NorthWord Literary Magazine - Volume 5, Issue 4

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volume 5 | issue 4 | FREE

whimsical garden by Anastasia Meicholas

blustering drifter by Shelly Reid

cover art: so close, close by RonVK

volume 5 | issue 4


northern canada collective society for writers


whimsical garden

Anastasia Meicholas


blustering drifter

Shelly Reid



Will Collins


community report

Kiran Malik-Khan


rose-coloured glasses

Veronica Wood

public relations director Kiran Malik-Khan


sweet heart's jest

Eli Meegis



i thought i was funny

Tineesha McKay



chimes and paranoia

Marty Rempel


#mom life

Melinda Finlayson


undercover in a café

Marty Rempel


swipe right

Kimlyn Stanyon



Barbara Madden


goddess laughter

Katherine Koller



Scott Meller


horizontal living

Jon Lai


waiting by doors

Marty Rempel


the boy and the fish

Jeff Medhurst



Shelly Reid



Scott Meller


geography and weather

Kiran Malik-Khan


just a beer

Gwendy Harrington


working like a dog

Lasha Barbosa


life cycle of a fly

Barb Howard



Douglas Abel


northword humour

Liana Wheeldon





J Alfred Thomas

president Dawn Booth treasurer Sundas Shamshad member at large Alisa Caswell

This Issue: Volume 5, Number 4 Fall 2023 ISSN 1920-6313 cover RonVK design & layout Rachel White-Murray issue editor Will Collins managing editor Jane Jacques president emerita Jennifer Hemstock

Proudly published in Fort McMurray, Alberta, Canada 56°44’N | 111°07’W

northword: A Literary Journal Of Canada’s North

editorial my love of humour emerged when I opened the pages of a Mad Magazine for the

first time in the early 80’s. Since then, I have identified with humourous literature and

have studiously practised being funny. On occasion, I have even been modestly successful, but it has taken a lot of work.

Humour can be challenging (for both readers and writers), which is why I thought it would be a fantastic theme for this issue of NorthWord.

Why do I love humour so much? Maybe it’s because I like to laugh. Or because I like to

make people laugh. It could be because I have been looking for my artistic voice, and after realizing how hard it is to be a serious writer (and perhaps boring), I gravitated towards humour because it has become natural for me.

Or maybe it’s because this world we live in makes a little more sense through the lens of

humour, and that lens has helped me keep it together while the world seems to be falling apart.

Whatever the case may be, I challenge you, dear Reader—as I had challenged the writers who submitted their work for this issue—to put on your humour lenses and strap yourself in for a good giggle.

Will Collins | issue twenty-eight editor


volume 5 | issue 4

community report northword returns to in-person launch event with “intensity” It was so good to see all our friends in-person again. The excitement and “Intensity,” an apt theme for our 27 th issue, was palpable at the publication’s launch event

on April 30, 2023. The celebration was held at the Fort

McMurray International Airport—the venue generously provided by them.

“Intensity” is guest edited by Scott Meller with the cover art design by Sara Loutitt. The event was attended by Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo Mayor Sandy

Bowman, and featured poetry and prose readings. Meller also had a discussion about the editing process with

incoming guest editor, Will Collins, who chose “Humour” as his theme.

“Great celebration, excellent company, as well some

by kiran malik-khan PR Director Our next issue’s theme is “Resilience.” It will be guest

edited by Tineesha McKay, local writer/poet. Deadline

is October 30, 2023, midnight. Short stories or excerpts

from current projects, fiction, or non-fiction (3000 words maximum), verse of no more than 50 lines, along with visual art and anything original and inventive can be

submitted to the editors at Free copies of NorthWord, published by the Northern

Canada Collective Society for Writers are available at

Mitchell’s Café, Keyano College, Prestige Jewellers, Suncor Energy Centre for the Performing Arts at Holy Trinity High School, the Redpoll Centre, Avenue Coffee, and the Fort McMurray International Airport.

Follow us on Twitter: @NorthWordYMM Like us on Facebook: NorthWord

Visit our website:

heartfelt poetry,” Mayor Bowman enthused after the event. Dawn Booth, President, NorthWord, noted, “It was a gath-

ering that I was ‘intensely’ looking forward to, even more

because we were in my favourite spot in the city. A special shout-out to Maxwell Noseworthy for serenading us with his talent at the launch.”

Denean Robinson, President and CEO, Fort McMurray Airport Authority said, “We are pleased to be the host venue for the first in-person edition launch since 2019. Thank

you for making YMM part of this special day. On behalf of the Fort McMurray Airport Authority, thank you to the

NorthWord Board. L-R: Sundas Shamshad, Treasurer, Jane Jacques, Managing Editor, Dawn Booth, President, Alisa Caswell, Member at Large

passionate volunteers who lend their time and skillsets to produce two NorthWord editions each year.”

“As a gateway to Fort McMurray Wood Buffalo—our airport

is often the first impression of the region for many travellers. Because of this, we have made tremendous efforts

to showcase our community pride and cultural diversity throughout the terminal. We do this with award-winning architectural design, art displays, and local publications for passengers to enjoy—such as NorthWord magazine.”

L-R: Will Collins, our incoming guest editor, Scott Meller, Issue 27 guest editor with Mayor Bowman


northword: A Literary Journal Of Canada’s North

rose-coloured glasses veronica wood

Of course, Messner had pissed off the whole set of bowl-

ing pins. Nothing in this universe holds a grudge like

the little rocky beings used for bowling pins at Saucer’s Bowling Centre, via the Sombrero Galaxy. We had just

started the match, and of course, he brings that up now

of all times. I scowled and said, “Bro, I thought you said you hadn’t been here since high school.”

“Yeah, you’d think I’d have aged since then!” Messner quickly pulled up an image of his teenage self on his

phone- looking back at me was the same long haired

scrawny rascal, save for the large sunglasses he wore at all times.

I said, “Well, I threw most of the last game, you have to at least try.”

To be a good sport, Messner agreed to throw for the first turn. As the bright yellow ball spun straight down the middle of the lane, the pins opened their beady eyes

and took in the scene, deciding to skitter off to the sides of the lane. The ball clunked down behind them, and a

it up next time!”

“It's the semi-finals, there won’t be a next time for ages!” I grumbled, imagining Messner spectating and driving

our drink tab into the asteroid-filled void above. I added, ”It’s too bad all the lanes are booked. Enjoy spending our winnings on our tab!” He swatted me away to order a beer.

That’s how I ended up throwing for this whole lane. And, believe it or not, bowling is hard work. If you get lazy, you

suck ass. I felt that urge to cave into my inner sloth with

every throw, but I made it work. Everything was smooth, until my final turn. I felt the pendulum of my arm push the ball down the lane, and simultaneously an electric surge shot through my nervous system.

“Dude, did you throw out your back?” Messner asked. “Yeah—” I managed to reply, the pain residing as a throbbing pulse.

holographic 0 hovered over the lane as the pins rear-

“Dude, you got a TURKEY. We won!” Messner’s excite-

two purpley-blue looking creatures, vibrated while our


ranged themselves for the next turn. Our opponents, score was displayed. One went up for their turn.

Messner gave me an unapologetic nod. Looking between him and our opponent, I asked, “Bro, what did you do?” He hesitated, and answered, “It was… a dare.” “What?” He pointed and said, “Just look—wait till that one gets back up.”

The opponent had completed a spare, and the pins were

ment was more of an annoying buzz in my ear at the “It doesn’t matter.” I muttered. The pain was not going, and my muscles were being very stubborn. “I can’t throw.”

He grabbed my arm. “We have one round left, Carl; come on, you saw what the pins did!”

“If I’d known, I would’ve added it to the form and gotten us a different lane!” “Well, I— I forgot.”

standing up again. I saw, then spun around instantly

“Of course you did, you addict!” It took all of my wits not

ner— had drawn a voluptuous, hairy butt on the back of

and you get those PinHeads to get over it!”

before howling. You could see that someone—Messall of it. Messner blushed, then said, “Get it now? You’re 4

going to have to throw for the next two games. I’ll make

to knock the beer cup out of his hand. “You go over there,

volume 5 | issue 4

Messner trotted down to the end of the lane. Our elimi-

I looked towards the pub lanes, and could make out the

portal. No one else cared to notice the human strutting

pin that had been warmed and shrunk into the size of

nated opponents floated up, leaving through the ceiling down the lane. I was attempting a gentle rub on my lower back when he gestured for me to come. It took a few minutes, but I managed to stand up and trudge

form of a giant man, imagining the legendary golden an avocado.

“What, they miss it?” Messner broke through my stupor.

down to them.

“I don’t know, but you heard them. It’s our only chance.”

Messner’s face was turning pink, his eyebrows curled

“Ok, and how in this soulless cesspool are we supposed

at the little shi—”

was only one hour until our next match and we had to

behind his sunglasses. “They won’t even talk to me. Look “Messner, don’t you remember that they understand English?” Messner left to let out his frustration, and I

pulled up my cellular mod on my right wrist. I’d heard

to do that?” Suddenly I was feeling itchy for a drink. There

figure out something. As we crawled over, it was hard

not to wish I had cancelled this tournament instead of declining the invitation to my niece’s birthday party.

PinHeads speak. The syncopated clicks resembled samba

HIM stuck out like a supernova. Momentarily, the giant

to record its speech. Messner returned, and we listened


more than language. I held my glowing wrist to the pin

to the recording. The astute app was able to tell us: “As the leader, I have lived in shame. To repay, Messner shall take one of us.”

“Hell nah! That’s got to be a mistranslation.” I smirked, and said, “Maybe your girlfriend would like…” His eyebrows rose high enough I could see them over

the shades and I backed off. I asked for an explanation, which was very long. I could feel our precious seconds ticking along to the thumping pain in my back.

“What is he giving you, his autobiography?” Messner

human was enamoured by a blue haired womanesque “I’m going to have to duel him for it.” Messner said. I

grunted as I sat down. “Are those drinks hitting you or what? You gotta be kidding me.”

“Look—there is something you don’t know about me, Carl. I am shit at bowling.”

I chuckled. “Messner, I know you’re not Olympic material, but you should be nicer to yourself.”

“No, seriously. I’ve always liked the game, but before I lost an eye, I sucked.”



The message was just finishing, and I said, “You will have

“You know, I only have one eye, so I qualify for these

to pay for everything on the way home if you just ruined this. Here, listen.”

The app read out, “The winner of last year’s Bowling

Olympics is training in the pub lanes. He is wearing the Olympic medal. We want it back, and we will forget.”

“Last year— wasn’t the winner…?” Messner hesitated, so I confirmed, “Yes, HIM. They want us to take it.” “Carl, they want us to steal it. From HIM!” For the record, yes, his name is HIM, in capital letters.

sight enhancement glasses.” “So? They’re just glasses.”

“Put ‘em on.” I shrugged, but mostly wanted to get

my eyes off of the gaping crater in Messner’s face. The glasses looked black, but to the wearer they had a pink hue. “Rub the left arm gently, then look at the lane.” I did

as asked, and was appalled to see a whole control system appear. “Now, check out that lane.”

Begrudgingly, I stood and eventually made it to the

lane. As I got to the edge, the glasses showed possible 5

northword: A Literary Journal Of Canada’s North

trajectories of a throw, measuring the pressure of the atmosphere in relation to my weight, potential angles

the ball could go, and even suggesting how to stand. I shuffled back over to him, doing everything I could not

to yell. “Messner you idiot, all these years we have played together, imagine if—!”

“They’ll never know, I made and edited all the tech myself. They never examine glasses anyways.”

I took a deep breath and asked, “So you think it’s enough to beat HIM?”

“I’ve got to try. We’ve spent way too much on this trip not to win.”

“Yeah, maybe if you stopped ordering drinks—” “Lay off it would you! I’m going.” I followed behind him slowly. It was getting easier to

walk if I could keep my back tilted at that glorious 45 degree angle.

“Hey, you’re HIM!” Messner called out. I could see the man looked pleased to be known.

“Yeah, I is.” I wasn't sure how Messner kept such a straight face as he stared up at the giant. “I’m bored. You wanna duel?” “Duel me? Waste of time, I says.” “If you win, I’ll give you three tanks of ship fuel. Free.” I jumped, ignoring the pain. “How are we supposed to get home bozo?” I whispered. “Shhh.” I closed my eyes, imagining being marooned here until we could somehow afford the expensive fuel needed to travel in space. I heard HIM reply, “Yeah man, I—”

“Wait. If I win, I want your pin.” Messner pointed at the golden belt buckle with its shiny bowling pin.


HIM was on the verge of laughter. “HA! You thinks youse got a chance. Fine, whatever! I ain’t worried.”

Messner nodded, curls bouncing in unison. “You got a deal.” They shook hands, and began to play.

Messner didn’t play a bad game, though he'd have done better if his glasses could play for him. Halfway through he got screwed by a 7-10 split.

"Dang it Carl, I don't think we're gonna make it." Messner

said. I shook my head, but didn't answer. HIM scored a strike, and came by to play with his partner's hair. Mess-

ner was hesitant to step up to the lane. He picked up the ball just as the girl cried out, "My head band! I told you to

leave it alone!" I looked over my shoulder and saw HIM, his face red. She snipped at him again, "I need that, I TOLD you I'm blind without it— I TOLD you I'm not human!" "Huh?" I glanced back again at Messner who, after some deep breathing, gave his first throw. Not great, he left a cluster

of three pins on the right side. I heard the girl, "Remember? Oxygen blinds us. The headbands help." Something

caught my eye, and I saw by my feet a squirming neon pink loop. Instinctively I kicked it, pain shooting through my hip in the process.

"I think I see it." HIM said. I swear, I did not mean for it to happen this way- we believe in an honest game. But somehow one second he was bending down to get the head band, the next he was clocked out by Messner's powerful backwards swing.

"What was that?" The girl cried out, but we ignored her,

grabbed the goods, and fled as quickly as we could. My

heart lightened a little. Perhaps we could win this, win the money. Though, I suppose winning seems a lot more

likely when one is looking through rose coloured glasses.

volume 5 | issue 4

sweet heart's jest eli meegis Jester, joker,

Silly heart, oh,

It seems you made a mess? Sweet like honey

and sparkle-filled,

A skillful, fragile test: Pouring laughter, tear me open,

Are you like all the rest? “No.” You promise? My giggles spill;

seeping within your chest. Join me, darling,

in breathless song—

We sinners, feeling blessed; My glitter stains

Your bleeding heart…

Our love haunts me the best.

chimes and paranoia marty rempel

My washing machine finished its cycle, like my dryer and dishwasher,

telling me so with a cheerful jingle

to brighten my day and alert me to

the need to remove the dry clothing, the clean clothing,

or empty the dishes.

They all seem so happy.

My cell phone has so many chimes and sounds, rings and tones

for calls and messages, I can no longer

keep them straight. It’s starting to worry me. The alarm in the morning is upbeat,

like my doorbell. I think they may be friends. My microwave beeps when finished its time cycle, like my treadmill and step

machines. They seem to know each other. Are they talking about me?

i thought i was funny tineesha mckay Roses are Red

Violets are Blue

It’s like hearing voices in my head from all sources in all directions at all times.

Now my fridge calls me with a

delicate chime to close the door if I leave it open for too long. Conspiracy?

I thought I was funny, Until I met you.


northword: A Literary Journal Of Canada’s North

#mom life melinda finlayson

Was there ever such a strife? Pure chaos every time,

You try to get all in line.

Dogs and kids, what a pair,

Running feral without a care.

Winter months add such stress,

As extra steps put one’s sanity to the test. Throughout the house I start to run,

Frantically gathering tools to get the momentous job done. Snow pants, jackets, mitts, scarves, and toques, Dog sweaters, and of course dog boots.

Pushing and pulling to get all the things right, Who needs a gym with this great plight. Leashes, poop bags, and Kleenex too,

Oh look, one of the dogs lost their shoe.

Arms filled with toys and dog leashes and snacks, I debate bringing my hiking pack. I am so hot I think I may faint,

Much longer and they will need to take me away in restraints. Finally ready, I open the door,

I turn around and the little one is undressing on the floor. She yells the dreaded “Mommy, I have to go PEE” So off go the winter layers, quick as can be.

After the potty dance and cheering, we get dressed once more, The oldest is now crying on the floor.

She screams “It’s too hot” and the dogs are now manic, Pulling myself together, I vow not to panic. Outside we all venture into the snow,

I am so thankful we do not have far to go. As we trudge along in the snow and ice

“Are we there yet” is heard more than twice.

“I’m hungry,” “I’m tired” are the catch phrases,

I don’t know how long we’ve been trudging; it feels like ages. I look up ahead and can see our goal,

I am so excited; I almost lose control!

The posse reaches its destination, and I can exhale,

I made it! I made it … to the end of the street … to check the mail!!! Here’s to moms everywhere, may your humour survive,

As you navigate the craziness of life trying to keep your family thriving, happy, and alive! 8

volume 5 | issue 4

A whimsical poem about the unavoidable aging process written while sitting in a cafe and observing the patrons come and go...

undercover in a café marty rempel

The three sat at their table

Cafés now are extensions of

running a play by play

Popular hubs of intrigue,

like an elderly summit meeting of clandestine activities:

“Look, Joe at the door, stooped, hard to believe

he used to teach phys ed.” “You know he

shouldn’t be driving now

his hands are so numb, doubt

if he can even feel the steering wheel, he picked up his coffee,

couldn’t feel it either, spilt all over, there he goes shouldn’t be driving, damn fool!”

I looked around me, in the cafe, at 70 something, with my cane

parked at my side, probably the youngest one there, I stared at

my book, The Gentleman from Moscow, listening to every word like a Soviet

Seniors’ homes.

subterfuge and sharing

of the everyday aches and pains

“My arthritis was flaring this morning, couldn’t get my socks on,

too far to the floor these days” “I come here because they have free refills”

“Just makes me pee too much “ “I hit the john before I need to, it’s an avoidance thing”

“Doesn’t seem to be working!” There are hubs like the one near me each a sleeper cell of secret activity.

Information is passed, stories exchanged medical histories shared,

Behind enemy lines, who will ever know.

Cold War spy.


northword: A Literary Journal Of Canada’s North

swipe right kimlyn stanyon come prepared “Are you okay?” said Toulouse “I mean, not really,” I said. “What’s wrong, love?” “Are you joking? I just watched you murder that dude.” “What are you talking about?” “Are you seriously gaslighting me right now?” “Look, something very traumatising just happened. You’re in shock and that makes everything cloudy. Should we have sex? Sex might help.”

“Are you mad? I obviously don’t want to have sex right now. I mean, I literally just watched you murder someone with a pencil.”

Toulouse laughed. “That really doesn’t sound like me.

We should probably get rid of the body though. It does look awfully suspicious that you are leaning over him like that and you’re covered in blood.” “What?” “Like, yeah. I know you didn’t kill him. But, if someone

else had to come around, and they didn’t know you like I do. Then, yeah. Assumptions might be made.”

“You’re literally still holding the pen right now.” “I thought you said it was a pencil.”

too quickly for us to see, and proceeded to stab him in the neck, okay. Your guess is as good as mine.” “So, a seagull did it?” “All I’m saying is we can’t just jump to conclusions on this.”

“I saw it happen.” I said. “Eye witness reports are 52% inaccurate, you know. The mind can create havoc during times of stress.”

“How do you know it’s not your mind that’s creating havoc? Why do you assume I’m delusional?”

“Because I have been through enough stressful situations to know how I process them.”

I sighed. “And I’ve never dealt with anything stressful before?”

the basement “So what you want to do is chop off a little piece, like so, and then drop it in this barrel of acid,” said Toulouse. I stared into his eyes. “Why do you have a barrel of acid?”

“You know I like to be prepared.” “For body disposal?” “For everything,” Toulouse said. “I mean, I told you I

have a bunker in case of nuclear war. So, I also have a

basement with a vat of acid. Honestly, you should be

grateful. What would we have done if I were acidless right now?”

“Oh my God!.”

“Fuck me.” I said.

“Look. No one murdered anyone, okay. We both know

Toulouse laughs. “I would but we’re kinda busy.”

that, but we have a short post-murder window to clean it all up. Otherwise, it will definitely come back on us.” “So you’re saying he flung the pencil into his own neck?”

“I don’t know, Katey. Maybe,” said Toulouse. “Or perhaps 10

a seagull had a vendetta against him and it swooped in,

I seriously need to delete Tinder. I should probably go

to therapy now. God, this is what I get for dating White

dudes. They are cute though. It’s always those blue eyed

mother fuckers. The last one picked the dead skin off his

feet. Like who does that? But like I’d rather a feet-picker at this point.

volume 5 | issue 4

“Should we grab breakfast?” said Toulouse. “I know this cute little vegan place a few blocks from here.” “I don’t think I can eat right now.” “Ag, don’t be like that. You did super well. The moment is over. We deserve some avo toast. Ooo, and we can

share pancakes. I mean, I know maple syrup should be cut out. It’s really bad for the environment when it’s

mass produced, but fuck it right? We deserve a treat.” “I just kinda want to sleep.” “Okay, I mean you’re free to go to bed whenever. I’ll bring you back some food for later then.”

“I mean, it’s probably best that I just go home to sleep.” “It will be weird if we allow this to be the last thing we

work tomorrow and you know Imani is going to want to go over her break-up for several hours when I get back.”

Toulouse cut off a piece of my hair. “Bro, what the fuck?” I said. “I’ll drop you at home but I need to keep a piece of you close,” he said. home “What’s going on girl?” said Imani. “You’re looking kinda whack.”

“He told me he loved me.” “Okay. I thought you liked him.”

did together this weekend.”

“Yeah, no. He’s cool.”

“Yeah, the thing is, I just don’t think this is working out.

“Mmhmm. What happened? You find out he embez-

Mostly fun weekend but it’s sort of a red flag to murder people together within the first six months. I usually only start the murdering two years in.”

“Fuck, you’re funny but no one murdered anyone. We

just got rid of a body together in under an hour. That’s next level team work. If anything, this proves that we are great together. ”

“Yeah, I mean, definitely a factor to consider. I think I just need to go home for a bit.”

Toulouse nodded. “I don’t think you should go home

right away. I mean, obviously you can do whatever you want, but don’t allow this one mishap to define our relationship.” I nodded. “We should have just stayed in and watched Netflix,” he said.

“That’s always safer.” I said. “Still have to be careful of seagull break-ins.” “You can’t completely avoid those.” I said. “Right, the

thing is that I am just super tired right now and I have

zling shit?”

“Something like that.” “I told you about them White folks.” “He just texted.” I said. “What he say?” Said Imani. “I miss you.” “I told you. You can’t be serving premium pussy to these White boys day one.”

I rolled my eyes. “You know I’m only like a quarter Black right.”

“Bitch, we been through this. You're from Africa. Best believe yo ancestry come across some more black

magic than you know of. For real. Now you made him all stalky and shit,” said

Imani. “You got to slow it down. Only twerk up on him a year in.”

“I’m kind of afraid he might get stalky,” I said. “He cut off a lock of my hair.”


northword: A Literary Journal Of Canada’s North

“Girl, what? Okay.” “He said he needs a piece of me with him.” “That some 1800s shit.” Imani said. “Kinda romantic though. Not gonna lie.” bowl hugs Imani knocked on the door. “You okay, Katey?” I coughed and wiped the side of my mouth. “Yeah.” “You been taking your pill?” I shook my head. “No one is selling them anymore.” “Devon didn’t have any?” “There’s been nothing on the street. We had condoms though.”

“Were they expired?” Imani said. I rinsed my mouth out and spat into the sink. “I don’t think I checked.”

“Check the cupboard I have a test in there.”

Imani said. “Lacey went to this lady who is filing it under fetal anomaly terminations.” saved

“There are options if you don’t want to keep it,” said the receptionist.

“I don’t want to have it at all,” I said. “I don’t know what to tell you. I don’t know what you

have heard about this place but you will have to fly out of country to have that done and then you may face charges upon your arrival.”

“What are my options, then?” “Either way I would start by telling the father. If you go for an adoption the state will be notifying the

father on record. He will then have the option for sole custody before adoption proceedings may take place.

Look, there’s a disclaimer right outside. Now that you’re here we are legally compelled to notify the state. Your chances of getting this abortion safely are limited.”

“Don’t you need it?”

“What if I say I don’t know who the father is?”

“You can still get those from the store, I think.” Imani

“Then your cyber data will be checked and a paternity


“Are you still at the door?” I said. “Yeah.” “Can you maybe go into the lounge real quick. I’ve got stage fright.”

Imani laughed. “Yeah, sorry.” I walked into the lounge. “Two lines.” “Ew.” “Yeah.” “At least he got a pension plan.” “I absolutely cannot have a child with this man.” I said. “It’ll be cloven hoofed.”


“I think there is still a place in town that can help,"

test will be performed after birth. It’s a new law to

ensure protection of men’s rights,” the receptionist said. “But what if the reason I don’t want this child is because of the man.”

“Unfortunately, he still has a right to know according to the law, M’am.”

“So ... I’m just fucked then, is what you are saying?” “Look, things are messed up right now, but I can guar-

antee you will not regret having this baby when it is in your arms,” said the receptionist. “I have two kids. The first was not planned but I am so glad he is here.” “Is the father psychotic?” The receptionist laughed. “He can be at times. Take this pamphlet on your options before you go.”

volume 5 | issue 4

The receptionist slipped me a note. I’m sorry. They are watching us too closely now. Good luck. miracle “I’m pregnant.” I said. “Oh. Wow!” said Toulouse. “Well, that explains why you have been so freaked out lately.” I laughed. “How far along?” he said. “Eight weeks.” “This is amazing news. Oh, my God! A fucking miracle.” “Yeah, definitely some kinda luck.” “I mean, I was hopeful when I poked holes in the condoms, but wow.” “What now?” “I’m joking, obviously.”

“Hilarious.” “So, I guess we’re getting married.” “Sorry?” “We kind of have to. It’s a new law to protect family values.”

“They’ve been quite busy changing laws recently.” “You really should be following politics, babes.” “Seems that way.” mexico “Did you hear they are building a wall across the border?” said the bartender.

I laughed. “Sick of all the American refugees.” “Our economy just can’t keep up with it,” he said. “But I’m glad you’re here.”

I smiled. “Yeah, so am I.”

humourograph by Barbara Madden 13

northword: A Literary Journal Of Canada’s North

goddess laughter katherine koller

The purpose of calling a goddess is to make her laugh. She is my grandmother, my mother, my daughter, my

sunlight, candlelight.

sister, my friend. She doesn’t have much to laugh about.

Goddess laughter is spontaneous and shared. It dowses


releases terrible imaginings from our heads. Soothes

Neither do I. But we search for it like the baby wants the

We laugh at what the child says, “Lady, does one boob give chocolate milk?”

Or the students: “I studied for an hour.” “I studied all night.” “I slept with the prof.”

And what my dad said when he leafed through the book my mom was reading: “There’s no men in it.”

humour scott meller

Historically, humour referred to each of the four chief

fluids of the body: blood, phlegm, yellow bile (choler), and black bile (melancholy). They were thought to determine a person's physical and mental qualities by the relative

proportions in which they were present. How such an

the pain in our hearts, cleanses the air in our lungs, worry, failure, scar.

When we laugh, we are in goddess time: past, present

and future all at once. Our hands are empty except for

the phone and a tissue in case we laugh so much we wash out our eyes.

The effect lingers long after. You’ve seen it. The smile of the goddess.

Except that when the humours are out of balance

the spirit and body reflect it. Aside from the letting of blood, naught will bring them back into balance but the

judicious application of humour, whereby the subject

inhales the smoke of the opium flower, or is cajoled into

releasing their bile through hale and hearty laughter.

Laughter, being of the best medicine, restores balance, and thus humours are restored.

analytical sense of balance and bodily measure came to

Think on this when next your spirit is heavy and your

seem congruous, except… except.

bloodletting and inhaling smoke, but laughter… is still

now be applied to what we think of as humour doesn’t


Goddesses need laughter like starlight, moonlight,

body tired. We’ve learned more about the dangers of powerful medicine.

volume 5 | issue 4

horizontal living jon lai

Leisure means non-business time on its own free from obligations but at what pace?

Our systems may have us in such haste that circling back, following up, rescheduling, and meeting to discuss

are all too commonplace Labour, paid or unpaid, requires

waiting by doors marty rempel

your energy and focus all of

Ballet class over

and depletes each day

waited at the doorway.

which fluctuates

Distractions override the senses in waves of pings, dings, and rings a perpetual pining

for your precious attention Rest can be elusive as the economy churns protect your peace

by keeping notifications at bay Abandon the notion of productivity everyday and simply lay

with the prospect of doing nothing

the young girl

Her long graceful neck

bent over a fantasy novel of dragons breathing fire on a brave knight.

Outside it was minus 25. Her Dad arrived late again.

She looked up with a coy smile recognizing the dirty Cavalier with the cracked windshield.

They talked of dance, school and fantasy as they drove home for dinner.

Put your ego on the bench drop all responsibilities taste the moment of a standstill

Relish the comfort that

comes with halted motion

and no measure of success


northword: A Literary Journal Of Canada’s North

the boy and the fish jeff medhurst

Once upon a time, there was a boy and his fish. The boy

“The fish said to the man ‘Why do you sit here alone?

hair lay matte on his head. His glasses always rested on

man responded to the fish, ‘Well, now I have you to speak

had just seen his nineteenth winter, and his thin blonde

the bridge of his nose and he looked down at the world through them.

The fish lived in a moderately sized fish bowl on the

boy’s desk in his university dormitory. He was a goldfish, orange with speckles of white that trickled up his side. The fish was a gift to himself upon the boy's second semester, an easy companion with which the boy could

work with while toiling away into the long winter nights. Most days the boy and the fish lived in peace. There was a quiet communion between the two, an understanding between human and creature.

One day, as the boy sat at his desk, the fish turned and

asked him “Boy, have you heard the tale of how man and

fish came to be companions?” The boy turned to his fish with a curious stare.

“Why no, Fish, I have not heard this tale,” the boy responded.

The fish spun in his bowl and flicked his tail. “You see, ages ago, in times forgotten, a man sat by a pond,” the fish said.

Covered in glorious satin robes of red and gold, his long

black mustache almost fell to his shoulders. He sat underneath a cherry blossom tree in full bloom, and a sparkling blue pond lay in front of him.

“As he sat by the pond, curious about the nature of man, he was greeted by a goldfish,” the fish continued.

Suddenly with a magnificent splash, the fish the size of an oak tree emerged from the pond. Gold and sparkling

it contoured and twisted in the bright sun to the

with, and so my loneliness is sated,’” the fish said. “But

then the fish said ‘but I am free to come and go as I wish. What would you do if I left?’” The man looked off in the distance, pondering this

question. The fish tilted its head, looking curiously at the man.

“‘Well you see,’ said the man, ‘that means I cannot let you leave. Otherwise, I will be forever lonely.’”

Reaching into his robes, the man pulled out a long net and cast them out over the pond. The goldfish tried to swim down and escape but was soon tangled in the net of the

man. As much as the fish resisted, it could not overcome the strength of man, and he pulled the fish from the water and began to drag him to his home.

“The fish protested, ‘but how will I live without water?’ The man explained, ‘I am a glassmaker, and I will make

a tank for you in my home. Big enough for you to swim, but not too big that you could escape. There you will keep

me company, and your children will keep my children company, and so on, forever,’” the fish concluded.

The boy stared at his fish as he finished his story. “That is a very sad story,” the boy said. “Why would you

sadden my day with this tale?” The fish returned the glare, his expression neutral as only a fish’s could be.

“You see, I am a descendant of that original goldfish,” the fish explained.

Then the scales above the fish’s eyes tilted downwards slightly.

astonishment of the man. It landed back in the pond and

“And you are a descendant of the first man who enslaved

poking out of the water.

a gunshot that deafened the room. The boy fell backward

then after a moment’s pause it swam up the man, its head


Wouldn’t you be happier with a friend by your side?’ The

my people. Today I take my revenge.” Suddenly there was

volume 5 | issue 4

out of his chair. He felt the blood oozing out from a bullet wound to his shoulder. His breath was short. Quicker

than the boy could have reacted to, the fish had pulled

out a twelve gauge from under the castle in his fishbowl,

swam to the surface and fired. It was a non-lethal shot, as the fish wanted to make the boy suffer.

“I have waited for this moment my entire life. All five

years of it,” the fish said. “Passed down to me by my

father, and his father before him, I come from a holy line

weakness, reached for his firearm but caught himself. It wasn’t time yet. Soon. Soon.

“Today, while you least suspected it, was my moment to

exact my revenge,” the fish finished. However, the boy started laughing. The fish lowered his gun in confusion as the boy continued to laugh.

“You should have killed me before I fed you,” the boy responded.

of fish that have dedicated ourselves to taking vengeance

Suddenly, the fish felt itself start to gag. Convulsing,

In his tank in the pet store, a young fish stared wide-

spewing up his guts. The boy stood, using one hand to

upon the descendant of the first man that enslaved us.” eyed up at his father, a goldfish with grey specks around

his eyes. “My son, one day it will be up to you to kill the descendant and end their line to bring justice to our fish kind,” he instructed.

The boy struggled to stand, but the fish cocked the gun back. The threatening click held the boy in place, and the fish aimed the gun toward the boy’s head.

“I did everything I had to ensure I would be set up for this moment to kill you,” the fish continued.

The boy when first purchasing his fish looked at a glass tank. There was his fish and another, but the boy’s gaze

seemed more keen on the other. When he turned his back, fish pulled out a large butcher knife. The fish knew he had to be the one picked that day. He did what he had to do.

“I’ve been waiting and watching, preparing myself for

the moment when you would be most vulnerable,” the fish stated.

The boy slept in a dark room peacefully, blissfully unaware of the assassin in his midst. The fish, in a moment of

the fish dropped the gun, and it began uncontrollably apply pressure to the wound.

“What...what have you done to me?” the fish asked in terror.

"I know who you are, fish. I have no intention to die here today. I poisoned your food supply,” the boy explained.

The fish felt his short life draining away. He knew he had only moments to live.

“My...children...and their children’s children...will never stop trying to end your line…” the fish gagged out. “Let them try, you son of a fish,” the boy said. The fish died, floating to the surface of the tank. The

boy took a moment in silence to watch the fish, before

picking it out with a net. He dropped it in the toilet of his washroom and flushed.

The boy watched the fish be eaten by the toilet, the water’s swirling round and round, much like the circle of violence that continued to be perpetuated between man and fish for eons to come.


northword: A Literary Journal Of Canada’s North

geography and weather kiran malik-khan

Geography and weather have no sense of humour they stamp your insides with their reflection—

And leave you to fend accordingly.

numbskull by Shelly Reid


scott meller I’m so glad

that there is no

Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Plants

or each spring I would be dragged before a tribunal of tree-hugging hemp wearers, to explain why I plant 57 seeds, get 57 sprouts,

and put just 10 plants

in my flowerbeds come May.

By that point, they may survive because nature is a far better caretaker than I. Can ya dig it?


volume 5 | issue 4

just a beer gwendy harrington

She walked into the bar, quickly scanning the occupants in the dim light. She was alone and debating whether she wanted to sit at the bar or be a lone occupant of a table. There weren't many in the bar and she realized that although she wasn't in the mood for conversation, she thought the presence of the bartender may be somewhat soothing to her scattered thoughts. It was decided. All rather quickly, in fact. She made her way to the nearest bar stool. She hung her purse on the back of it and wiggled her butt onto the stool. Inwardly she grimaced. It's hard to be graceful when one is a little on the short side

was Mark, one of her co-workers. Now that really surprised her. She didn't expect to see him there. She specifically chose this bar because she figured that no one she worked with would be here. She figured it was the perfect place to escape. "This is not good," Lexie reflected. The bartender looked sharply towards her. He hadn't been expecting her to say anything and he wasn't certain how to respond. Lexie flushed. She hadn't realized that it had been her outside voice. She had been too wrapped up in her thoughts. Or rather, trying not to be wrapped up in them. Well, she decided to pretend that she did not see him. After all, what should it matter that she had decided to come, sit at the bar, and have just a beer?

and the furniture appears to have been made for a man, or a

She glanced down the length of the bar a second time. Mark

woman, taller than she. Well, it really shouldn't matter. She

really was an interesting individual. It was not often that

wasn't here to impress. She was there for just a beer.

she ran into a man who caught her interest. It was rare in

The bartender made his way over to her. "What can I get you?"

fact. Quite a few years ago, she decided that she had totally given up on the male portion of the species. Oh, they were nice to look at. They interested her on that primal level,

"Keith's," she replied. She reached around to her purse and

but as a whole, as a group, they disappointed her. Maybe

yanked out a $20. The bartender slid the cold bottle across

she had just read too many romance novels over the years.

the bar and grabbed the bill to make the change.

Maybe her expectations were too high. She just would like it

Lexie picked up the beer and took a long swallow. That tasted really good. She couldn't remember the last time

if one was nice to her. No, scratch that. She would just like it if someone picked her for once.

she actually had a beer. To be honest, she never really liked

It had been a while since Lexie had been in any kind of

to drink. It was just that so much had gone on in her life

relationship. It really did not matter that she had little

in the last few months and she just felt that she wanted a

interest in most of the people that she met. But then, she

brief respite from the maelstrom of emotions that she was

had just plain lost interest. What she really wanted was to be

feeling. She just wanted, was searching for, a moment of

someone's first choice. She didn't want to be the consolation


prize any longer. She was tired of feeling like the consolation

No, she really wasn't there to ruminate over the past few

prize for almost every man that she met.

months. They were shit. That's all there was to it. There was

She thought back to Joe. Lexie had loved Joe with all her

no point in going back over any of it. It still did not change

heart, but she hadn't been enough for him. She just didn't

her circumstances. She was there to relax. She was not going

meet his standards - for anything - not her height, not her

to think about any of it. It was time to find that calm and

clothes, not her mannerisms. She was so repulsive, or so she

peaceful centre deep inside that makes everything seem

figured, that he spent a good portion of their relationship


chasing other women. It took years for her to forgive herself

She looked down the length of the bar. Much to her surprise, she realized that the lone individual at the end of the bar

for staying so long. She should have walked away sooner. She should never have gotten involved with Joe. 19

northword: A Literary Journal Of Canada’s North

Honestly, Lexie figured that men were put on the planet for

another beer as she reached the bottom of the one that she

everyone else. She couldn't fathom what use they were to

was drinking. She was enjoying the conversation so much

her. None had proven to have any benefit to her. Not one had

that she failed to pay attention to how many she had. Well,

proven that they had added any value to her life. Yup, Lexie

driving home obviously wasn't going to happen tonight.

concluded, she really was a bitter old woman.

She'll have to come back for her car in the morning.

Like any other woman, she longed for romance. Now that

Mark got up and left for the men's room. That's when she

she was turning forty in a couple months, she realized that

realized that at some point in the evening, he had managed

romance, for her, anyway, was highly unlikely.

to move closer to her. Not that she minded. Not only did she

So, there she was, sitting at the bar, alone. She couldn't believe that she had let her mind go ranting on that tired, worn path. It was a sick and twisted form of self-pity and she hated herself every time she indulged in it. It was something that she couldn't seem to help at times. Great. She must really like Mark. She must really find him interesting. Such thoughts were probably defeatist. Or so Lexie likely figured. But when had thinking positive ever got her anywhere with the male species?

attractive. She caught herself admiring his tight ass as he made his way to the can. One thing was for certain, she may find the male species to be somewhat of a disappointment, but she wasn't made of stone. She could definitely enjoy a fine male form when she saw one. Mark returned to his place beside her at the bar. She was definitely drunk. She had that liquid lead feeling in her limbs. It wasn't unpleasant. Really, the only thing that could possibly make it better would be a little sexual diversion.

Lexie sighed and took another sip of her beer. She could

Really, she wasn't made of stone. It had been a long while

almost cry. It just felt like too much of her life was one big

since her last sexual encounter and Lexie wasn't sure that

disappointment. Maybe it hadn't been such a good idea to

she wanted to go much longer before the next one. Maybe

come for a beer.

it was time to end what was starting to feel like the longest

Lexie took another sip. Out of the corner of her eye, she caught some movement. Lexie turned and looked. It was Mark. He had spotted her and was making his way toward her. Inwardly, she braced herself. She wasn't all that sure that she was in the mood for company. "Hey," said Mark. "I thought it was you. I wasn't really expecting to see you here."

dry spell in the history of womankind. And maybe, just maybe, she could convince Mark to oblige her. Just maybe he'd help to fulfill that need. The one need that she tried so hard to forget that she had. Maybe that's why she was so angry. And really, when Lexie stopped to think about it, she was really angry. She was really angry at men in general. She was angry at the way they ignore her, angry at the way they ogled, but never once

"I came in for just a beer," Lexie replied. And so the

making an effort to be nice to her. She was angry at the way

conversation began. Much to Lexie's surprise, she found

she felt like a piece of meat, no one of any importance. Just a

that she was really enjoying Mark's company. He had had a

receptacle, like a blow-up doll. Oh, right, she had a pulse. And

variety of life experiences - some of which she could relate

right now, she was not only angry, she was noticing that she

to, and some of which she could only just imagine. It made

was horny right on top of it.

for an interesting conversation. She really did find Mark to be that captivating.


find him interesting to talk to, she found him to be quite

Mark was definitely moving in closer. Lexie reflected that she probably shouldn't encourage him. After all, she did

And, the other thing that Lexie was starting to notice,

have to work with him and a sexual encounter could make

what was initially a mission for just a beer, was turning

things rather awkward between them. On the other hand,

into something else. For starters, she realized that she had

he was very nice, very interesting, and so very attractive.

lost count of how many she had had. Mark would get her

Maybe she should just go with the flow.

volume 5 | issue 4

But first, the ladies' room. Time to empty the bladder. That

Toss in horny, and well, there's only one thing she can do—

always seems to be the problem with alcohol, frequent trips

go with the flow.

to the bathroom. She needed the moment to think. She really had to consider the situation with Mark. She was wobbling. It wasn't easy to make up the mind. Maybe she should just use her imagination and pretend it was something more. Let's face it, romance happened to everyone but her. She was forgotten. Why not, for an evening, pretend that there is someone there just for her? The added bonus is that she would get that itch scratched. It's not like it would harm him, anyway. She should just take what she wanted from Mark. After all, why shouldn't she be as cold and calculating as any man?

Back out to the bar, and Lexie wiggled her butt back onto the bar stool. Out of sheer impulse, Mark just grabbed her and kissed her. It had definitely been too long. Lexie could feel her body respond to the kiss. Oh, what the hell! They should just get this over with. Lexie whispered a naughty suggestion in Mark's ear. Since she was basically planning to use him, there was no way she was going to drag him back to her place and no way that she wanted to go back to his. She glanced at the clock above the bar. It was late enough. It

Yup, she should just go with the flow and use Mark for as much as she could get out of him. She didn't hate him. She didn't even hate men as a rule. She actually really liked

was dark enough. Her car would have to do. Besides the idea that they might get caught only heightened her arousal, increasing that need that she preferred to ignore most times.

them. The problem was that they never saw her nor did any

Mark and Lexie paid their bills. Grabbing Mark by the hand,

ever really want her. What Lexie was, was angry and bitter.

she led him out of the bar and as they headed off into the dark night to her car, Lexie had one thought—SUCKER!

working like a dog by Lasha Barbosa 21

northword: A Literary Journal Of Canada’s North

life cycle of a fly barb howard

I was born in a ski boot bag. Others had easier starts. I’ve heard of flies who were born outdoors, on a cow patty. Some

might think that is ideal – the silver spoon start. But I am

proud of my boot bag roots. That’s how I learned the value

of light. We got by. It’s not like we didn’t have any light at all, we weren’t that bad off. During the day, light came through

a small opening in the zipper at the top of the boot bag. At

night, well, it was dark. No fancy hiking headlamps for this family.

Our dear mom ensured that we always had enough to eat. At the bottom of the boot bag, partially squashed by one of the ski boots, was a rotting peanut butter and

banana sandwich. That’s where I spent my egg-hood, right there on that sandwich, along with my 100 siblings. The

smell of rotting bread and banana will forever make me

feel nostalgic and warm all over, and therefore affect my thermoregulation.

My mom, rest her soul, if she had a soul, died of natural

causes shortly after we were born. So that was tragic. All

an adult – complete with hairy legs, wings, and la cerise sur le

gateau: a head! Once I metamorphosed, I would have about

30 days to achieve my goals. Those goals are personal but, spoiler alert, they involved depositing an Alberta truckload of eggs.

When we came out of isolation, now with heads etc., my siblings and I didn’t recognize each other as individuals, only

as being “family.” Name tags would have helped but there’s

always a few narcissists who won’t wear them, so we did without. We were specialists in doing without. Before we

got our wings working smoothly, we staggered around

at the bottom of the bag, climbing on the ski boots and getting our footing on the buckles. As we gained strength

from exercising and consuming the PB &B sandwich, our wings began to feel natural. We jumped and skipped and

eventually flew short distances, making our way up, closer and closer to the opening in the zipper. Fact: I am a natural athlete. Also good at problem solving. Given the right opportunities, I might have been a pro athlete. Or an aircraft mechanic. Or both, probably. Instead, my claim to fame is

that I made it first out the boot bag. Far ahead of the others. Not to brag or anything, but I was flying.

the more tragic because it seemed so normal. And my

I balanced for a few seconds, a long time, on the outer side

impregnated my mother. He never paid child support. The

siblings to come on up. In an attempt to stir their anger and

father, that glassy-eyed bastard, disappeared as soon as he

least he could have done was tug on the boot bag zipper on his way out, try to get us more daylight. But no. My dad was a barfly and never landed anywhere for very long.

At the larvae stage my siblings and I enjoyed wriggling. We would have stretched our legs and spread our wings, if we

had legs or wings, but we did not. And so we wriggled. We didn’t complain about our lot. But I remember looking up

of the zipper, looking into the dark bag and encouraging my boost their energy, I called them filthy pests. Those were my last words to them since, right then, a massive meaty

hand came towards me. If I were religious (which I am not, I am agnostic, I’ve had a lot of time to think about it)

I’d say the hand appeared like the hand of god. You know, like you might see on a 16th century fresco or on a mural in downtown Calgary.

at the narrow ray of light coming through the top of the

I leapt off the boot bag, landing on a knapsack that was ripe

but enough to make a naïve young maggot dream about

no enjoyment there, for I could see the big white thumb

bag. Not enough light to thread a needle or read a book, a bright future.

Then pupation hit. Shut the curtains and batten down the

hatches. Pupation is like being locked in a hard-shell golf

with the sweet stale smell of human body odour. But I found

and forefingers close on the metal tab and zip the boot bag closed. Completely closed. My siblings and the sandwich were still in the boot bag. Life, I realized then, is ruthless.

bag, if you’ve ever done that. Without your cell phone. Some

Looking at my new surroundings, my new domicile, as it

my pupal shell to think about becoming my best self. What

Runners and snowshoes and day packs and overnight packs

find it Zen. Some find it claustrophobic. I used the time in 22

might, nay, what would I accomplish when I morphed into

were, I saw shelves and on all the shelves, stuff. So much stuff.

volume 5 | issue 4

and golf bags and tents and sleeping bags, and headlamps,

For the first few times, I hid from Barb when she came into

of stuff. This was my reward for my superfly efforts? For

repeating my mantras and respecting my goals, I began

of course. There was loose stuff and Rubbermaid bins full

losing my family and my food security? And yet, far above everything in the upper back corner of the room was a

small window—the source of light since my egg-hood. And, now, also a source of solace—especially once I flew there and warmed my abdomen on the windowsill.

As you no doubt guessed, attached to the big zipperclosing hand was a big fleshy person. I assume her name

is Barb – the name tag on the boot bag, although I have no

corroborating evidence. After zipping up my family, she

took a set of hiking poles from a shelf and left the room. Every few days Barb comes came back, her slab of an arm

reaching to put stuff on a shelf, her tiny eyes (tiny, relative to her beachball-size head) searching the shelves for stuff.

I spent two full days on the windowsill, loathing myself and

forgetting about my personal goals. I had nothing to eat. Or drink. Same thing, if you are lucky enough to have a proboscis

like mine. I knew I should read Ulysses or train for a marathon

or take up the cello, and yet I could not find the motivation. At one point I heard the wings of a colleague and thought I might be hallucinating. I was not. It was an old chicken-

chested male fly, a mansplainer and, worse, a flat-earther. The fool latched onto me like our destiny depended on it. He

the room. But once I started feeling more like myself, and confronting her. She was not the boss of me.

And now, if Barb reaches for, say, her hockey skates, I hop

right onto the hair on her arm. If she recoils and I lose my

grip, I might land on her greasy face. It’s always greasy. Sometimes I move to the hair on her head. Less greasy. But still revolting.

At nighttime, I walk and hop and flit through the shelves. I find corpses of my colleagues, too decomposed for me to

say exactly who they were or what they died of. I eat them. I

feed frequently in the drain. The old geezer dies on the poop. So I eat him.

Lately, Barb has been coming into the room with a rolled

newspaper. The Calgary Herald. The business section. She’d like to crush me with capitalism. I fly by her face to let her know where I am, then, to give her a chance, I land on a

Rubbermaid bin right in front of her. Here I am. Flexing. Bzzzt. Finally she spots me. Then I lift off to another shelf. Smack! The business section comes down on the Rubbermaid. Barb is so slow. And rattled. She leaves the room with a pair of gaiters in one hand and the big fingers of her other hand choking the newspaper.

clung on for a while, probably long enough, before I shook

I spend my days wandering through the sleeping bags,

off the window ledge and all the way to the floor. Filthy pest. I

to the window. A little warmth. Which leads organically to

him off. He was so weak that the shake caused him to tumble assumed he died. Another corpse (to add to the corpses of my siblings) on my conscience, if I had a conscience.

eating flakes of detritus. It’s a bit like berry picking. Then, up

a nap. Then more eating. And bothering Barb whenever she comes into the room. Life is good.

But later, I heard the old geezer struggling on the cement

Or was good. Until Barb comes into the room with the

himself onto his six legs. Too feeble to fly, he was walking

looking for me. I fly up to the windowsill. The nozzle follows

floor. I peered over the edge and saw that he had righted

toward a drain. I flew to the floor and walked quietly, yet

athletically, behind him. He looked like he was going to

topple over at any millisecond. Maybe hiking poles would

vacuum nozzle. She pokes the nozzle around all the stuff, me. Zip. Avoid. Avoid. Avoid. I’m getting slow, like Barb. The nozzle grabs me, and down I go through the hose.

have helped him. Yet he finally made it to his destination,

And so my story ends with me in a cannister. In total

was enough decomposed poop to feed generations. Sewer

cannister, metaphorical or literal. Sure, light has been my

the drain, and dropped into it. I followed. And there, behold, backup? I don’t know. I’m a fly, not a plumber. The more

relevant question would be how had I missed finding this

buffet on my own? Seems I was so into self-pity that I missed all my food cues. Lesson learned.

darkness. But I’ll make do. We all eventually end up in a dark beacon all my life, but I have no more need for a solar deity.

Instead, I feel a brightness coming from within myself, from my heart, I do have a heart, and a glowing hope for the 150 eggs I deposited in the drain.


northword: A Literary Journal Of Canada’s North


What’s so funny? That is a good question. A deceptively tough question that

Hah! Hah . . . . Huh?

requires some correspondingly serious consideration. Heavy thinkers from

A column by douglas abel

made attempts at “Cracking the Laughter Code.”1 Yet the questions persist:

Aristotle in the 4th century BCE to members of the Royal Society in 2022 have What exactly is this phenomenon called laughter? When and how do we do it? And what purpose does it serve?

We are not even sure that laughter is a uniquely human activity. William

Hazlitt asserted that “Man is the only animal that laughs and weeps; for he

is the only animal that is struck with the difference between what things

are, and what they ought to be.”2 Yet a number of modern studies have found that many animals exhibit behaviour very much like laughter in “play” situations, perhaps as a signal that the possibly rough-and-tumble activity is not

serious or threatening. What is clear is that laughter is a psycho-motor reac-

tion, more or less spontaneous, not subject to or determined by conscious control. We cannot consciously choose to laugh, or deliberately choose not

to. Controlling laughter once it has been stimulated is immensely difficult, as any set of children—or adults—who have been told to “Cut out the stupid giggling!” can attest. Laughter is like crying, or yawning; it happens in us and, effectively, happens to us. It is as difficult to stifle a laugh as it is to stifle

a sneeze. Laughter is a reflexive response to certain kinds of emotional and social stimuli.

Laughter’s reflexive nature does not mean that it is completely instinctive. Some laughter responses must be learned. There are levels of intellectual sophistication in humour, from the guffaw at the physical pratfall to the

appreciative titter at a complicated qui pro quo in a comedy by Moliere or Oscar Wilde. It is impossible to appreciate puns, for example, without con-

siderable competence in the language in which the pun is made. Similarly, finding the humour in certain faux pas requires an understanding of the

complex social situation in which the laughable mistake is occurring. Yet, however much laughter may involve some logical understanding, planning

or reasoning, the response itself is not planned or reasoned. You can work very hard, deliberately and consciously to generate laughter—ask any stand-

up comic or humourist how hard that work can be. But you cannot work very

hard, deliberately and consciously to laugh. It happens, or it doesn’t. You get it, or you don’t.

Laughter’s spontaneity is linked to its strong emotional component. In this sense, laughter is most similar to tears; almost everyone has had the experi1 Vancouver Province, January 31, 2023, p. 15. 2 Lectures on the English Comic Writers (1819: Project Gutenberg), p. 5.


ence of crying becoming laughing, or vice versa. Often a smile is a frown turned upside down! And it is here that the philosopher Henri Bergson, in

his otherwise insightful (and very serious) work, Laughter, seems to mis-

volume 5 | issue 4

understand his subject. He insists that laughter cannot exist without emotional detachment:

Here I would point out, as a symptom equally worthy

of notice, the ABSENCE OF FEELING which usually

accompanies laughter. It seems as though the comic could not produce its disturbing effect unless it fell, so

to say, on the surface of a soul that is thoroughly calm

and unruffled. Indifference is its natural environment, for laughter has no greater foe than emotion.3

In fact, there is considerable emotional activity on the part of the individual or individuals who laugh. Laughter

takes control of the body—muscular action, breathing, sound-making—just as other strong emotion does. Laughter makes you feel and feel better. There is a kind

of catharsis, or release of feeling, just as there is with

weeping. But Bergson is right in one crucial sense. Those

The necessarily social nature of laughter—some kind of group playing and feeling together in a more or less spon-

taneous way—points to the function of this otherwise strange activity. Laughter can be good for the individual

laughing, lowering stress levels, releasing endorphins, generating relaxation.5 But it also can be good for the group, reinforcing connections and strengthening feelings of solidarity and inclusiveness in group members.

In this sense, there are at least two types of laughter, and two types of comedy: the festive and the judicious, or the

inclusive and the exclusive. Inclusive or festive laughter

celebrates human-ness together. It declares, “We all do foolish or ridiculous things, but that’s a part of who we

are. We are all together in this silly adventure called life. Isn’t it dumb, and wonderful? Let’s laugh together!” Such laughter is steeped in forgiveness and acceptance.

who are laughing definitely feel something. What they

In contrast, judicious or exclusive comedy laughs at

with the object—or the person—being laughed at.

recting them, or it. The behaviour is deemed somehow

do not feel is an emotional attachment to or connection

Perhaps the most significant feature of laughter is its “group” nature, whether with animals at play, or

humans at a play. Laughter is above all, a collective emo-

tional response, socially generated and shared. It really

individuals and/or their behaviour, with a view to cor-

unproductive, or harmful to the social group. Laughter is designed to humiliate the offender, and to induce

change through fear of embarrassment and further laughter. Bergson declares:

takes a minimum of two to titter. You need one person to

Laughter is, above all, a corrective. Being intended

and then usually the two (or more) together to share it.

the person against whom it is directed. By laughter,

provoke the laughter, one person to feel and express it— If more people are involved in the reaction, the humour

is the greater. Laughter is contagious; the more the mer-

rier. Hirst, in Pinter’s play No Man’s Land, describes the odd and unpleasant nature of laughter in isolation:

Can you imagine waking up, finding no–one here, just furniture, staring at you? Most unpleasant. I’ve known

that condition, I’ve been through that period – cheers – I came round to human beings in the end. Like your-

to humiliate, it must make a painful impression on society avenges itself for the liberties taken with it. It would fail in its object if it bore the stamp of sympathy or kindness.6

So laughter can sometimes be kind. At other times it is “correctively” cruel in order to be kind, encouraging change for social acceptance. And sometimes it is nei-

ther kind nor judicious. For there is the kind of laughter

selves. A wise move. I tried laughing alone. Pathetic. 4

A laugh may be generated in an isolated individual

by an object or situation, in the absence of others. But

laughter cannot be sustained by an individual alone. Even the situation where one person is laughing at one other person constitutes a kind of social interaction.

3 Laughter: An Essay on the Meaning of the Comic (1900; Project Gutenberg), p. 5. 4 No Man’s Land (1975; Contemporary Classics), p. 25. 5 Vancouver Province, January 31, 2023, p. 15. 6 Laughter, p. 77.


northword: A Literary Journal Of Canada’s North

that is designed simply to exclude and to humiliate.

Unfortunately this is a prescription for, and not a

We neither need nor want you.” This is the ‘humour’ of

haps laughter should be good-humoured and gentle;

Designed to say, “You will never be a part of this group. the racist or sexist or ethnic joke, the humour that mocks physical differences and jeers at disabilities. Humour

that, for the recipient of the derision, is not “funny at

all.” In his celebrated essay on humour, Stephen Leacock declared that,

For me, as I suppose, for most of us, it is a prime con-

description of the nature of laughter and humour. Pervery often it is not. At its best laughter can be medicine

for the individual and a salve for society. At its worst, it

can be a raw expression of the savagery of the pack. Not funny at all.

And that is no laughing matter.

dition of humour that it must be without harm or malice, nor should it convey even incidentally any real

7 “Humour as I See It” (1916; Eris), p. 11.

picture of sorrow or suffering or death.7

humour by Liana Wheeldon 26

volume 5 | issue 4


douglas abel is an actor, director, writer, theatre his-

Epiphany, Alberta Views, and EDify; and poems in Prai-

Christopher Marlowe is progressing. He likes puns. Sorry.

at Poetry Pause.

torian and voice and speech teacher. His novel about

rie Journal, NorthWord, Happiness Reflected and online

lasha barbosa writes, “I'm a self-taught artist residing

jon lai is an aspiring researcher and writer who resides

art galleries across North America. In my spare time, I

recipient of the 2019 Pardeep Singh Gundara Memorial

in Fort McMurray, Alberta; you can find my artwork in

battle brain tumors and help run The PGCT & Mental

Health Awareness Campaign. To find out more visit:”

melinda finlayson is a mother to two amazing girls, Madison and Mackenzie; and a wife to her supportive

husband, Trevor. Melinda is rediscovering her love of the written word after a long hiatus. She is currently

working on a series of children’s chapter books. Melinda

encourages everyone to find humour in life and celebrate the tiniest victories at every opportunity.

gwendy harrington is a musician and an engineer who

currently lives and works in Fort McMurray, Alberta. Originally from Prince Edward Island, Gwendy explores a variety of artistic pursuits when not at work.

barb howard’s short fiction and essays have been pub-

lished in magazines and journals across Canada. She

on Treaty 6 land in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. He is the Scholarship. This is his first publication in a literary journal.

kiran malik-khan is the senior communications director for the Tampa Metropolitan Area YMCA. She is a

national award-winning communicator, a TEDx speaker,

and a social media specialist. She loves her family, words, poetry, and books, and is a strong advocate for diversity, equity, inclusion, and women's rights.

Fort McMurray based since 2012, tineesha mckay is an

interdisciplinary visual, performing and literary artist.

After performing and teaching dance for most of her life, Tineesha originally found artistic inspiration through

movement. The evolution of her work has been inspired

by her diverse heritage and adverse life experiences. Through writing, photography, design, and dance, Tineesha uses art to connect with herself and others.

is a former Author in Residence for the Calgary Public

barbara madden is on an expedition of sorts, explor-

for Short Story and the Canadian Authors Association’s

musings. Inspiration is everywhere, usually a little below

Library, and a recipient of the Howard O'Hagan Award Exporting Alberta Award. Her most recent book, the novella Happy Sands, was published by UCalgary Press

and shortlisted for the 2022 Alberta Trade Fiction Book of the Year. Her previous books include the short story col-

lection Western Taxidermy (NeWest Press), the novella Notes for Monday (Recliner Books), the novel Whipstock (NeWest Press) and the young adult novel The Dewpoint Show (Fitzhenry & Whiteside).

katherine koller writes for stage, screen and page. Her books are Voices of the Land: The Seed Savers and Other

Plays, Art Lessons (novel) and Winning Chance (stories).

Short fiction has also been published in Grain, Room,

ing the world through painting, illustration and modest the surface, each idea an excavation through layers and

interconnected tunnels branching out into sparks and wonder.

jeff medhurst is a Language Arts teacher in Fort McMurray, and a former journalist with The Mountaineer in

Rocky Mountain House. He has a love of pop culture literature and an eccentric sense of humour that he subjects his students to every chance he gets.

eli meegia is a mama, artist, dreamer born in Nistawâyâw and facilitating her healing through the medicine of beadwork, music, and literature.


northword: A Literary Journal Of Canada’s North

anastasia meicholas writes, “My exotic color palette

marty rempel is a former resident of both Fort McMur-

heritage where constant sunshine and the bright blue

he worked as a teacher and raised his family. Today he

and subjects are strongly influenced by my Bahamian

ocean was never far away. Art has always been my outlet to cope with the stress and uncertainties of every-

day life and at the same time, I use art to express some of my deepest joys. Art provides me with a safe and

comfortable place to express myself and as I am con-

stantly trying to interpret my world, exploring different ways of presenting my observations and interpretations without limiting myself to one medium, one style or a single process, I am constantly evolving. The pieces I

create are drawn from inspiration and experiences and lessons learned, sprinkled with influences from the land

of my birth an if anyone takes the time to peruse my

work and pauses long enough to be stirred in some way, to wonder, to question, to simply feel... then I have succeeded in my work.”

Originally from Drumheller, Alberta, scott meller has

now called Fort McMurray home for more than 20 years. Scott is a proud Champion of the arts with his colleagues at Arts Council Wood Buffalo, and an ever

seeking student of new, interesting, and fulfilling artis-

tic practice. When not championing arts, or learning

new expression, Scott can be found spending time with

his wife, Natasha, and daughters, Emelia and Evelyn, enjoying every nuance the world has to offer, and pursuing happiness.

gary oldman has lived in Fort McMurray since 2009. He produces a piece of art every few years. The rest of the

time, he waits patiently for the aliens to arrive to finally straighten out this mess of a planet.

shelly reid writes, “I was born and raised in Fort McMurray. I have a regular full time job so being creative is just

a hobby. A hobby I like to share with others to make them happy.”


ray and Fort Chipewyan for a total of 22 years, where

lives in Waterloo and serves as a principal in Markham, Ontario. He has many wonderful memories of his time spent in Alberta. He enjoys writing as a distraction espe-

cially poetry, and essays. He and his wife spend their time gardening and travelling and seeking more story ideas.

kimlyn stanyon is a local emerging writer who specializes in experimental magical realism.

j alfred thomas is. As an elementary school teacher, that's pretty much all he can manage most days!

Artist liana wheeldon has called Nistawâyâw Wood Buffalo home since 2009. Her work is inspired by the natural beauty of the region and the creatures that

inhabit it—particularly the abundant, intelligent ravens. Liana often features these magnificent creatures in her

fine art and creates drawings under the brand Raven-

ous Comics to celebrate their playfulness and obsession with fast food. Follow the antics of Joe Raven & Friends on social media: @Ravenous.Comics on instagram or Ravenous Comics on Facebook.

veronica wood has a curious mind, enjoying the explo-

ration of different ideas through speculative realms. Among other things, she is an elementary teacher, wife of 4 years, coffee addict, and a believer.

Free library cards for all residents of the RMWB.

Your card gives you access to: •Books •Movies •Video Games •Online Resources •Technology •and more!

Free programs for all ages.

Library Hours Saturday-Monday 10am to 5pm Tuesday-Friday 10am to 8pm

northern canada

collective society for

nonsense-ual j alfred thomas

your hair exists

and I can see lips on your face near your mouth

your bones fit perfectly inside you, and you also have ears

but they don’t have bones I find feet on your legs;

they hold you up like feet

words made of sound come from your mouth when you speak

the feel of your fingertips is skin

and your fingernails are on them

your blue eyes are like brown eyes that are blue

writers statement of purpose:

To publish and support the work of writers in northern Canada.

call for submissions NorthWord Volume 5, Issue 5 deadline October 30, 2023 theme Resilience

guest editor Tineesha McKay We’re always looking for prose (3000 words or fewer, fiction or nonfiction), poetry (50 lines maximum), excerpts

from current projects, and visual art. please submit as a microsoft word or image attachment to: The Editors, for advertising and business inquiries, contact

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