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Wednesday, 31 August 2005

Algorithm

Billy always followed the same algorithm when he packed: first the personal stuff, then the business stuff. Last, he packed the fun equipment, all in cozy, non-descript brown paper bags.

Over the years, Billy had been hassled more times than he wished to count by the border guards in almost every country in North America, South America and Europe. "What's in the bags?" they would ask.

After some simple explanations like, "leather" or "tools", he'd be waved through. But if he lucked out and landed in the nosy guy's line-up, they would open up his secret bags and wham! Billy found himself in a small and sterile room for hours of picky and unenlightened judgment. And yes, rubber gloves were often involved.

The worst trip, in Billy's forty-something years of travelling, was the one he took with his mother. She had always wanted to see Romania to visit all of the Dracula tourist-centric sites. Billy packed only a bare minimum of fun equipment, figuring his chances of picking up interesting ladies were limited with his mother around. Some things are best done alone anyway.

The customs guys at the airport didn't speak much English. Apparently, a North American tourist had passed through a week before with a bomb hidden in a brown paper bad. Bad luck for Billy. The worst of it was that they put him in the small sterile room with his mother.

His high school Calculus final was a walk in the park compared to the humiliating exam he and his mother endured that night.

She did not travel with Billy again.

Wednesday, 24 August 2005

Steals

He steals my keys every chance he gets. Then he sits back and watches me hunt like a maniac for them in the morning; a sly grin partly hidden behind his coffee.

I'm getting even. In a big way.

My first thought was to hide his keys, but that's too easy. Then I thought about the usual stuff: saran wrap on the toilet seat, toothpaste in his shoes, that sort of thing, but they're all too juvenille. I need something unique and oh-so-devious. He can't suspect it's me either, because I know his guard must be up.

Today, I'm doing it. I should probably tell you what I'm planning, but if even a hint leaks out, the whole notion will fizzle. Nope, but I can tell you this:

Even his mother will laugh. And she's dead.

I purchased a few supplies at the corner store last night. I told him I was going out for a walk to the mailbox. Luckily, the stuff fit in my coat pockets. He never looks through the closet. I've already moved them anyway.

Just before breakfast, I set the first electronic components up. I've placed them on a timer, set for a time in the next few days. I won't tell you when. It's still open for negotiation, depending on what I purchase at the wharf today. I've heard the pickings can be pathetic this time of year. I might have to try the warehouse district if they don't have what I need.

Monday, 22 August 2005

Sheers

Just remember, this is FICTION. Any similarity to my acutal mother is purely coincidental.
*


My mother always loved the sheers on the front windows of our house. It didn't matter that she didn't own the house and they looked like granny curtains, what mattered was that somehow she had made it in the world of Suzy-Homemaker and Good Housekeeping because her front windows looked proper.

I remember the day that she installed them. She must have stared at the instructions for hours, holding a screwdriver in one hand and a hammer in the other. They were the only two tools she felt she'd mastered. Advanced tools like levels and wrenches were beyond her grasp--strangers lurking in the rear sections of the hardware store where only men belong. Once she had digested the elaborate drawings, she started in to hanging the track. I thought it was crooked, but I would've never told her. She would have cried and I can't stand it when she cries.

Sitting at my laptop now, contemplating the nuances of my own existence, I think of the word "sheer" and wonder who the heck decided it applied to curtains. In the dictionary, I found references to unmitigated qualities, exclusivity, pureness, and vertical extremes, but nothing about big, flimsy curtains that barely cover a window. The hip things to install now are roller blinds with the ugliest valences ever constructed. The last time I shopped in that section of Home Depot, I discovered that they actually sell roller blinds that behave like sheers. In the daytime, you can see out but people can't see in. At night, people can see in and you can't see out. Just like sheers. I guess they're the cool version of the old classic. We've finally stepped out of the 1950's ladies and gentlemen. Let's all buy roller blinds.

Okay, back to my mother. After all, she's the sheer lover. The curtains had two components. The inside part was white, with a kind of embroidery thing going on. The outside layer was another set of sheers that were pink. Man, I've hated that colour my whole life and I think those sheers are to blame. Why would anyone need two curtains? The only place I've ever seen the two curtain fiasco is in hotel rooms.

Maybe that's what my mother was going for? The hotel look?

Who knew?

Thursday, 18 August 2005

Crushed

He crushed my hand under the gyro-stabilizers. I didn't see it coming. As a matter of fact, I thought he loved me.

Jarvis was the perfect bad boy--he ran weapons in the eighth worm-path, used more drugs than he sold, and never committed to a relationship for more than a shift. So why was I attracted to him? Maybe because I saw him as the perfect experiment. Or maybe because he reminded me of Bixton, the first guy I ever kissed behind the storage shipments on Loading-Bay six.

The first few dates went smoothly; we laughed, we spilled the sordid details on previous relationships and how they ended. When we both passed our viral tests, the bedroom fun began.

And lasted.

The next thing I know, I'm humming the latest stream tune and a stabilizer is landing on my left hand.

The buzzers screamed, but not as loud as I did. The medics arrived soon after and doped me up with the best pain relievers in their kits. While they didn't kill the pain, they wounded it badly enough that I could make it to the hospital without embarrassing myself by crying like a baby.

They said the hand will survive, though it might not work like it used to. They asked how it happened. I thought about lying, but not for long. I named Jarvis. I gave them his ident details. They detained him.

I didn't cry then either.

Though when he gets out next night shift, I think I'm going to be in some serious trouble. That's why I'm sitting in the departures zone, hoping for a stand-by seat on whatever has room for me.

Tuesday, 16 August 2005

Fought

We fought like dogs most nights. The long, complicated arguments with insults slung back and forth like a political mudfest. And that wasn't the worst of it.

We deserved it.

I've come to the conclusion--now that time is on my side and glacial ice ages of water have flowed under the bridge--that most arguments between couples are about miscommunications. I know that shouldn't be a surprise, hell television shows are full of communication asymmetry. Comedies base their foundations on it. So why do real life couples become immersed in it, consumed by it, and unable to see clearly to the rational side of the tunnel on the other side?

Because we're egotistical beasts. We think we're right. We think our opinions are the most right and our feelings the most valid and that our job in life is to pass on that impressive wisdom to the populace at large. I wonder now, that it's too late, why I wasn't able to let up sooner. Why I couldn't sit back and listen to the other side of the conflict. Why my priorities got so bent out of shape that a pretzel would be envious of my delirious logic.

So now we ignore each other. Occasionally a Christmas card arrives in the post or an email pops up on my birthday. We won't likely ever forget each other, but the good moments have evaporated forever. How was I to know that there was a finite supply of water in the cistern of love? We filled it up in the first month we were together and the relationship ended when it dried out. The smart ones, those who nurture the cycle, manage to make clouds and rain and whatever moisture is lost through attrition barely dips the surface below the full line. But those of us who are too absorbed in our own priorities, we look the other way when some spills to the ground. And we shrug when a cloud blows beyond the horizon, figuring another cloud will be by soon.

But they never return.

We only got one allocation. Next time, I'll treat it with care.

Monday, 15 August 2005

Is it a poem?

Chocolate puppies stare bitterly at their sordid fluff.

*

I bought one of those fridge magnet sets full of words to inspire the poet in me. I just had to post the first one to this blog. I promsise I won't make a habit out of it. :-)

Thursday, 11 August 2005

Yanked

I yanked the control bar with all of my might, praying to the Guardians of Mylanor that the damned wagon would slow.

But it didn't.

My horse, Dwindle, galloped on, terrified that the Bligators were still chasing her. You'd think she would have learned by the age of six that a Bligator can't run more than ten feet without collapsing. They're big and mean but they have no stamina.

I tried to pull back on the reigns, yelling in the most pleasant and gentle voice (is that even possible) for Dwindle to ease off. She would kill us both if she didn't stop before we reached the Heglig River. I could smell water in the air now, a relief after so many hours riding through the dusty plain.

"Stop, you bloody stupid horse. Or I'll eat you for supper tonight!"

That seemed to get through to her. Though it was a total lie. I can't digest horse meat--too tough. She slowed to a canter, then a trot.

She must have been thirsty, for as soon as she spotted the river, she sped up again. But this time, I had her under control and we didn't tip on the steep gravel road to the east bank.

The nearest bridge was half a day south of us. The sun was sinking low in the sky, so I decided to make camp for the night. Too tired to hunt for firewood, I ate hard cheese and a few balls of rice. Dwindle nibbled on the reeds near the river's edge and sipped on the water to rinse it down. She'd had her fill of field grass.

"Hey."

A woman stood on the other side of the river. Her hair shone bright as amber and she was dressed like a man, in travelling clothes.

"Hey, back," I yelled.

"Has your horse had the skibbers?"

Skibbers was a nasty intestinal ailment that could drive a horse mad or in some instances kill it. "No. Why?"

"It's been in the towns upstream," she yelled. "And it might flow in the river."

"Thanks for the warning."

I hauled Dwindle away from the water. She protested fiercely, so I tied her to a shrub beyond the reach of the Heglig. It wouldn't hold her for long, but I could cleanse the water over a fire.

Wednesday, 10 August 2005

Storm

I witnessed a great storm this morning on the lake. So thanks to nature for this one.
*

The sky whispered of a storm. Not much, just a bit of haze on the horizon and the occasion rumble of thunder. I swam in the lake, calm and peaceful, a cool relief from the clinging humidity.

Normally, I would have exited the water at the sound of thunder, but it sounded absent, muffled, as though it hid under a blanket beneath the world. So I floated, filling my ears with water, and listened to the rush of air in and out of my lungs.

Thunder clashed, closer this time. I stood, for the water was shallow, just above my hips. I scanned for dark clouds and some billowed at the other end of the lake. The flag filled with a gust and flapped for a moment, straightening the big red maple leaf into a symbol of pride, then flopping back to hang against the pole.

I dove forward and swam for deeper waters, searching for fish. I always wear goggles when I swim, to protect my contacts from whatever germs lurk in the depths. A large white fish with yellow highlights and a black stripe pecked at the plastic lenses. I leaned back. It stared at me. I stared at it. A cloud passed overhead, darkening the water.

I poked my head above the surface, and the change startled me. Waves rippled in long lines a few hundred meters beyond. The flag was flapping wickedly in a strong breeze. A veil of heavy rain painted the trees on the far shore.

How could the storm move that quickly? The water had been calm only moments before.

I swam for our shoreline. The raft started to oscillate in the waves. The ladder end fell as the north end rose on another crest. Then the north end sank and waves crashed across the green carpet. I concentrated on my stroke, swimming as fast as I could for cover. In the shallows, I rose to my feet and trudged the last few steps to rocky land. Lightning struck, close. I felt it through the delicate hairs on my arms. Another strike. The thunder hit me simultaneously from each. I needed to get out of the water.