Thursday, December 30, 2010

Story-A-Day #49: The Cabin


He slid down the last few yards of icy hill and came to a stop in front of the cabin. A smile played at the corners of his mouth and he rubbed his hands together briskly, an effort to bring some heat to his cold extremities.

He hadn't been here since he was in his early twenties. It had been summer then, bright blue skies above and the buzz of black flies in his ears. The cabin seemed different now, smaller. It was almost as though it had been dwarfed by the passage of time and thick blanket of snow under which it rested.

He shoveled off the steps, grunting with the effort of his labours. It was tiring work to be sure but he knew it would be worth thus effort.

Once he was finally in the cabin, he built a fire in the large iron fireplace and sat back as the warmth slowly filled the familiar spaces. It was good to be back after all these years, welcomed into the warm embrace of the cabin, which ha always felt more like home than any other place he had lived.

He listened as the warmth of the fire spread into the metal roof, loud cracks and creaks filling the silence around him.

He opened the bag by his feet and removed three items: a bottle of scotch, a crystal tumbler, and an ornate urn.

He placed the urn on a nearby windowsill and stared out over the snow covered lake for a moment, then poured a healthy serving of scotch into the tumbler. He stood there in the window for a moment, overcome by a sudden flood of emotion.

He raised the glass toasted the urn and nodded his head solemnly. It was good to be back.

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Story-A-Day #48: Five


I held my hand up to the window and let the light filter in through my fingers. Five of them, one for each thing that was on my mind.

The little finger is for work and all the things I would need to get done in the coming weeks. It is a good place to start.

The next one over, the ring finger, is my girlfriend. Not because we are getting married, but because it is my strongest finger and the one that could bend the furthest, a key aspect to a successful relationship.

The next one over is my house, the overpriced roof over my head. It is a nice enough house, but it wasn't a dream come true by any stretch. At times, it belongs in the middle.

The pointer is for my family, appropriate as it is their guidance and support that got me to where I am today. That most functional of fingers represents the things they have helped me achieve.

And then the thumb, no less important than the rest, it makes the other fingers function. It is opposable and it represents you. When I curl the other fingers into a fist and the thumb stands out on it's own, I think the message becomes clear.

Five fingers in the light, one for each thing that makes me feel right.

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Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Story-A-Day #47: Back Then


He used to live just through those trees in a small house made of stone. Those were better times, easier times.

Twenty- five years had passed since then. The house had been gone for twenty, torn down for what it symbolized to the community after five years of vacancy. Even the local teens hadn't ventured into the place for parties.

A massacre had taken place there. His wife and two children. For twenty-five years he had been haunted by what had happened back then, imprisoned both mentally and physically.

He had been charged with their murders and four days ago, he had been exonerated with an apology from the system. New details had emerged and since had proven what his lawyer couldn't: he had been innocent all along.

Innocence didn't matter though, not to him. They would probably never find the person responsible but he didn't care about that either because he wouldn't be around to see justice served anyway. He had come here to rejoin his family.

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Monday, December 27, 2010

Story-A-Day #46: Roads Untaken


His suitcase clung to the snowy lane, the tiny wheels clearly not designed for winter wandering.

He had been headed home on the bus but an overturned tractor trailer had created a detour and the bus had become stuck in the country road.

They were informed that another bus was coming, but that was hours ago and he had grown tired of waiting. Now here he was, dragging his Samsonite luggage through the snowy back country lane. He figured it wouldn't be long until he found a place to hide out for the night.

He had eventually come to a fork in the road and after a moment's debate, had taken the fork to the left. It had wound through the snowy countryside, and then through a small cemetery, and finally to a small motel.

He stepped into the office and requested room 15, because it was his favorite number. The gruff old man slid him the key to the room on a big yellow plastic diamond shaped key chain.

He thanked the man, breathed into his frozen hands, and darted across the parking lot to his room.

The door swung open with a small squeak and he tossed his luggage next to the bed. He stripped out his clothes and had a quick shower to warm himself up, then stepped back out into the room where a slender young woman now waited.

"You found me," he said.

"I've been here all along. I wasn't sure you would make it."

"It was just a small detour, all part of the plan. Thanks for coming."

They fell into a warm, comfortable embrace.

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Sunday, December 26, 2010

Story-A-Day #45: Oranges


Vitamin C is essential to a well rounded diet. She had always believed that to be true. The populist theory was that an apple a day would keep the doctor away, but she firmly believed that oranges were the way to go.

She would eat as many as six a day, sometimes so many that her fingers would take on an odd hue. Especially around the nails where the fruit's flesh seemed to cling with particular aplomb.

Oranges were delicious, the sunshine fruit. They made her feel healthy, balanced and invigorated.

They were also an obsession. She would buy cases of them and had built a special section in her kitchen to house them. She would pulverize the peels to make organic rubs and shampoos, the natural oils making her shine. See, like the sun again.

She didn't know where the fixation had started, but she knew that oranges were more than a fruit and healthy alternative. They were her life.

Her house was decorated with them, including the very expensive wallpaper in the dining room.

Yes, oranges were her lifeblood. She wouldn't trade them for anything.

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Story-A-Day #44: Christmas Day


The gifts are all opened, tokens of a year's worth of highs and lows and moments of togetherness. Turkeys have been roasted and bellies filled with the delights of another festive season. All of the stresses and concerns that come with this time of year have been replaced with quiet content and a happiness in knowing that it all worked out.

It can seem like a lot at times, sometimes even too much. But when all is said and done, we are comforted by the warm embrace of family and friends. These are the people we do the things we do for. These are the people who help us through our days and give us the strength to stand for our convictions and ensure that we have done our best to do what is right and just.

The gifts we give are extravagant and simple and they are but towns for the feelings behind them. They are thoughtful trinkets that allow us to say thank you, I love you, I miss you.

This is a time for togetherness and comfort, a time where we can appreciate what it means to be surrounded by those who matter most.

This is Christmas Day and I am happy that we were able to share a bit of it together. Merry Christmas.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Friday, December 24, 2010

Story-A-Day #43: Outbreak


In the movies, the scene is always set to wide scale pandemonium: buildings burn, cars are left abandoned, looters run wild, and corpses litter the streets. I guess that’s what makes movie zombies so scary. Over the past three months though, I’ve learned that real zombies are actually pretty pathetic. They just sort of amble around, kind of bored looking, and it’s pretty easy to take them down. You can’t miss a headshot from ten feet out.

Yes, we’re in the midst of an outbreak; admittedly that sucks. You know what else? It’s Christmas Eve and I’m at the mall right now with my wife and daughter. Aside from the fact that Santa is M.I.A. (my daughter thinks he’s back at the North Pole getting ready for tonight) and a few of the shops being shuttered up, it’s not all that different.

This mall was always a little depressing. It was never the one that people went to by choice because the other one has all the fun stores, but that’s why we’re here. It’s easy in, easy out, last minute shopping and Christmas cheer all around.

The streets were pretty empty on our way here today. We took the snowmobiles, partly because of a few abandoned cars congesting the streets on the way, but mostly because we’ve had a couple big dumps of snow that aren’t likely to be cleared away anytime soon. Getting around on snowmobiles was a bit weird at first, but it’s pretty fun whipping through the city without fear of reprimand.

I suppose you could say we lucked out with the early winter. We were only about a month into the outbreak, but it seems like zombies don’t deal so well with the cold. Who does though, right? Most of the dead seem to be freezing up pretty solid, which again is good for now, so aside from some infrastructure concerns (like the lack of snow removal) things are pretty much status quo for us. Not so much in the bigger cities mind you, but that’s one of the perks of small town living. Or at least, that’s what we’ve always claimed as the motivator for our choice of location.

Big cities have big problems, but here I am with my family, at the mall getting some last minute shopping done. We’re not looting or stealing, and people are mostly friendly and helpful – as much as they ever are at this time of year, so it’s all good. I will admit that it’s a little different doing your shopping with a gun across your back, but in times like this, we need to adapt.

We put up our Christmas tree the other day, a real one that we chopped down and towed home. My daughter is excited about all the toys under the tree, and my wife is happy as well. It’s her favourite time of year, “a great time of year for family”, as she always says. As long as the temperatures stay down, it should be a pretty quiet holiday.

I guess if I had to admit one concern, it would be my uncertainty about what will happen in the Spring. Our town officials have estimated a 20% population loss. With most of the dead buried in snow right now, a thaw could be bad. You see the odd limb sticking out of a snow bank every now and then, so you know they’re down there. In fact, those gnarled grasping hands can be a gruesome reminder sometimes, that all is in fact not well.

The losses will be more evident after the Spring thaw, and that’s where I get worried. Who will be the one to clean up all those bodies? Hell, will the snow be the only thing to thaw, or will the walking dead rise once more?

It’s definitely a concern, but for now, I’m just going to focus on the holiday and my family. When we get home, we’re going to put on a nice warm fire and curl up with a couple movies. I figure we’ll start with “It’s A Wonderful Life”, because it really is when you’ve got your family and your health.

We’ll figure out the Spring when the Springtime comes, but until then, the only thing I want to do is wish everyone a Merry Christmas!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Story-A-Day #42: Cold Comfort


This weekend would be a good one for some quiet time in. I think that’s exactly what I will do; maybe paint my nails, microwave some popcorn, and put on a movie.

I’ve been meaning to catch up on my movies lately, but it’s not the best time of year for taking it easy. It seems like I have spent the entire last month shopping, stuffing, baking, wrapping, and getting ready for Christmas. Then there’s the cleaning; lots of that too, because you never know when someone is going to pop by for a little seasonal visit.

Don’t get me wrong. I love this time of year. Everything is buried in snow and the world is a peaceful wonderland. Later in the winter its all road salt and sand smears, but these early days are pristine.

Even though I am working longer days than usual, and that’s really saying something, I like the walk home. It’s been snowing consistently, albeit mostly lightly, for the past two weeks, so there is usually a drift of snow floating down. I’ve actually caught myself a couple times with my tongue sticking out, trying to catch a flake or two.

The days are long, but they are full of satisfaction. I’m tired, but content. I’ve been doing my shopping after work, and at lunch a couple times, and I am close to being done now - really close. You know how it is though, there’s always something else you forgot.

I’m daydreaming a bit now. I should be focussing on finishing things up here at the office. I want to make sure I hit the ground running in the new year. After a quick stop at the mall, I should be ready to go for the big day. I might even walk over today. It’s not that far.

When Boxing Day gets here, I will definitely remedy my popcorn shortage, kick my feet up, and catch up on some movies. I might even see if Mark is free over the holidays. It’s been a bit awkward since the Christmas Party and I don’t think he was out of line going in for that kiss, even though he seems to.

Yes, I’ll call Mark, smooth things over, and get rested up for the New Year. I have a feeling it’s going to be a good one.

But first, off I go out into the cold. There’s still so much I need to do.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Story-A-Day #41: Angels


Angels, cherubs, deities and gods frolic in the pillowy castle in the clouds. That is what she was always told. That somewhere up in those clouds, was a magnificent kingdom where they righteous went to rest in the lux aeterna.

She always wondered about angels. They were apparently everywhere and yet in her long, lonely life she had never seen any proof that they existed. You could find plenty of representations of them throughout the world, from church statuary to mall trinkets to endless lines of greeting cards, but never had she experienced the warm glow that our heavenly guardians were meant to bestow.

Angles should bring happiness, peace and joy. Her life had been almost solely absent of each. Her parents had been vicious drunks dealing who dealt with plenty of demons. Not once were they graced by angelic beauty. Her middle years had not been much better as she struggled to raise herself alone from the age of 15.

A succession of lousy relationships and equally lousy jobs had filled her heart with granite and buried her soul in despair. At 50, she had tried half heartedly to end it all, the irony being that with only half a heart that worked, she could not fully commit to the process.

She was resigned to her life of bitter loneliness and now she was paying for her defeatist resignation. Her chair was stuck in the loose snow of the half cleared sidewalks. She nudged the stick forward again and the whir of tires spinning uselessly filled the air. With a sigh, she released the stick. Another twenty minutes in this temperature and her 83-year-old lungs would give out. That was the bright side. The not so bright side was the indignity that would come when her systems released themselves upon death and someone stumbled upon her frozen wastes.

Of course, she wouldn’t be around to deal with the shame, so maybe it wasn’t so bad after all. She folded her slender hands in her lap and tilted her head back towards the skies. There was no God up there, no angels looking out for her. There was no heavenly reward awaiting her at the end. The end was just that, an undignified conclusion to a life that was barely lived.

“Are you all right miss?” the young voice whispered in her ear.

“Soon enough she replied.”

“Are you stuck? Can I help?”

She opened her eyes and found an inquisitive young man in a snowsuit peering at her. He smiled, a warm crinkling of his freckled face. It was the last thing she expected, and to her surprise, she found herself smiling back.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Story-A-Day #40: Through The Ages


Avoidance, curiosity, reverence, idealization, longing, comfort…

If I were five I would probably just jump in the snow bank and build myself a fort. After all, no five-year-old boy wants to be around the ickiness of girls. It’s much better to roughhouse and play hard, although there is a curiosity that comes from the fairer sex. I would avoid you mostly, because I do not have the capacity to know you.

If I were ten, I would not have had the nerve to talk to you in the first place. I would have been too terrified by the mysteries of what you represent. At the age of ten, I understand that you are different and that you have a power that I cannot explain. With nothing but a look, you can close my whole world down and that is a scary thing at the age of ten. A scary thing that fills me with a curiosity to understand you better, and a crippling fear that I lack the tools to do so.

If I were fifteen, I would be filled with an excited terror. I would be vibrating with the potential outcomes of what our night was going to become. I probably wouldn’t be thinking about sex, but I would be imagining a million different directions that our experience could lead us in. I would imagine what you were like underneath – your clothes and your cool, collected surface – and I would do it in a reverential way. I would be hoping, with all my might, that your soft lips might brush against mine, a soft kiss between friends.

If I were twenty, I would still have hesitation because you would be my soul mate, the one that I was destined to spend infinite eternities with. You would be my ideal, that unattainable perfection I’d spent a lifetime looking for. I would idealize all the things we could be, while overlooking the simplicity of what we actual were.

If I were twenty-five, I would try to play it cool. I would let you know that you are important, and focus all my attentions on you, but I would know that you could not possibly live up to my unattainably high standards. I would still love you with all the fibres of my being, but I would portray a casual aloofness while I did so. I would no the things I wanted from our relationship, but it would be defined by external sources that create a strange disconnection. You would be the first and last thing I thought of every day, a percolating sense of longing.

If I were thirty, I would wonder how this was all possible. I would marvel at the fact that I am filled with excitement as I walk these wintry streets. I would relish the fact that I am on my way to see you and that nothing else matters in the world. I would take comfort from the fact that we are together and that this is what love is meant to be. You and me.

At the age of thirty-five, I am none of these things and yet, I am also all of them at once. This is how I have grown through the ages and the little pieces fell into place: avoidance, curiosity, reverence, idealization, longing, comfort. It all adds to this moment with you.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Story-A-Day #39: Procrastinator


You’d think I’d no better by now. Three years in a row of this, and I still haven’t learned my lesson. I’d be frolicking around in the autumn leaves and chasing after pigeons while everyone else slaved away.

“You’ll regret doing that,” they would tell me. “Winter is going to be here before you know it and you’ll have nothing to show.”

I would laugh at them, working so hard, that intent focus taking over their lives. Of course winter was coming, but that didn’t mean we shouldn’t enjoy the last of the warm weather did it? I would scamper around town, yelling down at them from the power lines above, leaping from tree to tree, and they would just shake their heads in disdain.

Three years.

I know I should have listened. I did a little foraging and stocked up a bit, but I never take it far enough. I never make sure that there will be enough “to get me through”.

Now here I am, drowning in this horrible snow, freezing my tail off like a common chipmunk. I could be nestled up all tight like a decent squirrel, but instead, I’m knocking frozen apples out of trees and gnawing on twigs.

The bird feeders are a blessing, obviously, but those damn ravens get pretty territorial. Hell, I’ve even by run off by chickadees! Seriously, you get enough of those little bastards together and they’ll send you off with your tail between your legs.

It’s not the gathering that gets you down though. Sure, it’s harder to find a decent amount of food, but it’s the effort of getting around that really drains you. That snow will swallow you whole if you let it, and you burn at least three times as many calories covering half the distance.

Things will be different next year. I’ll have a pile of nuts that will last me a lifetime! I just need to make it through the winter first. A few of these apples will tide me over for a bit, then I’ll be back out on the prowl.

Back on the feeder circuit fighting for my life against those damned winged marauders. Hey, if you happen to have any extra nuts lying around, don’t be shy! Scatter them around and I’ll be sure to clean up the mess for you. Better yet, string together a nice garland of buttery popcorn and cranberries. That’s always a treat…

Story-A-Day #38: Patti's Cakes


She did the same thing every year, and every year, she promised herself it would be the last. The personal touch for Christmas was a great idea in theory, but it always left her shattered and exhausted, unsure about the worth of her efforts.

Last year she had made half a dozen different sauces and packaged them in individual jars. It had been three solid days of chopping, slicing, stewing, puréeing, dicing, boiling, and canning. The results had been stupendous, and the raves she had received made it all worthwhile, but she was determined not to put herself through it all again.

This year, she was baking; a task no less burdensome in the time it demanded. It would be fun, she told herself. It’s a zen experience. It wasn’t zen. It was gobs of melted chocolate everywhere. It was trails of flour throughout the kitchen and dining room. It was fishing for egg shells and chopping nuts and candy canes. Baking was just as bad as she remembered it being exactly one year ago, which is why she had decided to make sauces last year. Sauces proved to be as big a pain in the ass and now she was back to baking and promising herself that next year, everyone would be receiving thoughtfully impersonal gift cards.

As the sugary treats piled up around her, and the Christmas themed tins slowly filled with a bounty of delights, she realized something though. She was in the zone right now, that place where multitasking became a singular action. Everything had started clicking and as she removed trays, filled cooling racks, and packed treats; as she piled new items onto baking sheets and filled the oven, everything was clicking.

This was what had been missing from the past few years. This impenetrable zone where the action was almost inaction and everything just was – she was a well-oiled machine chugging smoothly along.

This was zen, and the reason she had become a baker in the first place, for these moments where business and pleasure did mix. It was that perfect place where everything operated by instinct. She deserved a glass of wine for her effortless effort. She reached for the bottle at the back of the counter and brought it forward with a happy laugh.

As she turned to reach for her glass, the wine bottle connected with a bowl on the counter. The world went into slow motion and she watched, horrified, as the bowl full of smashed candy canes tumbled to the floor.

Next year, gift cards.

Story-A-Day #37: Starburst


It was a quiet winter night, the kind where everything is subdued. Snow fell lightly from the sky and covered the city in a soft blanket of snow. It was beautiful and I had decided to take the long way home to soak in a bit of the tranquillity and really get in touch with myself.

Let’s face it, this is a busy time of year and one that is often full of stress and concern. It can also be a time of joy and peace, but putting gifts under the tree and food on the table can be a little taxing on the resources.

I had finished a long week at work, the second to last one before the holiday break, and things didn’t look to be lightening up anytime soon. There was a stack of paper work on my desk that constantly threatened to topple out across our office. I chugged away all day every day, even eating my lunch at my desk as a time saving measure, and yet it seemed like by the end of each day, the to-do pile was bigger than the done one. Bigger than when I had started even.

So here I was, decompressing a bit as I made my way home. My girlfriend would be waiting, so I didn’t want to be too long, but I needed to clear my head a bit before I settled into our long night of gift-wrapping.

So far, it was working. The snow crunched lightly under my boots and the soft breeze speckled the snow across my glasses. There were plenty of cars out tonight, but the sound of their revving engines and ice spinning tires, were oddly subdued. I stood still for a moment in the parking lot and listened to the sounds of tranquillity. It wasn’t quite silent, but it wasn’t far off either.

I turned my head towards the sky to let the fluffy snowflakes fall directly on my face. I had my eyes closed at first, but something made them open. Something had gotten my attention.

I looked around the parking lot, expecting to see another person passing by, or perhaps a car approaching, but I was alone. I glanced over at the building to see if maybe someone had stepped outside, or perhaps a custodian was clearing snow, but there was nothing.

That was when I noticed the humming sound, a quiet whir that almost faded into the white noise of the falling snow. I glanced around and was about to dismiss the entire thing when a bright light erupted above me.

I shielded my face with my arm and glanced skyward. I was near a lamppost and figured the bulb must have received a power surge, however, when I looked up it was clear that that was not the case.

A Shimmering light dodged just beyond the streetlight, sending out pulsating beams of pink and purple. I had never scene anything like it. The whirring sound continued, a soft purr that almost sounded like music.

With a flash, it was gone. I stood alone in the parking lot, surrounded by the still of a cool winter’s night. I felt at peace. I waited for nearly half an hour, then slowly made my way home. I don’t know what they light was, but I do know that it left me wanting more.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Story-A-Day #36: Dandelions


All it takes is a word. One word can will grow and spread, like dandelion seeds on a soft summer breeze.

What would your word be?

Your word might grow into an idea. There are hundreds of them circling our minds at any given time, each one clinging tenuously to the core, trying to be the one that sticks, the moment of enlightenment. Ideas can be fleeting, floating just outside the peripheries of our consciousness, but when a new idea hits, it is inspiration. Some people spend their entire life chasing a singular idea, only to have it drift away, always more concept than actual thought. Your word could become your greatest idea, or it could evolve into something entirely different.

Your word could elongate into the threads of a story. We all have stories in our lives. Stories are entertainment and therapy. They are a process of understanding the self, even when we are plying fiction. They are a way for us to digest the world; to take our pains, insecurities, and doubts and transform them into something greater. Our biggest concerns, through a deliberate process of third party externalization, become rational extensions of who we are. This is the storytelling process and your word could become a part of it, an entirely new story to share. Stories are a way to explain the unexplainable, to capture our emotions and help them make sense.

And maybe through story, your word will become an emotion. There are always emotions in the mix, as fragile as the thoughts that inspire them. Our emotions are the lifeblood of who we are, the great definers of self. It is our emotions that allow us to distinguish right from wrong, that allow us to set personal goals and targets towards which we can strive. Emotions are complexly unexplainable, yet they can be reduced to their simplest essence in the form of a word. Maybe yours.

And maybe your emotions inspire memories. These core pieces of our self are the one true element that we share. They are the bond that brings us close. Our memories play a significant role in defining who we are, especially as we relate to those around us. They are what give us definition.

The future is intangible and the present is irrelevant because it does not have context. Moments in time do not really matter until their time has passed. Conversations, actions, even inactions carry no relevance until they can be defined. The past can exist within fractions of instants, moments that are just long enough to be. Everything needs to be in order to have relevance.

Maybe that is your word. Be. Or maybe your word is not yet defined.

These words I have written mean nothing to you until you have read them, and as the seeds of understanding take hold, a greater knowledge blossoms.

Share your word. Put it out into the world. Set it adrift like dandelion seeds on a soft summer breeze so that your word, whatever it might be, will be able to take root and grow into an idea, a story, an emotion, or maybe even a memory that you can share with the world.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Story-A-Day #35: Digger


You don’t see too many setups like this in our business. The sense of permanence is something most sites would actively avoid because you never know when the streak is going to end.

We’re different though, and in the fortunate position to be on what could easily be described as the single greatest discovery in the history of the business. Head office is so confident in this project that they have provided honest to goodness amenities for our crew. No shit.

We’ve got a pool; a swimming pool, all the way out here in these snowy wastes. That’s vision. That’s commitment.

You know what though? Those head office bean counters are smart. This isn’t a normal dig – not by a long shot and they have provided an environment that brings in the best and ensures their discretion. There is an understanding of the inherent dangers of our industry, that unparalleled focus on safety we all preach about. There has to be with the risk of lost time injuries, or payouts when things go really bad, on most sites, but again, this is different.

When I look around what we have created here, it is a pretty impressive accomplishment - almost otherworldly in its scope. Most diggers would kill for the chance to work a site like this. There’s the amenities sure, the pool, the workout facilities, the library, theatre, and team of red seal chefs creating three glorious meals a day from fresh ingredients flown in every three. That’s an easy sell, but the opportunity to be involved in such a one-of-a-kind operation is what really gets their blood boiling.

I’d be confident that the hardcore diggers would accept a reduced wage to be part of this opportunity. We pay double though. It helps ensure not just their commitment to seeing this through to the end, but also their silence.

You can probably tell by now that we’re not talking about any normal dig here. This isn’t a vein of gold or cobbled mess of diamonds we’re extracting. You’d be forgiven for making that mistake though. When you look at the head frame just beyond our offices and the staff block, it looks like any other head frame, perhaps even modest in comparison to some. Within the context of the rest of our set up, it’s almost embarrassingly humble. We designed it that way on purpose.

Every now and then I imagine that I can feel the machinery grinding away beneath us. Not our machinery, mind you, but the seismic rumbles that first brought us to this region.

I’d explain things in greater detail, but we’re kind of operating on a need-to-know paradigm up here and I’m not sure that you would really understand what I would be telling you anyway.

Let me just say that we’re about three weeks out from the discovery of a lifetime. Buried under almost 150 feet of ice and rock is an item of such great value that it could reshape our entire existence.

What we’re digging for requires a little more finesse than your usual job. This is a discovery richer than gold, more precious than diamonds, and far more enticing than a billion barrels of crude. For now, that’s all I can say, but three weeks from now, I’m going to change your world forever.

Seriously, this is going to blow your mind.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Story-A-Day #34: He Is Right


I was early, by about three hours, but I didn’t feel like waiting. Call me impatient if you must, but I hadn’t seen him in almost six months. I was actually up about four hours ago, so I have been fairly patient in the bigger scheme of things. I showered, spent a little longer than usual drying my hair, and even snuck in a quick breakfast in the hotel’s modest restaurant. It was continental, but I was early enough that the rolls and fruit salad were still fresh.

I went back to my room for an hour and found myself on a little trip down memory lane. He wasn’t my first love, not by any stretch, but he was definitely one of the big ones. When we met, it was a perfect storm of passion – and not just physically. We stimulated each other as much mentally and spiritually as anything, trading ideas and principles with every kiss. Unfortunately, it ended abruptly, almost as abruptly as it began, and we both moved on to different phases in our lives.

We kept in touch over the years; cards at Christmas, phone calls on birthdays, all the usual pleasantries. In a weird way, we actually grew closer years, settling into a comfortable friendship. We had met for coffee a couple times when we happened to be in the same city and it was always cordial and friendly. When he showed up at my husband’s funeral, I actually smiled. It felt like the first time I had flexed those muscles in over a year and the first time I had felt solace since my husband had first been diagnosed with cancer.

And now here I am. It’s been almost six months since the funeral, but we have been talking on the phone every week. It’s crazy, but I feel like a little girl again; like none of what has happened in my life since those halcyon days matters. As nice as the feeling is, it leaves me a little cold and guilt ridden sometimes. It almost feels like this happiness is a slight against the memory of my husband, who I loved very much. I know that isn’t the case, and that my husband will always play a significant role in whatever my future brings, but this comfort is a weird feeling.

The intensity of the feelings I have for this man are stronger than any I have known. There were times over the years where I tried to chalk everything up to fond nostalgia. We had become great friends and those lingering moments of love from the past were just that – lingering moments.

And yet, here I am, heading down a snowbound street in a town I barely know. The sun is just creeping up over the horizon and my breath is catching, not from the cold, but from the anxiety I am suddenly feeling. We are just friends. This is just going to be a nice visit. I repeat these things over and over, like a mantra designed to soothe. It isn’t working.

I count the numbers on the houses, as they slowly build towards the one he had sent in his email. I see the house, modest and well kept and decide to keep walking. I am way too early. I’ll find a coffee shop and kill a few hours before heading back.

I tuck my head down and set off down the sidewalk at a rapid pace and then stop. My name is being called. Cringing, I turn back towards the house and see him standing in the open doorway, casually ruffled as always. I smile and wave, and start back towards him.

“I was just going to grab a coffee,” I offer weakly. “I’m a little early.”

“I’d say you’re right on time.”

I smile as I walk up his driveway and step into his house. He’s right. There is no kiss, but the warm embrace is just right. I don’t know where this is going, but I am excited to find out. It feels right.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

A Handy Story-A-Day Recap

So far so good... Because I have an affinity for the number three, I thought I would use this occassion to provide a quick recap of the first 33 Story-A-Day efforts. Each of the stories is linked on the right of the page, but for your ease of use, I have also hyper linked the story titles in the following post. Bookmark this page for quick reference and enjoy revisiting the efforts so far.

Also a quick note to remind you that feedback is always encouraged and suggestions are also welcome. If you keep reading, I'll keep writing. Enjoy!

DAY 1:

Not sure where you’re going? Not sure where you’ve been? Let “Sidewalks” help you find your way.

DAY 2:

All it can take is a slip and a fall on a rainy day, and you find yourself landing on “The Other Side”.

DAY 3:

He would go to the same place at the same time every day, rain or shine, because every needs a “Perfect Routine”.

DAY 4:

Youthful optimism and unrequited love abound in the golden innocence of “October Country”.

DAY 5:

There are secrets to be found, but there is also comfort “In The Dark”.

DAY 6:

Life can be a chore, but sometimes you can find peace in the mundane. For her, peace was in the details of “Chores”.

DAY 7:

Where has your car taken you? Sometimes we don’t realize how far we have come until we “Track Back”.

DAY 8:

When night falls in “The Woods”, sometimes there is no greater comfort than the security of home.

DAY 9:

Sometimes our most heartfelt emotions can only be delivered through the silence of “Special Delivery”.

DAY 10:

It’s easy to get caught up in the hustle but sometimes being “Patient” really is a virtue.

DAY 11:

We all have mysteries and things better left forgotten, but some of us have deep dark secrets that must be kept under “Lock and Key”.

DAY 12:

We tend to seek love in the oddest of places. Sometimes the only way to feel “Embraced” is to make it through the fog.

DAY 13:

The world was in tatters ever since “The Event” and only one person knew the secret of why.

DAY 14:

What happened in those icy waters of youth? It’s a story that could leave you “Chilled”.

DAY 15:

If you believe “It's Not Over Yet”, there is always time to reclaim our youth.

DAY 16:

A nice crackling campfire on a cold November day because “Fireside” is the best way to catch up with old friends.

DAY 17:

Behind those darkened sheets of snow the sinister stalk the streets and “Cooler Heads Prevail”.

DAY 18:

Sometimes when we think of the past it helps to flip our expectations, see them upside down and ponder our deepest “Reflections”.

DAY 19:

From Spring-time bud to ice encased relic: The lifespan of a single leaf, turned into a “Microcosm”.

DAY 20:

Something was taking the children in the village and only the “Tracks” would lead him to the source of the mystery.

DAY 21:

It is a different place for everyone, but in our deepest reflections, we all have an ideal that we call “A Perfect Place”.

DAY 22:

The classics are full of stories about people breaking out, but every now and then we find a place that calls for something different, a place that requires “Breaking In”.

DAY 23:

Only a memory lane dusted in snow could lead to the inevitable “Reunion”.

DAY 24:

When someone leaves your life you feel more than “Empty”, you rtry to fight off the encroaching ice that forms over life as you knew it.

DAY 25:

There are certain times of year that carry their own sensations and emotions, moments that fill us with “Anticipation” for what is to come.

DAY 26:

What are mummy and daddy doing in the living room with all those explosions? You can find out with a bit of “Sneaking”.

DAY 27:

Some jobs are cool, others are just plain cold; for one particular man, the weather makes closing a “Cold Call” that much harder.

DAY 28:

History” is a great place to look for stories, and sometimes, a great place to find them.

DAY 29:

When the winter weather becomes too much for us, sometimes our “Last Resort” is a tropical escape together.

DAY 30:

There are 86 people missing and no decent ‘official’ explanation, but one man knows the source of the terror is coming “From Beneath”.

DAY 31:

The best way to cut through the impending gloom of winter is often with a liberal application of “Lights”.

DAY 32:

We are buried in snow right now, from the US straight up through Canada, and as bad as things seem, they could always be worse. We could be “Buried Alive”.

DAY 33:

Every winter the “Cold Season” descends upon us in a furious wave of sneezes, sniffles, and sometimes disgusting results.

And that is where we are so far, 33 days of photos and stories. See you again tomorrow!

Story-A-Day #33: Cold Season


Call it cold season, call it flu season. I don’t care either way because I call it hell. The world is buried in snow and everyone is doing their best to gear up for the festive season, but it still feels like hell. Cold season makes sense because when I checked the temperature I was more interested in what the weather felt like, than what the thermometer actually said. Flu season makes sense too though because right now, my entire face is a chimney whose sole purpose seems to be to expel the fiery wastes that have settled into my torso.

I woke up the other day and it felt like my chest was full of hot cement. When I coughed, the cement exploded and it felt like somebody had held a bat of fibreglass insulation over my face while I slept and now all those microscopic shards of glass were dancing a Christmas jig over my bronchioles.

My sinuses are packed with crud, solid to the point where it feels like my head is full of porridge and I’m listening to everyone around me whine from somewhere within a cold body of water. The odd pop of release creates a weird whistling through my head.

It was at its worst a couple days ago when I was trudging myself into work despite my better judgement. My tracks provided a perfect route to follow home through the swirling eddies of snow but I was determined to get to the office and make it through another day. My nose was dribbling like a leaky faucet and I was running out of soft sections on my mittens to wipe it with. I was also cycling through a random pattern of fevered and frigid.

When I finally arrived at the office I was winded from my the thickness of insulation filled lungs and the additional effort I had expelled climbing through precarious piles of snow and trying not to slip under passing cars. I bent down to untie my boots and a violent sneeze rocked through me at the same time that I coughed up a mouthful of lung debris.

I blew my nose and there was so much output that it covered my entire jaw line rendering the single meagre tissue useless. I cleaned up the mess and blew again and the left over bits wound up coming out of my eyes as well; actually spraying out mist onto my still foggy eyeglasses.

I realized then that I probably should have stayed home, but looking around the office at the other crusty, red nosed cubicle dwellers, I realized that none of us should be here. I wasn’t a trooper, I was just one of the many trying to hack, blow and wipe my way through another introductory round of cold season.

We work in a sterile environment that is mostly devoid of individual personalities. Today though, it is anything but sterile. Hacking, chest shaker coughs echo through the office and elephant-like trumpet blasts of wet mucosal discharge punctuate conversations. Sniffs and sneezes and soft, sullen groans surround us all.

In the break room, I gaze out the window at the wintry wonderland. It really is beautiful, the world sheathed in soft white comforters. It makes me wish again that I had stayed in bed, a glass of warm ginger ale and a steaming cup of instant chicken soup by my side.

I swallow, a painful effort with the current state of my throat. I had a hot toddy last night in an attempt to clear things up, and today it feels like I was drinking shots of glass shards.

I return to my desk with a fresh box of Kleenex from the supply room. After two sloppy sneezes that despite my best efforts, still eave rainbow speckles on my computer monitor, I resign myself to another day of productivity. With a sniff I wipe the screen.

Welcome to cold season.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Story-A-Day #32: Buried Alive


It started over night and hasn’t stopped since, a thick, fluffy white inundation of snow that has shut down most of northeastern North America. There have been reports of buildings collapsing, rampant power outages, people stranded in their cars.

Most people, those with enough sanity to know better than trying to go out at least, have holed themselves up in the relative safety of their homes. Given the options, it’s the only sensible thing to do really. Even if you were able to clear your car and enough driveway to get out into the street, the bits you started with are as bad as they were when you stepped outside by the time you are think you are ready. Besides, with the streets buried in up to two feet of snow in places, even if you could get your car to the road, it won’t be going anyway from there – and it isn’t much better for those on foot.

This storm has reinforced the value for hibernation, but eventually we will all have a reason to venture out into that cold crucible of snow and ice. For some it will be the pursuit of crucial supplies; food and water. For others, it will be warmth. We lost our power almost fourteen hours ago and the frost is slowly seeping its way in through the cracks. At best guess, we have another eight hours before the cold becomes unbearable and the blankets no longer provide a buffer from the cold.

At the moment though, it is neither sustenance nor shelter than concerns me. It is my wife and our youngest child. The fever settled in with the storm and our initial intents to ride it out are becoming less viable as an option. I had hoped that the fever would break, or the storm would lift, but neither seems likely.

They are on the couch right now, bundled up under whatever blankets and towels I could find, their greasy hair matted to their foreheads. The baby seems to have been spared so far, but she won’t stop crying. I am doing my best to be a rock for my family, to be their nurse, chef, and provider; but eventually I am going to have to be their saviour. I will have to get them to the hospital, if the hospital is even operational. I’ve been calling for the better part of a day, but to no avail.

With no power, I don’t suppose there is much they could do anyway, and with the rash of accidents both life threatening and less so, a couple of fevered individuals are pretty low on the priority scale.

I dug the car out as much as I could, but it really is a futile battle. I doubt that we could actually travel anywhere with the roads being how they are, but we might need the car for heat. We’ve got half a tank to get us through.

A storm like this really puts things into perspective. You never really know what it means to be left lacking until your entire world has been buried. And for now, we are amongst the lucky ones…

Story-A-Day #31: Lights


She was never sure if it was worth it. It wasn’t jus that the weather was getting colder, but it was darker too. It was hard to stay motivated when the darkness saw you off to work in the morning and greeted you upon your return.

Every fall she would look at the tangles of cords and bulbs in her basement and tell herself that this year, they were staying right where they were. No decorations or lights this year. It just wasn’t worth the effort.

But then the darkness came and she realized why people hung out their lights. It had nothing to do with Christmas, or capturing the seasonal spirit; people hung out their lights as a means of fending off the dark and she would do the same no matter how much it chagrined her.

She pulled on her boots, the ones with the fuzzy fur collars and drew the laces in tight. She slipped on her jacket and wrapped her scarf around her necks, tucking the loose ends away. She pulled on her toque, it’s floppy earflaps warm against her cheeks, then her mittens too. Finally, she grabbed the big tangle of cords and bulbs and pushed her way outside.

The cold work was made more awkward by her bulky mittens, but as the lights slowly unraveled and accepted their place around the birch tree and over the porch of the house, a sense of warm satisfaction descended upon her.

It was snowing now, but the wind had died down. It was actually quite serene and tranquil. She could hear the Styrofoam crunch of a passing pedestrian and realized as she paused that she had been whistling a Christmas tune gently under her breath. She smiled to herself and she rearranged the last length of lights. She was ready.

She dashed quickly into her house, taking the time to remove her boots and mittens, and put on the kettle. A few minutes later, she was back outside, a steaming mug of cocoa in her hands. She plugged in the lights and her small front yard erupted in a blast of multicoloured delight.

The decorations had nothing to do with Christmas. They were only there to provide a little bit of light during the long, cold winter months. Next year she would put them out even earlier…

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Story-A-Day #30: From Beneath


There was no real explanation at first. People go missing all the time, that was the official word. The sad thing is that at first, the "official" word was enough. People had been going missing often enough, mostly young women, and we are conditioned to accept the official version of why. Hell, I was as complicit as anyone but when my beautiful Anabel-Lee went missing, I decided it was time to take action.

I have spent weeks combing the records, calling in favors from my friends on the force. I have been to the scenes of the crimes looking for missed clues, or possible oversights. There is nothing there though. The trace amounts of blood are long since scoured away by the elements and passage of time. A list of 86 names is all that remains of them.

Last week I had my first lucky break though. Last week my "luck" almost killed me. I saw someone get taken by the shadowy beast. I tracked it down. I was determined to end it all then, but I chickened out.

Not today though. Today I am ready and I am going to go into that dark, dank place and put an end to this once and for all.

I haven't slept in three days. Foolish perhaps, but I have had too much on my mind, too much planning. There is a bag by my feet and in it, my supplies.

I am ready now. I will use my bolt cutters to break the lock and I will enter the city beneath. The creature is in there, a rank, foul beast with beady red eyes. I will hunt it down to its lair and I will give it 86 different regrets about the day it first crawled out from beneath us.

The victims will be avenged and the only official word will be the silent thanks of an entire city.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Friday, December 10, 2010

Story-A-Day #29: Last Resort


You are there with me and it is perfect, maybe a little resort-generic, but perfect. The sun is shining brightly in the equatorial skies and the flowers are blooming, a perfectly tropical scene.

Happy couples and entire families wader the manicured grounds, oblivious for a time of the lives they have left behind. They aren’t fleeing anything in particular; just happy to be away from all the things they know best. Kind of like us right now, and we couldn’t be happier.

We line up at the buffet for breakfast, heaping mounds of fruit and meat and exotic treats onto our plates before hungrily gorging them down. With bellies full, we make out way to the beach, relishing the feeling of the scalding hot sand slipping through our toes and over our feet. A pair of lounge chairs calls out to us and we carefully lay out our towels before dashing out into the warm embrace of the ocean. The waves roll past us as we look back towards the distant beach.

We float there, arms outstretched and eyes closed against the glare of the sun. We are effortlessly adrift, floating aimlessly at sea. We dig through the sand with our toes to reveal the ocean’s secret jewels, beautiful shells clasped in our hands. We watch the tiny fish circling below.

It is a perfect way to spend our time, idyllic and serene. There is no other place we would like to be.

In the early evening, the thunderstorms roll in, but they are over quickly leaving nothing but the gleam of wet in their wakes and a few swaying palm trees. As the skies clear, the stars make themselves known, an infinite blanket of twinkling lights. Music drifts from the bars as we sip our cocktail, fruity concoctions that actually taste like the fruits in their names. There are no syrups here, no synthetic versions of the delights that grown in the trees around us.

This is our world now and for the week, we will embrace it. We will not think of work. We will not think of snow. We will not think of bills unpaid or plans waylaid.

Today, in our tropical retreat, all we will think of is each other and we will be content in our knowledge that we are here together; two individuals with nowhere else to be and nothing else to do. This is our reality, and we embrace it with arms spread wide.

We are home. Together.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Story-A-Day #28: History


History is something that is easy to appreciate through books and films. History is something you can feel and be a part of, but it really means nothing until you have actually watched through it. There is some history in Canada, but when you see it in the context of the world, Canada’s history is yesterday.

That much was clear as I gazed across the empty churchyard. A wet salty breeze blew in from the Bristol Channel whipping my coat into a frenzy. The church, St. Andrew’s, was over 500 years older than Canada. That was history and you could see it in each weathered brick, and in the gentle northward lean of the tower. Of course history was also written in the gravestones and markers scattered through the grounds.

Seeing something that old, something that has continued to stand the test of time, really helps put things into perspective.

I snapped a few quick photos, seeking the right angles and lighting to create just the right keepsake. The dull roar of traffic passing by on the other side of the stone wall was a strange incongruence compared to the tranquility that radiated from the building.

Standing where I was, I suddenly felt impossibly young and naive. Next to this historic edifice I had seen nothing and learned nothing. I was but a blink of an eye.

A rustle in the hedgerow caught my ear just then and I jumped, startled back into the present. There was something under there, probably a squirrel, or maybe a badger. It would be cool to see a badger.

I crouched down to peer under the low hanging cedar branches and noticed a hint of yellow. It was tainted, streaked in dirt and not at all like bright yellow sunshine, which was probably a fitting compliment to the dull grey weather of southwestern England.

The mound moved suddenly, a slow roll towards the yard and I jumped backwards as a haggard face revealed itself. A tangled matt of greasy hair framed a pair of sad eyes and the scruffy beard parted to reveal a mouth full of crooked, dirty teeth.

“Whadda ye want?” the man grumbled as he extended a filthy hand for leverage and started angling towards his feet. “Yer stompin’ ‘round has interrupted me slumber.”

My mouth flapped open and closed a few times but no words would come. Instead, I turned and ran.

It took me a few blocks to realize that I had reacted in a rather poor manner and I decided that like the church, that haggard man in the hedge had a history worth investigating as well. Resigned, I turned and set off back towards the church but when I arrived at the hedge, the man had vanished.

I hoped I would see him again one day. I hoped that I would be able to learn his story.