Saturday, December 31, 2011

Story-A-Day #415: A New Year





A NEW YEAR

This is typically a time for revelations and resolutions, a time where we reflect back upon the year just passed and celebrate our successes and mourn our losses. It is a time where we look to the present and opt for change; for betterment.

It is typically a time to get drunk and ring in the new year, but sometimes it is just as well suited for quiet moments in; time spent peacefully reminiscing with family and loved ones.

Don't just think of the past year; think further back to some of the moments that got you to the place you are today. Think of the choices you made and the paths you took to get to the place you are tonight.

We have all experienced ups and downs on our journeys through life. We have loved and we have lost. We have experienced unbridled passion, and unparalleled heart break. We have been to weddings and to funerals to celebrate both new beginnings and sorrowful ends.

We have families: parents, children, brothers and sisters. We might no longer be the same people we were back then, but our essence, our place in the hierarchy of family is the same.

We grow, we learn, we change and evolve. We try to do it for the better, rather than devolving into lesser versions of who we hope to become.

Tonight brings a new year, which is not to say that it merits change. Maybe the only real change we need is to commit more time to being with those closest to us. Maybe all we need, is to commit to pursuing our dreams, chasing those things that will bring us the right amount of stories and success to have something to say in one year's when your family asks what is it that you are happy for this year?

This year, I am happy for my family and friends. I am happy to be where I am in life, knowing that where I am will facilitate what I will become.

That is a good thing, a great thing even. I am happy...

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone. Please excuse auto corrected errors!

Friday, December 30, 2011

Story-A-Day #414: Frost Giants


FROST GIANTS

The reports were vague at best, most of them revolving around strange occurrences throughout the city.  There was no real evidence that something mysterious was happening, but there was no denying that weird things were happening.

It started with a power outage due to a downed line.  Eyewitnesses at the scene reported a strong and offensive aroma that lingered heavily in the air, almost like burnt hair.  That was the catalyst for what was to come.

There were other power outages, other downed lines, but there was also a rash of damaged property throughout the city.  Cars were found with their roofs caved in, garbage dumpsters crushed like tin cans.  Tree were found cracked in two, large sturdy maples.  It could be expected during fierce wind or thunder storms, but it was an anomaly on calm summer nights.

The media had been chalking the occurrences up to teenage vandals.  They even justified the crushed garbage dumpsters up to hit and run scenarios, drunken teens losing control of their joyrides.  Only thing is, there were never any reports of stolen vehicles or smashed cars being brought into local garages.

Like most people, I assumed that the media was probably telling a variation of the truth at least.  They only had certain privileges after all so it was quite likely that they would be developing their own theories and conjectures and expanding upon those.  Knowledge is power and if the police had no leads, then obviously that was not something they would want to communicate to the public at large.  I was sure that they were just as baffled by the occurrences as everyone.

Hell, I was baffled until one day I discovered a strange...something in the snow.  It looked like a footprint, a very large footprint.  I wore size twelve boots and this particular print looked to be about twice as long as my own.  It dawned on me then that there might be more to these occurrences than any of us had imagined.

It dawned on me that our little town might have a problem bigger than any of us had imagined.  A giant problem, at that.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Story-A-Day #413: Tramping


TRAMPING

Days like this come out of nowhere sometimes.  When he left for work, it was a cool, sunny day; one that seemed with of promise and potential.  It seemed like all would end as it began.  By the time he stepped out for lunch, the skies had turned grey, and fat, heavy clumps of snow swirled to the ground.

He ducked around the corner and into the bistro where he found himself chowing back on his bagel and soup with a little more urgency than usual.  He took the coffee to go, and scurried back to his office through the strengthening blizzard.

Three inches had fallen within the first hour, and it didn't look like it would be letting up any time soon.  When he got back to his desk, and shrugged out of his mid-length pea coat, he logged back into his computer terminal.  The weather website was calling for at least a foot of snow.  Not good at all.

He tried to get back to the report he had been working on all morning, but he found himself distracted by the swirling white outside.  When he glanced out his office window, he couldn't even see the building across the street through the swirling eye of the blizzard.

His eyes drifted up to the ticking wall clock above his desk for the third time that hour and he cringed.  It would be a long wait until the end of his shift, and an even longer trip home if this weather kept up.  He buckled on and focused on the report.

His shift finally ended and he made the slow inevitable moves towards heading home.  He pulled on his coat, wrapped his scarf around his neck, and slowly made his way out towards the lobby.  Bracing himself, he stepped out into the blizzard and started the long walk home, tramping through two and three foot snow drifts and feeling exhausted after the first ten minutes.

He stopped to help four cars out of the drifts they had been captured in within the first twenty minutes and then succumbed to the inevitable neon glow.

He stepped into the pub and ordered a pound of chicken wings and a pint of Guinness.  He needed a time out and a little strength before he continued home.  On a day like today, it just made sense.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Story-A-Day #412: The Follower


THE FOLLOWER

I don't mind that you follow me through the night.  You actually make me feel a little more safe than I would otherwise, without you watching over me.  Sometimes I can feel you all around me, but usually I just catch a glimpse of you reflected in a passing window, a sheet of ice, or even the large mirror in my bedroom.

On some nights, it is just your smile, a small crescent that peers out at me through the night.  I catch a glimpse of it smiling at me from the window of the pub, or the convenience store where I stop for coffee on the way home.

At other times, I see your full pale face beaming at me from behind the treeline, a warm and welcoming presence in the night.  Knowing that you are there almost lights my way home.  At the very least, it provides me with a sense of security when I see a group of rowdy drunks approaching up the sidewalk.

Even when I am at home, safe in the comfort of my own sanctuary, I don't find it creepy or comfortable knowing that you are out there, waiting.  Sometimes I will even leave the curtains parted so I can watch your face slowly drifting across the school playground across the street.

I like knowing that you are out there.  I like knowing that you are watching over me, that you are out there in the night making sure that I am safe.

I like knowing that you will be there for me in my darkest hour ensuring that my way home is illuminated.  You are great that way.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Story-A-Day #411: White Mist



WHITE MIST

It seemed like a short cut.  On most days it would have been, a quick cut through the parking lot.  It was clear now though, that on a night like today, there were no short cuts.  Just longer diversions through the same familiar territory.

With each new step forward, I felt a little more trapped by the last step I had taken.  The world had become encompassed in a white mist; a particular kind of winter storm that results in pure white out conditions.  I didn't see this one coming, and now I had a long hike ahead of me through the white mists of this sudden, aggressive winter blizzard.

I popped my collar, pulled down my toque, and cursed the fact that I was a smoker.  My right hand was frozen solid into an icy claw.

It burned with the cold...

I stumbled forward through the cold and squinted my eyes into the cold blast of winter.  I had places to be, and nothing would stop me from getting there.  I pictured her warm smile greeting me upon my arrival, and to be honest, it was almost enough to get me through on that fact alone.

I stumbled through the tire-rutted, snow-filled parking lot, and onwards.  At the rate I was traveling, I would be there within the hour.

The wing whipped around me, sucking the heat from within my core by the few exposed bits of flesh that the conditions were able to carress.

I could hear a howling behind me; most likely the wind picking up again.  This howling kept growing closer though, until eventually it was upon me.  I didn't even realize it wasn't the wind until I was suddenly hammered face-down into the parking lot from behind.

I floundered for a moment, then realized it was hopeless.  I had been bested in the white mist.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Story-A-Day #410: Boxing Feint



BOXING FEINT

December 26th is supposed to be the day where you bid farewell to Christmas, call an end to the over-decoration of every surface of your home and property, and yet, this year, I want this day to last forever.  Just because it's Boxing Day doesn't mean we have to pack this all up.

I don't want to take down the lights outside.  I want to give them a chance to glow again and light up the night with their incadescent splendor.  I don't want to tear down the tree and throw it to the curb, or pack up all the decorations and pretend that none of this ever happened.

I definitely don't want to deny the miracle of the season...

There was no real miracle that occurred, not in the biblical sense at least.  But that doesn't mean a miracle didn't happen.  That doesn't mean we should be so ready to pack up the season and head to the mall for great deals.

To me, the real miracle of this time of year is that I was able to spend relaxed time with my family and friends and not have to worry about the crushing oppression of oncoming work obligations.  It is the first time in a long time where I feel like I can safely relax and not worry about all the things I typically do on a day-to-day basis.

This is not the day I choose to spend packing up the holidays.

This is not the day I choose to sort through my gifts and find homes for them all.

This is most definitely not the day that I choose to head out to the mall and face the hordes of people who are not already happy with what they have received.

Today is a day where I decide to extend all that is important by one more day at least, to enjoy the time I have been allotted and to spend it wisely.  I choose to spend today relaxing and enjoying this moment in time; with my family, my friends, maybe just a good book or a movie.

Consider this my feint, my dodge.  Consider this my piacular moment for all the time throughout the rest of the year where I have only focussed on my work.

Consider this my miracle day...

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Story-A-Day #409: Traditions


TRADITIONS

People have all kinds of different traditions for the holidays.  Christmas alone, is jam packed with variations on a theme.

Is it the stuffing of stockings that sticks out with your family?  Many families consider that a key component of their holiday celebration.  Pulling little trinkets out of an over sized sock tends to be a big part of the Christmas process.

The exchanging of gifts also factors into the equation.  For many, this is the lynch pin upon which many people's Christmas traditions revolve.  Gift giving is the focal point of the holiday for many people.  For some, it is the look upon the recipient's face as they open the perfectly selected gift that brings the truest sense of pleasure.  For others, it is the anticipation of tearing through the paper off the big package with their name on it that brings about the most happiness.  Neither feeling is right, but a sense of balance between the two is always best.

Some people choose to focus on the trimming of the tree.  It is a perfect time to bond as a family.  Relics from years gone by are unpacked from big boxes and carefully hung from the boughs of the Christmas tree.  The decking of the halls is always an essential component of the season, and one that many people choose to focus on.

I always like to think of the small things that bring it all together, the pieces that bind the whole.

I like to think of how my family did things, mostly how my mother did things.  There would be the stockings, and the gifts, and the tree, but there were also smaller touches that brought it all together.  There were bowls of nuts and nutcrackers; huge turkey dinners with the best stuffing you would ever taste; drinks with the members of my family that I never seem to see enough; cheese balls and Twiglets; and so much more.

Traditions are built for amending and adapting.  Figure out what works best for you and adapt your traditions to that.

Merry Christmas!

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Story-A-Day #408: Eve Of Distraction


EVE OF DISTRACTION

I pull my toque down over my ears and forehead, and life my collar.  It is a gusty night, strong winds and blowing snow.  I hate how dark it gets so early in the day at this time of year, and how fierce the weather can be, but I have places to be.

My family is waiting for me, no doubt sipping on cider and sitting around the living room talking about the year gone by.  Christmas Eve is always a good time to reminisce about the year's successes and triumphs and I am fortunate to come from a family that is blessed by both.  We are hard working by nature, kind and compassionate.  We are graced by the company we give each other.

I will be with them soon enough, but first I have a stop to make.  Not everyone is as fortunate as I am, as my family and friends are, and I am on my way to ensure that some of the less fortunate people in this community have something fond to remember from their Christmas Eve.

I don't do it to feel good about myself, but I am not selfless either.  I do this each year because I know many of the people that I will be serving at the soup kitchen.  We are not friends, or family, or past lovers.  What we are is members of this community.  I have seen them wandering the same streets I do.  I have seen them ignored by those they pass as though they were ghosts.

I have paused to speak with them, to say hello, and offer a bit of change for a cup of coffee.  I am also cynical, so there are some who I will actually buy a coffee for, instead of just offering the change.  I know what they would do with it otherwise, and while I would not judge them for their crutches, I would not necessarily want to support them either.

I will spend some time with these forgotten souls, then I will join my family and we will talk about our year.  We will eat a great meal, and have some drinks, then we will fall into a peaceful sleep in our comfortable beds and wait for Christmas morning.

What will you be doing tonight?  What will your distraction be?

Friday, December 23, 2011

Story-A-Day #407: The Woodsman


THE WOODSMAN

They were just like the last group; young, energetic, and out for a good time away from it all.  He didn't care what they were looking to get away from, he just cared that they had come to the wrong place for their escape.

These were his woods.  This was his home.  This was a place of peace and tranquility.  It wasn't supposed to be full of shrieking laughter and drunken revellery.  It wasn't suppsoed to be full of fornicating young couples looking for a good time.

He stood in the shadows of the forest and listened to the three couples laughing and shouting.  He could here the bottles of alcohol clanking together, and the noisy ruckus that would last long into the night.  The last goup had been almost exactly the same, but he had silenced them.

He shuffled the axe from his left hand to his right.  He was a patient man and he would wait until the right moment.  Let them succomb to the effects of the alcohol, the ehady high of sexual gratification, then make his way in and spill their blood.

The front door crashed open and one of the young men stumbled out into the night.  He plummeted down the stairs with reckless abandon and wobbled to an unsteady halt in the middle of the yard.  He paused there, swaying slightly, then stumbled towards where the Woodsman was standing.  He was fumbling clumsily with the front of his pants.

The Woodsman raised his axe and stepped further back into the shadows.  He stood there and waited adn when the man was in reach, he dropped the axe.  It connected with a solid thunk, and the man collpased, his pants still open.  Fluids spilled from two different parts of his body.

He dragged the body off into the woods and dumped it behind some deadfall.  They would come looking for their friend eventually.  This changed everything, and he would have to adjust accordingly.  It had happened before, and he had succeeded with his cleansing.  This would be no different.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Story-A-Day #406: Faceoff



FACE OFF

It waits.  That's what it does.  Tick, after tock, after tick, after tock...

I can sense it waiting, and even though I can clearly see that there is no one in the control booth, I know that there is something not quite right with this situation.

I take a step forward and the bucket nudges upward.  I almost laugh, but manage to choke my outburst behind a pair of puckered, smiling lips.  I admit, it is a cocky grin...

I've been listening to the radio.  The reports have all been ominous, talking about how that machines have finally taken over.  It seems ridiculous, but the news reports all state that the machines have somehow become automated; even aware.   I won't deny it by any means, but I have never been afraid of machines.  Machines make our lives easier.  They facilitate our daily processes.

But in the time, in the moment, this machine is kind of pissing me off.

It is parked at the end of the driveway, blocking my exit.

I take a few steps forward, and to my surprise, the bucket rises, and follows my trajectory.  It seems hard to believe.  The possibility of a maximum overdrive situation makes no sense, and yet, the machine appears to be moving on its own.  And then there are the news reports as well...

I decide to make my move.  There appears to be a gap between the machine and the house so I dash toward it.  The bucket swings down and across to block my path and at the last moment, I dart to the left and vault over the fence.

I collapse into a quick roll and spring to my feet.  In the cabin of the backhoe, I see one of the kids from down the street.  He is laughing maniacally, and I exhale deeply.  I release the butt of the gun in the pouch of my hoodie and smile at the kid.  He almost took a bullet to the head.

Still, it doesn't explain the odd broadcasts on the radio.  I decide to proceed with caution.

The bucket of the backhoe suddenly swings towards the back of my head.  I dive quickly out of the way and realize that the kid is not in control of the machine, he is merely enjoying the ride.

I realize then, as the bucket crashes down towards me, that I have stepped into a world of trouble.  This is a face off I can not possibly win.

It is the time for me to make my move.  No more ticking clocks...

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Story-A-Day #405: Suck It


SUCK IT

My life is a pretty simple one, and I don.t mind admitting it.  I know that when you look at me you think I am full of crap, and you would be half right to think so, but my kind is capable of being more than what our lot in life has decreed we should be.  You have defined us, but that was your own onus.  That was your prerogative, because in your mind, my life is the most basic there could be.

I swim lazy circles around my 16 x 12 x 10 inch enclosure.  That is what you give me, though.  This is the life you have assigned me.

I was once a happy little creature, quite content making my way through life in the bottom of the river bed.  I was quite new to the world when you scooped me up in your infernal nets.  I thought that I had it bad, but I have since discovered that I am one of the lucky few who have actually tasted freedom.

Most of my kin have been raised in your captivity.  I sort of understand why you do so, but I wish that you could understand where I come from when I say that we have feelings too.  We have rights.

Reverse the situation for a moment and tell me how you would feel.  If we were the giants of the evolutionary scale and put you into a compact pen, how would you react?  You aren't the only creatures on this earth to realize that there are reactions to every action.

You have placed my kind in a state of perpetual slavery.  You have forced us into a world where we can only do the bidding that you have assigned us to.  Here I am in my tiny 16 x 12 x 10 inch enclosure cleaning up after the shiny bastards you consider pets, and yet I am reduced to no more than a utilitarian sucker.

Well you know what I have to say to that?  Just two words:  Suck it!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Story-A-Day #404: First Day Off


FIRST DAY OFF

It is December 20, and yet I am lying on my couch wearing shorts.  That does not mean that I would wear them out side, although many of the rotund population seem to find such apparel more than adequate.  The reason I am wearing my shorts today is because this is my first day of Christmas vacation, and I feel like I should be on vacation.

I would obviously choose to be on a beach right now, if I had the chance, but I am not destined for the tropics.  I am not destined for Cancun, or Cuba, or St Barts.  Still, you can not fault me for a moment of casual relaxation.  Fair enough, I have to resort to a couch instead of a hammock, but it is relaxation nonetheless.  I am surfing my couch today instead of surfing waves.

In this country, in Canada, things are nowhere near as perfect as we like to imagine.  We are not the country we like to portray to the world.  People are more often than not forced to work long hours for minimal rewards.  Even outside of the big cities, the cost of living continues to rise, and yet the minimum standard of living remains set at a level where most people's incomes would support their rent, with very little left over.

It is most unfortunate to be sure.  My idea of a week in the tropics ends up being a week on the couch.

I make decent money, but I do not make nearly enough to support my rent, bills, personal life, and a trip to the tropics.  Instead, I choose to celebrate my first day off in months with a moment of lackadaisical nonchalance on the couch.

Eventually I will creep back into my winter gear.  When I do, I will probably hike over through the gusting snow to my parents' house for a pre-Christmas dinner.  That will be the true beginning to my Christmas celebrations.

Until then, I am just going to spend a few more minutes kicking back and relaxing.  It is after all, my first day off.  And a much deserved one at that.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Story-A-Day #403: When The New Dawn Rises


WHEN THE NEW DAWN RISES

We have spent too much time apart.  That much is clear, and painfully obvious to us both.  I am sorry that I have not been more available to you, more accessible.  Especially when you needed me most.  I have wanted to be there for you for sure, but I have not been, which makes me a lesser man than the one I have presented to you up to this point.

That is not who I am though.  I am the kind of person who strives to always be there for those closest to me when they need me the most, and yet, over the past few weeks, I have neglected you.  That will change.  I will ensure that you are happy, and comfortable.  I will ensure that when you need a shoulder, mine will be there for you.

You scare me a bit.  I am not sure if it is your piercing intellect, or the casual comfort that you radiate outwards.  If I were to be honest though, I would probably say that it is neither of those.  I think what scares me most is the way you look at me with an unadulterated passion.  I have not experienced that kind of respect and love in a long time, and I am not sure how to deal with it.

You are an amazing individual; warm, compassionate, intelligent, beautiful.  You are an artist in the truest sense.  Unlike some, your beauty radiates from the inside, but it is also there on the exterior, a comfortable mask that makes you feel uncomfortable.  Your beauty is all encompassing.

I have been away for a while now, not by choice, but by a stroke of the fates that has kept us apart.  It has been a difficult time, but it is one that will soon come to a close.  I look forward to our reunion.  I look forward to feeling your soft shallow breaths by my side as we slowly drift off to sleep.  I look forward to seeing you, to staring into the deep pools of your eyes, and when I do I will finally be home.  And I will be home.  Soon.

I will see you when the new dawn rises.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Story-A-Day #402: Scotch Bonnet


SCOTCH BONNET

"I usually drink beer, but every now and then I like to venture into a different kind of buzz.  It's funny, but different types of alcohol really do deliver different experiences."

"A beer buzz tends to be fairly sedate.  It is a steady course that adds new layers with each drink, but the end result usually ends up being one that results in sloppy slurs.  It is a messy drunk, but a peaceful one for the most part.  The problem with beer is you don't ususally realize you have had too much until it all starts foaming back up."

"Wine is a whole different experience.  Wine tends to be a bit of a wild ride.  The only time I really get wine drunk is during family dinners.  Corks pop, the wine flows, and the volume steadily rises.  Wine can make some people angry, but for others, it just becomes a flush cheeked trek into oblivion.  The problem with wine is that as fun as the ride can be, the morning is usually a nightmare.  Killer headaches, odd gaps in memory, and the most curiously unsettled stomach."

She stared at him for a moment, not too sure what he was trying to get at, then finally smiled.  "So what's it going to be then, a shot of Jaeger?"

"Tonight, I am looking to embrace the scotch bonnet," he replied.

"I'm sorry?"  So far, she had to admit that this was one of the weirder people to step into the bar tonight.

"One of my favourite buzzes is the kind that comes from a nice top shelf scotch.  I'll start with the Cragganmore if you don't mind."

She smiled.  "And the bonnet part of the equation?"

"That's just the feeling it gives my head, like a warm lid is engulfing it," he replied.  "Can you make the first a triple please?"

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Story-A-Day #401: Blasters


BLASTERS

His alarm went off just before 4 am and he instantly swatted a hand to squish out the electronic insect drone of the digital clock.  He let his eyes flutter back shut for a brief moment, then sat abruptly up in bed, throwing aside the tangle of sheets that had wound themselves through his legs overnight.

He slowly swung his feet down to the carpeted floor of the hotel bedroom, and ran a hand through his tangled nest of hair.  A soft groan sounded behind him and he turned to see a leggy blond woman rolling towards the distant wall.  She was beautiful and he found himself smiling slightly in the dull gloom.  Apparently it had been a pretty good night last night.  He pulled the sheets up over the naked length of her back and slowly rose to his feet.

He could still feel the alcohol lingering in his bloodstream.  It would be rough out there, but a shower would take him a long way towards recovery.

He let the tepid water course down over his body, flushing away the night of drinking and the musty whiff of sex that still lingered on his skin.  He spent as long as he could under the flow of water, then turned off the water and wrapped a towel around his waist.

Twenty minutes later, he was in a diner with the boys plowing through a rich, greasy breakfast.  he had left the blond back at the hotel, snoring gently.  It seemed like the right thing to do, especially since he couldn't remember her name and didn't think that a shake of the shoulder and a "hey you" would be a diplomatic way to end the moment.

They spent the next half hour joking around about the night before and talking about their individual conquests.  He remained quiet through most of it.  He never felt comfortable bragging about his conquests, and the details were all pretty fuzzy anyway.

Finally, the boys were ready to go and they piled into the truck.  He really did love his job.  He wasn't sick or twisted, but he definitely loved blowing things up.  Seeing plumes of dirt and rock soaring through the air was as liberating as anything he knew.

He was a blaster, and he wouldn't have it any other way.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Story-A-Day #400: The Gunslinger


THE GUNSLINGER

He adjusts the wide brimmed Stetson perched casually atop his head and step into the construction ravaged street.  In the distance, a static backhoe sits motionless.  He surveys the deserted street and cocks his head slightly to the side, straining to hear any sign of life.

There is nothing.  Not even the trilling song of the birds he can see flittering from power line to tree and back again.  That is never a good sign.

He shifts his weight slightly, his long trench coat flowing like mercury around him, and places his right hand on the cold comfort of the butt of the handgun that hangs heavily from his hip.  He unfastens the clasp of the holster and takes a few steps forward along the dusty, dug up street.

It is too quiet.

He lets out a low whistle to break the tension.  He is a confident man and he knows that they are here waiting for him.  Even a fool could smell an ambush like this.  He kicks at the dirt at his feet, watching the dust billow up around the toes of his dull black Doc Martens.  He smiles.

"Shouldn't you be wearing cowboy boots?" his partner had asked.

"Cowboys are pussies," he had replied.  He was kidding at the time, but his straight faced expression made his comment seem deadly serious.

He took another step along the street and slid the gun a little further out of the holster.

"I'm here," he called out.  He made sure that it wasn't a shout, just a proclamation of intent.  He knew they were here, and now they knew that he was too.

"Why don't you come out and we can sort this business out?"

That's when the first shot rang out, tinging off the gravel right next to his feet.

He drew his gun and prepared to finish off the bastards.  The smile crept unbidden across his face.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Story-A-Day #399: Long Road Home


LONG ROAD HOME

It's the same dream every night.  I am barrelling down a narrow country road.  It is haphazardly constructed of packed dirt and has a frightening tendency to randomly pull the car to the side at inopportune moments.  I am racing along that narrow road, the forlorn tamaracks and evergreens in the swamp on either side of the road rocketing by in a ferocious green blur.

The rain spatters on the windshield and is slowly disbursed to the outer edges where the drops fly off into oblivion.  I accelerate further, pushing the car well beyond its capabilities.

I am in a rush to get home, there is something important happening there, or someone important waiting for me there, and I push forward with increased urgency.

The faster I push, the further it feels I have to travel.  the road stretches ever onward, extending further and further into the distance.  It is almost like that old film technique Hitchcock pioneered where the troubled main character appears to remain stationary while the background recedes into the distance.

I feel my chest tightening in anticipation.  Whatever it is I am rushing towards, I am going to be late.

It dawns on me around then, that this road does not look like any of the roads that are near my home.  It is a country road for starters, and I live in the city.  In the flawed logic of dreams, however, I am able to acknowledge that there is something familiar about this route.  Something oddly recognizable.

I am pondering this very dilemma when a large furry man ape steps from the swamp and pauses in the middle of the road.  It is a Sasquatch, mammoth in stature, and it looks just as terrified as I suddenly feel.  There is no time to react; no time to take evasive maneuvers.  I slam into the creature lower leg and it slams into the interior of the car at the same moment that I am ejected from it.  We share a confused look as we soar past each other.

I am still flying through the air, when I suddenly awake.

Inevitably, I spend the next few days feeling as though there is something that I am forgetting.

It is the same thing every time.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Story-A-Day #398: No News Is...


NO NEWS IS...

What exactly is no news?  The common colloquialism is that no news is good news, but if the news that was to be delivered was in fact good, then would no news not be bad news?

If you had a lottery ticket and the numbers drawn were never posted, would that not be bad news?

If you had gone to the hospital for tests and your doctor never returned, it could be either good news or bad news.  Maybe the doctor hadn't returned because your tests came back negative and there was no cause for concern.  But it is also possible that the doctor didn't return because they were trying to summon the strength to tell you that you were about to depart this mortal coil.

If you had saved your money diligently for a span of five years so that you could finally take your dream vacation to The Maldives and arrived there to find that the entire archipelago had finally sunk beneath the rising ocean, would that lack of news not definitely be viewed as bad?  Especially for the people who called that exotic land home?

If your loved one told you in ominous tones that you needed to talk, only to prolong the conversation indefinitely, would that be good or bad news.  Essentially that would just be a prolonging of the inevitable.

If you had a close friend passing through town that you hadn't seen in years, but didn't receive the news that would be doing so, you would miss out on the opportunity to catch up with that friend.  Bad news indeed.

Were you to think it through, you would probably realize that no news is one thing, and one thing only.  No news is ignorance.  Whether it is good or bad, news is knowledge.  It is important that we are aware of what is occurring around us, that we are able to receive dispatches from the edge.

Knowledge is essential.  Knowledge is more than power, it is the key to our growth and development, to our evolution.  You would not want to travel down a closed road, or to a country torn in strife.  You would be much better taking the directest route and receiving the best rate for your stay.

The next time you hear that no news is good news, thinking about the good news that you could be missing out on and how bad that could in fact be.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Story-A-Day #397: Shovels





SHOVELS

It takes three different kinds of shovel to get this driveway cleared. My last driveway only required one, but this one needs three.

Part of it is the make up. There is the length of the driveway itself obviously, a long stretch that is half paved, half dirt. That's an issue in and of itself. There is also the fact that the driveway is essentially framed on both flanks, the house on the south side, and a fence along the north.

It's a tricky task, but I mostly have it down to a science now. Start with the scoop. Push everything as far back into the yard as it will go. After multiple passes, I move onto the plow. It is better for finessing the stray ridges left behind and hoisting the stuff at the road end up onto the mountainous banks. It is also better for the stoop and steps.

Lastly, I use the spade to toss away and raining bits that might have fallen by the way side. It is what I consider my close quarters shovel.

It can be a tricky process for sure. Especially on days where close to half a foot falls overnight. On those days, I prefer to resort to plan b.

Plan b is quite brilliant in its simplicity: I sit, and I wait. Eventually, a nice man with a grey beard and a red toque shows up with his snow blower and makes the mess disappear. I thank him for that...

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone. Please excuse auto corrected errors!

Monday, December 12, 2011

Story-A-Day #396: Insitutionalized


INSTITUTIONALIZED

I'd lost her three years ago, but I would get her back.  It had been a long time in the works, but I knew that it would be well worth the wait.  It was simple telemetry.  If I had gone for her right away, suspicions would have been high and I never would have made it past the first interior gate.  She was a killer after all.

So I did what all sane men would do.  I waited.  In all honesty, the waiting almost made me crazy, but it was totally worth it, because I was able to come up with a simple, and simply brilliant solution.

I would extricate her from her current nightmare, and once we were free and on the road, we would track down the real person responsible for their crimes, and we would clear her name.  I had a plan all along, and during each of those visits, I added to my plan.  I made diligent notes of flaws in the security; entrance and exit points; even security rotations and weaknesses.


I've been to visit her a few times over the years.  I never visited enough times to generate suspicion, but I did it enough to assure her with subtle cues both verbal and non-verbal, that this was not the end.  This was not her destiny.  This was not all she had to look forward to for the remainder of her long and promising life.  I made sure she knew that.  Each time I left, I told her I would see her soon, until the very last visit, at which point I told her I would be back soon.

I knew that she would get the message.

And so finally, I returned, and checked in at the main gate.  The guard at the desk asked me to please wait for a moment and disappeared for the better part of twelve minutes.  When the guard returned there was a doctor with him.

They took me into a quiet room at the side of the entrance and offered me a seat.  I politely refused at first, but they insisted, so finally, I sat down.

It was possibly a half hour later, or maybe an entire hour, when I finally made my way out of the small office.  I walked back to the entrance, past my car, and off down the street.

She had left without me.  On her own.  I had been too late after all...

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Story-A-Day #395: Vino Blanco


VINO BLANCO

We needed a good recommendation, but the lady behind the counter was otherwise engaged in an unending discussion about the state of affairs in town.  According to what we overheard, there was not only a disgraceful situation brewing in the council chambers, but there was also an issue with the plowing contract, as well as the current landfill management contract.

All we wanted was a nice bottle of white to go with our meal.  We were still about an hour out from our destination and had been forced to look up a nearby location with an app on my wife's cellphone as we cruised along the snowy highway.  This was where we landed and despite the engaging conversation, we could also see that our humble servant was also casting an anxious eye towards the wall clock.  We were about three minutes out from closing time.

The cashier glanced our way, and I attempted a quick wave in her direction, but she turned back to her friend feigning oblivion.

Accepting that we were on our own, we turned to the shelves before us, conveniently delineated by country.  The problem was, we were both red wine drinkers, and the white market was fairly new to us.  We scanned the myriad labels, doing our best to make sense of the nonsensical names displayed before us.

There were things like "frog's hump", "fish water", "flamingo bay", and more.  None of them made any sense really.  I was starting to get frustrated, and we were starting to run low on time, so I turned back to the cashier prepared to call out to her.  to leap and shout until I gained her attention.

I heard her discussing a neighbour who had hit a snow-covered stump on her way to work forcing her to miss a full day at the office, and I did, my eyes paused on a label of white right in front of me.

It made sense and I pulled two bottles off the shelf and made the way to the front counter with my wife.  Sometimes you need a small moment of spontaneity.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Story-A-Day #394: Warming Up


WARMING UP

Most of my friends believe that the best comfort winter is a thick hearty stew, or a nice bowl of soup.  I prefer something with a little more kick.  Stews, soups, even shepherd's pie and lasagna are not without their merits, however, something a little more exotic - with a little more kick, makes a lot more sense to me.

Often, I will resort to a nice Indian curry.  There is something inherently pleasant about the full body heat delivered by a nice spicy curry.  The sweaty brow, the runny nose; they are part of the process.  Those meals make an impact.  They heat from the core, radiating the spices outward until your full body basks in the glow.

Mexican can be nice for the same reason.  A healthy helping of jalapenos added to the mix will have the same effect.

The thing with spicy foods is that they release endorphins.  It is those endorphins that create the sense of comfortable internal heat that eases us into a sense of complacent docility.  It is those endorphins that relieve us from the cool embrace of winter.

Even just the process of chopping jalapenos can create the illusion of heat.  It is in their smell, their taste.  One wayward swipe of the brow can set the eyes to stinging on a level of excruciation befitting the deepest bowels of Dante's Inferno itself.

Next time you enter from the cold embrace of winter, remember what I have mentioned today.  The more spicy you can make your winter, the merrier it will be.

Sorry, there was a knock at the door just now.  My guests are arriving.  On the menu tonight: chicken fajitas with extra jalapenos.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Story-A-Day #393: Black And White


BLACK AND WHITE

I've heard it is fairly common, but I dream in black and white.  It doesn't dull the overall experience of the dreams, in fact, it makes them more vivid.  Honestly, when I dream, it becomes a hyper-realistic version of what really is.  I close my eyes and drift off into the land of nod, and everything finally starts to exist.

It's weird, I know.  Most people think of black and white as something that only applies to old movies and television programs.  There is an inherent staginess to those productions, a sense of setting and placing that makes those older stories seem somewhat removed from reality.  At least from the reality of today.

When I dream in black and white, it is different.  I can sense and feel things on a level that is far more profound than when I am wandering the waking realm.

A perfect example:

Last night I dreamed that I was a zebra.  Before you ask, no I do not always dream about things that are actually black and white in colour.  In this case, I dreamed that I was a zebra in a petting zoo.

The smell of the grass beneath my hooves was overwhelming; the rumble it created in my stomach a deep, vibrating call to feed.

The smell of the dung from surrounding pens was just as ripe in its pungent earthiness.  It was not necessarily a bad smell, but it was a primal one that echoed back through the ages.

I could see the children staring in at me from outside the thick fence, could smell their human smells both sour and sweet.  When they reached out a tentative hand to stroke my course mane, I could feel the electricity passing between us, the bound of discovery sparking to life.  It was an incredible feeling, unlike any I would ever know in the real world.

That was the gist of it.  A small, simple dream, but one filled with more sensation and reality that I experience in any given moment.  Perhaps it is that heightened realism that causes me to dream in black and white.  Maybe I couldn't handle it all in colour...

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Story-A-Day #392: Lighting Up






LIGHTING UP

It's busy work, but it really helps with the festive mood. Every year, she promised herself she would put the Christmas lights up early enough that her fingers would not be reduced to immobile little stubs, and every year she wound up freezing to death as she wound the many strands of illuminating garland around the veranda.

It was the same, inevitable thing every year. Still, the end result was always worth it, if for no other reason than the ambiance provided by a brightly lit strand of garlands and lights buried under the first soft snows of winter.

She finished the job just as the sun started to set and the winds picked up. It was a little late in the season, but she had finished up the stringing of the lights just in time.

She popped into the kitchen, rubbing her hands together vigorously, and poured herself a steaming mug of hot chocolate. It felt wonderful clasped in the palms of her hands.

She grabbed a joint off the table and stepped out into the gathering darkness. She sparked her lighter just as the lights flicked to life.

She had done well and the soft glow filled the night. Lights were such a simple thing, but they truly did add to the festive season.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone. Please excuse auto corrected errors!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Story-A-Day #391: Storm Melt






STORM MELT

It's an optical illusion of course, but at a quick glance you might almost think the top of the building was melting. With the sun in a position that is just right, you can see a dent in the top of the building across the parking lot, almost like the heat of the sun's rays were melting the icy brick building.

It's the snow that really sets the scene though, big soft, fat flakes drifting gently on the breeze.

It is days like today that help you appreciate what winter does have to offer. Winter shouldn't always be about the hibernation process. Sometimes we need to step out into the wonderland and embrace all that is available to us.

Winter is a magical time of year, one where the world is blanketed in pure, white snow. Beneath that blanket, nature is at rest. The grass, plants, insects and animals all rest until the return of warmer weather.

It is tempting to want to do the same, but not at all realistic. We need to keep going, to weather the melting storm until we reach the other side. That is where our lives will begin anew, but for now, we must appreciate the magic before us.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone. Please excuse auto corrected errors!

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Story-A-Day #390: The Pit


THE PIT

It started out like this, a giant footprint stamped into the side of the road.  The city work crews attributed it to a small cave in caused by the recent rainstorms.  That was the day I took this picture.  The city crews told me that they would be by in a few days to fill in the hole and asked that in the meantime, I not park my car nearby.  Thanks for the tip.

By the following day, the hole had grown in size.  It was almost twice as deep, and there was no way it could be attributed to a simple washout.  The city crew returned, and told me it was nothing to worry about; they would be by to fill it in another couple days.

When they finally did return, nearly a full week later, the pit was almost ten feet in diameter, and nearly three times as deep.  It was not quite visible to the naked eye, but if you were to walk away for an hour and return, you could see the subtle changes: an extra bit of asphalt or lawn tumbled into the hole, or a new boulder exposed.

They decided to call in the city planner and a geologist to examine the strange pit.  When they returned three days later, the hole had engulfed half the street and the better part of my front lawn.  Another few days and it would have reached my house.  Another week after that and I was afraid my house would be swallowed into the abyss.

The degradation appeared to be accelerating.  You could see the bottom churning now, almost like sand sifting through an hourglass.  Curious, was all they had to say.  To their credit though, they realized that just dumping a load of cement in would not really solve the issue.

It was my idea to use the camera.  I suggested that if we attached a night vision camera to a length of rope and tossed it into the pit, it would eventually be sucked into the opening beneath.  The sand had to be drifting somewhere, and this would tell us where.

We were not prepared for what we discovered down that pit.  It wasn't just a hole, it was a whole new civilization, or at the very least, it had been...

Monday, December 5, 2011

Story-A-Day #389: Treads


TREADS

It's hard to tell what exactly happened here, but it is clear that there is only one vehicle that was present at the scene. That could indicate a single perp, but there are no real discernible prints, so it's hard to be sure.


He walks back across the lot to where the bodies lie, dusted in a light coat of snow.  The fact that they are covered in any snow at all, means that the crime must have occurred a minimum of six hours earlier.  Possibly longer than that, but he wasn't a coroner, so he wouldn't be able to say for sure either way.  He would leave that decision to the experts.


For now, he will focus on what he does know.  He ducks under the yellow police tape, his badge already glinting in the dull glow of the lights, and steps up to the bodies.  Caucasian female, early twenties; naked except for the scarf binding her wrists.  Naked Caucasian male, late thirties, possibly early forties; also naked and also bound at the wrists, this time with a length of rope.


He nods to one of the investigators and motions the the bodies with a nod of his head.  The investigator shrugs as if to say, "sure, go ahead".


He brushes the snow off the first body, the male.  Signs of blunt force trauma.  Massive bruising to the face and chest.  He is not surprised to see the same injuries inflicted upon the corpse of the female victim.  Both victims suffered from slashed throats, and upon a cursory examination, mutilation of the genital area.


"Any ideas?" he asked.


"Double homicide," the inspector replied with a laugh.

"Any suspects?" he replied, ignoring the expected gallows humour of his coworker.


"Just the treads, only one set leading in, and the same set leading out."


A dump.  It explained the lack of blood.  It was pretty clear that this would not be an easy case to crack.


"Let me know when the coroner's done with the body.  I want a full report."


"Yes sir," the inspector replied.


He waited until he was back in his car to light a cigarette.  Nights like this were never easy, and he was unlikely to make it to bed before late tomorrow.  It was time to go get a coffee.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Story-A-Day #388: Spirals


SPIRALS

I pushed up the tap and watched as the water spiralled out of the faucet and into the kitchen sink.  It pooled there momentarily before disappearing down the drain.  I stumbled back two steps and crashed into the counter behind me.  Somewhere in the back of my brain, I registered the sound of bottles clinking together.  It was followed shortly by a loud thud, and I glanced towards my feet where a half-empty bottle of Havana Club was rolling across the hardwood kitchen floor.

I bent over to pick it up and fell flat on my face, my body smashing into the opposite counter as I came to a rest.  I placed my hand on the floor, uncertain that it would support me, but I made an effort to raise myself back up.

I fumbled my way into a semblance of composure, and crossed my legs beneath me.  My head was heavy, like thre tons of cement on a spindly nect meant to handle no more than a few pounds.  I hunched over for a moment, breathing in heavy, awkward gasps of oxygen.  It was not enough.  I could feel the world spinning out of control, everything I had ever known spiralling out into the void.

I could hear the water running into the sink above me.  A steady gushing sensation.  I aimed to stand up, but the world dropped out from beneath me again and I found myself heaped on the floor.  Right where I had started out.

I swayed back and forth, trying to figure out how I had wound up like this, without really realizing what this particular feeling even was.  Each time I tried to pull a thought together, it wafted away like the extinguished wick of a candle burning out.

Something had gone wrong tonight.  Part of it was the drinking.  I was in a bad place, and the drink seemed to be the only thing that helped, but it was more than that.  I was out of control, completely unable to function.  I remembered being at the bar, then turning on the tap.

Why was I on the floor?  I flopped over onto my side, the room spinning in tandem with the ceiling fan above me.  I let my eyes flutter closed and felt the world spiralling away into a dull void of blackness.

It all just faded away...

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Story-A-Day #387: Hit Squad


HIT SQUAD

It's quite simple really.  Set up a LAN, that's a Local Area Network, and the rest essentially happens by itself.  That much processing power is capable of doing a lot of math.  It is capable of doing a number of things.

What we could do with this is quite impressive.  We could set up a whole data farm.  We could use this to reroute online servers to conduct illicit activities.  We could set up a network for hacking.  we could be anonymous.  But that is not our goal.  Who would choose to set up their very own living room for something so simpleminded?

We could run a business with the network, but that too is not enough.

We have set this up today for one simple purpose.  Today, we will stomp out the terrorists.

I can hear you laughing, so before you get too far along with the chuckles, let me explain.  It isn't quite as noble, nor as honourable as I made it seem just then.  No, our terrorists are of a strictly digital variety.

We are a closeknit group, a solid platoon.  Our kill rate is impressive.  We are near the top, but we are not the true leaders in kills.

That might paint us as independent contractors, but we are not really that as well.  I know it might seem like I am oversimplifying the nature of what it is that we do, or at the very least, trying to overexplain it.  There's a simple reason for that: people don't give us credit for what it is that we do.

We are gamers, and we are some of the best at doing what it is we do.  We snipe, we run-and-gun, we frag.  We do it all, and we do it for the win.  We don't consider this a game.  We consider it war.  We are a his squad and we know that in war, there are no losers.  There are only the victors of each campaign, and we aim to win today.

We have the power of processing behind us.  We have the power of modern technology and pure brute strength behind us.

Ready player one...

Friday, December 2, 2011

Story-A-Day #386: End Days


END DAYS

We should have seen it coming.  The signs were all there.  Back in the spring, just as everything was coming into full bloom, we were dumped under half a foot of snow.  Needless to say, it put a damper on the mood.  The jubilant elation of spring, doused under a quick reminder of what had only just come to a close.

That was about seven months ago.  Back when things should have been running into an optimistic place of sunshine and blue skies.  Instead, we were reminded of what had recently been left behind.  The Indian Summer did little to make up for the sting.  Now we had settled into an Indian Winter.  I don't know if there is actually such a thing as that, but that is certainly what it feels like.

This is no average winter.  In fact, it is quite the opposite.  It is more of a chess match between rain and snow.  Each one taking turns making its presence felt; each one precipitating the move of the other.  It makes for quite a mess.

I've noticed the changes coming for some time now.  The New Year's Eve doused in torrential downpours, the midsummer night's filled with golf ball sized hail.  This is not normal.  This is not what we should be anticipating with the turn of each season.

We should be used to the turning tides of the seasons.  The blustery white snows of winter give way to the sparkling rains of spring, which give way to the glowing summer sun, and the falling leaves of autumn.  That is how the seasons are meant to unfold.  In a nice, pretty cycle.  Seasons are meant to be cyclical, they are meant to have beginnings and ends.

You can blame it on global warming.  I don't deny that it must have an effect, but there is something more to it.  There are signs of the apocalypse upon us, but not in the biblical sense.  These aren't locusts or downpours of blood, but they are equally as pretentious as the biblical signs we learned about in school.

Mark my words, there is ill afoot in what we are seeing.  This is only the beginning, and you know as well as I do, that all beginnings lead to an end.  I only hope this isn't ours.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Story-A-Day #385: Winter Sleep


WINTER SLEEP

The sun slowly sets below the western horizon and a cool wind creeps up, almost as if on cue.  It creeps up over the trees and blasts down to the snow dusted earth.  On night's like tonight, you can tell that the cool afternoon is going to settle into a bone numbing iciness in no time.  The further the sun sets, the further the mercury falls.

You can hear the moaning roar of the wind ripping through the night.  It is a fierce and sorrowful sound, a portent of the long days of darkness that are about to come.

I step into my home and close the door tight behind me.  It is still early in the season at this point, but that doesn't mean that dread can't already settle in.  Winter has its merits of course.  The crystal snowflakes drifting in the air, the playful snowmen sculpted by the hands of amateur artists, tobogganing.  There is much to enjoy in winter, but there is also the bone numbing cold.  That is what I am rebelling against at this particular moment.

I stand in my foyer, and I can already hear the wailing wind outside.  It is a pitiful sound, but one filled with ferocious contempt.

I head upstairs and change into my pyjamas.  It is not something I normally would do immediately after work, but today, it is the only thing that appeals to me.  I think that a little later I might indulge in a nice, spicy soup, and maybe a BLT sandwich to fill the gaps, but for now, all I want to do is curl up under a blanket and watch some television.

Better still, I might throw on a movie.  It has been a while since I have been able to catch up.

I shuffle down the stairs and and settle onto the couch.  These shortened days and already exhausting me.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Story-A-Day #384: Movember


MOVEMBER

There are many who do it as an excuse to look ridiculous.  They are missing the point.  Movember isn't meant to be about growing a mustache, it is meant to be about raising awareness, and funds, for prostate cancer.

Sure there is something fun about growing facial hair.  It gives you a month to feel like someone different.  It gives you a month to not have to worry about having a perfect shave for work each and every morning.  I used to set out to sculpt the most ridiculous 'stache I could into my month's worth of growth.  This year, I decided for a more simplified approach.  I decided to go the classic route instead of the ridiculous.

This year, I had another reason for growing a mustache though.  This year, I knew someone who had been through the very illness I was aiming to raise awareness of through facial hair growth.  I don`t know him well, but I know him well enough to know that he is a strong, intelligent, and dedicated man.  He is strong enough to have beat his cancer, intelligent enough to radiate wisdom and dedicated to not just his family and his career, but his entire city.

On its own, that would be enough.  When it comes to this particular individual though, there is even more to it.  He is a survivor.

I mentioned that he is not someone that I knew well, but that is not entirely true.  He is someone who I grew to know well enough over a very short period of time.  I learned to appreciate his quick wit, open friendliness, and fierce intelligence during that time.  I grew to know what he stood for, what was important to him, and what he believed in.

Much of what he believed in centred on his family.  He has worked hard to become the man he is, the leader, the father, the husband.

Everyone needs a reason to support the cause.  Mine happens to be the Deputy Mayor of North Bay and the father of a good friend.  That is why I grew a moustache this year.  To raise awareness and support so that more people like Peter might live to survive.  We need survivors in this world, people of character and strength.

We need more people like Peter.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Story-A-Day #383: Cheese Ball


CHEESE BALL

People call me a lot of things.  Some of the are true, some of them are complete and utter...well you can imagine where I might have been headed there.

I guess it is human nature.  There are people who find it necessary to call others names as a means of brightening their own existence.  Their are people who would go so far as to accuse others of perpetrating certain acts as a means of justifying their own actions, or lack thereof.  There are those who would even go so far as to accuse people of committing acts that are so beyond their character because the words they spill are so fundamentally untrue.  Those are the lowest kind of people, those personalities who are so insecure and low upon themselves that they would aim to drag the innocent down for a moment in the spotlight.  They are the lowest kind of people, and they do not warrant any further rumination.

Not more than three days ago, I had someone very close to me call me a cheese ball.  They did so in a loving manner and as a response, I did the only thing that seemed fitting under the circumstances.  I stormed out of the living room and into the kitchen.

At first, she thought I was sincere in my outrage.  It was a sufficient show I suppose.  I assured her with a smile and told her to keep watching the show.  I assured her that I would be back within the next 15 minutes with a surprise.

I spent the time wisely, shredding some aged cheddar, and mixing in the food processor with some cream cheese.  I added in a dab of hot mustard, a few healthy squirts of Worchestershire sauce, and a few other secret ingredients.  I threw it all in the fridge for a moment, then set about chopping some pecans and parsley.  When the chopping was complete, I mixed the nuts and greens and spread them out on the chopping board.

I took the cheese mixture out of the fridge, rolled it in a ball, and rolled it through the mixture.  It clung to the exterior nicely, a succulent skin of parsley and nuts.  I placed it in the middle of a plate and spread some crackers around it.  With a final flourish, I jabbed a small knife into the ball.

"What have you been up to in there?" she asked.

"Living up to my potential," I replied, and placed the snack on the coffee table before her.  "Enjoy."

Monday, November 28, 2011

Story-A-Day #382: Portal


PORTAL

We have no idea where it came from.  Every study we have conducted has resulted in inconclusive results.  That being said, the results have been somewhat astounding.  There are wavelengths and frequencies radiating from the cracked fissure that seemed to open over night.

At first, we figured it was a sinkhole of some sort, but the radiation was something we could not account for.  The gusts of antimatter, were a whole other concern entirely.

It became clear to us, fairly quickly, that the cause of the fissure was not the primary concern.  Once it started pulsating, we realized that our initial excitement was the entirely wrong reaction.  What we needed to do was not study the cause, or the effect, but put a quick and substantial end to it all.

When we discovered the first alien creature near the crack in the pavement, we realized that what we were dealing with was in fact a portal of sorts.  There was no other real explanation.  This hole in the ground seemed to be an access point to a different realm entirely.

We were lucky that the first creature we discovered did not appear to have survived the crossing, but that did not mean that the next attempt would result the same way.

Out initial attempts proved futile.  The contents of four entire cement mixers disappeared down the void.  Our latest attempt has been to fuse a solid iron plank over the opening, bolted into the surrounding earth and fused tightly to multiple adjoining surfaces.  So far the prognosis is good, but there is no way we will know for sure until the project is complete.

All we can do for now is cross our fingers and hope for the best.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Story-A-Day #381: Dirty Getaway


DIRTY GETAWAY

The most important aspect of a heist is the planning.  If you aren't fully prepared for a full range of potential situations, you will inevitably fail.  You need to have contingencies in place, you need to have a backup plan, and an escape clause.  You need to be prepared for any eventuality to ensure that you succeed.

The heist itself is the easy part, as long as you appreciate that the devil truly is in the details.

The problem is, there are some occasions you can never plan for.  Most aspiring thieves believe that a crime should be committed under the cover of night.  Of course it makes sense, but people tend to be at their most vigilant when suspicious activities are being committed in the dark.

In my experience, it is easier to execute your plan in broad daylight.  If you walk right into your selected scene of crime, make it look like you have every right to be there, the average person will not question your presence.

The problem is, you can't plan for everything.  Weather is something you can never plan for, and although we had accommodated a number of different scenarios, we did not take into account the light dusting of snow that fell overnight.  Snow means evidence.  We will inevitably leave traces of our presence here: footprints, hand prints, all manner of evidence.

Still, our window is small.  It has to be today.  When in doubt, create a plan C.  In this case, we will buy new shoes, cheap generic ones that will be harder to trace.  Each of us will where the same shoes, in the same size.   That will make the prints more confusing than anything.  Was there a single person on the scene, or multiple suspects?

We get in, acquire the item, and get out.  No questions, no suspicions, no doubts, and no easy evidence.  It almost seems to easy; and that's the other thing you need to be careful of.  If it seems like it will be too easy, then it probably is.

Regardless, today is the day, and we will succeed.  That is what we came here to do.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Story-A-Day #380: Fine Wine


FINE WINE

It was a blend of varietals and the result was a medium bodied delight with notes of plum and blackberry, and just a hint of spice in the finish.  It clung to the walls of the crystal goblet delightful, sheer red curtains on the pristene surfaceof the glass.

I took another sip and let the liquid swirl around my mouth for a few moments before pulling a whistle of air in through my pursed lips.  The delicate subtleties of flavour fluorished and I let the wine slowly slide down my throat.

I pick up a small piece of aged cheddar from a silver tray and place it in my mouth.  I chew it slowly, letting the sharp flavour of the cheese mingle with the lingering remnants of the fine wine.  It is a perfect fusion of tastes.

I pick up the decanter from the tableand swirl the wine gently.  It clings to the sides, just as it did in my wine glass.  I pick up the empty glass, and fill it halfway once more.

I decide on a brief cahnge of venue, and pick up the cheese tray with my free hand.  A few moments later, I am settled into my arm chair, in front of a blazing fire on the hearth.  I sip the wine again, and pick up a piece of pepper encrusted salami from the tray, and another piece of cheese.  They mingle and dance in my mouth, a swirling concoction of taste sensations.

I am normally a beer drinker, but I must admit there is a rare delight in drinking a fine wine, and pairing it with just the right foods.  It is a lovely way to spend a cool saturday evening in November.

I turn on the television and flip through the channels.  There must be something good on one of the travel channels, a nice diversionary escape.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Story-A-Day #379: First Snow


FIRST SNOW

It started as a bitter day, a cold wind blowing down from the north.  By the time I finally got home, you could feel it coming, that firsst dusting of snow that marks the beginning of a long, cold winter of discontent.

We have been lucky this year.  ususally the first snow comes on Halloween, a light dusting that clings desperately the the ground as a harbinger of the winter to come.  This year, we managed to last until late November before the inevitable change arrived.  But change is inevitable.

When the first snow arrives, it a portent of things to come.  The first snow shows that while the world can be a beautiful place when all goes white, it is a strange disconnect.  Winter can be beauty, but it is also a beast.

When the world is blanket in that pure white blanket, it is a beautiful place.  It is beautiful as long as you are looking at it from the inside.  When you are out in that world though, it can be a fierce and commanding experience.  Wind gusts every which way, blassting stinging particles of snow and ice across your already wind ravaged skin.

It is the winds of winter that bring the true misery.  On the calmer days, it truly is a paradise.  On the rare days where the snows fall fat and fluffy, it is a true paradise on earth.

This is the first snow of the year though, and no matter when it comes, it always seems too soon.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Story-A-Day #378: Birthday


BIRTHDAY

It was a day like every other, but it just so happened to be my birthday.  I am of an age, where celebrating my accelerated distancing from youth no longer holds much merit, but when I walked into the house after a long day at work, I can not deny that it didn't make me happy.

I could see the balloons and streamers of course.  They were impossible to miss, but that didn't change the fact that something special had been done.

"Hello?" I called out from the bottom of the stairs as I slowly unlaced my shoes and placed them on the rack.  "I'm home."

There was no reply.  I shrugged out of my coat and hung it in the closet, then climbed up the stairs to the main floor.

"Surprise!" A chorus of voices greeted me.  And it was.

I had not expected this, not in the least, and I felt a warm wash of emotion pass over me as I surveyed the room.  This was magnificent.  I had stepped into a room full of family and my closest friends.  I scanned their smiling faces, and felt myself smiling in return.

The impromptu standoff came to a quick close and I accepted a cold drink into my hand.  I'd started off the day with no intention of making a celebration out of this day, but it was hard to not get caught up in the moment.

Being in a room full of people who are happy to be there on your account has that effect.  It is almost impossible to deny.  I slowly made the rounds, talking to the people I had not had time to see or visit with in weeks, and sometimes months.  You reach a certain age and it is hard to find the time outside of your existing obligations to enjoy the finer things in life, and the finer people who are a part of it.

But sometimes, it is the little things that remind u of what is important.  Sometimes it takes a moment in time to remind us about the things that truly matter in life.  A job and money are important, but they should only be important as a means of supporting what truly is.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Story-A-Day #377: The Weeping Tree


THE WEEPING TREE

"I've been in jail," he informed me.  It was a casual, off-the-cuff remark between two strangers at a bar, not one designed to intimidate, but one that intrigued me.

"Is that so?" I replied.

"It is.  I did a bad thing, and I did my time, but I don't regret a moment of it."  He took a long swig from his pint, and followed it up with a shot of whiskey.  "I can show you the place it happened, where I did what I did to that son of a bitch."

I shrugged and finished off my beer.  "Might as well," I replied.  "Nothin' much else going on today."

We stepped out into the dull grey afternoon and I followed my new aquaintance down the road as he told his story.  It was pretty horrific, and I found myself on more than one occassion, wondering what the angle was.  It seemed too unreal to be true.

He had been in love once, with the most incredible girl he ever did lay eyes on.  They married just out of highschool, and bought a small house together.  They were happy.  They were in love.  It lasted the better part of four years, and then one day, on their anniversary, he got home and found the love of his life in bed with the man he had thought of up to that point, as his best friend.  He hit her once, and dragged his friend outside where he delivered a furious beeating.  When his knuckles grew too sore, cracked and bloodied by the pumelling, he dragged his naked friend over to a weathered old tree and tied him to it with a length of barbed wire.  He then sat down in the dirt and watched as his friend whimpered and moaned out of existence, then called the police himself.  He called them because he felt guilty about hitting his wife.

"I've been out for a three year stretch now, on account of good behavior and recognizance for what I did that day," he told me, a mouthful of exhaled cigarette smoke wafting up past his face as the final words escaped his lips.  "I only regret that I laid hands on her."

He paused and gazed across a desolate patch of land, then extended a finger towards a gnarled old tree.  "That's where I strung him up.  That where I watched him die."

He dropped his cigarette onto the dirt at our feet and ground it out with the toe of his boot.

"I call it the weeping tree," he said.  "On account that what happens is so sad.  You have yourself a good day."

I watched as he wandered off across the empty plot of land towards the gnarled old tree in the distance.  I could hear him whistling, a low and mournful tune.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Story-A-Day #376: Hockey Night In Canada


HOCKEY NIGHT IN CANADA

I never played hockey.  I never really got to experience first-hand, the thrill of racing along the ice surface, chasing after a puck sliding just out of reach.  I never got to experience the bone crushing body checks, the elation of a game winning goal late in the third period.  But I did get to experience the game.  As a spectator, and a fan, and a son who was thrilled to spend an evening in the arena with his father.

My dad has always been a busy man.  I think that is a big part of why those nights at the game together all those years ago still hold a special place in my heart.  It was a few hours of quality father/son bonding time, that I might not otherwise have had.

My father was a teacher, and there was a great deal of responsibility for him to complete the unrealistic workload that teachers are tasked with.  The fact that he found time in his busy life to take me to those games was inspiring to an eight-year-old version of me.

We would snack on chocolate bars, squirming restlesslt in those rigid, wooden arena seats, and watch as Les Barons took on the other local high school teams.  I wouold sit next to him with my notepad and a pen, and chronicle the games' progression.  Period One; 4:56; #7 penalty for roughing, Algonquin; 2 minutes.  Period One; 8:10; goal, #9, Algonquin.  I guess even then, I had journalistic tendencies.

I relished those night's out with my father.  It was a different experience than any I had known up to that point, a moment between father and son where nothing else mattered but our time together, and the thrill of the game.  He surprised me one year with a trip to the dressing room where I was presented with a hockey stick autographed by the whole team.  Sure, they were just a bunch of high school kids, but to me, they were icons.  They were heroes of the rink.

To me, that is what hockey night in Canada is all about, the bonding experience of fans and players sharing in their love of the sport.  I miss those nights.  I miss the casual innocence and simplicity of it all.

I am fortunate to have had those experiences, and more fortunate still that in adulthood I am blessed with even more time to spend with my father - and my mother, and siblings.  We don't always need a catalyst like a night at the game to get together, but as a young, impressionable boy who idolized his hard working father, moments like those reinforced the importance of the familial bond.

Even today, those are some of the brightest moments of my long and storied life.  Those are moments that I still cherish as strongly as any.  Thanks for the memories dad...

Monday, November 21, 2011

Story-A-Day #375: A Day In The City


A DAY IN THE CITY

It is difficult not to feel excited.  Everything is different in the city.  The buildings don't all lay low to the ground.  They are not all mirror images of eachother.  In the city, the buildings stratch skyward with pride, icons of power and dreams fulfilled.

There is excitement around every corner; new things to see and experience.

She inhales deeply and a rich, fiery curry scent fills her nostrils, overriding the smell of exhaust and garbage.  A group of people pass by, chattering rapidly in an unknown tongue.  She smiles at them, and nods her head slightly, but they pass by oblivious.  She doesn't mind.  She is simply greatful for the experience of brushing elbows with a different culture.  It feels good to have different shades of humanity mixed into the white with which she is accustomed.

She wanders down the crowded sidewalk seeking an unknown destination.  She feels a little lost, and honestly, she has no idea where she even is at the moment.  That's part of the adventure though.  She doesn't really want to know, at least not until it is time to go home.  For now, she is quite content wandering aimlessly, no particular destination in mind.  Eventually something will jump out at her, and when it does, she will have found her destination.

Until then, she will continue walking.

She hopes that at some point she will strike up a random conversation with a stranger, prefereably a cute guy who is also aimlessly wandering through a day in the city.  She hopes they will strike a chord and become fast friends.  He will take her on a tour and show her places that tend to be off the beaten path; a grungey pub filled with off beat characters, or a forgotten flea market stocked with impossible deals, or better still, a deserted art gallery filled with magical works of prose and paint and chisled marble.

It's best not to have a schedule on a day like today.  It's best just to wander about and wait for that inevitable something, or someone, to find you.  That's the beauty of a day in the city, knowing that something is always about to happen.