Short stories written by Lucinda Abra

Click on title below to display story

Higher Ground

In Memory of a Tree

The Neighborhood Boy


Krishna and Arjuna

Krishna and Arjuna

Krishna, the blue Supreme Being, was a close companion of Arjuna, who himself was royalty, being the son of the King of Devas, Indra. They spent much time together and had many noted adventures. Each was wholly devoted to the other. One day as they strolled through a hot, humid forest, Arjuna swore his devotion and loyalty to Krishna. Krishna responded with a sly smile to his friend's fidelity. He reminded Arjuna that sometimes things happen. With some sadness in his deep blue eyes, he said that even the great Arjuna could forget the importance of his devotional path. Humans have a tendency to forget how vital spirit is, as they get so caught up in life and its circumstances. As they cut a swath through the dense overgrowth, Arjuna, horrified by this very thought, decried this as impossible in his case. He would, could, never forget the love and reverence he held for his Lord Krishna.

Wiping the sandalwood scented sweat from his brow with a silk scarf from his pocket, Krishna sat upon a huge, gnarled tree truck that had risen horizontally out of the fertile earth. "I am so thirsty", Krishna said. "Would you please go further up the road to the next farmhouse and fetch me clean water to drink?"

Arjuna was overjoyed to be of service to his beloved Krishna. At first, he ran, jumping over the overgrowth, never even noticing the overwhelming, oppressive heat. He swung his sharp machete in his right arm, vigorously clearing away a path. He had imagined the farm to be nearby. After several hours of strenuous efforts, his enthusiasm waned, as did his energy. A few gnarled roots and thick-stemmed plants tore at his perspiration soaked clothing. He lost one of his jeweled shoes in a mud-thickened body of standing water. Still, he trudged on.  

Hours turned into the next day as Arjuna, now stumbling, made his way through the harsh, hot, inhospitable environment. His arms were weak from the constant effort of swinging the machete. They shook from the effort as the tool hung uselessly in his hand. Eventually, he forgot he was holding it, and it fell aside, buried within the foliage. Mosquitoes buzzed him constantly; he was covered in hundreds of small welts from their bites. His thirst was overwhelming. His mind was only filled with the desire for water.

Finally, he saw a farmhouse up on a hill.

Arjuna crawled forward. His throat closed, his lips cracked. He moved within a cloud, so thick was the swarm of bugs. His garments were in tatters, with shoes now both lost. The exposed flesh was ripped and bleeding. So disheveled with mud and leaves stuck in his hair, covering large sections of his handsome face that his own mother would not have recognized him.

It was in that state, half bent over in agony, dying of thirst, that he slowly knocked on the heavy wooden farmhouse door. When the door opened, Arjuna was stunned by the beauty and grace of the woman he looked at. Compassionate and concerned for the stranger's health, she brought him inside the cool house. He was clearly dehydrated and exhausted. She brought him cold water and carefully tended to his wounds. After finding a spare outfit of her father's, the woman put him in the spare bedroom, bidding the man rest.

At sundown, her father came back from the fields he had been working. The mother had died some years ago, and the two of them were very close. As she set the table for dinner, her father washed up, the daughter explained their mysterious visitor. The father woke Arjuna and invited him to join them for the meal. With the spicy scents of cardamom and cinnamon floating through the air and the promise of delicious curry, Arjuna felt revived and very hungry. The farmer studied Arjuna carefully during supper while considering his farm needed an extra hand. The farmer found the stranger to be respectful and polite. Feeling sorry for him, imagining him to be homeless, and knowing that his enterprise could use an extra set of hands, he offered Arjuna a job.

Arjuna was very taken with the loveliness of the young woman who had tended for him with such care. Her skin was as smooth as porcelain; her chestnut hair stole the sunlight from the windows, transforming it into gems of dancing rubies. Her deep brown eyes held twinkling amber within their centers. Her body was strong, lithe, and voluptuous. When offered employment, he agreed, hoping to get to know the woman better.

Over several years Arjuna toiled. His hands grew coarse from the physical work. His already strong body grew in girth and muscle. He became very close to the daughter and the father and loved them both dearly. Arjuna excelled at animal husbandry; the cattle size grew much larger under his tutelage. The wheat seemed to flourish under his very eyes. Each season, the farm made more money than the previous year.

Having spent these passing years with the woman, knowing her as well as his own heart, Arjuna proposed and then married her with the father's blessings. Not afterward, while his wife was pregnant with the first of their three children, the farmer passed away. The daughter missed her father very much. But the promise of new life carried her beyond her grief and into the future. Arjuna was a loving and devoted husband. The couple was truly blessed.

Time passed. The farm's prosperity continued unabated. The couple and their three children were healthy, happy, and united by their family fidelity. Arjuna rested well at night, knowing that his efforts had multiplied the blessings of his family a hundredfold.

One morning, villagers unexpectedly scampered in hysteria past the farm. Yelling at Arjuna, they exclaimed that the river was unexpectedly rising. "Run," they shouted. "Gather your family and flee." He sprinted about the property, collecting the children from their play as he raced towards his wife and home. After some rapid consultation, the two adults decided it would be best if they all climbed to the roof of the farmhouse. It sat on the highest point of land for many miles. In the eighty years that the property had been in her family's hands, the water had never risen that high. It was impossible. They would be safe.

Arjuna attempted to release all the cows and bulls from the barn with haste. Shooing them with his arms, shouting loudly. He kicked at the recalcitrant bull. While the animal snorted at him once, he did not intend to move along. His herd of cows and calves remained with the bull. The animals were confused by Arjuna's actions. While some few did wander off, most just stood their ground and peacefully chewed on their cud. Their chickens flew helter-skelter into the nearby brush hiding under leaves and twigs. The animals did not understand the man's actions and remained close to their home. It was all they knew.

Knowing there was no time to lose, he ran back to their home and chopped a hole through the top floor's ceiling with an ax. His beloved wife gathered up all the children, who ranged from ten to just under two years old. She brought blankets and food in a large basket and a change of clothes for each of them. The youngest, a son, cried heartily. Arjuna scooped him in his strong arms, promising the young one that all would be good. They were together. They were out of harm's way.

The water did come. It rose through the community quickly, quick, and powerful, scooping everything in its pathway. From above on the hill, they watched and listened as it surged ever closer. A cascade of water shoved massive trees with tremendous force. Rain fell in sheets, blinding their eyes from the ongoing destruction. The earth itself seemed to be weeping. Houses from the other side of the village grew closer, bobbing in the mounting waters. From far below, they heard muffled screams of those unfortunates who were being swept along the current. The swollen river was devouring all.

As it reached the edge of the property, Arjuna could see that the height of the deluge had risen even more. The crops went first, buried under an avalanche of water. Although horrible, he accepted the loss. He reasoned that he would replant. It would be better next season. Next came the unforgiving sound of the barn and outbuilding timbers being transformed into toothpicks. The cows and bull screamed as they too quickly perished. He was sickened. His sense of compassion was great for the suffering of the livestock that had trusted him so greatly. But he knew that over time, he would replenish the herd. Inwardly, he bargained and negotiated, determined to get two bulls and raise more cows for milk, cream, and ghee in his stubborn mind.

Then the tempest grew stronger.

The chilled family had absorbed much water into their clothing. Their teeth chattered as they shook uncontrollably. The crest rose up to the eves of the upper story, sloshing against them. His wife lost her hold on the younger daughter, who was three. The small child existed one moment and disappeared the next. The eldest daughter, sitting next to her mother, perched on the top timber of the roof, instinctively reached for her baby sister. The children locked hands, and then she too was swallowed alive. Crazy with grief, the wife grabbed the son out of the father's arms with ferocious strength. As she ripped the boy from Arjuna, the mother lost her balance. In disbelief and soul-searing agony, he watched as the too both tumbled into the roaring river, disappearing. It had all happened so quickly. Lost in his misery, he huddled against the bare wood rafters, his fingers bloodied from the effort of holding on.

The rains finally slowed to a drizzle as the flood receded. The man sobbed until his throat was raw. Dazed, Arjuna sat on the ripped roof, devastated at the enormity of his loss. Suddenly he saw his old friend sitting beside him. As Krishna offered comfort and held his dearest friend in his deep blue arms, he whispered, "How about that glass of water now?"