Saturday, December 31, 2022

The New Year’s Pre-Party

“Let’s ride,” War said, emptying his cup into the fire. “We’ve got work to do.”
     “I’m still peckish,” Famine said. “Let’s finish the wheat before we head out.”
     “If we do, there won’t be any for Lebanon . . .” 
     All four horsemen laughed raucously. 
     “Mind if I bring another ‘friend’ this year?” asked Pestilence.
     “Bah! Your friends always wimp out.”
     “This one’s a finisher.”
     War rolled his eyes as he climbed onto his horse; there was an immediate rumble in far-off Ukraine.
     “Guys! Wait up . . .” 
     Death hadn’t even saddled his horse yet! Typical, thought War. He’s always the last to the party. 

Image by Bryant Arnold, Inspired by Black Swans and, well, the newspaper.

Tuesday, December 27, 2022

My Husband Helps Flood the Ice Rink

Four times over the holidays he has abandoned the warmth of my bed to visit her—his winter mistress. He is but one of her minions who bathe her daily, smooth her furrows, see to her ablutions. A cold demanding creature, she soaks in all that they give her and asks for more. Nothing will do except the sheer perfection of her icy skin. But I know this love affair is as variable as the weather. She runs hot and cold. And with the final thaw, he will return to me, though a little heartbroken and dreaming of next winter.
Inspired by Winter. Image by Doug Bennet.

Friday, December 23, 2022

God Father Christmas

Graham’s Christmas letters were always neatly typed and funny enough that, even as a kid, I looked forward to reading them. Back in Canada, he had hoped one day to be a playwright, but ended up living illegally in New York, taking on a series of editing contracts that even he found too dull to describe in any detail. He was my godfather, although I doubt he remembered. He took on the responsibility only after my mother promised she’d never hold him to it, and skipped the ceremony, concerned that he wouldn’t be able to get back across the border.
I was enthralled by this man I’d never met, by the letters, by his hand-painted postcards, the random photos in the family album growing up with my mother, the trick shot he took of himself looking unimpressed by his new toupée. When I thought I might want to be a writer myself, I worked up a fantasy of dropping by his apartment and introducing myself. I was going to dedicate my first science-fiction novel to this illegal alien, until the day he took a ferry to one of the more isolated islands near his favourite city, and the letters stopped.

Inspired by Minuit Crapaud. Photo by Graham Murray with himself, circa 1957.

Monday, December 19, 2022

Minuit Crapaud

One minute after Tante Annemarie arrived on our porch dressed in Santa drag, I had my doubts. These were confirmed later in the evening when I snuck downstairs to see the back of Fake Santa, a Benson and Hedges wedged between red manicured fingers, drawing a pull from a stubby and watching the game. From what I was led to believe from television and Kresge’s, Santa smoked pipes. He didn’t drink beer, he didn’t wear a cheap-ass wig and he didn’t smell like Rive Gauche. Yet a glimmer of hope survived: I knew Santa, like dad, was a Habs fan.
Inspired by Christmas Came Early at Our House. Photo by Norman Potter of the Daily Express.

Tuesday, December 13, 2022

Christmas Came Early at Our House

“Santa comes in the night, so don’t get up till it’s light out,” Mum said, standing. “Sleep well.” Seven-year old me tingled. I knew I wouldn’t be going to ssssszzzzzzZZZZZZZZZZ . . .
I awoke to a dim light seeping around our door. The house was silent. I remembered Mum’s specific words: till it’s daytime.
     Well, dawn is still day, I reasoned, thinking like a lawyer. I kicked my brother Gord in the back, shouted “IT’S CHRISTMAS!” and dashed down the hall. Yes, Santa had come! And my insomniac Dad was reading on the couch under the swag lamp. It was 3:00 A.M.

Inspired by Like in the Magazines. Image by Pathos Media.

Friday, December 9, 2022

Like in the Magazines

I was making the wreath—you know, the one with the pom poms? But I burned myself with the hot glue gun. So I ditched that idea and then I thought I'd do something simple—like print my own wrapping paper, like on Youtube. But I cut myself making the potato stamps and bled all over the craft paper. It’s not funny. No, no, I am not crying—that would be stupid. I just wanted Christmas to be perfect for once—like in the magazines. Can you just come and pick me up? I’m at the ER; I needed stitches.

Inspired by the annual holiday anxiety I feel kicking in right about now. Image by Craiyon.

Sunday, December 4, 2022

Oh, that’s just Tom.

For a while there, Tom was the veteran of Tech Support, hired by Rambunctious Software back when it was just two developers, three telephone lines, and 435 customers starving for his attention.
     He worked there for ages, cranky and largely ignored, but surely the world’s authority on R-Mail—or Err-Mail, as he’d started to call it.
     In the end, he knew more about its many problems than the developers themselves—and constantly reminding them pretty much guaranteed he’d have stayed forever on the phones, talking down another frantic sysadmin as she watched two-year’s worth of messages vanish from her server.

But that’s the thing, those early days just naturally attracted an exciting crowd of talented misfits, cranky and mouthy, but good at pretty much anything. The problems came only when things started getting Corporate, and Management arrived to work their eccentric systems and find us some better employees–like the guy with the speech impediment they hired to work the phones, the accountant who paid bills twice, and person after person who’d show up for orientation and never return.
     The only solution, clearly, was to hire a proper HR Specialist, who promptly fired the talented misfits, and promoted the freaks.

Inspired by Romeo Oscar NOVEMBER. Image by DALL-E.

Tuesday, November 29, 2022

Romeo Oscar NOVEMBER

I learned the NATO alphabet at fifteen, and it’s come in darn handy since. Airlines use it, military types, logisticians. It saves a lot of time. But apparently, it’s not used in call centers. 
     “Can you spell that?”
     “Arr. Oh. En. Ron. RON.” 
     “No. Ron. Ronald.”
     “Mister Rommel?”
     “Not M as in Mike. N as in November.”
     There is confusion on the line. 
     “I will spell it phonetically. Romeo. Oscar. N as in November. Alpha. Lima. Delta.”
     “Romeo Oscar?”
     “Romeo. Middle name Oscar, last name November?”
     “No. First name Ron. Romeo, Oscar, then N as in . . .”

Image by Wavebreak Media. Inspired by November 2020 Remembered and a series of recent lengthy exchanges with call center operators.

Friday, November 25, 2022

November 2020 Remembered

On this dark pandemic morning,
I vacillate on the edge of a dream —
unwilling to move forward, unable to rest within
I unwrap in increments.

I vacillate on the edge of a dream
of you and me cradled in a warm ocean.
I unwrap in increments —
unravel; dissolve; disappear. I feel

you and me cradled in a warm ocean,
but we had to cancel, like so many of our plans —
left behind to unravel, dissolve, disappear. I feel
the cold slap as my feet hit the floorboards

And so I remain unwilling to move forward,
but unable to stand still.

Inspired by dull November mornings. Photo by Nancy.

Monday, November 21, 2022

Back on Buses

I hadn’t ridden the streetcar for a few months, but just enough time for them to install a camera near the driver and two by the rear doors  . . . which wouldn’t have struck me as particularly significant had I not just listened to a documentary on our uncritical acceptance of the Surveillance Society, and were I not eavesdropping myself on two streetcar drivers slagging the new guy—“you know, the one who came up from buses.”
     “He’s been there for something like twenty years, but he’s stupid and he’s arrogant and, you’ll see, he’ll be back on buses in a month.”
Inspired by English Channel no. 5. Photo by Paul Borkwood, CBC news.

Thursday, November 17, 2022

English Channel no. 5

What with the storm outside and its contents of soggy-mac’d Septuagenarians, our tour bus windows steamed up like a hammam. Once inside, the vehicle held a particular scent: A bridge-mix of waxed coats, Cadburys, peppermint chewing gum and warm genealogists’ heads. A singular perfume called Leger Tour or simply Remembrance. Did it intensify with collective tension as we three relatively youthful Canadians alighted to visit the German graves at Langemark? We were the only ones to do so. Was it the pelting rain, the exhaustion of touring dozens of battlefields and cemeteries? Or something else? I can still smell it. 

Image from the Nova Scotia Archives. Inspired by Remembrance.

Friday, November 11, 2022


Dad talked little about the war, though the bits of shrapnel that erupted periodically from his arm spoke volumes. He told me two sanitized close call stories. Once, riding messages back from the OP, a German sniper targeted him. Dad slew his Norton into a ditch and scrambled for cover. Soon the infantry came up, he recovered his motorbike, and carried on, lah-di-dah. Later, his CP took a direct hit. Dad crawled out, saw his pal pinned under a massive rafter, and lifted it off. His lieutenant stared open-jawed at his strongman feat. It was adrenaline, Dad confided to me.

Inspired by Veterans and this Remembrance Day. The image is of my father as a young gunner, 15th Field Regiment, RCA.

Sunday, November 6, 2022

I am so tired of politics

It was close to eleven, when he came into the room. I had gone to bed early, trying to avoid the repetitive media coverage, the on-air pundits yammering away. I roused when he turned on his bedside light.
     “Did he win?” I murmured.
     “Yeah, it wasn’t even close.” He began undressing.
     “Ugh.” I pulled the covers over my face, pondering the news coverage and social media trolling that would come. “Wake me up in four years.”
     “I just don’t understand how stupid people can be—” He began to rant. I grabbed a pillow and hit him over the head.

Inspired by Nick’s Son? Photo by Roy Schulze.

Wednesday, November 2, 2022

Nick’s son?

To get some idea of how much a seven-year-old cares about politics, I think back to 1968 when I—having recently moved to the States—confidently told one of my new friends that Canada’s Prime Minister had the very same name as his President. John-son and Pear-son, after all, were close enough to make no difference, and—although still in the thrall of expo67—I’d clearly missed the whole Trudeamania thing.
     Then, as if to make things worse, I voted for Nixon in our pretend class election . . . though not nearly as worse as the one kid who voted for Wallace.
Inspired by Vote for Peanut. Images from Getty by way of New York magazine.

Saturday, October 29, 2022

Vote for Peanut

My political career began and ended in Grade Four with a bid for class president. My contenders were Suzanne—the monied vote; Suzy—the affable Donny Osmond fangirl; and Anne. Precociously large and favouring yellow pantsuits, Anne was a fellow trailer park kid. While Suzanne and Suzy huckstered, Anne and I forged a pact to vote for one another.
     Suzanne was a 14-vote landslide, Suzy got 7, Anne had 2. And me? Nada!
     “We were supposed to vote for each other!!” I shrieked as she walked away . . . her gargantuan head two dissembling ponytails separated by a pale line of mendacity.
Inspired by Trickle-Down Comeuppance. Image by Roy Schulze.

Sunday, October 23, 2022

Trickle-Down Comeuppance

Poor Liz Truss
Begat a fuss
So certain, she
In ideology
She went all-in for the pedigreed
To pay for it— “Well, there’s no need,
Trickle-down will work!”
Hmmph. Indeed.
From get-go, it appeared demented
Her program’s dead now, unlamented
And with tight smile and lame excuse
Poor Liz endures the House abuse.

But soon that cabal of Brexiteers,
Those liars, inbred toffs and peers
Will move to cut their political loss
By offering up another boss
And Charles as King will host to tea
another inept mediocrity.

Pound down, rates up, prices surging—
Starmer's smiling, so too is Sturgeon.
Image by James Ferguson. This drabble was written October 18th, which made it rather prophetic; it was alas “overtaken by events” by publication day.

Wednesday, October 19, 2022

Doug when I first met him

I arrived a little early for the job interview. He bounded down the stairs to meet me at reception. He had a Woodward and Bernstein vibe. Not too tall. Slim. Pencil behind his ear. Carrot-coloured wavy hair. Red beard. Wide glasses. A firm handshake. There was something in his brown eyes that spoke of an openness, a willingness to see the best in the world, to believe everyone he encountered was a potential friend. I don’t possess that quality, but I recognized its worth immediately. I smiled. He smiled back. I got the job. We celebrated his 63rd birthday yesterday.

Friday, October 14, 2022

Close Enough to Spanish

Heading home, one of the guys from the construction crew offered me twenty bucks for my English-to-Spanish phrasebook, specifically because he wanted to write a letter in Spanish to let down the girl he’d picked up in Buenos Aires the Friday before.
     Lucky for them, Italian is close enough to Spanish that he and his pals had had no problem finding dates that weekend, including this particular law student with whom he’d stayed until Sunday afternoon.
     I had to wonder how much she could possibly have cared about their weekend fling.
     Still, he cared enough to be worried she might.

Inspired by Fate and Luck. Photo and fridge-magnet from the author’s collection.

Wednesday, October 5, 2022

Fate and Luck

September’s storms reminded me of my own month of tropical traumas, in 1999—a year I basically lived in a boardroom or on a plane. First, I was stranded in Sint Maarten for a week when Hurricane Lenny slammed the Antilles, settling over us for two days and dumping 700 mm of rain. Ten days later, I flew Curacao to Costa Rica via San Juan; my suitcase didn’t make it. I spent a week in negotiations in San José in the same suit and shirt. A comical interlude, because two weeks later I got kidnapped in Venezuela. My luck held.

Image of Hurricane Lenny over the Caribbean from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, with data superimposed by CooperScience.

Saturday, October 1, 2022

Her Only Family Portrait

“My father’s holding his breath so he doesn’t give it to me,” says Mom, pointing to an old photo. I'm sitting in her dining room, where family pictures, decked out in a mishmash of dollar-store frames, adorn the walls.
     Was Mom told this by her mother Alma—here in that same picture holding Mom as a baby? Yes, he has his mouth closed, but he doesn’t look like he’s dying of tuberculosis. Though why else would they spend all that money at the photographer’s?
     “He was very ill,” she says, gently touching the face of the father she doesn’t remember.

Sunday, September 25, 2022

100 Words for Stephen

Yesterday we said goodbye to another wonderful human. I listened to the eulogy, engaged in trying to subtle-cry, my tears indulgent and my sorrow insignificant and showy compared to that of his young family. But here’s a short list of who he was; a marvellous combination that made up this precious man:
Husband — Father — Friend
Neighbour — Artist — Wit
Musician — Animal guy
Raconteur — Reader
Designer of dog rescue logos and banners
Painter — Stick-thrower — Child-schlepper
My kid’s employer — Energy-giver
Confidence booster
Volunteer — Scooter wrangler
Porch sitter — Naturalist — Pundit
Best “my boy as one of the lost capybaras” Hallowe’en costume-maker
  · · ·

Inspired by Traumatic Times. The image is an unfinished sketch of Nim and Holly by Stephen Dutcheshe.

Friday, September 16, 2022

Traumatic Times

I will remember the Queen as gracious and dutiful, a reassuring symbol of honour and stability. She was a link with the past, but wisely adaptable too.
     Now, her subjects mourn. As global media speculate about her funeral and the royal succession, thousands gather to pay their respects.
Meanwhile, one-third of Pakistan lies under water. Thirty-three million people are affected, 1.7 million homes are damaged, and hundreds of thousands squat in improvised refugee camps while their crops rot.
     The rumble of a caisson is drowning out their cries.
All countries need their touchstones. Today, though, Pakistan needs a life-raft more.
Inspired by the week’s headlines. Images by Loïc Venance and Fayaz Aziz. Both the Red Cross and Global Medic are collecting for relief efforts in Pakistan.

Monday, September 12, 2022

You may not remember me…

I finally got to talking with one of the other fathers waiting in the schoolyard, and it turned out we’d both attended the same school. We talked about the things we remembered, the teachers we’d shared, and figured that we couldn’t have been more than one year apart.
     “I really should remember you,” I said. “But I don’t.”
     “Don’t be sorry,” he said. “I tried to be as invisible as possible. I’d be more upset if you had remembered.”
     Today, he was sitting away from the other parents, reading and wearing his don’t-talk-to-me headphones—and I walked right past him.
Inspired by Silver Ghost. Image by craiyon.

Thursday, September 8, 2022

Silver Ghost

At first it was a slight reduction in brilliance as she walked down a busy street. Shortly afterwards there was a palpable dimming caused perhaps by bad lighting at the back of the restaurant. Then it became necessary to speak a little louder and develop a sort of shimmering patience when she stood her ground in line. Over the years changes to her teeth, hair, limbs and guts became too faint, too spectral, to catch the attention of professionals. Finally, all that was left was a lengthening shadow cast over an empty hospital bed and an indeterminate whiff of pee.
Image by Laurie Leclair. Inspired by Progress #3.

Sunday, September 4, 2022

Inspired by Hare Brained Ideas

It’s good to have the CNE back. It’s also good to have reminders of being “Canadian,” like the Ex itself. It was also good to see the Canadian Armed Forces recruitment exhibit. There is nothing wrong with reminding young people of opportunities to serve their countries. Part of it made me wonder “how young?” There were opportunities to chat with members of the armed forces, pick up display material, and climb into a vehicle. There was a mock shooting area, with people of all ages lined up. It was chilling to see soldiers instructing pre-school children how to kill people.

Inspired Hare Remover. Image by aleks223 on iStock.

Tuesday, August 30, 2022

Rodent Land

You’d think the squirrels would get the message. The minefield of barriers, the chicken wire around the tulips. All ineffective. They are very well fed. They adore bulbs, but just nip and leave flowers, a show of their disdain.
     Raccoons maraud freely, chittering loudly, leaving their berry-spangled poop. I fill rat burrows as soon as I find them; new ones appear immediately. The other day, I glanced up to find a skunk foraging in the flowerbed next to me. I carefully cleared my throat. He casually raised his tail. Check mate.
     These animals haven’t invaded my garden. I’ve invaded theirs.

Inspired by Hare Remover.  Image from Science with Ms. Seitz.  

Friday, August 26, 2022

Hare Remover

“So, in this one Elmer Fudd’s a Mountie, and he sees Bugs on a wanted poster, and they end up doing a bunch of chase gags through the snow.”
     “Sounds great. We’ll call it Fresh Hare . . . What else you got?”
     “Okay, an old lady lets Bugs in from the cold, but there’s a dog, see? And they keep tricking each other into running outside, until they finally just throw the lady out.”
     “We’ll call it Hare Force!”
     “But Mr. Schlesigner . . .”
     “Listen, Fritz, you just keep moving your little paper dollies around for the camera, and leave the rest to me.”

Inspired by Carnaubic Jars. Image by Warner Brothers.

Monday, August 22, 2022

Carnaubic Jars

“It’s a thing?” I asked the person preparing to wax my schnozzle.
     “Oh yeah, you’ll love it. I do mine all the time.” She pressed tiny Tiki Torches of molten goo to the sides of each nostril.
      Seconds later, the feeling like someone was pulling my brain out through my nose, resulting in two fuzz-free passageways into my inner thoughts and dreams.
      She was right, my snout was perfectly nubile! Breezy. But now every time I do something like put the milk into the cupboard or forget a word, Rich says, “You know, ancient Egyptians did that with crochet hooks . . .”

Inspired by Progress. Image by Craiyon.

Sunday, August 14, 2022

Thank You, My Friend

Tiny baby, eyes closed, snuggling against Mummy,

Little puppy, wide eyed, rolls for rubs on tummy, 

Bouncy puppy, running at rabbits, peeing on carpets,
chewing the shoes,

Happy dog, finding the leash, and carrying it to me,

Cautious friend, warning intruders to stay away,

Loving dog, at my feet while I read or watch TV, 

Playful dog, approaching children with wagging tail,

Aging dog, mature and quiet, easy on the leash, 

Old dog, quiet friend, beside me in the garden, 

Aged dog, climbing stairs so slowly,

Sick dog, no longer enjoying life,

A sad goodbye to my beloved friend.

Photo by Olga Bilevich. Inspired by Baa-Maa-Pii, and dedicated to all the dogs we have loved.

Wednesday, August 10, 2022

Progress #4

Loudly lamenting the plight of the bees
We ban single-use plastic and plant a few trees
Recycle our bottles, compost our corn husks
Then demand cheaper gas for our 4-by-4 trucks 

We avoid throwing out by donating old things
(Which we duly replace with new Amazon bling)
Declaring our virtue, we promise to change
(Though a patch on our jeans seems decidedly strange) 

The fires, the floods, yes we’ve got to take action
But we aren’t going to follow some radical faction
So sure, let’s commit: let's do more with less—
Ride our e-bikes to Costco and call that progress 

Inspired by Progress #3. Photo by John Henderson on Flickr. Some rights reserved.

Saturday, August 6, 2022


Siko’s death was peaceful but profoundly sad. As we do for everyone close to us who passes, we lit a candle and kept it burning. Afterwards I dreamt about lightening frizzling in the night sky. One bolt entered my body through my left eye. It was such a vivid and strangely painful dream that I asked my friend, an Oshkaabewis, for his interpretation. He thought about it for a few days, then told me he believed that my constant companion was still constant, but he had found his way home. I checked on the candle and it had stopped burning.
Photo by L. Leclair. Portrait of Siko by Yvonne Boothroyd. Inspired by Flying Home.

Monday, August 1, 2022

Progress #3

Night shirt plastered to clammy skin, thinning hair askew, she places her shaky hands in mine. I pull her up from her bed. Past midnight, the room is in shadows. With heavy breath, she shuffles one gnarled foot forward. Then another. Like teaching a toddler to walk, I hold her upright, keep her balanced. Her grip tightens. One more step. Then another. “Making progress,” I whisper. One more step. Then another. Avoiding her eyes, I look down, ensuring the path is clear to the toilet. “Hold on,” I say. One more step. Then another. I can see our destination ahead.
Inspired by Progress and Progress. Photo by Dmytro Varavin.

Monday, July 25, 2022


Here’s how it works . . .
     The first blade pulls the whisker away from your skin, allowing the second blade to cut it even closer, before it snaps back.
The third blade scrapes away the years that have passed since you could still sport a few days’ growth and not be mistaken for someone who lives on the street and shaves when he can.
     And the fourth blade is for everyone who needs to shave four times faster than their grandfather did, one-third closer than those poor three-blade schmucks, and anyone who upgraded to the five-blade system the moment Gillette released it.

Inspired by another story entitled Progress. Image from this Trac II commercial from the early 1970s.

Thursday, July 21, 2022

“I have to post this.” (1517)

“Martin, you're just sitting there, thumbing through their horrible comments. Go outside and get some air.”
     “I will, Kath, in a while . . . almost done . . . I have to post something. These ‘influencers’ drive me crazy. They take people’s money and don’t care what hell they unleash. They try to monetize absolutely everything. It burns me so—”
     “Martin. Calm down.”
     “No! I won’t tolerate their indulgences a second longer. I’m going to post my reply, today, consequence be damned . . . Have you seen my hammer?”
     Thus Martin Luther set out to nail his Ninety-five Theses to the door of the church in Wittenberg.
Inspired by Progress. Image from Luther und dessen Reformation by Baron von Löwenstern, 1830.

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