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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.