Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Story-A-Day #201: Under The Ferns


They sway gently in the breeze, a peaceful tattoo of sunlight dancing across their leaves. From the back steps of the house they looked as they should, a small patch of greenery lining the slated fence.

It wasn’t until I got a little closer that I could see that it was more than the gently breeze that was making the ferns move.

I approached them slowly, not wanting to scare whatever it was underneath them. With small, tentative steps, I approached, then slowly lowered myself to the ground.

I could feel the moisture from the lawn slowly seeping into my shirt, the remnants of last night’s dew not yet burned away by the sun. It actually feels nice, almost soothing.

I lie prone for a moment, waiting to see is the source of the rustling is aggressive, or scared. At first, there is nothing. It knows I am here, just as I know of its existence. I wait patiently, then I hear it, a small chirping sound.

I cautiously extend a hand and part the greenery. At first, all I can see in the dappled light is the grass and earth beneath, but then a subtle movement catches my attention and I see it – a small pink nestling, fallen from the safety of its home.

Its beady black eyes roll towards me and its beak parts in an almost mute cry.

It is trembling, its naked flesh raw and clean. There are no feathers yet, giving the creature a somewhat alien appearance.

I know it is doomed if I leave it here, unprotected and immobile. And yet, if I were to remove it, the fate would be the same. Any contact will result in abandonment.

I scan the tree above and spot the nest, a small bundle of twigs and dirt woven into the crook of two branches.

What it must be like to be so close to home, yet so far away.

I decide to leave the bird for now, hoping that maybe the mother will come to collect it. I will make sure that no predators get there first.

On the fence above, a fat red-breasted robin surveys me appreciatively. There is no warning calls, no shrill threats, just a calculating glance and a quick blink of the eyes.

Maybe it will be okay. Maybe the bird will live, and maybe it will perish. I realize that unfortunately, the result is not a choice into which I factor.

I slowly stand up and return to the steps of the house. I sit down to wait, and to watch, hoping that that little pink bird will have a chance to live.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Story-A-Day #200: Psychics


What would you ask a psychic? Think about it seriously for a minute. What would you want to know?

Some people want to know if they will find true love. These people tend to be lonely and a little shy. They might wonder if the opportunity has already passed them by, or whether their perfect match is waiting for them outside, at the bus stop, in the produce section of their neighbourhood grocery store. Would it embolden you to approach a stranger if you were told that they were out there, and that they were looking for you as well?

Some people want to know if they will be rich. These people usually want a quick fix to their financial situation. They ask about lucky numbers, tricks, and other means of accessing the unreachable. If you found out that you were indeed destined to be rich, would you walk straight out to the nearest convenience store and buy up your lottery tickets? Would you play those lucky numbers? Would you work harder, or seek out a better job to replace the meagre one you have felt trapped by for so long? Some people would just sit back smugly and await the rewards.

Some people get a little more esoteric and want to know about their past lives. These people tend to live in the past already, revisiting their glory days and clinging to happier times. What would you do with the information if you found out that you had once lived your life as another? Would you try to model your current one after that person? Would you seek to learn everything you could about your former self? Would you dive into that other life so hastily and deeply that you left your current one behind? If you did, what would you do in your next life if you discovered that your previous one was nothing but a shell of the one that came before it?

Some people want to know when and how they will die. These people are usually worriers and shy away from anything that could cause them illness or death, whether it be sunshine, alcohol, or certain types of food. If you were told the exact date and time of your demise, would you live every moment to its fullest, seeking out new experiences, adventures, and encounters to create a full life? Would you hide away, being safer than ever knowing that your days are finite?

Most people turn to psychics for answers, a way to help them make sense of their world. They want answers to the questions and dilemmas that hold them back, and a bit of hope to go with it.

What if a psychic answered all of your questions and removed any doubt you had about the different aspects of your life. What would you do with that omniscient self-awareness?

You would not love, prosper, learn, or live, because life is about mysteries and the steps we take to solve them. We have the ability to think, process and analyze. It is what makes us human, and what allows us to grow. We need to develop our own answers and provide our own solutions.

Without doubt, intrigue, and mystery, there is just a void.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Story-A-Day #199: Spider Webs


The life of a spider, one full of constant toiling and work.

Not only is it about spinning web to catch a meal, but there is the sculpting of the home, that enforced funnel that calls at the end of each industrious day.

The web is spun and the spider prepared, a silky net spun between two trees.

Soon, with any luck, it will be feeding time.

The spider sits on an extended branch, casually surveying the web below.

The space between the trees is full of fluttering flies. It's only a matter of rime before one of them touches down and gets tangled up.

It's only a matter of time before the spider can repel down and claim its reward.

The sun filters down, highlighting the silky net. Is it too much? Will they see it?

No. There's one now - a single leg glued into the web, a potential meal.

It strains upward, then settles down. The trap is complete.

The spider slides down a slender tendril and touches down, it's nimble legs plucking across the weave to the floundering fly.

It's feeding time.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Story-A-Day #198: Lilac Wine


It's a perfect spring evening, warm and sultry. The woods are full of croaking, cheeping frogs, a chorus of night; a symphony of darkness.

We sit quietly on the deck, the sounds of looming summer surrounding us. A closer listen reveals crickets, rustling leaves, and a hint of cricket.

It's too early in the year for cicadas, and too late in the day for them as well.

We sit quietly together, comfortably absorbed in our own little worlds. I watch as she turns the pages in her book, engrossed in the story unfolding before her. The light from the kitchen window behind her bathes her in a warm yellow wash.

I turn back to the lake and watch as the sky settles through a tiered progression of oranges, pinks, and magentas. It will be dark soon.

I sip from the glass by my side, a sweet nectar that we brewed earlier today. There is a subtle aftershock of booziness, but a nice one.

There is a radio playing quietly on the background, and when it switches from an old standard to a nearly unknown gem, a smile crosses my face.

Jeff Buckley. Gone too soon for sure, but what a fitting tribute to our day.

When I notice my wife smiling at me, I know I'm right.

This is the perfect end to a perfect day.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Friday, May 27, 2011

Story-A-Day #197: Apple Sauce


The field is littered with them. You would think this was an orchard, but as far as the eye can see, there is only a gently rippling blanket of short green grass – that and the apples, shrivelled little shells.

It’s like a dehydration experiment gone wrong, like someone was trying to create the opposite of applesauce.

Each one of them if a small browning globe slowly caving in on itself, like the pressure is too much to handle. It’s a surreal sight for sure, not just the apples in the grass, but the symmetry with which they are dispersed. Each one lies approximately four feet from the next, in every direction, as far as the eye can see.

It crosses my mind that someone half inclined to create an orchard might have done this; half inclined because they got the spacing right, but the apples are easy prey for the circling crows above without the shelter of a few inches of earth.

I cannot figure out the motivation, just as I can’t look away. There is no way this was an accident, a spilled truckload or something of that ilk - it is too symmetrical. Someone has done this intentionally.

The question is why, and to what ends?

It could be modern art, but where’s the audience? Where are the supporters and deriders discussion the merits or inanity of the display? Where is the artist?

It dawns on me then. The field must be ringed with cameras. I picture the looks that have surely crossed my face since I first paused here almost an hour ago; the befuddlement as I entered the field, the brow etched in perplexed thought, the enlightenment and defeat of each new potential solution to the riddle. There would be a show in there, but again, who is the audience.

I watch a pair of crows crash down into the field about twenty yards away. They scramble at each other for a moment before one flies off to the nearby tree line. The victor drives its beak vicious into a nearby apple, quickly reducing it to a pulpy mash.

Perhaps there is no solution to this riddle.

Perhaps it was an act of boredom.

If the last is the case, then the irony is rich because this odd display has provided a cure to mine.

I make my way back to the dirt road and set off back for home. I’ll probably check back in a day or two to see what has happened. Will the apples be gone by then? Maybe they will have been replaced by oranges, or possibly steaks. Maybe the field will be empty once more.

I’ll be sure to find out in a couple of days.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Story-A-Day #196: Treerings


Every ring another year, that’s what we were taught as children. If you count those rings within the trunk of a tree, slowly working your way outward from the dense spot in the middle, to the broader wave concentric patterns that follow, you can figure out the age.

Like people though, even with this simple formula, it can still be hard to tell. The rings, and by extension the years, are never perfectly aligned. There are harder years where the rings almost bleed together in a blur of time brought on by bad weather, stagnant stasis, infection, and disease.

Other rings are wide and proud, good years of prosperity and growth. They vary in colour as well, some of them darker and almost pocked with effort, other light and solid.

Like trees, we go through similar cycles. We have periods of prosperity and excellence, and moments of sickness and despair. The signs of our growth tend to be externalized those. Rather than rings, we have wrinkles. Rather than barren branches woven throughout those that flourish, we go bald.

Most trees change colours on a seasonal. Our hair tends to change gradually; sometimes we start of blonde at birth and slowly transition to a darker colour. Most of us see our familiar shade slowly infused by grey. Unlike trees, more of us still are too vain to accept these changes, adding colours of our own selection to mask the results of the life we have lived.

A fallen stump will gather moss and fungus, strange delights that sprout from its course outer layer. We gather liver spots, moles, freckles. When we have fallen, we disappear, back into the dust.

Trees and people alike both start to droop towards the end of their cycles. Sometimes pieces fall off, the skin grows frail and no longer protects us the way it once did. This is the cycle of life, and it is the same for all things living.

It can be sad to be witness to the ravages of age, but it shouldn’t be. There is majesty in those broad trunks. Etched with the initials of young romantics, those elderly giants represent a life lived. The remnants of old tree forts that dangle forgotten from their limbs represent the guidance, support and generosity. Their ominous sprawl contains the wisdom of ages.

A long life should be celebrated. A bell should ring for each passing year. Even when a tree has been felled, when it has been cut and sliced into smaller pieces, it continues to give. It provides heat on cold winter nights. If left at peace, it slowly fades away, giving back to the surroundings from which it first sprouted.

Every ring, another year, another reason to celebrate.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Story-A-Day #195: The Chair


It’s sad to see it hear, out in the middle of the wilderness. Not sad that someone left it here, but sad that this was my chair. I know it was, because there is a little fleck of paint up towards the head end, a deep green splotch that fell there several years ago.

Looking at it, you can tell it wasn’t the best chair. I have no recollection how much I might have even invested in those strips of plastic nylon and aluminium tubes, but a chair is a chair, and this one holds certain value.

I read some of my favourite books while reclined in that chair; was transported to different worlds where I made whole new groups of friends, heroes, and lovers – however fleetingly. I relaxed by the lake in that chair and watched my wife wade through the water tossing out handfuls of breadcrumbs to the ducks, relishing the way her bikini shifted just so with each new motion.

This chair has always been a fixture in my life, especially here at the cottage. Sure it isn’t the greatest most expensive chair, but it was my chair. I had learned to optimize its settings, to shift myself just so, so that the aluminium supports wouldn’t dig into my ass, or neck, or lower back.

I loved that chair for all its faults, just as I love my family and friends. Who would want a perfect chair anyway? If you were to find such a thing, no other chair would ever be sufficient, and that would just create a whole new set of problems. You would need to take that chair everywhere, burdened by the knowledge that no other chair would fit you just right.

We all know how things worked out for Goldilocks. The thing is, this isn’t even about the chair. It’s about what it represents, twisted and abandoned out here in the wild.

This chair was a fixture to a place I loved, our home on the lake. That place is gone now, demolished in a freak hurricane; an act of God that is not covered by any form of insurance. An act of convenience for my insurance agent to be sure – thirty-five years of payments, and not a penny for my outstretched hand.

This chair represents those better days, and abandoned and battered as it is, way out here in the woods, it is a reminder that perfection is not a destination - it is a frame of mind.

We’ll rebuild the cottage of course. We’ll tighten our belts, refinance a few things, maybe cancel a few of our insurance premiums. We will rebuild because this place was as close to perfection as we ever wanted to be.

When it’s ready, I want to make sure my chair is there.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Story-A-Day #194: Still Water


The lake is cool and calm, a sheet of glass unperturbed. It is not always like this, but today it seems fitting, a mirror like surface for my moment of reflection.

This is the spot where she died, a horrible tragedy that I still feel I could have prevented. But I was too busy, too distracted by the work at hand. The winter had just come to a close and as with every year, we were at the camp for the long weekend in May.

Every year we would come down here and get things ready for the summer. Putting out the water line, stretching the different sections of the dock together, restocking the cupboards. It was a quiet and simple time, one we all looked forward too.

I can still remember the year it happened, although I wish it wasn’t so. I wish I could block out all those vile memories. She had been playing in the water, an innocent young five-year-old.

It was no different than it always was, although we felt she was old enough to turn our attention away just for a moment. I was bust hammering the loose boards on the dock back in place, the ones that had shifted during a cold winter buried in snow. I was even whistling a tune from one of the shows I used to watch with her, a happy little ditty.

It wasn’t like I suddenly noticed that everything had gone quiet, it was more an instinctual feeling. I turned towards where she had been playing and found her floating face down.

I called out to my wife, told her to start the car, and ran over to the lifeless form of our baby girl. I gave her mouth-to-mouth, pushed the cool water from her lungs. I could feel a pulse, and she was breathing, slow shallow breaths.

I prayed that it wasn’t too late. The next few days are a blur, beeping monitors, concerned medical staff, and a strange shifting of light on the sterile walls as day turned to night, into day, into night.

And then she was gone. Those days were a blur, but that one moment in time still exists in my mind as clear and vivid as though it happened today.

It is a day I will never forgive; a moment I will never forget.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Story-A-Day #193: Sasquatch


The smell is overwhelming, an earthy ripe mingling of body odour and filth the practically brings tears to my eyes.

I can hear something crashing through the bushes, the loud kind of noise usually reserved for smaller animals. Only I can tell that whatever is in there, hidden just beyond the tree lines, is not small by any means.

The crashing sound of snapping undergrowth suddenly stops and I am aware of the impenetrable silence that has descended. I am not the only creature startled by the noise, not the only other living thing out here to be overwhelmed by the smell.

I stand transfixed next to the woodpile, carefully surveying the gloomy woods. I can just hear a light chuffing sound, almost like the panting of a gorilla at the zoo.

The only sound comes from the soft droplets of water making their way to the ground. Even the rain has stopped now though, feeling the same apprehension as me.

Suddenly, I can feel it, something watching me. Something unlike anything I have ever encountered before. I see them then, a pair of beady dark eyes staring at me from the forest. I think it is a trick at first, squint my eyes slightly and blink. Maybe it is just a trick, I think, my mind getting the best of me. And then it blinks.

My breath catches in my throat. Whatever it is watching me, it is tall, taller than a moose, and vaguely human. It stares, almost as if challenging me to make a move. I notice the matt of rusty terracotta fur that covers most of its face. I notice the cool intelligence in those dark eyes, the unwavering challenge this simple glance seems to emanate.

I see the dark lips part revealing a mouth full of flat, yellow teeth. A scream erupts through the forest sending birds to flight and a chill down my spine. The creature shifts and I can tell for the first time, just how massive it is.

It turns suddenly then, and storms off through the trees, the echo of its scream slowly fading as it disappears, the stench slowly dissipating.

There is only one thing that it could have been, but it is almost too much to fathom. Surely there is no such thing. It’s an urban legend. And yet, there is no other explanation.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Story-A-Day #192: Left Turns Only


I've always enjoyed throwing a loop to drivers. I think it started with the games my parents would play with us on long car trips in the days before built in DVD players and travel board games: I Spy With My Little Eye, Punch Buggy No Punch Backs and more

Sometimes it was the simple creation of the illusion of warp speed when my father would flick on the high beams to illuminate the streaks of snow shooting past on the winter.

I am older now, but I have maintained that appreciation for fun, for a good distraction, even for a challenging puzzle.

One of my favorite games is Left Turns Only, or right if that is the direction to which you are inclined. There is a simple joy in watching your friend squirm behind the wheel as they try to figure out how to get to your destination using only left turns. It is especially entertaining when to the right is clearly where they need to turn to get you where you are going.

I remain insistent, and promise that there is a solution.

"I know there is; I turn right here, then left and left again into the driveway."

They sweat it out, mull it over, and finally bang there hands on the steering wheel as their frustration gets the best of them.

"It's simple," I assure them. "Don't picture the destination because it is lost in the big picture."

Sometimes you need to travel further to reach your simple goals.

When they eventually figure it out, it is almost too simple. Instead of taking that right, one block further leads to another intersection. A left there, followed by two more, and you're all the way around the block, and back where you started.

Except now you are headed in the right direction. Game over, destination reached.

It's a simple game, but it keeps things fresh.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Story-A-Day #191: Up Stairs Down


They wind up the hill. Each one twisted on the axis of the one that came before.

At the top of those stairs is a picnic. A proper feast. There is meat, and vegetables, and fruit, and a dozen different cheeses. There are pastries too, sweet delicacies for afterwards.

Before you can enjoy those treats though, you must climb the stairs - that winding escalation that taunts you so.

And therein lies the hurdle.

All of that greatness just out of reach. You've never felt so hungry, never wanted something so much, but it remains elusive.

Such an extravagant feast laid out, and no one to indulge. It hardly seems fair.

The feast up there, and you down here, trapped by circumstance.

You didn't choose this, although it was your choices that got you here. One misguided leap landed you in this place.

You nudge your wheelchair forward and contemplate those steps, but you know this is it.

There will be no feast for you today. All you can do is hope someone brings something down for you. A plate of this with a side of that.

Of course at this point, you're used to it. Ever since the accident, they have left you like this - cast aside like a secret best forgotten.

You will get your moment though. All in due time. They have no idea what's in store.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Friday, May 20, 2011

Story-A-Day #190: Danderlion


It's a delicately developed plan, but if it works, it will be magical. Unless you happen to have allergies.

It's a wide field, which is why we chose it, and it is blanketed in dandelions gone to seed. It's the perfect setup.

We have circled the space in extension cords, each one leading to an industrial grade fan.

In five minutes, we will flick the switch, and if everything works the way we hope, the way we planned, we will create a cyclone of seeds, a swirling tempest of dander.

Surveying the scene, I kind of wonder if it will work. More to the point, I wonder what in the he'll possessed us to do this in the first place.

It seems a little ridiculous now, and not all that likely to succeed, but we have invested too much time and energy to abort at this stage.

Pat is checking the cameras to make sure we are ready to go. I just finished checking the fans and they appear to be angled just right.

Two minutes to go. I can feel the nerves ratcheting up. It's not like we have anything to lose, but still, I've pictured this scene so many times that I need it to work.

We'll find out soon enough. And if it does work, I'll meet you in the middle, right in the eye of the danderlion tornado.

Alright, let's do this thing!

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Story-A-Day #189: A Spatter


A hint of sun unwilling to rise from the warm blanket of clouds, and a spatter of rain - just enough to speckle the patio stones in a light freckling of moisture.

She enjoys moments such as this, the randomness provides solace.

She also enjoys the busy work of tending to her garden, the quiet comfort that comes from the routine tasks.

Tilling the earth, plucking the weeds, digging small holes for the new additions. It is a simple routine full of pleasure.

Today is vegetable day, some beans, carrots, and tomatoes.

She adjusts her wide brimmed sun hat, equally suited to the light shower, and picks up the bucket of supplies next to her.

Climbing the stairs that lead to the upper terrace, she pauses to examine the neat rows of plants. There is a small patch of rich black soil at the far end. She worked it earlier in the week and gave it time to settle. It looks just right now.

Age settles down onto her small stool and sets to work.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Story-A-Day #188: Survival


Shaky alliances formed and the different sects fled into the wilderness. They said this year's tournament wouId be different, that major prizes would be awarded to the victors, but it's a simple game based on class. How different could it be?

The first to flee were the herbivores. Lean and nimble, they carried five discs, each representing one life. This did not make their lot the easiest though, not the extra lives, or the head start.

Next into the arena were the omnivores. They would seek out the herbivores after a five-minute period of grace. They carried three discs, and thereby three lives.

Three minutes later, the carnivores entered. They were the loudest of the groups, carried noisily forth by the arrogance that is bestowed to the top of the food chain. They have one life, but they can claim any that come before them with a simple tag.

Last into the arena is Man, a late addition to the game. Man can kill all on sight, just by calling out your name.

I am an herbivore, as always. We started out as a pack but once the undergrowth started to crackle with the heavy sound of pursuit, the weak were quickly left behind.

Our goal, all of our goals, is to find the hidden placards that represent water. We mark down the codes in quick scrawling scribbles, and quickly carry on.

I have gathered eight of the ten water codes. Two more to go, but i am alone now, with no one to watch my back.

I lost my team mate a while ago, just as the night settled in. She was a frail young girl with light blonde hair, a smattering of freckles, and a nervous disposition.

I felt protective of her, but I lost her in the failing light. As the darkness took hold, a pack of carnivores descended. She called out to me as she faltered through the thick brush, but it was already too late. They were upon her.

The game has never lasted this long before and I know that I am going to have to seek out a real source of water soon. My throat is dry from all the running and a dull ache has formed in my temples.

I hear man call out a name, see a bobbing thread of light piercing the trees. He is not far. The night explodes with a loud gunshot. A whimper of surprise and howl of pain follows.

Just like that, the game has changed. I quickly scramble up a nearby tree, hoping the foliage will obscure me from whatever madness has taken over below.

This is supposed to be a game, but it is all too real now. I see the flashlight beam approaching below and hope that I am hidden well enough, that my heavy breathing won't give me a way.

The game is called Survival, and that title has never been such an apt descriptor.

Man pauses at the base of my tree, listing intently for any telltale signs of life. Like a treed possum, I play dead. I pray that it is enough.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Story-A-Day #187: Root Down


Bad ideas are like weeds. Once they take root, they spread and disseminate until they take over entire neighborhoods, towns; sometimes entire countries.

With a simple gust of air, a whispered promise based on a false truth, a bad idea or ill intent, can spread far and wide, infecting all it comes in touch with.

There was a time in the United States where a move was made to abolish slavery. The result was a time where a man, woman, or child could be strung from their necks because of the color of their flesh.

There was a time when the powers in the Olde Country fought for control of the new world. The result was the first use of chemical warfare: blankets infected with smallpox given to the indigenous population as gifts.

The apartheid in South Africa, the genocides in Rwanda, the rise of the Nazi regime - all based on the promise of a better, brighter world, and all with no though to the cost.

The result is usually rebellion, war and countermeasures that end in the same results as their causal effects. The result is usually devastating and desperate, and for what? To begin a new cycle of hate and misinformation, to create new reasons to start fresh.

The good become bad, the bad good. Allegiances shift and favor curries based on the needs of the many: the global economy.

It is time for change, to spread the seeds of promise and peace. Let those winds blow for a change. Let us create a shift in perspective and attitude.

Pluck your weeds of knowledge and scatter forth those seeds. They are the ones that need to take root. They are the ones that need to flourish, those seeds of change for the betterment of the many, versus the interests of the few.

Let us allow these seeds to root down, carried on a wind of change that benefits us all.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Monday, May 16, 2011

Story-A-Day #186: Trashed


It was a perfect plan. Undeniable. The bank was secure, clearly, but our girl Friday could get us everything we need: the account numbers, access codes, even the account PIN numbers. It was quite brilliant really.

There are obviously systems in place to ensure that something like thus could not happen, but for every solid plan, there is a loophole. Ours was the girl on the inside, and something as simple as garbage day.

Most secure documents go through the shredders. It makes sense, but a few hand written notes on paper? There's no risk there. Notes written in a specially devised shorthand makes it that much more innocent.

To an unknowing eye, it's just a series of ticks, tallies and random words; the toilings of a board teller. Into the trash and out the door.

We've tested it and it works. The scraps are swept onto the wheeled trash can, the bag inside is tied and knotted, and the whole bundle is dumped into the bins.

That's where we will collect it, retrieve the relevant sheets of paper, and break the bank.

Today is the day of; the scene of the crime. We have worked for months and this is our moment.

Except even the best of plans should have a Plan B and we were so confident in the solidity of our Plan A, we didn't waste our time. And that was our loophole.

All it rook was one trainee, one careless moment of uncertainty, and everything fell apart.

He was maybe sixteen, working at the buffet next to the bank. He was told to do the fryer oil. Instead of clarifying where, and learning that the barrels were specifically for that, he wheeled the tub out and dumped it into the trash bin.

One simple, stupid move and our whole plan turned to mush - a seeping greasy bundle of melted plastic and translucent paper.

Six months of meticulous, careful planning - trashed.

Now we need a Plan B, that safety net bail out. A Plan B really is the best plan, because even the best plan can be trashed through one minor misstep from an outside source.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Story-A-Day #185: The Altar


We all have our own tokens and deities, doctrines to which we subscribe. It is our nature, holy or otherwise. These are our systems and beliefs, our greater purpose.

This particular altar has been used recently, an abandoned slab of concrete in a field with a greater purpose. It official uses might remain secret to most, bit I saw what happened here, I witnessed the horrors of the practitioners who haunt this strip of land.

There was a road here once, but it was blocked off ages ago. Over the years, the forest, and trees, and grass has slowly reclaimed what was one theirs.

A network of cracks riddle the concourse, small trees sprout up, grasping ever upwards.

This place is deserted now, but it isn't always so. On the nights of the bacchanalia, a group of people gather, there long burgundy robes almost black in the darkness.

Their chant throbs gently throughout the woods, their blades gleam in the night. When they are through, all that remains is a trampled patch of grass and a coppery pool of blood that soaks up the moonlight as it soaks into the altar.

This it not the kind o place you want to get caught after dark. It's not the kind of place you want to be at all unless you are one of them.

Their dark mass is a private one best cloaked in darkness.

This place looks innocent enough I'm the glowing midnight sun, but it is anything but.

Return under the waning moon on the idea and you will see for yourself.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Story-A-Day #184: Away


It was never meant to be like this, but if it had to happen at all, this seems like the right time. Today is my thirteenth birthday and I am being shipped away.

The view you see? That's the one I grew up with, a great panorama over this beautiful town and the lake it lies on.

I live this place; the shops, the people, the comfort -- everything about this town is perfect.

Especially the comfort i feel knowing my neighbors, my surroundings, my friends, and what to expect.

The problem is, yesterday I turned thirteen. That means that today I am off to the big city.

My dad lives there, so at least there is that. Still, this move means I will have to start everything all over. This is a fresh beginning, a new life.

When I move, I am going to have to make all new friends, discover all new hang outs, and learn all new ways to be me.

It's true, being yourself is one of the hardest things to do because knowing who you are, what you represent, and even what you want - it changes all the time.

Right now, all I want is a few more days with this view, and my friends, and all the things that matter most to me.

Tomorrow though, or more likely a few months from now, I might be totally happy with a whole new life.

I might even be a whole new me.

It's sort of scary to think about, but I like the idea that we can change like that; that our cruddier parts can become better.

I like that we can start fresh. That's sort of what makes us unique.

Still, I'm going to miss this place, and these people. This was my home and my life and now I am going away.

Promise me you'll write?

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Friday, May 13, 2011

Story-A-Day#183: Thirteen


I woke up at six in the morning, just as the email had instructed. My hope was that it was all an elaborate hoax, but it soon became clear that it was not the case.

Today was my unlucky day, that's what my sponsors told me. I would have thirteen challenges to complete in thirteen hours.

This was supposed to make me a better, stronger person, but little did I realize how high the stakes would be.

The first challenge, not without it's risks, was simple enough: get from point A to point B in a half hour. I made it with a few minutes to spare, and actually had the gumption to feel good about my accomplishment.

The challenges quickly escalated though - so far, I have kicked a dog, shoplifted from a non-franchise convenience store, knocked over an elderly person, destroyed a stolen car and worse.

Each demand was more heinous than the one that came before, but what choice did I have really? This is a do or die situation.

The last challenge was the worst of all. I did not think I could do it, not in a million years, but there are times when you have to do things that are bad, or uncomfortable, in order to achieve the better good.

And I did. Tonight, I killed a man and I did it because I had no other choice. Kill or be killed. If it was just my life, I would have given it, bit I had a wife and three children to consider.

And that's how I got to where I am right now. I know you would prefer a little more detail, but this is all have to tell at the moment.

I killed man, but that was almost four hours ago, which was almost half hour past six.

I did not complete my objectives, and now I stand the risk of losing it all. I've been on the run for a while, and all I know now, is to look for the next sign.

Will they, won't they?

The sign on the convenience store does nothing to ease my mind: 24-hour surveillance. It doesn't matter where I go, because they are watching.

I have missed my target. Regardless of the results, they will find me. I need to get home and I need to get us away.

I will won't become a loser.

24-Hour Surveillance on the sign is one thing, but I know the last part of the sign wasn't there earlier: You are being watched.

That is when the first shot rang out. It nicked my ear and as I ran, I could feel all hope running down my neck.

Happy Friday the 13th. As long as I can outrun the sniper, I might have a chance.


The next hour will be the decider for sure. Do or die. With any luck, I will be home soon.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Location:Durril St,North Bay,Canada

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Story-A-Day #182: A Mother


A Mother is the first person you know, the one who carries you before you are even capable of knowing anything. She shares her life with you and gives you what you need to develop, and then she delivers you into the world.

In those initial moments of life she looks at you a particular way, a look that is radiant with love, and pride, and hope. It is a look that never really goes away, one she will grace you with every time her eyes fall upon you.

A Mother helps you grow. She teaches you essential skills, and manners, and humility. She allows you pride - because it is something she also feels for your accomplishments, but she makes sure you remain humble in victory - and gracious I'm defeat.

A Mother slips you cash when yours is running low. She tells the world about the things you have achieved and makes sure you have the support required to continue with your growth.

A Mother is a boy's best friend, someone he adores and looks up to for all that she has given him.

A Mother becomes the model for all the women who will follow. The first crush, the girlfriends, the wife: they all have to live up to that certain standard.

My Mother is all of these things and more. Through her example, I have learned to appreciate nature and the arts. I have learned to learn on a daily basis, to work hard every day to become the best I can be. I have learned to set goals, both realistic and lofty.

My Mother has given me all the tools I need to achieve my goals in life, and for that I am in debt. I am in debt for the life she gave me and for the radiant look filled with love, and pride, and hope that passes across her face whenever we have a quiet moment together.

One of my Mother's greatest gifts was the respect for love she bestowed onto me. My Mother is incredible that way, a passionate and caring woman who is full of love for life, her family, the sun...

And her son.

Happy Birthday Mum (with a U).

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Story-A-Day #181: Adored


It's early afternoon and the sound of preparation echoes through the cavernous arena. Heavy hammers reverberate through the rafters, electric drills whirr like angry wasps; a slab of plywood slams into place.

He surveys the scene, receiving a few nods of acknowledgement from the busy work crew.

Twenty feet above, electricians scramble through the stainless steel rigging mounting lights and positioning them towards the space below. Within the hour, the stage will be set.

He been doing this for years now, and the thrill has not faded in the least. It's the waiting that's agony, but he wouldn't miss this part of the show for the world.

When they take to the stage tonight, the fans will see the magic of what this small crew can do. He likes to see the work it takes to pull off the slight of hand.

It wasn't always like this. He still remembers the days when they were crisscrossing the country in their broken down VW bus, bouncing from one dive to the next. Those were great days and it still thrills him to see familiar faces on the road, older now, but still singing along.

Some bands get into for the money, fame, women and lifestyle. Not this one though. They've always been in it for the music and the connection it provides to their fans.

It's nice to be adored, but the real buzz comes from the fans adoring, not their band, but the music. That's why he adores them, for their respect and passion. Sure they are playing arenas now, and while the shows are bigger, the connection is the same.

He glances at his watch. They'll be able to do their soundcheck soon. He starts off to the dressing room but pauses before stepping off the floor.

"Thank you and good night!" he bellows into the rafters. The words ring through the emptiness in a satisfying way.

He waves to the bemused workers and makes his retreat.

He has a show to get ready for.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Story-A-Day #180: Down There


There's something down there, gurgling in the depths. We thought it was a block in the line at first, but the pipes were fine.

It wasn't until tonight, when I was all alone, that I heard it - the gurgle first, followed by something deeper and more sinister. A deep sigh, entwined around a chortling laugh that rose up from the depths.

I was sure at first, that it was a trick of the mind, but there it was again.

That deep, dark laugh - full of fire and brimstone.

I walk back down into the basement and stand over the hole. The water pooled in the hole ripples lightly.

I put my hands and my knees an lean in closer. There is a hint of something in there, a subtle illusion of movement.

But it is no illusion. There it is again, a flickering lash, almost like a tongue lapping at moist hungry lips.

I retreat quickly towards the stairs. I suddenly wish that my wife was here, but she's working the graveyard shift at the hospital tonight.

I make my way to the living m and settle into the sofa. After a moment, I pull my feet up off the floor and tuck them under me.

A hiss. And that unholy laugh. This can't be real, an yet there is no denying it. There is something down there, in the depths of those pipes.

There is something down there and it is calling my name.

I can feel it, quivering beneath my house, beneath the city. It is waiting, patiently, but that patience won't last.

It will be hungry soon, and when it is hungry enough, it will come for me. That lapping tongue will lash around my neck, or leg, or waist and pull me in to the maw it crawled from.

This is not a place I want to be anymore, but I have nowhere else to go. This is my home, the place I should feel safe, but it is no longer a haven.

There is something down there and it is only a matter of time before it comes for me.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Monday, May 9, 2011

Story-A-Day #179: A Kingdom


At first glance, it is a flower. Who would argue any different? She never would have because the common signifiers were all in place.

There was a solid stem with spade shaped leaves that supported the golden blossom and it's inner workings. Nothing more than your garden variety flower.

At least upon first glance, and especially to an indiscriminate glance. She was different though, a little more curious than most.

She had a magnifying glass and she had set out to use it as a means of identifying the pollen she knew was int that flower, and that made her mother sneeze so violently.

It was a simple science experiment that quickly lapsed from botany to biology.

Under that convex lens, a whole new world was revealed. At first she thought it was a hallucination, a weird trick of the eye. It couldn't be, surely.

The following day, she walled to the store and bought a new magnifying glass, one that promised up to 1,000 times magnification.

She returned to her yard and settles into the patchy section where the blossom had sprung. She didn't pause before pulling out her new device and placing a wide open, inquisitive eye before the large glass circle.

And they they were, scores of tiny winged humanoids scampering about the flower.

Within that one simple plant was an entire colony, busily going about their mundane tasks.

A few of them glanced upward, and a few of those acknowledged her with a cordial wave.

It was the strangest thing she had ever seen, an entire community tucked away in that fragile bowl.

She let out a sigh of relief. She had planned to pick the flower to bring to her teacher, a token of appreciation that would also ease her mother's allergies.

Imagine if she had? What would have become of this tiny microcosm?

A single thoughtful gesture could have quickly devolved into a thoughtless one, a genocidal act of ignorance.

She knew it was important to stop and smell the flowers, and now she knew why. Every action caused a greater reaction.

Sometimes even the smallest gesture could result in unimaginable consequences.

She wanted to tell someone of her discovery, but she didn't know who to tell. Adults had an uncompromising view of the real world and she dis not have many friends her age who might accept her discovery without ridiculing her.

For now, it was probably best that this remained her little secret.

She leaned back into the lens for another glimpse. As far as secrets go, this was a great one. She smiled and waved back at one of the tiny figures.

Some secrets were definitely better left untold.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Story-A-Day #178: Night Shift


Being accustomed to a 9-to-5 routine is nice. The key word obviously being, routine. You know when to be where you need to be, and can adjust accordingly. Usually that means going to sleep on the same day you woke up, which is comforting.

Adjusting to the night shift is a whole different matter. All of a sudden you are up at the same time, but you have a full day's worth of hours to fill before your day even starts.

It's an adjustment.

You leave work and step out into the night. The first thing you feel is the close embrace of humidity and the silence that comes from a city at sleep.

The streets, roads, and highways are nearly deserted. When a car does eventually pass, the roar of the engine is almost deafening. It is not like the daytime.

A shroud of subdued secret has descended. Most people are asleep, dreaming of possibilities endless.

Your tired legs carry you forward towards your eventual goal of home through a slumbering world, one that is enviable in its respite.

Following the night shift, your only longing is for the pillow and the promise that it holds, but your mind does not heed the call. Sleep is the ideal, yet it remains an unattainable dream.

There are too many things left unfinished, too many things that still need to be done. And you set out with the best of intentions to fulfill those goals and only then do the sleeping masses beckon.

You too can be one of them, but first you must admit defeat and call an end to your day. All things do eventually come to a close, including the mind's ability to persist.

The night shift provides opportunity to excel and admit defeat. It is a truly unique time of day, one marked by both a deafening solitude and the promise of a new day about to begin. Where the sent of fresh bread replaces fried chicken and coffee replaces alcohol as the elixir of choice.

But not for you. For you, neither is an option because sleep is the only thing you crave. She is an elusive destination, but she will find you unannounced and welcome you into her embrace before you even realize she has come calling.

That is the beauty of the night shift. Sweet dreams.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Story-A-Day #177: A Gesture


A new surprise awaits, fresh ideas and oddities almost every day.

On the weekend, a full drum set and an invitation to make some noise. A few days before that, it was a stack of board games with a hand written sign that read "Free Fun - help yourself".

Most days, a vinyl record is displayed in the window next to a sign that says "Now Playing".

Today it is coffee, Maxwell House On The House. It is a nice gesture, and it saddens me that no one would likely accept the offer.

People are skeptical by nature, unwilling to risk a free coffee because it may have been tampered with.

I like these gestured though. It would be easy to think of this man and his gestures as an oddity. A weird man doing weird things.

He is an eccentric for sure, but life needs eccentrics. What would life be like without a few surprises and some mystery? It would just be a routine sequence of events.

Traveling from Point A to Point B is a better experience as long as there is something new to look forward to.

What surprises will be waiting for me today? I can't wait to find out.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Friday, May 6, 2011

Story-A-Day #176: Day Dreams


A cool breeze ruffles his hair, a soft tickling caress. His eyes are closed against the penetrating glow of the sun, dull pink filters.

He knows he has places to be and things he should be doing, but for the moment, this is all he wants.

This quiet moment of solitude, the blades of grass ruffling softly, tickling his cheeks and neck. It is a nice way to spend a day, quietly contemplating, not dwelling on anything of consequence.

His mind wanders and he is happy to let it go. He spends too much time thinking and planning. It feels food to turn it all off and embrace the nothingness.

Thoughts flitter past, unformed impressions. Memories pass by and new ones form. It is the ideal way to pass an ideal day.

He has things to do and places to be, but for now, they can wait. This is his time, his moment in the sun. He will let time dictate when this moment will end, slowly ticking ever onward towards unknown destinations.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Story-A-Day #175: Facility 17


There used to be an illuminated sign in that metal frame that "Ministry of Corrections - Private Facility". For years, people assumed that was exactly what was in Terence, a correctional facility of some sort, or more likely, an administrative building.

They had been smart that way. When the truth came out, it was clear that they had the resources to build a secure, impenetrable location if they wanted to, but they chose to hide right out in the open.

What better place is there really? Slap a name on a sign out front and curiosity is no longer an issue with the public. Choosing the Ministry of Corrections was also a simple yet smart decision as it provided a cover for the late night deliveries to the secure delivery bay at the rear of the building. What better time to conduct a prisoner transfer?

Of course the truth was far more sinister. It often is.

There was no way we could have known the ungodly experiments that were actually being conducted in there. Even the city officials claimed ignorance.

"We had toured the facilities and aside from a few restricted access areas, everything seemed as it should," they said.

"They operated with transparency and full cooperation. There was no need to doubt their credibility."

Of course that probed false. It was only two months ago that the event occurred, and most of us are still afraid to leave our homes.

The abomination that got loose, the one that rampaged through the facility and wiped out the medical staff unfortunate to be working that shift, and over half of the security personnel, is still out there somewhere. It stalks us in the night, fueled by an untempered rage.

After the breakout, the facility was wiped clean. Their massive investment a write off. Stories trickled out about the horrors discovered within that building, not just the maimed workers strewn about, but the horrible chambers in the lower levels, those deep underground 'restricted access' dungeons filled with unnatural hybrids.

Facility 17 is no more, but that Alpha creature is still out there. Most of us fear that there is probably more to be afraid of beyond that single escapee.

After all, this was Facility 17, not Facility 1.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Story-A-Day #174: Obscured By Clouds


I was on the afternoon shift at the factory so I didn't get into the shower until almost 11am. The day started off as any other work day would: with a steaming cup of coffee and four slice of toast and marmalade. I never had much of an appetite in the morning.

I had been I'm the shower for no longer than five minutes when I noticed the darkening in the bathroom. A minute later, I felt the first rumble.

My first instinct, as I'm sure you can imagine, was that a storm had rolled in. I figured the massaging shower head gave out enough pressure to mute the potter patter of raindrops on the plastic siding outside the small bathroom window. Logical enough, right?

It wasn't until I shut off the water and grabbed my towel from the hanger on the back of the Dior that I realized there was no rain falling.

Maybe the storm is still Rollin in? I thought. It took me a second to realize that the rumble I had mistaken for thunder was still happening.

I had just stepped into the hallway when the explosion happened; a deafening roar that shook my entire house.

I tightened the towel around my waist and ran to the front door, which I quickly unlocked before stepping outside. The rumble was louder there, and I could hear a low droning sound mingled within.

The sky was a crazy shade of purple, a mass of roiling magenta and black. It looked almost like a sunset, but more imposing - and at noon.

There was something else too though, a weird sequencing of lights that flickered beneath that powerful blanket of clouds.

Off in the east, a pillar of black smoke rose towards the heavens, it's base illuminated in the flickering orange glow of flames.

I knew then that this was not a freak storm, or a meteorological anomaly of any sort. There was something up there, obscured by the clouds. Something not likely of this earth.

I felt suddenly exposed, standing there I my frayed towel. I felt exposed, but feared that no amount of clothing or shelter would shield me from what was up there.

Regardless, I stepped back into my house and locked the door. There was no point making it easy, and I wasn't the type to give up without a fight.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Story-A-Day #173: He Used To Score


It still smells the same, that clinging fusion of musty perspiration and dry dusty corners. Some people find the scent repugnant, but to him, Otis the smell of victory.

It seems like just the other day that he was Racing up and down the rink, the puck leaping nimbly from left to right, always landing just right on the tip of his white taped stick.

He descends from the stands, his knees creaking gently with each new step.

From a distant place, the buzzer sounds, hollow and muffled throughout the corridors of time. A roar crowd accompanies, like waves lapping on a distant shore.

He was a star back then. A right winger who averaged 90 goals a season. And they were short seasons then, not like the ones in the majors.

When he was playing, he could zero in on the smallest hole and that was where the puck would end up. Slap, light, buzz, roar. Every. Single. Time.

He was also a player off the I've back then. He didn't set out to try to be. In fact, the women came to him the same way the goals did. Almost instinctively.

He looked down the deserted hall, past the row of abandoned nets. He used to score with ease, but that was a while ago now.

Now he was just another ghost in the arena, a faded moment of glory swirling in the past.

It wasn't a bad way to go, just not the one he had expected.

He heard his name and number called from off at the end of the ever lengthening tunnel. One last goal for the road.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Monday, May 2, 2011

Story-A-Day #172: Carrot Sticks


“Food is too processed, too condensed and conveniencized,” she said. Everything comes in these pre-cut, pre-sliced, pre-chewed packages now.”

Her friend looked at her, a wry smile on her face.

“It’s true!” she exclaimed, eager to prove her point.

“I know it’s true.”

“Then what’s with the look?”


“Oh, whatever. You know what I mean.” They laughed. “I’m just saying that we are becoming criminally lazy as a society. Everything needs to be pre-packaged and portioned.”

“I know.”

She picked up a bag of mini carrots. “Look at these, what are these even? Do they take a normal carrot, cut it into bite size pieces, then sand the edges down to make them rounded?”

She clasped the bag firmly in her hand and stormed off along the produce aisle.

“You see,” she said pointing. “Those are carrots. They are slender and orange and have big droopy leaves hanging off the top of them.” She thrust the bag of mini carrots back at her friend. “So where exactly do these come from?”

“I would guess they come from the mama carrot?”

“Ha Ha.”

“Let’s just get the regular carrots then and go. Everyone is staring at us.”

“Fine. But we are getting the normal carrots, and we will cut our own carrot sticks.”

“That’s fine by me. Those mini ones are packed in bleach anyway.”

They stared at each other for another moment and both burst out laughing.

“I rest my case!”

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Story-A-Day #171: Stationary


People come and people go. It’s the perfect location to hang out for a cab driver. For Rick, it was a little depressing though. Saddled with debt and mounting child support that he was sure went straight to his ex-wife’s drinking and gambling habits, he felt trapped by circumstance.

There was no escape for him, nowhere for him to go. His life had never been a model of luck and prosperity, but if he thought hard enough, it had once been better. He used to be happier. He used to have a full head of hair that wasn’t peppered with streaks of grey. Twenty-seven was too young to be going grey and he blamed it on his lot in life.

He took another puff of his cigarette and leaned against the driver’s side door of the car. Two buses had pulled up within minutes of each other and the train was due within the next ten minutes.

Each of those vehicles of mass transportation would be disgorging a horde of weary travellers, crashing after the excitement of the adventures away. The train was arriving from Toronto, and one of the buses from Montreal and Ottawa, so he knew that his fare would feel compelled to regale him with the details of their exciting trip. He burped lightly, his stomach rebelling against the thought.

With any luck, he would get someone who was visiting here. Those fares were usually more subdued. Sure they would tell him about the grandchildren, nieces, or nephews they were visiting, but at least it wouldn’t be a constant barrage of “good times”.

He wished that he could jump on that train and ride it to the end of the line. He didn’t even care where that might be, because wherever it was, it was not here. That was all that really mattered. He wanted out.

A willowy blonde woman, probably in her late thirties, exited the terminal and looked uncertainly in his direction. He waved to her, tossed his cigarette butt to the ground, and moved to help with her luggage.

Please let her be visiting. As he neared, a smile spread across her face and everything changed. He didn’t care who she was, or where she was going. There was so much warmth in her smile, so much peace and compassion; that he no longer cared about anything.

“Can you take me home now?” she asked, a hint of shyness in her voice.

“Your place or mine,” he replied.

They burst out laughing.

“Let me guess,” she asked. “The hard-luck cab driver?”

“He’s one of my favourites. How is your grandmother doing?”

“She’s great.”

They climbed into the car and set off for home.