Sunday, July 31, 2011

The Alphagetti Oracle

Things began to get a bit weird during senior lunch when a double-dare eating contest ended with Daphne Dodona puking up all that alphagetti on the floor of the girls’ basement . . . although even this wouldn’t have been particularly remarkable had not one of her friends noticed that a bunch of the letters she’d regurgitated had come together to form words and that those words appear to have foretold not only the embarrassing failure of Vanessa Rogers’ halter top in sixth-period gym, but the first four questions from the quiz Mr. D. surprised them with at the end of the day.

Photo by Eden Biggin.


Once, the firm held an offsite “retreat”, and six of us junior associates got to go along. It entailed a great deal of Laphroaig and Barolo as well as a few token workshops to make the booze deductible as a business expense. In one session, a consultant administered a personality test. Five of us scored as extreme Alphas. We found that hilarious and yapped and argued over who was whose bitch. The sixth associate did not join in. He was not an Alpha but a laidback Delta; he was laid off before Christmas. Dog eat dog, that was our ethos.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

π recalled

Pi Fornier

First the notices came addressed to Guinness Leclair, and then Disraeli Haynes. Reminders from their doctor to get their immunizations updated. The messages seemed simultaneously ludicrous and touching. It was a pleasing thought that Guinness, being the elder of the two cats, might lift the receiver of our 1988 Harmony Touch phone, dial Dr. Gary and meow her way to an appointment. Last summer Dan volunteered at our local veterinary hospital and regaled us with the best names: Tippy Fong-Dingler (the Burmese longhair), Spanky Richardson (the ridgeless Ridgeback), Jingles McPhee (the Corgi cross). A kindergarten roll call for little gangsters.

Photo: Shannon Stapleton, Reuters

Pi-Dogs and Circles

Some domesticated beasts have wild descendants whom we've forced to make their own ways in the world. In Montmartre cemetery, feral cats leap at dusk from behind Nijinsky’s gravestone; others rove our Parliament Hill. In Yemen, yellow pi-dogs are said to tell the news each night to a certain prophet in his tomb. Cast out and unbounded, the ferals circle back, observing.
     Meanwhile, we tell ourselves countless tales of wolves, bears, and ape-mothers Kala taking in Romulus, Remus, Atalanta, Tarzan. So few of them are true. Do we repeat them because we long to be wild? Or forgiven our infidelities?

Image: Hannah Swithinbank.

Archimedes’ π

Archimedes had observed an intriguing relationship between a circle’s circumference and its radius: it was constant! He’d publish the finding immediately, but he had to come up with a term. He couldn’t think . . . Mrs. Archimedes kept banging around next door. “Would you please,” he said, barging into the kitchen. “I’ve just discovered—”
     “You old coot! You’re not the only one gets ideas around here!” There was flour on Mrs. Archimedes’ chin and perspiration on her forehead. She held up a circular dish topped with pastry. “I wrapped dough around apples and baked them at 360.  I’m naming it ‘pie’.”

Friday, July 29, 2011


After eight months of work, our Bold New Logo looked to most of us like nothing more than a capital R, inside a circle.
     “But understand,” said the branding consultant, “now everyone else with a registered trademark must include a tiny version of your mark with theirs.”
     This she called viral, and the comparison seemed apt, as she flashed through our competitors’ websites each with our little logo already in place, and our CEO asked if they wouldn’t need to put another next to that mark. And another next to that . . . ”
     To an infinite regression, and our diminishing returns.


From the moment I moved into the trailer park, I schemed to get the hell out. An early get rich plan involved the manufacturing of classy nautical barware. Overhead was small and involved only a Ronco Bottle and Jar Cutter. The raw materials were readily available as Old Spice Aftershave was the only thing Dad ever got for presents in both the Father’s day 2.5 oz (shooter) and Christmas 4.75 oz (tumbler) sizes. Unfortunately the chief investor refused funding. I was too young and dad came into the marriage with only eight fingers, so mom would have none of it.

[Image from 2 Old Folks]

The Circle R

Coyotes howled for the strength of those silent men of Circle R, their code of simple honour, their appetite for apple cobbler. Deer and the antelope licked shy salt from their bandanas, with tongues chaparral-rough. And the men never said a word of discouragement, only tipped their hats with a grateful, “Shucks, ma’am,” to the does, and clucked their little dogies into nights as starry as their shirts were checkered. Came a cloud-beset day. Strangers rode in, so slouchback louche and indifferent, they would splurt tobacco juice into the presence of a lady. This, the Circle R could not abide.

Image: Blake Matheson.


I am on record as advocating the branding of these hundred word stories as “Centimots”. I adopted this controversial proposal to fill my hundred word quota for a rather lame piece themed on the “%” sign. Don’t ask; I had a deadline. So to meet deadline on yet another symbol theme, let me extend my proposal. Why not protect the newly-established brand with a trademark? Centimots® won’t make anyone rich, but the term now connotes both artistic gravitas and commercial substance. More important, beyond notions of intellectual property, by promoting this initiative I have successfully filled my hundred word quota.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Plus Tax

For some reason I will never understand, a nickel’s worth of candy always seemed to cost me six cents, and a ten-cent toy cost me twelve. And there I was stuck with a measly 25 cents allowance, fifteen of which my mother made me put in the bank, leaving me with only 10 cents a week in a world where everything came in multiples of six, and a crappy plastic plane that had shot straight down the sewer the first time I tried it.
     One of the big kids found me there crying and fished it out with a rake.


The concrete floor of the new outdoor bandstand was still wet to the touch. On a lover’s whim they pressed their hands into it, flat-palmed but fingers linked together. Then they added their initials. Two weeks later the pair were back, dancing to Moonlight Serenade. In fifteen days he was dead, his Spitfire shot down over the North Atlantic. After a while she married a banker from the Caisse Populaire. They had three children. She died in 2000 at the age of eighty. Their ghost hands remained entwined until the building was torn down to make way for a St-Hubert’s.

[Image adapted from Under My Turquoise Umbrella]

Positive Negative

Edvard Munch, The sick child 1896
Once, on his way to the plant, Papa brought gladioli, and always a honey on white, a summer sausage on rye, because she was on strike against the hospital food and its strange gravies. The biggest plus was him explaining about the negative numbers. Subtract two from two, that’s zero. Two from zero? Huh.
     She came out at 48 pounds. That made her . . . 12 below when she’d gone in. Yup, cold weather. She bragged that her 105 had been the highest-ever temperature in the entire house. Somehow Papa snapped right then: what did she think the oven dial numbers meant? Huh.

Image: Buergertum

+ Sizing

Everything’s getting downsized these days, even clothing.  People feel better about themselves in a smaller size, even though they’re deluding themselves.  It’s a mind game, and studies show that manufacturers accommodate it along socio-economic lines:  expensive brands are sized smaller than cheaper brands.  A woman may be a 0 or a 2, depending on what she paid for her jeans.
     I’ve been a 32 waist all my life (save for when I got back from Africa, where I shrank to 29; dysentery, like black, can be slimming). But now, I can’t help wonder if I too (just possibly) am deluded.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

♉ is for Taurus

The Rape of Europa by Félix Vallotton
I know this might get me in trouble, but let’s for a moment look at this story from the man’s point of view. Because, according to some of the accounts I’ve heard, it was she who caressed his flanks, it was she who mounted him. And, yes, I’ll admit he was pretending to be something he wasn’t; but really, the two of them were already well on their way before she even began to have second thoughts. He took her to Crete and made her a queen. He showered her with gifts, and now she cries rape? I call bullshit.

♉ ∇ Ψ ✫ ✢

Holidays with cousin Sandy were edifying. Depending on where she was in life I learned about typing, intercourse, neon tetras or how to clean a bag of weed. One visit found her dabbling in witchcraft. Always her fartleberry, I too had to dip my toe into the dark arts. I bought a book and read through it, my Catholic sensibilities suppressing the ancient woodcuts of naked potbellied waifs and their goaty familiars. Until one evening the summer breeze slammed my bedroom door shut. My framed picture of Diefenbaker leapt from the wall and I decided instead to become a pirate.

[Image from: New Moon Occult Shop]

The Bull and the Hiker

Frontal, Broccoli, and Comfort: the first passwords Jacqui, Lisa, and I were assigned at Waterloo and – in those careless days – our loudly-proclaimed nicknames. In 1983, in labs overlooking the Red Room, stately housing for the University mainframes, we wrote late-night Pascal programs such as “The Bull and the Hiker.” If your hiker went lurching away from the bull at every turn, he’d never make sanctuary. If he strove resolutely for the tree, he’d be safe. And if, instead of code, you waved a bleary red nano-flag and typed “Fuck you” onto your screen, you’d receive a prim little programmed reprimand.

Image: Collage by K. Bischoping.

Taurus ♉

Dad always drove a Ford. He had a Country Sedan wagon when we were little, then traded into Ford’s wild-west line. Alas, never a Mustang – he brought home an economical four-door Maverick. Later, he bought a second car for Mom, a little Pinto, and when we all left home he traded the Maverick for a sporty Bronco. He never held it against Ford when he heard that Pintos were susceptible to exploding, and Broncos to rollovers; but that marked the end of the equine models. He sold both horses and bought the company’s bull. He drove that Taurus for years.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011


Back when I worked the register there was a dress code. Really. We were expected to wear heels and office attire. Even the men wore shirts and ties. Generally, because we were students, the idiot manager ignored us. Until rumours of an incipient union drifted by his particleboard desk. Then we were hauled in individually and questioned. He had cheap prints on the wall behind his pointy head. One was a farm scene with a wagon wheel in the foreground. The price sticker remained in full view, signaling its availability in case any of us Pinkos were overcome by art.


The Angry CyclistOur first bike trip began with Andrew stuck on the idea of dispensing our food from ziploc bags. His theory was these would be easier to pack than boxes and would get smaller with every meal. In practice, it made his panniers unmanageable, the bags burst at the slightest impact, and he ended up trailing juice crystals most of the way to Orangeville. By then I thought he’d given up on the system, until I caught him repackaging the granola we’d just bought for breakfast, then caught myself considering the efficiencies of ziplocking Andrew and heading home on my own.

Photo by Dave Brosha

"Zinc Toxicity (New Wire Disease) in Aviary Birds"

The experiment on the five peach-faced lovebirds was beyond callous. She read it again, not skimming. Oh. Unrelated to the experiment, one little lovebird had fallen to chlamydiosis; the other four had been fed antibiotics and seen their cage solicitously steam-cleaned. (Her own office rug hadn’t been cleaned in years.) She’d missed how the survivors hadn’t been brutally killed off, their deaths had been unexpected. It hadn't even been, strictly speaking, any kind of experiment. Basically, two peach faces died gnawing their cage wires and three lucky guys who noticed got themselves a refereed article in Austral. Vet. J. 63(6).


Zulu Dawn

Wednesday was movie night in our little village on the edge of the Kalahari. We showed up at sunset not caring what film would show. The screen was an exterior wall, and everyone – locals, the few expats – sat beneath the southern constellations to watch, enthralled. That’s where I saw Zulu Dawn, in which Zulu warriors unexpectedly triumph over a modern British army. Burt Lancaster, playing an enlightened British officer, falls valiantly in battle – a scene calculated to generate sympathy in filmgoers. But that night, the crowd cheered enthusiastically at his skewering, and I realized how far I was from home.

[Image source: Copyright American Cinema Releasing, 1979]

Monday, July 25, 2011

Yard Sale

Mary wants to have another yard sale, whereas I’d rather spend my weekend relaxing, or if pressed, making more money noodling around at my desk for a few extra hours than I could possibly earn convincing the neighbourhood penny-pinchers that every one of our outdated gadgets do indeed work and that the only reason we’re willing to sell this stuff for a fraction of what we once paid is because deep inside both of us there still lives the shriveled core of a once practical person who can’t bear to throw away anything that could still be useful to someone.

Yahoo! Male

The serviette fell from Terry’s lap and as she bent to retrieve it she glanced at the circle of Tevas parked under the adjacent table. A Fred Flintstone convention, one of the delegates attached to a piston-like leg that bounced up and down in nervous excitement. Straightening, she chanced a look at their faces, big, happy and red with too much microbrew and rib marinade. Although it was dusk each had prehensile sunglasses perched on a gelled head or hugging the back of a tanned neck. Together they remembered the words to Pee-Wee’s Playhouse and sang it out loud.

[Image from:]

You Died

“Come down to the basement,” says Liora, hopping, “‘Ella and me made up a story about you.” Their seven year old eyes gleam. “You died of heart cancer – no, no, what do you call this?” They pat at their chests cautiously.
     “Breast?” I ask. (This is weird.)
     “Of breast cancer! ‘Cuz, even though you cut your hair off short, so short, and someone gave you a wig to be nice to you, it grew back long. Because you die if you have long hair and breast cancer.”
     Four parents set down stricken lemon meringue pie forks when I relay this.

Image: Nils Gore


In June 1944, Britain was an armed camp. There were a million and a half American GIs in the country. “Overpaid, oversexed, and over here,” the Brits grumbled. There were a quarter million young Canadians, too, with libidos equivalent to the Americans, but they weren’t resented at all. Maybe it was that they wore British battledress and deferred to royalty, despite their horrible accents. Whatever; in the build-up to the invasion, supplies and men continued to pour in from “America”, which for convenience sake included Canada. Not for the first time, nor the last, the Yanks got all the credit.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Xmas Returns

Sometimes all it takes is a moment of calm, to find a piece of paper—the missing receipt—that shows exactly how long I have to return this book; and the slow understanding that these huge chains really don’t care a whit what they’re selling, or the condition it’s in, so long as someone else will buy it.
     “Why are you returning this?” the clerk asks.
     Can’t you see? It fell on the sidewalk. You overstuffed the bag, and it broke.
     But all I say is: “I just don’t want it.”
     So simple.
     And back on the shelf it goes.

Image source: Library and Archives Canada


Rusty sits on a rattan loveseat in her lanai. A small stack of 1963 headshots await the three fans who serendipitously found her website after trolling for old people porn. She picks up a photograph and begins. “Dear Walter, may all your ups and downs be in….” She hesitates and a pun comes weakly, “Bedford!” Then finishes off with her signature “Knockers Up! Rusty XO.” Morty is next and then a longer salutation for Bill who ordered her Banned in Boston CD. Her pink caftan rustles when she puts down the pen and massages her fingers, all marbles and bones.

[Image from]

Exile No Longer

It was 2:20, the time Dove had chosen to return from the confused wilderness of Brunswick Street, a time that shrugged at the yard’s Sunday lunch menu of cracked corn, for was he not a new bird?
     A time at which Swan would be lounging among the lilypads: was he not a bird whose counterclockwise swoop ’round the willow would showcase an empathetic right profile, kin to Mikael Blomkvist’s in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo?
     A time with two “two”s: was he not romantic?
     He swooped, he landed, and she was not there. A crazed shrieking split the air.


X and Y

     X, you will remember, is the independent variable which determines the value of the dependent variable, Y.
     I’ve always wondered about their association. In every equation, Y is entirely reliant upon X. As X varies arbitrarily, Y follows. Y can be manipulated at a whim by a teeny variation of X. X is an unknown, so Y must also be unknown. Unknown and dependent:  what kind of gormless, clueless existence does Y lead?
     That’s just the mathematical application. In biology, the same relationship applies – but doubly so. This explains why two X chromosomes together are infinitely unknowable to a Y.

Watership Down Syndrome

     “And now it begins.” sighed Fiver, sniffing the air, his half-chewed carrot left to one side.
     Hazel, covered in alfalfa, stopped rolling. “What do you mean?” Even he had to admit something was off. So much food and clean bedding, and all these gormless white bunnies. It didn’t seem right.
     “The car-registration tax. Why would he drop it?” Fiver worried his forepaw. He always got a little shaky when he thought about the farmer.
     Hazel knew he should listen when Fiver got jumpy. Back at their old warren in Niagara South they’d narrowly escaped being run over by a Hudak.

[Image from:]

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Wally and the Well

Said Wally at the last meeting of our writers group: “Aside from the fact your whole premise reminds me not so much of The Outsiders as The Little Rascals, there’s a fundamental problem with your central metaphor.”
     “You’re talking about the well?” I asked.
     “Indeed. You say that character of yours who spoiled everyone’s summer was ‘poisoning the well’ because he refused to take the hint and leave; whereas, considering the term originates in the strategies of classic warfare, I have to ask…why anyone would stick around a poisoned well.”
     “I don’t know, Wally. Why don’t you tell me?”

Photo by Kashif Mardani.


The morning of the MRI already sucks. Again, not because it’s an MRI. But because it’s 6 in the morning and Emerson is coming with me for moral support and at goddamn 6 in the morning he’s cheerful and wearing a tie and going on about whether he should break up with Trevor or not and so I start to cry in the waiting room. Because it’s so early. “Oh, sugar,” Emerson says, and I just know he’s thinking people think he’s my husband and that I look like a mess. He’s right, I absolutely do, and I hate him.

Image: Wikimedia Commons.

World View

There were certainties when we were youngsters. Canada was the best country in the world. The U.S. was good, too, our best friend, and we were Americans also because we lived in North America and talked like them (especially the ones who’d freed the slaves). We were also part of that pink grouping on the globe, and all those pink countries were good, because they stood for fair dealing and wise governance by white people. Riots, strikes and human rights violations were the work of evil, godless communists.
     There are no such certainties now. These days, everything’s so darned complicated.

Friday, July 22, 2011


Finally forced to use some of his accumulated vacation time, Cash figured the only way he could travel and still maintain control of everything back at the office was to fake the whole trip.
     By day he would work through his in-box, while each evening carefully researching the next leg of his journey and posting the information (complete with photos) to his personal blog.
     And it would’ve worked, too, had his girlfriend not caught a glimpse of him downtown; but by then he had already been halfway around the world and could always dine out on the stories he’d tell.


He always hated libraries and all those irritating readers, their noses stuck into books. It was all he could do to get through The Tower Treasure without moving his lips. The creepy bookish types were comfortable in the silent stacks while the telltale rasp of thigh meeting Husky-sized corduroys betrayed his every movement. Back in the classroom others soared ahead to the green and the gold sections of the SRA Reading Lab yet he forever treaded aqua. But he was good at football and he would show them. Right after he finished that bucket of Lil’ Henry VIII Buster Fries.

[Image from:]


As the daughter who can't tell her left hand from her right, I’m unlikely to get how to construct a Molotov cocktail and throw it in the air intake vent of an oncoming tank. But my father’s instructions sounds so urgent that I pretend to understand to calm him down.  
     Years later, on a first date, this guy Paul turns out to be a soldier. I ask him about the air intake vent. He says he thinks a grill covers the vent nowadays. He thinks? What kind of soldier doesn't know? Paul flinches. Mostly, he says, he does community relations.

Image: Wikimedia Commons.


They are old now, and dying off, men who only reluctantly acknowledge who they were in their youths: a teenaged stoker on a sea-tossed corvette, an air-sick tail gunner over Hamburg, a starving POW in Yokohama. These are men who stand when a woman enters the room, whose strongest curse is “damn” or “hell”. They offer details shyly, as if they could not possibly matter and you, a kid, could not possibly be interested. They never dwelt upon themselves, nor needed a reality TV show to demonstrate their worth. They did so early on, then got on with their lives.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Uranus Your Worship

So if our Twin Mayors can’t pick Margaret Atwood out from a crowd, and they believe that pools and libraries and art galleries are things other people use, what does culture mean to them? Dinner theatre at His Majesty’s Feast? The 99 Burger at Wayne Gretsky’s? At the end of the day do they sink into their leather sectionals, their flubbery pink arses encased in Windriver sweatpants and crack open a Tom Clancey? I see kitchen design inspired by the Olive Garden. And the art on their walls? How about an autographed jersey from Dougie Gilmour’s rookie year? Totally bitchin’

[Image from cnews]

Uruguay, República Oriental del

The Republic lies to the east of the Uruguay – River of Painted Birds. Beware! Their tongue glitters sharp with indignities. For example, consider its two forms of we:
  • Ore, the exclusive we: Say the Violet-Capped Woodnymphs tell Plush-Crested Jay, “Ore are flying to Milan for Fashion Week.” Ore tells Jay they’d spurn his company. Maybe he could feed their cat. 
  • Ñande, the inclusive: Were ñande chosen, Jay would be bundled along, willy-nilly, to see the latest fascinators.
The bland, grey English we invites more mutual soundings of intention (“Ooh, Milan?”), permits a fonder farewell (“You crazy kids, enjoy!”).

Image: K. Bischoping collage from Wikimedia Commons images.

Universal Embrocation

So, I ride up slowly to one of those girls that work the corner at King and Wilson Park. It’s a cold night and already she’s sizing me up . . . like she usually takes her dates down to the parking lot at Sunnyside or maybe one of the alleys off Queen, but how in the world are we going to get anywhere on a fucking bicycle? But there she has me all wrong, because I’m really a lot more lonely than I look.
     “Would you give me a kiss for ten dollars?” I ask. “Just on the cheek.”
     “Twenty,” she says.

 Image source: Wikipedia

Urban Park

In spring the air is redolent of thawing turds. At the playground, green glass glitters in the bright morning sun. Exotic labels cling to shards, attesting to the good taste of last night’s revellers. Food wrappers tumble on a soft breeze, and in the pond, lazy iridescent rainbows stream from discarded oil cans. “What’s that, Daddy?” asks the child, pointing in the water. Something floats, like a ring of calamari with a translucent tail. “Why, it’s an octopus with one tentacle,” he replies, hustling her away, on to other marvels. Beauty, mystery and romance are everywhere in an urban park.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011


As much as she repelled Rich she fascinated me. A toy girl with an impossibly skinny body and disproportionately large head. Conversations ended in tantrums or dramatic exits. After she left a room, you could peel her nervous energy off the wall, she was that crazy-fragile. Like a canary or Judy Garland. Her hair was ammonite and she had so much of it that if she were a doll, only a cellophane wrapper around her head could have fit her into the box. Silently perfect until bought by someone who’d scrawl his name in ballpoint across her smooth plastic forehead.


From version 2.1.3 of the Rambunctious Software Style Guide . . .

Use the present tense when describing the response to a user’s action.
Incorrect: Click Send, and your message will be delivered to the R-Mail Server.
Correct: Click Send, and your message is delivered to the R-Mail Server.
Using the future tense, especially when describing features or functions, can be confusing. It might even lead our customers to believe that what you’re describing isn’t possible now, but will be at some point or perhaps in some future release of our software . . . and you certainly wouldn’t want to get their hopes up.

Tobacco’s Trials

“No, I did not ‘anticipate the scourge tobacco would become’,” Walter Raleigh replied tersely. “The Indians enjoyed a pipe and didn’t go overboard. They seemed perfectly healthy.”
     The plaintiffs’ attorney smirked at the jury. “You gave it to people? You recommended it here in England?”
     “It became fashionable quickly,” Raleigh replied vaguely.
     “Indeed... fashionable. Did you do any research? Clinical trials?”
     “Clinical trials won’t be invented for centuries!” Raleigh snapped.
     The attorney smiled. Raleigh’s temper would do his case no good. But he was worried about a couple of the jurors. During lunch, he’d spotted them outside, sharing a cheroot.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Supernova Shelton

We worked our way through trays of food and chocolate-dipped strawberries, bottle after bottle of Chilean wine, and ended up closing the party we’d crashed—accidentally, really—just following the crowd from a public “Supernova Celebration” the university had mounted in an effort to strengthen their claim on the naming rights to SN 1987a, to lobby government support for their foundering observatory, to fete the unassuming grad student who’d been looking there anyway and was only lucky enough to be first on the phone to the proper authorities…to toast a sun that had died more than 160,000 years ago.

Image source: Space Fellowship


Two ancient sisters run a tiny German gift shop. For decades locals go there for their delicate foil-wrapped Christmas chocolates, but clientele is waning. That’s because these gals have a hate-on for children ever since Hansel and Gretel escaped their clutches back in 1812. Now, child hating is completely condoned, even encouraged in my house, but it’s absolute fiscal suicide on Roncesvalles. They might not like little Mack mouthing their baguettes, but successful shopkeeps know that if they don’t welcome the Lululemoned and their Hummer-sized prams into their establishments with open bpa-free arms, they’ll be consumer toast before long.

Image by TadeoBM on Flickr.


“You can’t go calling people cunt!” she rails at the whisperer.
     Who shrugs. “I say you’re a cunt, you’re a cunt.”
     “Intriguing,” her inner Mr. Spock remarks.
     “Not now,” snipes Feminism.
     “You can’t,” she flails.
     “Oh, I saw you,” he says, unexpectedly saving the conversation.
     “Looking at me on the train.”
     “I never laid eyes on you!” Suddenly, she reads paranoia in his absurd claim, his camo jacket. Paranoid, young, Black, and male: the kind of person the police go shooting over nothing. Her leftist heart swells.
     “Sir,” she pleads, “you really shouldn’t call anybody cunt. It’s not safe.”

For what happened first, see Back.

Some French Guy

“What’s the first thing that attracted you to me?” she asked, head resting on my shoulder.
     “Your mind, of course,” I lied, knowing where my interests lay. Why did she struggle with her looks? She was a committed feminist who would not be made prisoner to them, yet she obviously enjoyed their effect.
     “Beauty is a precious gift,” I ventured diplomatically. That set her off on the oppression of gender roles in patriarchal society. “‘One is not born, but rather becomes, a woman’,” she said, quoting some French guy.[1] Typical. That sounds just like some French guy.

[1] Simone de Beauvoir

Monday, July 18, 2011

Ricardo Laforêt

Ted tried to convince his brother Ernie that he could stop being queer if he only bought a Cordoba. He urged him to forget the Euro-gay lines of the contemplated Pacer and embrace this manliest of coupes, a vehicle so macho it had the power to convert even the most committed fag. And more: the debt of such a large purchase kept him at Chryslers, and the tactile bliss of rich Corinthian leather engendered a pleasing placebo effect, assuring Ernie’s place within the closeted folds of family BBQs and Knights of Columbus spaghetti dinners. It would be a sweet ride.

[Image taken from: The Garage Blog]

Reduce, Reuse, Rewrite

In 2001, I joined where, if you write exactly 100 words a day, every day, for a month, they’ll publish the batch on their site and preserve it for generations of attentionally deficient readers. Ten years and 733 stories later, I’m a whole lot lazier and, assuming all this practice may have actually made me a better writer, decided to spend July rewriting some of my older—and now hopefully better—stuff. This also gives me an opportunity to recycle an old joke from university: 90% of writing is re-writing, so buy Liquid Paper in the convenient aerosol can.


The Honourable Carolyn Norton’s breath is stilled. Her chestnut-bland hair smooth. Her chestnut eyes, intended to calmly survey the flowers in her middle distance, stutter at a white scrape on her backdrop. Faintly, they cross. Her gentle chin set, she wills herself not to lower their gaze. Not to see the twin daisies, the bud rose wincing away from her scuffed shawl. Her gouged neck.  Her coral cameo’s dishonourable skew toward her left breast. (The one to the viewer’s right.) She’s torn and her canvas is away, so far away from England. Lately, she feels, she’s no longer truly real.


Comes a time in a man’s life when he must face a digital exam. I don’t mean one involving bits and bytes. This one involves an old fashioned digit. And you don’t exactly face your examiner.
     The undignified circumstances call for brave manly humour.
     “I’ll just close my eyes and think of England,” I grumble before it begins.
     “While you’re looking,” I gasp, “I lost a set of keys...”
     “Next time,” I mutter when it’s done, “buy me a drink first.”
     “Look,” I say at the door, “this doesn’t mean we’re going steady.” At last, she allows a small smile.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Quitter’s High

By third year, he’d mastered the art of dropping a course, carefully noting the official dates before which he might still claim a certain percentage of his tuition, right down to the last possible day before his abysmal performance would be forever committed to his final transcript, frantically studying for a midterm in a subject he could not understand, from a page that made no sense, and feeling that surge of sweet relief as the tangle of highlighted text finally cleared to reveal the perfect solution, the realization that simply giving up and quitting would make it all go away.

Photo by Andy Rennie

Dr. Quinn, Medicine Snipe

In the summer of 1972 the toads came out of the bush. Tons of them. It was like a plague upon the trailer park, punishing us for our ungodly lawn ornaments. Being resourceful urchins we invented the Webbwood Estates Toad Olympics and it was here that I discovered my gift. Fellow wranglers would bring me their exhausted athletes and I’d resuscitate them by flipping them over and rubbing their warty tummies. My reputation as a healer spread as far as Carolyn Buckwheat’s house, meaning that it successfully crossed the highway. Which is more than I can say for the toads.

Image taken from: Falling Leaflets

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