Tales of Imagination

We hope you enjoy these fictional stories that build on the author's own personal experiences abroad but take them into new territory, exploring themes such as belonging, relationships, and finding home in a new place.

Love Again, in Spain

Tales of Imagination

June 2021

By Jenny Falloon

Kate stands outside the white villa looking at the small sign on the stone wall. It says BILL JOAN in shiny black letters on white tiles bordered by a tiny Arabic floral pattern.

She does this walk every couple of weeks, usually on Wednesday, to check the mail. Kate is a doer of cryptic puzzles. Toward the end, James had resented the time she put in on them. But it is something of hers alone, one of the things that keeps her sane. Especially now, in the time of Covid. And now there is no one to care how much time she puts in on a puzzle. Freedom, of a kind.

The sign has been nicely done, with a nod to Spain’s Moorish past in those curling black letters. Even so, Kate’s sense of grammatical order is strong. She’d like to jab a conjunction in there between those Anglo Saxon...

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Doin’ You Wash

Tales of Imagination

March 2021

By Mike Neis

“But—won’t you be lonely?”

Ms. Crosby gazed at me through glasses which magnified the concern in her eyes.

“No, no. I’ll be all right.”

“But you livin’ in dis big house all by youself!”

I strained to understand the Grenadian dialect and refrained from laughing at the notion that my house was “big.” The sitting room came furnished with a couch, a coffee table and two armchairs. The kitchen had a chest-high fridge, a kerosene stove with a broken-off knob, and a table with seating for two. The bedroom I slept in had space for a desk, but the guest room did not. A wooden sign above the front door with the words, “Faith Cottage” gave a name to my new living space. The outside walls were painted candy apple red with blue trim.

“I’ll be okay. Don’t worry about me.”

She pushed up her hat and rubbed her fingers...

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Tales of Imagination

May 2019

By Mark Halpern

Tokyo, 8th June 1993

Dear Cindy

When you read this, I’ll be at Arisugawa Park with Kenny. He says, “How many presents Mommy bring? I give hug Mommy. Is it big presents?” If you’re not too tired, you can find us near the jungle gym (of course). Otherwise, we’ll be home by four.

Anyway, welcome back! I’m glad your boss took you along and hope it was a valuable experience. And I hope you got some good Chinese food. (Andy says Hong Kong’s better and cheaper than Yokohama Chinatown.)

I turn to an important matter: The stress we’ve both been suffering due to so many rapid changes in our lives. A strong marriage requires confronting issues directly. Since – as you know – I’m not good at talking about my feelings, I’m setting down here what I need to say. You may respond when you’re ready. Meanwhile, let’s enjoy the...

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Denk Aan Uw Lichten

Tales of Transition

Tales of Imagination

October 2015

By Bernie Brown

Like a bird looking for a perch, Carol scanned the bus for a seat. Some of the faces she recognized from a welcome tea at The American Women’s Club of The Hague, but most of the names jumbled together. For a brief panicked moment, she wished she had stayed home, not just in their apartment here in The Hague, but all the way home back in the States where she could have continued her work on the Dukakis campaign.

She drew a deep breath and plunged down the bus aisle. Ingmar, a Danish woman married to an American, sat alone. Carol liked Ingmar’s way with scarves and the slight emotional distance she maintained with everyone. Not as if she had something to hide, but as if she already had everything she wanted. Carol stood in the aisle of Ingmar’s row. “Is it okay if I sit here?” she asked.


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Bonding for Beginners

Tales of Imagination

September 2006

By Suzanne Kamata

“Why does our daughter have to take a bath with her teacher?” Christine Uno asked her husband. “As a Japanese teacher, please explain it to me.”

They were driving along the mountains of western Shikoku, returning home after a weekend spent at a spa. They - Christine, her husband Hideki, and the twins, Emily and Ken - had indulged in a “family bath,” a private hot tub under the stars. Bathing as a family seemed intimate and appropriate. But with her teacher and unrelated kindergartner boys?

“Do you know Dewey?” Hideki asked.

“As in John, the philosopher? Yes.”

“Dewey said that education should occur in all areas of life.”

“Hmm. So you’re saying it’s an American idea.”

She pondered this, while thinking that the following weekend’s school sleepover was a quintessentially Japanese activity. No one in her native country would think it necessary for a four-year-old to bond with her...

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Tales of Imagination

July 2002

By Suzanne Kamata

Yvonne Hamada saw the cement mixer turn onto the narrow bridge, saw that it was coming straight at them, picking up speed as it rolled. She knew that Ryu’s sedan was no match for that monster on wheels. There was hardly enough room for one car, let alone two; these roads had been built for cracker box-sized economy cars, not the all-terrain vehicles and American-sized dump trucks of ‘90’s Japan.

Ryu let up on the accelerator ever so slightly.

Next to him, Yvonne closed her eyes, shrank back against the passenger seat – “the death seat,” her brother had always called it. “This is it,” she whispered. “I hope someone knows enough English to notify my parents in the States.”

But then the car swayed as the truck whooshed past – within inches, no doubt – and Yvonne opened her eyes. They were safe. There were no other cars ahead...

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Out With a Bang

Tales of Imagination

December 2001

By Kelly Bembry Midura

She found her husband lying face down atop the iron bars that roofed a charming little courtyard at the center of their Spanish colonial style home. Blood colored pink the waters of a fountain beneath his body. The bars had imprinted a grid-like pattern onto David Levine’s corpse that remained even after guards from the American Embassy laid him to rest face up upon the tiled floor of the courtyard. A small hole in the middle of his forehead marked where a bullet had entered, ending his life.

Sarah Levine was holding together well considering the circumstances. I sat beside her in an elegantly appointed living room while she nervously twisted a tasteful scarf around her hands and waited for the Embassy Medical Officer and his assistant to pack up what was left of David for removal to the U.S. She didn’t say much, but then we didn’t know each...

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Love and Larceny in Lusaka - A Mystery

Tales of Imagination

June 2000

By Kelly Bembry Midura

Bea died the night before she was due to leave for a Zimbabwean safari. Her passport and ticket lay on her desk in preparation for an early departure. On the chintz bedspread, a soft-sided tapestry American Tourister suitcase lay open, overflowing with khaki trousers and Land’s End camp shirts in pastel colors. A well-thumbed Guide to Wildlife of the Zambezi River sat beside her suitcase, along with several colorful tour brochures.

Beatrice Foster had been alone in the world, a Foreign Service Secretary who had long ago given up finding a man who would be willing to accommodate her transient lifestyle. A member of the small corps of highly trained State Department secretaries, she transferred to a new position in a new country every three years.

She had no family living with her in Zambia to sort out her belongings for shipment to her relatives in the U.S., so when...

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A Real Woman

Tales of Imagination

May 2000

By Patricia Linderman

Elizabeth’s husband, Bob, joined the Foreign Service and was assigned to Caracas, Venezuela. Elizabeth would have been content to remain an insurance adjuster in Louisville, renting videos in the evening, snuggling with Bob on the couch, and going to craft fairs and the farmer’s market on weekends. But she could see how much this new opportunity meant to Bob. And anyway, as she told herself, maybe it was time to shake up her life a little. Try something different.

In the new suit he bought for his swearing-in, Bob looked sleek and handsome. She could already picture him as an ambassador, shaking hands with presidents. Strangely, though, when she tried to imagine herself at his side, all that appeared was a blur. As the movers nailed shut the large wooden crate containing their household belongings, she could feel herself lifting off, cutting the strings to her old life like the...

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