me thankful that I am fortunate enough to have all of those things,” she said. “It is also a big time for family. No matter what is going on in everyone’s life, we all come together and celebrate the new year. It truly warms my heart.”

Sounds of Sunday Morning

I am far away from home, yet I am there. My eyes are closed, and I can see and hear everything. It is Sunday morning and I hear the muffled static of the stereo being turned on, a distinct white noise that transforms into a thumping beat of classic rock. It’s a signal, a signal that it’s time to wake up. Groggy and restless, I finally lift myself from the bed, its ancient mattress coils emitting a resounding, shrill squeak. I make my way downstairs to our piano room, and from there, the kitchen is half visible. I can see the back of my dad’s head as he carefully leans over the morning paper, flipping and folding, fluttering and flapping, building a crescendo of rustles. He obnoxiously slurps from his cup of coffee, and it makes me think of a large crashing wave. I’m now sitting on our couch next to the window, and another pot of coffee is brewing, bubbling; it sings a song of drip, drop, drip, drop, interrupted by rough coughs of steam every so often. I can already smell it from the piano room, and its scent conditions my mouth to water and my stomach to rumble like a distant thunderstorm. But I stay where I am–my favorite room in the house–and I try to block out the sounds of the coffee–it’s a torture to wait. So I focus on the sweet melody of a bird’s song outside, intertwining with the tinkling and plinking of our wind chime as it catches a gentle breeze; the harmony contrasts with the sounds of our stereo, which has become louder and louder, vivacious booms of the music which shake the entire room and thud within my chest. I’m lost for a moment, until my dog lets out a ferocious bark from outside the window, less of a bow- wow, more of a ruff, and this makes me think of how people say that dogs bark in different languages, just like humans speak in different languages, but these thoughts are soon interrupted by the cheerful tone of my dad’s voice: “Coffee’s ready!” And I start thinking, that sentence may be the most beautiful sound in the world.