Thursday, July 9, 2015


It sounded like the hose was pointed directly at his window.
Full blast.
The kitchen rang with the rising hiss of an unexpected summer storm.
The best kind.
Hot and humid, a tropical rainforest in the middle of the city.
Paul heard the thunder and watched Billy vibrate in his sleep, paws twitching a slow motion gallop, a scattered, off beat cantor.

Gets him out of chores for now.
Thank you, global warming.
Can't very well trim the hedge with the electric weedwacker while it's storming out now, can he?
Or pinch off the new growth and tie up the weeping boughs.
I mean, it's not like he WANTS to get electrocuted.
Not today, at least.

Why Glenda wanted all this property to manage, Paul will never understand.
There's not a landscaping bone in his body.
Sure, they had romanticized the idea of living off the land together, growing their own herbs and heirloom tomatoes, handpicking pears from a backyard tree.
He never dreamed they'd actually do it.
"Homesteading help" was something to bookmark under his Tools and References folder not commit to memory like an ancient, badly translated religious text.

It's relentless strife and strain.
He's in debt to Lee Valley. She's wish listed 3 catalogues alphabetically.
He married a closeted Mennonite.
If she asks to build a barn...

The small pointed comments, posited as musings- whether the tomatoes and eggplants will be harvested by week's end because you know, caponata needs to happen. 
And kale- is their enough kale? 
Too many scapes?
What the hell does one do with garlic scapes, anyway?
Like chives on steroids.
But not.

The thunder booms, in fits and starts. Pools of water form around the driveway.
Billy whimpers, shuffles his front paws and covers his nose, burrowing into Paul's lap.
He knows what's going on, the dog always knows.

Saturday, July 4, 2015

The Overstayer

God damn, she's driving me crazy.
On and on and on.
The incessant wail of her screamed-sung anthem blasts from the speakers.
The desk is shaking.
She sounds like a ferret on fire.
Jesus woman, put a sock in it before I drown you in someone else's sorrows.
Two months, that was the deal.
One hundred and thirty two days, 14 hours and 16 minutes later, she has completely worn out her welcome.
My hospitality hit the road after the neighbours left a threatening note regarding her compunction for spontaneous late night drum circles.
On the front lawn.
With an old marching band bass drum she found at the Sally Ann down on Fourth.
At least the constable looked good in a uniform.

I've tried.
I really really tried.
Two sets of 600 thread count sheets stained to oblivion, one incinerated crepe pan left in the oven and set to broil, nearly burning down the house.
Shades of pink in all my whites.
Inhaling the final bar of my emergency crisis chocolate stash while using the last of the imported Maui coffee beans then breaking the french press.
And now the hell of her new "music".
Thank you Garage Band, for making everyone believe they've got the music in them, too.
I'm quietly packing what's left of her possessions and leaving them bundled on the sidewalk with a note saying I've sold the house and have moved to Anchorage.
I hear the weather's warmer there.

She'll be fine.
Someone else's heart will skip a beat when they see her come running, arms wide open, a human tsunami of chaos and good intentions.
I should have changed the locks 73 days ago.

Friday, May 9, 2014

She Wants To Ride Big Waves

There's no joy here.
That's what she thinks when she looks into his pale blue crystalline eyes.
A coolness settles around him. Tentative, guarded, quiet.
Or mastered. Half a dozen of one...

It didn't take her long to realize he was something other than what she was used to.
L'autre, as they say.
No wham bam thank you m'am
How YOU doin'
Jesus woman, you make me weak in the knees
sorta bloke.

Even his eyewear is sedate.
There's a half smile occasionally withdrawing into a smirk. Unknowingly.
A learned reflex, a laugh out loud withdrawn too soon. At this stage of the game, it's bred in the bone.
Restraint. Observational engagement.
Small ripples run deep. There's an undertow drawing her in but she can't tell if it's her own volition or an actual tidal pull.
Full moon fever.
He ebbs and flows.
She wants to ride big waves.

There's a quality of grace and wonder, a generosity of spirit that spills forth from  her every cel.
A lightness of being seeking communion in passion.
There's no joy here.
He doesn't feel her grace.
Concession is born of malleability.
She won't find it in him.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Politeness Is Overrated

"I think that went well, don't you? Not too painful, I hope."
Nothing's quite as inspiring as this man standing before her, flop sweating, blissfully unaware of his awkward courting.
He means well, she knows this; but "not too painful" still involves a whole lotta work on her part.
Oh, that's mean, she thinks.
Bad, bad Julia.
Be nice, play well with others.
She glances at her phone and knows if she can extricate herself now there's still time to hustle home and pour herself a tumbler of Red Breast before she has to call it a night.
Finally satiate her palate.
It's clear to her.
She likes her own company the best.

She did discover a hip new local, though, populated with an unexpectedly queer positive crowd kitted out in matching plaid button-downs and ironically sloganed t shirts: I'm OK, You're OK.
Their server was a close talker, gregarious, maybe high, maybe happy, with a pop culture awareness that disappeared at 1987.
The year she finished high school.
She's getting old.

Or tired. Half a dozen of one...
Alison convinced her to be brave, give the sweet kid a shot.
The fact she called him kid...
Maybe in a different time, different place he'd make sense to her.
She'd shuck and jive, tilt her head, drop her chin, casually brush her hand on top of his and lean in
Just So
Smile from the corner of her mouth,
Watch him watch her as the smile crawled up to her eyes as she held  him down with her gaze.
An alternate reality.

No sliding doors here so this one's gonna go back in the water.
Let him reach his optimum potential.
Preferably with a woman who can drink him  under the table and engage in ways she no longer cares enough to fake, just to be kind.

Politeness is overrated.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Good, Not Great

She hits the down button.
Two hospital admin types, young women in almost stylish outfits, the ones afforded on entry level salaries, wait on a car going up.
The elevator arrives, doors open, she steps on then realizes she's going up.
Force of habit, she says aloud to no one in particular, pavlovian response.
The two women sort of smile as they study the floor, suddenly intensely awkward and private.
She gets louder as she backs out of the car.
Doors close and she hovers her finger over the already illuminated down button.
Right, just did that.

It's quiet here, far from the madding crowd.
Emerg was busy, mainly the geriatric crew. A few indigent and drunk and disorderlies draped over chairs, hanging out of gurneys, buried under sheets and gowns, moaning, rambling incoherently.
It's the large-and-in-charge paramedic night: 4 teams of doughy young men stand sentinel with their wards, buried in paperwork, bored with the hurry and up wait logjam of daily deliveries.
She walks though the chaos invisible to everyone, an able body in motion.

It could be worse. It could always be worse.
It's just a visit, not an admission. No tests, no examinations, no poking or prodding or radiating. No electro shock therapy.
Not this time.
All around her people are in crisis or stasis. Somewhere between recovery and death.
It's a matter of degrees. Well versus not well.
A good week. A bad year.
She has good days more often than not. There's hope in that.
Stable is a good thing. Relapse, not so much.
Although there are times she misses the thrill of the ride, free falling ninety miles an hour into pandemonium.
Eventually finding her way back to stable ground proved to be her undoing.
She will never be well, not really; we're all a little bit ill at one time or another.
For now, she's good. Not great, not terrifically fantastic.
Just good.
And today that's good enough.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

The Aftermath

Three glasses in a week.
One on the floor, smashed to bits on the cracked grey tiles. Chunks of grout rolling like pebbles, lodging between her toes.
The second in the sink, a slip of her hand and down it goes, shards sinking in a sea of sudsy water.
The third glass, her favourite tumbler, the one with the faded Police Technology logo, all the way from from her alma mater three provinces over, 20 years ago.
Caught the edge of the counter and just like that...
It mysteriously appeared one day in the cupboard above the fridge, hidden behind a set of twelve black and pink flower china coffee mugs. Garish eighties decor unearthed.
A heavy beer stein, good for half a pint of cheap draft- Laurentide or Labbatt 50, maybe Maudite if they were feeling flush.
Probably picked up at a Goodwill or Value Village by one of the myriad exchange students who frequented the house before she set down roots 4 years ago.
Digging up bones.
She sits at the kitchen table, crumbs from this morning's toast sticking to her forearms.
So much to get through.
Reams of paper, bills, notes, and keepsakes she really has no business reading.
But if not her, then who.
All of this, left behind.
Eighty-one years of a life gathered up in two banker boxes overflowing with ancient telegrams, faded pictures, file folders of birth records, land deeds, insurance forms, grocery lists, half finished poems, a dog license.
The bundle of letters catches her off guard.
Bound together with sagging elastics hanging loose like tired limbs, exhausted after years of constant tension.
Pulled too tight they relent, helplessly.
Drained, spent. Done.
She can't bear it.
All week she's been coming apart at the seams. There is nothing left but the i's and t's.
Dot, cross, and so it goes.
He's in her head as she holds the letters in hand.
Above and beyond everything she's experienced in the last few months, this feels by far the biggest violation of all.
His body betraying him, his mind failing; the physical degradation she witnessed and served, none of it feels as personal, as intimate as what lays in front of her now.
The phone rings.
A shot across the bow.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Aging Out

Sometimes she lies.
Just a bit.
Smoothes over the rough spots without breaking his heart. Or betraying hers.
The sin of omission.
It's second nature now.
A slight smile, an imperceptible nod followed with a hmm or an uh huh. He doesn't notice most of the time.
Or so it seems.
The level of disconnect is tacitly agreed upon in the silent storm that brews between them, slowly picking up steam, until the gale force of indifference blows them apart.
He listens halfway.
She stews passive aggressively. Mind like a steel trap, remembering every single word, thoughtless aside.
Half-hearted kiss.
There is hair growing out of his ears. His eyebrows are unruly. This repulses her. His skin is losing it's tenacity around his already weak chin.
All she can see is his disappearing profile.
It used to be his smile and ever so slight gap toothed grin would leave her a wet mess on the floor.
The imperfections turned her on to  no end. He was rough around the edges, soft in the  middle, alluring with his alloofness and emotional unavailability.
Now she avoided eye contact.
She checks her expression. A permanent half sneer. The divot between her brows deepening.
They're aging each other unkindly.
His charisma and talent surrounds him with sycophantic young women eager to bask in his mystery and detachment.
Younger than her. Breedable. Viable. As yet of an age to challenge him back.
She's old. Past due. Knowing. Worn out. Broken in places too hard to mend.
Some bells can't be unrung. The reverberations shake the foundation and it cracks beyond repair.
Their love knows no kindness anymore.
Just disappointment moving headlong  into disinterest.

Monday, January 27, 2014

No Such Thing As a Sure Thing

Sharon stumbles over her uniform balled up on the floor, a tangled knot of grey and blue polyester, slick with oil and smelling like poverty.
Too tired to hang it up or toss it over the kitchen chair she peeled it off, layer by layer.
A trail of desperation and struggle.
She crawls into bed defeated, exhausted.

This schedule will be the death of her.
Three hours of sleep and no end in sight.
Not now, anyway.
Somewhere down the line, he told her. Put your dues in and you'll see.
Trust me.

Sharon's got no time for trust.
She's too tired to play the long con.
Twenty one or slots. No dealer's choice for her.
Everyone's got a finite amount of time, you just don't know the count.
The only thing she can count on is no sure thing.

Twenty three years, she's no further ahead then when she began.
A hand out, a leg up, a free ride.
If she'd only said yes.
Just once.
The right guy at the right time, the right place, the right job.
Opportunity knocked and she couldn't hear the door.
Day in, day out, putting in time, hoping for a break in the weather.
Whether he will or won't,  yes or no.
Stay or go.
She's not getting any younger; years on her feet is hard on one's soul.

Time to rest.
Pull the covers up, tuck her knees to her chest, let the pillow swallow her head whole.
Clean linen can do wonders when you're on your own.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Sleight of Hand

"Pick a card, any card."
Kevin flared a deck in front of her with incredible ease and grace, so studied that it appeared the fan of laminated cards was a natural extension of his hand.
"Not now, Kev, ok? I'm not in the mood."
Kevin stood motionless for three seconds then with an exaggerated ruffle he collapsed the accordion of cards into a perfectly stacked deck, his gestures so fluid as to be unnoticeable.
Sleight of hand.
It was awkward between them.
Tight, rough.
Never date a magician, this is permanently etched into her brain now.
She used to love it, the mystery, the tricks so remarkable she squealed with shock and delight. A total turn on. Talent gets her every time.
Now it's one big irritation. A constant itch he needs scratched. Look at me, look at me. Did you see that, can you believe your eyes
He's worse than that actor.
Almost as bad as that stand up comic she slept with, the one who screamed like a girl.
If Tracy wanted needy she'd get a dog.
He sulks, half smirking, muttering under his breath.
"What did you say?"
She's aggressive, too far gone now. She can't stand the tone in her voice when her anger bubbles up. Disappointment, really.
A sense of failure.
Self loathing disguised as blame and righteousness.
How did they get here?
He buries himself in tricks.
Late nights of improv and pick up sets. Booze and buddies and female companions other than
He's going to take the tour. Sudbury, Timmins, Sault Ste Marie.
She tells him to take the large suitcase, the one from their shower.
It's tacky. A high gloss purple, stands out in the crowd.
Something she's not likely to miss.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Cool Comfort

Pick it up.
Put it on the table, back where it belongs.
Get the cloth, wipe the floor, wring it out, hang it up and start again.
It's just a glass. No big deal.
Millions of grains of sand fired into liquid molten lava, compressed, blown, turned, shaped.
Cooled, polished, delivered.
It's just a glass. A flimsy, delicate vessel entirely unsuited to the task at hand.
You need the bottle.
Amber hued or olive green. Half an inch thick. Weighty as you wield it in your hand like a weapon. Tilt the head back, grasping the neck as if to strangle the liquid out of it.
Pouring, elbow raised, eyes closed, mouth open.
This is no time for decorum.
Decency has left the building.
Drink, drink, drink
To the last drop then let it roll
Off the fingers, an extension of bone and skin
Cool comfort.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Sight Unseen

There it was.
Lying in the corner of the silver dish on the side table next to the couch.
Right next to the ridiculously expensive dog comb she convinced Todd to buy that neither of them ever use.
No wonder she couldn't find it.
Why search the place they sit next to every day for hours on end as they stare straight ahead like zombies hypnotized by the 40 inch flatscreen.

They don't even share the couch like they used to.
Claire curls up in the lazy boy nestled under the green and red cottage throw which always smells faintly of woodsmoke and Off while Todd splays his limbs out like an Irish wolfhound in repose, engulfing the seven foot long sectional and ottoman.
They bought that piece on layaway with her bridal shower money and took four years to pay it off because every time they went by the store to put money down they walked out with some other random appliance or side table or hand dyed silk and wool mix Persian rug they couldn't afford, didn't need but felt compelled to have.

Todd hadn't even noticed it was missing.
She took it off one day while giving herself a spontaneous home manicure on the couch during a TLC marathon. Weddings from hell, I was pregnant and didn't know it, short people with triplets and garbage pickers with musical ambitions. Seven hours of mindnumbing escape.

The ring needs resizing.
She's lost more weight in the last year. Stress, hormones, three hour walks with the dog after dinner, alone.
She slid it off for safe keeping and placed it next to the vase of lucky bamboo. Lucky it's still alive. The dog knocked it over three times in the first week, breaking off the top fronds on one of the three stalks.

It had been two months and she could not remember where she put it.
She's grown used to feeling naked again. Untethered, released.
Todd was always taking his wedding ring off and on for work, forgetting it on the kitchen sink or by the bathroom ledge. They've snaked it out of the toilet twice.

They don't hold hands anymore.
She cut her hair and three weeks passed before he said anything.
Even then Claire prodded for a response.

Maybe it's the seven year itch. Maybe they're both silently giving up, inviting other people into the sacred space once vowed to each other, filling the ever increasing divide with failed attempts to be seen and well met.

There's a threat of rolling blackouts . Claire was digging around for candles.
That's when she saw it, a small perfect, white gold circle with three diamond chips set just so.
It was his mother's, a woman so small Claire referred to her as pocket sized.
Todd had it resized for the wedding but it never fit quite right.
Funny, that.

Friday, January 3, 2014

Separated At Birth

Oh come on, really? You can't be serious- I mean, I heard her. She said it was 5, not 6. Why do you think she said 6? Cause that's stupid, it's completely idiotic and if it's true then we're completely screwed, ok? Like totally shit outta luck. So why don't you call her or text her or bloody well send up the bat signal and see if you can get her to confirm your story because I am not going to take the heat on this one if we miss the plane. Can you do that? Can you make that happen or do I have to do it for you, like every other single thing in your life. Really. You are unbelievable. A fully grown man and you can't get your shit in order- why are we even having this conversation? Just do it, do something, do anything. DO IT!

Grant studies the phone in his hand, too tired to respond. Every year it's the same thing. Home for the horror-days. He stayed away last year, took extra shifts at the bar and made hand over fist in pity tips from the barflys who have nowhere else to be but on their respective stools, kncking back cheap draft and blended whisky. Much simpler and far less grief. The whole idea of living five provinces away is to create a tangible barrier to ease of  travel. No spontaneous family visits, no expectation of Friday night dinners, trips to the grandparents, awkward coffee talks with passive aggressive digs about his glaring lack of girlfriend, indexed pension and potential for grandkids. And that's just his sister.

Grant, did you hear me? Grant. GRANT! Vickie barks at him, causing Grant to snap his head up and fling his phone out of his hand, cracking the screen into a hundred pieces. Perfect. Now he doesn't have to pretend to call their mom to verify their schedule. Score one for the mute twin. It's moments like this he seriously questions their genetic coding. Technically he's the baby, born 8 minutes after her. Fraternal twins born in different years, ring out the old, wring in the new. As a result he ended up either a year behind or the smallest kid in the group. Vickie ruled him from day one. At 17 Grant joined the circus, spent 4 years setting up tents, rigging Russian acrobats and American daredevils. After the motorcycle accident he came back north but stayed out of arm's reach. December looms large with anxiety filling his gut. Two more days then the sweet, sane respite of Toronto where he can live alone in public and disappear. Relief can't come soon enough.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Fade Out Again

He can see himself laid out on the table below him.
Everyone looks so serious. Lights and blips and buzzers. So much machinery. Faces covered with masks, blue hands tinted with chocolate syrup.
Wait, no.
That's blood.
Hands dip in and out of the center of his chest, pulling out layer upon layer of gauze soaked through.

So much blood.
He's leaking his life force from a wide open mine in the center of his chest, spilling an endless tangle of tubes and cords, leaving trails of slick red lines smeard across his flayed torso.
A watercolour explosion of streaks fading out as they drip to the floor.

He feels no pain, which is strange. He's dreamt this moment over and over. This out of body, into the light experience.

It wasn't supposed to be like this.
He never envisioned the chaos, the disorder, the frantic recklessness diguised as absolute authority.
It's uncouth.
So messy. All of these gowned bodies working with controlled urgency, a regimented familiar choreography quickly being overrun by the need for improv.

Limbs are flailing, instruments clang to the floor. Someone shoves their arm into his chest and holds his heart in his hand, caressing it like a small pet.
This is absurd.

Reflexively he places his right hand on his heart.
He feels nothing. No touch, no weight, no sense of a corporeal self. Just this energy emenating light hovering directly overhead the mess of a corpse splayed out before him.

The room goes silent save for the constant high pitch squeal of the monitor.
Time stops.
He feels cold, the first sensation he materializes.
The masked gowns slowly peel away one by one til all that is left is his lifeless cadaver blown wide open, quiet all around.
This is when he normally wakes up, a jolt which sends him upright like a cardboard cutout on a shooting range.
He waits for it.
He waits.
The room fades to black.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Cold Morning Rise

Rise and shine! Bailey's tail thumps against the nightstand, a jackhammer wake up. The glass of water vibrates, threatening to topple over onto Carson's pillow. Again. He never learns. Either move the glass or get a bottle with a locking lid. Or close the door at night so at 6 am the dog doesn't inadvertently wake him up with a cold shower.

Hungover. Slow moving. His eyes start to focus then bam, it hits him. A flashbomb blinding his vision. It's a new year. No idea what time he called it a night- somewhere between three bottles of Veuve and free flowing shots of Patron chased with salted pistachios and fried plantain. Friends with strange predilections. The remainders- cracked lips, salt-stained fingers and greasy cheeks. Depleted.

Bailey paces, whining under his breath, drool leaking from his bear head. Carson swings his legs over the bed, heels hard on the cold floor, head in hands spinning, throbbing. Bailey's mastiff tongue shellacs his face, grooming his bed head while tearing at his tattered boxers with a paw the size of a softball, eagle talons and sandpaper foot pads sloughing off layers of skin from his thigh.

He means well. Poor dog's just gotta pee. Christ, it's early. Happy new year, you beast. The rad clangs in fits and starts, hammer on steel. An insistent reckoning ringing in the new year. Wake up. WAKE UP. Get up, go to it. The ground spins. Whoa. Carson clutches Bailey's back, a steadying of states. The two of them amble, slow motion towards the door.

The moon hangs low. A bright reflection on the miles of white  surrounding them. Air so cold it's still. Carson shoulders the door to release the deadbolt. He swings open the airlock and stands at attention as the frigid air engulfs them. The dog pads out into the yard, disappearing in the dark, a lone black figure slowly fading in the distance.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

And So On And So Forth And Auld Lang Syne

Kate's the kinda girl that wants to be resolved. She makes plans, writes resolutions, uses all caps all the time and emoticons inappropriately. Anything to create shape and direction in her life. She does this at the beginning of every new year like clockwork.
It never pans out.

The best laid plans, blah blah blabbity blah.
This year she's starting early. She's got a whole week. More than enough time to manifest a life changing program which will culminate in a grand celebration on New Year's Eve. She'll gather up some gal pals, build a beach side bonfire; they'll drown themselves in stories of what once was, lay out dreams of what will be. Consume copious amounts of the home made Baileys she has no business drinking, all the while committing themselves to brand-spanking new vows to Make Things Happen.
Time to shake out the old, ring in the new, wipe the slate clean.
Tabula rasa.
Just like last year.
And the year before that.
And so on and so forth and Auld Lang Syne.

But this year it's for real. She's a grown ass woman, time to get it together. No more putzing around. Kate's determined. Casey, however, is on the fence about showing up, Marnie wants to go to Vegas and Billy can't leave her dog alone for more than 4 hours for fear he'll have an epileptic seizure.
Kate needs to shake things up before everything implodes and she ends up spending another New Year's on the couch with cheap Proseco inhaling shortbread and stale stuffing trying desperately to stay awake for the ball drop.

Screw 'em. If everyone else bails, more Bailey's for her. She will camp out alone, stare up at the stars, invoke her inner Oscar Wilde and ring in the new year with a mighty YAWP. Carpe'ing the diem.

There's a time in one's life when the status quo isn't good enough anymore. A fine line which once crossed there's no turning back. Kate's been in stasis, paralyzed by dashed expectations. There's no passion in her actions, no joy in her jive. Her get up and go got up and went and she's surrounded herself with like minded lemmings waiting for something, anything to give them a sign, show them they way, lead them off a ledge to jump.

This year things are gonna be different. She's got affirmations and inspirational quotes. Heck she's going all out and signing up for an Olympic distance triathalon. She'll worry about the swim part in March. She's got so much momentum she's going to post "tsunami escape route" signs next to her cubicle at work. She's shifting atoms, making rain, blowing up the black hole she used to call her life. This is gonna be her best year yet. She's got seven whole days to pull it all together. No way to back down now.