May 2022 RCLAS Ezine Wordplay at Work, Issue 91

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Our 2022 Write on! Contest Winners to be announced at our Annual General Meeting on June 4. Watch for the news on our website and social media.

ONE MORE ROSE GOLD SUNSET © Anne Ramallo 2022 Write on! Contest Fiction Judge It was cold. Arthur’s fingers fumbled through the glossy pages of House Beautiful Magazine, rumpling cozy verandas and pristine pantries. This would do for kindling, he thought. He pulled the pages out and crumpled them into little balls. It would be dark soon, and Corbin would be back from his hike. He would want s’mores. First the kindling, then Arthur would put on the bigger log, watch the fire twist toward the stars and burp with a pop of sparks. They would sit in their folding chairs—he and Corbin and Sarah—with their hiking boots right at the edge of the ring. Arthur ripped out another page and crumpled it. Where had he put the matches? And the marshmallows? They must be locked away from the bears and squirrels. You had to lock things up, maybe in the car, or one of those metal bear boxes—twist and pinch, prove you’re a human. He crumpled another page, dropping it with the rest. Arthur could feel the mountain’s shadows stretching across the campground and see the colors begin their shift from gold to pink to gray. Where was Corbin? And Sarah? They knew these trails well, but they should be heading home this close to dark. Arthur listened. He could hear birds catching up on the day’s gossip, see their shadows stark against a fiery sky. Trees reached stiff, bony fingers into the evening, as if trying to grasp the colors. The air was still and windless—so strangely still that Arthur could hear water running in the distance. It was autumn and the river was warm and lazy, shuffling down the mountain at leisure. It was not loud and belligerent like spring; still Arthur could hear it. He listened, but there were no footsteps—heavy boots dragging, tired, through the gravel. Why hadn’t he started dinner? His chilli should have been simmering for hours. Corbin loved his chilli—brought friends out to the hills to sit around the wooden picnic table and eat his chilli, all laughter and ghost stories and guitars, voices ringing out in the moonlight and chaparral, a warm fire glowing. Arthur tugged at one more magazine page. He needed to find the bear box. It was always by the big oak tree. Had they cut down the oak tree, or were they in a different spot this time? They always stayed in 27A. Why weren’t they there now? Where were the footsteps on the gravel path?

With a shiver, Arthur remembered when he and Corbin had gotten lost. He had no idea how they got turned around. There was a certain rock formation—one bulbous granite stone perched atop another like a moss-covered snowman— nothing you saw twice in nature, but they saw it two times and then three. It was midday and the sun, straight overhead, was no help. They sat out the heat of the day under a rocky outcropping, ate their sandwiches, and waited for the sun to travel one direction or another. The sky was rose gold like this by the time they made it back to camp. Sarah was waiting for them, dinner ready on the picnic table under the gnarled oak tree. Arthur remembered the chicken and potatoes— the way Sarah would freeze the chicken in a bath of lemon juice and thyme, and the potatoes roasted in foil with garlic and shallots. He’d been so hungry, so happy to see her. That was in 27A. They weren’t in 27A now. If Sarah and Corbin were lost, they would need dinner. What did he have in the cooler? Arthur’s mind circled back: the backpack, the bear box. Then Arthur stood, dropping his last paper ball into the pile of kindling. He knew where he kept the matches. 🔥🔥🔥 Over the hiss of the shower, Sarah heard the smoke alarm. She twisted the hot water off with a solid movement and wrapped a towel around her body without bothering to dry the rivulets that wound their way down to her knees. She wrapped a second towel over her wet hair and hurried down the hall. She could smell the smoke. Her heart sank as one foot followed another, propelled by adrenaline. Sarah followed the acrid haze into the living room, where Arthur was tending a hearty fire on the coffee table. For one surreal moment, she stood and watched him poke the flame with the kitchen tongs, stirring the curling paper, its edges disintegrating into nothing. Then she pulled the damp towel from her head and smothered the flame in three deft swats. “Arthur…” her voice was small, suddenly drained of all its energy. He smiled. “You’re back. I’m glad. Where’s Corbin? Is he ok?”

Sarah recalled what the doctor had said about this. Don’t try to drag him back to the present. It would only upset him. What would she gain by reminding him that Corbin lived three hours away? “Corbin is fine,” she said. “He’ll be along.” Sarah crumpled onto the sofa, watching Arthur rooted to his spot. “He’ll want some s’mores, but first dinner. Do you know where we’ve put the cooler?” “No,” Sarah sighed. “Maybe I can find something for us in the fridge. And Corbin...he’s eating with friends tonight, actually.” “Oh, of course,” Arthur said, coming to sit by her on the sofa. “Just you and me, then.” He took her damp hand in his. Sarah surveyed the damage. There was a large charred spot in the middle of the heavy wooden coffee table. Soot made ripples on the low ceiling, and ash lay like a thick dust in the rug. Nothing she couldn’t clean or replace, but it could have been much worse. He’d never done anything this dangerous before in the years since his memory started slipping. Sarah knew things were getting worse. He was spending more time in his own reality. It wasn’t unusual to find his socks in the freezer, or for him to watch the same movie three times in a day. But this—starting fires was something new. Sarah felt like the ground beneath her was crumbling away, and now she was falling over the edge of a cliff, waiting to feel the impact of the hard earth below. She would have to call the doctor. She would have to call Corbin. Would they need a nurse now, for those times she needed to run to the grocery store or, God forbid, take a shower? Was she finally in over her head? “I love this time of day,” Arthur said, “when the world is washed over with rose gold. I’m sorry if you were worried. It’s good to be back.” Sarah doubted he was back. “We’ll have a good evening, just us,” he said, and the warmth of his hand on her bare shoulder made Sarah aware of how cold she was. But his hands were still warm. That small fact was too much. Here was her husband, the same in body with his mind somewhere far away—a rock still radiating stored heat, the ghost of the sun.

Sarah felt hot tears run down her cheeks and buried her face in his shoulder, letting his flannel shirt absorb them. Arthur’s hand tightened around her shoulder and he held her. “Don’t now,” he cooed. “You’re my rock. I’m sorry, Sarah.” Sarah could feel reality seeping into his body, which stiffened under her. His voice, when it came moments later, drifted in from far away. “I’m so sorry. I wanted to make you dinner. I was worried about you. And the light. It took me back... I’m sorry.” He lifted her chin gently with his fingertips and held her gaze. “What are you doing?” she asked. “I want to remember you just like this,” Arthur said. Sarah let out a wry snort. “Sopping wet and half naked?” “Yes. Sopping wet and half naked, washed in this light, suddenly years and years older than I remembered you.” “You can keep the younger version if you want.” Sarah’s lip quivered as words cut through the ache in her throat. “No,” he said. “I want to remember our whole life together.” Sarah looked at him, relief and dread wrestling inside of her. As she wondered how many nights like this they had left, she decided to leave the fire behind. “Let’s have a good night—you and me. We’ll make dinner together.” She stood as the shadows shifted from pink to lavender. “Come with me while I get dressed.” “Do you have to?” He stood up after her and touched the edge of her damp towel where it was tucked into a knot. Sarah wondered if he was also thinking of the way the sun burned most vividly before it disappeared. “No,” she said. “I don’t.” --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- copyright Anne Ramallo

WITHOUT WARNING © Natalie Hryciuk 2022 Write on! Contest Poetry Judge Sipping hot tea from a thermos, faces lifted to the November sun, we share anecdotes about reckless stupidity, as if we are three wise women who have survived by design rather than chance, finding resonance in each other’s words, here, on a park bench, an island of respite after our usual walk on the trails, broken by a brief episode of terror when two teenagers bore down on us on their bikes, gleeful joyriders with no intention of slowing down. Walking three abreast, we teetered, struggling to stay afloat, like wooden hulls on the verge of being smashed to pieces on the shore, lurching to the sides of the trail just in time to let them hurtle past. Now, here on our bench, we try to put the spectre of wrenched sockets and sprained wrists behind us, three sisters speaking of infirmity, but not there yet. Late in the afternoon we bask in the sun’s glow until, without warning, a hand sweeps it off the western edge of the sky, leaving us suddenly chilled, diminished in its shadow.

THE BIG RED BUS © Jude Goodwin 2022 Write on! Contest Non-Fiction Judge

You're either on the bus, or off the bus.

The baby is crying. I sit up disoriented in the dark. It's so cold. The baby's cries escalate and bounce around the metal hull of our bus. I climb across the low bed to get to the nest of blankets I've fashioned in one of the underbed storage drawers. It's turned out to be a pretty good bassinet. Yesterday I hauled the drawer out of the bus and placed it under a tree by the Ashnola River. The lovely Ashnola, where the baby kicked her legs and waved her arms and a summer sun dappled through riverside aspen. Where I squatted in pools with my toddler splashing cold clean water onto her bottom and her squeals ribboned up and over the campsite.

We are on the road travelling with my boyfriend's band - they in their vans and cars, myself and Duncan and our two daughters in a converted school bus. "I'll camperize it for us," Duncan had said when he brought the ramshackle bus home. "Soon," he insisted whenever I asked. Time came when we had to leave our rented home, so we set out in the bus as-is, two-year-old Sky sitting up front and shouting, "Come on Dunc! Drive this bus!"

Tonight I wrap the newborn in a crocheted blanket and walk her to the rough front of the bus. She wants to nurse. We sit in the big driver's chair and as she suckles I look out the front windows at the night. There's a full moon lighting up the rocks along the edges of the wide Ashnola. Lighting up the steep granite of the mountainsides. The sky is a dome of stars. The baby fusses. She always fusses, never seems to get enough milk. I take her outside so we can stand under that dome. The Milky Way is silent but the roar of the river fills the air. An animal shrieks from a darkness by the trees. I shiver. I love this wild place, these wild moments -

but summer is coming to an end. I look down at my baby and she's wide awake, looking up at me. I can see the reflection of stars in her pupils.

When we return to the bus I hear Sky crying. She needs her bottle. She's standing at the baby gate we've nailed across the opening to the old bathroom. We had removed the broken toilet, covered the hole with wood and plopped down a big square of foamie. "She'll be fine there," Duncan had insisted. Climbing up the stairs, I call out. "Duncan, wake up. Duncan." He's dead asleep - his band had played until one am and then they needed to pack up their equipment. "Duncan!"

"Huh? What - " "It's cold. The kids are cold." I put the baby back in her nest and pick up my toddler. I've got a bottle prepared for her in the metal cooler that is our refrigerator. She doesn't need it warmed anymore and that's a relief. Her diaper is wet and her legs are freezing. "Duncan. Can you get the heater working?"

"Ok. ok - " There's movement in the dark as Duncan lights one of our oil lamps and starts to fiddle with the heater. The lamplight illuminates a tapestry of black bears and forest that hangs above our bed. I tend to Sky's diaper then hand her a bottle. I put her back down and grab a bunch of our clothes and pile them over her to keep her snug. The heater is at the head of our bed and Duncan makes big kodiak shadows as he leans in. Finally a welcome globe of heat forms around him then starts to expand. It reaches the newborn's drawer, it reaches the toddler's den. Heat turns our metal container into a home.

Two sleeping babies, a cozy lamp and that bloom of warmth. It doesn't travel much past the bedroom area, but it's enough. I go outside again and pee under the stars. But climbing back into the bus I smell gas. "Duncan! Why do I smell gas?"

Duncan has fallen back to sleep. I crawl over the bed and look at the heater. It's working, but the gas smell is really strong. I shake him. "Duncan. Something's wrong." He lifts a bleary head and looks around.

"What?" "Gas. Can't you smell it?"

Duncan pushes himself up and leans over the heater, his red hair falling across his face. He runs long musician fingers down the length of the metal tube which connects to a propane tank outside.

"There must be a leak," he says. "We have to turn the tank off," I reply and start to rise. "No wait. I know what to do."

Duncan finds his matches. "What? That's crazy! You can't light those - " "It's ok, this will work." "Wait - " I scramble froglike across the bed and reach for the baby. Wrapping her again in her blankets I take her towards the front of the bus. I look down at Sky as I pass. She's asleep again, the glass bottle resting on her hand, its nipple half in half out of her open mouth. As we move by, she rouses slightly, takes another two sucks, then drops back into slumber. I don't think I can pick both of them up. I mentally note there's a wall between her and the heater. I keep moving into the front of the bus shielding the baby with my arms. Over her fuzzy head I watch her father scrape a match into fire. He holds it to the tubing.

A tiny blue flame appears. He lights another match and drags it like an artist, painting a string of tiny blue flames.

"There," he says, satisfied. "That will get rid of the smell. Tomorrow we'll buy some new tubing on our way through town. But this is good for tonight."

Duncan flops back onto his pillow and is snoring almost instantly. The baby wants to nurse again so we sit on the wood bench up front and I watch my boyfriend sleep. I watch the patterns of light on our walls as the oil lamp flickers. I watch the little blue flames dancing along the metal tube.

I'm 22 years old. We've been on the big red bus all summer. Duncan likes to say we are volunteer peasants. We are counter-culture. We read books like The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test. The Teachings of Don Juan. Spiritual Midwifery. We shop at food co-ops and natural food stores. We buy only used clothing. We talk endlessly about living away from the city. We are radicals. We are antiestablishment. It is 1975.

The baby is always hungry and she cries a lot. I like to think of her as fiery but in my deepest heart I worry she isn't getting enough from my milk. We have been vegetarian for years but the bus has no kitchen. We eat mostly fruit and salads and I think I need more protein. And the baby is so tiny. Shouldn't she be a bit bigger by now? I count backwards to her birth. Almost four months old. Tomorrow we'll stop in Keremeos on our way to the Kootenays. I'll take her into the Super Value and weigh her on the vegetable scales. Tomorrow I'll talk to Duncan again about adding meat to my diet. I am fearful of the discussion - he got very angry last time I mentioned it.

The baby is asleep at last. I feel my own eyelids droop. I monitor the heater a little longer and then gather my daughter up in her blankets and carry her to my side of the bed where I gently place her down. Standing again I move over to Sky's burrow and pick her up. She's limp and heavy with sleep. I hoist her into my

arms and carry her over to the bed as well. Arranging the two babies as best I can I lie down between them and their father. I face my back to him and to the heater. Reaching up I turn the oil lamp down until its flame expires, sending up a thin line of smoke. I stuff pillows along the curve of my back. I pull the blankets over us and curl around my children. I am the waxing crescent of a young moon. I am a mother bear denning with her cubs. I am the great wall, earth dragon, protecting my babies from the enemy. If the damn heater explodes my body will take in the blast. I watch the blue glow of the burning propane flicker around us, flicker on the rough weave of our curtains, on the rust of our walls, and I fall asleep, daring morning to arrive.

---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- copyright Jude Goodwin

CRACK! © Jerena


“How many times do we have to tell you that smoking isn’t good for you?” Kevin’s father said, his eyes narrowed with anger. “But you smoke,” Kevin said, angrily throwing words back. “Yes,” his father said, as a fit of coughing overtook his rage, “and that is exactly why I don’t want you to do it. You see how sick I am.” He inhaled deeply, as if trying to calm himself. “Now, go to your room and think on it.” A long, trembling finger pointed toward the stairwell leading to rooms on the lower floor. Kevin’s head hung in shame. He knew full well why his father was angry and understood how a life-long addiction was making him ill now. He glanced sheepishly at his mother, then bounded down the stairs to his room. A moment later, he plopped his lanky, fourteen-yearold body on the edge of his bed and woefully sank his head in his hands. His father meant everything to him, and the fear of losing him twisted in his gut. “I can’t be here,” Kevin said, muttering to himself. He jumped to his feet and peaked into the hallway. Hearing his parents’ muted voices above him, he snuck to the coat stand, stabbed his feet into winter boots, and grabbed his heavy coat off a hook. Stuffing his hands into sleeves, he returned to his room and snatched up a woollen cap with one hand and a pack of cigarettes and a lighter with the other. He stuffed the contents of each hand into a pocket, then quietly cranked open his bedroom window and slid through it. He dropped softly into the mound of snow piled below the window and reached up to push the window closed before heading for the gate. He scanned the upper floor of the house, looking for lamplight. Seeing none, he sauntered through the gate and into the street. It was late. Most villagers, like his parents, would be clearing away the dinner dishes, while their children tended to schoolwork. Kevin pulled his cap over his ears, raised his collar, and jammed his hands into cluttered pockets, fingering the pack of cigarettes. The street was dim with only one lamp at each corner. Without thought, he headed toward the village centre. In finer weather, greenery and flora encircled a gleaming pond that reminded him of his mother’s favourite pin. He shook the frivolous thought from his mind. The weather was not fine. It was cold and frosty. Ice crystals sparkled in the soft light cast by the lampposts and melted on his warm cheeks. He puffed, as he had done many times in his childhood and watched miniature clouds float from his lips.

His father was ill, maybe dying, and he was running away instead of facing reality. He could not image life without his father. Pain twisted in his gut again. He hunched his shoulders and peered along the lane, hoping to find it empty. He wanted to be alone with his sorrow. “Help!” The panicked word pierced Kevin’s maudlin thoughts. He paused, trying to locate the source. “Help!” The word came again. Urgent. Desperate. Without thought for his actions, Kevin’s feet hastened toward the repeating word, each sounding more desperate than the last. His feet propelled him forward, sliding on patches of dark ice. His arms flung wide to steady him. He burst into the village square, trying to isolate sounds at odds with the stillness of the night. There, he thought, turning toward the pond. Splashing. Someone’s in the pond! He skidded toward the pond’s edge his path blocked by an old snowbank, hardened with age. Kevin surveyed the pond, his eyes narrowed with focus. Moonlight shone on the surface, illuminating what he knew to be covered with five centimeters of ice and a skiff of recent snow. In the next instant, the quiet evening shattered when a dark head popped through a broken surface, soggy mittens flailing above his head. “Please, help!” The words were faint, barely audible to Kevin’s ears. Kevin glanced around the edge of the pond, looking for something useful. He knew the ice could not hold his weight. The child must be small, he thought. But big enough to break the ice. He won’t last long. Must get him out. Kevin wriggled out of his jacket, tossing it and his hat onto the snowbank. He took a deep breath and kicked off his boots. “Help.” The word was like a whisper. “I’m coming!” Kevin said raising his voice to be heard by the child, hoping the ice would hold him. “Hang on!” He stepped over the snowbank, carefully lowering himself to the ice. Prone, feeling the chill through his shirt and trousers, he reached forward. The ice trembled in protest. He dragged himself forward. “Crack!” The pond shuddered. “I’m coming,” he said, his words loud, yet cautious, when the small head popped above the ice again. “Crack!” The ice broke beneath Kevin. Icy water oozed into his shirt and trousers, burning his skin with cold.

Realizing he had little time, Kevin took three long strokes across the pond toward the boy, grateful for time spent swimming at the seashore during summer vacations. As the fourth stroke reached forward, Kevin grabbed the child’s jacket with icing fingers and turned back toward the snowbank, kicking hard. Precious minutes passed as he pushed the child onto the snowbank and clambered out behind him. He ran his hands down the arms and legs of the child, squeezing water from clothing as he did so. He reached for his jacket and wrapped it around the quivering body. “Hang on,” Kevin said. “You’ll be home in a few minutes.” The child’s teeth tapped noisily together as Kevin squeezed water from his own clothing. He peeled off his wet stockings and stuffed bare feet into his dry boots. He pulled his cap over his head, his teeth clacking too. “Wh-where do you l-live?” Kevin said, as he scooped the child into his arms, grateful for the dry of the jacket. The child’s trembling finger pointed to the far side of the square. Kevin quickened his step. Five minutes later, Kevin pounded on the door of the child’s home. Another minute passed as the two shivered on the doorstep. As he raised his hand to pound once more, the door flung open. Bright light silhouetted two adults in the foyer - a man and a woman. “What is it?” the man said impatiently, taking in the sight before him, before lowering his eyes and realizing that one of them was his own child. “David!” The second silhouette cried out, pushing past her husband, and reaching for the small child. “What happened?” the father said. “Why are you both soaked? Come in boy!” He grabbed Kevin’s wet shirt sleeve and pulled him into the foyer, hastily closing the door against the cold. “Here,” the mother said, handing Kevin a large towel, “dry yourself off.” She disappeared down a hallway. Kevin wrapped the towel around his shoulders, squeezing its warmth into his frozen flesh. “Yes,” the father said, “come in and stand by the heater before you catch a chill.” “Thank you, sir,” Kevin said, embarrassment and cold making speech difficult. “I can wait until I get home. I should go.” “Let me drive you,” the father said. “No need,” Kevin said, “I just live around the corner.

“Ah!” the father said, peering hard at Kevin. “You’re the Ellingsen lad.” “Yes, sir.” “Let me drive you, you’re freezing. You must get out of those wet clothes quickly.” “Really, sir, I’m fine,” Kevin said, reaching for the doorknob. “Very well,” the father said, “but first can you tell me why you’re both soaked?” “I can tell you why I’m wet,” Kevin said with a half grin, “but I don’t know about David.” Kevin quickly described his arrival at the pond and the subsequent rescue, then opened the door before he could be delayed further. A moment of regret sent a shudder through his frosted body, and he almost stepped back inside where warmth beckoned. Must get home. He grinned sheepishly at the father, then set off at a jog. Glancing up at the windows and seeing no lamplight, Kevin pried open his bedroom window and slid into his room, feeling thin ice breaking and melting from his clothes as he disrobed. He pulled on dry stockings and flannel pyjamas and climbed into his bed, shivering. A while later, Kevin felt warmth slowly encase him and he fell into a deep, dreamless sleep. Rapid door-banging startled Kevin from his sleep. As his pounding heart slowed, he cracked an eyelid to see blinding daylight pouring through his window. Panic seized him, until he realized it was Saturday and he would not be late for school. “Kevin!” his father said, yelling through the heavy wooden door. “Kevin, are you in there?” Kevin swung his feet to the floor, stuffing them into his slippers. He felt miserable, like a ton of bricks had fallen on him. “Ya, Dad,” he said scrubbing fingers through his sandy locks. “I’m coming.” He shook his head at the all-to-familiar words and reached for the blue bathrobe, strewn across the foot of his bed. When his hand escaped a sleeve, he cracked opened his bedroom door. “What is it?” Kevin said, thoughts of the previous evening replaced by concern for his father. “Are you alright?” “Come into the living room,” his father said, inviting Kevin to lead the way. “Why -” Kevin said as he entered the room, his question left hanging when he spied David’s father. “Mr. Olsen!”

Mr. Olsen stepped toward Kevin, taking the boy’s hands. He looked at Kevin, then toward his father. “Kevin,” Mr. Olsen said, “after you left last night, David told us what happened. My wife and I will never be able to thank you enough for saving David’s life. We’re humbled and grateful.” “No need, Mr. Olsen,” Kevin said, feeling the heat of embarrassment creeping up his neck. He realized that he would have a lot of explaining to do himself. He had hoped that, by sliding into his room and going straight to bed, his parents would never know that he had been out. Now, instead of being sent to his room, he would likely be grounded all weekend. “Is David alright?” “He’ll be fine,” Mr. Olsen said, “now. Thanks to you. I can’t even think about what might have happened if you hadn’t turned up.” “May I ask why –” “He’d been studying with a friend. Worried that he was late for dinner, he decided to cut across the pond instead of walking around it,” Mr. Olsen said, shrugging his shoulders as he answered the anticipated question. “I’m glad he’s alright,” Kevin said, feeling the blush returning. Dad’s going to kill me! “I should be going,” Mr. Olsen said, walking toward the front door. “Thank you again, Kevin.” “I’m glad I could help,” Kevin said, wishing he could be somewhere, anywhere, else. He also felt a little glad that he had been nearby last night, even if he was in big trouble with his parents now. Kevin and his father watched Mr. Olsen walk along the garden path to the street. “I’ll get dressed,” Kevin said, pulling his bathrobe snug around him, remembering the chill of the previous evening. “Not so fast, son,” his father said. “We have a few things to discuss. Have a seat.” He pointed toward the old green, horsehair sofa. Kevin sat opposite his father. One hand nervously brushed the balding armrest as he sank into the prickly cushion. He clasped his hands together, dangling them between his knees and hung his head. “Tell me -” his father said. “Sir?” Kevin said, his head snapping upward. His blue eyes met his father’s, clear and determined.

“First, I want to hear about last night,” his father said, “then I want you to tell me what’s going on with you. Why are you defying us when we – I – need your support.” “Why bother?” Kevin said, surprised at his own defiance. “You’re only going to yell at me and tell me I’m grounded. A discussion won’t make any difference.” “That’s where you’re wrong, son,” his father said. “I want to hear how my son became a hero last night. When Mr. Olsen came to return your jacket and ask about your welfare, I was shocked to hear what he had to say.” He leaned toward Kevin and grabbed his hands. “But I was also very proud of you. I am proud of you. I always have been.” “Dad, I’m sorry,” Kevin said, feeling his eyes stinging with salted tears. “I don’t mean to smoke. I don’t even like it. It’s just that –” Kevin sniffed and wiped his nose on a sleeve, before accepting his father’s handkerchief. “I-I just want to be like you.” “You don’t need to smoke to be like me,” his father said. “That’s the last thing I’d want you to do.” He jiggled Kevin’s hands. “Besides, you are more like me than you will ever know.” Again, he jiggled his son’s hands. “Want to know how I know?” Kevin nodded forlornly, piqued by curiosity. “Your mother tells me every day!” Kevin’s father said, grinning mischievously, “and we both know that she’s always right, don’t we?” A small grin played on Kevin’s face, tears tripping over his lips. He sniffed again and nodded. “Yes, Dad,” Kevin said with a quick chuckle. “She tells me that too.” “I have an idea,” Kevin’s father said. “Why don’t you get dressed. I’ll cook us some breakfast, and you can tell me everything while we eat.” Kevin’s father stood, tugging his son’s hands as he rose, and drew Kevin into an embrace. They stood like that for almost a minute, before his father set Kevin away. “Eggs?” “Yes, please,” Kevin said, grinning sheepishly. “I’ll be quick. Suddenly, I’m very hungry!” “Then get cracking!” his father said, disappearing through the swing door that led to the kitchen.

----------------------------------------------------------------------------- CRACK! copyright Jerena Tobiasen


Travels with W. Ruth Kozak

Just a few miles east of Craigellachie, B.C. where the last spike of the transcontinental Canadian Pacific Railway was driven in 1885, we round the curve of the Trans-Canada Highway and before us is an impressive 200-room chateau overlooking the shimmering water of Three Valley Lake. Once this was only a marsh until 1956 when Gordon Bell bought the property and built a small motel and restaurant. Over the years the Bell family has developed this remarkable resort and chateau which now includes a chunk of B.C.’s history. Gold rush mystique and railway history had always intrigued Gordon Bell. When he was just 16, working with a pick and shovel at a site 60 miles north of Revelstoke, he discovered the remains of a gold-rush town dating from 1862. Some of the equipment had been left behind when the town was abandoned in the early 1900’s. So Mr. Bell, decided to preserve the remains of the historic old town and began to collect artefacts and reconstruct buildings which are now on display at the Ghost Town, part of the Three Valley Gap Chateau complex. Located 12 miles west of Revelstoke, the Chateau is nestled in the beautiful Monashee Mountains. Besides the Ghost Town, the resort offers many other activities for guests and visitors. Surrounded by pleasant gardens, there is a sandy beach for swimmers and water sports on the lake. You can also take a helicopter tour of the area. Nearby Revelstoke, a quiet picturesque town, is the gateway to the Rockies and home of two national parks, Mt. Revelstoke and Glacier National Parks, where you can hike and ski.

Revelstoke is also rich in history and many of the buildings here are restored to their original Victorian era splendour. Five km. north of Revelstoke, the Revelstoke Dam offers self-guided tours. The lakes around the area provide opportunities for boating and fishing. Or you can take a helicopter tour around the area. The Three Valley Gap Heritage Ghost Town has guided tours daily from midApril to mid-October. It is built near the site of the original town of Three Valley, which flourished in the 1880’s. The Gold Wheel Saloon features an authentic 19th century bar. There’s also a historic three-storey Hotel Bellevue originally from Sicamous, plus many other buildings such as a general store, school, trappers cabin and jail. It’s not hard to imagine what it must have been like to live in that era as you stroll the streets and peek into the shops. The Railway Roundhouse where old railway memorabilia is stored is Canada’s largest display of railcars and equipment. I was excited to step onto a coach like the one my family travelled in across Canada to B.C. in the 1940’s. And what a thrill to visit the exclusive rail car once occupied by our Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau when he travelled across Canada by train in 1972. I stood on the back deck of the railcar exactly where he stood giving the famous Salmon Arm Salute to protesters that greeted him as he passed through that community. This is the same car that carried Queen Elizabeth II on her royal visit across the country in the 1970’s. Among the collection of antique automobiles I found an old Model T Ford just like the one my mother used to drive when we lived on the prairies. And in the museum there were old church organs like the ones that provided music in the churches I used to attend as a child when my father was a Prairie minister. A visit to the Ghost Town at Three Valley Gap is sure to evoke many memories as well as provide an insight into the past with it’s many displays of Canadian history. The Chateau itself is a pleasant retreat where you can relax and enjoy spectacular scenery and the fresh mountain air. Three Valley Gap Heritage Ghost Town ----------------TOUR CANADIAN HISTORY AT 3-VALLEY GAP, B.C. copyright W. Ruth Kozak

RCLAS Announcements RCLAS presents Tellers of Short Tales – Online Edition Feature Author Shashi Bhat Date: Thurs May 26, 2022 Time: 6:00 to 8:00pm Zoom room will open early for open mic sign up starting at 05:50 PM Pacific Time Let us know on the Facebook event page if you would like to attend. OR you can RSVP by email to

The evening will include an Open Mic for short stories. Space is limited. FREE ONLINE ZOOM EVENT. Everyone Welcome. Shashi Bhat is the author of two books, most recently The Most Precious Substance on Earth (McClelland & Stewart, Canada; Grand Central Publishing, US), and a forthcoming short story collection from McClelland & Stewart. She was a winner of the Journey Prize and has been shortlisted for a National Magazine Award and the RBC Bronwen Wallace Award for Emerging Writers. Shashi’s fiction has appeared in publications across North America, including Best Canadian Stories 2018, 2019, & 2021, Journey Prize Stories 24 & 30, and others. Her debut novel, The Family Took Shape (Cormorant, 2013), was a finalist for the Thomas Raddall Atlantic Fiction Award. Shashi is editor of EVENT and teaches creative writing at Douglas College. Website:

Poetic Justice Online Edition with Host Carol Johnson Date: Sunday June 12, 2022 Time: 3:00 to 5:00 pm (Pacific)


Wendy Donawa Linda K. Thompson Open Mic sign up starts at 2:50 pm Find more info on Poetic Justice Facebook Group: To receive zoom link Contact Carol Johnson or email


RCLAS presents Tellers of Short Tales – Online Edition Feature Author Colleen Van Niekerk Date: Thurs June 23, 2022 Time: 6:00 to 8:00pm Zoom room will open early for open mic sign up starting at 05:50 PM Pacific Time RSVP by email to

The evening will include an Open Mic for short stories. Space is limited. Born and raised in Cape Town, South Africa, Colleen Van Niekerk calls Vancouver home, which goes to show that she has a taste for mountainous, coastal cities. She favours magical realism after early and prolonged exposure to Salman Rushdie, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Isabel Allende and Louis de Bernieres with a side serving of Tom Robbins. Colleen's first novel, A Conspiracy of Mothers, was released in October 2021. Set in South Africa in April 1994 (when the world paused over the death of Kurt Cobain), it chronicles the interwoven stories of three mothers fighting for their families as old apartheid-era secrets come to light.

Writing Workshop: RCLAS presents Taking Research on the Road with facilitator kc dyer Date: Saturday June 18, 2022 Time: 1:00pm – 2:30pm Pacific Time Zoom room will open early at 12:50 PM Pacific Time Host Sarah Wethered Register by email to Workshop Fee: RCLAS Members FREE Non-Members $15 Payment by PayPal Registrants will be emailed the zoom link

Description: Ever considered traveling for research purposes? How do you even begin, anyway? Where do you go? What do you pack? And what happens when there is a pandemic? Join bestselling author kc dyer as she unpacks her best tips and tricks for hitting the road when there's research to be done. Bio: kc dyer loves travel and has literally flown around the world in search of fantastic stories. When she’s not on the road, she resides in the wilds of British Columbia, where she likes to walk her dogs in the woods and write books. Her most recent novel, AN ACCIDENTAL ODYSSEY continues the ExLibris adventure series that began with EIGHTY DAYS TO ELSEWHERE. When an unexpected phone call derails a young woman’s wedding plans, it sparks an epic adventure around the magical, modern-day Mediterranean.