Thursday, March 31, 2011

Story-A-Day #140: Cat House


CAT HOUSE

We tumbled in through the door of her clapboard house, tongues entwined, clasping and grasping with intense hunger and a burning desire. I reached back halfheartedly in an attempt to grab the keys that still dangled from the door knob but abandoned them there as she pulled me deeper into the murky entrance hall.

She pulled me onward, fingers locked tight in my hair, pulling my face down to hers as though she was afraid to let go. As we tripped our way up the stairs, my hand slid up the back of her shirt, drunken sausage fingers tripping and stumbling over her bra strap before finally settling on her slender shoulder blades and puling her in close.

I could feel her hot breath on my neck; short, quick gasps that smelled of vodka and lime.

We bumped our way along the narrow upper corridor, bumping into a small table before finally dislodging a framed print from its mooring on the wall. It fell to the wooden floor with a crash, and tinkling of broken glass. She paused for a moment then, peering wide eyed up into my face, then spun me around and pushed me backwards through the doorway to her room.

We tumbled into the bed, clawing and grasping at each other in mounting desperation.

As my eyes slowly acclimated to the gloom I could see here staring back at me. I could see the rapid pulse of her heart in her neck. I could see her smooth, white flesh, the long white lines of her legs as she slowly pulled off her pants.

I rolled onto my back, fumbling with my belt, and let out a sudden gasp of surprise. A pair of beady eyes stared down at me. Looking around the room, I realized the walls were lined with eyes, all of them eerily unblinking in a miasma of small cat faces.

“What the…” I managed to slur, the first words I had spoken since we spilled out of the cab out front.

“They’re my cats,” she replied, pulling her top up over her head and tossing it to the floor.


I can see that they’re cats, but why do you have cat heads on your wall?”

“Because I love them,” she replied innocently. “Just like I love you.”

A feeling of unease washed over me. Suddenly this exotic drunk girl seemed a little more frightening than fun.

“You can’t love me,” I replied. “We barely even know each other.”

“I know that you are cute, just like my little kitties,” she replied. “Isn’t that enough?”

“What, are you going to mount my head on your bedroom wall too?”

“Of course not,” she replied with a flutter of her dark eyes. She might be weird, but she was one of the most beautiful women I had ever seen.

I laughed, a stiff chuckle that lacked any sense of mirth. “That’s a relief.”

“This room is for my cats only.”

There was a flash of silver, and a flood of heat around my neck. I barely saw it coming.

“My men stay in the basement,” she purred, and slowly lowered her mouth to my neck.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Story-A-Day #139: Unearthed


UNEARTHED

The ground bubbled up from within, almost as though a pocket of gas was pushing its way forward. It heaved slowly upward, the surface cracking open, then settled back down with a whoosh of air.

My first instinct was that it was in fact a pocket of air, possibly some vegetation that had been buried over the winter and now that the weather was turning warm once more, it was starting to decompose. The gases released could be enough to create the rhythmic bubbling in the sand.

The ice creaked noisily on the nearby lake, and I surveyed the grey wet field that stretched off towards the distant tree-lined horizon.

A soft cooing rumble sounded, barely audible over a sudden crack of ice. It was a familiar sound, almost like the noise a scared kitten would make – half mewling, half purr.

The ground surged upwards again, a pulsating lub-dub in the wet beach sand. I grabbed a stick from the base of a nearby tree and drove it into the mound, rooting around. When I was younger, I would do the same thing when I looked for clams, drilling down into bubbling holes in the shallow waters.

I tired to maintain the same sense of youthful wonderment, but I knew that whatever was down there in that hole, was not a clam. The grumble rose up from the sand again, no fear in it this time. This was a growl of anger. I had disturbed whatever was in the hole, and it was not happy.

The stick suddenly tore from my hands leaving a trail of splinters across my palm. I took a step backwards and continued retreating as the stick thrashed wildly about then disappeared down into the sand.

The pulsating in the mound quickened, almost as though it was matching the breathing pattern of whatever might be buried within.

I could feel a vibration beneath my feet, as though a large truck was passing by. A quick glance to the nearby avenue revealed it to be empty of automobiles. A solitary man wandered along the interlocking brick walkway and I called out to him. He continued onward obliviously.

There was a sudden grumble and the mound exploded outward sending a shower of sand cascading over me. I continued my hasty retreat, unable to take my eyes off the spot. I didn’t see the log and tumbled backwards to the beach, a sharp pain shooting up my forearm as I landed in a clumsy pile.

I made it into a kneeling position and turned my attention to the pulsating area of the beach where my eyes fell upon a site unlike anything I had ever seen before. A gelatinous, algae-like mass was oozing up from the ground, its shiny surface tinted the purple-brown hue of a deep bruise.

A scream was frozen in my throat, I scrambled to my feet and ran as fast as I could.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Story-A-Day #138: Cool Guy


COOL GUY!

The voice came out of nowhere, reedy with a hint of smooth jazz. “Hey cool guy, how’s it goin’ with you?”

I looked around, but as far as I could tell, I was alone in the muddy parking lot. I waited for a few moments, then dismissed it as another odd moment in a day full of them.

“I asked you how it was goin’ cat; don’t think of turnin’ on the cool with me.”

“Hello?” I called out into the barren lot.

“Well, hey there. ‘Bout time you cast a wave at your main man.”

I whirled around in confusion, looking this way and that, but I was definitely alone. There only other person was a young girl staring at the end of the parking lot, a goofy grin smeared across her face. She darted off around the front of the building.

“Who’s there?” I asked, my baritone voice quavering uncertainly.

“Only folks I see, is you an’ me,” the voice replied. “Ba-da-da Zee!”

I pulled a crumpled pack of smokes out of my jacket pocket and tucked a cigarette into my quivering lips.

“Down here, bugaboo!” the voice erupted.

I glanced down and at first, everything seemed normal, but a sudden trick of the light caused me to jump backwards.

“Hey now,” the voice shouted. “You gave me a proper start there.”

My shadow extended out from my feet and although it should have been a motionless black expanse with arms akimbo, it actually appeared to be dancing. Not just a wavering either, but a full on Charleston.

“Wha…” I managed to spit out.

“Dee daa daa cha,” the voice replied. “Now you’ve got the groove goin’”

“How are you…who’s doing that?” I scanned the empty lot, and even the roof of the nearby building to see who was playing this joke on me, but there was no one else around.

“Don’t be so surprised, my man. I’m the only one here with you and I’m always here with you, dancing along through your dead dull world.”

“It’s impossible.”

“You ain’t tellin’ half the truth. How is it you got me attached at the soles but not an ounce of groove in you?”

“I don’t understand what you are saying,” I said. “This doesn’t’ make sense.”

“I’m just jivin’ my man. You got soul. You got lots a soul, you just ain’t figured out how to groove it.”

“What do you want?”

“I want you to dance, cool guy. Not such a tall order is it?”

“I guess not,” I replied.

“Then dance for me, boy-o. Show me what you know.”

I did a quick little juke and finished with a solid kick at a clump of snow. It was far from graceful, but surprisingly liberating.

“More!” the voice called out.

I whirled around for nearly ten minutes, flailing my arms and letting my motions run wild, finally, gasping for breath, I stopped. I rested my hands on my knees and slowly caught my breath.

“You looked like an ass, but I’m proud of ya cool guy. Those were some freewheelin’ moves, cat.” My shadow extended a hand in a small gun shape and pulled the trigger.

“Thanks I managed,” and turned to walk back into the building.

I felt like an ass too, but it felt good.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Story-A-Day #137: Warm Up


WARM UP

She walked through the park, dry leaves and ice crunching under her big winter boots. The world as she liked it was slowly returning, no longer a winter wonderland. She didn’t like the stale purity of winter. Earthy browns and greens were far more appealing.

She crossed the faded red footbridge and continued along the path, carefully skirting around the larger pools of melting snow.

A murder of crows heckled from their perch in the upper limbs of a claw-shaped birch. She smiled at them, knowing that the best way to deflect their attentions was to face them head on. They fell into a predictably muted silence, their beady, black eyes following her passage with innate curiosity.

She veered off the path and cut across the field of muddy snow to the meandering creek. She walked along the muddy banks where she paused for a moment to listen to the soft gurgle of the water as it rolled through open patches in the ice. It was a soothing sound, and it took her back to her childhood when she would float her little rubber ducky down this same length of creek.

With a quick glance at her watch, she carried on, a renewed haste in her step. One of the most unfortunate side effects of the Spring thaw was that it became difficult to concentrate and prioritize. There were always things to do and places to be, but being outside and feeling the returning warmth of the sun on your face became the bigger priority.

She crossed under the big archway that marked the rear entry to the park and wandered up the street to the nearby shopping plaza. The sound of passing cars, tires hissing through puddles, grew louder and she actually found herself feeling relived to be in off the streets.

She shrugged out of her jacket and boots and before long, had take up position behind the gleaming stainless steel counter.

“Can I help you?” She asked a 20-something-year-old man in shorts and sandals.

“Two scoops of chocolate,” he replied.

She smiled and grabbed a cone from the counter behind her, loading in two heaping scoops of ice cream. Everyone had different ways of celebrating the warmer weather. Some people chose to dress down for the day, even though it wasn’t quite shorts weather yet, and other preferred to admire the returning signs of life.

At the end of the day, neither approach was wrong. Everyone had a different way to warm up for summer.

The good news was that the tedium of spending an entire winter in an ice cream parlour was coming to a close. Business would be booming in no time and she could put the lean, clean months behind.

There is always a bright side. This was hers. Like the leaves of autumn, the ice was slowly melting from around her...

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Story-A-Day #136: A True Story


A TRUE STORY

March 28, 2000: 7:02pm GMT
The Old Pier Tavern, Somerset, England, UK

This is a true story…

I was sitting at the weathered wooden bar, and although I was surrounded by familiar faces, I was drinking by myself. I guess I was feeling a little lonely. I often did while I lived in England, even though I very rarely was. I found it very easy to meet new people and relished each new encounter, but sometimes the loneliness still crept in. I guess the bonds of family and childhood friends are things that cannot easily be replaced.

It was the day after my twenty-fifth birthday and I had wandered off from the Holiday Village where I worked, a crazy trailer park for the English elite, and along the seafront in Burnham-On-Sea. It was a quaint seaside village in Somerset, right across the Bristol Channel from Cardiff Wales, and it had been my home for nearly a year now. I liked it. I liked the people, and the atmosphere – and I suppose the different vibe of it all compared to my life in Northern Ontario.

I had stayed for a girl who didn’t stay for me. Admittedly, and regrettably, it was a typical move for me, one that I was seemingly destined to repeat ad nauseum over the years. I was quick to fall in love, and quicker still to be devastated by the inevitable collapse.

I ordered another pint of Fosters and thanked my former co-worker behind the bar. A regular named Simon, a labourer with a lightly salted ponytail who carried an intense aura of mystique, offered to pay for it and I greatly accepted with a tip of the pint. That is how the night had been going. I sat at the bar and my new friends and acquaintances bought me drinks, and despite being surrounded by their good intentions, I still felt that I was drinking alone. That was how I wanted it.

I was sitting there, slowly succumbing to the dull glow of inebriation, when I heard the pub door open behind me with a hermetic suction sound. I didn’t react, as it had opened with the same sound numerous times throughout the evening. When the landlord looked over and said, “Would someone get rid of him” though, I couldn’t resist.

A man stood in the doorway. A grizzled beard and mop of greasy hair framed his weathered face. He appeared hesitant to take another step forward and I couldn’t blame him, what with the unmasked hostility being directed his way. His name was Ernie and I had made his acquaintance on a number of late night rambles. Sometimes he would be wandering the seafront. Other times he would be hiding out under a cedar hedge in the cemetery. He was a strange, lonely man and I liked talking to him. On this particular day, it appeared that he wanted to talk to me. He stared across the room, right at me, and finally nodded his head.

I stood up and walked over to him. As I neared, I realized he had a package in his hand; a thick, disc shaped thing wrapped in a bright yellow dust cloth.

As I reached him, he cast his eyes towards the floor and held out the package.

“I looked for you yesterday, but you weren’t here,” Ernie said. I was confused. “I wanted to give you this for your birthday.”

I suddenly had a vague recollection of mentioning my birthday to Ernie during a late night (or early morning) chat back in February. “Thanks, Ernie,” I replied. “You didn’t have to…”

“I remembered that it was your birthday,” he interrupted. “Open it.”

I set the package down on a nearby table and carefully unwrapped it to reveal a brass pressure valve. I glanced back towards where Ernie had been standing, and realized that in my confusion, he had stepped back out the door.

I quickly made my way outside, foregoing my jacket, but Ernie had vanished into the night. I spent the next few weeks wandering around town and searching his usual haunts, but that was the last time I ever saw Ernie. I often wonder what became of him. Maybe he moved on to another town. Maybe he wandered out into the mudflats and disappeared beneath the briny sea. I liked to think that he found his way back to the family he mentioned occasionally, the one he loved so much.

I don’t know where Ernie is today, but I like to think he is in a better place. I like to think that he has found himself and that perhaps one day I will run into him again so that I can return to him the gift that he gave to me that day. The brass pressure valve is a token, and one of my most prized possessions. The real gift that he gave me was the true definition of happiness and friendship. Not bad for a homeless guy that most people were happy to step over and ignore. Ernie was a pretty special guy that way.

I miss you Ernie…

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Story-A-Day #135: Wind In Teeth


WIND IN TEETH

It’s the same every year. The air goes cold and with the first flecks of snow, I am abandoned. Six lonely months of banishment, buried under cold piles of ice and snow.

Look at me, tossed against the side of a shed, no shelter from the elements. Jagged teeth of ice suspended from my brake lines. This is no way to treat freedom. That is what I am after all, freedom from the limitations of humanity, and the trappings of parental oversight.

I have taken him further than he ever dreamed possible. I have showed him thrilling new sites and taught him the thrills of the wind blasting through his hair. Every year we reach further out, explore vaster territories, and learn new tricks and stunts. Right up until the winter, when the ice and snow provides a whole different set of thrills.

I know I sound bitter, and it’s probably because I ma to an extent, but how could I not be? I’ve been abandoned again, for the better part of half a year.

I wasn’t built to lean. I was built to race. I long to feel the wind in my teeth, to gather speed until they blur into a uniform disc then create the illusion that my tires are spinning in reverse. I long to feel the ground dropping away beneath me, and then rushing back to meet me in a solid connection.

I long to race through creeks and send the water parting in twin fans. I long for the mud in my reads and the soft crackle of dried autumn leaves below.

Mostly, I long for attention.

I long for some relief in knowing that this isn’t the end of my adventures.

He’s getting bigger, much bigger than he was at the start of the winter, and I know there’s a chance that he might have outgrown me.

There’s a chance that he might leave me behind and that I will never feel the wind in my teeth again. The thought is almost too much to accept.

Childhood should never end...

Friday, March 25, 2011

Story-A-Day #134: Roosting


ROOSTING

The crow surveyed the area below, its cold, black eyes scanning the muddy, melting morass of the spring thaw. A cool breeze ruffled the evergreen and filled the air with the rolling rattle of dried leaves that had clung desperately to the tree throughout the winter.

In a neighbouring tree, her mate squawked a guttural forlorn barking that echoed through the quiet residential area.

A man puffed on a cigarette just outside the entrance of a dwelling below, head turned towards the clear blue skies as he exhaled the brownish yellow clouds from his cigarette. The crow cawed once, drawing the man’s attention to the treetops, but he was unable to spot the mischievous bird.

From his perch above, he watched as the man below slowly lost interest in his search, finished his smoke, and reentered the building behind him.

The crow called out to his mate as she took flight, flapping her ebony wings as she raised up from the distant cedar and glided down to a nearby chimney. She called back to him in a playful, flirtatious note of derision.

He flapped his wings twice, but remained firmly planted in his roost. She let out another mournful bark, and took to the skies once more, tracing lazy circles against the clear blue backdrop. He rose to meet her and then darted through the skies playing a fitful game of cat and mouse.

A dozen ducks passed by, wearily eyeing the playful antics. Their distrust was palpable.

Their supremacy of the skies secure, the two crows spiraled down to the earth below where they hopped across the icy mud in search of a snack. It would be summer soon, and the world would revert to the bounteous land of plenty they enjoyed.

For now, he was content knowing that it would soon be breeding time. That was always an excellent time and the true harbinger for the lazy respite of summer.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Story-A-Day #133: Burrowers


BURROWERS

Something happened over the winter.

As recently as two weeks ago, solid mounds of snow had lined the streets. Their decrease in size was no surprise with the warmer temperatures, but an odd aspect to the melting had become apparent. As the snow banks melted, large pockets of open space were revealed. It wasn’t a random occurrence either. The gaping holes were evident within melting banks throughout the city.

What would cause a mound of snow to melt from within?

It had perplexed the team for the first week or so, but the answer had become clear over night. The banks weren’t located over storm drains, and the degree of melting could not be attributed to sand and salt from the roads. There was something else behind the enclosures and while they weren’t clear at first, things had now progressed and the picture was becoming clearer.

The slithering trails that had been appearing throughout the city seemed to indicate that something had been in the banks; the dense snow possibly serving as an incubator.

The team was now operating under the theory that unknown creatures had been growing in the snow, hidden from the prying eyes around them; and when the thaw came, they started hatching. The problem now was figuring out what type of creature had been growing in those icy enclosures, and to where they had now disappeared.

Nothing known to science could account for the strange gestation pattern. Heat was usually required for creatures, mammalian or otherwise, to incubate, hatch, or be birthed. With the exception of certain deep-sea species, no entity known to man would have such a disparate and spread out nesting pattern. There was no reason for a creature to spread its brood throughout the city.

More alarming still was the fact that none of the usual post-birth signs were evident. There were no shell fragments, no stillborns, and barely any sign of exit routes from the mounds of snow.

These creatures were an unknown quantity, and as unknown quantities, they would be hard to trace, and harder still to identify.

The one lucky break we’ve had is that there seems to be a secretion in their trails that reacts to ultraviolet light. We’ve tracked a number of the trails to sewer and storm drain accesses and are preparing a team to conduct a search below ground.

With any luck, we’ll get to the bottom of this by early next week. The worst-case scenario is that we have a hostile new breed of animal infiltrating our city, but we have had no indication that the creatures pose a threat. Still, we would be remiss to assume there is no reason for concern whatsoever. The secretions could prove toxic, or pose a threat to the area water table.

The team is in place for tomorrow. Hopefully we will find a quick solution to this mystery. Until then, we’ll just keep our eyes peeled, and hope for a favourable outcome.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Story-A-Day #132: The Searchers


THE SEARCHERS

The day was morbidly suited for the search. A group of thirty people had gathered in the downtown parking lot beneath an imposing blanket of thick, cool fog. These types of event were never pleasant, and the grim faces showed a determined focus on behalf of the volunteers.

The police liaisons had briefed the crowd, but the details of the case were already well enough known that the small group of people didn’t learn anything that was not already common knowledge.

The thirteen-year-old girl had been on her way home from a friend’s house. She was last seen wearing jeans, a green jacket, and red toque. That had been three days ago, and none of her friends or local family members had seen or heard from her since then.

The group of anxious faces plotted out routes that would take them through the neighbourhood where the girl had last been seen. Ten groups of three would scour the ditches, parks, creeks, and alleys into which the young girl might have disappeared. They would search for some sign that the girl was alive and well.

Two dog trainers held up bags of the girl’s belongings for their well-trained canine assistants. The dogs buried their heads in the bags, excitedly sniffing the scents and locking them in. They were soon ready and started straining at the leashes, anxious to follow the scent.

It was like a game to the dogs, but their minders were far more serious. The girl’s stoic parents stood just off to the side, providing a handful of optimistic comments to the newspaper.

It was an extremely organized event. Of course, they were ready. This wasn’t the first girl to go missing, not even the first one this month, but they hoped she would be the last.

Nothing had been confirmed, and no official statements had been made due to an impossibly overwhelming lack of physical evidence, but it was growing apparent that there was a predator in the city. More than a dozen girls had disappeared in half as many months, and while it had started out slowly, the disappearances were escalating quickly.

He watched from the second story window as the group dispersed to the different points of the compass, dogs straining at leashes and people intently surveying their surroundings for clues. He slowly closed the vertical blinds, blocking out the murky fog that the sun was desperately trying to burn away.

He sat down at his desk and surveyed the stacks of paperwork and the family photo in its black wooden frame. They were a nice looking family. Photos were able to perfectly capture specific moments in time. This photo had captured a happy moment with a loving family. He opened the drawer to his right and glanced down at the fuzzy red toque.

Photos were not permanent though. The moments they captured could end in the blink of an eye.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Story-A-Day #131: Rusty River


RUSTY RIVER

Looking past the pock marked cement guardrail that lined the narrow old bridge, he could see the narrow snake of the river winding off across the small field of wildflowers and wind tossed grass, and through the trees.

He peered over the edge at his reflection in the soft current, the clear blue skies muddled by the rusty water.

It wasn’t actually rusty, that much he could tell. The odd bronze colour was most likely due to the composition of the riverbed; soft, brown sand flecked with specks of iron pyrite.

He walked around the end of the bridge and along the pathway that followed the bank of the creek. Patches of blue, orange, white and yellow wildflowers poked out through the gently rolling grass that lined the path and a subtle floral aroma wafted up around him.

He waded through the grass to the edge of the creek sending a handful of invisible frogs on a splashy retreat. An old shopping cart was marooned on a small sandbank in the middle of the creek, an ugly testament to the impact of man on the environment.

Yes the creek wound through the heart of the city, but it didn’t make a difference in the bigger scheme of things. He had been in the middle of the forest and found old mattresses, discarded appliances, and mounds of shredded trash bags.

He continued along the trail, keenly aware of the encroaching sound of traffic. He focused intently and the noise soon faded, a conscious masking of manmade noise. He watched a squirrel skitter along the path in little bursts, low sprints interrupted by periodic moments where it would scan the surroundings from an upright position on its hind legs.

Several species of small birds darted through the clearing, a flurry of wing flaps and intermittent song filling the air. It was nice to have these enclaves of natural delight in the midst of the concrete and steel of the city. It provided a momentary respite from the generic cycles of the working world.

The path ended at a busy street and the creek flowed into a large cement tunnel that passed under the road. He was tempted to follow the water into that dark recess and trace it to its eventual destination; to keep wandering until he reached the end, but he had places to be and people to see.

He would meet up with the rusty river again, just not today.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Story-A-Day #130: Car Wash


CAR WASH

He begged and pleaded and finally, with a hint of a sadistic smile, she conceded.

“Fine, we can go to the car wash.”

Car wash. Those two words were more exciting to him than any he had heard all day, and it had been a pretty exciting day full of pretty exciting words.

So far he had heard McDonald’s, ice cream, skating, and movies for after dinner. He was full of delicious treats, had a bit of a sore bum, and had two super cool movies to watch after chicken nuggets for dinner. Not bad, right?

Despite all the excitement though, this was the main event. He watched as his mum punched in the numbers and drove the car around to the entrance. He was so excited, he felt like he could pee his pants right there. He wouldn’t of course, because he was a big boy now, but he really was that excited.

The door slowly rose with a great shudder of clanging metal and the light flicked from red to green.

“Are you ready?” his mum asked, staring at him in the rearview mirror.

He nodded his head vigorously and she inched the car into the gloomy belly of the beast.

He could hear the ticking sounds, the slow hum of the engines revving, then the fierce hiss of water slowly inching along the length of the car. He craned his neck left and right and when the great colourful globs of rainbow soap erased the outside world, he screwed it around backwards to get a full view.

He watched as the soap slowly slid down the windows and almost shrieked with the excitement when the roar of water returned to wash it all away. He couldn’t decide what his favourite part was, but the weird shudder of the water under the blast of the air dryer was definitely neat.

They finally reached the far end of the tunnel and the second door slid upwards to reveal their gleaming car to the world. His mum pulled out into the bright, streaming sunshine of the best day ever.

“Can we do it again?” he asked excitedly.

“Maybe next week,’ his mum replied.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Story-A-Day #129: Speckled


SPECKLED

Sunday morning settled in on the heels of an intense night shift at the hospital. It was shaping up to be a lazy day, perfectly suited for quiet reflection and a snooze in front of the television.

Last night had marked the largest full moon in twenty years, and as was usually the case, the weirdoes were drawn out by its alluring call. Some people try to chalk the full moon madness up to a myth, or urban legend, but you ask any hospital employee, police officer, or bar employee and they’ll tell you right away, the full moon definitely brings out the crazy.

Last night’s victims were numerous and out of control, a few serious fights, vandals, four suicide attempts, and one suicide success, and dozens of people who had either gone off their meds, or self-medicated themselves into an alternate state.

It was not pretty, and he was glad to be home.

He had a nice breakfast: yoghurt, fresh fruit and an everything bagel with cream cheese. Now he was settling into the couch. His plan was to get caught up on some of the movies he had been meaning to watch. He scanned the shelves that lined the opposite wall of the room.

There were plenty of films there, and definitely a few that he was itching to watch, but he wasn’t able to focus enough to actually pick one. He flipped idly through the channels for a half hour, sipping his green tea as he toured the mundane offerings of a sleepy Sunday morning.

He picked up the battered paperback and flipped it open to the spot he had marked with an old business card. The words swam together in a blurred mass of Helvetica on white.

He finally crossed the room and ran a finger along the spines of the DVDs, hoping that at least one title would jump out at him. He pulled three different ones off the shelves and settled back into the couch to review the back covers.

The sun spilled into through the blinds, casting a shadow from the tree out by the driveway. He watched the leafy shadows dancing and spin across the warm maple floor and a feeling of peace slowly washed over him.

He leaned back and watched the light show flitter across the floor, content in the peaceful distraction.

For now, the movies could wait.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Story-A-Day #128: Cornered


CORNERED

Cleaning can be a drag, but there is a therapeutic benefit to the process as well. Wandering through the familiar environments of your living space brings about a mundane sense of peace, and slowly resurfacing can be a great refresher.

Dull and dusty becomes gleaming and fresh.

It is a life cycle unto itself, not unlike the changing of seasons. Of course a good clean requires an investment of time and energy, and a degree of frequency that extends well beyond the seasonal four times per year.

The process of cleaning house is two-fold. There is the frequent daily or bi-weekly tidying, a superficial review of primary surfaces. General surfaces must be wiped and dusted, a bit of cleaning product to freshen up the air. Heavily trafficked areas require additional focus, sinks, bathtub, toilet, main thoroughfares.

More substantial cleans require more substantial plans. One must focus on those areas that are not immediately clear. A sweep of an open floor will clear up any primary concerns, but you also need to get under the furniture, and into the corners.

It is there that cleaning becomes a process of desperation. This she knew all too well.

Corners are an inherent part of construction and her house, like all others, was full of them. She had been focused on the kitchen for too long now, the better part of the morning it seemed, and was finally down to the corners, those nit picky nooks where all things great and small liked to gather.

She was a neat and tidy person by nature, yet the things that gathered in the corners of her home never ceased to amaze her; especially in the kitchen.

There was the expected sand and dust that gathered in the dark, but there was also bits of food, strange sticky patches, and other unidentified detritus.

Her left knee crackled as she maneuvered in for a better angle, sliding the bucket of warm soapy water in with her. She squeezed out the rag and reached into the corner, wiping, swiping, and sweeping at the collected mess.

She would finish eventually, and she would be satisfied with a job well done, but for now, she felt trapped, cornered by the hard to reach places.

She paused to wipe a speck of food off the face of the white drawers and realized her day was only just beginning. She would also have to clean out the drawers and make sure that the corners in them were free of dirt and debris as well.

Cornered by the corners. She sighed and resumed work on the floor, scrubbing with a renewed intensity, eager to complete her task.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Story-A-Day #127: Fever Cabin


FEVER CABIN

Over the hills and through the trees; across the river and through the valley; shielded from sun and sheltered from rain. He had no idea how long he had wandered, but he was happy for the roof over his head, what roof there was.

The cabin was a lucky find, and while it wasn’t perfect, it did keep him dry. His biggest concern now was the fever.

His single engine Cessna had gone down during a thunderstorm at least two weeks ago. Somehow he had survived, but things were not looking good. He had started hiking east, sure that it was the quickest route back to civilization, but his injuries were making the trek increasingly difficult.

He filled a water bottle he had scavenged from the wreckage in a nearby creek, and hobbled back up to the decrepit cabin. He slowly lowered himself down in the corner of the cabin he had swept out with pine boughs and rolled up his pant leg to examine his leg.

The angry red gash was swollen, the scab seeping and white around the edges. He poured some of the water onto his leg and gingerly wiped at the wound. A jolting, incandescent burst exploded behind his eyes and he did his best to not pass out.

Dire. That was the only way left to describe things. The spray pained graffiti oin the walls showed that people had been here, but the mounds of dirt and animal feces on the floors when he arrived showed that it had been a while. Still, the juvenile messaging on the walls was a sign worth clinging too. Teen vandals were not likely to hike miles into the middle of nowhere in the hopes of finding an abandoned cabin to ruin. There had to be a community, or some form of civilization nearby.

The problem at this point was that he didn’t have the strength to travel much further than the creek and back.

He was freezing cold, but a glistening sheen of perspiration covered his entire body. Fever was never a good sign and he realized that unless someone found him soon, he was not likely to make it out alive. What were the chances that this would be the end of him? He had survived a plane crash only to be brought down by a simple infection.

He threw some more wood into the fireplace and curled into a ball. Hopefully someone would come. Hopefully someone would bring the happy ending he deserved.

He was a survivor.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Story-A-Day #126: Irish Sun


IRISH SUN

I miss the Old Country, although I’ve never been. There is a lyrical pride to the Irish, it’s not something you simply are, it’s a part of you just as you are a part of it. Being Irish is an essence that radiates from within.

It goes without saying that I would relish the opportunity to feel the rich soil of Ireland entwined in my roots, but that soil, the wind and temperance, the whole Irish Spirit – it is my roots.

I am, and always will be, a part of that emerald isle.

I was not raised there and I never will have the opportunity to spread my roots in the soil of my motherland, but that makes me no less a part of her.

You often hear talk of the luck of the Irish, and for good reason. Look at me; I’m a perfect example. One day I’m sitting on a shelf under the cold harsh glow of a compact fluorescent, and the next I’m bathed in beauty. There truly is nothing more satisfying than having things fall in your lap just so.

When I think of my brethren, out there in the cold gusty hills of Galway, I know that my life is charmed. I envy them their connection with the earth, but we are all part of the same system.

Now I sit here, my leaves unfurled in an open embrace, my pure white blossoms stretching out for the sweet kiss of the sun. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Well, I suppose there is one thing that could make this better; one thing that could make this just so. A frothy cold pint of Guinness and a nice shot of Jameson would fill me to the brim. I am Irish after all. That’s stuff’s in my roots as much as the poetry and song.

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Story-A-Day #125: A View


A VIEW

The bastard is up there. I know that because I’ve seen his smug mug walking through the lobby. The only problem now is that the stupid bimbo on the front desk isn’t as stupid as I had originally hoped – at least not when it comes to her job.

I asked nicely which room he was in, I asked very nicely, but she wouldn’t give it up. I told her that we had a meeting planned, but she turned me away with an apologetic smile and a shrug of her skinny little shoulders.

I don’t hold it against her though. She’s just doing her job after all.

When I saw him in the lobby, I took a run at him, but this hotel seems to have security guards. The sycophant probably knew that when he checked in. As they dragged me away, I pleaded with him, begged him to see her, but he just stared at me, his face an emotionless mask of disinterest.

I don’t know how I let it get this far. I knew he was bad news when he was just another anonymous face in the congregation. That initial impression tripled when I discovered his interest in her. She has to be 20 years his junior but he managed to sway her with his shell game dissertations on righteousness.

I am a man of God, but so help me, I will strike him down. The police won’t get involved because there is no evidence of “intent”. Like the skinny girl at the front desk, they are just doing their job, but that’s the problem with today’s litigious systems – everything is tangled up in bureaucracy and fear.

My wife is devastated. She begged me not to follow them. She told me that I would only make things worse and the thought of losing us both was more than she could bare. Even after I showed her the things I had learned, the horrible things this monster had done to innocent young women like our daughter; she still insisted I let it go.

But I won’t let it go. I can’t. That bastard has brainwashed my baby and I am going to get her back. Maybe I am just a silly old man. That’s certainly the impression I get from the pitying looks I receive when I ask for help. If I am a silly old man, then so much the better because I still have fight in me.

23 years ago I made a promise to my wife: I would never let anything bad happen to our beautiful little miracle.

Today I am going to fulfill that promise and in doing so, I’m going to bring down a monster. I am going to put an end to his sadism, his moral bankruptcy, his infliction of pain and grief. I am not going to let my daughter become one of them.

When he steps through that door, and he will eventually, I am going to put an end to him once and for all.

I will bring my daughter home and we will become a happy, unified family once more. There by the grace of God.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Story-A-Day #124: In A Fog


IN A FOG

Do you remember this place where we used to meet? It was always our secret, a quiet escape from the overwhelming. It was our retreat from reality.

Sometimes we would come here together, walking along the quiet paths until we didn’t want to walk any further. Sometimes we would arrive separately, drawn together as always by our need to find comfort in a shared embrace. On those unplanned days, I grew to understand just how much you meant to me, how much a part of my life you had become.

We would settle down and watch the world with an unfocussed intensity. There was a simple beauty to the time we shared, a glorious aloofness that somehow managed to be razor sharp.

As I sit here today, engulfed in a fog, I wish that you were still here with me, a partner in silence to stave off the cool chill. With a warm smile, you would dispel the bleakness of the mournful day, evaporating the doubts and fears and remorse that slowly seep in from the corners of my reality.

I am happy, though. Please don’t think I am not. I have done well for myself, made a name that merits the one I began with; the one I had back then. I have worked hard, and lived hard, and I have grown. We are older now, wiser and more responsible. I miss the quiet simplicity of retreat. Life isn’t like it used to be, for either one of us I am sure.

I sometimes think that you are here. It’s not my imagination though; it is bigger and broader than that. It is more real. On a day like today, I can almost see you lurking in the fog, your slender form a wisp that mingles with its surroundings. There is a subtle radiance in the gloom that surrounds you, a glow that threatens to burst into a radiant heat and that burns a hole through the present, and into the past.

I can feel you in the grass beneath me, and hear your voice whispering gently through the short green blades. I can smell you in the flowers, an earthy nostalgic aroma that only furthers the illusion that you are here.

We are inextricably linked to this place, one with the other. There is no escape, no will to escape. This is the place where we used to be and the place we will be forever. It is simple and magic and unlike any other.

Not many places like this exist, places so entwined in moments shared that they no longer exist without them. This was our place, and remains so.

I sit here in a fog with you by my side. It doesn’t matter how much space or time separates us because in this fog, we remain one. There is no place more beautiful or sacred in the world.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Story-A-Day #123: Devastating


DEVASTATING

The oily film slid about on the water’s surface; a rainbow-sheen on the shallow puddle. It is a common site and one that we have been conditioned to ignore, a wash of toxicity that will not have a huge lasting impact.

When an oilrig explodes and constant streams of crude oil flood into the Gulf of Mexico, that is a big deal. That is an ecological disaster. Birds, fish, and economies are affected on a scale like that, but this little slick of colour is easily ignored by most. The things is, even the big issues can start off small, and sometimes even a big issue is just the beginning.

Below that puddle, down through the earth’s molten core and out the other side, things are much worse. It started with a big issue: an earthquake just off the Northeastern shore of Japan that measured 8.9 on the Richter scale and rapidly evolved into a global cataclysm. How do you imagine what that would be like?

An earthquake of that intensity would be a horrendous experience, your entire world shaking, shuddering and lurching with so much force that you can’t keep your footing. An ominous grumble engulfs you as all around, life as you know it crumbles to pieces. Roads open up their centre lines, buildings topple, power lines snap and fall to the ground, windows explode raining shards of glass all around.

The damage would be shocking, but there how do you begin to define the terror of a moment like that: an endless pounding from below that drags on for endless excruciating minutes? The shaking finally subsides and you start to take stock. Are you injured? Are your surroundings stable, or should you be seeking somewhere safer? Does anyone nearby require assistance? Are your family and friends safe? Is it over?

You just start to collect yourself, to catch your breath, and someone informs you that a tsunami is following closely on the heels of the earth shattering violence you have miraculously survived. You would still be confused. Where do you hide from a ten-metre wall of water that will obliterate everything in its path?

If by some miracle, you manage to survive the second act of violence then what remains? Your country has been laid to ruins. Your home swept out to sea with all your belongings. You might be fortunate enough to discover that your family and closest friends survived as well, but you will know many amongst the dead.

You have no shelter from the coldness of winter, no clean water to drink, no food to eat. The ground still trembles periodically, each rumbling a potential threat. There is the threat of nuclear meltdowns at the power plants. Debris drifts everywhere. It is an unimaginable scene, a nightmare come to life.

This is a nightmare that you can’t awaken from. It will last for years, a haunting reminder that it only takes a moment for everything to change; for an entire country to move 8 feet and for the entire planet to shift 10 inches on its axis.

There is no denying that level of horror, just as there is no way to predict how small something needs to be to become inconsequential. Is it just gas in a puddle, or does nature constantly spiral out of control to remind us that we are merely guests on this planet.

I wish there was more that I could do for Japan, more that any of us could do. The sad and scary part is that I also wonder what will be the next major event to happen, and where? It's a small world, after all, and we are all linked. We are all connected through neighbours and friends and business associates. We are all affected.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Story-A-Day #122: Feeding Time


FEEDING TIME

The fish were long since passed, but she felt it helpful to have the reminder to feed. She was old, older than she ever thought she could be. Her joints creaked, her mind wandered, and none of her functions seemed to be as they should. The gurgling tank provided a soothing ambience and the sign reminded her that she needed to feed.

Twice a day, always on the sixes; that seemed to be enough to keep her going. The clock ticked slowly on the wall, the seconds falling away one after another: tick, tick, tick, tick. The inevitability was not frightening in the least. She had lived through more horror, and seen more terrible things to be afraid of the passage of time.

So long as she remembered her twice-daily feeding, all would persist anon.

She wiped her bony talons together and ran her slender tongue across her pinched lips. It was nearly time. The minute hand nudged another step closer to the twelve, the hour hand imperceptibly drifting towards the six. Two minutes to go.

She scuttled into the kitchen and lifted the lid on the pot, a wash of delicious steam gusting up towards her salivating mouth. She relished these moments more than any other. Sometimes she wished that she could feed at all hours of the day, but she knew that wasn’t how this worked. Some might say she had lived a life of sin, but avarice wasn’t one of them.

She placed her bowl next to the stove and brought a big wooden spoon and dirty cloth napkin out to the small dining room table. She paused briefly to examine the colourful material, sunshines and rainbows covered in greasy smears of dinner. It had been a nice shirt not too long ago.

She remembered the young boy fondly, a shock of curly brown hair, clear blue eyes, and a smile that radiated innocence. He was so sweet.

She returned to the kitchen and ladled three large spoonfuls of stew into her bowl, then returned to the dining room where she stared up at the clock expectantly. Tick, tick, tick, tock, the hour rolled to six o’clock.

She licked her lips and raised a large spoonful to her mouth. He was such a sweet, sweet boy.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Story-A-Day #121: Dirty Words


DIRTY WORDS

It is filthy, but functional, this keyboard of mine. It has been through hell and back, and is not exactly a new piece of hardware. This computer has been used and abused, and filled with a copious amount of files. It has been spilled on, dumped on, bumped, nudged and smashed around.

This computer was old when I got it, a 100GB power horse rendered nearly obsolete through rapidly mutating technology.

Inside this computer are photographs, some scans, and some digital dating all the way back to 2004. Those early digital shots were done on a tiny camera, with a tiny view screen, and a whopping 3.2 megapixels. They are nostalgia condensed to a 5x7 print optimization…

Also within this computer is an ancient version of iTunes, one that does not support album artwork, or even the iPhone I sometimes write on. There are songs in there that fill me with the whimsy of nostalgia, tokens from the past that elicit a different time. Scanning through the play list, there, I see a number of barely familiar titles and artists, whims that once took me into their arms and tickled my cochlea fancy.

There are memories scattered throughout this old relic, but there is also work, just as important. Peppered throughout the digital pathways of this old beast are stories and ramblings, freelance projects from days gone by.

There is an entire history worth of writing tucked away in those creaking recesses.

There is a completed novel in there, and substantial portions of two others. Years of hard labour have been spent toiling over this filthy keyboard. I have tried to clean this computer up, remove the junk files, scrape away the sticky gunk from its shell, blast the dust lining from the battered old keyboard.

I have tried, and I have failed.

There are days when this computer fills me with anxiety. What if the next time it goes to sleep, it never wakes up again. She has been a faithful companion through the years, but no amount of love can remedy the ailments within; no kiss from Prince Charming will wake her should she get to that point.

And if she does, all will be lost. The memories, nostalgia and writing of a decade: gone. As I type these dirty words, the looming dread of reality grows. She is not long for this life.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Story-A-Day #120: Fortunes


FORTUNES

She looked into the box full of individually wrapped cookies and a thought dawned on her: she had in her possession, the potential futures of at least 100 people. Each of those cookies represented the fortune of someone out there, and by having them all in her possession, she was denying that many potentials.

She smiled.

Reaching into the box, she twisted her arm down through the cookies to the bottom of the box. She felt around for a moment, then slowly, and with great relish, pulled out a cookie. She squeezed the cellophane until it popped, then snapped the cookie in two and raised the tiny slip of paper to her face.

“Great works are performed not by strength, but by perseverance.”

What had she just denied the world? Would that slip of paper actually have inspired someone to persevere towards the completion of a great work? Would she? What if the next Sistine Chapel ceiling had just been rendered obsolete by her avarice? The next Great Expectations could now remain unwritten, the next Falling Water never built, the cure for cancer nothing more than an impossible dream.

It was hard to believe.

She let the slip of paper fall to the floor, an autumnal forgotten promise. She rooted through the box and pulled out another cookie.

“With our thoughts, we make our world.”

A lovely thought, but what does it mean? Is it a basic reflection that by thinking peacefully, we can in fact create peace in the world? What if I think really hard about dragons and elves? Can I create a Middle Earth simply by thinking it? If I imagine it is night, will the day end? Not likely.

She crumpled up the paper, tossed it aside, and grabbed another cookie.

“That which should not be done, can never be undone.”

She was about to toss the fortune in favour of one more suitable to her needs when she noticed something on the back. The Lucky Lottery Numbers were familiar. Although they were paired up, they formed her phone number, in sequence. It bordered on impossible but there it was, area code and all.

Maybe this game wasn’t so fun after all. She pushed the box back onto the shelf and quickly made her way back out into the dining room. She checked the lunch buffet quickly, then ducked into the kitchen.

“We need more chicken balls.”

She realized they were just gimmicks, but she wondered how much damage she may have done. What if those potential great works did remain unfulfilled because she had thought them possible, thereby making them part of her world?

“That which should not be done, can never be undone.”

She would never touch another fortune cookie again. In the meantime, she would go for a quick smoke to calm her nerves. She stepped through the back door of the kitchen and into the warm summer night.

That wasn’t right at all. An ominous roar filled the darkness. Not right at all…

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Story-A-Day #119: Axel Heiberg


AXEL HEIBERG

--SECURE TRANSMISSION--

Log #1: March 10, 2011
Location: 79°26′N 090°46′W

There’s not much up here; so little in fact, that I was starting to doubt the validity of this excursion. The thought had occurred to me, and not for the first time, that we might have been mislead.

I flew into Toronto almost three months ago and met up with my team at the Royal York. We spent a day gearing up with deep Arctic equipment: clothing, tents, sleeping gear, non-perishable food. We collect the rest en-route, but we needed to ensure the base supplies. We spent a week in the city drinking and doing some light site seeing. I figured it was okay to let the team blow off some steam because it could be the last chance they had for quite some time. Six angry men is not an efficient team, and I needed each of them, and their specialties, to be prepared. Against my better judgment, I have also added two women to the team, a geologist and a doctor. I am hoping that professionalism will overrule any potential friction between the different members: call me old fashioned, but on an excursion such as this, men and women often mix like oil and water.

On our last day in Toronto, I spoke briefly with our expedition’s benefactor (he says hello) and he directed me to a contact who would meet us in a place called Cochrane and take us the rest of the way from there. He also said that he had secured the McGill Arctic Research Station, which would act as our base of operations.

We took a chartered flight from Toronto to a place called North Bay, then transferred over to two smaller planes that got us to Cochrane where we met our contact at Ducks On The Roof, a rundown sports bar. The following day, we traveled to Moosonee by train. From there we flew to Rankin Inlet in Nunavut, then on to Repulse Bay where we refueled before continuing to Pond Inlet at the Northern tip of Baffin Island.

A plodding boat ride eventually landed us in Grise Fiord on Ellesmere Island where our guide discretely inquired about our destination. The people he talked to said they had seen no one in these parts, but that weird lights had been noticed on Axel Heiberg. They also mentioned rumblings in the ground (from the digging, or could it simply be related to the growing instability in the earth’s plates?) and seemed concerned.

That was nearly nineteen days ago and we have traveled by every means known to man to reach our current location. We are at the Research Station now and while there’s not much to it: a small research hut, cookhouse, and pair of temporary structures easily accommodates our team and it is nice having a roof over our heads.

The weather has been miserable and upon our arrival on the island, we were snowed in for eight days straight. We set up shifts to keep the door clear of snow, and also to ward off the polar bears that we have spotted periodically throughout our journey.

The thermometers have registered an average temperature of -42°C and we have been operating in whiteout conditions since we left Ellesmere, but I am optimistic that the tides will soon turn. We are nearing the mid-point in March and this cannot persist much longer. The team is tired already, but they are looking forward to the mission.

Today is our first clear day, and by extension, the first time I have been able to uplink to send you a report. We are doing some preliminary recon today and will follow up with a field excursion over the next few days. The meteorological centre is calling for a week of clear skies and we do not want to miss this opportunity.

Have faith in the mission. If they are out there, we will find them.

--END TRANSMISSION--

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Story-A-Day #118: Mojitos


MOJITOS

The sun beats down in pounding waves of heat that bounce off the streets in shimmering sheets of gossamer; rippling waves that distort the vision. There is a mantra that repeats through my brain, a cyclical loop of words that forms a beat; a soothing timpani that lilts sweet relief.

The city is filled with dripping people, melting wax statues that slowly succumb to the intensity of the afternoon heat. The air itself is cooking, rendering respiration a ridiculous regimen of chokingly short inhalations. It is as stifling as a pillow to the face, as suffocating as a plastic bagged head.

I slink along, shoes sticking to the meting road tar, skin sticking to the clinging air. Rivulets of perspiration run down my back and neck. They spill in sudden bursts from my sodden, tangled mop of hair, running salty moisture to the corners of my mouth and stinging my eyes with their passage.

Swells of doubt ebb and flow. Will I even make it to where I intend to be? Will the suffocating heat overwhelm me and render my journey obsolete? The television and radio said to remain indoors, and yet here I am, wilting like a week-cut rose, stumbling through the streets in defined delirium.

I falter, but the vision returns: your smiling face framed by neatly arranged hair; a mischievous twinkle flirting from the corner of your eyes, urging me onwards. You are the destination, and the relief.

I surge forward, one sticky footstep after the next. I hear your voice, fair and smooth; lubricated and removed from the crackling drought of the summer’s day. You whisper to me, a soothing timpani-lilt of relief, calling, calling, calling, as you always do, and I answer, drawing ever nearer.

Your voice repeats in a low murmur, an echoed mantra for salvation: Sugar, lime, mint, rum, soda, mash, mottle, mix, imbibe.

I draw nearer still and see your angelic form. You stand in the doorway, your slender silhouette a tease in a flowing back lit skirt, and slowly part the door for me. I smile and step into the cool interior of your home, my words of gratitude caught in the parched grit of my throat. I smile instead, and drop onto the kitchen bar stool. I watch you drift through the smooth, familiar motions. Sugar lime and mint, mottled in the bottom of the glass; rum, soda and ice added on top, then a quick stir.

The glass drips with cool, calming condensation, a vessel of delight that mirrors my own sweaty splash. I wince as the cool refreshment trickles down my throat and spreads through my belly. You have saved me, once again, with a well-timed toast to prosperity and a miracle mojito.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Story-A-Day #117: A Sister


A SISTER

A Sister is reflective, always thinking about the needs of others.

A Sister is a special type of person, burdened by her femininity and a desire to play with the boys. She is a sensitive type, conflicted by her desire to be one of those boys, and not understanding why they often left her behind.

A Sister is the type of person who fights hard for her ideals, and works harder than those around her to prove that she is the best. She sometimes doesn’t realize that she needn’t try so hard, because her brothers have always known her superiority to be true.

A Sister is someone who approaches life with a sense of quiet grace. She is caring and responsible; loving and focused. She is these things without effort.

A Sister is the type of person that a brother will take great joy in teasing and making fun of – but woe to the person who thinks they have the same liberties as a brother. A Sister is someone that a brother will always stand up for, and defend. He might trade her for a beer, but he will always rescind the offer.

A Sister is someone who grows from a glowering girl to a glowing woman. She is someone who embraces the passions of others not because she has none of her own, but because she knows it will bring her closer to those around her.

A Sister is someone who embraces the company of others, but is just as content having quiet moments to herself. A Sister is someone who exists in a protective shell, but gleams in the sunlight – not unlike a dragonfly.

A Sister is a sibling, but more than that, she is a friend, a person to laugh with, and to cry with, and to learn with. She is someone who remains constant in her convictions, and consistent in her devotion.

She doesn’t know everything, but she often knows best.

A Sister likes Baby Puh-Ponies and Halloween. She has learned to laugh at herself and face her fears in equal measures.

My sister is a teacher, and not just to the students who are fortunate to have her in their lives as an educator, but to me as her brother, who constantly learns through her example. She also makes a delicious pasta salad…

Happy Birthday Sarah.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Story-A-Day #116: Sledding


SLEDDING

I never appreciated the appeal of snowmobiles. When I was younger, I went out a few times with friends, and it was a thrill for sure, but as I grew up, I found myself preferring the quiet peace of more traditional methods of winter transportation.

Cross country skiing, and downhill when I could afford it, provided a nice way to get around, while appreciating the serene beauty of a fresh snowfall. Seeing the evergreen boughs drooping under the weight of a fresh snowfall, the small chickadees flittering through the air, while gliding past on a pair of fresh waxed skis is almost transcendental.

Feeling the rush of wind past your face as you maneuver your way down a tricky trail on a GT SnoRacer was one of the greatest thrills of my adolescence, arching up a bank of snow and angling through a narrow gap in the trees provided not only immense satisfaction to my inner daredevil, but also a surge of adrenaline that was second to none. Repeating the task at the same time as my friends only increased the buzz.

Even a laborious hike with nothing but your boots, struggling through hip deep snow and blazing an awkward trail through unexplored vistas delivered an immense thrill of satisfaction.

Something about the roar and obnoxiousness of those lumbering gas hogs never fully appealed to me. When you get out there though, and you can feel that roaring engine beneath you, the shuddering jolts as you skim across the surface, there is a satisfaction to it. There is excitement.

There is also a penchant for cheesy matching outfits branded to the brink of Nascarian madness. That is something I could never embrace.

I suppose the thrill of a sled is like the thrill of a rollercoaster, except that you aren’t confined to rails. Roller coasters are great, but I wouldn’t want to ride one every day.

No, I think I will stick to the simpler means of transportation. Maybe it will be a horse-drawn sleigh ride? Maybe I will be on skiis? Maybe I will hike along the lengths of an ice covered river with my friends and hope that the ice will hold our weight, and if it doesn’t, maybe I will react quick enough to catch the guy in front of me before he goes under. Maybe I will race down the winter trails on my fragile hunk of metal and plastic and cut a new path for those behind me to follow.

Of course, there’s always the chance that I will try that machine once more, and maybe this time, I will be enraptured by the thrill of the speed, power and goofy outfits that it provides. Probably not, but maybe...

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Story-A-Day #115: Porch Light


PORCH LIGHT

There is something comforting about returning home to find a few lights left on, especially in the dead of winter when the cold grips you like a vice, and the sun comes and goes while you are sitting at a desk.

It’s no wonder people find winter depressing. You literally exist in a world of darkness for a few months, and there is something unnatural about leaving for work and returning home, all under the cloak of darkness.

Summer is easier. The days are warm and long and it is easy to appreciate the outdoors. You get exercise through proxy. In the wintertime, it becomes all too easy to get wrapped up in the cycle of dark-work-dark-sleep-repeat.

Wandering home through the crisp evening air, I’m glad for the exercise, but the most physical workout I get, is from staving off the shivers. I’ve never really been a winter person, although I used to get out into the cold with greater frequency in my youth. I miss the days of sledding and cross country skiing, and building forts. I think I mostly just miss my youth.

Watching the cars pass by, belching great plumes of exhaust smoke in their wakes, I am glad for this bit of exercise at least, but I am even more happy to see the porch light that welcomes me home, glowing in the distance.

On this night, that light is an indication that I have made it back to the comfort and warmth of home. It is a signpost in the night, and it makes me appreciate the relief that a sailor would feel when they spotted the rotating glow of a lighthouse beacon after a long day at sea.

Even the cascades of rippled ice leaking down over the metal fixture are a welcome indication of the warmth that light provides: enough to melt a groove through the icy heart of winter.

I fumble briefly with my keys, then feel the familiar click as the door unlocks. I knock the snow from my boots and step into the warmth of my house, happy to have arrived.

I shut the door against the icy cold that threatens to follow me inside, and listen as the walls and roof around me fight off the onslaught of winter. The creaks and cracks denote the dying end of a long hard battle. The warmer months are coming, looming just around the corner.

I peer out the small window in the door and the cold, still street that intersects the end of my driveway, then flick the nearby switch on the wall. The porch light flicks off, its duty complete for another day.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Story-A-Day #114: Back Alley


BACK ALLEY

He an older man, but beneath the apron and plaid shirt, it was clear that he was well built and could handle himself. The rough style of the tattoo on his left forearm, exposed by the rolled up sleeves of his shirt, were likely an indication that he had been a fairly tough guy in his younger days.

“Can you tell me again what happened?”

The cook lit another hand-rolled rolled cigarette and indicated the end of the alley. “As I mentioned to the other guy,” he began, a hint of disdain in his voice, “I was bringing out some trash and I heard this commotion down that way.”

“And what time was this?”

“Around 10:30. I was finishing up for the day.”

“And you heard a commotion?”

“It was a scuffling sound. I figured it was a stray dog or something.”

“And then?”

“I went over to check it out and that’s when I got jumped.”

“And you were knocked out, so you didn’t see anything?”

“I was knocked out, but I didn’t see anything because it was pitch black back here. There’s just the one small bulb by the skips.”

“Skips?”

“The garbage bin.”

“And you didn’t see anything else? The body?”

“Nothing.”

“Thank you. I’ll let you get back to work, but I might have some more questions.”

The cook grumble, tossed his cigarette butt into a nearby snow bank, and entered the rear door of the diner. The officer watched the door slam shut and walked over to the cordoned off area near the garbage bins. The body of a young woman lay there, covered in a light dusting of snow. The white of the snow added an eerie contrast to the sprays of blood that covered the end of the alley.

The intense violence of the scene was disturbing enough, but it was the small VII sketched in blood on the wall that reinforced the horror. It was the same style as the marks found at three other recent crime scenes, which meant that there were three more undiscovered crimes. It also meant that there was a killer loose on the streets.

The officer walked back towards the entrance to the alleyway and past a throng of curious onlookers. It was going to be a long week.