Neil Gaiman on Writing: From The Nerdist Podcast


The Skies Are Lighted With Lamps #28 (A part of my novel)

A year had almost gone by and Toney was doing quite well.  During the past few months, he was able to acquire sufficient money working at Mr. Chin, so that he was able to make renovations to the house.

Jason was now approaching eighteen; doing so in a couple weeks.  He still missed his old home back on Dow Island, but at least his complaining got less and less in the ear of his parents.

Merry too had settled in nicely in the village.  From time to time she stitched draperies and sold.  The village women really grew to love her designs.  With almost any type of material Merry got her hands on, she was able to make artistic miracles happen.

Village life was quiet.  A bit quieter than what the family were used to on Dow Island, but, all in all, the few month were excellent.


About 8:00 pm on Sunday, Mr. Chin and his two daughters had already gone to bed for the night.

Toney and Merry had also turned in.  Toney lay in his usual position on the bed.  His back rested slightly against the wall.  Merry’s head in his arms.  Her ear listened to each thump of his heart.  Like the swings of a pendulum, the sound sent her sailing to the world of sleep.

Jason had asked to stay out a bit later and trusting him, Toney agreed.

The breeze gently ruffled the trees outside.

As Toney lay in bed, he imagined the life he wanted for his family.  A life filled with peace and unity, a life with ease, a life which will have been difficult, had he stayed on Dow Island.  He knew his upbringing was not the ideal but at present, he had done all he could to bring a measure of happiness to his family and so far, he was managing to do this.

As he too began fading into sleep, he heard the howls of his dogs.  His eyes widened.  He knew the call of his dogs signals and knew how to listen between their calls.  They did not let up.

Toney knocked his fingers gently on the window sill above his head.  He was hopping not to wake his wife, who by now was fast asleep.  Yet, with the howling outside, Merry did not even budge.

In the distance he heard a faint crackle, and then a slightly louder one.  He found it strange, as beaming on the window ledge appeared a bright light.  It was a brilliant glow, one that he could not ignore.  For a moment, he thought to himself that he had left the lamp on in the kitchen, but the light was not coming from inside the house.

“Merry, Merry wake up, I smell smoke!”

“What’s that Toney, why do you need soap?”  Merry groaned as she wrestled to open her scarlet shot eyes.

Toney rolled her off his arms and pulled himself to a seating position.

“Light,” he said.

“I am tired love, come back to bed,” she protested.

As she said those words, Toney brushed aside the cotton curtains and pushed his head out of the window opening.  By then, he knelt on the bed next to Merry’s head.  His eyes, squinting, narrowing his vision; feverishly he tried to get a fix on the location of the disturbance.

The cool air that was evident during the early evening, was converted into a great furnace of gray smoke, churning among the trees.  The skies were a red and orange blanket.

The teak trees along the footpath leading to the main road, became ghostly figures, creatures seeking shelter, bending in one direction but not able to take cover.

“Fire, fire Merry, something is not right out in the trees!”  Toney shouted.

“What?  Where is Jason, Toney?”  Merry, fully coming to her senses.

“I’m not sure Merry, I am sure he is alright though,” Toney jumped over her and grabbed his jeans from the corner of the room where it hung on a nail driven in the wall.

She threw a shirt at Toney as he ran out of the bedroom towards the kitchen.  As he moved passed Jason’s bedroom, he looked in but his son was absent.  Merry ran after him but stopped short at the kitchen table, her heart racing.  Her fingers and toes, cold.  Toney forced opened the front door, breaking the handle in his haste.  In the confusion, he did not realize his shoes lay tucked neatly beside the kitchen sink; jumped down the flight of steps and into the night.

Hurriedly, he moved through the track leading from his house, to the main road.  The air, chocking.  His toes, like claws propelling himself through the air, they seem to barely touch the earth.  His arms flapped clumsily as he tried to gain his balance.  He stumbled out of the track and onto the stone road.  He then stopped in horror.

On the western side, just before the street took a sharp turn, he saw the terrifying flames.   He thought to himself, something must have ignited in Peter’s bar, and the presents of alcohol, fuel for the flames.

He made his way down the street, racing once more.

A sole man, running as fast as his legs could carry him.

But nearing the flames, he beheld he is not alone.  About fifty or sixty meters away, the street, filled with residence, buckets in hand.  But as they threw water on the raging beast, this only served to infuriate the creature further.  The damage was already done, the structure, gutted.

Toney moved closer to assist, however, as he came about forty feet of the commotion, he made a grimmer discovery.  For it was not Peter’s bar being consumed, but Mr. Chin’s grocery, the place of his employment.

Toney ran to the side of the structure.  A chain of residence about ninety or maybe one hundred strong, snaked their way to the river; which passed a little less than quarter mile off the main road.

Mr. Chin’s house was almost attached to the grocery, with just about five feet separating the two.  Toney joined the line and started passing buckets of water.

After about five minutes into his arrival though, efforts turned from, trying to save the grocery, which by now was lost, to saving the closest structure.  As the beast of fury showed signs of ending on the skeleton of the grocery store, the famished dragon turned its head to the house of Mr. Chin.

Thick smoke engulfed the house, attempting to blind all who will venture to predict which section of the house to guard.

A faint cough could be heard, emanating from within the belly of the dwelling, it is Mr. Chin, but he is all alone.  His two daughters Clara and Ping are missing.  As he struggled to burst through the front door of the house, he heard a voice shout at him.

“Move away from the door, Chin!”  Sharp and commanding the voice.

No sooner had Mr. Chin dropped to the floor, a loud smashing sound came.  It was Jameson, chopping into the cedar door relentlessly.  It was as if he had rehearsed these movements over and over in his mind, waiting for this night to test the agility of the ax.

Copyright © 2017 David Alexian

All rights reserved.

The Skies Are Lighted With Lamps #24 (A part of my novel)

Toney and his son walked along the dirt track leading away from their house.  As they did, they got a better view of the cedar, yellow maple and teak trees that surrounded the landscape.

That moment was quite enlightening for Toney.  It gave him a special view of where things were.  He visited the area a few times before, to meet with the gentle man who sold him the house, but never then were able to have a good look at the landscape.  It seemed that each time they met were at evenings, leading into the night.

As the two continued walking, the ambiance was as new to Jason as it was to Toney.

About ten minutes into their calm stride, the dirt road tapered off.  Forming beneath their feet were stones neatly crafted and laid as a puzzle piece to each other, forming the bigger picture; the main road.

Donkey carts and a few horses exploded onto the street.  There were probably two or three cars parked lower down, closer to a corner leading out of the village.  People hurried, passing each other.  Some persons with friendly greetings, others just went along.

In the distance the sound of children could be heard laughing and a distinct one screaming the words, “Nah, nah you out, mom, he not playing fair!”

As Toney and his son approached the first shop, there was an old man selling ground provisions.

“I could get you a nice price for a few pounds on the yams or cassava, stranger.”  The old man spoke up, while he rose to his feet.

With that, Toney turned and cast his eyes along the street, and noted dozens of vendors on either side of the road way.  He then gave a chuckle, rocking his head back and fought a bit.

Jason looked at his father, squinted his eyes but said nothing.  He had seen this look on his father’s face many times before.  It was the look that came with some type of realization.

Toney was so busy for the entire week getting all things ready for his family to leave Dow island, that he did not realized that the day was Saturday.  Had he remembered, he will have suggested to Merry that she came along and get some dry goods for the family.  She was the one that was better at this.

Toney looked at the track behind and wondered whether he should send Jason back to call her.  But then again, a quick thought filled his mind.  Merry is never the one to forget things like this and most have known the day, but opted not to remind him.  In that way, she could get both men out the house and do her decorating in peace.

The streets, converted into a market place had people up and about trading or just meeting each other.  Some, it seemed, used the time to bring their children out to relax and play with their little friends.

Toney and Jason left the old man and proceeded west.  As they made their way along the hectic street, persons called to their attention, the prices of tomatoes, onions, water melons and other items.

On the main street, to the left hand side, about fifty meters inside, a dead end road appeared.  Closer to where the two stood, a small sign hung sideways against a bamboo pole, ‘Help Wanted—Tool Sharpener’.

The two approached the main entrance at the front of the structure, which was partly constructed of wood from the ground to about two feet up.  The remaining portion was partitioned with wire, giving it an appearance of that of honey combs.

Toney opened the door and entered the structure.  His son followed about an arm’s length away.

Although the main street was noisy, yet it didn’t seem to make its way down to this workshop.  The two continued making their way a little further inside.

At the right hand side of the room stood a tall pale coloured man working at a table.

Copyright © 2017 David Alexian

All rights reserved.

The Skies Are Lighted With Lamps #21 (A part of my novel)

She stopped for a moment to admire the curtains, even attempting to set it right; for the gentle breeze disturbed her frills.

Jason on the other hand, had his bedroom door closed in tightly, sealed from the world outside.

She tiptoed around the house, not wanting to disturb her son.  Perhaps he had fallen asleep.

Copyright © 2017 David Alexian

All rights reserved.

The Skies Are Lighted With Lamps #18 (A part of my novel)

From time to time he looked at the stick, lost in thought.  Like a scared bird in a trap, he sat on the step, exhausted.  His ears listened to the sounds in the distance, familiar sounds of animals, but in an unfamiliar place.

Toney looked at him through the opened front door.  His son had left much behind.

Toney felt he made the best decision for his family.  As a father, he was not about to leave anyone behind.  He told himself, what he experienced as a child at the hands of his relatives, was not going to be that of his family.

‘A man running’, but he did not mine that title.  He thought if he stayed, he will be no different.  A change in scenery was all he thought it will take.

This home was an investment.  It was not in the best of condition, a little over twenty years old since being constructed.  He knew his way around a bit of carpentry and had great plans to rebuild the house someday; making it more comfortable for his wife and son.  Perhaps an additional room or two; making it bigger.

Copyright © 2017 David Alexian

All rights reserved.

The Skies Are Lighted With Lamps #17 (A part of my novel)


Merry, Toney’s wife, was busy putting up the last of the curtains in the dining room.  Humming a tune to herself, her smooth hands worked like that of a surgeon.

Jason, their sixteen year old son, held a stick in one hand and a small dull Swiss knife in the next.

He held the knife firmly in his hand, its handle wrapped with a piece of cloth.  The knife, his father had given to him as a present, over five years ago.  Occasionally he brought the two together, scraping the blade against the wood and blowing off the dust that gathered on his hands.

Copyright © 2017 David Alexian

All rights reserved.

The Skies Are Lighted With Lamps #15 (A part of my novel)

“Sarah, she sleeps with you?”  A whisper broke the silence.

Shelly released the grip she had on the kitchen towel, used to dust the bread crumbs into a plate she held at the corner of the table.  She straightened her back and turned to him.  Just shaking her head at him, then looking down at the work she was doing.

“Sarah, our daughter, Shelly, I don’t know her…twelve years is a long time.”  Deo’s eyes glazed as the lamp’s light in the centre of the table beat against his face.

Shelly moved closer to him, as if to hug him, but stopped short.  He looked at her, hesitated, but then threw his right hand around her neck, pulling her closer to him.  As Shelly cried softly against his chest, he turned his head and looked out through the window and into the dark distance.


Copyright © 2017 David Alexian

All rights reserved.