Shishir (Winter) 2021 Stories - Mark Tulin


The Silence of Honey
By Mark Tulin


Everyone wanted Honey to talk, but she remained silent for three years.

Some called her names and said that she was a spiteful child, while others thought Honey acted superior by keeping her mouth shut when she was supposed to speak. Her mother felt she was disobedient and tried shaking some sense into her.

“You’re tender-hearted and a weak little girl.”

But Honey didn't see the crime in having a gentle spirit. People should be soft and loving, she thought.

Honey only communicated with pen and paper and believed writing was her saving grace. Putting words down was a safe way of expression; it was natural and non-threatening. She thought if she chose the right words, then people could understand how she had felt. It wouldn’t be easy. Honey had to be innovative with her words. A different bird. One that followed her own drummer, simmering in silence, marinated in her voicelessness, and reflected on a better quality of life.

While not speaking, Honey listened to the sounds around her as if they were songs of sparrows or white doves cooing on a fence. She loved hearing the older men playing the blues guitar at the street corner and listened as their melodies spoke of sadness but clearly from the heart.

Honey spent many hours alone, preparing her words to sound elegant, to be understood, and unify others. She hoped her words would resonate, not hurt or blame, but explain thoughts clearly and with fairness. In the afternoons, she sat under the shade of a giant fig tree that stood on Montecito Road. Honey sat crossed-legged in her self-imposed silence and watched the world of people pass. She heard laughter, shouting, and crying, as well as joy and pain.
She counted the number of feelings she heard as if they were stars in the sky.

But it was the pain that disturbed Honey the most. She hoped to find a way to navigate through its suffering. Which words could be used to lessen the hurt?
Sitting under the tree’s canopy, she learned that color, size, religion, and appearance had nothing to do with the amount and quality of suffering. Those who suffered were victims, as well as perpetrators. Some suffered from poverty and others wealth. Some suffered from idleness, while others suffered from working too hard.

Honey posed many questions as she sat alone. For example, if hate begets hate, does love beget love? And would consciously try to be more loving make a difference in the world?


Perhaps offering money to the poor, food for the hungry, or teaching an illiterate person how to read. Maybe with kindness, that could change the way people interact and set off a trend of compassion.

She noticed the people who swallowed their resentment only got worse. Their anger filled their bellies, and made them convulse with mental weakness. They seemed to sliver through life like snakes, ready to attack with the slightest provocation.

There must be a better way? She thought. If only people took a different path. One of kindness and compassion. Perhaps they would walk the earth with less resentment and more gratitude.

Honey talked about this to Rose, her Jamaican nanny, the only one she trusted. Rose promised not to tell anyone that Honey was able to speak. Since birth, Rose had been with Honey when her father mysteriously left home. Her mother had to work two jobs to support the family and was very busy, so Rose acted as both parents—the nurturer and occasional disciplinarian, although Honey caused little trouble.

On the days that Honey seemed unhappy, Rose painted her rainbows and blue skies in watercolor on little canvases to cheer her up. Her room was lined with these pictures, and Honey would often look at them when sad.

“How come you don’t paint people?" asked Honey.

"Because nature makes us happy, not people,” she said.

Honey tried to figure out how to change that. She wanted to have an effect on the world. Rose read her books while teaching her new words and ideas. The sound of Rose's voice reading great works made her smile. She learned all the great spiritual leaders like Buddha, Jesus, and Muhammed. And dreamed of being a spiritual leader one day.

Rose called Honey “my sweet little Buddha" whenever she brushed out her tangled hair.

Rose spoke to Honey as if she were a grownup, and sat with her for hours. “To be good,” Rose said. "You must open your heart and project a loving spirit to the world.”

When Honey spoke to Rose, she thanked her for being so kind. “Honey, you will be a great teacher one day; you'll speak to Kings, Queens, and Presidents. Your words will mend broken hearts; help reflect on what is good. You will live out your dreams and put smiles on everyone’s faces—just you wait.”

Honey giggled so much it froze her cheeks, and she had to jiggle her jaw.

Rose said, “There was a wise man who lived in India named Mahatma. He sat under the Bodhi tree for seven years and dwelled in silence, like you, Honey.”

"What did he find out by the tree?"

"It's important to have gratitude, humility, and not be fooled by our desires."

Help, not hurt. Love, not hate, Honey whispered to herself.

Honey dreamed of the day she would have a voice and imagined all the pretty things she would paint with her words. Rose helped her practice speaking in front of a large mirror in her room, mouthing words, phrasing syllables, and practicing breathing between sentences.

Honey danced and wore clothes that Rose designed on her sewing machine. She swayed like a Calypso dancer, revealing her tiny, spindly legs and kicking her heels, as colorful as a peacock. At the end of three years, Honey decided she could no longer remain silent. She would fly right out of the cage door into the blue sky and circle the heavens.


Honey repeated Rose's affirmations in front of the mirror.

"I am brave. I have a strong character and will conquer my fears. Although others will hurt me, I will not strike back, but show forgiveness and compassion.”
The following day, Honey woke up with a firm intention. She looked in the mirror, put on her beautiful dress and colorful headwrap, and danced to a Calypso beat, with the Caribbean in the background. Honey shimmied around the room, swaying with the warm tropical breezes. She imagined embracing people and people responding with love. Tears flowed from her eyes as she tasted her emotions. Finally, she opened her window and shouted.

"I am ready to speak!"


Mark Tulin is a former family therapist from Philadelphia who lives in Palm Springs, California. A publisher compared his work to artist Edward Hopper, on how he grasps unusual aspects of people’s lives. Mark’s books include Magical Yogis, Awkward Grace, and The Asthmatic Kid and Other Stories, Junkyard Souls, Rain on Cabrillo. Mark has been featured in Ariel Chart, Amethyst Review, The Poetry Village, The Junction, Fiction on the Web, Page and Spine, Vita Brevis Press, Leaves of Ink, as well as anthologies and podcasts. He has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize by Active Muse in 2020.


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