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Tuesday, 28 December 2010

Yeti

When the yeti stole my tuna sandwich, I knew it was going to be a long day.

I should've known better than to leave my Hummer unlocked, but, come on, when they have to put the phones on the map, you figure no one's around to steal your car stereo. So I was on one of those long treks through northern Ontario, checking on the winter health of a bunch of tree orchards. The last community that I'd visited had mentioned the recent boom in the yeti population, saying we were in for one of those lemming-off-a-cliff corrections soon, but in the meantime I should be on my guard.

Well, I figured they were just yanking my white-boy chain, putting a zinger on the non-native from the government. With two strikes like that against a guy, hell, I'd be zinging me too. So, yeah, I didn't lock my door, and I'd left the bread and the empty can of tuna in plain sight. A total invitation to have lunch on the government's dime.

The bugger did. The damned thing even left a nice dump by the driver's door, so that I had to practically leap over it to climb behind the wheel. At least it didn't mark my tires, because it takes forever to get the smell of piss off in the dead of winter.

Monday, 29 November 2010

Pressure

Sinus pressure hit Sheryl like a Chevy Impala through a plate glass window: painful, messy, and depressing. No manner of medication could ease the pressure, no vitamin could speed the germ's progress, and no room could be dark enough to dull the endless pounding of pressure against her skull.

Cold and flu season could turn her life upside down, so every year, Sheryl was first in line for a flu shot. Every morning, she swallowed extra vitamin C capsules as well as tried and true remedies like Cold FX or ginseng tea. And while these steps would severely reduce the frequency of her bouts, the virus demons always seemed to force their way into her sinus cavity at least once a year.

This particular night, Sheryl lay in bed, her pillows at an extreme angle to drain fluids as much as possible. Her eyes remained firmly closed, her blankets snuggled neatly about, and her box of tissues close at hand. Tears only aggravated the condition, adding extra pressure in the sinus cavity, but try as she might, she could not hold them back against the torrent of agony.

Monday, 12 July 2010

Crow

Henry had grown to anticipate the seven am arrival of the crow. He had even begun to think of it as his crow, even though no wild creature could ever belong to a human being.

Each morning, he would set his alarm to wake him five minutes before seven, enough time to use the bathroom then part his curtains and wait. Like clockwork, the crow would drop down and alight on the thick hemlock branch beyond the window.

More than seventy percent of the time, the bird would look left first, then right, then stare at Henry. For a time, the young man kept track of the head movements, curious as to whether birds followed patterns or simply acted. But his crow did seem to think, to find comfort in the routine of a particular look from a particular branch at the same particular time each morning.

His mother had once asked Henry how he knew that the same crow appeared each day. He had explained to her that his crow had a blue spot on its right wing, probably from getting too close to wet paint before it dried. And if he used his binoculars, he could also observe that this crow had one abnormally long toe on its left foot.

All of this routine, the unwavering discipline of his crow, helped Henry to find comfort in his own human realm. He hadn't many friends, nor was he interested in sports or books or video games. He lived for routine, just like his crow.

The two were meant for each other.

Sunday, 4 July 2010

Hour

An hour can be a very long time, or it can fly by quicker than a bird overhead. I know, because my life, like that of the elusive hour, has proceeded in fits of rapidity and globs of slowness.

I used to lie in bed, fearing the clock, hearing each tick as it counted towards my ultimate removal from the planet. I felt a sense of urgency all the time, knowing full well that I could never accomplish the goals I had once set for myself. The human spirit is a delicate one, and once the body realizes that it cannot hold up all of these dreams, all of these watermarks, it begins to crack under the pressure. Suddenly, you find yourself in physiotherapy for the latest ailment, because you tried too hard at the tennis match with that younger player.

Then the mind steps in and adds its own melancholy to the equation. You find yourself listening to depressing music, and eating chips and ice cream (not together, of course) to try (and fail) to block the pain that comes with inadequacy. Then the doctor is recommending SSRI's and trips to the tropics when the days are short.

But it's life that's short, not the days. And it's time that's ticking, not your depressed heart. And its time for another hour to fly by, flipping you the bird on its way past.

I have my own bird to flip to time. I will pause. I will administer self care. I will mediate. I will think before I act. And I will build a plan, however foolhardy, and even if I only accomplish one thing out of twenty, I will celebrate that success.

Monday, 28 June 2010

Conceit

I used to hate the word, "conceit," as it would conjure up images of people who thought they were better than they were, especially people like the kids I went to school with. But then I plunged into writing, and discovered that "conceit" could have a different meaning, a nobler meaning, that of an image or idea that is extreme or unrealistic, but is absolutely necessary for the construction of a particular story. Or script, because I dabble in writing for the screen as well.

The conceit is the Holy Grail, it is the cookie that satisfies you after a long day of struggling and pondering. It is what separates the men from the boys, the shit from the brilliant, the prize winners from the wasteland of slush.

I spend my time pondering the next brilliant conceit. I think about it when I'm driving my car, or in the shower, or while I'm exercising. So far, I've been occasionally clever, and somewhat insightful, but no moments of pure this-will-make-me-famous.

When fans ask the infamous question of their favourite big-time author, "Where do you get your ideas?" what they're really asking is, "Where in the hell did you come up with that conceit that was so amazing that it put you in the running with the Stephen King's and John Grisham's of the world?"

Aside from selling their souls to the devil, I'm sure they simply came up with the ideas randomly, or from some reading or research that interested them or sent them in a particular direction.

This is the part where I ask the fates for a bit of a shove in the conceit direction, because I have no interest in selling my soul. I need it for later. And the only direction my research has pointed me is on the boring, it-has-been-done-already heading.

Thursday, 24 June 2010

Security

Security is an illusion. A thousand cops with Kevlar vests and riot helmets won't stop a mob. Only slow it down, give it something to bite into, spit out, and piss on.

When I was in my teens, I felt secure. My parents took care of all the big stuff, like mortgages and taxes, heat and food. My friends, my posse, would hang with me, always ready to diss whatever bored us that day.

But middle age is a far cry from the teens. About as far as Iqaluit is from Toronto, in size, geographical location, and cosmopolitan-ness. The ages in the middle have found me, gripped me, and turned me into a combination of a cynic and a paranoid freak.

Every night, before bed, I check the locks. Sometimes a couple of times. Whenever I park the car, I go through a whole process of putting all the "good stuff" in the trunk, checking windows, the locks, even the parking brake. Worst, though, is when my two almost-adult-kids decide to take the car, or go out with a pack of friends. I practically bind myself to my cell phone, awaiting their text for a ride home. Better that than a trip to the police station to bail them out.

Or worse.

Yeah, I think of worse. I ponder it, stress it, allow it to blossom into mutated versions of the-absolute-most-terrible-thing-that-can-happen-does scenarios.

All the alarm systems, and radio response units, and body guards won't help me. Because it's what I can't see, what they won't anticipate, that's what scares me the most.

Thursday, 17 June 2010

Panic

Henna spent a great deal of her life in a state of panic. Of all of her emotions, this one was the easiest, quickest, and most intense. Combine this flaw with her exceptionally bad luck and she was a walking recipe for disaster stew.

If only one car was broken into in a parking garage it was hers. If lightning were to strike only one house, it would find its way onto her roof. If a pickpocket decided to rifle through only one purse in a large open market, her purse would call out to him to make himself at home.

So on a Wednesday in March, with a cold, brisk wind blowing from the north, and rain heavy in the clouds above, Henna decided she would be smart to stay home from work. After all, more accidents happened during poor weather. Her car, which she affectionately named "Bruce," would not appreciate being smashed to bits simply because Henna didn't want to waste a sick day that morning.

She spoke some reassuring words to Bruce in the driveway, just to be sure that he wasn't being replaced by a bus ticket, and then she slowly and carefully climbed the stairs to return to bed.

When she rested her head on her pillow, she could feel her heart pounding. Had she taken the stairs too quickly? Or was the panic creeping in. Would her boss be angry that she was away? If she called and changed her mind, would the weather cause her grief? Would Bruce be put in harm's way? What time was it?

She glanced at her alarm clock and at that very moment, the power failed. Gripping her blankets with white-knuckled urgency, she crawled further under their safety and tried to scare the panic monster away.

He was too hungry. Instead he devoured Henna's serenity like a starving dog attacking an unprotected store of meat.

Monday, 14 June 2010

Elves

Megan's favourite fantasy characters were elves. Something about the pointy ears and the immortality spoke to her need for more in her life.

Every night, once she had settled into bed and turned out the light, she would close her eyes and imagine worlds where she was an elf, and she would speak to the forest and run with her friends for hours without tiring. Her clothes were made of gossamer spun by fairies and her hair was long, soft, and straight.

While she played out the illusion in her mind, she would drift off, hoping that her dreams would bring the world alive and she would feel it, know it, live it. But her subconscious mind never cooperated. Instead she would dream of missing the bus or forgetting an exam and wake exhausted and miserable.

Elves knew how to live. Elves deserved more in life than a cubicle, quarterly reports, and the endless commute in gridlock back and forth every day.

And so, Megan brought the day dreams into the workplace. With a spreadsheet on her screen and her fingers randomly typing in numbers, she would live adventures with cloaks and daggers, arrows and wings, and soar above her mundane reality.

Thursday, 3 June 2010

Question

Billy Russet asked me the same question every single day of our sixth grade year. Didn't matter if the weather was cold or hot, if the teacher was in a good mood or mean, or if I was in my prettiest dress or ugliest, most worn-out clothes.

"Say, Donna, what's the worst thing you've ever done?"

I don't know if he was expecting me to try to out-do myself each day, maybe come up with a better "worst thing" as often as possible. Or maybe this was some kind of convoluted flirting. Or better yet, maybe his mind was wired differently than everybody else's brain.

I had heard rumours, from the other kids, about Billy's Dad. And how his Mom wasn't in the picture and he didn't know where she was or when she'd ever be back. Stuff like that has got to hurt. Maybe he wanted to know how bad other people were just to put his own life in perspective.

Funny how I thought about Billy today. Maybe because the headline in the paper talks about some lunatic who got jail time for setting puppies on fire. I mean, who sets puppies on fire? You've got to be some twisted kind of you-know-what to do something like that. It definitely qualifies as a "worst thing."

Or maybe, the guy is Billy.

No, the paper named him Jack.

I think I'll go back to eating my boring breakfast and thinking about people for whom a "worst thing" is running with scissors or borrowing your Dad's car and forgetting to put gas in.

That's a good one for today.

Monday, 24 May 2010

Day

In the light of day, Sylvia found patience, comfort, and if not happiness, at least a fragment of contentment. When the sun set, her perceptions darkened with the sky, turning her life into a mix of tears, fears, and misery.

Her mother, Patricia, tried to help Sylvia cope. She would bring her calming music, chocolate, and other treats. She would call her daughter after dinner and try to assist in the transition. But no amount of steering or sweets could do much to counter the physiological aspects of Sylvia's disorder.

Medication would help at times, but after about six months, Sylvia would build up a tolerance and the difficulties would return. Luckily, her doctor only worked during the day, so he was able to convince Sylvia to visit his office, try another treatment, and hope against hope that she might find a balance to her life.

Balance was as elusive as joy.

On a Tuesday in May, she found herself walking a different way home from work. The sidewalk had been torn up by the city for repairs, so in following the detour, she ended up stumbling across a pet shop. She had never been the puppy seeking type, nor did she melt at the sign of a mewing kitten. This shop had chosen, to her surprise, an iguana for the front window, and something about the way the creature would move and then be still, flit and then go stone-immovable, had called to Sylvia's sense of self. Here was a bipolar creature, just like herself. One that was just as comfortable in action, than in fear.

And so, by the time she reached her subway stop, she carried a cardboard box with breathing holes under her arm, and a litany of instructions for constructing a shelter under the other.

Wednesday, 19 May 2010

Bland

Kim considered herself bland. Her definition had been built on all of the traits that she did not possess; all of the places she did not belong.

She was not a member of a visible minority, nor did she have an unusual weight, height, or appearance. Her job, as a high school teacher, made her one of tens of thousands in her province.

She was not rich, or poor for that matter, she no longer had a husband, and she did not belong to any clubs or organizations. She was an atheist, and even if she could be persuaded to believe in a higher power, her parents, and their parents before them, had all been such non-believers that Kim could not even pin a particular religious label on herself.

When she walked down the street, people did not notice her. Their eyes did linger on her figure or mock her appearance. She simply existed.

More boring than white bread, and just as tasteless, she belonged to no one, fit in nowhere, and could drop dead at any time and no one would notice she no longer inhaled and exhaled.

Remarkably, one evening, as she pondered the pathetic selection of television shows to watch, she decided that rather than picking up a good book to read, she would write one.

A memoire no less.

Because surely she was not the only bland person on the planet. And if she could somehow capture the quintessential essence of bland-dom, she would sell at the very least, a few hundred thousand copies of the book, one for every other bland person, who, like her, made their home in an English-speaking part of the world.

She opened a dollar store notebook, picked up a pen, and wrote, "I consider myself bland."

Monday, 17 May 2010

Guard

Vanessa stood in the lobby of the dentist's office, holding her credit card in one hand and her new mouth guard in the other. Dr. Ren had explained the instructions on how to use the device, as well as providing some helpful hints on how to keep it clean. But all that Vanessa could think about was how embarrassed she would be, the first time she went to bed beside Gus, her boyfriend of only three months, with this hunk of smelly plastic in her mouth.

The secretary applied the charge to the credit card. She must have noticed the dread seeping across Vanessa's face, because she said, "It's about as sexy as old people's feet."

"Exactly," said Vanessa. "My boyfriend won't be my boyfriend any more once he gets a load of this."

"It takes some getting used to, but after a while, you'll find you sleep better when you use it. If he cares about you, your comfort, and your future dental health, he'll understand."

"I'm not sure our relationship is that solid."

The secretary leaned in close. "So get up in the night to pee, and put the guard in. Make sure you're the first one up in the morning, and take it out before he sees it."

Vanessa shook her head. "I don't know if I want to be that sneaky."

"Use your judgement. And if you have any questions, don't hesitate to call."

"Thanks."

"No worries."

Wednesday, 12 May 2010

Soft

Her hands had once been soft, like silken gloves on a china doll. But now, after years of soaking in detergents, scouring and scrubbing, they had turned to sandpaper-scored leather.

After Mitch died, her sister had encouraged her to date. What a farce! She hadn't even considered other men, hadn't looked at them, socialized with them, or even remotely enjoyed their company for a decade or more. The idea of scrutinizing them, running down a list of pros and cons, hoping to find some sort of spark or connection seemed not only absurd, but a complete waste of time.

Then along came Stephan. With his smooth words and kind disposition. After several encounters at the check-out desk of the library, they had decided to meet for coffee. And when he had leaned over to lay his hand on hers, he had flinched away almost immediately.

She considered explaining how she worked with her hands, but decided against it. She could have dug through her purse for some hand cream, but assumed the gesture was already futile.

When he excused himself to answer his cell phone, she shrugged and sipped at her latte. Perhaps he would return. If not, she had learned a valuable lesson.

Thursday, 6 May 2010

Laundry

Jesse hated doing the laundry. He despised it, loathed it, would wear the same shirt two days in a row, just to avoid the pile for one more day.

Part of the problem was the whole Laundromat issue. He truly felt that coin-washes were filled with losers, with the scum of society who were either too poor to afford their own machine, or two transient to keep one. This attitude stemmed from his upbringing, in an upper-middle-class family, for whom the word "want" never entered their vocabulary. He had grown up assuming this would also be his future lifestyle. However, his parents died, suddenly, without insurance, and to his surprise, with a massive reverse mortgage against their home that left him with virtually nothing.

Then, the infamous divorce, where his trophy wife decided she wanted to be something, or do something, or whatever the hell it was that she said she wanted. After the lawyers were through with him, they sent him an invoice for their services that would have killed a small animal if left opened on a counter. Oh, and also a schedule of monthly payments he had to pay to her, to make sure she stayed in the life she had grown accustomed.

Life sucked for Jesse.

And so, he found himself in the Laundromat, spending another Tuesday evening waiting for his clothes to finish in the dryer so he could slink out and hope to God that no one he actually knew would see him here.

Saturday, 1 May 2010

Potato

She had a severe addiction to the potato. Boiled, baked, scalloped, mashed. The presentation didn't matter so long as the potato ended up on her plate.

Her partner, Luigi, didn't quite understand, but he humoured her nonetheless. Can we have rice tonight? he would think to himself. These words would never reach his lips. After all, he loved her too dearly to risk the shock to her system.

One night, over brandies, Luigi and his lovely mother-in-law had shared a secret conversation of a childhood moment. The night Sarah had eaten rice, on a lark, and ended up in the hospital on a ventilator. The reaction could have simply been an alergy, but Sarah had taken it to heart.

Friday, 30 April 2010

Ring

Shelly dropped her ring down the drain. This was not a deliberate act, one to show scorn to her husband for being such a deadbeat that she had to work the night shift as a custodian. No, this was an act of complete stupidity, mixed with a little bit of clumsiness and a dash of bad luck.

She told Lou, the foreman, about the incident, and he had laughed. Actual, gut jiggling guff-ahs, as though losing a wedding ring was not only perfect comedic timing, but it actually added to Shelly's humiliation and rank.

People like her didn't get a lot of breaks in life, as a matter of fact, they usually ended up in dead-end jobs, with loser partners, a mountain of debt, and a series of leech-ish children.

Shelly would likely be no different.

And her over-extended belly was a reminder to her, and everyone around her, that the baby part was about to begin.

Wednesday, 21 April 2010

Vampire

All her life she had dreamt about vampires.

First, there had been the cute ones, like The Count on Sesame Street and Count Chocula. As she grew older, she decided that cooler vampires would be more fun, like the ones in the Meyer novels and the ones on television.

On her twenty-first birthday, feeling in the prime of her life, she decided that the notion of looking this great for all of eternity sounded pretty appealing. So every evening, once the sun went down (of course) she would troll the dark alleys, looking for that elusive rave, the one that was invitation only, where the truly cool people would hang out, stay up all night, do strange drugs, and attract all of the night creatures.

At first, this plan failed. She mostly found herself in the seedier parts of town, worrying for her safety, and spending the wee hours creeping through alley after alley, industrial park after industrial corridor, and finding little more than garbage, rats, and all manner of disgusting creepy crawlies.

One Tuesday, at precisely three-thirty-seven am, she stumbled across a huge metal door, behind which the unmistakable sound of music thumping brought joy to her heart. She knocked, and the quintessential sliding view-window showed her a pair of dark red eyes.

"Yes?" said the man.

"I'd like to join the party."

"Password," he demanded.

She took a chance, "Blood."

He opened the door, and sniffed at her hair as she entered their lair.

Tuesday, 20 April 2010

Key

She kept his key in the inside pocket of her leather jacket, tucked inside a worn pair of blue gloves. When she drove, she could feel the bump pressed between the seatbelt and her shoulder. And when she would pull it out, the warmth of the metal would feel comforting against her skin.

Any reminder she could hold onto added a blanket of peace around her frustrated soul. Mitch had made a commitment, to the armed forces, to his unit. Under no circumstances would he or she ever consider breaking the commitment. But ten months would stretch into two years, and every time the news reported another casualty, Helen would wait, holding her breath, listening for the name, or the location, or a hint of whether or not she would find herself alone.

Sunday, 18 April 2010

Flop

Bernie loved the word "flop" in poker, not because the flop could make or break his hand, but also because he was intimately familiar with the word. As a matter of fact, people had been teaching him its meaning for a very long time.

For instance, in his first grade spelling bee, when he heard the word "straight" and after hearing it in a sentence, he spelled it "strait," he lost not only his geekish crown, but the admiration of Jennifer Cornwall, the prettiest redhead he had ever set eyes on. Little did he understand, at that moment, that poker would soon play an intimate role in his future.

Bernie did so love the game. He would play it on his phone, online, even watch it on television. His mother thought it exceptionally unusual that a grown man would watch other grown men sit around and play with cards for money. In the same breath, she would curse his name for never figuring out that moving away from your parents' house was not only liberating, but it might actually mean you could go about your life without worrying about discovering that your favourite shirt has been bleached from red to pink.

Sure, women understand that bleach can suck a man's masculinity faster than Lik-M-Aid through a straw. But they also comprehend the power of the slow and painful death.

Tuesday, 13 April 2010

Basement

They say that the basement represents our past. The place where we store our history. Mine is no different.

I've spent the last several hours tidying my basement. Deciding which toys can be donated to charity, which items I will sell online, and which I will be packing away in boxes to take to the next house. It's a soul-numbing activity. Putting aside items that matter. They all remind me of happy times, or sad, busy times, or quiet ones. So many pieces that attach themselves to our lives. Sometimes we forget how much of the now is actually constructed mostly from moments long ago.

Funny, there is no "next house" yet. Only the idea of one. It seems that when you intend to sell your house, you have to make it perfect. Not only pristine, from a tidy point of view, but also neutral. So neutral, in fact, that any item of a personal nature must go.

All that furniture you've had since high school -- gone, because everyone is supposed to have new, coordinated furniture. All of the photographs and artwork that has any meaning to you, whatsoever, must be removed and stored. Because, God forbid, no one wants to imagine you living there. No, they must only see themselves living in your house.

Even though, you're technically still living there.

Sunday, 11 April 2010

Thimble

I poured her a thimble-sized taste of tequila into the fanciest glass in my cupboard. She wasn't much of a drinker, so I chose not to pressure her. Just a taste, enough to show her what to expect from tequila, but not enough to force into some kind of obligation to drink more than made her comfortable.

This was our first date after all.

The fact that I managed to convince her to come inside my house, after dinner, after the first kiss, was an f-ing miracle on its own. Combine that with the fact that I convinced a self-admitted non-drinker into trying tequila straight out of the bottle and you might suspect I'd slipped something into her crème brulé.

Nope.

I'm simply charming. And handsome. And humble.

Oh, and most importantly...insanely lucky!

Tuesday, 6 April 2010

Munchkin

Bob thought one of the most terrifying creatures in the world was the munchkin. With their beady eyes and their squeaky voices, they could sneak up on you, out of your peripheral vision and bite your ankles before you had a chance to run.

Bob would actually have nightmares about them, hundreds of them, gathered along brick roads of all colours, waiting to pound on innocent victims of healthy height and proportions. Sometimes, they would each carry a magic toothpick, far too short to be considered a wand, and use them to unravel all sorts of unholy magic.

Once, they had turned the sky to purple and made it rain miniature marshmallows. Bob had awakened in a cold sweat, his hair plastered to his skull, feeling as though he had just taken a bath in a hot pool of melted mallow. Another night, they had chanted his name, their voices a cacophony of terror, until the sound itself lifted him off the ground and slammed him back on his feet, over and over again, until he actually began to shrink in size, his body squishing together like a worn feather pillow.

At night, Bob had begun the ritual of taking a shot of vodka to try and soften his mind, quiet his fears, and best of all, muddle his imagination. Unfortunately, it hadn't kept the dreams away, only shortened their duration or made their effects less frightening.

Bob wondered how much more vodka might be required to cure himself completely of the munchkin plague, without actually turning him into an alcoholic.

Monday, 5 April 2010

Post-awafflelyptic

I had the post-awaffleyptic blues, which is the state of mind one finds oneself in, after consuming far too many waffles during Sunday Brunch.

First, the heartburn began, followed by the flop after the sugar rush of the syrup and whipped cream subsided. I chewed on three antacids, knowing even two wouldn't be quite enough to buffer me from my earlier stupidities. Why is it, that I can't figure out a way to watch what I eat.

Okay, technically, I do watch the food, right before I put it in my mouth. I have no willpower, no switch in my head that says, "enough already, you're full, stop shovelling it back."

Yeah, miss the switch. Need the switch.

For now, I'll be booking another trip to Wal*Mart to buy myself some stretch pants in the next size up. You'd think that the notion of spending more money on clothes would be enough for me to stop, maybe even go for a walk once in a while.

But no.

I did mention that total lack of willpower, right?

Monday, 22 March 2010

Memory

My memory of the incident comes in waves. Some days, I can relive every detail, every smell, every colour, the tiniest of specks of dust floating in the sun streaming through my window. Other days, the images blur, like sand stirring up beneath the waves of a roiling sea.

The smell of copper, the black patches, the smashing of the glass.

That Monday started like any other, sipping my green tea while I caught up on weekend emails, listening to the news on the radio, snippets of the most interesting events in a score of other people's lives. The sun shone brightly, making dust cloud kaleidoscopes. Most importantly, I experienced waves of happiness, as though my routine could protect me from all the evil that dwells outside my sanctuary.

But the darkness can seep through any crack, slipping between molecules or shoving its way, cracking and splintering as it advances. Accidents aren't mistakes, per se, they are coincidences smushed up against flukes, mixing with fate until they become outcomes.

Come through my window they did. Smash through my walls they did. My body, once taken for granted, became a fulcrum between a fender and my bookshelf.

Saturday, 6 March 2010

Temper

Jesse had about as much control over her temper as she had over the weather. And no, she wasn't a witch or a rainmaker. Any wrongdoing could set her off, from having a random passenger in her car diss the music she had selected, to finding only half-fresh mushrooms at the grocery store.

She understood the implications of her weakness, including alienation, poor friendship retention, and the label that started with a b and rhymed with witch. Secretly, she longed to be cool and collected, she even went so far as to study people who were of an even temperament. But she could not find the switch inside her mind that turned off her explosive fuse.

Bobby liked Jesse. He thought the curve of her neck could not be more perfect, that her eyes almost glowed with their grey hue, and that her smile had a touch of wickedness that filled his mind with impure thoughts. The only obstacle between him and the act of asking Jesse out remained her temper.

Bobby was not a strong man, nor a self-confident one. He simply existed, and on a plane that most days did not involve interaction with the opposite sex. Want as he did, he could not move towards the getting, only the yearning existed.

Thursday, 25 February 2010

Banana

The banana is a radical fruit. It's like, you know, epic, in that way that only a banana can be.

Take one in your hand and grasp it, man, it's like, yeah, Ba-Na-A. No other fruit has that fluffy texture, and I dare you to scrounge another fruit you can snap in two with your bare hands. Try it some time, man, it's like, wow. Snappage.

It's sorta tomato-related, cause, they're both fruit, but they're both out there. I mean, one is kinda like a veggie, but it's not, and the other is so out there. I can't grasp any other fruits, and I mean that, grasp, and peel like a banana. They have their own protective coating, so you don't need to wash them, and you don't need to bring a knife along, and there's no pits or seeds that get stuck between your teeth.

And the energy -- woah -- like potassium, it's in there, truly, the kind of juice that keeps you going. Not like five grapes and you ate, but you're still hungry, you know. They're almost like drinking water, not much there, just a thirst quencher, but I'm not here to talk grapes.

Bananas. They rock. They rule. They are my friends.

So go get one, and make it a good one, not those blackish ones, because they're pretty slimy, though my mom freezes them and uses them in muffins, but whatever.

Saturday, 20 February 2010

Gold

Gold is the metal that everyone wants. Or should I say medal. Because at this time of year, while we're all watching sports like luge and long track speed skating, sports we wouldn't even know exist the other 1442 days between winter Olympics.

But hey, we've won some gold. Four, now, and I'm speaking about Canada, in case you didn't figure it out. And it seems a bit silly for me to say "we" when I had absolutely nothing to do with the winning of these medals. I simply watch the sport and then take credit for it. Silly, right?

Why is it that we feel the need to take credit for such feats, when "we" do nothing but sit on our duffs, drinking beer, eating chips, and basically behaving an absolutely un-athletic manner? Well, we do pay taxes that go towards the development of the athletes. And we pay for ridiculously overpriced merchandise that supports the athletes, so "we" do play a microscopic role.

But we aren't the ones getting up at five am so we can practice before school. We aren't the ones who put our education, our lives on hold while we become elite athletes in obscure sports that get so very little glory we might as well be living on another planet.

That's why they want the gold. So for a few seconds it's all worth it. In that moment, their story lives forever. In that moment, they shine like gold.

I guess that's why they use a metal that doesn't tarnish, doesn't rust, doesn't even dissolve at the bottom of the ocean or in a tomb for a few thousand years.

Good choice, that GOLD!

Go Canada!

Monday, 15 February 2010

Hope, Antidisestablishmentarianism

Thanks to Michael and Emmett for the words.
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Edgar sat on the sidelines, hoping against hope, that one day the Homeland Security people would allow him to join their antidisestablishmentarianism club. With their dark suits and their bland ties, always watching, always listening. These were men (and women, of course) whose sole purpose was to catch the bad guys, the lurkers, the disturbers of peace, justice, and the truly American way.

Edgar had a flagpole on his front lawn, and every day he flew his flag with pride. And at the end of the day, he would hum a little taps while he lowered the flag, never allowing it to touch the ground. Folding it was a bit difficult, those marines made it look so easy on television, but as a solo man, he couldn't possibly make as crisp a job of it.

Perhaps that was the reason the Homeland Security people hadn't called.

Edgar decided he would ask around the neighbourhood, and perhaps round up another two or three patriots who could help him each night. There had to be some close by. After all, who wouldn't love this fine country?

Definitely a plan. He would throw in a little something, like some TastyKakes or Twinkies, to add to the enthusiasm.

Saturday, 13 February 2010

Nostril

Becky's right nostril was larger than the left. By a significant amount, or so she believed each time she studied herself in a mirror.

Which was often.

Becky had issues with self esteem. She believed this trait (she refused to call it a flaw, even though some would argue it might be on the verge of one) had been passed down from one Cavindil mother to another for countless generations. Between their too-thin lips, their larger-than-average thighs, and their under-developed breasts, they had plenty to feel ugly about.

Not to mention the inside issues.

Like how Great-Grandmother Cavindil had believed that the number three was so important that everything in her life revolved around it. Three suitors, three husbands, three children, three doors to the house, three windows built into each wall. Most of the town folk thought she spent too much time intoxicated, but she rarely drank the whisky they all assumed she overindulged in.

Yes, a fine lineage of eclectic weirdnesss.

Thursday, 11 February 2010

Chance and Chipmunk

To dabble with chance is to stand in front of a waterfall and hope that you won't get wet. Sometimes the wind is blowing the right way, or the water is slow from too many days without rain, or trees provide shelter from the mist.

Other times, you get wet. Plain and simple. So wet, in fact, that your shoes squeak and your socks squish and your hair will never be the same.

Chance eluded Gus, the same way a chipmunk will avoid humans who seem more intent on wringing its neck than giving it a peanut. Gus would buy lottery tickets, three every week, and he never won. Not on the scratch and win, not on the pick six in 49, and not even in the pull open for charity game, where every third ticket is a winner.

Not Gus's tickets. Nope. He would sit in the mall, near the lottery kiosk, and in his first move, he would carefully scratch each symbol. Sure, sometimes two would match, sometimes more than one pair. But never three, the winning combination. Next, he would pull open the charity cards, revealing an assortment of lemons and cherries, but never the combination that shouted out victory. Finally, he would dig in his pocket for last week's forty-niner, and walk slowly up to the kiosk. The self-help scanner would then inform him, again, that he should try again.

"I always do," he would tell the machine. Funny, but the machine never thanked him, or laughed at his misfortune, or gave him advice.

Wednesday, 10 February 2010

Schedule

Stacy set a new schedule, penciling in the simplest of tasks. Like waking, eating, and moving. Normally, a person shouldn't have to set a structured time to accomplish these menial, daily functions, and even Stacy found it the tiniest bit absurd to do so. Funny the hoops that others can make one jump through.

Millicent had been chatting with Stacy for three years, and seventeen weeks. These "chats" were actually sessions, of the head shrinking variety, but Millicent found the alternative term set her more fragile clients more at ease. In those particular instances, ease was taken in whichever form it could be found. Even a repeated white lie.

At home, Stacy dug her phone out of her purse and scrolled to the never-used calendar feature. There, after several mistakes, the worst of which erased a picture of a squirrel she had been particularly enamoured with, she taught herself how to enter appointments via the daily sub-menu.

Three intervals of fifteen minutes, allocated at eleven, two, and seven for "movement." Check.

Four sessions of eating, including the all-important evening snack before retiring. Check.

One appointment to wake, and another to put in for the night. Check.

With a shrug, she set the appointments to chime, as a reminder, then placed her phone on the nightstand.

"I'll give anything for this one to work."

Think

When you're sitting on a chair lift, you've got plenty of time to think. About recent events that make you smile, about obstacles that you're still facing, and about the many ways you can improve on who you are and what you've become.

I'm happier than I have ever been and simultaneously, more profoundly sad than I could imagine feeling. This constant dichotomy is straining me in ways I will struggle to describe.

A good, balanced, healthy relationship can truly make your world more positive, more glowing, more full of laughter, and I have been lucky enough to find this miracle. Sure, it took me two tries, and our geographical situation is far from ideal, but simply thinking about him, or looking at a picture of him always brings a smile.

On the other hand, children can be taxing, particularly during the teen years. And though I will not go into any details here, they can bring immense, long-lasting, far-reaching sorrow into your life. Granted, when I consider the possibilities, of how bad things can be, and have been, for the many people who have since shared their own stories, I do feel lucky that my burden isn't so large, or tortured, or horrific.

I still hurt. But the amount of time I will spend grieving lessens, as I discover ways to heal, to get on with life, to look forward rather than backward.

Skiing brought a forgotten thrill -- the speed, the view, the open air, the sky -- I am so glad to have participated.

Monday, 8 February 2010

Depiction

Euphenal's depiction of human life brought tears to his tutor's eyes.

"You captured them so well, with their drooling and their awkward loping. I've never seen such an accurate xenobiological play performed so beautifully."

"Thank you, sir," said Euphenal. "I've been studying them for several orbits."

"Your hard work paid off." The tutor fluffed Euphenal's eye stocks and spit in his thorax. "I am nominating you for a place on the next student expedition."

"Truly?"

"Absolutely!"

Euphenal clicked his pincers together with delight. Such an honour, to be included on the next expedition. But convincing his Queen to allow him to leave the hive for an extended period of time could prove awkward.

His Tutor must have sensed Euphenal's concern, for he said, "The Queens' Council has a pact with the tutorial board, allowing such absences, only if the pupil is properly deserving, and nominated for the trip. I'm sure your Queen will approve your temporary withdrawal from the colony."

The tutor leaned closer, brushing his antennae against Euphenal's, and added, "If I were you, young plick, I would buy her a bowl or two of honekduai at the docking port. Sweets go a long way."

"Great idea." Euphenal began to pack up his study supplies for the day, and added, "I haven't been this elated since the Blipard colony offered free Snuuzkzs."

Sunday, 7 February 2010

Plum

The juices of the plum dripped down Serina's face, so that she looked more animal than human. Her first meal since discovering the plum tree, she gorged herself. Cramps pulled and jabbed at her stomach, a sure sign that she would soon lose half the meal, but her hunger spurred her on.

Eat. Live. Eat. For the next meal might be far off.

A noise, from the woods close by. Footsteps? She turned to spot something tiny, no bigger than a squirrel or a cat. A glimpse of brown fur and a huge, fuzzy tail.

Squirrel.

The creature scampered closer, chittering and flicking its tail. My plums, no doubt the warning it tried to pass along to Serina. Get your stinking human paws off my tree.

But Serina would not be stalled by a creature as insignificant as a squirrel. A part of her hoped that with a quick jab, she might be eating squirrel stew in a few hours.

Then the little fuzz ball jumped high, taking Serina off guard, and dug its teeth into the flesh above her belt. She batted at it, pain numbing her senses, trying to ward off the beast.

To her horror, the creature had ripped her open, a wound at least ten centimetres in length. Had its teeth been replaced with razors?

She reached for her belly, trying to hold in what used to be on the other side of her skin, where organs belong. The last thing she remembered, before she passed out was the slash of its claws along the tender flesh of her inner wrist.

With a blink, her world faded and the squirrel screeched in victory.

Thursday, 4 February 2010

Boy, Den

When I was a boy, I used to sit outside my father's den and listen to him type. When that door was closed, I wouldn't even dream of knocking, let along opening the door. Dad would be immersed in his characters, dreaming of far away places, heroes who saved the girl, and the vile and sinister exploits of their evil nemeses. Sometimes, I would bring my own pad of paper and scribble down stories of my own.

If only I had saved those stories. I bet they would either inspire me, or make me fall off my chair laughing.

But I don't have much from my early days. The fire took it all, my stuffed animals, pictures of me as a baby, and almost every shred of proof that my mother ever existed. All that my father kept of her was the ring he still wore, despite having lost her during my birth. He often told me that he intended to wear the ring forever, even if he found another woman to share his life. She wouldn't mind, so long as the ring was designated "theirs" as well as "hers."

Dad's not much of a dater. As a matter of fact, he rarely leaves the house now. My house, where I've set him up a nice little apartment in the back, to keep on writing, and keep on living, even on the days when breathing is more of a chore than a requirement.

We continue to be inseparable. Perhaps that's why I haven't found a wife of my own, or discovered what it feels like to be a father. Though some would argue that I am my father's father now, or at the very least, his keeper.

Sucks to be old. Sucks to be an only child. Sucks to dream of living instead of actually doing it.

Wednesday, 3 February 2010

Bowl

The edges of the bowl were caked with dried soup, remnants from the stirring pre-microwave. Shelly had intended to savour the food while it was still hot, but once again, she found herself distracted. By the laundry, the dishes, the phone, her Facebook games, anything and everything to keep her from taking time for herself.

Her therapist called it "self care," but she tended to think of it more as self indulgence. After all, the less eaten, the higher probability that she might fit into her favourite pair of jeans once more. But that's not how life actually worked out, because once she realized how hungry she had become, she would eat way too much for dinner and then regret it, promising herself that tomorrow she would eat the soup, tomorrow she would take that walk along the river, tomorrow she would begin to live the life she wanted to, rather than the one that pushed itself upon her.

Right. Self care. Perhaps it was more than a catch phrase, perhaps it would actually improve the quality of her overall day.

She glanced at the bowl of soup. Now, the top had grown a bit of a skin, but with a stir, it all swirled back together. (Or at least buried itself below the surface in clumps too small to be detected by the casual observer.) A hint of steam escaped, not much, but evidence none the less that what remained in the bowl was not only edible, it might actually border palatable.

Gripping the spoon with a newfound determination, she filled her mouth with the creamy-earthy taste of mushroom soup.

"That'll do." She said to her laptop, then took another mouthful.

Sunday, 31 January 2010

Chill

The wind tore through my hat and gloves, deepening the chill I had endured all morning. Days like this, when the sun was high and the clouds nonexistent, the cold seemed to fall down from heaven, as though humans must all be punished for their wrongs.

And we certainly deserved the scolding. After all, we pretty much cornered the market on sin, between the popular ones like murder and lust, and the coveting of our neighbours and of course, the old cussing the big guy's name, we had them all covered. Add a few extras to the mix like polluting our only habitable planet or annihilating a few species so we can eat more bland and unhealthy hamburgers, well, we deserved the freezing out.

The Nordic countries had it right -- that hell isn't hot at all, it's actually cold. Because when you've been cold, for an extended period of time, you know what it means to feel a mixture of pain, fear, and frustration. No matter how fast you move, you can't get warm. If you break into a sweat, the moisture only makes it worse. You need heat, fire, shelter, anything to get away from it, to chase down the demon cold and blast it back where it came from.

Thursday, 28 January 2010

Epic Hermit

Thanks to Amy for the phrase.
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Raena was an epic hermit, the kind of woman who only left the house when absolutely necessary. She ordered what she needed from the internet, had her friends drop by with things she couldn't get on her own, and generally speaking, enjoyed the peace and solace of her environment.

Friends, you ask? How could the woman have made friends? Well, she had her on-line friends, and the people who had been a part of her life before. Back when she felt connected to her family, especially her children. In the time when she could hop out of bed eager to face the day, or find a smile as easily as a pencil.

Raena's mother had always spoken of the essential components of contentment: giving more than receiving, nurturing empathy, and following the rules of etiquette. Raena had made choices based on these simple rules, thinking each time about the best possible outcomes, the maximum benefit to all, the road worth taking.

Epic failure.

The part her mother hadn't foreseen was the inevitable randomization that outside inputs could bring to the equation of life. Car accidents. Hormones. Bad luck. These were the jokers in Raena's deck, the extra cards her mother had forgotten to remove before she handed the cards to her daughter. And so, life turned more cloistered than congenial.

The Brainstormed Topic List

Last night, for my 100 words, I brainstormed a list of topics I "know something about" as background for my next novel. In many, I'm sure as heck no expert, but at least I've "been there, done that" in a roundabout manner. Here's the list, in no particular order, with some important ones no doubt left out since I was very tired at the time:

Toronto
Kitchener
University of Waterloo
Math
Teaching
Pampered Chef
Singing
Rock Bands
Writing
Reading
Ballet
Hockey
Motherhood
Daycare
Boys
Beavers, Cubs, Brownies, Girl Guides
Cooking
Baking
Cleaning
Single moms
Swimming
Pools
Gardening
BBQing
Air travel
Boats
Fishing
Canoeing
Hiking
SF conventions
Movies
Typing
Answering phones
Help Desks
Home renovations
Painting
Knitting
Running
Aerobics
Bowling
Skating
Divorce
Financial planning
Lawyers
Husbands
Passive agressiveness
Romantic Love
Lovemaking
Dating
Kissing
Barbies
Skipping
Jumpsies
Ball games
Riding a bike
The Elderly
Dimensia
Nursing homes
Blind people
Picnics
Hostess etiquette
Puppies
Cats
Rats
Hamsters
Fish keeping
Mice
Woodstoves
Campfires
Day camps
Overnight camps
Outdoor concerts
Fountain pens
Notebooks
Computers
Blackberries (the devices, not the fruit)
Dresses
Orthotics
Physiotherapy

Tuesday, 26 January 2010

Spike

Someone had planted a spike in the driveway, though on closer inspection, it was more of a tack than a spike. Either way, it jabbed through Gertie's girlie tire like a hot knife through Jello.

It had been named such by her previous lover, Abdu, who had insisted that he had never, ever, scraped the side of the tire along a sidewalk while parallel parking, and that the giant bulge must have been caused by a manufacturing defect in her pathetically thin, sporty tires which were obviously too delicate for any kind of serious driving.

Hence the term, girlie-tire.

If Abdu hadn't been out of the picture for months, he would have immediately come to mind as the first suspect in the tack-spike sabotage. However, since he had moved back to Armenia, his innocence was above reproach.

Gus, the pool guy, had been skulking around the driveway on the previous day, angry over being accused of once again using the cabana towels for his own benefit. He was such a heavy perspirer, always wanting to dab at his brow, and other less-appealing places, and the thought of wiping himself and then folding the towel up and returning it to the clean pile was enough to turn Gertie into a mad woman.

Sure of herself, Gertie slammed the car door in disgust, pulled out her cell phone, and dialed the number for the pool cleaning service, convinced that Gus should not only be fired, but humiliated in some fashion.

Monday, 25 January 2010

Bear

A bear is a nasty creature, hunting through garbage, chasing your pet dog, but mostly cavorting through the woods ready to slice your throat soon as look at you. Granted, not all bear varieties are quite that nasty, especially black bears that are essentially big deer with sharp teeth. Grizzlies, however, are as mean as they come, and polar bears, despite their cute and cuddly reputation via the Coca Cola advertising campaigns, will eat your child on the way to school if provided the opportunity.

Glen studied the grizzlies for his PhD, following a trio of males who had all been darted, tagged, and released. Each had a GPS tracker embedded in the skin under his ear so that several students and rangers could follow their patterns. Glen's favourite of the three was specimen 23A8LBT, affectionately referred to as Labert, or Bert for short.

Bert had no Ernie, for grizzlies are solitary creatures. His primary den was situated below two overhangs, and in between two spruce, making it relatively dry, sheltered from the wind, and easy to defend. Glen had never visited the site in person, for that was a risk no human would make. Instead, he studied it via a variety of satellite images, not only less adventurous, but also woefully inadequate. If Glen didn't have a partner, Johnny, waiting back home every night, he would have taken the risk and visited Bert's place during one of the helicopter treks.

Ah to be young and have nothing to lose.

Sunday, 24 January 2010

Farm

Silvia spent her afternoons dreaming of owning a farm. Not the kind with acre upon acre of one crop. No, hers was the random sort, with a different crop in every row, a barn zoo-full of variety, and a big, drafty house built of hand-piled stones and with less than a dozen electrical outlets.

She relished the notion of leaving the computer-centric world, reading a dog-eared paperback novel by the light of a fire rather than wasting her time online, making pretend food and chatting with moved-away friends.

Instead, the four flat-screen monitors displayed her many tasks-in-progress. The first, always filled with lines of code, poetry mixed with crudeness, the fodder of corporate existence. The second monitor for emails, as memos flew through the office like dragonflies, faster and more efficient than face to face communication. The art of conversation had such covens to blame for its annihilation. The third, a debugging screen, the mistress for screen number one. And lastly, her favourite, a web browser, her gateway to escape, her connection beyond the cubicle walls, her lover, her compadre, her salvation.

The post-lunch sleepiness always hit her the hardest during her monthly week of misery. Chocolate scraped the edge of it away, but could never fully contain the wrath of hormone-induced depression. These were her least productive days, during which the notion of a simpler life flooded her beyond the hundred-year-line. On such afternoons, her misfortunes could not only be counted, they could be placed in a ledger and profited upon.

Tomorrow

I attended a Ceili last night, including an hour and a half drive each way. So the first word today is technically for yesterday. Another post for today follows. Thanks to Michael for the word.

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Why do concepts like, "tomorrow" exist? After all, we can never get there. Because as soon as we think we've found tomorrow, it turns out to be merely today.

I used to dream about tomorrow, imagining who I would be, what kind of accolades I had earned in my ambitious pursuits, what manners of love would envelope my heart from my myriad of friends and relatives. Which sort of lifestyle I embraced.

But now, my dreams are night visions, endless traps where I cannot find the room where the final exam will be written, or my apartment has no lock and the neighbours continue to ransack my meagre possessions. In them, I call out the name of my beloved and he does not come. Instead, I succumb to another humiliation at the hands of my enemies.

I wake exhausted, wondering whether the day will bring any comfort. Routine becomes my security: the granola with the almonds, the left side of the bus, second seat from the window, the PVR with its endless supply of manufactured conflict in digital form.

Life awaits me, but only tomorrow. For today, I will simply exist.

Friday, 22 January 2010

Bob & Tree

Sally leaned against her favourite tree, a willow she affectionately referred to as Bob, and imagined the life she would never have.

A man held her hand, his fingers gently brushing against her pale skin. His lips touched at the nape of her neck, whispered his undying love, an emotion fuelled by her extraordinary beauty. If only such a man existed. If only Sally could stare at her reflection and not want to avert her eyes.

Bob's upper branches swayed ever so slightly in the thick afternoon, more as a defence against the hot sun than from the non-existent breeze. The humidity gave his leaves a heady scent that Sally found more uncomfortable than soothing.

"Bob," she said, "you need a shower. Preferably a solid downpour to rinse this afternoon away. I've had enough of the heat, thank you very much."

"We all have," came a voice behind her.

Sally turned and saw a boy. No, a man, actually, of such a short stature that on first glance she had mistaken him for a child. He wasn't small in the manner where his hands and feet were disproportionate to the rest of the body: a dwarf or midget, she could never remember the proper label.

"Bob, introduce us, please," she said.

"I'm sorry, did I miss something? Is Bob your invisible boyfriend? Or is he an extremely small dog?"

Sally laughed. "The tree. Bob is my tree."

"Ha!" he countered. "Her name isn't Bob, it's Bonnie."

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Thanks to Michael and Stephanie for the words.

Thursday, 21 January 2010

Twister

The clouds looked ominous, the kind that held a twister deep inside them, just itching to thrust down and devour hope like a starving dog eating the flesh of its undiscovered, deceased owner.

Mags shifted down, nudging her decrepit Ford to pick up enough speed to get her home before the worst of it. The tachometer needle bounced up and down, trying to relay the ancient truck's discomfort at being pushed beyond reason.

"Better to hurt you a little, than lose you completely, old gurl," she said.

Somehow, anthropomorphizing her vehicle had coaxed a few extra years out of her. That and Blaz, the handsome mechanic who loved the Ford as much as he loved Mags.

"Blaz will have a Thermos of coffee waiting for us in the shop. You get us home and I'll make sure you're safe under the pit roof."

The tachometer settled in, hovering between 3500 and 4000 rpm, enough to rev the engine loudly, but not enough to burn anything beyond functionality.

Mags glanced in the rear view mirror, and caught sight of a funnel cloud. It hadn't touched down yet, was still debating the pros and cons of silos versus big box stores, town versus country, when first the front, then the back wheels hit something big and hard. Shaken, Mags yanked at the wheel, trying to regain control, but failing. And with an ugly skid, she splayed herself right into the ditch.

"Damn." She slammed the steering wheel hard, too hard, as the column snapped and the wheel dropped into her lap.

Behind, the twister had landed and begun to suck back debris like a cold beer.

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Thanks to Amy for the word.