"Costliest Smile" by Zuha Belgaumi (guest author)

Friends, we continue our exploration of Wild Joy today with a story by guest author Zuha Belgaumi. "Costliest Smile" speaks of a woman chasing her dream despite all obstacles in her way. You'll love the ending! Enjoy. --Amanda


Costliest Smile
by Zuha Belgaumi

It was 8:00 PM and the shops were buzzing with business. People walked around, looking for snacks and cheap wine.

I was standing at the staircase leading to a bar, staring at the wine bottles. My face was covered with a shawl, except for the eyes that had black goggles covering them. In our orthodox society, where a girl is restricted to even dream about wine, here I was standing just in front of it, hiding my identity behind a shawl.

I watched people purchase wine bottles. The bartender--busy like a bee. I had to wait and I felt it dragged to infinity. Finally, when he was not so busy, he glanced at me. I looked left, I looked right, just to be sure no one I know was around, and I dashed indoors.

The moment I stepped in, I brushed my nose with my index finger. I could only smell rotten fruits. My stomach grumbled and it outset a feeling of nausea. The dim red and blue lights fell on the faces, making it difficult to identify people. A few looked at me, dumbstruck. Only then I realized this was a no-entry zone for women.

. . . I realized this was a no-entry zone for women.

I pointed at a particular bottle in the shelf and asked, “What’s its price?"

The person behind the counter took a cursory look at me and asked, "How old are you? Do you have any identity proof?"

I took out my driving license and showed it to him.

"Twelve thousand, five hundred, and fifty-one rupees," he said, taking out the bottle from the shelf.

My excitement nosedived and my eyes popped out. I knew it would cost me dear, but not this much! I reluctantly said, "No, it is too costly."

"Madam, it's a vintage wine of 1953. It is worth the money."

"It's manufactured in 1953?" I asked, shocked. "I do not need old stock. Do you have anything fresh?"

He looked at me, button eyed. Without uttering a single word, he turned towards the shelf, took out another small bottle and, placing it on the table, he said, "One thousand, two hundred rupees."

"No, I want that only," I said, pointing towards the vintage wine bottle. My heart asked, is it necessary? I put my heart's feelings aside and handed him my debit card. He swiped, and my heart skipped couple of beats. Was it required to spend half of my salary? Yes, it was!

I convinced my heart, saying, it is once in a lifetime. People drink to forget a mourning heart; even I want to forget how spendthrift I was for fulfilling my dream.

I decided to start here and finish it here, before someone noticed me. I requested the person at the counter to open the seal.

"Madam, please be seated indoors. We will serve you the same wine in glasses."

"No, I am fine with the bottle."

My reply made him believe that I was not an amateur at drinking. He nodded, opened the seal, and handed the bottle back to me.

Excited, I jumped with the bottle in my hand. My heart was pounding and I was never so happy before. It looked beautiful in my hand. I opened it and turned it upside down. The wine fell to the ground. As the bottle became empty, my joy knew no bounds.

. . . my joy knew no bounds.

In the meantime I heard, "Madam, madam, wait." The bartender came running towards me and asked in anger, “What have you done?" His tone was nothing less than a duty bound army officer court-martialing his cadet. The bottle was completely empty now. He kept both his hands on his head and squatted down. He touched the place where the wine had fallen, and raised his head to look towards me. His look was that of a butcher waiting to slaughter a chicken. I turned my back to him, wiped the bottle with my shawl, kissed it, and kept it in my bag.

To my surprise, I saw a group of people gathered around me, murmuring in hushed whispers. Almost everyone was smiling at me. I was their center of attraction. Did I commit a crime?

At home, I took out the bottle and admired the complex engravings on it. Wow! Such a cute one, I said. I kissed it again and I kept the bottle in the balcony, where it gave company to a dozen other exquisite bottles. I filled it with water, and planted a twig of money plant in it.

This was the cutest bottle in my collection. I had an eye on it for a very long time. My wild joy of collecting engraved glass bottles made a big hole of twelve thousand rupees in my wallet.

Every day I smile looking at it. Twelve thousand rupees for the smile!  I agree, it is the costliest smile! But, a smile is priceless, they say!

Zuha is a software professional from Bellary, Karnataka, India. Her hobby is writing. She likes to interpret the logos and the cover page of the novels. Her favorite author is Erle Stanley Gardner. Find her blog here.

"Wild Joy Comes on Iridescent Wings" by Brenda Anderson (guest author)

Joy is easy when life is smooth. But what about when tragedy shakes us to our core?

We're continuing our celebration of WILD JOY here at The Phoenix Soul. I'm grateful to welcome guest author Brenda Anderson today, who's bravely sharing her search for joy in the face of losing her husband. Join us. -Amanda


Wild Joy Comes on Iridescent Wings
by Brenda Anderson

Is there a place for joy in the worst tragedy? If so, what about wild joy?

I wrote this in the months leading up to the death of my husband, two years ago.

Well, my husband’s leukemia is back. Where’s the joy?

I remember seeing our first child, beautiful Stephanie. Most people cite the birth of their first child as a moment of pure joy. I’d had a caesarean, so, not undiluted joy. Pain, too!

Everyone knows those joy moments: gorgeous sunrises (sunsets), a mountain or a valley that moves you to tears, moments when people do things that take your breath away.

Back to leukemia. It’s spring now, so on the weekend I got out in the garden, weeded, cleared space 'round the hollyhocks, added fertilizer. The sun so warm on my back, the greenery, that feeling of lushness, all so satisfying. I’m not sure that the garden provides joy, but it sure makes me feel connected, useful, as if I’m doing something totally creative.

Writing does that, too. Because I write speculative fiction, I can lose myself in another world whenever I sit down and get those ideas onscreen. I’ve had moments when a story idea has worked out, sometimes better than I’d imagined, and those are, in my opinion, moments of pure joy. Creativity. Joy. The two go together, which is why the birth of a child sends parents into such a spin. It goes to your head, like champagne. You’re on top of the world.

So I’m thinking, where’s the joy in leukemia? I can go out in the garden and forget about it, for a moment. I can lose myself in my writing. My husband’s still going to be there when I get back to the real world. But I think the unreal world has a lot to offer that everything else lacks.

I think that’s why people love Lord of the Rings, because they can lose themselves in that other world, follow the heroes on their quest and rejoice in the eventual triumph of good over evil.  ‘Rejoice’–-see that word--means ‘cause joy to’. Not a modern word, much more likely to turn up in old hymns than pop music. Check out Beethoven’s Ode to Joy. Say no more.

Joy. The dictionary describes it as a ‘vivid emotion of pleasure, gladness.’ Vivid.

So, ditch the warm fuzzies, feelings of satisfaction, even standard-issue happiness. They come and go, but joy’s the big league.

So, ditch the warm fuzzies, feelings of satisfaction, even standard-issue happiness. They come and go, but joy’s the big league. I think I’m only going to find joy as I face my husband’s leukemia, again, by going to that unreal, or should I say, unseen world. I’ve experienced joy in situations where I’ve opened myself up to God and let his love come in. In the Bible, the writer of Hebrews says, 'Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfector of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross …' (12: 2) Hey, there’s joy, and mentioned in the context of the greatest suffering of all.

So this gives me hope--wow, hope too!--that even though this second round battling leukemia might not be pretty, I’m going to find joy along the way. It’s the big league. It gives us a taste of heaven.”

Two years later, wild joy is a random bird that swoops down, flashes its iridescent wings and vanishes again. But it’s there! 

Brenda Anderson’s fiction has appeared in various places, most recently in Flash Fiction Online and Every Day Fiction. She lives not far from the sea in Adelaide, South Australia, and tweets irregularly @CinnamonShops.


joy is a daily choice // Truth Tribe interview: VersAnnette Blackman-Bosia

VersAnnette Blackman-Bosia knows that wild joy is possible, no matter what heartache or pain you've endured.

Trust me--she's been there, too, and still believes that "Joy is a daily choice." 


VersAnnette ("Verse") is a force for healing, dedicated to transforming unbearable ache into wild joy. As an artist, writer, advocate, and healing arts practitioner, Verse shows that continual rebirth is possible for us all.

Verse has “a strong desire to nurture, enlighten, awaken, inspire, and empower people,” especially through her business, Soul Revival Healing Arts. She says, “Creativity can resuscitate, resurrect, and reignite hearts with fire and purpose and passion.”

As a survivor-turned-advocate, Verse has over ten years’ experience in trauma-informed facilitation, practiced in settings including domestic violence shelters and Chicago high schools. She also founded a nonprofit organization, H.E.M (Heal, Empower, Motivate), which serves women affected by domestic violence.

What a thrill to welcome Verse to our Truth Tribe with her interview in The Phoenix Soul: Wild Joy.

artwork by VersAnnette Blackman-Bosia

artwork by VersAnnette Blackman-Bosia

Verse and I talked about the healing power of creative expression, her advocacy for domestic abuse survivors (and why it's so personal), her poetry collection, why joy is her primary wish for 2017, and more. 

There is a beauty in brokenness. To be willing to say, ‘I’m hurt. I fell, and I don’t know if I can get back up,’ is a testament to how wide the reach of vulnerability is. Every time a wounded warrior gets back on her feet and reaches out for a lifeline, she is coming closer to the healing that we all deserve. And there is unlimited power in creativity; I cannot stress this enough. The most powerful art I’ve made is when I just couldn’t really function ’cause I was so depressed or in such deep emotional pain.
— Verse, TPS: Wild Joy
artwork by VersAnnette Blackman-Bosia

artwork by VersAnnette Blackman-Bosia

I asked Verse about how joy is her primary wish for 2017. Here's her answer, in part:

Joy is a daily choice. And I believe that what we choose to focus on grows. I’m a person who looks at what’s happening, and as opposed to venting–I tend to lean towards being in service of those who are hurting. How can I brighten up someone else’s day? What words of inspiration can I share that have kept me lifted? Despite circumstances, I can rest assured that trials are teaching me things like patience and wisdom, growing and stretching me along the way. To me, that is pure joy.
— Verse, TPS: Wild Joy

Phoenix soul, what would happen if you chose joy today?

We'd love to explore wild joy with you. Will you join us?

with love & awe,