VIOLIN © Margo Prentice
“If I could be a musical instrument I want to be a violin.” Sparks crackle inside ribbons of grey smoke and shoot high up into a blackened sky. I am held in the strong arms of Andre, tall and handsome with black curly hair. His dark eyes shine as he holds me firmly under his chin and in his arms. He moves the bow touching my strings with at the speed of light making me sing like no other gypsy in all of Europe. Andre plays me with gusto, tenderness and passion. Roma gather around the fire as they have done for hundreds of years, I the expression of their soul. My neck is made of maple wood, my fingerboard is ebony. The hair on my bow is horse hair. My strings are made of gut. I come from the earth. Everyone who hears me is filled with joy, sadness and passion. For the people of the countryside I am a “fiddle.” As the fiddler passes the bow over the strings those who listen are stirred. My music fills them with the desire to dance. I am played merrily at harvest parties and weekly dances, and at weddings and funerals. Dances and my music pieces are passed down through the generations. The Cajuns and French Canadians and many cultures dance to my music “Bluegrass Music,” a mix of fiddling and blues. I love it when the old-time fiddlers play my music. The greatest jazz violist of all was Stephan Grapelli. When he played me it was a work of art. I sit in the front row of symphony orchestras poised, to start in the hands of the first violinist. From the master virtuosos Paganini to modern violinists Jimena Lovan the grand master compositions slide off my strings in powerful cascading crescendos. Vivaldi composed his music with me. His school was filled with orphans’ girls whom he taught to play in fifteenth century Venice. My sounds filled the salons of the elegant homes in the major cities in Europe.
Great masters, like Heifetz could make an audience so moved, that to hear me played by him was blissful. Heifetz even gave me a name, “David” and when he died he left me to the San Francisco orchestra. The great masters die but I live on in the souls of people who hear me. Yes, I am the violin; I have been with humankind for hundreds of years. I am everywhere! My soulful music is played in concert halls, around gypsy fires, at weddings and dances. I am the sad melody in the solo ballet performance of the dying swan in Tchaikovsky’s, ballet, “Swan Lake.” I have so many favourite pieces; Tchaikovsky’s violin concerto in D minor is one of my most moving. Tears flow easily when I play in the background music in movie, particularly when lovers part or are reunited The greatest composers of all time wrote for me. All for me. I am a violin.
------------------------------------------------------------------- copyright Margo Prentice
Masterpiece © Valerie Adolph
My wife doesn’t know how I can see character in a piece of wood - how I can look at a piece of rough rosewood and see the chess piece I can carve from it. I can tell how it will look, its size and character and how I can make it match the other pieces. It’s as plain as anything to me, like a language I understand. The queen I’m starting to work on now, for instance. How could you not know that the piece of rosewood I’m holding is feminine? I couldn’t possibly carve a knight or a king from that. It’s as if you were blindfolded and held someone’s hand. You would know if it was a man or a woman, if they were tense or relaxed or hot or nervous. Wood is alive with character, I think of it as being like human flesh. In my workshop I can make wood look like flesh and blood, fully-clothed people and I can even show their character. If you were to ask me what makes a piece of rosewood feminine I would tell you it’s the feel of it, the colour, the grain. That other piece, over there on your left, that’s masculine. It’s not only masculine, that piece, it’s regal. I’ll make him the king. I chose this house because of this room. I love this room, it has the best light, year round that’s why I made into my workshop. From the moment I step inside and inhale the wood scent I feel at peace. This is a room for creation. In the twenty five or so years I’ve spent in here I’ve adapted to its smallness. After all, it doesn’t take much space to work on the fine carving of chess pieces. It’s a warm room and it smells of rosewood, even when my wife gets impatient with my mess and sweeps the floor clean of all my shavings. Myself, I’d leave them – I think I would feel part of the rosewood itself if I was ankle deep in shavings. My wife doesn’t understand how I feel about this wood but she understands people better than I do. She’s practical – well, I suppose one of us has to be. She can tell right away if someone is no good or if there’s something about them that makes her feel uncomfortable. She always knows who will pay and who won’t. She doesn’t like Dr. Wilson, for instance. She says there’s something odd about him. I don’t understand why she thinks that. I know he’s not a real doctor, just a
professor over at the university, but for more than a year now he has often come in to look at my chess pieces. I’ve even allowed him to follow me into my workshop so he can watch me carving. He sits out of my way, quiet and still. I’m so used to him that I hardly notice him anymore. A few months ago he asked me to carve a special chess set for him. He wanted a chess set that represented King Arthur’s court, He even had a name for it, he called it his Camelot Scene. I knew it would take a long time because first I had to research it carefully. He brought me books from his library with pictures, pointed out the details of each knight and told me stories about their character so my carvings could bring them to life. He didn’t quibble about the price. My wife quoted him a price that took my breath away, saying it was because of all the extra work. He even paid me half up front for it and he has paid a bit more each month. By the time I’m finished he’ll have paid full price so my wife will be happy and I’ll have been proved right. What can be wrong with him? He’s old, he’s a professor and he is paying up front. He even stays silent while he watches me so he doesn’t distract me. It’s all good. In truth I’d have charged him much less because this work is what I’ve honed my skills towards for years. This is the first time I’ve been able to allow the characters to enter my imagination fully and express themselves totally through my hands. I know I will never have this opportunity again so I carve each figure slowly, almost holding my breath. With this Camelot Scene I can achieve perfection. If my tiny chisel slips or a detail displeases me I can discard that piece and create a finer one that reflects the soul of the knight or the lady. The golden rosewood I’m using yields to my detail chisel and starts to look as if the queen is actually walking, strolling to meet a lover. When I touch the piece I feel as if I am caressing it, caressing her. I hear a rustle and look up to see Dr. Wilson. He doesn’t disturb me, he sits down quietly on the wooden chair still wearing his coat and hat. All day he watches my hands create the queen of Camelot. He doesn’t try to hurry me. His shoulders are stooped and he never looks at my face, he just stares down at the pieces of the chess set as they take form. “Queen Guinevere.” he whispers one day. “You have her perfectly.” I smile at her. Indeed even the lift of her eyebrow is perfect. I have carved the Arthurian court as he has instructed me and I am almost finished. In the centre is King Arthur, older and bearded. He has become almost like a friend and a couple of times I’ve been tempted to ask him for advice. Lined up beside him are the knights,
almost identical, but not quite. Look closely enough and you can see Sir Lancelot, the great swordsman but at heart impure, an adulterer. On the other side is Sir Gawain, young, but standing straight and loyal. To me they have become like real people, my companions over the last few months. I have never been as proud of any chess set I’ve carved as I am of this one. I know this is my masterpiece. I almost wish Dr. Wilson had not paid up front because if the set were mine I could keep it forever, maybe in a glass case. Then, when I grow old and my hands get stiff so I can only carve rough furniture, I could look at it proudly and say, “Once I carved this!” I tell Dr. Wilson that the set will be ready in a week and he comes in every day to watch me. I wonder why he is here and not at the university teaching his students. Finally I am done. The set has been sanded and burnished until the rosewood glows. I can think of nothing further to stretch out the task. Dr. Wilson pays me the last of the money he owes and I take down the box lined with silk that I have prepared for the set. To stretch out the last moments before it will leave my workshop I ask where he will display my chess pieces – somewhere just for himself or where everyone can admire it? He lifts his eyes from the pieces and looks at me for the first time. Now even I can see that he is not quite sane. “I am Merlin!” he says. “I created Camelot. It was my masterpiece. I made it a place of beauty and goodness but they corrupted it and made it evil. Now I must destroy it.” He picks up the chessboard with all the pieces and very carefully lowers it to the floor. Then he stamps on it. Stamps and stamps again, shattering every single piece, grinding each one angrily into the floor with his heels. Then he turns and stumbles out. I kneel on the floor running shreds of golden rosewood through my fingers. By some miracle I find the cheek and beard of King Arthur and I cling to the tiny fragment with my finger-tips. I don’t even realize that tears are running down my face until my wife comes in with a dustpan and brush. “Why are you crying?” she asks. “He paid you for it, didn’t he?”
------------------------------------------------------------------- copyright Valerie Adolph
Private Dancing – In The Lane © Marylee Stephenson
He is a druggie and a dealer. I’d been “acquainted” with him for a couple of decades. My office was on the Drive, the old Italian area of Vancouver, replete with lesbian life, cappuccino bars, up-and-coming residents in renovated homes, and beggars and pit bulls on every block. The office was below his flat, and secretive characters would slink up the stairs now and then. He must have been the main supplier to his wife, who seemed to move in slow motion, eyes glazed, permanently guilt-ridden and cringing look on her face. He was wiry to the point of gaunt, with unbraced canine teeth that made him look somehow cunning and rapacious. But of the latter I can't be sure, but once on a late-night-deadline’s work, I heard crashes and then a thump from above that actually shook the ceiling that was their floor. I called the police, thinking of his wife, alone with just him. The police came, quickly. When they left, he arrived at our door, screaming in outrage that I had dared to invade his privacy and call the police. Somehow holding my voice steady I returned a yell that said if I ever know there is a woman alone and I hear noises like that “I call the police!” Somehow I held it together and he backed away. From then on he was somehow obsequious when our paths crossed—eyes not meeting mine, small tense smile. I went back to my usual explanation for such behaviour, that he must have been terribly abused and bullied as a child and when someone showed some strength he would turn to trying to please them. In contrast to all of these happenings, over time I’d seen that there was one aspect of him that was somehow touching. He works for the city, driving a half-ton truck, for repair work or gardening -- I can't tell exactly, but it takes him from place to place and I suspect from buyer to buyer. For himself, he has an old, no-name American car, cheap in its day and surely worthless now. But not to him. Every week he goes out into the backlane shared parking lot, where he cares for it meticulously, total wash and wax. It was one of those long Vancouver evenings -- the rare sun blasting down still, and full daylight at 8 p.m. or so. I came out the back of my building to get to my car. He was stripped down to shorts, his body lean but not conditioned. There's no hose, so he had buckets scattered here and there, and he was singing. Rough voice, not strong but in tune, and certainly audible. From My Fair Lady -- "On the Street Where You Live." He finished a few words and saw me smiling. It was one of those few days
when I was dressed up for meetings, wearing high heels even, a great contrast from my usual cargo pants and t-shirt. I felt very "up" myself and rather tuneful. He stopped swabbing the car and called out, "Is that Tony Bennett that I hear? Could that be Tony Bennett?" No, I said, searching back for other Italian singers of bygone days, "I think I hear Vic Damone!" Laughing, he went on with the song, quickly running out of the words, but humming loudly. By then I was not far from him, near my own car -- but I know all the words to the song. I thought, "What the hell, you're a performer!" So I turned and singing at a near yell, so he could hear from a distance, began..."I have often walked on this street before/But the pavement always stayed beneath my feet before." I walked closer, keeping up with the song, so he would hear the words, and see I was joining him. "All at once am I / several stories high / knowing I'm on the street where you live." His eyes widened, a huge smile appears. He got up, began to walk toward me. He tried to join in when he could, mostly humming and clearly delighted. "People stop and stare / They don't bother me / Cause there's no place else on earth that I would RAHTHER be!” By then I was running out of words and he was just in front of me, beaming. Suddenly, he reached out, took me in a very formal waltz position, arms outstretched, no contact except hand to hand and a light guiding pressure on my back. I kept singing, “Let the time go by / (BIG note now): I-I-I-I-I don't care if I / can be here / on the street / where you live.” With that he began twirling me round and round in that filthy, needle-strewn parking lot. His hand and shoulders sweaty from his work, me going back to the first verse and still singing, only a little softer this time, as we were face to face, hand to hand. “And OH the towering feeling / just to KNOW somehow you are near / the over powering feeling / that any second you may suddenly appear..." Round and round and round -- the blur of beat up cars, dying weeds, garbage bins, condoms, flashing past my eyes as we whirled. A few more turns and then our laughter broke up the song and the dance. He dropped my hand, his other hand moving away from my back. Stepped back a pace, performed a gentlemanly bow from the waist. Straightened up, and in his raspy, smoke-shaped voice said, "Thank you for being romantic." Dance over, mutual smile -- I went to my car, he went back to sloshing his. -------------------------------------------------------------- copyright Marylee Stephenson
The Malevolent Snowman © Bryan Cousineau
The snowman grinned malevolently as the mailman turned the corner and approached the front gate of his house on Elm Street. He hated this postman, he hated Canada Post, he hated the mail this jerk brought every day. He always told himself he didn’t have much of a life, standing there, frozen and immobile on the front lawn. But at least he wasn’t a postman, thank goodness. And this postman was a real pain in his icy butt. Every morning, punctually at 9:15, he would show up in his blue, standard issue Canada Post uniform. He somehow seemed to think that he was charming and witty, but every morning it was the same old line, the same old crap. “Good morning frosty Frosty” he would laugh, then head up the three steps to the house, to shove the day’s deliveries through the letter slot. When he came back, it was always “Have a nice day, Frosty. Try not to melt away”. And then he’d leave, laughing to himself while Frosty bridled at the tired, lame jokes. Well, today it was going to be different. Today good old Frosty would get his revenge. Behind him was the pile of snowballs he’d worked diligently all night to make. They were round, firm, fully packed, and ready for action. His coal eyes gleamed, and his button nose twitched. “I love the smell of snowballs in the morning”, he thought to himself, “they smell like a good whack on the back of the head”. But today something was dreadfully wrong. The mailman wasn’t alone this morning; he was pushing something new in front of him. Frosty instantly recognized it as a brand new, bright red, Toro 375 snow blower. The very sight of it made Frosty’s ice veins run even colder. The mailman opened the gate, shoving the machine up the walkway like an assault weapon.
“Oh no”, thought Frosty. “Oh please don’t start”, he prayed. “Please have a breakdown”. But it did start. It had been purchased just yesterday from Sears, and it was equipped with electronic ignition. The blower roared to life, the mailman smirking back. Biting on his corncob pipe, Frosty was frozen in his tracks. “I read your mail, Frosty” the mailman cruelly laughed. “That book you ordered? Snowballs For Dummies?! Hah! Nice try, frosty Frosty”. He then aimed the machine’s snow-disposal chute at Frosty, who experienced the cold sensation of being covered by members of his own family as he was buried alive.
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------- copyright Bryan Cousineau
PIZZABOY AND PRINCESS © Elizabeth Schofield
“It’s not like you understand. You’ve never loved anyone,” says Princess, “You don’t even love me." I sit across the table, revolving my coffee cup on the shiny surface, focussing on the reluctantly shifting bubbles at the rim. It’s okay, my kind of love can’t be explained casually. “I mean, you tell me that you love me, but you don’t ache for me.” She bangs her cup down. That makes me jump, but I’ll make her wait for an answer. Slowly raising my eyes to hers, I say “But I do love you.” Princess isn’t listening though; she’s talking about the current boyfriend. “I’ve done everything that he wants, given him everything that I have. Shit, I even do his laundry,” Princess says. Actually, I do the laundry, including his. You give it back to him folded, with his socks paired and his underwear on top. I empty the garbage cans, cook the meals, clean the toilets and make your bed, when you’ve slept in it. I see your life unfold in front of me, every little bit of it. So much of it ends up in the bathroom garbage can. You will get it soon. I’m the only man for you. Princess is still talking at me, shaking her head at her phone screen, “He isn’t going to change just because I need him to.” Oh I agree, but this is boring, I’m stifling a yawn. “Dammit, I need to go to the washroom again,” she says. I can watch her walk away, I like to watch. Her tiny figure is wrapped tightly in designer denim; she’s clutching her leather jacket fiercely to her
stomach. Who does she think she’s kidding? It won’t be long now, and all this crap she puts me through will be worth it. “Watch my purse PB?”, she calls as she stalks off towards the washroom. “Yes, Princess.” I lift the pink patent satchel, adorned with a cacophony of jewelled charms and studded with rhinestones and cradle it. She’s mine to take care of. Princess has finally done it. This will affect her for the rest of her life, and she won’t get out of this one without me. All this time I’ve waited. I nearly gave up on her there a couple of times. Dogged determination, that’s what I have. The others have said so, as well as controlling, some even said creepy. It's crap, I'm right. This current man’s recriminations and repositioning will go on for a while, then he’ll leave her when she runs out of ways to keep him interested. He'll leave her all to me. I have been in my kind of love with Princess since our rooms shared a wall in our student residence. I could hear her laughing and crying, and the long silences when she was out. She seldom returned alone and I was a little uncomfortable at first listening intently to the liquid sounds of passion that filtered through her boy band posters and my AC/DC, that even burrowed under the pillow that I pulled down hard over my ears. But I got over that. I knew what she needed and that was me. I stopped hiding under the pillow and waited intently for the next round of sexual activity and my inevitable, glorious climax. She did it for me, and she wasn’t even in the room. I started to plot her subjugation when she floored me with a smile of thanks as I held the door for her. She was hooked when I returned her dishes clean and sparkling and she invited me to order pizza and stay for dinner. I paid for the pizza. I suggested that we share an apartment after university. I hoped that Princess had just been playing, that she would now grow up, and love me, perhaps not in the way that I love her. That`s a special kind of love, but I can make her need me. I’m indispensable; I’ve made it that way.
“More coffee, please, PB. Will you ask him not to make it so strong this time? I’m feeling a bit sick this morning.” “You’ve also not eaten anything,” I’m critical, “Shall I get you something?” Princess doesn’t answer; she doesn’t even look at me, she sits straight down and rips her purse off my knee. Her fingers stab relentlessly at the keyboard on her phone. Yet another text drives me to leave her and stand in line for the coffees. Across the café, Princess is still punishing her phone for not delivering the reply that she wants. I had a car, a battered Camry held together with duct tape and Bondo. “All that car needs is a Domino’s sign on the top, and you could be a pizza delivery guy,” Princess said, as she laughed through the tears one night, delicately peeling the thinly sliced vegetables off the top of the congealing cheese with her honed French manicure. I told myself I only had to wait. I know I’m a solid, dependable, unexciting sort of guy. Women are constantly telling me. They also tell me that I am, at times, creepily determined. It has been the spurious reason for the end of at least three relationships. But not with Princess, she has needed me. Even when the battered old car was traded in, she still called me PizzaBoy and she was still my Princess. I have worked hard at making her stay with me. Her boyfriends, the shallow, grasping men that she takes up with, are always only too grateful for me to take up the slack. At least, that’s what I assume. They can treat me as some sort of tame house-boy in my own home, and then they can leave. I have a long-term plan. When she’s in-between boyfriends we sleep together, my arms around her shoulders, her soft, blonde hair spilling over my chest. I covet her dreams, I covet her. She breaks my heart every single day, but she hasn’t broken my resolve. I will have her. I haven’t had the chance to sleep with Princess for the last six months; she’s been in love, again. This incarnation of her ideal man is another glittering, brittle guy, stunning to look at, totally self-absorbed. Princess and the boyfriend do look fabulous together, turning heads as they arrive at a restaurant, quieting conversation as they walk by. Men look at him with
envy, women at her with controlled distaste, constantly reassuring themselves that a woman as good-looking as that must be shallow, or unhappy or fragile. Which of course she is, but I will have her anyway. She can adorn my arm, she takes my breath away. I can wait. Princess is coddling her second cup of coffee and I am watching a mother and toddler at the table behind us. Mom is playing peek-a-boo, the child’s squeals of delight are infectious, I’m giggling along with her, trying to catch Princess’ eye and draw her into the game, but she’s staring blankly at the screen on her phone. She’s not ready for this yet. But I am ready, ready for both of us. Fine, I can keep my cool, not much longer now. She leaps up. Lurching towards the door, she’s outside and hailing the man she's been texting all morning. I’m behind the coffee shop window, but I know what she’s saying to the boyfriend. She’s grabbing his forearm and waving her other hand around in the air. The man straightens, and pushes her away. Princess draws in close to him again, but he blocks her from putting her arm around his waist. She stiffens, takes a step back, and the boyfriend, seizing his opportunity turns and hurries away from her. I leap up. My chance! Princess is standing still, rooted to the spot, her head cast down. I can see the tears cascading down her soft cheeks, the sobs wracking her upper body. Rushing out, I gather her in my arms, and bring her back to the warmth and familiarity of our table and of me. I’m grinning but thankfully, Princess is too upset to notice. She scoops her purse onto her lap, nursing it intently. “Well?” I daren’t breathe, this is it. “I don’t know what I’m going to do,” says Princess. “I do,” I say, pulling her hand firmly off her purse, and putting it in my lap. “I empty the bathroom trash, remember, I know what’s going on.”
She stops crying. "I love you PizzaBoy.” “You will,” it’s here; I’m taking a moment to savour my impending victory. It’s been a long, hard campaign. “When do we go to our first prenatal appointment?”
------------------------------------------------------- Copyright Elizabeth Schofield
Etched on Stone © Donna Terrill
I pull up to the curb in a midnight-blue Kia hatchback rental. “So Budget imports cars all the way from South Korea with General Motors just down the road,” my father, Arthur observes, cynically. He grips the shiny, metal cane that supports his slight frame with both age-spotted hands. “Not so different from driving the only Ford in the GM employees’ parking lot, eh, Dad?” I chuckle as I remind my father of his stubborn rebelliousness. Thirty years of working on a General Motors assembly line didn’t change his opinion of Ford’s superior product. I leave the engine idling in the loading zone in front of the seniors’ apartment building, now my parents’ home, and help Arthur, my 89 yearold father settle himself into the passenger seat. The sinewy muscles in his diminished upper arms grow taut as he hoists his geriatric walking shoes and cane into the compact car and fumbles to find his seatbelt. His pale blue eyes soften with approval as he admits, “Lots of foot room, though.” Even after two years of forced ‘passenger’ status Arthur still fumes at the unfairness of losing his drivers’ license after his heart valve replacement. He obsesses about his responses when, during a drug-addled state in the post-surgery recovery room he may have sounded confused. I commiserate with him but don’t point out the obvious – the weakness in his legs alone would make him a safety hazard on the road. My mother, Anna does all their driving now, rarely beyond a twenty kilometer circumference from home.
“So, Dad, be my navigator – where is the hair salon?” We drive the few blocks through the tree-lined streets, past red brick, gingerbread- iced century homes, heading towards the downtown shops. My mother has a standing appointment at ten am Fridays at Helen’s Cut ‘n Curl, a necessary indulgence as her sleep apnea head-gear wreaks havoc with her thinning hair. Anna can’t be blamed for her hair vanity -- losing her former lush brunette crowning glory was a much harder adjustment to old age than varicose veins or blood pressure medication. They pass Morrison’s funeral home with the sleek, pewter-toned hearse parked in the circular driveway, the stretch limos lining the street and a cluster of somberly dressed mourners spilling out of the chapel. “There goes old George Lowry. Died in his sleep the day after his 90th birthday. We went to his visitation yesterday. He used to court your Aunt Norma but he was never good enough for her. I’ll bet it burned her up when his farm sold for well over a million a few years ago. Your mother says we should sit down with the funeral people ourselves and make some plans – someday when we get some time.” Arthur points an arthritic finger towards the hair salon. “We’re lucky, there’s a parking space right in front and there’s my sweetie, waving us down. She always feels so good after her hair-do.” Anna, in her pastel Tan Jay pant suit has pink spots of colour on her cheekbones after her turn under the dryer hood. We admire her comb-out as she climbs into the back seat of the Kia. Her freshly coiffed silvery-white head of lacquered curls were strategically arranged to reveal only a little of her shiny pink scalp underneath. Anna’s hair stylist is a miracle worker -the foyer of her shop is often crammed with aluminum walkers belonging to octogenarians in search of Helen’s restorative powers. Arthur directs my route out of town by way of the back roads that run through farmland and forests. A traditional feature of my semi-annual visit
with my parents is a field trip to a rural cemetery, this time the one where Anna’s parents and siblings have been laid to rest. We take the scenic drive along the shore of Lake Ontario, the rolling green acreages inhabited now with mostly ‘gentleman’ farmers, riding stables surrounded by sparkling white, wooden fences and lavish retreats belonging to moneyed Torontonians. There is a rumour that one of the properties belongs to Conrad Black and Barbara Amiel. We always try to guess which one it is – could it be the place flying the Union Jack or maybe where golden palominos graze in the pasture? “Is it too early for the hollyhocks to be in bloom?” I wonder. My mother’s favourite part of this drive is the stretch of road bordered by a row of multi-coloured hollyhocks that seems to expand along the fence line farther each year. We are not disappointed – around the next curve in the road the pink, fuchsia, yellow and coral blooms on tall, slender stalks come into view, a surprisingly homey touch in this well-heeled neighbourhood. “They’re biennials, you know. They’ll probably out-last us all” Anna explains. Our cemetery visits always begin with a stop at Tim Horton’s for coffee and sandwiches, then on through the open cemetery gates towards our ‘family section’. This is one of those gracious, old-style burial grounds that still allows tall monuments and planted flower beds at the gravesides. I drive slowly along the meandering graveled roadway and stop as close as I can to the Harrison plots. My mother had twelve siblings with only four remaining so it is a sizeable section. We unload ourselves and our lunch. I have my favourite headstones. Uncle Jo’s has a chiselled fiddle in the polished granite, a tribute to his musical talent. Cousin Herb’s stone depicts an etched drawing of him riding his tractor with his head turned towards us. The likeness is staggering. Anna installs Arthur on the ‘Harrison bench’ and bends down to deadhead some marigolds at her brother-in-law’s grave. Her sister Mae would
do the same for her. She says “Let’s sit with your dad and have lunch before our coffees cool off.” The commemorative bench, formed from durable plastic wood was donated to the cemetery in memory of my grandparents. It sits under a maple tree. We look out on the lush, green lawn and the grey and ebony granite markers. We finish off the sandwiches and sip our coffees in companionable silence. Strangely, it is not eerie or morbid. The cemetery visit has become a comfortable custom. Anna gathers up the empty cups and bags and announces, “Now, just wait until you see our surprise.” She points to a new gravestone in a soft dovegrey granite, not far away. It has a sleek, modern design and I gasp at the stylized printing across the top – MITCHELL . “We finally did it! Do you like it?” Anna asks with a big grin. “It’s…it’s…” I sputter. My parents’ full names and birth years are chiseled into the smooth stone with a hyphen, then a blank space awaiting completion with the years of their deaths. Then “Oh my God, my name is there too!” I say as I read the bottom line. “Loving parents of Louise, Donna, Brenda and Jay! It’s...it’s nice...but why?” Arthur looks at Anna. They both smile with a sense of satisfaction on the completion of their project. They are pleased with themselves and unafraid of the inevitability of it all. Arthur says, “One less thing for you bunch to worry about and this way we get the one we want!”
-------------------------------------------------------------- copyright Donna Terrill
The Mending © Clara Cristofaro
The rats of 22nd Street Station are patient. They spend each evening crouched in the bushes above their burrows and behind the bus loop, waiting for the hiss of buses to fade and the last train to leave the station. After the groaning drunks and shift workers have made their way home, the rats wait a few more minutes, just to be sure. The first rat emerges, tapping one foot then the others to the sidewalk as if testing its integrity. The others follow, climbing over the cement barrier into the middle of the sidewalk, swishing their tails through the dirt and cigarette butts. They feast without fear under the lights of the station, which stay on though the first trains and buses won’t arrive until five thirty the next morning. The rats eat half-full bags of popcorn tossed near garbage cans, abandoned hot dogs, plastic baggies of cereal dropped by toddlers, apple cores with plenty of apple still left on them. Every night’s food is like a wedding, funeral, and Christmas, if only the rats knew what those things were. When the sky starts to lighten they return to their burrows to sleep. A few rats emerge during the day to watch humans come and go. There is a woman who sits on a bench but never rides the bus. The rats have never seen her do anything threatening. She eats and sits still. Sometimes she closes her eyes. After the afternoon rush hour she leaves. She doesn’t leave garbage, though the rats always inspect where she’s been sitting, just in case. Dorothy sits at the bus stop all day. Not every day, just on the days when she can't be at home. She arrives with a bag full of food at eight o’clock in the morning and goes home at five in the afternoon. Commuters swirl around her like fog. It’s like going to work but without conversation. Dorothy is not able to make conversation. People tend to give her space. No one sits next to her on the bench. There was an old woman one day, stooped and grey, who looked at Dorothy with watery, sad eyes and Dorothy considered asking if she'd lost a baby too, but didn’t know if she could bear the old woman's answer. The nurses were the first ones to give her space, before she knew she needed it. While she stared at Zion in his pale blue blanket, tracing his red lips with her finger, the nurses tidied quietly in the low light of the delivery room, took the soaked sheets and towels away, and closed the door behind them. Space has grown between Dorothy and Jonathan, too. She didn't ask for it, but when he started back to work and she was left at home to mourn and then try to stop mourning, the chasm opened between them. He doesn't ask what she does all day. Most nights they eat dinner on the
couch, with the TV on. During these times, Dorothy considers talking. The background noise helps her gather her thoughts. When it's quiet, she hears whispers and accusations. She waits until commercials, counts to five, takes a deep breath. Do you talk about him at work? she asks. Not really, Jonathan says. But the guys, they gave us that card, remember? It's not what she wants to know. Does he ever stop mid-drill and think of his son? Is he ever frozen by pain? She can't think of how to ask that. He tries to hold her in the night but she can’t sleep with him touching her. It crushes the memory of Zion's skin to have another person touch her. The space between them feels uncrossable, but not empty. It's occupied by their son. One night Jonathan reaches for her. She rolls away and he tightens his grip. Dorothy fills up with rage. She rolls towards him and hits him with her balled fist. He cups his hands to his face and makes muffled, hurt noises. Dorothy ignores him. She tucks her pillow around her ears and feels a gust of cold air when he leaves the bed. In the morning, Dorothy wakes alone. There is blood on the sheet she has pulled over her. Blood on her pillow. Cold with fear, she pulls on her robe and goes downstairs. Jonathan is asleep on the couch, under a fleece blanket they used for camping when they were dating. She sees his swollen eyes and nose, dried blood under his nostrils, and she remembers. Dorothy goes to the kitchen to make coffee. Her hands shake. She’s never hit anyone. She and Jonathan were a team, two halves of one entity, and Zion’s death has put an axe into them, split them like a log. She doesn't want to be half again. But she can't be whole with him, either. Dorothy pours the coffee into a travel mug, screws the lid tightly. She butters a piece of whole wheat bread and folds it in half. She packs fruit, granola bars, a bag of pretzels, everything she can find, into the cloth shopping bag that she slings over her shoulder. She locks the door behind her. This is the part she likes best: walking the four blocks to the train station with her coffee mug in her hand, going to work like everyone else. Normal again. She imagines people looking out their windows, being comforted by her regularity. Retired couples setting their clocks by her purposeful stride. Dorothy arrives and takes her place on the bench, her bag beside her. The beeping of the fare gates is a staccato music she has grown to love.
The mountains are in the distance, the clouds parted around them. She watches pigeons fly in circles around a house down the hill. Cars line the bridge deck and the river flows below it. Women clatter by on high heels and shake off their umbrellas. Mothers with babies appear between ten and two o’clock, pushing heavy strollers and pulling endless snacks from diaper bags. Dorothy can't look at the babies but she doesn’t mind the sound of them. At the bus stop, all the sounds blend into something calming, an ocean. The evening rush comes and goes. Dorothy eats a banana. When the dark starts to thicken around her, she stuffs her cold hands in her pockets and thinks about Jonathan. He’ll be home from work by now, expecting her. Maybe he’s relieved by her absence. Maybe his nose is broken. She pictures a doctor’s gentle hands prodding his swollen face and Jonathan explaining how it happened. Dorothy feels hollow. She puts her hand to her belly, fat with unshed baby weight. Here is where Jonathan wants to grab hold, the place where Zion slept. She has her body as a reminder. Jonathan only has her. Dorothy has trained herself not to need a bathroom until she goes home at the end of the day, but today has been long and she needs to pee. There is no public bathroom at the station, only a locked room that the bus drivers can access. Behind her, under the platform, there are bushes where the drunk men go, where people take their toddlers. In a lull between trains she walks around to the back of the station and ducks through the dark bushes. Her hands are frozen and it’s hard to maneuver her coat behind her as she squats with her sweatpants around her ankles. In the small, quiet moment after the stream of urine has stopped, she hears a rustle. She blinks, expecting to see another person. She sees instead the flick of a tail. Dorothy stays still. A train pulls into the station, all screeches and air. Still squatting, she reaches into her bag and breaks off a piece of granola bar. Hungry? Dorothy whispers. She holds the granola bar between her fingers. The rat comes slowly and waits until Dorothy drops the food on the ground, then closes her mouth around the bulk of it and darts into the shadows. Dorothy fishes in her bag for a pretzel. Another rat arrives, quicker this time, to take it away. Dorothy sees the shine of their tiny eyes staring at her. She is doing something good. Another rat runs up and waits while she feels for more food in her bag. The rat’s whiskers twitch and she reaches out to stroke its fur but it runs away. Dorothy stands and pulls up her pants. She leans against the cement wall and scatters all her food on the ground around her feet. The rats work hard, running in and out of their burrows until the food is gone. They disappear, then, and Dorothy picks her way through the bushes, back out to the wide open bus loop, quiet and dark, empty as a prairie. She takes a deep breath and decides to go home.
----------------------------------------------------------------------------- Clara Cristofaro
Back in February
Upcoming Events – Jan 2018 Info: firstname.lastname@example.org RCLAS Call for Workshop Proposals Deadline for submissions: January 31, 2018 More info here: https://rclas.com/ or email email@example.com RCLAS presents “Wordplay” Date: Wednesday, January 3, 2018. 7:00pm – 9:00pm, Free admission. Location: Buy-Low Foods Community Room, 555 – 6th Street, New Westminster Host: Carol Johnson More info https://rclas.com/recurring/wordplay/ Description: Wordplay is our monthly idea-generating drop-in series for writers of all kinds. Find new approaches to your writing; unlock that treasure chest in your head! This group generates some fabulous first drafts; all you need to bring is writing tools, paper, and a ready mind. This is not a critique group; let’s have some fun! RCLAS presents “Tellers of Short Tales” Date: Thursday January 11, 2018. 6:00pm – 8:00pm, Free admission. Location : Anvil Centre, Room 411B, 777 Columbia Street, New Westminster Host: Deborah L. Kelly, featuring a different author each session. Feature Author: Jacqueline Carmichael Open Mic Sign Up will be available for writers who would like to share their stories. More info https://rclas.com/recurring/tellers-of-short-tales/ Description: A program of monthly readings designed to engage fans of the short story genre with emerging and published short story writers. BIO: Jacqueline Carmichael is workshopping her novel High Tide with the graduate program of The Writers Studio at Simon Fraser University. She is workingon a manuscript for a book of poetry about her grandfather's experience in World War I. Her articles about him have appeared in a number of publications,including Alberta Views, The Toronto Sun and The Hanna Herald. She lives in Port Alberni, and she's a 2016 grad of The Writers Studio at Simon Fraser University. She is a longtime journalist whose work has been published in The Edmonton Sun, The Dallas Morning News and Entrepreneur Magazine, and the author of The Fab Job Guide to Become a Party Planner.
RCLAS Write On! Contest 2018 Call for Submissions Important Dates: • Submissions open January 15, 2018 • Deadline April 1, 2018 • Winners will be announced April 30, 2018 3 Categories: o Non-Fiction (1500 words max) o Fiction (1500 words max) o Poetry (1 page single spaced max) www.rclas.com RCLAS presents “In Their Words: A Royal City Reading Series” Date: Thurs, January 18, 2018, 6:00pm – 8:00pm, Free admission Location: Anvil Centre, Room 411A, 777 Columbia St, New Westminster Host: Ruth Kozak Featured Readers: SheLa Nefertiti Morrison reads Ivan Coyote (non-fiction) Lozan Yamolky reads Pablo Neruda (poetry) Fauzia Rafique reads Salman Rushdie (fiction) Description: In Their Words happens on the 3rd Thursday of every other month. Feature speakers present their favourite author from any genre in poetry, fiction, non-fiction or drama. Presentations include a brief commentary about the author and a reading of selections that exemplify what the presenter loves about the author’s work. A short Q&A follows each presenter.
RCLAS presents “Songwriters Open Mic Night” Date: Tuesday, February 6, 2018 Time: 7:00pm – 9:00pm, Free admission. Location: The Heritage Grill, Backstage Room, 447 Columbia St, New Westminster, BC Hosts: Enrico Renz, Lawren Nemeth and Poul Bech More info https://www.facebook.com/groups/150810881784465/ Description: Original music only, performed by the songwriters! Great venue: good sound, food, beverages and a friendly, supportive audience that actually listens.
...and a reminder for all you poets and poetry lovers: “Poetic Justice/Poetry New West” Sunday Afternoons (except Holiday Weekends) Time: 2:00pm – 4:00pm, Free admission. Location: The Heritage Grill, Backstage Room, 447 Columbia St, New Westminster, BC Hosts: Rotating Description: Two Featured poets and Open Mic. Admission is free but donations are welcomed. For information visit https://www.facebook.com/groups/poeticjusticepnw/ and https://www.facebook.com/groups/215251815176114/ Email firstname.lastname@example.org
HAVE A GREAT TWO-ZERO-ONE-EIGHT!!!
Write at least one haiku a day during the month of February â€” and beyond! Make every month National Haiku Writing Month!
WORDPLAY AT WORK FEEDBACK & E-ZINE SUBMISSIONS
Janet Kvammen, RCLAS Vice-President/E-zine email@example.com OR firstname.lastname@example.org
RCLAS Members Open Call for Submissions No theme required to submit. Upcoming Themes: HAIKU, Winter, Romance Deadline January 20, 2018 Issue 51 Ongoing Submissions for upcoming a “New Westminster” Theme Special Feature. Poetry, Short Stories, Book excerpts, articles & lyrics are all welcome for submission to future issues of Wordplay at work. Submit Word documents (Please include YOUR NAME and Title on document name) to email@example.com
Thank you to our Sponsors & Venues
City of New Westminster
Arts Council of New Westminster
The Heritage Grill
New Westminster Public Library
“And so we turn the page over. To think of starting. This is all there is.”
See upcoming events at www.rclas.com
Dec/Jan 2018 Wordplay at work ISSN 2291- 4269 Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org RCLAS Vice-President/ E-zine
Copyright Janet Kvammen Photography
Published on Dec 30, 2017