Saturday, April 30, 2011

Story-A-Day #170: Heading Home


If that sloppy V of geese was actually made up of people, it would be understandable. As it stands, the similarities are still evident.

While we do not have a seasonal migration as part of our internal genetic code, there are still those amongst us who flock south for the winter and return home for the warmer months.

It is more than the seasonal draw to and from a location though. There are those among us who migrate daily, albeit on a smaller scale. These people create a different effect, but one that is equally as telling as the goose's announcing of the changing seasons.

The rush hour is the result of people migrating to and from their places of work. There is still some call that exists at the genetic level, driving us towards home. We might not have to fly as many miles or pause in as many towns, but the sloppy lines of traffic are equally lacking in precision.

The same uniformity exists, but our migration is more about straight lines of blinking red brake lights than a majestic flying V. And there will always be those breaks in formation, just as there will always be geese that break from the formation for a short respite, and cars that use off-ramps to seek out a washroom, or quick bite to eat.

The migrations are the same, and driven by our urge to be at home, nesting quietly in the comfort of the place we know best and wrapping ourselves in the comfort of familiarity.

While there are differences, the goal is always the same: heading home.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Friday, April 29, 2011

Story-A-Day #169: Trenches


It was not right. There was no reason for it to have happened again, but it did - a slowly seeping outward patch of wet in the grey cropped carpet.

The day of the next great leak had been a mess for sure, but this was worse still.

The crew had been at it all day, their jackhammers bouncing and skipping and chipping away at the cold cement floor.

The chandelier in the foyer swung back and forth, the dangling crystals clinking lightly with each sway. The glasses and plates in the Chinese cabinet rattled and clanked ominously, as though any moment they might leap from their perches.

Somewhere I'm the house, in a dark and secret recess no doubt, two mottled orange cats quivered in terror.

And then, just as abruptly as it had started, it stopped. The grumbling voices of the workers faded off into the night and with a brief revving of engines, they were gone.

The house settled inward with a soft sigh of shifting timbers.

A thin white sheet of dust coated the walls and floors.

In the basement, a network of trenches had been etched into the slab of cement floor. A pair of shovels lay abandoned next to the excavation.

It was all over, for the day at least. Peace had returned, a moment of silence amongst the chaos.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Story-A-Day #168: Seasons On Board


I don’t know who put them there, or when they did so. They make for a nice addition though, a seasonal table spread across the slats in the fence.

On the left is winter. A snow-laden evergreen droops beneath the weight of a soft, white sheath of snow. The ground below is shielded, a smear of earthen brown that lets the passing woodland creatures know that there is safe haven to be found in those confines.

The next one over is autumn. A tree in full golden regalia proudly proclaims the glory of the season, the wonderful transitioning of the season. The roots of the tree spread outward, extending the majesty of the mighty golden crown. Entwined in those roots are the ruddy remnants of fallen leaves, the passage of time.

On the right is summer. Bouncy blue blossoms seem to waver in the breeze, white pupils staring out from the centre of each. Golden brown stalks hold the blue heads high, swirling in a smear to the invisible ground beneath.

Three seasons on three boards.

It begs an interesting question. The paradigm has always been four seasons, and yet here, on the weathered slats of wood, there are only three represented. So what happened to spring? Why was that vibrant season of rebirth not represented?

It is a conundrum to be sure, but upon closer inspection the fortuitous truth is revealed. At any other time it would not be true, but on this particular day, with droplets falling gently from the skies above, spring is everywhere.

It is in the muddied yard. It is in the falling rain. Looking up over the fence, beyond those impressionistic representations of the other seasons, it can also be seen in the blooming branches of the overhanging tree.

Those buds will soon erupt in a waving sea of green. They will announce the arrival of the season of growth and portend the coming of summer.

It seems unfair that spring does not have representation on those boards, but it is even more unjust that spring is the only one to be appreciated beyond an impressionistic portrayal on the boards of a fence.

Such is the life of a season, cycling ever onwards towards the next.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Story-A-Day #167: Quaint Quail


Tiny birds, palm-sized if anything. Lined up on a plate, there is still ample space for accoutrements – a garden salad with blueberries, some roasted potatoes, a side of beans.

Each of the birds is topped in a lemon garlic watercress paste, a subtle hint of earthiness mingled with a spicy bite.

The quail are stuffed with blueberries and acai, a delicious mixture crammed into the tiny enclosure of their ribs.

There is work to be done for this meal, a scavenger hunt to pull meat from the bone. Cutlery is almost futile in the quest for meat. A different approach is needed. A bird in hand as they say…

The meat is tender and succulent, slightly richer in flavour than the quail’s larger chicken and turkey brethren.

Each bird yields the equivalent meat of a chicken wing, although the rewards and presentation are far more refined.

This is an experience as much as a meal, a feast in reduction. This is a delectable treat.

The hum of conversation circles the table, exclamations of delight and approval infused with discussions of the day just past, and the ones to come.

The soft clink of wine glasses preludes a toast to the chef.

This culinary experiment has been a success.

There are rewards to be found in the willingness to embrace new dishes. There is satisfaction to be gained from the success of something different.

The plates are quickly emptied. All that remains are tiny piles of bone and skin.

All eyes turn to dessert, the culmination of the evening.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Story-A-Day #166: Damn, Beavers!


It is a rainy afternoon in the wilds, quiet and serene. Birds sing in the trees, chipmunks dash through the woodland. A duck floats peacefully in a small pond, unaware of the calamity brewing to the south. There is a subtle shift in the long stretch of beaver dam, a gurgle in the waters.

All it takes is one miscalculation. Maybe the mud wasn’t mixed right, or packed tight enough. Maybe the sticks weren’t laced quite right. Whatever the factors might be, one slip in rodential engineering is all it took to wipe out a neighbourhood. Like a pinhole in Hoover, that single point of weakness in that earthen wall of sticks and mud was all it took to set everything free.

It was as hard to tell what was happening, as it was to predict the results. One moment, it was a grey, rainy night, and the next, the streets were flowing with water.

It started off slowly enough, a gurgling sound and slight rise in the water level. Within a matter of minutes, the water level in the creeks and ditches had risen to a point where the dirty flow spilled over.

The rest happened just as quickly. Entire sections of road washed away, crumbling beneath the punishing onslaught of water, unable to withstand the fierce passage of the raging waters. It crossed the streets, turning them into rivers of mud and debris.

Houses provided momentary resistance, but the attacking waters were strong and forceful. As the levels continued to rise, the water slapped and swirled up the sides of houses and wood slat fences two, three, four feet high in places.

Relentless and ruthless, the water barreled onwards towards lower ground, finding its way through windows and under doors. Basements, rec rooms and garages suddenly pooled with the floating detritus of ruined lives.

There was no stopping the assault. Storm drains clogged with debris that had been swept along in the current. Frantic crews of city workers teamed with a legion of neighbors and friends doing what they could to divert the torrents away from the lower lying houses, a desperate and futile battle. The neighbourhood united, joining together and toiling alongside the people they formerly shared little more than terse nods with – a brigade of shovels and rakes melded in the hope that this would be enough.

The chaos eventually subsided. In its wake, was a swath of ruined dreams and wanton destruction. Personal belongings floated in the lake-like streets: pails, pieces of fence, even a forlorn Raggedy Ann doll drifting face down in the mire. It was a sad and random assortment of displaced belongings.

It took less than an hour for the pond to drain. Less than an hour to create a swath of damage that stretched across four city blocks and pummeled 75 properties. A bit of a shift and a misplaced reinforcement and everything flowed out – water, plants, hopes and dreams, all washed away.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Story-A-Day #165: Changing Carts


We are a social plague, displaced items of normalcy removed from the context of our usefulness. In the proper situation and context we serve a purpose, a functional and essential one, but when removed from that context, we are a plague.

In your consumer society, the cart becomes an essential tool, allowing you to choose abundance with every trip to the store. It is the functionality of the shopping cart that allows you to wander the aisles indiscriminately, loading up our metal frames with bulk products and deals-of-the-week. To you, we are nothing but wobbly-wheeled tools that allow you to push ever forward towards your goal of consumption nirvana.

We would be equally well suited to the removal of the abundance of waste product you inevitably achieve through this process.

So how is it that something so functional, with such a predetermined purpose, can become such a plague to your society? What in your nature encourages the displacement and abandonment of us?

We end up in creeks, rusting away to nothing; gathering other discarded items like garbage trapping nets. We end up in abandoned lots, slowly sinking into the mire of neglect. Sometimes we retain our functions, serving as mobile homes for those amongst you who do not have an actual home of their own. At least then, we retain some sense of purpose.

We know your nature intimately. We provided safe passage for your screaming, kicking children. We help you perform your mundane shopping routines. We get bumped and kicked, and abandoned in cold, wet parking lots once you no longer have need of our service. In return, we ask for nothing.

You see us in public and ignore us, barely acknowledging our presence. We are aware of this. It is your nature and you expect us to be at the store waiting for you, but when you see us elsewhere, the intimacy of our past becomes an awkward weight over your shoulders. You treat us no differently than you would a stripper outside of her dark arena, or a gynecologist outside of his gleaming, sterile chambers. Cold indifference mingled with a feigned lack of recognition.

It is because we know you so well that you pretend not to know us at all. Ignorance is easier.

And yet your ignorance is the reason we do this. We are a constant reminder of the wanton way you live your lives. That is why we remove ourselves from the confines of our intended purpose. That is why we steal off into the night and hurl ourselves with reckless abandon into your creeks, your parks, and your woodlands. We do not aim to pollute or clutter - we only ask that you examine your ways.

We are your conscience, which is just as easily overlooked as your destructive habits of consumerism. It is only by removing ourselves from context, and placing ourselves in the world where you live, amidst the nature you admire, that we become impossible to ignore.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Story-A-Day #164: Easter


The religious aspects don’t really matter. It isn’t so much about resurrection as it is candy, chocolate and quality time with the family. In a way, His birthday and he re-birthday are one and the same for those who are not disciples, followers, or believers.

The huge turkey dinners are the same, opulent feasts that stretch the limits of the waistline. The candy and treats, while packaged differently, also share similar aspects – chocolate and sweets abound.

On His birthday, a jolly old elf travels the world at an impossible rate of speed and spreads joy to all the good little girls and boys. Stockings are hung by the chimney with care, and in the morning they flow over with gifts and surprises. Massive trees are erected and decorated and on that magical morning, the lower boughs barely conceal the bounty of gifts waiting to be unwrapped.

On his re-birthday, a strange rabbit spreads equal joys for all, hiding candy and treats to be hunted by all. Pastel-coloured baskets overflow with a bounty of sweets bringing happiness and the thrill of discovery to all. Where might the candies be hidden? What secret corners might reveal the greatest troves of treasure?

While the routines are similar, and the purveyors of treats equally enigmatic and legendary, the results are the same: a pair of days met with equal amounts of giddy anticipation.

And perhaps that is where the religion comes in. Those three wise men must have felt great excitement as they traveled towards the celestial beacon that shone down upon their saviour-to-be. The resurrection, although less dramatically portended, no less impressive.

For those non-believers though, the really blessing of these days is that they provide an excuse to step outside of the normal routine of work and distraction to make quieter time for family and friends. It is this repurposing of priorities that makes these days special.

That and the candy.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Story-A-Day #163: The Dump


He drove up the mountain of garbage, along the winding concourse of waste. The trailer load of scrap railway ties from his backyard added an additional pull to the steep ascent, but he finally made it to the pinnacle of the waste pile and slowly maneuvered his vehicle so that he could back the trailer up and unload the half rotted, creosote-laden trunks.

He reached his right hand over to the headrest of the passenger side seat and craned his neck as he slowly backed up to a pile of pines boughs that appeared to be woven through the remains of a handful of cracked white plastic shelving units. As his truck lurched to a halt, his breath caught in his throat.

In a nearby mound of waste, a virtual wall of plastic, wood and metal, he had caught a glimpse of something that dredged up a wash of painful emotions. He swallowed hard as he put the truck into park and slowly climbed out of the cab to get a better look. He took a few steps forward, the ground feeling almost spongy beneath his steel-toed work boots.

There it was, a small fragment of orange and black fabric flapping gently in the breeze. It looked just like the jacket his daughter used to always wear, the same jacket she had been wearing on the night she disappeared. He took a few more hesitant steps towards the pile and paused as tears welled up in his eyes, spilling down over his weathered cheeks. He could just make out the corner of a jack-o-lantern printed on the fabric. It wasn’t her coat at all.

He fell to one knee, the emotions too much for him to bare, an overwhelming tsunami of pain and sadness that was dampened only by an unfiltered sense of regret. It was a feeling unlike any he had ever known.

He slowly pulled himself back together and started unloading the trailer, hoping the monotony of the labour would keep his mind from wandering.

It had been three years, and there was still no sign of her. Three years since the night she had vanished. The thought of her body buried under these piles of castaway materials was unbearable. It was undignified.

He choked back his tears and forced the emotion and pain back down into the dark and secret place where it lived. He threw the heavy lengths of timber onto the springy pine boughs, shattering the remnants of the shelves with each new toss.

A cloud of raucous seagulls rose up from their feast as a huge lumbering machine approached, its giant studded wheels obliterating everything in its path. He threw the last log onto the pile, replaced the gate on the trailer, and slid into the cab of the truck.

She was not here. She was not buried under all these unwanted items. That was a reality he unwilling to accept.

He put the truck into drive and slowly made his way down the pile of garbage, out through the main gates of the landfill, and along the winding dirt road that lead to the highway. He would go home and wait. She would return eventually, and offer up a sheepish grin and a half-baked apology.

It was what she always did, and this time, it would be enough.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Story-A-Day #162: Ducks


What brings them here, these waylaid ducks? It is clearly not their season, and this is clearly not their place. Ducks are meant to migrate, like their human snowbird equivalents. They enjoy this region for two-and-a-half seasons, and spend their remaining days in a more temperate climate.

So why then are they huddled on this driveway, seeking as much radiant heat from the black asphalt as they can muster? This is no lake or secluded pond, no home for a duck. In fact, aside from the slow trickle of melting snow, there is no water whatsoever for them to splash in. There is nowhere for them to seek out sustenance and shelter.

So why then are they here? Are their internal compasses broken, sending them north again, instead of further south? Were they simply confused about the date or season, expecting that they would be able to splash down into a cool body of water and resume their seasonal routine?

What could this strange phenomenon mean? Is it as simple a matter as a longer winter or an indication that spring might soon arrive, or is there a deeper scientific reasoning for this displacement.

They have clearly chosen this residential driveway as a temporary home for the heat that it gives off, and the seeds the residents of the house often spread, but perhaps the glistening snowmelt also drew them here. There is a chance that from above, that moist stretch might have looked like a short section of river.

Fortunately, the ducks seem to realize the error of their assessment as they descend, and not one of them has skidded painfully across that unyielding surface expecting a splash on impact.

Is this another sign of nature gone wrong? Is this perhaps the result of the same factors that have caused other species of bird to fall dead from the sky en masse? Is it related to the massive schools of fish that have been washing up dead around the globe? Did whatever confused these ducks attack the world honeybee population in a similar manner, and if so, is the world’s duck population experiencing a sudden and mysterious cull?

There are many possible explanations, many of them related to familiar human traits.

Ducks are sometimes early for their scheduled appointments.

Ducks have leaders and follow them blindly.

Some ducks are born stupid.

There may not even been a solid explanation. Maybe this is just what nature intended…

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Story-A-Day #161: Over The Bridge


From this angle, it is ideal. It is a perfectly crafted wooden foot bridge proving safe passage for those looking to wander off along the trail it joins as they explore the bucolic meadows and shadowy forests beyond.

What a lovely way to spend an afternoon, wandering that meandering trails as it follows the slow moving waters of the creek. What marvels might one encounter on such a journey? Even from here I can see a groundhog in the distance, half bumbling nuisance, half woodland wanderer. It rises to its hind feet, surveys the area for a moment, then quickly scampers off through the long flowing grass.

What else might be hidden down that overgrown trail?

Maybe there is a forgotten cabin at its end, a forlorn decrepit old place home to a matching woman who passes her days polishing a collection of antique bottles. She waits each day for the sun to go down and as it does, her life is filled with colour, a brilliant kaleidoscope of green, blue and white and the sun sparkles through her collection.

Maybe there is an open glade, a small clearing where witches gather to conduct life-giving ceremonies for Gaia. They frolic nakedly around a small fire, enjoying the smoky embrace of the sweet herbs and exotic concoctions they burn.

Maybe the creek becomes more majestic towards its source. It cascades down over a large embankment of rock filling a crystalline pool below with cool gurgling freshness. This secret swimming hole is a retreat for locals and animals alike, a luxurious retreat from the summer heat.

And maybe there is nothing along that trail. Maybe it simply dwindles off, a mere excuse for the existence of the bridge in the first place.

From this angle, it is ideal. From the same distance on the opposite side of the bridge, the view is much different.

A heavy cement bridge allows for the continuous passage of parading cars, trucks, buses, bikes and pedestrians. Beneath that larger bridge, an abandoned shopping cart gathers rust next to a floating plastic container. It is nowhere near as romantic.

One day, I will follow that path and discover where it leads. For today though, I have other places to be.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Story-A-Day #160: Spider


She was walking downtown, wandering through the cool spring evening when the glowing orange orb of the rising moon caught her attention. It was a majestic site and she crossed the street, angling towards the side of the nearby museum to catch a better glimpse.

As she neared the far corner of the museum, she was so focused on the gleaming moon in the distance that she almost didn’t see it.

A tiny spider skittered spastically across a swaying, silken web.

She didn’t like spiders, but she didn’t hate them either. In fact, there was something she respected about their industrious nature and the incredibly artistic symmetry they were able to weave out their asses. She had once been told that was where the webs came from, and since she had never been close enough to learn any different, she was comfortable believing it to be true.

She watched as the spider slowly stretched out its spindly legs, making its way from strand to strand across the gentle spiral of the trap it was setting.

Trap. There was something interesting in that concept as well. Spiders were obviously industrious, but they did so in the name of laziness. They invested so much time and energy into weaving their tangled webs, only so that they wouldn’t have to hunt for food. Why hunt for food, when you can have it come to you. In a way, it was the insect equivalent of takeout. Even though spiders were not technically insects…

What would she do with a web? Would she use it to catch her pizza delivery girl or the old man who brought her Chinese food in a steaming brown paper bag? Was that even the same thing as what the spider was doing?

Maybe she would have to catch fruit and vegetables, because even if she caught a cow, she would have to cook it to eat it. She supposed that in a sense, fishermen were doing what the spider did, using their nets to pull in the catch of the day. Would a spider look at a fly and think catch of the day?

A small gust of wind tossed the web like a billowing sail. The spider held fast, none of its pile of eyes even flinching. It looked like the spider had been through this all before; like this was just another mild annoyance.

She finally snapped from her reverie, the moon once again drawing her eyes skyward. She would leave the spider to its business, and get back to hers.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Story-A-Day #159: Glory Hole


As the boat cruised sluggishly past the island, he asked himself the same question that had been plaguing him for weeks. He had invested a small fortune in these sunset cruises, and he still did not have a sufficient answer.

What was down there?

The city was full of local legends, fables about a massive treasure buried by a scurrilous fur trader in the late 1800s after an altercation in a bar turned favor against him. That particular story told of a man who had fled, and secreted his fortune away on an island in the middle of the lake.

Even more popular was the tale of a demented miner who had traveled to the island not to engineer a mine, but a death trap. He had apparently flaunted around golden trinkets as a lure to potential treasure hunters and had lead them to tortured deaths in his trap with a malicious twirl of his moustache.

Of course, most people likened it to nothing more than a local version of Oak Island of the coast of Halifax. Countless adventurers and excavators had explored that site with the promise of untold riches, but the only result was a tangled web of mystery and intrigue, heaped on top of the varied speculated within the old sinkhole.

He wasn’t a bold man, or a reckless one, but he was a bit of a dreamer. The sight of that abandoned mine site was enough to set him dreaming and he longed to discover what might be buried within. At the very least, it would be an adventure.

Unfortunately, this would not be his time to explore. His intent had always been to wait for a fairly unpopulated cruise so that he could hop discreetly over the side of the ship and swim in to shore. He had almost done just that a week ago, but dark clouds roiled ominously on the western horizon and he did not want to spend the night out in a storm.

Today had looked promising as well, but a beautiful east Indian woman had caught his eye, and he realized now, that he had caught her attention as well.

She approached him casually, a pair of drinks in her hand, and offered one to him.

“Do you mind if I join you?” she asked, her accent as smooth and spicy as a fine curry.

“Not in the least,” he replied as he accepted the drink. “Thank you, kindly.”

“A pleasure, I am sure.” She glanced out over the water towards the island. “What are you looking for out there?”

“The future,” he replied, unable to tear his eyes from her gleaming, caramel skin. He raised his drink to her. “And whatever it might bring.”

Monday, April 18, 2011

Story-A-Day #158: Spring Fling


As the days get warmer, and the hours of sunlight drag out longer, it is easy to forget about the dull hibernation brought on by a long winter.

Jackets remain open, toques and mittens are tucked away, and the discordant harmonies of competing bird song fill the air with optimism and hope for brighter days to come.

As the sluice of winter slowly fades away and the first rains of spring rinse the streets of the accumulated sand and salt of winter road care, the world slowly returns to the way it should be. Things looks fresh: the grass grows green, the trees start to blossom, and colourful patches of flowers appear where there was only dull grey-brown waste before.

It is a time of renewal. A great seasonal fling where all the frustrations of cyclical seasons slowly wash away. The world flirts with us on those days. She teases us with the beauty that is to come; the humming drone of the cicadas and clear star-filled skies.

And we flirt right back, with the world, and with each other. We pick up stray trash on the streets, confident that our meager efforts will make a difference, letting the world know that we do care. We wear less clothing, provocative outfits that show our embrace of the coming summer months, as well as our enthusiasm for the attention of others.

We are all in love during those heady weeks. We are in love, yet anxious for the more endearing and heartfelt relationship we share with summer. And perhaps that is why it happens..

The optimism of spring is easily dashed.

Just as that optimism mounts to a fever pitch, as our hormones and hopes threaten to overwhelm us entirely, spring lets us know that she is still a power to be contended with.

Sometimes she will give us endless weeks of rain, turning the world into a soggy morass. Sometimes, she can be harsher still, transitioning from a day of full on sunshine, to a fierce blizzard that blankets the world under untoward inches of snow.

And so we dig through our closets for those mittens once more, clamber through our sheds and garages for that willfully abandoned snow shovel, and we succumb to her wishes.

She still has the power, but it is fleeting. The majesty of summer will not be held at bay for long. Summer is too strong for that, too respect and admired.

No, this is nothing but the tantrum of a spoiled princess who sees her appreciation waning in favour of the next big thing. We take her point, bear it with pride, and know that it will all be over soon.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Story-A-Day #157: Focal Point


It had started out as an aimless journey, an idle afternoon wandering through the streets. He hadn’t set out like this in quite some time, with no intent and no set destination to speak of. Still, it felt nice to let his whims take over and go where he might feel like going.

As he wandered, a strange realization occurred to him. There was nothing aimless or random about his route. He was being directed by an unseen force, and while he couldn’t quite place a finger on what it was that was guiding him, he soon figured it out. He was following a series of almost imperceptible lines.

If he looked for them, they vanished, but as long as he kept his mind idle, they were there. Sometimes it was the line of the curb next to the road, but every now and then it would skip over to the corner of a building, up to the line of the rook above, along a crossing power line.

He was compelled to follow this translucent path, to see what his eventual destination might be. He followed it along the street, up an alley, through the parking garage, and down a neighbouring street. He continued, tracing the barely perceptible line along the sidewalk, up the hill and through the parking lot.

As undefined as the line was, it remained rigid, always straight and always moving ever onward. It was a strange realization that there were hidden pathways through the city. It wasn’t one distinct route either. As his mind wandered, he noticed off shoots, paths untaken that would lead him to different places.

He followed the main route, walking aimlessly, hour after hour, towards his unknown destination. When he approached the round-about, he figured his journey might have come to a spiraling conclusion. But there it was, edging along the power lines that gleamed in the approaching twilight.

He followed the line up the steep hill, cars buzzing past him as the accelerated towards their destinations. The line cut up a side road, and he followed it, along the narrow paved lane, until finally the line disappeared into a spray of gravel.

It was not the conclusion he had expected. Why would the invisible lines, those hidden focal points, lead him to a spray of gravel at the end of a forlorn laneway?

He turned, and the city reveled itself below, awash in the glow of a resplendent sky painted in vivid strokes or purple, pink and orange. The best thing about a good mystery was when the solution finally presented itself. Such was definitely the case here. He took in the scene as the colours slowly faded.

As he turned to leave, he noticed something in the grass by the side of the road. He bent and picked up a weathered old wallet. It was familiar, and a dawning realization washed over his as he slowly folded it open. There was his old high school student card, and library card, some old five dollars bills barely held together. He had lost it years ago.

He opened the small snap button pocket and pulled out the silver money clip that his father had given him for his fourteenth birthday. It was in perfect condition.

It turned out that some mysteries were bigger than others. As he set off back down the hill, he wondered what tomorrow’s path would bring.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Story-A-Day #156: Ice Trucking


It had seemed like a good idea. Why wouldn’t it? He would take his truck down to the lake and cruise along the shorelines. His dog next to him, head lolling out the window, licking at the breeze; it would be a great way to kill a Saturday afternoon.

For a while, it had been. They had raced along the shoreline, tires spinning in the mud on one side, and crunching through the ice that had started to pile up on the other. It was freeing, an almost euphoric liberation that was unmatched to any he had had since the trails closed down for the season.

He missed snowmobiling, but for today, this was a sufficient substitute.

They shuddered and juked along the shore, weaving recklessly out on the ice to send up great fans of water, before skidding back into the muddy shore to cover the truck in filth.

Everything was just as he would have wanted it right up until the moment he hit the log. There was a jarring blast that sent him and the dog flying up off the vinyl bench in the truck’s cab and when they came down, there was a sharper snap that the one the log had made as they obliterated their passage through it.

At first he thought it might be his dog, and a sickening sense of regret welled up from within. The dog proved to be fine though, a comically confused grim curling upwards from the space where his lolling tongue kept pace with his breathing.

He got out to inspect the area. The shattered debris of the log filled the wake of their passage and he could see where the bulk of it remained entombed in the solid ice.

He hoped for a moment, that it might just have been another piece of log shattering, but as he lowered to his knees to peer under the truck, he realized the extent of the damage. He had cracked an axel, thereby putting the truck out of commission.

With a sheepish feeling of stupidity, he started the long walk back towards town so he could call a tow truck.

As he walked along the muddy shore, his dog bounding playfully ahead of him, he couldn’t help but smile. It hadn’t ended well, but it sure had started out as a perfect day.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Story-A-Day #155: Odd One


She craved order in the world, a symmetrical balance that indicated that all was right. She appreciated beauty, so long as it was not abstract. There needed to be a sense of balance in order for her to feel right.

Some people felt that made her weird.

To her, being stuck in a long line of traffic was beautiful because there was order there. The cars would be perfectly spaced out in a neat little grid, each one maintaining its place and order within the system.

Architecture was beautiful, especially older building made out of brick. The perfectly planned synergy between the different components inevitably resulted in a beautiful structure capable of holding people, books, even religions.

Books she appreciated, the rigidly templated flow of information was appealing. Religion, however, was a little too abstract.

Grocery stores were always a weird place for her. Some sections, like the boxed and canned goods, were very pleasing and she could spend hours walking those aisles and admiring the attention to detail showcased by the staff; all the boxes and cans facing outward, just so.

Other sections could be chaos. There were still nice groupings, but in the produce section, all it took was one misplaced item to set her teeth to grinding. One purple onion in a sea of garlic could be devastating.

She knew that most people would find this appealing, a splash of colour to differentiate from the sea of tedium, but she was not one of those people.

And yet, in a sense the tableau was highly indicative of her personal foibles. She was that purple onion, the odd one out in a sea of familiarity.

She was attractive in a purely symmetrical sense. She didn’t dress oddly, but she would often dress in uniforms of a particular colour or pattern. Plaid was no good, and checkers had to be evenly and properly dispersed. Stripes had to be of uniform size and spacing.

She had been told countless times over the years that this made her weird, but in her mind, she was not the odd one at all. And she certainly wasn’t a purple onion, at least not on the outside. The tattered papery husk was incorrigible, but she had to admit that there was something pleasing about the symmetrically distributed orbits within, each layer revealing a new depth of sameness.

That didn’t make her odd though. It made her aware. More people should pursue balance; if they did, the world might be a better place.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Story-A-Day #154: Swinging


He wondered what it would be like to be Spider-man, to have the ability to defy gravity and swing through the streets of the city. It would be liberating and heroic, an exceptionally freeing experience. How could it not be?

In the movies, it looked like a blast, so much grace and freedom. The heroic figure in his bright red and blue tights dropping and rising through the canyons of the city with the thrill of effortlessness, a narrow line of webbing the only thing keeping him afloat. It would be a thrill.

It could also be sickening though. He had been on enough roller coasters to know that those lurching falls and dread-inducing climbs were not for the light of constitution.

If he could swing like that through the streets, would he still be heroic? He was hardly a hero now, but would having those powers make him so, or would he use them for more personal or nefarious gains?

Would he use his powers for good and noble accomplishments, or would he be tempted by other less-pure motives?

Perhaps he might perch on the side of a building and peering through windows at naked lovers entwined in their silky moment of passion. Worse still, maybe he would turn his abilities towards a life of crime, robbing banks and committing other crimes.

Then again, maybe he wouldn’t be able to control himself as he swooped through the city. Maybe he was not capable of steering through the streets from above. Imagine having all those powers and still having to walk everywhere you went? That would be no life for anyone.

It was probably best that he was reduced to a life of daydreaming on city transit. There were less unknowns and what-ifs this way. Everyone wanted to be special in some way. He just needed to figure out what his way would be.

Third-year accounting was probably not it, but maybe what came next would be. He certainly hoped so.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Story-A-Day #153: Redeemer


He wasn’t a religious man, but he appreciated the comfort that could be attained through the pursuit of beliefs in a higher power. Why not? Life was full of hardships and challenges and if you could blame the bad times on the will of a higher power, then why not do so? It seemed like a straightforward solution to the age-old question: why me?

On thing he never understood, was attributing the good fortunes as a result of hard work to those higher powers. That one escaped him. He was a hard worker. He had raised three intelligent and loving children and was still married to his beautiful and gracious wife.

They were a team. The five of them set out to confront any challenges they might face, and they were all the happier for it. Still, there came a time in a man’s life when he needed to turn to the unknown for the solution.

There was a young girl at the office, not like a teenager or anything, but young enough that her attentions towards him were quite baffling. He was a decent looking man, charming and intelligent, but this vivacious young woman had no reason to express her interest in him, just as he had no reason to reciprocate.

Still, she had made her interests clear, and had continued to do so for nearly three months now. He loved his wife, and he loved his family, but it was hard not to notice the press of her firm breasts against his shoulder when she leaned over him at his desk; the sweet vanilla aroma of her long cascading hair as it brushed across his cheek.

He had no intention of pursuing her, but his mounting attraction was getting harder to deny. He had asked her to back off, and now at the advice of a friend, he would ask for additional support.

There was a man who attended this church on the second Wednesday of every month, and he had been told that this man could help him with his problem. He found it hard to believe that things had come to this point, but he was running out of will power. Something needed to be done, and this man was the one who could help.

He braced himself for a moment, then stepped through the heavy wood doors at the side of the church and walked down to the basement. It was just as his friend had told him it would be and he could hear the anticipated refrain as he slowly descended the steps to the basement: “God give me the strength…”

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Story-A-Day #152: The Glob


She whistled a happy tune as she cut into the alley. It was a nice short cut and would get her to his place at least three minutes sooner than if she took the long way around the block.

He had sounded so excited on the phone. “Great news,” he had told her. She couldn’t wait to hear what it might be. Maybe he had finally received the promotion he had been promised all those months ago. Whatever the case, she was excited to find out the news that he had almost spilled over the phone.

As she made her way along the alley, she admired the graffiti. To many, it was a blight on society, but she could see the artistry involved in the murals. This wasn’t the generic curse words and crude anatomy most often associated with street art, it was a bright and vibrant expression.

She rounded a corner in the alley and skirted around what looked like a large mound of snow, a shade preserved remnant of the winter gone by. She would have continued onward at the same pace, but something caught her attention out of the corner of her eye.

The mound of snow seemed to shift. She paused, scrutinizing the pile closer, and sure enough, it almost seemed to be pulsating, a strange throbbing from within.

She placed her hands on her knees and leaned in closer. Sure enough, the pile heaved outward, and sank back in, like a lung taking in and expelling air.

What could cause such a strange occurrence? It was almost as if there was a living, breathing entity trapped within. A sudden wave of panic washed over her and she reached out, intending to dig out whatever poor creature was trapped within.

Her fingers just brushed the warm surface of the mound when a pair of glistening tendrils shot out. They entwined themselves around her arms and throat and slowly pulled her downward.

It seemed impossible, but the mound of snow opened before her, a gaping maw admitting its prey. She tried to call out, to scream, but the searing hot tentacles around her throat cut off all air. She realized with dawning horror, that the good news would never come.

The glob slowly folded over her, and everything went dark.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Story-A-Day #151: Play Ground


It is supposed to be a place of joy and mirth. Even the name itself communicates a happy sense of optimism: Play Ground.

This structure should be crawling in laughing, playing children. Infants should be sliding down the plastic ramps, hands and feet extended to the skies, while the shock of static electricity bristles their hair. Their older siblings should be charging back and forth across the ramparts, fending off imaginary hordes, or leaping from surface to surface without touching the lava sands that separate them.

This should be a place of unmitigated content, but on this cold spring morning, it appears more desolate than anything. A playground is a place for coordination to blossom, for energy to be spent. It is a place where the imagination can run wild and any adventure is possible.

A simple structure such as this can travel the seven seas, fending off legions of attacking pirates with ease. Sure one might have to walk the plank now and then, but it is an easy climb back up the riggings to victory. A simple structure like this can lift off from the ground in a billowing cloud of smoke, explore the cosmos, and touch down on a strange forbidden planet.

There are scores of forgotten dreams buried in these sands, adventures left to be continued on another day; perhaps by a whole new group of youthful explorers. This is a place where potential is built, where even the impossible is attainable. If you listen closely, no matter your age, you can hear the call of the game.

Take this man here: a solitary figure dressed for success. He crosses the empty space, making his way around the battered storm fence. He is in his late thirties, possibly his early forties, and his business-casual attire stands in stark contrast to his muddy surroundings and the lonesome plastic edifice.

He climbs a tiny plastic staircase and surveys the structure: slides: swings, huts and bridges. A look of remorse crosses his face and he slowly makes his way up to the highest point, head hung low.

He pauses at the top, and surveys the broader surroundings: the empty beach, deserted promenade, and vacant stretch of parking lot. He is alone. Not another soul to be seen.

In a sudden burst of activity, he dashes across the rope bridge to the next tower and hurls him self, quite abruptly, down the short plastic slide at its peak.

He stands, a little stiff in the knees, and smiles.

This playground is a vessel. It is the embodiment of youthful exuberance. Even for that older professional, it represents the untapped potential of youth. That is the true magic of these places. As many things as they can be, what they are most is a time machine to the better, halcyon days of youth.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Story-A-Day #150: By Gas Light


There was something to be said for the olden days, the turn of the last century on the cobbled streets of London. Gas lamps burning on the street corners, merchants peddling their filthy wares, and prostitutes showing their pasty white thighs in promise of a good time to be had.

It was easier to figure out your place in society then. You either had, or had not, and a good day’s work was easy to come by. Society wasn’t so rigidly defined by class or societal positions, at least not in the hearty of Olde London Towne. It was different here in the new world, in the new millennium. People were always in a rush to get to their next destination, hesitant to make eye contact, or exchange a witty retort.

This is not the world I knew.

I suppose that makes me lucky though. I can actually recall those better days. Food was plentiful, if you knew where to pinch it, and money was more of a benefit than a requisite.

In my other life, if you wanted something, you could just take it. In my days, taking something you wanted was all it took to enter the realm of legend. I am a testament to that.

I never wanted to kill, but my desire to feel the warm lifeblood spill from the whores of Whitechapel has rendered me immortal. Ponder it for a moment, and you will recall my name.

I yearn for those days, but I am happy to begin anew. This new life is so full of light and noise it becomes overwhelming, but within that chaos, I will reign once more.

Do not ask how I have come to be once more. It is more important that you ask what will come to pass once my obligations have been fulfilled.

It is rare to see a gas lamp such as this in this day and age, but in that flickering illumination, I have been awakened; inspired to begin anew. You may not wish to make eye contact, or pass civil greeting, but know that I feel no such limitations.

Should I see you out in the dark of night and decide your warmth is something I wish to possess, you will feel me. I will be next to you, over you and all around you, one cold slice at a time.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Story-A-Day #149: Lake Monster


His breath echoed eerily loud in his head. A rhythmic gushing in and out through the plastic snorkel that was loud enough to drown out all other sounds but the gentle splashing he made as he manoeuvred in towards shore. It was almost deafening.

He dug his fingers into the soft, sandy bottom of the lake and slowly pulled himself forward, inching ever closer to shore. He paused for a moment, hovering weightlessly in the water, and surveyed the shoreline.

The 16-foot aluminum boat was pulled up on the beach next to the canoe and two kayaks. Behind the watercrafts, he could just make out the stacked firewood and scattering of plastic lawn chairs that surrounded the fire pit on the beach. A weathered wooden dock jutted out from the beach, ending about fifteen feet from where he floated.

He could just make out the long gleaming length of her leg, shining with perspiration under the hot summer sun. A tattered corner of beach towel drooped lazily over the edge of the dock.

He inched a little closer, picturing the blue and yellow bikini that barely preserved the modesty of the sunbathing beauty on the dock. He could picture she soft blonde hairs on her arms, gleaming in the sun; the beads of perspiration pooling in her belly button, and the shallow indent of her sternum. He could picture the cascade of her long flowing hair, framing her angelic face; the oversized sunglasses that were undoubtedly perched across the bridge of her small, button nose.

He inched in a little closer, breathing shallowly, the snorkel now dangling useless from the side of his head. It was too loud, too much of a giveaway.

He slowly pulled himself closer, inching ever closer towards the foot of the dock. He could smell the subtle-sweet aroma of her coconut tanning lotion now, a delectable aroma that set his heart aflutter.

He was at the end of the dock and he paused for a minute, bracing himself. When he was ready, he burst upward in an explosion of water, an animal roar bursting from his chest. She leapt up from the dock, a scream twice as loud as his own rising into the summer sky.

It took her a moment to realize what had happened, and when she did, she leapt at him from her stance on the dock. They tumbled backwards into the water, frolicking momentarily while her anger slowly subsided.

Eventually, their lips came together, and they fell into a passionate embrace, choking on mouthfuls of water and laughter. It was an old game, but one that never seemed to grow tiresome.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Story-A-Day #148: Moving On


The sun shone brightly in the sky above denoting a beautiful Spring day. Birds sang in the air and leftover piles of snow slowly seeped away in trickling rivulets. The air smelled earthy and moist, a hint of melting dog feces lacing the fresh, crispness.

The platform at the station was deserted except for a porter and a mother and her two small children. He made a note to let the family board first so that he could select a different carriage.

He tugged his luggage along and stacked it against the exterior of the station, then entered the quiet terminal to collect his ticket.

He was excited about the new opportunity he was headed for, but remorseful to be leaving his family and friends behind. It had been a difficult decision, but the money was to good to pass on.

Back on the platform, the man handled the paper luggage tags onto his bags and slowly hauled them up onto the train.

It was antiquated, but the 8-hour journey north would be far more pleasant than in the confined space of the bus. It had been a smart choice.

He settled into a seat in the nearly deserted car and pulled out his iPod. He would nap for most of the trip, then maybe hit the bar car for a few beers. The porter came by and he handed over his ticket.

There was a gentle lurch, and the train slowly nudged forward. He was off. He glanced out the window for one last peek at his hometown and noticed a group of people standing on the platform. They waved excitedly, jogging slowly along next to the train.

He waved back, happy that they had made it after all. He would only be gone for a month, but the gesture was definitely appreciated. He craned his neck and watched as his family and friends receded with the station platform.

He would see them again soon enough, but the gesture was appreciated.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Story-A-Day #147: Lucky Bamboo


What makes a plant lucky or special?

Who decides the potential bounty to be delivered by certain species of flora?

Does a money tree truly bring wealth, or a peace lily peace?

It is odd to think that humans as a species could put so much stock into the unknown benefits of a plant. Why are we so in need of divine intervention that certain graces are bestowed upon common houseplants?

He had always wondered that, but until this day, he had never believed any of it true.

It was a normal day, not unlike the one that came before it, or the one that was sure to follow. He had climbed out of bed at 6:45am, showered, and eaten a small breakfast. He had settled in to watch the televised newscasts and check the weather before he planned his day.

He was standing in his living room, gearing up for a lazy walk along the seaside promenade, in lieu of his normal workout in from of the television, when he was suddenly compelled to cross the room to the bookshelf.

On the top shelf, twin shoots of bamboo jutted out from a rectangular glass container. The flickering shadows of the bamboo leaves caught his attention and he stepped in close to examine the soft fluttering shadows.

He barely had time to registering the sudden shrieking wail when the entire front wall of his house exploded inward. He dove into the kitchen through the nearby doorway and when the dust settled, he was amazed to discover a full sized sedan parked in his living room, right where he would have been doing his workout.

He later discovered that the driver had suffered a heart attack and lost control. Had he been following his normal routine, he would have been killed.

On that day, the bamboo shoots had indeed proven lucky. For him at least.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Story-A-Day #146: Vox Populi


He looked out the small steamy window at the receding coast of Cuba. He had always imagined it would be a beautiful country full of rich histories and forgotten lore. To an extent, it was, but there was a sadness to the country that permeated the very soil upon which it had been built.

In Havana, the majestic architecture had crumbled under the weight of neglect. The random pockets of splendour and beauty were peppered throughout, and accessible primarily to the legion of tourists and lucky few who had been assigned work there. More often than not, buildings had been left to crumble and decay under the balanced equality of the communist regime.

No government was truly just, but the true shame of Cuba was how far things had fallen under the guise of freedom for the people that came with dictatorship. Too often, gleaming stone facades revealed gutted interiors that reflected the better times through a grimy layer of neglect.

In Varadero, it had been no better.

The long coach ride from the airport wound through countless communities that swayed wearily under the weight of oppression. Tenement blocks, or social housing, lined the highway. It was not uncommon to see a particular block whose upper floors were open to the elements, or whose walls were constructed from scavenged materials.

The resorts were fine, mostly built in a colonial style that represented the ideals of the major international companies who operated them. There was a stagnant sameness throughout the peninsula. Fat tourists in the golf shirts and sarongs obliviously passing the citizens who had welcomed them to their country with the hope that opportunity would follow.

Cuba was not all bad though. Like the tourist areas in many tropical countries, it was a country defined by its people. The Cubans were more reserved than say the Mexicans in Cancun, and their steely eyed determination and quick smiles commanded respect. They knew life could be, and should be, better, but they accepted their places in society and did what they could to make the most of each opportunity. A sail on a catamaran, a box of cigars, a drink at the bar – all were presented with a smile and a knowing nod.

It was hard not to respect that outlook. It was hard not to hear the strength in the words left unsaid by people who had stories untold to tell.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Story-A-Day #145: The Thaw


It was a strange conundrum – chunks of ice floating lazily in the water and flowers struggling forth from the soil on shore. In a way, it seemed well suited to his current station in life, a conflicted tear between the past and present.

In the case of the shoreline, the past clung tenuously, a flotilla of ice that did not wish to cede to the encroaching warmth of summer. The present, a patch of vibrant yellow flower struggling to makes its present felt, and to dispel the ugly grey-brown of the thaw in favour of sunnier times.

As far as metaphors were concerned, it was surprisingly apt.

His past was a dull shadow that loomed over the day, a mottled grey-brown mess of hard work and forgotten dreams. The present was full of opportunity, but it would be hard work. It was always hard work.

He had just move to this new town, his interest peaked by the promise of serenity in a casual urban setting. It was a new beginning to be sure, but one that would take some getting used to; one that would require some adapting to.

For starters, he would need to figure out what to do with him self. Long days of wandering the streets and learning about his new locale would soon lose their appeal, and when they did, he knew he would need something to distract his mind from the shadows of the past.

He would need to make some friends so that he had someone to talk to, otherwise he was sure that he would end up wandering the streets and talking to him self. The loneliness would be the hardest thing to get past.

Planting new roots was the easier challenge of the ones he faced. Remembering how to blossom and live in the present would be more difficult by far.

He missed his old life. He missed his friends and the happier times he had known. Mostly though, he missed her. That was an aspect of his present that no amount of sunshine and warmth would ever change.

Still, he would try.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Story-A-Day #144: Chicken


“It doesn’t look like much.”

“What did you expect, gargoyles and a cemetery?”

“I don’t know. I guess I just thought it would be a little more… Scary.”

“Trust me. It’s scary. I was here last weekend with Adam and Sam – we were going to find a way in and try to talk to the spirits with Adam’s Ouija board.”


“So when we got to the window around back we heard these people moaning, and then this loud laughing!”

“Yeah, right.”

“I’m not lying. This place is haunted. My mom was telling me that that kid who went missing last week…”

“The one with the braces?”

“Yeah. She was walking her dog right around here when she disappeared.”

“No way. She lived practically at the other end of town. I saw her mom on the news. Why would she be walking her dog all the way up here?”

“Why do you think, dummy? Her MOM lives way down there, but her DAD lives about two streets over. Adam’s sister told him so.”

“So what are we supposed to do about it? We’re just a couple of kids.”

“I think we need to go in there. If we could get in and take a quick look around, we could probably find some clues.”

“’Cause I’m sure the police didn’t already find them all.”

“They might not ’ve. Plus, that girl didn’t disappear until after all that other stuff happened. The police wouldn’t even ‘ve known to look here.”

“And how are we supposed to get in there? There’s boards on all the windows.”

“We come back tonight with supplies. A hammer, some flashlights – maybe a bit of rope.”

“And then what?”

“Then we go in and rescue that girl.”

“What if she’s not in there? What if the ghosts took her?”

“Trust me, she’s going to be in there, and we’re going to be famous. They’ll probably even put us on the front page of the newspaper.”

“I don’t know…”

“Quit being such a chicken.”

“I’m not a chicken!”

“Good, then we come back tonight.”

“Fine. We’ll come back tonight.”

“This is going to be so awesome!”

The two kids took off up the road without a second glance at the dilapidated old house. If they had looked back, they might have changed their minds about coming back at night. They might have changed their minds about ever coming near the decrepit old house again…

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Story-A-Day #143: Face Crash


It was sunny but cloudy, one of those weird weather days where everything was bathed in an ethereal half glow. Great billowing pillows of cloud skirted across the sky, but the sun’s great blades still managed to slice their way through to the world below.

He had spent the morning cleaning his yard but the good graces of Spring finally put an end to it. The birds were singing cheerfully in the sky and the earth itself seemed to be pulsating with the life surging efforts of flowers and grass. He had put in a good morning of work, and now it was time to enjoy a bit of the warmer weather promised by the changing seasons.

He hopped on his bike, anxious to feel the hum of tires on asphalt, the soft crunch of leftover road sand below. He raced down the hill, legs pumping furiously as the speed of the bike surpassed his own abilities.

He rocketed onward and gently applied the brakes as he zoomed towards a sharp bend in the road. The bike wobbled as he leaned into a corner and his entire body seized up as he felt the back end slowly drift out on a blanket of loose debris.

The tires connected with the solid concrete curb, one after another in rapid succession, and he felt himself defying the natural laws of physics. One minute he was leaning into the corner, the next he was being catapulted out of it.

He watched as the ground receded below and caught a brief shiny glimpse of his bike pirouetting through the air, its front tire bouncing wildly back and forth through the air.

He hit the ground hard and felt the air crush from his lungs. He choked on the seizing muscles for a moment, then finally regained his breath. The bright sunny blue world had turned the colour of a bruise, and he closed his eyes for a moment to let his eyes adjust.

He should have worn his helmet. He had meant to grab it, but the call to adventure had been too great. A wash of dizziness poured over him and he grimaced again.

He tried to stand up, but his legs weren’t quite willing to cooperate.

It took him a moment to notice the young man standing over him. “Dude, that was awesome,” the kid said.

He acknowledged him with a warm stream of vomit over the shoes. Face twisted in a mask of sickened disgust, the kid retreated.

He wasn’t sure how long it had been, but an ambulance finally arrived on the scene and the attendants quickly set about examining him.

The puking had been funny, but he would never venture out without his helmet again. He was getting way to old to be performing comedic, public face plants.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Story-A-Day #142: Tom


The shadows scurried. There was no other way to explain it. She had climbed out of the shower and was toweling off, the remnants of the song she had been singing still drifting through her mind, when she noticed the movement.

It was quick and fleeting, a sudden dash across the yard outside the window. Her first impulse was to assume it was a peeping tom, some lowlife trying to sneak a peak at her.

She had noticed her neighbor skulking around back there before and assumed that this was more of the same.

She pulled the towel tighter around her torso and peered out through the blinds. Everything seemed to be as it should and just as she was about to turn away again, the black shape dashed from tree to shed.

She squinted more intently. There was something out there, but it was hard to tell what it was. It was too fast to track with her eyes, and too amorphous to clearly distinguish. She could just make out a wavering form behind the shed, dark tendrils extending fingerlike around the corner of the small building.

She banged an open palm against the window hoping the abrupt noise would be enough to scare off whatever was out there. The shimmering form froze and the imposing feeling of being watched quickly mounted. She took a step back as her discomfort grew and was about to turn to leave when the form revealed itself.

It was a shifting black mass, uniform in its make up, but hard to distinguish against the growing gloom of twilight. A pair of glowing red-gold eyes peered across the distance between them, sizing her up.

She took a few tentative steps backwards, finally running into the flimsy bathroom door,. The jarring impact caused her breath to seize momentarily in her chest.

The black shape flowed across the yard with a sudden burst of speed and filled the entire space of the window, its breath fogging up the small pane of glass. There were no discernible features to be seen.

The shape vanished as quickly as it had appeared. She ran into the bedroom where she hastily turned on all the lights and closed the blinds. It was a while before she was able to make her way back to the bathroom, and when she did, there was no sign of the creature – only a growing darkness that slowly filled the neighbor’s yard in an inky black darkness.

She returned to the bedroom and crawled under the sheets. It was something she hadn’t done since she was a child, but that night, she left the lights on, a comforting glow to ward off the things that go bump in the night.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Story-A-Day #141: The Fool


No dare was too big for The Fool.

On a Grade 6 field trip to the Toronto Zoo, his friends had dared him to take a short cut. He accepted without a second thought and found himself dashing wildly through a wide stretch of rugged terrain towards a distant fence. He was halfway there when he realized the wooded area was used to house more than a dozen snarling wolves. His friends found it hilarious.

In Grade 7, while sailing with a friend’s family on Georgian Bay, He decided it might be good for a laugh if he “accidentally” tumbled overboard. He did, and the choppy waves and brisk currents nearly overwhelmed him. That particular prank didn’t earn him many laughs, but what doesn’t kill you…

The following year, again at the bidding of his friends, he set up a rope swing at the top of a 35-foot cliff to “get a little further out into the water”. Before taking the plunge, he gave the rope two firm tugs then with a short run, leapt from the cliff. The drop was sloppy and the impact of the water knocked the wind out of him. The snapped tree limb that followed him down nearly knocked the sense out of him. His friends once more, found it hilarious.

Throughout college, he would stack empty bottles and glasses at parties, seeing how high he could get the teetering stacks before the toppled and smashed. He would pick fights with guys twice his size to see if he could take them.

He supposed it was some form of neurosis. It didn’t matter what was asked of him, he could not say no. He had bungee jumped, sky dived, ran with the bulls, scuba dived with sharks, surpassed the speed limit by 70 kilometres per hour, and ingested an infinite range of drinks, foods, and illegal substances.

One time, he had even scaled the outside of an apartment building just because he had been told he couldn’t.

He who dares wins, he would say, as though the SAS motto rationalized everything. He had been injured and sickened many times, but he always managed to pull through. Maybe there was truth to the statement.

He figured he would always be like this, that no challenge would ever be too great. And he was fine with that too. Why not, right? No harm no foul. He supposed one day, his shenanigans would catch up with him, but until then, he would continue talking life head on.

What he never expected was that all is would take to end it all was another simple challenge. He was standing on a rocky beach on the West coast of Canada with a girl he had known for years. They were good friends and he could see a look of concern in her eyes. Then she said it: “I dare you to stop being so reckless – I dare you to settle down with me and start a family.”

He couldn’t say no. And that was how the fool grew up: because he dared to.