Friday, September 30, 2011

Story-A-Day #323: Out Of Focus


It looked like it was just going to be one of those days.  Her eyes were bleary, no doubt because her contact lenses had become fused to her eyes overnight after nearly sixteen more hours of overtime usage than was generally approved of.

She did not have leave-in lenses, but she had out of necessity, left them in and now it seemed as though they might have become a permanent part of her eyeballs.

As she stepped out into the brightly lit afternoon, the last afternoon of September, she realized the dire nature of the situation.  The world had been reduced to a smear of its normal self, a strange abstract painting where everything was familiar, but offsetting at the same time.

She slowly made her way along the side walk, mostly by instinct, and was careful not to shuffle her feet too much for fear of tripping herself up.  It was destined to be a slow walk home for sure.

Not a walk of shame by any means, just one filled with an abundance of caution thanks to the growing awareness that she really could not make out much of what surrounded her.

She found her other senses growing more keen.  She could smell a distant piece of meat grilling on a barbecue.  She could feel the cool breeze dancing across her face.  She could taste the crisp morning on her fuzzy tongue.  Mostly, she could hear the trilling call of birdsong and the aggressive rush of passing traffic.

It was a situation that was far from ideal, but as she flashed back to the previous night, she realized that it was worth it.  She would make it home in one piece, through the careful application of hearing, and a special focus on her surroundings.

Yes the world was in a blur, but it probably would have been regardless.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Story-A-Day #322: Moored


He looked at the boat, his battered pride and joy, and realized with great dismay that another season on the lake had come to a close.  Sure, he could take the old girl out for one last rip, but what would he really achieve by doing so?

It had been a good season, an epic season, and it was probably best to just leave it at that.

On the long weekend in May, they had spent three straight days on the lake water skiing, tubing, visiting the islands, and having a great time at the onset of summer.  It had been a perfect weekend, one full of sunshine and laughter.

In June, they had taken a more scenic tour, discovering secret coves and beaches that were untouched and deserted.  They had swum into those shores, set up camp and spent a weekend getting in touch with nature, cooking meals on an open fire, and watching in awe as the heavens unleashed an unparalleled spectacle of shimmering stars and slowly tracking satellites.

In July, they had celebrated his birthday in tandem with Canada.  From a hundred metres offshore, they had watched the fireworks fill the night sky, and he had made love to his beautiful wife in the deck.  It had been a perfect night.

August proved just as special, and he was happy to have been able to to a couple fishermen back into shore after they ran out of gas.  They had just happened to stumble upon them in a 14-foot aluminum, and had dragged them almost 15 kilometres through the choppy waters and back to the safety of shore.

In September, they had taken one last cruise.  they wound up adrift in the middle of the lake as the sun set, and they stayed there as the night sky filled with a shimmering blanket of Northern Lights, and a consistent barrage of shooting stars that etched majestic paths across the heavens.

No, it had been a good season for sure, and next season would bring more of the same.  It was nice having that to look forward to.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Story-A-Day #321: Firey Escape


He glanced up the side of the plain, brown-brick building to the third floor balcony.  that was where she lived.  It was a humble apartment, elegantly furnished with a minimal amount of clutter.  It was a space that was very reflective of her personality.

She was elegant, slender and graceful, but she was also unassuming.  She had a way of carrying herself that rose her above all that surrounded her.  She wasn't a bombshell by any means, but there was a simplicity to her appearance and comportment that somehow elevated her above even the most stunning of females.

He realized that he was smitten.

As he peered up the side of the building, his mind wandered into her apartment and through the past few visits he had enjoyed with her.  They had been casual affairs, a quite dinner, a discussion of literature, a Spanish language movie, and a shared appreciation of South American red wines.  Still, each of those moments in time had left him with a lasting impression that was far greater that the sum of the parts.

It was almost as though it was the smaller moments that left the most lasting impressions.  On each of those visits, he could recall little things that she had said, or small gestures that she had made, with greater clarity and vision than most of what he experienced on a daily basis.

He had witnessed a horrendous car wreck four days earlier, and the graphic details of that were harder to recall, than the time she had tucked a loose strand of hair behind her ear as she discussed the global economy.

He wondered what she would think if he were to stop by unannounced at this very moment.  Would she be welcoming, or would he have to fling himself into the fiery red maple off the balcony to make a fast retreat.

With a final deep breath, he decided it was worth finding out.  Sometimes a small moment in time, deserved to explode into a huge one.  This could very well be one of those moments.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Story-A-Day #320: Air Of Anticipation


For the young man, there was no time of year that carried with it a greater sense of anticipation.  There was something in the air in October that created an unparalleled sense of excitement and anticipation for him.

He realized that a big part of it was the advent of Halloween, the one day of the year that he really looked forward to.  He liked the thrills, and the chills associated with the night, the sense of fear that lurked around every corner.  The commercialization of the day was something that did rub him the wrong way from time to time, but for the most part, it was a day he relished above all others.

In October, when the days were still sunny and warm, but the nights grew cold and eerie, he was in his element.  The dry skittering of dead leaves blowing up deserted streets filled him with a strange well of nostalgia and excitement.

The passage of the moon behind dark wisps of cloud made him anxious.  It was the one time of year where anything truly was possible.

He could run into a zombie, lurking out from behind the skeletal cadaver of an early barren maple.

A vampire could swoop down from the churning night sky and sweep him up and away to an endless life of lusty cold.

A werewolf could pounce out from a shadowy back yard and pin him to the sidewalk, its feral, yellow fangs gnashing inches from his face.

Maybe a ghost would appear out of the mist, an apparition from beyond the grave.

September was drawing to a close, and in its wake was October, the greatest of all months - the special time of year where anything truly was possible, as long as you knew which dark corners to examine.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Story-A-Day #319: Focal Point


Life has a funny way of dragging us off course.  It is always to see the destination, that far off point where we hope to one day end up, but every now and then, life throws us a curve.

Sometimes that curve is actually a straight line.  It is an archetype, however, we all want to eventually wander off into the sunset. It is the ultimate goal for us all, that blazing finale that envelopes us in a magical world of pastel beauty.

What makes us different from the beasts is that we actually have a dewstination to pursue.  As much as we are content to fling excrement at oneanother, we also realize the merit in pursuing a grander finish; we also appreciate that what we do and how we act, reflects upon whom we are.

Everyone has a destination in mind as far as where they want to end up.  The thing is, we all take different paths, nad assign different priorities to the route.  For some, the path left untaken becomes the big regret, but for others, it is the path itself that would have ceated issues.

We all need a focal point; a place to direct our future intentions towards. That's not to say we have a plan for the next year, or five years, or even ten years - it's just to say that we need a destination, no matter how ambiguous.

Two years ago, I had great ambitions.

Today, they are all shot to hell.

I was destined to be a great leader, a man of the people.  Today, I am destined towards nothing.  I can actually see the great void looming ahead, and yet, it would appear there is nothing I can do to arrest my forward propulsion.

I am on a dock, heading towards a supernova, and eventually the woodwork will run out.  Eventually I will tumble out into open space and be engulfed by the incinerating force of my own decisions.  I almost want  to embrace the beauty of the moment, but the searing finality makes it terrifying.

This could very well be the end.  Of me, and my world.  Of everything I have ever known.  This could very well be the end of life as we know it, a mass extinction level event.

Such a short dock, and yet, so many potential ends...

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Story-A-Day #318: Thistle


They were pretty for sure, a deep blue that reminds him of rollicking oceans and deep summer skies.

With such strong memory ties as that, how could he not be drawn to them.

He reaches out with an unsure hand and grasps the stalks of the flowers, anxious to have them displayed on his dining room table at home.

As his hand slowly clasps into a fist, he winces. His fingers spring open and he pulls his hand back anxiously.

His fingers tips and palms are peppered with small, white spikes, thorns from the stalk of the flower.

The itching begins immediately, an obnoxious scratching that just doesn't want to stop.

He rubs at them first, trying to brush them free, but the vigorous action only makes things worse.

Defeated, he realizes he will have to return home to get his tweezers. It had seemed like this bundle of blue would be a great addition to his table, but before he could complete that mission, he had some tending to do with his hand.

As he slowly sets off home, he realizes that like all things beautiful, this one too left a sting.

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

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Story-A-Day #317: Horse Nap


Sometimes you need to realize when enough is enough, when maybe you have reached that point of no return.

Sometimes, it's not so easy.

We get caught up in the routine of life every day, inextricably sucked into the vortex.

We work, often too much, to pay the bills, which are often too many. We do our best to maintain the rest: our families, our friends, our health, and sanity.

A catnap usually helps; a quiet moment on the couch after a long day on the job.

Sometimes, we reach a point where those catnaps and a good night's sleep are not enough.

In those times when we are stretched to our thinnest, we often end up in a place somewhere between waking, and the misty realm of sleep.

It takes a perfect confluence of events and circumstances, but it is not impossible to end up falling into a waking sleep. Today is one of those days, and as I stand here, asleep on my feet, I realize I have entered that interzone.

Horse napping at the side of the road, I suddenly wonder how I hot here, and how long I have been standing here, swaying gently in the breeze.

Confused and confounded, I make my way home to a much deserved sleep.

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

Friday, September 23, 2011

Story-A-Day #316: Cruisin'


He knew it was wrong, but he was rushing into a headlong, head-on with fate.  This was an undeniable collision with his past, present, and future.

He pushed his foot down on the exelerator and felt the car surge forward, the powerful engine roaring the way his own turmoil had been for weeks.  He was on a collision course with destiny, and until he hit her head on, he had little concern for anything else.

The car shuddered and juddered along the dirt road, practically skipping across its surface.  He realized he was at risk of losing control at any minute, but he felt like he had been out of control already for weeks.

For a moment, he felt he would lose everything.  The car skidded across the loose gravel, sliding aimlessly into the trees that lined the narrow dirt road.  This was it.  He was a dead man.  Then, at the very last possible second, just as a massive tree trunk threatened to kiss the driver side window, the wheels caught.  The car jolted back to the centre of the dirt road and with a clutch of rubberized teeth, bit into the loose gravel and rocketed forward.

He was going too fast and he knew it, but there was nothing he could do to slow down.

He reached down and ripped a can of beer from the flimsy plastic net that held it in place.  He wasn't drunk, hadn't had a drink in years in fact, but he wished he was now.

His entire world was on the cusp of extinction.  He was on the verge of becoming another obsolete dinosaur on its tragic projectory towards extinction.

He would not - could not - accept that fate.

He was a man on a mission and the fate of his world relied on getting him where he needed to be.  Sobre or not, he would make sure it worked out that way.

He was on a mission.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Story-A-Day #315: How ' Bout Lunch?


He sat alone at a table for four, surrounded by noisy, smoking French women.  Their husky voices swirled and melded into a cacophonous symphony of guttural barks and bleats, a barnyard of confusing conversation.  Aimlessly, he picked up his fork with his left hand and sketched out anonymous forms on the cottony white surface of his napkin as he watched a soft, white cloud drift across the cerulean blue sky outside.

It was a beautiful day, that perfect beautiful day that only ever seems to happen during the first couple weeks of summer.  The air was warm and clear, yet invigorating.  The leaves in the trees were slowly unfurling and darkening, from the fresh, light green of Spring into the richer hues of summer.  The sun shone brightly in the sky above, beaming down upon all creation.

“That looks nice,” he whispered to himself.

A woman sitting at a nearby table turned and peered inquisitively at him.  He smiled crookedly at her and she quickly looked away.

"Good-bye," he breathed.

The door of the restaurant opened with the merry jingling of bells and, with a deep, expectant breath, he turned towards it.  There she was, standing there in the doorway, glowing in the backlight of the mid-afternoon sun – an ethereal beauty.  She quickly scanned the room before stepping into the smoky room and walking purposefully across to the table where he sat.  All the men in the restaurant watched her with desire.  All the women watched her with envy.  Sitting at the small table for four, he watched her with love.  She sat down across from him and smiled, a warm and innocent smile.

"You have a gorgeous smile," he informed her.  "It makes me happy."

"Thank you," she replied.  "That is a very nice thing for you to say."  Her smile widened, igniting the twinkle in her eyes.  They were the same colour as the summer skies outside, only cooler, deeper and richer.

A busy waitress bustled over, scrawled their orders onto a tattered notepad and disappeared as quickly as she had arrived.

He gazed longingly across the table at his companion; she was beautiful, perhaps even beauty defined.  She was the stuff of epic poems and angst-ridden ballads.  She was inspiration and inspired, the very definition of what the world should be.  With every effortless smile, her eyes twinkled like summer stars.  She was slim (though she'd hate to be told so) and she had the uncanny ability to put everyone around her at ease.  Even the people who did not know her best immediately felt soothed and comforted in her presence.  She had a boyfriend but that didn't matter.  Friends could love couldn't they?

The waitress returned and delivered their food; typical fast food that they ate around mouthfuls of profound conversation.  The food was greasy, but to them it was divine, a feast of the finest flavours and most sublime textures that no master-chef could hope to usurp it.  They ate slowly, a subconscious attempt to prolong their time together.  Fries saturated with oil and big, juicy burgers; bite by bite it disappeared.

Like all things, however, their meal was not destined to last forever.  The waitress ran over as soon as they were done and delivered the bill.  A busboy trailed in her wake and was quick to clear away their dishes.

Rushed, he thought.  They want us out of here.

He peered across the table at her, suddenly feeling the weight of awkward uncertainty looming over him.  Oblivious to the shadow, she peered back at him and smiled.  There was a degree of finality in the glance that passed between them, a quiver in the faint static current.  There was something that he wanted to tell her.  He’d be meaning to for longer than he cared to admit but there always seemed to be a reason not to.  Today was different though.  Today he was going to tell her how he felt.

“You know,” he began, “you look really real today.”

“Thank you,” she replied.  “So do you.”

“That’s not actually what I wanted to say,” he stammered.

“It isn’t?”  She sounded sincerely confused, as though what he had said made perfect sense to her.

“I, uh, I guess what I meant to say,” he was fumbling, trying to find the right words.  He looked at the floor, hoping to somehow find them down there, scattered about his feet.  “I find this... hard to say, but I guess I should just say it.  I love you.  I always have and I always will.  And I know you already knew this but I just wanted to say it.  To make it real.”

He looked up to see her reaction.

He looked up and she was gone.

She had disappeared in a moment that lasted no longer than the blink of an eye, the shooting of a star, the beat of a lover's heart.  His dream had faded in a swirl of mystery.

He looked up and found himself alone.

EDITORIAL NOTE:  This story inspired our latest short, now titled:  MISSING.  More to follow on that shortly.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Story-A-Day #314: Brain Blooms


Memory is fickle. There are those who argue that if it happened, it must be so, a tangible fact and the absolute truth of the matter. The thing is, what happened is quite often a very different thing than what is relayed back to us by our memories of the occurrence.

The cloud of memory is capable of turning even the most tangible event into an intangible memory.

Often what was true becomes a wisp of ethereal impression and what was untrue becomes a lasting impression of the actual event.

So if our reality is so undeniably true, how can it be so easily rewritten?

If our view was of a dull green-brown lake in the distance, and we know that to be how it in fact is, how does our memory add a bright white-red blossom to the scene?

What causes our recollections of past events to so easily skip off the tracks of memory only to come crashing down with a derailed shipment of false ideals to paint a whole new picture.

What was your first memory? It is just as hard to fathom as the first time you experienced love, pain, terror, hatred, or peace. We have ideas of what those moments might have been, but our very definitions of those concepts evolves over time, meaning that our first memories of them become easily replaced moments in time.

We build our memories to suit our needs. Sometimes we add pathos or regret, sometimes we add ideals and exultations. It is our primary line of defense against our own gears and doubts and by reconstructing certain events, we are able to build the best version of our world and reality.

It is these brain blooms that make is who we are, that define our nature by virtue of how we truly see ourselves. It is these brain blooms that set us free from our constraints.

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

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Story-A-Day #313: Peeping Tom


He is a stalker, linked into the ancestral patterns of prey and pounce. He is a silent observer, stealthy and subtle.

Cats tend to be that way, but this one is different. Sometimes, and this might sound a little farfetched, but sometimes I think this one may be touched with magic. There are times when he just suddenly appears.

At least nine times a day I will suddenly become aware of his watchful gaze, an intensely focussed, unblinking stare. It often takes me a few moments to find him, yet inevitably he will be there, greeting me with a bored yawn - almost as if my role in his game is failing to live up to his expectations.

"You simple fool," his gaze implies.

There is something mysterious about this cat. He is a house cat, always has been, but there have been times where I have seen him skulking through the yard, only to appear behind me when I rush to the door to bring him in.

He always rubs against my calf with a low rumbling purr in those moments.

There have been other times where I have woken from a dead sleep to the sound of tormented destruction; the sound of murder in the night. Inevitably, he spends the following day curled in a quiet ball sleeping the day away. Sometimes he is covers in scratches on those days, but they always clear up by the next day.

There is something weird about this cat for sure, but I have a feeling I am lucky to have him. He is weird, but almost like a silent guardian, protecting me from the things that go bump in the night.

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

Monday, September 19, 2011

Story-A-Day #312: King Of The Hill


It hasn't been used in years, so the smell has all but died off now. One of the many benefits of progress - and the indoor plumbing at the nearby cottage.

Even though it is a mostly forgotten relic from an older time, I still like to come out here sometimes.

I will usually bring a magazine with me, something to pass the time.

As I make my way up the sagging dirt steps, a cobweb clings gently at my face. I wipe at it, then reach out for the screen door. It pulls outward with a heating screech of rusted hinges and slams shut behind me with a clatter.

I peer out through the leaves, then down the dark hole carved into the wooden bench and topped with a toilet seat. I wouldn't want to be surprised by any critters waiting down below.

Finally content, I lower my pants and sit on the throne, a satisfied king surveying the crowded forest of my kingdom.

There is a definite serenity to this forgotten place, a sense of peace that permeates the structure, and the experience linked to it.

I hum a little song and pick up my magazine.

This king needed a moment alone and now he has it, perched atop his throne in his sheltered tower on the hill.

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

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Story-A-Day #311: Taco Night


It is a simple meal, but an immensely satisfying one as well. Who doesn't like taco night?

I always start with the toppings. Chop the lettuce and put it in a bowl. Dice the peppers, both red and green, ideally, and put them on a plate. Next, peel and slice an onion, then chop it into small pieces.

Sometimes I get creative and add green onions, tomatoes, jalapeƱos and tomatoes to the offerings as well.

The next step is the cheese. Marble works fine, but a nice old cheddar is the perfect choice, grated and plated and ready to go.

Once the meat hits the frying pan, things really start heating up, that spicy Tex Mex beef really gets me salivating.

All we need now are the taco shells, hard or soft, some salsa, and maybe a little guacamole and sour cream to top it all off.

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

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Story-A-Day #310: Autumn


There a feeling in the air, a sense of crisp freshness and finality. It is an exciting time of the year as the nights grow crisp and the leaves slowly change from summer greens to fiery autumn oranges, yellows, and reds.

I've always loved this time of year, existing as it does on the cusp of summer's sweltering heat and the penetrating chill of winter.

Part of the excitement has always been the ticking passage of time as Halloween draws ever nearer. Halloween is the one day that encapsulates all the things I like, the chills, the fear, the thrill of experiencing the unknown.

As much as this is a time of year for things to slowly die off, but to me it is indicative of the beginning of a new time.

Autumn is the nap that leads to the deep, hibernating sleep of winter and the gradual rebirth of spring.

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

Friday, September 16, 2011

Story-A-Day #309: The Last Picnic


The leaves are starting to gall, vacating the branches of the trees above and covering the lawn below.

Still, it is a nice day, warm and pleasant. I've decided that we will mark the start of autumn with one last outdoor feast on the patio.

The steaks, thick cut and gently marbled are marinating on the counter, the potatoes are cleaned, scrubbed, and sliced.

Once I am done wrapping the asparagus in bacon, I will have to tackle the biggest job of all, but it will be worth it for sure.

I step out onto the patio and set to work, sweeping the dead leaves away, and dusting off the chairs that haven't been used in months. When that is complete, I set to work on the table itself, scrubbing at the specks of dirt. I finish up with a spray bottle of glass cleaner and a handful of paper towels.

I will wait to set the places until we are almost ready to eat. The guests will be arriving shortly, and there are still a few things I need to finish up before they get here.

This last picnic was a good idea. I might need to put on a sweater by dinner time, but it is sure to be a beautiful night.

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

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Story-A-Day #308: Over The Hedge


It is not a tall one, bit neither is she. Of course she is taller than the hedge, but crouched down in a tiny ball, she is just about hidden from my sight.

Still, I know she is there, by instinct mostly. She has that effect on me, a strange ability to make me hyper aware of her presence. The moment she enters a room, I know she is there. Just as I know she is lying in wait for me behind that hedge.

She likes suing these games, and that is a big part of the reason I enjoy her company so much. Hide and go seek, tag, lava - she is constantly reverting to the games of youth and I find it invigorating.

I pause for a moment, pretending to tie my shoe. It's a lousy ruse because she knows I don't have any laces on any of my three pairs of shoes.

Once I am ready, I continue walking along, whistling a quiet tune. As I near the spot in the hedge where I know she is hiding, I make my move.

I lunge over the hedge, through it mostly, and crash onto the lawn next to her. She rolls away, laughing crazily, and I chase her across the yard and back into the street where I finally catch her.

The game is over, the fun is just beginning. That's what makes days like this so enjoyable.

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

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Story-A-Day #307: Sprawl


There used to be a forest here, a soothing block of green with a crisscrossing network of trails that wound through its heart. In the centre of that forest, there was a pond, a shallow pool of clear, clean water.

When I was younger, I would go there to swim on the hottest days of summer. I would travel there on my small blue BMX and relish the quiet solitude of the shady trees, and the cool embrace of the water.

It was so much better than going to one of the crowded public beaches with their stern lifeguards and squealing hordes of children.

Those were magic days, ones I regret leaving behind. I would be lying if I were to say that those days don't still linger in my mind. How could they not?

Sadly, those days are gone, long since passed into the realm of memory. And it is not just those days that have vanished. The entire forest has as well, replaced by an expanse of sandy construction.

Where once there were trees, there is now a growing sprawl of houses, another block of homes to accommodate our exploding population.

They are nice looking so far, sturdy and strong, but nothing can replace the shelter provided by those trees, and the comfort and tranquility of that long-drained pond.

Although the houses will soon be complete, the ghost of those memories will always linger.

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

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Story-A-Day #306: Skyward


It's a beautiful sensation after a few days of cold, rainy autumn; the sun beams down from a crisp cerulean sky and hints at the warmth of days slipped by.

It seems as though my laments for a lost summer might have come a little early. The day is a perfect one, a hint of crispness on the gentle breeze, mingled with the warm caress of the sun's golden tendrils.

The trees are alive with the sound of birds, a twittering, chirping chorus. It brings to mind the quiet days of youth, the easy leisure that only seems to come from summers long-since past.

There is a note of tranquility in those frantic songs, a hint of panicked remorse as the days grow shorter, and the nights cooler.

The trees are already changing, the sea of green slowly transitioning to golden washes of yellow and fiery bursts of red.

There won't be many days like this left, so I intend to make the most of this one. I will sit in the dappled enclosure of my yard, A cold drink by my hand, and relish the passing of another year.

I will create a simple moment of nostalgia that I can revisit during the cold months of winter. That is my plan for today, a winsome passage of hours with my head tilted skyward as the birds sing their mourning dirge.

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

Monday, September 12, 2011

Story-A-Day #305: A Time Out


It isn't every day that the sun sets with such pastel fury. Most days seem to end in a gentle fade to black as a subtle splash of colour ripples across the clouds.

Today is not one of those days though. Today, the heavens have erupted in a dazzling display of magenta, pink, purple, and peach, each hue mingling and drifting through the others and fading up into the deeper blue of night.

Evenings like this bring the world to a pause. Passers-by can't help but stop and stare. It is a show, like any other, a natural spectacle that draws the eye.

Even passing cars slow to a crawl, slowly engulfed by the swirl of settling colours, and the creeping onset of nightfall.

The stars slowly appear, one after another, almost as if they too have been drawn to the resplendent display, distant travelers come to admire the majesty of nature.

I sit in quiet contemplation, a perspiring pint of lager untouched on the patio table before me. During times like these, it seems to be a natural reaction to take a brief moment and appreciate the beauty on display.

As the living painting fades and the brilliant colours dissipate into the blue-black bruising of night, the world slowly reverts back to its routine. Conversations swell around me, cars whiz past, and my pint of lager slowly drains as I fall back into comfortable discourse with my friends.

It was a nice time out.

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

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Story-A-Day #304: Boa Constructor


It's a tough job, construction. There is the labour aspect of course, twelve hour days of hauling, shifting, piling, hammering, cutting, moving, lifting, bending, and so on.

It makes for long days, especially with the weather turning colder. Not only do you have to fight off the chill in the air, but you have to do it through a sheen of work induced sweat. It's easy to get sick.

That being said, it's a good, honest job. I love the satisfaction of seeing a project come together. I also love the camaraderie of the job, the rough and tumble teasing, and egging on throughout the day, and everything forgiven and forgotten conclusion by the time the beers have been poured at the bar once the day's work is done.

It's a good job, a challenging one that lets a man grow stronger both physically and mentally.

The thing is, it is a man's job that resides in a man's world. One of the last bastions of testosterone and masculinity. Don't get me wrong, I'm fine with that. As a man myself, I am a good fit. The difficulty for me is that I love men. I even love some of the men I work with.

That is the secret I carry with me to work each day. They are none the wiser, but if they found out, things would change. I would no longer be part of the team; no longer just one of the guys at the bar.

It's a burden to carry with me, but I don't mind the double life. Each aspect is as much a part of me as the other.

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Saturday, September 10, 2011

Story-A-Day #303: Gut Buster


He was tired, grumpy, and under the weather. He was pretty sure this despicable trifecta had predisposed his day to a miserable conclusion, that he would ride out the afternoon on a tide of angst and bitterness.

That had been in the morning, but now he was at work, slogging away through another uneventful Saturday shift. He didn't expect things to take a sudden turn for the ridiculous, but one little squeaked fart can redefine an entire day.

He was in his office, and hadn't noticed his cohort slipping through the door and so, cheek raised, he let off a rumbling flapper that vibrated sonorously across the leather seat. What was meant to be a small moment of personal release soon turned into a shared fit of convulsive laughter with the simple, shocked utterance of a single word: "Dude!"

He turned quickly towards the door. "Hey," he offered as greeting. "Didn't see you there."

They both started laughing, a little awkwardly at first, then with great evolving rolling guffaws that soon stole their breath away. Tears streaming down their faces, they hunched over in silent, full body laughter. With every quivering shudder, his skull exploded. Through pained gasps, his coworker moaned about his busting gut.

They finally regained their composure, gasping for air. They panted ferociously for a moment, choking on their words as they tried to recap the ridiculous moment, before finally giving up altogether.

They had just regained their composure, had finally settle back down, when a quick smack of butt cheeks echoed through the room.

That one small gesture was enough to nearly kill them.

He threw on his coat and exited to the street, staring at the sidewalk through a sheen of joyful tears. He watched his jacket zipper bounce above his shoes and wept.

No matter the age, a fart was always funny.

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Friday, September 9, 2011

Story-A -Day #302: Amped


The crowd was rowdy already, a cacophony of competing conversations that filled the dim interior of the pub.

He placed his amp on the small stage area then stepped up to the bar and ordered a whiskey, knocked it quickly back, and returned to his car to grab the rest of his gear.

It was a cumbersome load, but a comforting one.

He loved playing for a crowd, and as distracted and loud as they were right now, he knew he would win them over in time. That was the real joy of what he did, winning over a tough room.

As he slowly set up his mic and guitar, he knew this would work out fine.

He strummed a few chords and a distant woo-hoo greeted him from a darkened corner. He cracked a crooked grin and leaned forward to the microphone.

"Thank you," he mumbled.

He strummed a few more chords and sang a verse, then returned to the bar where he ordered a cold, frosty pint.

He would start his set in earnest in a few minutes time. It was going to be a great night.

He could feel the flare of anticipation slowly spreading through his belly. It was the same way every time.

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Thursday, September 8, 2011

Story-A-Day #301: In A Mood


He was in a mood, and not a good one. He knew it from the moment he finally managed to pull his sleep glued eyes open and let the harsh morning light into his life.

The hangover was one thing, a dull throb that pounded right through to the very marrow of his bones. It was a hangover to be sure, but he was used to those aches and pains. He practically subsided in that twilight realm of throbbing numbness.

Today was something different. Today, he was different. There was an undercurrent that drove him upright when he normally would have lay in his cocoon of booze tangled sheets for at least another hour as he adjusted to the obliviating reality of a whole new day.

This morning, he didn't feel empty, he felt mean. He felt vicious even.

Today he felt like a sac full of rattlesnakes, tensely coiled and ready to strike. He felt like a vulture, buzzed on the anticipation of picking clean the bones of his enemies.

He took a long swig from the quarter bottle of whiskey next to his bed and scratched unaware at his sweaty underwear.

Today was going to get ugly.

He coughed, a long racking earthquake of his chest that let loose a small tsunami of lung butter, and lurched to his feet.

He ejected the refuse of his chest into the small kitchen sink and watched it slide off the macaroni encrusted plate it splattered on and down the drain.

Collapsing onto the frayed, battered couch across from his bed, he picked up the small six-shooter from the nearly as small side table and popped open the barrel.

Six bullets. Six shots.

Today would be the day he finally fulfilled the promise he had made to himself seven years ago.

Today, he would end the life of a parasite. He would place this gun to a man's head and blast out the brain that had spawned far too much ill and evil.

He was in a mood today, but it was a mood that six quick shots would easily remedy.

He took another deep pull from his whiskey and wandered towards the washroom where he promptly face planted into the cast iron tub.

He managed to get the shower flowing and watched as a narrow rivulet of blood slowly disappeared down the drain. He felt his sweaty wife beater and jockey shorts slowly cling to him like a filthy, diseased second skin, and nodded off to sleep.

He did not dream. He simply drifted through the empty black that seemed to follow him no where he went and what he did.

It was comfortable. Familiar. Still, there was a nagging undercurrent below.

He was in a mood.

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Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Story-A-Day #300: Totem


It is not a typical totem. It is not a fertility statue, or a pole carved with the likeness of different animal spirits.

That being said, a totem in the truest sense is an item or object that is venerated, one that has close ties to an individual, clan, or family. It is often something with close ties to nature.

This is my totem, a decrepit old tamarac. To me it represents the duality of life and nature.

The tamarac is an evergreen at first glance, but by autumn, its needles drift from green to orange and sprinkle to the ground in a soft, slippery blanket - like those of deciduous trees.

This particular totem is both strong and proud, yet frail and spindly. It climbs tall and slender into the heavens, an earthen mast that scratches at the clouds.

I once built a palace in the midst of a tangle of tamaracs. There were six of them and they supported the dreams and adventures of my childhood.

The tamarac is an ideal representation of our own duality. It is strength and weakness, lightness and darkness. It is pride and frailty, life and death, fiery hot summers and icy cold winters.

This duality is the key to many belief systems. It represents heaven and hell, yin and yang.

The tamarac is duality. It is also the cycle of life, from sprouting cone to toppling timber. It represents the cycling of seasons - from lime green spring, to deep green summer, to mottled orange autumn, and the eventual stark, cold grey of winter.

This is my totem, an emblem of all we are, all we have been, and all we might become.

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Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Story-A-Day #299: Stuffed


The myriad aromas wafted up to him from the thick, fluffy, homemade dough and into the stuffed interior. There were so many mingling scents that it was almost overwhelming at first.

Initially, it was the dough itself that tantalized him with its scent; an earthy blend of flours mixed with a hint of sweetness from the sugar, and a gentle blend of rosemary and basil picked fresh from the garden out back.

The pasta sauce that was haphazardly drizzled on top complimented the smell of the dough perfectly, an additional blend of tomatoes and seasoning.

It wasn't until he sliced through the floury shell that the most delectable aromas revealed themselves.

Red and yellow onions released their teary, tart sweetness, a familiar scent that was perfectly offset by the gentle peppery spice of the thick chunks of green and red peppers.

Meats, both generic and exotic, spilled out as well, unveiling a hidden heartiness and another layer of subtle heat through their delicate blend of cured spiciness.

The cheese, a blend of cheddar, swiss and feta, oozed out of the pocket, gluing all the contents together in a mass of sticky, delicious, delight.

He sliced through the pocket with his knife again and jabbed his fork into another steaming morsel. Chewing with great relish, he paused only to exhale a blast of steam from the corners of his mouth.

It was a delectable feast for sure, and as he scraped up the last few bites of his second panzarotti, he realized he was reaching his limit. He slowly swallowed the last mouthful and sighed. Two and a half pounds of delight mingled in his stomach.

He was stuffed.

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Monday, September 5, 2011

Story-A-Day #298: Recon


Normally this was something he would do under the cloak of darkness. It was like an unwritten rule: if you're going to do recon, don't be seen. It made sense, but it was also illogical. Why do recon at a time where the things you need to see could end up as obscured by blackness as you yourself are?

That was why he had made this choice, why he was idly wandering this lot in the full light of day. He would return at night, from a distance, to seek out the telltale red glow of security cameras, but this casual, innocent walk-by was already a much needed success in the planning process.

He had started on a bench across the road where he spent an hour mapping out the rotation of the guards. They appeared like clockwork, an excellent sign. That level of efficiency usually led to apathy and carelessness. These guards would be more focussed on maintaining their routines and being in the right places at the right time; a good start to be sure.

Still, they moved like lions and were packing some serious heat. The crew would have to be ready for that, and ready for some potentially action hungry resistance.

The best discovery was the access point. At night he would have missed the small grate, nut by day, it was right there in the open.

Hr paused to light a cigarette under the shadow of the distant brick chimney. It almost looked like a moat along the front of the facility, an impenetrable gap. From where he stood though, where the end of the moat was marked with a simple fence, it was a way in.

Cigarette lit, he set off to report his findings to the crew. They would make their move in two night's time, in through the grate. When they exited with the item, they should be able to do so with minimal casualties.

Fortunately their earlier intel already mentioned that the prize was being stored on the lowest floors of this facility. They would know exactly where later this afternoon.

In through the grate under a shroud of darkness. It almost seemed too easy. An entry by darkness was always the best option, however, recon could go either way. His afternoon had just proved it.

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Sunday, September 4, 2011

Story-A-DAY #297: Rained In


The smell of curry filled the cottage, an exotic blend of spices and seasonings. Our plan was to eat outside on the deck, something we had not done enough this summer. Now that the summer was coming to a close, it just felt like the right thing to do, one last meal shared with the bugs.

It didn't end up working out that way though. As the aromatic scent of curry filled the kitchen and slowly wafted out through the rest of the cottage, the skies filled with clouds.

We had just put the mango tarts into the oven when the first fat drops of rain pelted off the sill of the open window. Within a matter of minutes, the world outside was a sodden mess.

We still had a meal to look forward to, an with any luck, a thunderstorm.

When we finally settled down to eat an hour later, the world outside the picture windows was shrouded in darkness. The rain beat a timpani off the steel roof, filling the warm cottage with soothing white noise.

The first rumble of thunder sounded as we were bringing out the tarts.

We had been rained in, but as the first flash of lightning illuminated the lake, I didn't mind at all.

A good storm always excited me, and this one, on the tail end of a delicious meal, looked like it would be a great one.

When the power went out a few minutes later, I just smiled. It had been a great night, and it was only just beginning.

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Saturday, September 3, 2011

Story-A-Day #296: Paddling


The best escapes are often the simplest ones. You don't need a plane to whisk you away to an exotic locale. You don't need foreign foods and languages to make things feel fresh again.

I've been looking for an escape lately, a means of getting away from my mundane routine if work and sleep.

I had hit a wall as far a finding inspiration, or even the will to do or try something new. I wanted to change things up, to experience something new, to get away - and the whole time the answer was right there before me.

Those twin kayaks would provide me with an escape, one o them anyway.

I set out over the glassy surface of the lake, my arms rotating gently as I propelled the craft through the water. It felt good, invigorating.

It was just what I needed to change my perspective, a moment of solitude and clarity beneath the grey September skies.

Paddling had always provided me with that sense of relief, I just never thought to do it.

Today, as I glided over the still surface of the lake, a loon following along at my side, I knew I had made the right choice.

This was a perfect escape.

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Friday, September 2, 2011

Story-A-Day #295: Being There


He still wasn't sure how it had happened, but all of a sudden, he was there - Invitation accepted.

He barely even knew her, and suddenly, he was surrounded by her family, her friends, her family's friends. He was surrounded, essentially, by a bunch of strangers he knew slightly less than the one person who had brought him here so far.

Although he was the stranger surrounded by strangers, he felt oddly at home.

He could hear them inside, their card game in full gear. The laughter that only comes with familiarity drifted out into the night. Hers in particular was like music from the deeps. He listened as they teased, cajoled, and laughed at each other.

He found himself smiling. He had reservations at first, but he could no longer imagine himself anywhere else.

This night was perfect.

He stepped away from the glowing cottage and lowered himself to the dewy grass. He could feel the wet embrace of the earth surrounding him.

He kept his eyes closed for a moment, the conflicting sounds of dissident devotion washing over him.

When he finally did let his eyes flutter open, a panoramic view of the heavens unveiled itself, a sight so unbelievable, he felt his breath catch.

The sky was more white than black, resplendent with twinkling stars. A bright streak shot across the sky.

He smiled.

Being there in that moment was the only place he wanted to be. He was home.

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Thursday, September 1, 2011

Story-A-Day #294: The Wastelands


It has been 639 days since I last saw another human. I know this to be true because each day I add another hash mark to a notebook I keep in my pocket using a small stub of pencil to mark off each day.

I should rephrase that actually. It has been 639 days since I last saw another living person. I have seen her in that time though, every time I close my eyes in fact, but it makes sense that I would. She was my entire world up until the day I woke and there was no world to speak of.

Sometimes I think that without her calming presence in the night, I would have been driven mad by now, my sanity slowly stolen away by the solitude that surrounds me. But like a beacon in the dark, she is there pulling me back.

I spend my days wandering these deserted streets and buildings, foraging for food, seeking out reminders of the way things used to be. I long ago abandoned ties to my old life because that well of grief ran far too deep, but examining the photos and mementos of others does offer some peace, a glimpse into the ways we use to be.

What happened, exactly, remains a mystery, but it is one I can live with for now. There is actually something soothing about being in a world of silence where only the breeze rustling through the trees disturbs the stillness. There is something primitive and welcome in watching nature slowly reclaim its kingdom.

In the times where the loneliness does grow and conspire against me, I find a quiet place to lay and seek out sleep. Inevitably, she is there waiting for me. Her kind words reign me in and her soft touch puts me to rest.

I am grateful that she alone saw fit not to abandon me in this wasteland.

She is, and always will be, the world to me.

A deafening crash surrounds me and for a brief moment I panic, only to realize that it was just a tree collapsing onto the nearby hospital.

For now, I remain alone.

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