SNAKES AND ANGELS
Adaptations of Indonesian Folk Tales
by James Penha
Winner of the 2009 Cervena Barva Press Fiction Contest
A native New Yorker, James Penha has lived for the past eighteen years in Indonesia. He teaches at STB-ACS (International) School in Jakarta. No Bones to Carry, the latest volume of Penha's poetry, is available from New Sins Press at www.newsinspress.com. His award-winning 1992 chapbook On the Back of the Dragon is downloadable from Frugal Fiction at www.frugalfiction.com.
Among the most recent of his many other published works are articles in NCTE's Classroom Notes Plus; fiction at East of the Web, Big Pulp, and Ignavia; and poems in THEMA, Storie, Naugatuck River Review, Waterways, and in Only the Sea Keeps: Poetry of the Tsunami (Bayeux Press), and the two Silver Boomers anthologies. Penha edits The New Verse News, a website for current-events poetry at www.newversenews.com.
Excerpt from DUST AND STONE
After a rival's magic transformed a young Wizard into a common cur, the latter lit out from his village to the jungle where he attempted to revoke his canine form through self-metamorphosis. This sorcery failed, as would all conjurations requiring the twitch of a thumb or the pointing of an index finger.
The Wizard did retain enough vocal control to shape his barks into words. Abetted by the spin of a tail or the point of a snout, he tried casting some simpler spells. His abracadabra halted a sparrow in mid-air. His astaga turned dew into lace. An orchid whistled to his magic lyrics. But the Wizard failed miserably to articulate the enchanted tongue-twister meant to gild a great teak. He howled like an adolescent hound. The tree shook wildly before it fell, destroying a nest of siamang monkeys hidden in its branches and clobbering a man making his way through the jungle.
The Wizard had always railed against harmful magic; indeed, this was the argument that had so enraged his evil rival. Guilt-ridden now, the Wizard ran to help the monkeys. He found them weepy but unhurt. The dog apologized for his carelessness and promised the aid of his talents, such as they were, forever. No pledges, however, could revive the human. The Wizard-dog followed the man's scent so that he might make amends to the family whose head he had killed.
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SNAKES AND ANGELS
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