Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Story-A-Day #293: Patio Lanterns





PATIO LANTERNS

To some they might err a little on the side of kitchy, or camp, but to me, I've always found them to be a welcome addition, those patio lanterns that light up the night.

The soft glows in varying shades and hues help dispel the darkness and create a welcoming glow and ambiance in the night.

How could one deny the appeal?

My boyfriend was reluctant to add them to our yard. He said they were a relic of the 80s best left behind with the song that shares their name, but he eventually relented and allowed me to string them up.

Now you would be hard pressed to find him too far from their soft glow - usually the red or green ones. The irony of his colour preference doesn't escape me either, as he claims to hate Christmas too.

I'll admit that a nice clump of solar lights, or a row of flickering citronella tiki torches glimmering in the dark can be just as appealing, but the candles are too high maintenance, and the solar lights often too dim.

No, the revered patio lantern is the perfect accoutrement, the ideal compliment to an outdoor setup frequented at night.

Call me tacky if you want, but I like my lights and they are here to stay.

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Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Story-A-Day #292: Fur Coat





FUR COAT

There are plenty of us around, an we're all different, but I've always been the type who likes to stand out in a crowd. It may not be practical, but look at me - I'm the envy of the town!

I know, bright yellow in a world of green I a little out there, but I it works for the bumblebees and the wasps, why couldn't it work for me? It's built in, natural camouflage.

Besides, this is just temporary. I could have been satisfied as an ugly green worm up until my transformation, but I wanted
to be use to being beautiful, to being the envy of the yard.

Wen my transformation is complete, I will be ten tines as beautiful, soaring high above these dusty tracks.

I will become the butterfly that flies higher than all others, that soars up to the edges of the heavens, blazing a trail of colour and envy through the swirling winds. Even the stars will swoon before my radiance.

For now, I will continue making my presence known, feigning bashfulness as the birds whistle at my passing.

I appreciate the attention boys, but you ain't seen nothing yet! This is the beginning if something glorious, something that will change the way the work looks at beauty.

I am about to rock the world. Once I crawl through the other end of the long sleep, Aphrodite herself will weep.

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Monday, August 29, 2011

Story-A-Day #291: Battle Of The Burrs






BATTLE OF THE BURRS

This time of year, they aren't too bad, almost like little balls of velcro that cling to clothes, but are easily plucked free. They make for a great distraction during the lazy dog days of late summer.

Once they dry out though, it's a whole different mess. Individual brown spikes cling voraciously, almost digging in deeper as you struggle to rip them free.

They thrive for socks - sport, wool, cotton, it doesn't matter. They dig deep, and cling tight, scratching their way into the confine where the tender flesh of ankles awaits.

They are ingenious nuisances, hitching a ride and spreading their seeds with ease, steadily setting pace to commandeer the entire forest floor by the following Spring.

For now though, they are fun projectiles, clinging to clothes and hair with reckless abandon as we hoot and holler our way through the wilderness, miniature barbed mines that float just right as they seek out their targets.

They are a perfect way to pass a warm afternoon in August.

I duck and role as one bounces uselessly off a nearby tree, much to close for comfort. With a loud cry, I explode upward and let loose a volley, before fleeing for cover.

The battle will rage in until my mother's distant call to dinner. It will be an epic battle.

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Sunday, August 28, 2011

Story-A-Day #290: Look Out





LOOK OUT

These are trying times. Some have even called them the en of days. I don't think we're that bad off - in fact, I think this is just what we needed to right the seriously sinking ship we call humanity.

The riots ended almost six months ago, and most of the bad elements have killed each other off. All that remains are a few pockets of us survivors. Well, there is the other element. The contaminated ones. I've heard them referred to by many names: zombies, ragers, plagues, even the horsemen, but I think of them as the victims of this culling. They didn't ask for it and now all we can do for them is offer a quick and painless death.

We quickly learned that the key to survival is more than food, shelter, and fresh water. Having the high ground is just as essential.

That's how we wound up here. The building below is virtually windowless, therefore secure, but it is the old radio tower above that really drew us here.

We make our way into the city for supplies twice a week, but mostly we man the look out and pick off the contaminated.

There are a couple young guys in our party and they feel vindicated that their hours of video games each day have proven valuable after all. And quite rightly too. From their perch high atop the tower, they never miss.

These are difficult times, but we are surviving. Eventually we will have to rebuild and that is where the real challenges will begin. Our society evolved over time, before eventually devolving into this mess we're in. Where would one start rebuilding something that took thousands of years to perfect, and mere decades to bring to it's knees?

That is where our late night discussions reside, and where hopefully, the answers will become clear.

We will rebuild, but only time will tell if we get it right this time.

A single crack of rifle fire erupts into the night. It can't get any worse than this.

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Saturday, August 27, 2011

Story-A-Day #289: Map Evol.





MAP EVOL.

It was a terse but simple directive: Map Evolution. We had been fools not to do so already, but the scope of the situation didn't lend itself to microcosmic consideration. This was a global issue, thus we had viewed it only on the broadest canvas imaginable.

It started with the birds and fish dying en masse, then there were anonymous reports of a mining operation in the Canadian Arctic that had made an unearthly discover beneath the white northern wastelands.

This new directive had come in from our field team in Barrow, Alaska. They were investigating another occurrence that we had hypothesized was related and we were anxiously awaiting word on their findings.

The terse nature of the message was a concern, but the instruction was crystal clear. Map the evolution of these seemingly related events.

The birds falling from the sky en masse throughout the U.S. and Europe; multiple global instances of large fish populations washing ashore; the mine and the Alaska situation. All of those without taking into consideration the rumored effects of solar flares and an eclipse - and now earthquakes that were rattling the east coast of America.

It would be a complex algorithm and I would need to call in assistance from our meteorologists and geologists to get it right. I am a huge fan of riddles and this was definitely my kind of puzzle.

It all seemed to be linked to the mining operation in the Arctic and I hoped the Barrow team would send word on their findings soon.

To figure out what exactly was going on would be sifting through a cord of fire wood in search of a single termite: difficult and time consuming, but not impossible.

Map evolution. It was a start.

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Friday, August 26, 2011

Story-A-Day #288: Digger





DIGGER

It started off as a simple issue with a broken water main. The city claimed no fault in the matter, although it was undoubtedly their construction project around the corner that had caused the old pipes to cave in.

It made sense to him, and to most of the people he talked to about it, but the city maintained that it was unrelated.

Now he had dug up his entire driveway, at his own expense, and replaced the entire length of pipe from the street all the way to where it entered the house. It had been a huge project, and a financial burden at first, but as he surveyed the work he had done, a smile crossed his face.

It had been more than worthwhile. There was still a bit of work to be done, but he could pay someone if he wanted to now.

The project had proved more than worthwhile. He crossed the loose packed soil and entered his house. After removing his boots, he ducked down into the basement and entered the work shop.

It was still there, the crumbling wooden case. Sometimes it seemed like it could all be a dream, but it was there, a wooden crate stuffed with silver, jewels, and antique coins.

He flicked off the light and made his way back out to the driveway.

Who would have thought that a collapsed water main could turn out to be such a great thing?

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Thursday, August 25, 2011

Story-A-Day #287: Drawn Towards





DRAWN TOWARDS

Like the simple moth, newly birthed from squiggly worm, she found herself drawn towards the light. It was a fundamental flaw of global genetics.

She was not the only one, and would never be the last of her kind, and yet here she was - circling ever closer to that eternal flame.

It would be the end of her, yet she sullied forth.

Simple genetics? Why else would she pursue something along such a route?

She would because she could and would, regardless of the dangers that awaited.

She was, after all, a moth, so her yearning to head into that great light was only natural. The few drops of rain, blasting her carefully powdered wings made it that much more enticing. It would be a difficult flight, but it would be worth it.

This marked an end to the madness and an exciting new beginning.

The fact that she had been reborn once was irrelevant. This would become her new beginning.

This would be her Mea Culpa and her Carpe Diem all wrapped into one convenient cocoon.

She was sorry, but she would seize the day regardless.

And with that, she flew into the light eternal.

And it was glorious!

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Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Story-A-Day #286: Shelter






SHELTER

They paddled hard through the choppy waters, pulling their way steadily towards the distant tree-lined shore. The storm had moved in quickly, the smattering of rain quickly turning into a torrential downpour that tore sideways across the choppy whitecaps.

Thunder grumbled constantly, like the belly of a hungry beast, and crackling forks of lightning seared across the dark, racing clouds.

A large wave smashed into the side of the canoe and he knew too soon that in their effort to remain upright, they were capsizing. Their gear spread quickly through the water and it was all they could do to maintain a firm grip on their paddles and pull the canoe the rest of the way into shore.

It wasn't ideal, but they quickly hunkered down in the cramped enclosure under the canoe.

They lay there in silence, the storm raging around them. He pulled her into his chest, hoping their combined heat would help ease her violent shivering. It was probably fear or racing adrenaline as much as the cold that was making her tremble.

It had been a close call, and they were not out of the woods yet, but at least they had shelter.

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Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Story-A-Day #285: Campfire





CAMPFIRE

It was a perfect night.

The campfire crackled, sending cascades of sparks and smoke up into the dense swaths of flickering stars above.

Unbeknownst to either of them, they had spent the better part of the night passing furtive glances at each other across the flickering pyre. Every now and then, their eyes would meet and they would exchange shy smiles of acknowledgement.

He saw her smile and instantly wished he had the courage to approach her and ask her name. He wished he had lucked out with the seat next to hers, but from where he sat now, it was a journey of miles to get to where he wanted to be.

She saw him smile and wished that one of the people to either side of her would retire to bed, or even dematerialize, so that he could leap across the fiery pyre that separated them and take the vacant seat.

The counselor started playing Pink Floyd's Wish You Were Here on his guitar and he wished that he could tell her this song was for them. Instead, he jabbed a marshmallow onto his stick and poked it into the fire.

She watched bemused as his marshmallow burst into flames and he quickly pulled it from the embers and blew it out. She had smiled because the same thing happened to her every time.

He saw her laughing at his misfortune and quickly placed the scalding ball of goo in his mouth where it instantly seared his tongue. It took everything he had in him not to spit it out.
That was going to hurt.

She winced as he suddenly slid the marshmallow into his mouth. That had to hurt. Almost as suddenly, she was overcome by a long, unbidden yawn.

He watched her yawn and felt himself doing the same. It was pointless, he would never summon the nerve to approach her, not tonight at least.

She realized that the likeliness of her talking to him tonight was slim and decided now would be a good time to retire for the evening. Reluctantly, she rose.

He reluctantly stood up to leave and noticed she had done the same, almost in tandem.

They met at the trailhead.

"Walk you to your tent?" he managed to ask with a relative degree if succinctness.

"I'd like that," she replied in an equally succinct fashion.

They walked in amicable silence along the trail, relishing the fortuitous ease of their mutual awkwardness.

They paused outside her tent and after a brief pause she spoke up. "See you tomorrow?"

"For sure," he replied. "Maybe I'll teach you how to roast marshmallows."

He laugh was sincere and gentle and his regret over uttering such an inane statement quickly passed.

They parted with a wave of hands and the promise of untold futures to come.

It was a perfect night.

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Monday, August 22, 2011

Story-A-Day #284: The Storm





THE STORM

It went from good to bad to terrifying in a matter of minutes. One minute, he was swimming in the warm August waters, calling for her to join him, the next, it was like the heavens themselves had reversed polarity.

The skies were the inviting clear blue of summer sanctity. He tried to coax her into joining him for a swim and dove down beneath the surface to show her how much fun it was, turning two bubbly somersaults before exploding back to the surface for air.

He wiped the water from his eyes and smiled back towards the dock where she lay. She was no longer basking in the sun though. The skies had almost instantly transmogrified into a churning mass of gun metal grey and an ominous bank of charcoal black clouds was descending rapidly upon them.

He cruised into shallower waters with a few quick strokes and jogged in through the choppy waters.

She was already on her feet, staring upward with a baffled expression on her face.

"Go!" he shouted. "I'm right behind you."

He watched her hesitate a moment before turning and darting towards the nearby cottage.

As he entered the shallow water, he kicked his legs out to the sides, above the water's surface, and eventually fell into a comfortable run.

He met her in the dining room where he quickly toweled off and urged her away from the plate glass windows with a gentle embrace.

"What's going on?" she asked.

"Not sure, but it's going to be bad. Let's get away from the windows."

A sudden explosion of light filled the now dark afternoon, and a burst of thunder rattled the cottage. He had never seen anything like this before and when the fat drops of rain started falling, accompanied by huge clumps of hail close on their heels, he placed a protective arm around her.

"You okay?"

"A little scared, but yes, I'm fine."

Another simultaneous blast of lighting and thunder made it seem like the whole world was being torn asunder. The assault of rain and hail persisted making it hard to see more than two feet beyond the windows.

Twelve minutes later, it was all over.

They watched, amazed, as the clouds parted to slowly reveal the perfect summer day that had gone into temporary hiding. It was almost like the storm had never happened at all.

"Still feel like swimming?" she asked, peering at him.

"I think I'm good for now. How about some Crazy Eights?"

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Sunday, August 21, 2011

Story-A-Day #283: Ornament





ORNAMENT

It was his first time coming here, so she was a little nervous. She wanted to make sure everything was just right.

The sand dollars, she thought, were a nice touch. They had talked about them once, how they had been used by currency by some ancient tribe in some forgotten corner of the world.

"Imagine if, in a thousand years time, people were selling off hundred dollar bills for a few dollars as souvenirs of the pre-digital age," he had suggested with a smile. "It could actually happen like that. Thousand dollar bills could be as valuable as a few sand dollars once currency finally goes all digital."

That was, quite possibly, the moment she knew she was in love, or at the very least well on her way. He had a strange way of looking at things that was well in tune with her own.

It was refreshing to be able to voice her thoughts and not worry that they might be misconstrued as odd and peculiar. It was a relief to be able to be her self around someone she considered her equal.

When he arrived, they would open a bottle of wine and fall into a comfortably off kilter discussion, then throw some food on the barbecue. The make shift mobile, hanging over that barbecue, was her tribute to their early discussions and a subtle reminder of that conversation from a few weeks prior.

She was confident he would remember it because he remembered everything she said. He clung to every statement of fact or opinion as though it were gospel: the gospel of the non-religious.

It was a perfect religion shared perfectly between them, and she was happy they shared it.

She gave the mobile a flick and listened to the soft clunk of old world money.

It was a decent ornament, and a perfect tribute. She could already hear his approving chuckle, the best currency of all.

With that realization, her nerves slowly faded away. It would be a great weekend. She would bank on that for sure.

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Saturday, August 20, 2011

Story-A-Day #282: Ideology





IDEOLOGY

It's not what you think, it's how you think it.

That's the fundamental principle of ideas. Ideas are like the novelty eggs that kids get; those eggs that you put in water and they hatch a creature that grows. Put it in a mug and it will get so big, move it to a tank, and it grows bigger still.

Ideas are capable of doing the same. A small idea can grow into a large one, but it can only grow so far under constraint.

An idea kept to an individual will only recede, eventually disappearing back to where it originated.

Ideas are power. They are capable of sculpting the world as we know it, changing it for the better. Or the worse.

Ideas can inspire, however, they can corrupt just as easily. A well placed idea can alter a person, even a large group of people. Ideas educate. Ideas spread. Ideas motivate.

Ideas should be used wisely.

Educators are great distributors of ideas, but ideas are meant to be personalized.

Give your ideas room to grow and see where they go. Cling to the ones that matter. Write them down, share them with those around you. Let tour ideas spread.

Ideas are knowledge and knowledge is power. Use them wisely, and use them to your advantage.

Most of all share them. Whatever they might be.

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Friday, August 19, 2011

Story-A-Day #281: Couch Surfing





COUCH SURFING

The sun was blazing outside and he knew that he should make the most of it, but he just couldn't peel himself from his reclined position of luxury.

His days off were few and far between and a day like this spent at the beach would be a great way to decompress. He could take a nice, long swim, soak in some rays, and check out the ladies in the latest summer fashions. He could stroll along the boardwalk, and buy a corn dog at a chip stand, and maybe an ice cream cone.

There was a great deal he could do with this beautiful day, if he could only pull himself from the couch.

He set his book aside and turned on the television, a complex process involving a shift to his right and three separate remotes.

He flipped aimlessly through the channels, past the cooking and travel shows, past the sports, past the reruns of police procedurals and true crime reenactments, and past the reverberating canned laughter of the myriad shows that passed as comedy. 300+ channels and nothing that interested him.

He switched the input and picked up the controller for one of his three game consoles and spent a few minutes cruising the streets of 1940s L.A. until a passing truck ran him down in mid-pursuit of a fleeing gunman, then turned the console off.

His stomach rumbled and he considered making lunch, but settled on finishing the rest of his stagnant glass of water instead.

He set the now empty glass back on the coffee table and grabbed his iPhone. He scrolled through the games and apps, swiping all the way to the right, then back to the left. He finally clicked on the Facebook icon, only to discover that his online friends were as boring as he was bored. He closed the app and scrolled through his contact list for someone to call, then set the phone back on the table.

He lay in the still and quiet room, listening to the passing traffic and a group of people laughing and carousing on their way to some great, exciting destination.

He would rest a moment, then come up with a plan for his day. As his eyes slowly fluttered closed, he was happy to realize that while his plan wasn't much, it was a start.

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Thursday, August 18, 2011

Story-A-Day #280: Salsa





SALSA

He lived Mexican food almost as much as he loved the elegant woman who stood before him gently chopping the green jalapeƱos. She brought grace to his life and even as she sliced and diced in preparation for their looming dinner party, he marveled at her smooth fluidity.

"Are those beans?" he asked, pointing to the bundle of green sticks at the back of the cutting board.

"They're the scapes I was telling you about, the garlic shoots?"

"Right," he replied with a nod and quickly popped one in his mouth. "They're tasty, a little tough though, almost like asparagus bit garlic flavored."

"I thought I'd try something different."

She was always trying different things; in the kitchen, the bedroom, throughout her entire life. Sometimes he worried that it was because she bored easily. She would switch jobs once a year, usually a complete 180 from what she had been doing before. She always ended up in a better position though, with better pay, better benefits, better vacation. He should be so lucky.

Sometimes he worried that she would tire of him as well. He couldn't imagine his life without the adventures and excitement they shared. He couldn't imagine not dancing with her under a moonlit sky, cuddling by the fire, traveling the world, or reading quietly together.

"What time is everyone arriving?" he asked abruptly.

"Around seven," she replied looking up from the cutting board.

"I'll go tidy up the yard then," he replied. "Unless you need a hand with anything in here?"

"I've got it under control. Thank you."

He stepped out onto the back deck and was just sliding the patio door shut when he heard her call out: "I love you."

He smiled. "I love you too," he answered. "Like a fish loves water."

She always knew just when to say it.

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Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Story-A-Day #279: Rink Rat





RINK RAT

I've been coming here since I was a little boy. I learned to skate on the blade-sliced corrugated surface of the rink. I learned to play hockey, to bond with my team, and to beat my enemies. I learned to fight in this hallowed cathedral, sometimes with my fists, but mostly for the win. I was, and always will be, a rink rat.

Those days are long past now, but my affair with this building is ongoing. She's seen better days, that much is undeniable, but I think that's part of her charm.

She is a relic from days gone by, a testament to the time when a community lived up to it's name with pride and respect.

As I tend to her now, I watch those who gather. They are here to be seen, to be heard. They are on their phones and other gizmos, oblivious to the spectacle before them, and the majesty all around. They scatter before the games end, leaving garbage an regret in their wakes.

The times have changed, that much is clear, but this old girl stands as reminder of the better days.

I miss the roar of the crowd, the communal cheers of support. I miss my youth, and all it represented. One thing I will never miss is this arena, for I am a part of her now.

We'll be together until the end, be it a victorious one or not. I will haunt her corridors and stairwells until the end of both of our days and only then will I move on.

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Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Story-A-Day #278: Anticipation





ANTICIPATION

She glanced nervously at her watch then tentatively raised her drink before setting it back down on the bar.

He was late. Maybe he wouldn't arrive at all. She knew he was the busy type, always on the go, but when she suggested they meet for a drink he had seemed genuinely excited. If he was going to be late, or worse still unable to make it at all, surely he would call.

She checked her watch again. Just over half an hour had passed since they were supposed to meet. It was clear that he would not be coming.

She quickly knocked back her drink, and with a sinking heart, paid the bartender.

She was just turning to leave when the doors blasted open and in he strode, one eye on his watch, the other surveying the room. When he saw her, a crooked grin spread earnestly across his face.

"I'm so sorry I'm late, I got stuck in a meeting."

"That's okay," she replied. "I only just arrived myself."

They sat down at the bar and the bartender motioned to her date, "Pint of Guinness for you?" then as he turned to her he smiled. "Same again?"

"Yes please," she replied, then turned sheepishly towards her date. "So I might have actually been on time."

He laughed an raised his dark ruby pint. "To waiting, and dating, and you."

"And to calling when you are going to be late," she offered before adding quickly. "Next time."

"To calling," he replied.

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Monday, August 15, 2011

Story-A-Day #277: Moonshine





MOONSHINE

She peeks out from behind the clouds, a shy and tremulous globe of radiance that threatens the coming darkness.

For now, she is just a hint of light buried behind the soft cover of clouds. within the hour though, she will blossom, like the girl who was always the ugly duckling until she blossomed into the prom queen.

For now, she peeks shyly outward from behind the satiny blanket of clouds, waiting for her moment to shine.

She is shy, to be sure, but she knows her power. She, like all women, has the power of radiance, and when she is ready to shine, all will fold before her glory.

She has the power of light, the ability to quell all darkness. She is a radiant beauty who will fill the darkening world with light.

There are those cloudy individuals who would try to obscure her radiance, but it is futile. She has wooed the brightest son, the sun itself, and he chases her around the earth.

She has rendered him restless, constantly chasing her pallid glow, and when they do finally meet, their glows will negate each other once and for all.

It is a passion that eclipses all others, but it is fleeting. Two lovers who burn so bright can never stay together.

Such is the nature of passion and love. Sometimes it flares so bright that it can only fade to black.

Sometimes even the truest loves must be kept apart. Sometimes, that's just the way it works.

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Sunday, August 14, 2011

Story-A-Day #276: Pickled





PICKLED

What's your favorite food? One of mine has always been pickles. I love them, all different kinds and all different typed. I love dills, bread and butter, sweet mix, hot. I love cucumbers, zucchinis, onions, peppers. I really love hot pickled beans.

One of my all time favorites though was my mother's mother's nine day pickles. They are a great fusion of sweet mix, but peppery with a hint of garlic and clove.

A delicious treat.

The bread and butters are delicious with their hint of mustard seed and peppers, as are the coriander infused jalapeƱos, but the nine days are the best.

The only problem I have lies in the name. When I get a craving for something, I want it right away. Nine days and change is a long wait.

Still, look at that vat of pickling, a Royal Doulton clay pot full of soon to be delectable delights.

Trust me, you will find them well worth the wait, and by next Wednesday, you will be able to sample the greatness of the nine-day pickle.

It is well with the wait.

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Saturday, August 13, 2011

Story-A-Day: Leisure Time





LEISURE TIME

It's not an easy life. I mean, we're born with eight legs so we have four times the appendages to work with. Sometimes it seems like work is all I do.

I weave and I spin. I build intricate webs all day every day, only to have nature destroy them. A full days work wiped out by the wind, or rain, or a falling twig, or some bumbling human wandering blindly through it. It's frustrating.

Harvesting flies is no fun either. First it's the waiting, but even once they are ensnared in a web, you still have to knock them out, wrap them up, an drag them home. It might not sound like much, but it's a lot of work.

It's not all bad though. Dangling from a web, or prancing across a high wire through the trees can be pretty exhilarating. And every now and then, I do get some leisure time. In fact, I'm just on my way to meet Brenda on the south wall. I think I might even get lucky. Just the thought of her slender hairy legs is enough to get me going.

I feel like I would whistle if I could. Things are that good right now.

With all that optimism, imagine my surprise as I started up the wall only to find Brenda pinned down beneath that hairy ogre Ted. At first, I tried to convince myself that she was being attacked, but I know the difference between despair an delight.

And I do have eight eyes, so it's not like I was seeing things. It just goes to show that the girls always do end up with the jerks.

I might go wreck a few of his webs to thank him for ruining my day. I'll just have to find a few first. The lazy bastard usually just claims the webs of others; and their women.

Like I said, the life of a spider - it's not an easy one.

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Friday, August 12, 2011

Story-A-Day #274: Genesis





GENESIS

He stared up over the deserted street at the cloud shrouded moon and pondered the conversation he had just stepped out of. As he did, his world slowly slipped a little out of focus.

Five people sat around one pub table in Canada, watching news footage of the London riots. They pondered what would possess such madness and as they did, things turned philosophical. Before long they were discussing where they came from, but each had a different focal point as to why they were there. How could that be?

The first pondered his heritage. What was his lineage like pre-grandparents? Were they good people? Did they toil the earth, educate the masses, rise to great power, squander their fortunes? Perhaps they worked harder than most, yet never rose above their lot in life. How far back could his lineage go, and how would that define who he had become? He was certain his future lay in the past successes and failures of his ancestors.

The second wondered what the great religious impact might be. Were we all truly created equal in the image of our creator, and if so, why were we all so different? Why did we have so many different shades of skin, and beliefs, and appearances, and perspectives? If there was one true creator, why were we not all more alike, especially with those with whom we were clearly no different on a superficial level. And yet she wondered half jokingly if we were from the same maker, then why was incest frowned upon in the church since we are all related anyway?

The third pontificated that we had all crawled from the primordial ooze. We had evolved from single cells to complex organisms. We were a product plain and simple, of the great scientific process known as evolution. And yet, he wondered how a concept based on the continued escalation and development of strength, intelligence, durability, and survival of the fittest above all else could result in a species that so often devolved into primitivism in the name of greed and power.

The fourth suggested, quite matter-of-factly, that we had been placed here by a higher intelligence from a different world. It wasn't heritage, or religion, or science that placed us here, but sentient beings from another world. She was not sure what their purpose was, but she figured we were not working out as planned and they would soon make their disappointment clear. She insisted that it made the most sense because her theory accommodated the individual beliefs of each of the others into one.

As the fifth, he politely excused himself and snuck out into the cloud shrouded night with a happy smile on his face. He enjoyed discourses such as this, not because of the conflict, but because of the underlying synergy.

As he wandered down the barren street he reflected on the words of his companions and knew that they were all correct in their beliefs. As a species, we are our heritage, we are from a greater source, we do evolve, and we are unexplainable.

That is what makes us worth such endless discussion. We are our own greatest mystery.

We keep the peace in foreign lands because we can. We torch and destroy our own neighborhoods, because we can. We misinterpret intentions and words, and offer forgiveness because we can. We excel and we fail, struggle and prosper, grow and recede, because we can.

Where we often falter is in differentiating between the reasons why we do the things we do, and what makes something worthy or not.

As he stepped up to his door and unlocked his home he realized that there was something amiss in the balance of what truly defined humanity. When a United Kingdom can tear itself apart, something was definitely amiss.

The riots bothered him more than he realized, the aimless, wanton destruction was horrifying, but the people banning together to protect, clean, and restore was inspiring.

Such is our nature, and unfortunately we often require horror as a precursor to our ability to activate out inspiration towards betterment. No matter what our familial, religious, evolutionary, or cosmic roots, we can never seem to put inspiration first, where it belongs.

All my best to my friends and family in the U.K. Be safe, we're all in this together.

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Thursday, August 11, 2011

Story-A-Day #273: The Wanderer





THE WANDERER

I am a wanderer, a drifter, alone on a quest for life and salvation. I usually arrive by the cover of night, and I am never in one place for more than a week. It suits my mission well.

If you were able to pick me out of a crowd, you might ask me why I choose a bastion of colour and happiness as my life, when my mission is so dark. The answer is quite simple: you don't look for darkness in the light, but darkness is always there.

That is why I travel the circuit, to flush out the darkness. It started in the big cities, but it was too overwhelming a mission there. There were just too many evil forces to handle.

Working small towns is much easier. The evil and vindictive have a tendency of flocking towards the flashing lights and swirling music. That is where I find them. That is where they find me, and through me, absolution.

They are easy to pick out of a crowd. The fighters, abusers, thieves, and wasters flock to the excitement and cacophony of the traveling fair.

I stalk them in the night, follow them to their inevitably rundown domiciles and end them. It's different every time, but always exciting.

Wrong? I wouldn't say so. I would say I am conducting an essential service by ridding our world of its waste. You would do the same if you had the strength and ability.

I am a wanderer, a drifter, alone on a quest for life and salvation. It is my mission to clean the scourge, one small town at a time.

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Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Story-A-Day #272: Chokecherry Wine





CHOKECHERRY WINE

I enjoy wine. A glass of cool, crisp white with a plate of chicken or fish is a perfect meal, almost as good as a glass of dry, earthy red with a grilled steak an potatoes.

One thing I have always wanted to try is dandelion wine, mostly because of the Ray Bradbury collection of the same name. I'm not sure what it would taste like, but I would still like to try it. I imagine it would taste like tart, a mixture of earth, fresh mown lawns and summer breezes.

Unfortunately, I have no idea how to make that particular elixir so I have instead settled on an experiment in chokecherry wine.

It will be a nice, equally summery concoction. I imagine the tart and sour berries will be nicely complimented by the bucket loads of required sugar. Still, the fermentation process is a tricky one.

It might be disgusting. I'll know in a months time either way whether this will be a new ambrosia for mealtime consumption, a bitter waste to save for desperate times, or a sugary waste to flush straight to the sewers.

So far, it smells pretty good though. I can only hope that my venture into alcoholic alchemy proves fruitful.

If it works, I'll look forward to toasting the Indian Summer I hope is on the way. All this rain is enough to drive a man to drinking.

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Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Story-A-Day #271: Forest Lights





FOREST LIGHTS

It was a dark, but not stormy night. A mid-August chill had settled in with the sinking of the sun and he was glad he had thought to put on a sweater and jeans. It had been a wise move.

He had just pulled into the narrow dirt track that ended at his family's cottage, and the stretch after the long, dark drive felt better than it should have.

He was looking forward to a nice glass of Shiraz by the fire, but first he had to haul his luggage down the narrow dirt trail.

He piled everything neatly by the trunk of his car and slammed it closed with a hollow thud. He should be able to make it in one trip, which was a bonus.

He piled on his luggage and set off down the lane, the gravel crunching softly underfoot. It felt good to get away from the dull roar of the city.

A chittering whistle sound erupted from the trees to his right, and he paused while his eyes adjusted to the darkness. A flicker of light drew his eyes deeper into the woods, then another.

Fireflies, he thought immediately, but they weren't. Fireflies were green, sometimes white, but these lights were different: blue, green, orange and white.

They flickered and wove through the trees as he slowly continued to the cottage. He wasn't scared, but he did feel a little uneasy.

He had probably just imagined it, but he thought he could hear a hushed whispering off in the night. It wasn't English, it was more musical, almost like the rolling consonants and tidal flow on the Welsh language.

He hurried along and was relieved to finally arrive at the dark mass of the cottage. He fumbled briefly with the key before bursting inside where he quickly flicked on the lights and slammed the door shut behind him.

He was safe, and he felt a little ridiculous. He had surely imagined it all. The lights had just been resonant spots from the river of headlights he had driven into for the past four hours.

Surely that made the most sense? Whatever the case, he was glad to be here, in the well lit interior of the cottage.

He peered out the window on the door, but all he saw was darkness, deep and impenetrable.

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Monday, August 8, 2011

Story-A-Day #270: Caterpillar





CATERPILLAR

It was not like the usual caterpillars she would see in her backyard. Typically, they were tent caterpillars, smaller dark creatures with blue and green patterns along their back.

She had seen fuzzy ones like this before, but they were usually patterned in black and yellow stripes that lent them the appearance of a bumblebee, presumably as camouflage against inattentive predators.

This one was like a fuzzy ember left over from a forgotten fire pit. She reached out a tentative figure and touched the soft orange fuzz.

The caterpillar moved and she could see it's black, ugly little face as it squirmed along the ground.

She touched it again, a smile spreading across her face, and watched as a bright emerald of waste dangled and dropped from the creatures back end.

At first, it seemed an odd colour for excrement, but on a diet of leaves and plant life, the colour probably made sense. Why wouldn't it be green?

Still, it looked hard, almost like it could actually be an emerald, a jewel from the ember colored critter.

She imagined herself
following the creature around the garden and collecting it's droppings, then having them set in a beautiful mount of white gold.

"Where did you find such lovely jewels?" her friends would ask with envy.

It would be her little secret of course. She reached out to grab the little stone, then realized the ridiculousness of her plan. A ring of worm crap? Silk was one thing, but this was just a tiny speck of green poop.

With a hearty laugh and a shake of her head, she returned to her gardening.

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Sunday, August 7, 2011

Story-A-Day #269: The Pie Maker





THE PIE MAKER

She loved to bake. Cookies, cakes, tarts, butter tarts, roulades; but mostly pies. Pies were her favorite. There was a simple artistry to a good pie that she found satisfying and therapeutic.

The smell of a fresh baked apple pie was a better air freshener than even the most non-chemical of sprays. It would fill the house with a warm sweetness that was unmatched, apple allspice and a dash of cinnamon.

Tourtieres were a great way to sustain a family, a spicy seasoned blend of meat and onions that promised full bellies and happy tastebuds.

Berry pies were a treat as well, a great fusion of natural sugars with a sometimes tart finish. One of her favorites was the bumbleberry pie, a healthy blend of blueberry, blackberry, and raspberry, each flavor a complimentary contrast to the others.

Today, she was playing with rhubarb though, fresh stalks picked from her own backyard. Rhubarb was not enough on its own though, so she was adding an apple and some strawberries to the mix. A hint of honey would hold it all together.

She rolled out the dough, her own fluffy recipe, and lovingly nestled it into the pie plate. In that doughy bowl, she added the fruit and berries, and a small drizzle of honey.

Another disc of dough topped it off and she folded the edges over on themselves and sealed them with a gentle press of her thumbs.

She slid the pie into the oven and started the small clean up job. In an hour and a bit, the bitter sweet aroma of the pie would fill the kitchen.

She couldn't wait.

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Saturday, August 6, 2011

Story-A-Day #268: Sinkholes






SINKHOLES

In Northern Ontario, sinkholes were no big deal. They were more of a washout from heavy rains than anything else. They were a nuisance, but we would fill them in and move on. No sweat.

When we first moved down to Mexico, we learned just how substantial and dangerous a sinkhole could be. After just eight weeks, we lost our neighbors.

Literally.

There was a rumble in the night, like a distant car wreck, and when we woke, it seemed like all was well. It wasn't until we went to go to the market that we discovered our neighbors' home had been replaced by a perfectly cylindrical shaft.

My wife wasn't interested but I took a peek down that gaping maw while she called the authorities. You know what I saw? The shattered remains of a home and the eight lives that called it so, half submerged in water about 15 meters down the smooth walled well.

I know. It's crazy right? An entire family just swallowed whole.

It happens all the time down here. Sometimes an entire intersection will collapse into a dark void. One of the most recent incidences I have heard of was a woman not too far from where we live who woke up to a sound similar to the one we heard. In her case though, it was a cannonball sized shaft that opened beneath the bed in which she had been sleeping.

They say it's because of the porous limestone that makes up much of Mexico's landmass. What I would like to know is what will happen if this continues. Will this joyous country eventually disappear into itself? Will anyone notice if it does?

What will the reaction be when a towering resort block disappears into the bowels of Central America? I'm afraid that will be the incident that people finally notice.

We are not going to leave. The wife talked about it for a bit after the neighbors disappeared, but I finally convinces her that it is better to disappear in an instant, than to be slowly buried in another Northern Ontario winter.

We're sipping margaritas on the beach right now and I know she agrees.

A sudden tremor in the ground casts a black cloud across her face, but we're still here and so is the beach.

That's good enough for me.

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Friday, August 5, 2011

Story-A-Day #267: The Stairwell





THE STAIRWELL

She walked quickly down the hall with her arm in her purse, all the way up to the elbow, and was digging around for her car keys. As usual, they had slid down to the bottom somewhere, well out of reach, and buried beneath all the other junk she carried around.

Frustrated, she paused to pit the purse on the floor and rooted through its contents with both hands. It worked, and she pulled the mighty ring from beneath the mound of pills and cosmetics.

It wasn't until she stood up that she noticed the opening, a stairwell that descended a story and a half at least.

There were a few things about this discovery that troubled her.

1) She was positive they hadn't been there before.

2) She knew for a fact she was on the ground floor of a building that did not have a basement.

3) The noises rises up from the door at the bottom of the stairs were a weird mixture of chamber music and industrial machinery.

She glanced at her watch and started off down the hallway again, but stopped after only a few strides.

Her curiosity had gotten the best of her and after a moment of hesitation, she quickly descended the stairs and pushed open the door at the bottom. It opened into another stairwell, identical to the first. When she opened the second door onto a third stairwell, she decided she had seen enough.

She quickly ascended the stairs to the first set where she noticed a door at the top where there hadn't been one before. She climbed up to it, pulled it open, and stepped into a third stairwell.

She was sure she had only gone down two flights, but she was rushed so maybe she had miscalculated. She climbed the stairs to a third door, which she pulled open into another stairwell.

She was starting to panic now. At the top of this set was another door. The strange noises seemed louder as well. She scurried up the stairs, struggling to catch her breath, and heaved the door open.

The noise pressed down eerily from the opening at the top. She sighed with relief. No door, so she was right, she ha simply miscalculated how far she had gone down.

She felt a wave of relief as she placed a trembling hand on the railing and slowly made her way up the stairwell.

She stepped through the opening at the top, and froze. She was in a large open room, a dilapidated warehouse of sorts. It was filled with large coppery machines, robots she supposed, but more like the ones imagined by sci-fi writers and Hollywood movies before such things were possible.

Some played classical instruments, accounting for the chamber music while the others danced, their metal bodies parting and slamming together. Periodic bursts of steam rose from the machines and up into the rafters.

After a few long moments of shocked silence, she turned back towards the stairwell to flee, but it was gone.

She felt the world tilt and go black as she slowly toppled to the floor.

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Thursday, August 4, 2011

Story-A-Day #266: Pig Headed





PIG HEADED

I'd been told a few times, and obviously it is true. I am pig headed and stubborn. The last time I checked though, being pig headed was not a crime, and yet here I am behind bars.

I used to be beautiful. He'll, a few years ago I could have my pick of the high school crop. I was a serial dater and it suited me fine.

I had my pick of captains and they had their pick of me: football, basketball, soccer - even the debate team, although in my defense, Phil was pretty hot for a nerd. I dated them all, got what I needed, and moved right along.

I was happy. They got more out of the deal than I did really. If you knew me then, you would have wanted in on the action too.

O had a unique look, but I was by far the most attractive girl in the school, if not the city. I have them what they wanted, and they have it right back.

Again, not a crime.

Yet I find myself now, on this curious position. When I broke up with the boys, people would ask why.

"Are you crazy, he's the quarterback," they would say.

It didn't matter after a tome to me who they were, I would het bored.

The boys would call me a pig when I broke up with them. The nice ones anyway. The not so nice ones would call me worse and I would laugh, knowing full well it was only because my rejection had hurt them.

My best friend used to say I was pig headed, a stubborn princess. I would brush it off every time.

And yet here I am today, a pig through and through. It makes no sense.

Did I die and get reincarnated this way? Is it a hex? Whatever the case, I am a pig imprisoned. Not how I imagined it would turn out to say the least, yet here I am.

You have to admit though, even for a pig, I'm looking pretty good.

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Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Story-A-Day #265: Tabled





TABLED

Outdoor business meetings always seem like a good idea, but they never end well. This is a perfect example.

I planned it just right, a patio basked in warm sunshine, a few cold beers, and a couple of hot servers taking care of our every need and whim.

Maybe on home turf it would have been different, but I am in a whole new world, and apparently well out of my league.

I showed up early to scout the location I had chosen. Another big mistake. The place is a dump. The "scenic patio with beautiful downtown views" turned out to be a pair of broken picnic tables overlooking a parking lot.

There are plants growing up through the shattered plank tops.

This is not good.

This meeting could be a make it or break it deal for me and all the people counting on me. And I chose a dump with two broken tables and a crappy view of a crappier parking lot.

A quick glance at my watch shows that there is no time to regroup.

I still have the pitch, so there is that at least, but it is going to be all uphill.

At this point, I can only hope that the tab will be on them. They can surely afford it.

The waitress shows up with a menu and I decide to order a quick drink to numb the pain. That's when I notice the name on the menu.

"Excuse me," I begin, "where would I find The Overlook?"

The waitress points across the road. "It's on the top floor."

I look over at the tall building, framing my head back to take in the upper floors. "That is a relief," I reply. "What do I owe you?"

I throw a bill on the table and quickly set out. Today of all days will be a good one to be fashionably late.

I cross the street, enter the building, dart across the lobby and punch the elevator button.

I feel like a bit of a idiot, but not as much of an idiot as I would have felt like. As the elevator lurches into motion, I realize things are finally looking up.

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Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Story-A-Day #264: Painted Man





PAINTED MAN

"What does your tattoo mean?"

It was a simple enough question under most circumstances, but I found myself turning towards her in confusion. The sight of her bikini clad body gleaming in the sun almost made me forget why I had turned in the first place.

"What do you mean?" I managed to sputter through a sheepish smile that betrayed my hormonal embarrassment.

"The symbol on your shoulder; what does it represent?"

I reached towards my left shoulder, more confused than before. "The other one," she offered, clearly now as confused as I was.

She stood up, the ice cubes in her lemonade tinkling softly, strode over to me in three long, lean steps, and held up her phone. "Turn around," she instructed.

I did as she requested and heard the soft digital shutter effect of her phone's camera. She spun me around slowly, and showed me the photo.

"Is it Chinese for forgetful?" she asked playfully. "Or maybe Thai for I'm an idiot?"

She gave my shoulder a playful shove. I smiled back at her, doing my best to feign forgetfulness, although I am not at all forgetful. I remember the birthdays, anniversaries, and key moments in all my friends and families lives. I never miss an appointment.

"I'm pretty sure it's Japanese for dream," I replied. "I just thought it looked cool."

It did look kind of cool, but for the life of me, I had no recollection of getting the tattoo an getting a tattoo seems like something one would remember.

She had walked back to her chaise lounge and resumed her tanning. I let my eyes wander slowly along her coppery length, from her toes, right up to the halo of golden hair that framed her perfectly sculpted face.

Maybe it was a symbol for luck, I decided. Where it came from was a mystery, but if it was in any way linked to my current lot in life, I was fine with it being there.

Sometimes things are better left unexplained.

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Monday, August 1, 2011

Story-A-Day #263: To The Oasis





TO THE OASIS

I tightened the sheet across my face so that only my eyes were revealed. The loose fitting gowns were comfortable, although they had a tendency of tripping me up with their swirling folds.

I climbed onto the wicker hamper and for lack of a better description, threw myself onto the back of the camel.

I joined the others in the pack where we waited patiently, silently. When the loud pop of the fun finally broke the silence, we were off.

The camels bounced hastily along the dirt track, their riders tossed back and forth on their make shift saddles. Despite me lack of experience, the terror I felt over being trampled every time I slid to one side kept me focussed. Before long I was inching ahead of the other racers.

It was intense and exhilarating, but I wouldn't risk looking back to see what kind of a lead I had. I operated under the assumption that it was enough.

One hour later, I crosse the finish line and slowly pulled my camel to a halt. The crowd was cheering excitedly as I carefully dropped to the ground before extending my arms upward in triumph. I had won!

I looked around the jubilant faces and basked in the pride and envy they cast back my way, then slowly peeled off my head scarf.

The Oasis loomed up before me, a massive resort better suites to the Caribbean than the Muskokas, but that was part of the charm. This camel race was an annual event and this year, I was the winner.

As the other competitors started to arrive, I slowly disappeared through the crowd and flopped with a splash into one of the three pristinely tended pools. I had hoped for a victory lap, but the robes were too heavy so I settled for the cool embrace of the water.

The To The Oasis race was a weird one for sure, bit that's why I entered. I never thought I would win, but I already knew what I would do with the prize money.

I would go to Egypt, or maybe Morocco, and experience this for real. For now though, I would celebrate my win in one of the weirdest challenges I had ever accepted.

I climbed out of the pool, grabbed some carrot sticks off the buffet table, and found my camel, lucky number three. She deserved a reward as much as I did.

She ha made it seem easy. As I fed her the handful of carrot sticks, the crowd went wild.

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