Saturday, December 31, 2016

Amazing stuff happened in 2016

While the year was raw and full of loss for everyone I know - some lost several family members in the span of a month - there were wonderful aspects as well.

My Imaginary Friends from the Internet celebrated our 10th Anniversary. United by a love of books and two specific authors, we've formed a ragtag group of family. There's nothing any of us wouldn't do for another. We've celebrated births, homes, jobs, held each other through the loss of family as well as group members, supported each other through divorce and other painful breakups. We've traveled borders and oceans to be together in real time. Under the same roof.

This year a friend I hadn't seen in eight years visited four times with various members of her family. She gave me the gift of laughter, something that was in high demand this past year. His name is Finnegan and that pup loves life to its fullest. Last night he leapt and froliced, poked and pawed at Casey and Ky, tossed a ball in the air and slid across the snow on his nose, then his ear and finally his back.

I met an online friend in Real Life for the first time. We hunted for ghosts, discovered some beer tastes better than it smells and explored parts of Old Town that I had forgotten about in the last few years.

The Niagara Region is beautiful, wild and barely tamed. I've seen her draped in sheets of ice, beneath a carpet of cherry blossoms and huddled against escarpment to escape the sharp wind off the Great Lakes.  I've seen her through the eyes of old friends and new as well as my own from new angles.

This year I rediscovered my love of romance. Both as a reader and a writer. Despite the horror we've seen this year, I believe more than ever in the power of love. I have witnessed it at work in people of different faith, opposing views, hostile environments and in the midst of fear and hatred.

Love. It is what makes life worthwhile. It's the well from which we draw hope, find solace, and replenish faith in humanity.

May you find LOVE in 2017.  Seek it out, give it refuge, feed and nourish it. And keep some for yourself so that it may flourish.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Thank you for your patience

Apologies for the lack of fresh entertainment over here. I've had my head down, working on a new project. It was a challenge to see how fast I could write 60,000 words from concept to polish. I started August 8, first draft was completed on November 6. This week will see the end of the polishing.

It's good, IMHO. My critique partners haven't weighed in on the final product but the opening and outline received two thumbs up. It's a contemporary romance. I've been in desperate need of happy endings.

Give me a couple more weeks and I'll be back with the follow-up to Ally's story.

Monday, September 26, 2016


Jesse's Birdhouse card

The old man painstakingly painted each wooden home with bright colors.  They were more than birdhouses - they were refuge from the harsh conditions of the modern world.  He decorated them with flowers, radiant blossoms, cheery suns - even butterflies so all would know they were happy homes. The neighbors gazed with pleasure at the bright little birdhouses. Set amongst purple petunias, aromatic geraniums and white verbena they were solid pops of color. They transformed the old tree stump from an eyesore into a work of art.

They were cabins for lost souls, pilfered souls - souls the old man caught in mason jars down at the cemetery.

Birdsong and soul screams sound remarkably alike he'd discovered one cold winter night.

Souls were lower maitenance.

Sunday, September 18, 2016


Tiny fingers, soft and unblemished, grasped at life with a strength that belied their newness.

A young hand, clammy with nerves, slid the corsage on his prom date's wrist.

Scarred and calloused from daily labour, these hands were steady and sure as he slid the ring onto his bride's finger.

The young father's hands engulfed the newborn's body yet cradled it with care and tenderness.

Strong and patient, the man's hands adjusted his son's gloved grip on the hockey stick.

Wide and scarred fingers wrapped around his daughter's hand to place it squarely in the palm of her groom.

Older hands, still strong yet rougher, support his first grandchild.

Trembling and wrinkled, bent with age, the hands entwine with the arthritic fingers of his beloved as they celebrate their silver anniversary.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016


The little hound pup's nose twitched.  So many interesting scents, he didn't know which to follow first. He hung back by his human's heels as she opened the gate, then shot through before she could shut it in his face.

His nose led him across the street and around the corner, hot on the trail of two Yorkies, a Maltese, a squirrel - no! three squirrels!  He raced up the street as fast as his little paws would take him. Past the house with the Yorkies, past the yard where a big dog woofed from behind his own fence, and even past the bush that every dog for two miles marked. He raced up to the next corner, his nose promising him squirrel, french fries from the pub and some type of bird.

A loud clang as something lunged towards him. It smelled of steel and grease and angry human. It lunged again, this time clipping his ear.

He peed himself in fright, wheeled around on his back paws and headed straight for home.  His speed easily tripled what it had been on the trail of the squirrel.

Up ahead, his human kneeled on the grass, her arms outstretched as she called his name.

He skidded to a stop in front of her, his body shaking with terror. No clanging steel teeth behind him but it had been a slow beast.

The pup leapt into his human's arms and let her carry him home. She smelled of disappointment, fear and concern. But also of love.  He burrowed his nose in the nape of her neck, rooted through her ponytail so that all he smelled was her.

Terror faded. The scent of squirrel and other dogs lingered, less demanding now. Love filled his quivering body, calmed him.  As long as she held him, he was safe. Content.

Friday, August 12, 2016

Mason jars

No one noticed the mason jars hanging around the cemetery. If they had, most people would have assumed they were lanterns or even citronella jars to keep away mosquitoes.  Every night, Jase checked his traps then transferred the confused souls from the graveyard.  Each morning they awoke, jammed into the birdhouses with nine or ten other dazed souls, tethered by string to the perches inside.  Their plaintive wails fill the neighbourhood with the sweet song of imprisonment.

Sunday, July 17, 2016


The stairs of the great wide white porch of the grand old hotel beckoned me forward.  Renowned world wide for its excellent service and Grecian Revival architecture as much as for its ghosts, the hotel had been my home for more years than I cared to remember.

I strode through the lobby, nodded to Gertrude whose wooden needles clacked as she knit by the fireplace.  She began and ended her day there, working on endless garments for grandchildren none of us ever met.

Joe poured lemon oil onto a soft cloth to work it into the banister at the base of the stairs. I tipped my hat towards him then climbed to the first landing, his cheerful whistle tugging a smile from my usual scowl.

I peered out the window.  Violet raced across the back lawn to her position beneath the aspen that stood tall at the gate to the garden.  I waited and watched.  Less than a minute later, Jack followed at a discreet distance to stroll away from the hotel towards the stables where he rarely toiled.  I erased my smile, the couple fooled no one, and rearranged my face into its customary look of impatience.

Joe winked at me.  As the clock began its customary spellbinding charm, we froze in our positions and waited.

A flash from the digital camera in the in the lobby caught Joe in its flare. His smile beamed bright as a ray from the dying sun then he disappeared - released from his penance as tourist attraction.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016


I am a chameleon.

Ever since I can remember, I had the ability to blend in with any group.  The bigger the crowd, the better my assimilation.  It's not a conscious act on my part. It is as natural as breathing and as difficult to control. I can hold it at bay for brief moments but eventually my natural tendency kicks in and I become part of the landscape.

Gestures, accents, gender, ethnicity, even skin colour - none of those matter. I mimic them as easy as you breathe.

Whether it's a gang of ginger-haired terrors one minute or tea-drinking grannies sharing knitting patterns the next, I have one of those faces. It's familiar to everyone. Often because it's most like the one that looks back at you from a mirror every morning.

I am whoever is around me. Sitting at home, alone, I am barely myself. Music, books, decor are all from the people I have been over the years. I look in the mirror and see no one. Just a blank face waiting for colour and expression.  I do not know my right from your wrong. I am no one and everyone.

I do my best to be around good people. Caring people full of kindness, empathy and compassion. I have been on both sides of most debates. Been bullied, beaten and spat upon because of my gender, colour of skin or clothing. Being a chameleon means I know fear, hatred and violence.  I try to choose the side of love but that often results in more beatings.

I have hidden in my room, away from all the different skins, but that was as lonely as blending in the crowd. Self-loathing is more destructive than external hate.

Tonight, I will shake off the oppressive mantle of self-doubt and join the biggest party of revelers I can find. People who know how to have fun in the face of opposition, pride in who they are, and dance regardless of who is watching.  Tonight I will be a gay Latino and love life.

Monday, June 13, 2016

Box of promises

A well-dressed man ran into me with a box of promises. The rose inlaid box hit my hip then crashed to the wet pavement.  The lid popped open.  Some promises spilled out and broke against the harsh cement.

The promises weren't meant for me.

I still have the scar on my hip

Monday, June 06, 2016

Jeanette Ethel Sutherland

My Aunt Jean was born Jeanette Ethel Davis in Pelham, Ontario on June 7, 1913 to Charles (b. Newcastle, England) and Margaret(nee Campbell, b. Dowally, Scotland).  22 years to the day she lost her son, and 22 years plus one day after she lost her beloved husband George, Aunt Jean joined them.
It broke my heart but the thought of them reunited did a lot to ease my grief.  I love this photo of them.

Apparently, I am now the family historian. Aunt Jean passed down a lot of stories as we sorted through old photo albums.  One photo is of her grandparents James and Catherine Campbell, taken at the turn of the 20th century!

Anyway, because of that, I was asked to give her eulogy.  The following is what I wrote but full disclosure, I veered off track at one point.  From what I remember, I hit the highlights.

What do you say about someone who lived 103 years?  103 years of mostly good health and a sharp mind. There are simply too many wonderful stories to recount here today.

One of my earliest memories is of going to Aunt Jean’s house for a visit over a cup of tea.  The tea was in a pretty pot. Milk and sugar were served in proper dishes and we drank out of delicate tea cups. There were always cookies.  Although I was quite young, Aunt Jean asked me about my day as if the dramas of a three year old meant something to hear.  It was a kindness I strive to emulate with all the young children in my own life.

Tea with Aunt Jean was a constant in my life. As recently as five or six weeks ago, we had tea, no cookies, but lots of good conversation.  She would ask me to bring the laptop so we could go through old family photographs.  Every visit she would remember another story or person and I would do my best to record it in some fashion. Most of the time I was too caught up in the story to get it all down.

Over the years, she was a daughter, a sister, a cousin, a nurse, a wife, mother, grandmother, and friend. Even last year, she told me about her new friend the gardener at the nursing home. He was from China and they talked about travel, culture and plants.  “Isn’t that something?” she asked. It was her understated exclamation for most things. You knew you’d really caught her attention when she said that.

When I was young, dad told me aunt jean was my great-aunt. I thought that was a description, an appropriate superlative not a familial designation. I still feel that way.

When you’re young, you don’t give much thought to the life your parents, grandparents, aunts or uncles led before you came on the scene.  Aunt Jean though, she never stopped experiencing life.  She modeled clothes, beautiful designer clothes, when she was in her 60’s! I don’t know where she got the confidence for something like that. She and Uncle George went dancing, out with friends and worked in the garden.  Age didn’t slow either one of them down.  Losing George and Robbie was devastating and I don’t know how she survived it. 

She stayed in the house that Uncle George built for her until she was 96 or 97.  My cousin Sandra came from BC to visit one winter before Aunt Jean moved into the nursing home. The three of us sat in the front room and talked about our lives, how we kept ourselves busy then went to the kitchen for tea.  As Aunt Jean poured hot water from the kettle into the pot she apologized for serving us in the kitchen. Her mother would be appalled at her manners. Sandra looked at me as if to ask was Aunt Jean losing it.  She caught the look and said, I still hear my mother’s voice telling me when I do things wrong. The three of us laughed. It never ends? No, no matter how old you get you’re always your mother’s daughter she told us.

The first time I went to Scotland I wanted to find out more about the Fenton side of the family – my paternal grandmother’s people.  While staying with friends over there I kept in touch via Facebook. One evening, I was doing some research while chatting with mom online. She had Aunt Jean on the phone who wanted to know if I’d found her mother’s family! So of course I abandoned the Fentons to look for the Campbells. I’m so glad I did that. My next trip I was able to find the farm where Aunt Jean’s mother was born. There was a family rumour that Granny, Aunt Jean’s mother, had been born in Stirling Castle. Close. But not Stirling. Her father was head ploughman for the Duke of Atholl at Rotmell Farm.  The very farm, by the way, that inspired Queen Victoria to build Balmoral. It’s in the Queen’s diary.  Anyway, there was a problem with Granny’s birth so her mother was carted up to the castle where Granny was born in the kitchen. I took photos of the farm, the cart road that still exists and the unique white washed castle. Not only that, but the farmer was able to explain that all of aunt Jean’s aunts and uncles were born on the Duke’s estates around the country.  It meant a lot to Aunt Jean to be able to sort through all the information and find out where her mother had been born.  It meant a lot to me to be able to share that experience with her.

Family meant everything to Aunt Jean. She never regretted giving up nursing to become George’s wife.  While it had been something she enjoyed a great deal, a career simply wasn’t the way to go back then.  All my life I heard about Young George and Robbie’s talents and accomplishments. Then the grandchildren.  But all the cousins too, most of whom I’d never met.  She would show me pictures of babies and graduations then weddings and explain all the relationships.  She loved all the babies.  Jamie, your baby made her so happy.

She was a woman of style and grace. I don’t normally dress like this (black and white as opposed to a lot of colour) but Aunt Jean had expectations of appropriate attire and I wanted to honour that.

 I never heard her be cruel or unkind but Rachel reminded me of The Look. You were never in doubt if Aunt Jean disapproved of dress or behaviour.  She was quite harsh with me once many years ago.  I was complicating something thinking of all the obstacles.  Aunt Jean was firm. This requires that. I was trying to substitute that. She broke it down into the simplest terms. No substitutions. You have to put the work in to get the results you want.  Regardless of what this and that are, it’s been advice that’s led me out of more than a few missteps.  There have been many times when I’ve asked myself what would Aunt Jean do.

No matter where we go from here, we all carry Aunt Jean with us. Whether it’s an expression, a way of doing things, a sense of style, or even The Look (Rachel has it down perfectly) Aunt Jean has touched each and every one of us – and always will.

I invite each of you to please go up to someone here you don’t know and share a story of your life with Jean. 

Jeanette Ethel Sutherland June 7, 1913 - May 18, 2016

I miss her every day.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016


I'm typing one-handed to say I'm still here, still writing (mostly in my head). I'll be back to post more entertaining words when my hand heals or I figure out my Dragon Naturally Speaking software - whichever comes first. Given my accident-prone nature, it should be the software.

Until then, some words I've been thinking go together well. Arrange to your own amusement:
Fast trains
Closing doors
First kiss
Last kiss

Friday, April 22, 2016

The hole

Taking a break isn't the same as quitting.  I rested my arm on top of the shovel's handle and surveyed my handiwork.  Five hours of digging, three liters of sweat and screaming muscles in shoulders, back and legs only got me a hole less than knee deep.

I dropped the shovel and stepped down into the hole.  I lay down in the hard dirt and stretched out - or tried to.  I'm 5'7".  If I cut my feet off around mid-shin, I'd be able to lie flat.  My shoulders had to hunch and my hips rubbed against the sides. The hole wasn't wide enough.

I sat up then climbed out of the ground. A slight breeze blew hot air around me. It was cooler down in the earth.

I blinked the sweat out of my eyes and wished I'd had the sense to wear a hat. With a loud sigh, I dug back into the hard clay.  The hole wasn't going to dig itself. If I walked away it would never get done.

I had about four hours of daylight left. Time enough to widen the hole, maybe lengthen it.  It would be shallow, there was no getting around that. I still hadn't figured out how I would disguise the freshly dug pit.  The darkness would have to cover my tracks. It wouldn't matter in the daylight.

I'd be gone by then.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016


Can't. breathe.

I clutch my hand to my throat - like that's going to help - and stagger down the stairs.  The lobby is empty.

Each breath feels like being stabbed with a serrated knife.  There's not enough oxygen reaching my brain. I don't know what's happening. I don't know what caused it. I definitely don't care.

I need air.

I struggle to the front door. Outside the sun is shining. It's a crisp Autumn day and the cold air will revive me.

I trip over the couch by the door. My sternum hits the arm and I gasp. Air rushes from my lungs, the world tilts and suddenly I can breathe.

I drag as much air into my lungs as possible. Leaning on the sofa arm helps me orient myself. The oxygen rush to my brain is exhilarating.  I slowly roll and collapse onto the couch.

A man's face fills my vision. With his nose almost pressed against mine, I can't help but see the rage in his eyes.  "You did this to yourself."

With gloved hands, he picks up both of my hands.  He wraps one of my hands around a paring knife and slowly forces me to slice across one wrist then switches hands. Weakened from the loss of air, stunned by his presence, I don't fight.

My hands drop to my lap, blood weeps onto my nightgown.

My gaze is glued to his, watching myself die in the reflection of his eyes.

He's right. I deserve this. I deserve worse.

I killed his son.

Wednesday, April 06, 2016

Barn dance

Andy spun Gwen through the dance floor in the middle of the barn.  It wasn't a livestock barn.  Used mostly to store antique cars and expensive convertibles, the barn doors were opened wide when Spring came and the cars left to purr down the country roads. Bales of hay were hauled inside, a small stage lined the back wall and the barn dances began.

Andy swung Gwen out for a twirl, dropped to one knee and brought her to rest there just as the song ended. Breathless with laughter, Gwen kissed him.  The other barn dancers whooped at their display.

Andy's hip gave out and they fell to the floor in a tangle of limbs. The hooting turned to concern but Gwen waved them off. She levered herself up with the finesse of the gymnast she'd been in her youth.  Andy struggled to his feet then took Gwen's hand. They bowed once to loud applause then moved back to the hay bale reserved just for them - the original owners of the 1945 Ford Coupe that Andy bought with his army severance cheque after the war.

Friday, March 25, 2016

Good connections

Today's Awesome was more about what didn't happen than what did.  The nasty confrontation that was shaping up to result in irreparable damage, not to mention the police and ambulance (sadly, very real possibilities when dealing with people who have rage issues) somehow managed to be avoided.  AWESOME.

The nail from the bottom of the bed we were carrying down the street (see confrontation avoidance) missed my artery when it dug into my wrist. It didn't miss by much but miss it did. AWESOME.

While walking to work later in the day, it occurred to me that sometimes a Good Thing is something little.  Like the fact that carrying furniture up and down stairs burns a lot of calories. So I ate an extra triangle of Toblerone for medicinal purposes - to keep my strength up.

There was a flock of sparrows sitting on the neighbour's hedge. The dark green and faded red of the leaves provided nice camoflage for the little brown birds. As I approached their roost all but one flew off. Quivering, it seemed to hope that lack of movement would make me walk by. I stopped and marveled at how vibrant the browns, greys and beiges of its feathers were to my heightened senses. Sugar and adrenaline hadn't left my system yet and on some level I understood how desperately that little sparrow wanted to be invisible.  I averted my eyes and moved on. I swear I heard it sigh with relief before the rest of the flock surrounded it, chattering loudly.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016


For the fourth night in a row, I waited beneath a poplar tree at the edge of the parking lot. Exactly five minutes past closing, three women exited through the bookstore's back door.

All three looked in my direction to check if I was there. They neither knew nor cared that I could hear them. The words homeless, stalker, pervert all reached my grubby ears. Fear pointed out my filthy garments, broken spoke bicycle piled high with all my worldly possessions.

The lit ember of my cigarette gave my eyes an unearthly glow. The women shuddered as they walked past. The older brunette wrinkled her nose as if to seal off the heavy smell of woodsmoke from my campfire. Perhaps she was sensitive and caught a whiff of my unwashed skin and clothes.

The youngest, a thin girl in her late teens turned and looked back over her shoulder. She expected me to race from my post behind the tree and cut them down before they could reach their vehicles. They said goodbye to each other in haste and departed for safety.

I waited.

It didn't take long for the other to step out from behind the dumpster. Clothed in fine cloth, with clean hair and the sharp tang of aftershave, he was everything I was not. Night and day, clean and filthy, danger and safety.

He was a man women would stop and sigh for. I am not. Yet neither of us were as we seemed.

"Again, brother? How long will you watch over them?"

"For as long as I must"

"You know her time is coming. All men, and women, must die."


We both paused to think to of the middle woman. The blonde with short-cropped hair, a strength of character and confidence that kept her moving forward, towards opportunities and people no matter their circumstance. She'd looked at me, wondered if there was some way she could intervene, to improve my lot in life.

"They need not all suffer." I held my ground. His grin faded and he slipped back into the shadows.

Friday, March 18, 2016

The dead man's shirt

When I pulled the screws out of the pocket, I ripped the dead man's flannel shirt. He wasn't still wearing it. When Old Man Wilkes down the corner of our street died, he didn't have any family except for a spinster sister he hadn't spoken with in 20 years. The city paid my boyfriend and his best friend to clean out the house. Most of it went to the trash, some went to a secondhand charity shop, and most of the flannel shirts came home with Ben.

Ben and I went our separate ways a couple of years later but I kept one of the flannel shirts. Old Man Wilkes was a handyman, known throughout town as the go-to guy for everything from fixing a lamp to small engine repair. He also did all the woodwork in his house. The red, blue and white checked shirt came to me with a few small tears and a splotch or two of paint. I wore it for inspiration whenever I had small repairs to do around the house or yard. I could feel Old Man Wilkes' skills seep into my bones through the worn flannel.

When I ripped the pocket, some of the magic spilled out with the screws. My fingers turned into chair legs and I lined things up like Picasso. Duct tape. The solution slogged its way through my foggy brain. I grabbed a silver roll of versatility to secure the pocket to the shirt. Things went back to level and my dexterity returned. From that moment on, I kept hardware in my pants pockets. The shirt was precious.

One of the side effects of wearing the shirt for too long was a desperate need for a drink. Not any drink but gin. The cheap stuff too, the kind of gin you would swear Old Man Wilkes made in his bathtub. You could taste the juniper berries strong and fresh picked. I'd be able to finish my project but would sweat all the way through thinking about how bad I needed that gin. The second my work was done I'd jump into my car and head straight to the seedy bar on the far side of town.

I know you're thinking I should have just unbuttoned the shirt and walked away. Believe me, I tried. I was straight-jacketed into that thing until I got my gin, pinched a waitress and satisfied Old Man Wilkes. He wore me as much as I wore his shirt. The old man was a pervert. He'd stare at the neighbour's underage girl through my eyes and think about how he'd do her. It didn't bother him in the least that he was working with a woman's body now. That just made it all the more fun.

I'd go months without donning that shirt. Months as a normal woman who worked in high end retail, dated wonderful men and never touched a drop of alcohol. Then the downspout would freeze to the side of the house, a cupboard door would come loose or the roof would leak. I'd try to hire someone else to do it but I had a reputation. No one would dream of doing odd jobs for me. Everyone knew I could do a much better job.

I was the town's new handyman. So what if I was a little strange? I never hurt anyone and I did great work. I'd slip on the shirt and do the job.

And the dead man laughed.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016


She couldn't get that horrible picture out of her head.  It burrowed in deep and no amount of rubbing her eyes would release it.  Like a grit of sand, it was dry, scratchy and made her eye twitch in the days that followed.

The twitch of memory nearly drove her insane.

The image was burned into her retinas.  The twitch worsened until her eye bled, blistered and eventually burst.

Pus and blood poured from her eye, slid down her face, filled her mouth with acidic taste of fear, loathing and bitterness - a molotov cocktail of despair.

The weight of it was too much to bear.  She put her head down on the kitchen table. Like a 3D printer, the image slid from her eye and landed on the table beside her blood stained cheek.

Her husband's closed eyes, head thrown back, his hands buried in another woman's hair. The woman bent forward the long line of her bare back curving round over his lap and between his legs. The wife's reflection in the mirror across from the occupied marriage bed. A glint of silver from the knife in her hand.

Wednesday, March 09, 2016


Alicia tightened the belt on her dressing gown. She took a deep breath then entered the living room to confront her ex-fiance.

"Hey, I'm sorry." Katie rose from the couch then tipped back onto Brad in a fit of giggles. "Really sorry."

"I'll deal with you later." Alicia added a glare to punctuate her promise.

"It's not Katie's fault." Brad rolled her sister onto the couch and covered her with a blanket.  "I used her to get to you."


"Because you shut me out. You wouldn't let me explain - "

"Explain what?  That you have a thing for my mother?  My mother, Brad." She walked past him to the kitchen.

Naturally, he followed. "It wasn't what you thought."

"You weren't masturbating to a photo of my mother?"

"Yes. No."

"What do you mean no?  I saw you. I heard you."  She shuddered at the memory.  "I think it would have been easier if I'd caught you in bed with my brother."

"What?" He reared back as if she'd slapped him.  "I wouldn't cheat on you."

"But you did."  She forced herself to at least appear relaxed.  "Jason is adorable. Closer to your age than mine.  It's not your fault if you're gay."

"I'm not gay."

"Honestly." She warmed to the subject.  "Who could blame you?He's fun.  Free-living. A heart as big as Alaska."

"An alcoholic." Brad interrupted her.  "I'm not gay."

"It would be easier if you were."

"No, it wouldn't. I love you Leesh, only you."

She refused to soften because of the sincerity in his eyes.  "You're hot for my mother.  How romantic.  That's exactly what every woman wants to hear."

She stepped away from him.  "I knew had a thing for older women. I am 12 years older than you but my mother!"

He grabbed her hands to prevent her from leaving the room.  "It was an old photo."

"That makes it worse."

"She showed it to me before dinner.  She was younger than Katie in that picture.  It was startling how much she looked like I imagine you did at that age."

"You imagine my mother was me?"  She tugged on her hands but he only held tighter.  "That's even more messed up than I thought."

"I've never seen you like that - young and carefree."

"You really should stop talking. And let go."

"No. I won't." He loosened his grip but held on.  "I saw this photo of your mom and I thought about she had her youth but she stole yours.  She threw the responsibility on your shoulders because she knew you'd take care of them. She can't face Jason's drinking, Katie's reckless attitude or your dad's gambling.  She can't do it. You hold the family together. You do.  Not her."

"Now I'm a martyr?  Whatever did you see in me?"

With one hand holding her wrist, he reached into his pocket.  She recoiled at the sight of the worn, crumpled photo.

"You," he answered.  "I always saw joy in you.  Love and sacrifice yes but mostly joy."  He held the picture out and she turned her head.  The counter could use a good scrubbing. A used mug sat at the bottom of the sink.

"I've heard you laugh with complete abandon, your head thrown back as if you couldn't hold all that joy in your body."  His voice was low, husky and full of love.  "I've felt you loose, generous, thrilled to be alive in the moment."

He dropped her hand.  Her fingers were cold without his touch. She was cold without his touch.  She straightened. Nothing he said would change what he'd done.

"It had been so long since you'd been like that I'd forgotten you knew how to have fun."

"Fun? Who has time for fun when they're keeping their siblings out of jail and the family from being homeless?"

"They let you.  They don't do anything to fix their own problems because you're so much better at it."  He dropped his weight back against the kitchen table. Shoulders bowed with defeat.  "I know you love them.  They're your family."

She watched sorrow chase shadows across his eyes.  "I missed you, Alicia.  So damn much. The longer I looked at that photo, the more I realized how much I missed you.  Your scent, your touch."  He looked her straight in the eyes.  "Your laugh."

"I'm not that Alicia any more."

"You could be." He placed the photograph of her mother beside her on the kitchen counter.  "For your sake, you should be.  Don't let her steal the rest of your life."

Something inside her crumbled.  He skimmed his forefinger down her cheek, followed the path of a tear she didn't know had fallen.

"I'll let myself out."

Alicia closed her eyes and let him go.

Friday, March 04, 2016


Last night, I dreamt I was writing about an actress about to take the stage and sing for the opera.  With each word I visualized the exact scene. When I decided she'd be better pregnant and waddling out past the father of her child, I could see the actress do so. We engaged in conversation about her role and its significance to her life. Words on the page became real but dialogue appeared on the page. It was exciting. Proof that good writing comes to life. Then the floor beneath the stage gave way to a bridge collapsing over the river. Cement blocks crumbled.  Supports tumbled. The actress vaporized. Numbers erased themselves from falling pages. And suddenly the stage was in a field within earshot of another larger stage.

Real life occurred all about me, peopled by strangers I know in another world.  Words appeared in the air in front of me - narration come to life.  As I walked, talked, directed and organized, I interacted with Real Life and Imagination simultaneously to the point where I no longer knew which was which.  And when I awoke, the strange dream continued.

Living inside a matrix of life connected by thought and action, explored and influenced to the point where life and art not only imitated each other but were one and the same. We are all one. My pain is your pain. My fear is your fear. My joy is also yours. As are my desires, dreams and wishes.

I am one with the Raven outside my tree, one with the Wolf at my front door, a reflection of the Moon and as brilliant as the Sun.  We are all connected and interwoven and part of each other.  Writing is life. Life is writing.

Create beauty. Even that which is strange or ugly to us is beautiful to another. Turn your head slightly, change your perspective and behold.

Wednesday, March 02, 2016


After living without it for so long, she convinced herself she didn't need it. She was older now with different needs, wants and a body that wasn't 20 anymore.

Sure, she'd asked her friends to keep an eye out for her, read the newspaper ads and had even searched online.  Nothing. She'd heard all the platitudes, "You'll find it when you're ready", "What's for you won't go past" and the ever popular "When you least expect it".

It turned out the last one was the most accurate.  One special night,  begun with the expectation of the usual beer and pizza, the prize presented itself to her.Her eyelids fluttered closed as a rich dark scent filled her with anticipation.  She didn't realize how much she had missed it until the first taste. Her lips parted and her tongue darted out.  As sensation flooded her senses, the urge to memorize every single nuance was strong. She needed to hold onto this feeling, this joy so that she didn't go so long without experiencing it ever again.

She had dismissed the magic in order to miss it less but no more. And all the time she analyzed all that was wonderful - taste, texture, delight - her body melted.  It was the perfect kiss of flavour, sweet yet spicy.  Cool and smooth with just the right amount of pressure against her tongue.

She kept her eyes closed and enjoyed the moment.

If she never felt this again she wanted to remember how good it was to experience the taste of Hagen-Daas Mayan Chocolate ice cream.

Friday, February 26, 2016


Alicia knew better than to try and reason with him.

The music was pumping. Beer flowing. And two-thirds of his paycheque was unspent.

From her perspective across the room and by the exit, Jason wasn't coming home any time soon.  She slipped her hood up over her head and stepped out into the rain.  The steady thump thump of club music gradually gave way to the relentless splash of rain against the pavement.  Within half a block, Alicia was soaked to the skin.

She let herself into her apartment and hung her coat up on the rack by the door. Water slid off it to drench the hall carpet.  No matter how often she talked to Jason about his drinking, her brother always blew off her concern.  He was young, gainfully employed and free to blow off steam.  He wasn't worried about losing his apartment or going hungry because he had parents and four other siblings. Never mind that most of them were married with families of their own, Jason was the baby. And everyone took care of the baby.

Alicia plugged in the kettle, took down her favourite mug and contemplated how to get through to Jason. He was an adult. It was time he took responsibility for his own actions.  It was time she let him sink or swim under his own power.  She was done looking out for him. Done feeding him, done housing him and done lying to everyone about how well he was doing with his life.

Alicia poured boiling water over the tea bag and set the timer. While the tea steeped, she walked into the bathroom and filled the tub. A splash of soothing lavender bath salts dissolved in the steaming water.  Once bath and tea were ready, she cranked the volume on her tablet, set the mug on the floor beside the tub and stepped in to the hot water.

Pure bliss.  Forget Jason. Forget his crappy attitude.  Forget it all.  She filled her lungs with the scented steam and closed her eyes.

A creak in the hallway caused a frown. She lived alone.

A crash followed by a giggle and Alicia knew exactly who was in the hallway.  "Katie?"

Her younger sister stuck her head in the bathroom doorway.  "Hey, Alicia.  You'll never believe who I ran into at Dev's."

"I have no idea."  She pulled the bubbles up her chest.  "Get out and let me get dressed."

"Hey, Alicia."  A green-eyed blond head joined Katie's in the doorway.  "Nice bubbles."

"Brad." Alicia hooked her foot over the tub's edge and used it to slam the door shut.  So much de-stressing after the bar. Nothing like your ex ogling you to increase your blood pressure and fill you with mortification.

She yanked the drain stopper loose, sloshed herself out of the tub and grabbed her dressing gown.  Wet hair plastered to the back of her neck so she scooped it up to secure with a clip.  A deep breath to fortify herself, along with the reminder that she dumped him, and Alicia was ready to face Brad and Katie.

There was no good reason she'd bring Alicia's ex over unless Katie was intent on giving Jason a run for his money as the family drunk.  Alcohol had clearly destroyed all her brain cells. The audio feed of Thanksgiving played on a loop as Alicia walked down the hall.

Would she ever forget the sound of squeaky bedsprings and impassioned moaning?  Her life was a freakin' cliche.  Not that it was bad enough to catch her fiance pumping away in her bed but to catch him alone was worse. Brad had one hand around himself and another crushed around a photo of Alicia's mother.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016


Clarissa tugged the bedcovers up to her chin then rolled on to her side.  She wrapped herself around her full body pillow.  There was no where she needed to be today.  Good thing. Her limbs felt like cement and the weather was gloomy, grey and wet.

She shivered.  Raindrops hit the window then raced down the glass. After a few minutes of watching, she was confident that the left side had the faster track.  Her eyelids drifted shut and she let them.

A few minutes later, she opened her eyes. Her head felt thick and heavy as if she'd spent the night crying. She had not.  Her whole body ached.  The barometric pressure weighed heavily upon her. The rain hit the window harder. A quick glance at the clock indicated her catnap had lasted two hours.  She really should get out of bed.

There was no real reason to do so. No work clock to punch, no pressing engagements, nothing demanded her attention.

"This is why you should get a dog."

Clarissa closed her eyes and wished the illusion away.

"Give it up, Babe."  The bed sank beneath Bob's weight as his arms wrapped around her from behind.  "I'm every where you are."

"Go away, Bob." She shrugged off his weight. "It's too Alan Rickman."

"But I love you. Truly."

"Madly. Deeply. I know."  She sighed and rolled onto her back.  "It was a stupid movie."

"No.  It was a great movie. She wasn't letting go. She wouldn't move on."  Bob slid his hand across her midriff.  "He came back so that she'd stop whitewashing their relationship into this perfect entity that it wasn't. No relationship is perfect. Ours wasn't."

"I remember everything, Bob."  She rolled over to face him.  "You drank the last of the milk then put the empty container back in the fridge. You never emptied the dishwasher or the garbage."

She picked his hand up to examine it. Cancer had eaten his flesh til all that remained was splotchy skin over brittle bones.  Now his hand looked like it hand when he was young and healthy - broad with thick fingers and callouses and burn scars from working at the foundry.

"You left me."

"I tried everything, Clar. Chemo, radiation, drug trials, fad diets, supplements, colonics. I tried everything we could find to beat the cancer and stay with you."

Clarissa dropped his hand.  "Go away."

"I can't until you forgive me."

"Fine.It's not your fault you got cancer and died, Bob. You're forgiven. Now leave me alone."

"Forgive me for the affair."

Shocked, she rolled over to face him.  "You slept with my boss and didn't think I'd find out?"

"I didn't think you'd care."

"So now it's my fault?"

"No." He frowned. "I was the idiot.  I was lonely and afraid of losing you so instead of being a man I flirted with Janet.  She smelled like gardenias."

"She owned a florist shop."

"Yes, she did. And you came home all the time smelling of roses and men's cologne. So instead of being a man and having an honest conversation -" His voice broke.  "Instead of asking you if you were leaving me for him, I slept with her."

"There was no him."

"I know that now."

"Because now that you're dead, you're omniscient?"

"No because Janet told me about the trick of spraying some of the cards with cologne so some women could make their husbands jealous. Juvenile but effective."  He winced.   "How did you find out?"

"When I quit my job to take care of you."

"Why would Janet say anything?"

"Because she was a mean-spirited bitch."  Clarissa stared up at the ceiling.  The stucco needed repainting. There was a streak of colour at the wall's edge.

"I am sorry.  It was stupid.  You're the only woman I ever truly loved."  Bob touched her shoulder.  "Why did you stay?"

"Because I did love love you. Truly. Madly. Deeply." She sighed.  "Because I wanted you to get better so we could fight about it. I wanted you to realize I was worth so much more than to be cheated on, betrayed.  Because I wanted you to beg forgiveness. You never did."

"I am now."

Clarissa dragged herself into a sitting position. The painting at the foot of her bed mocked her with its black and white message. Right and wrong. Good and evil.

She shivered and turned towards her dead husband.  "No, you're not.  This is all me, rehashing the same old argument we never had.  Me, wanting a ghost to tell me all the things you never did. You're not real, Bob."

Her gaze met a blank wall. He wasn't there. He never was.

Friday, February 19, 2016

The mirror

Ally waved good-bye to her friends and pedaled home. This summer was going to be the best one ever. Three days since school ended and they'd already gone canoeing every day, swung off the rope into the cold water and seen Jason Harlen in his cut-offs.

It wasn't dark yet but Mom would have supper ready just as soon as Dad got home.  Ally cycled past the bakery, over the train tracks and up the street.  She hoped it was mac n cheese. Not the best meal for a hot day but still her favourite.

"Hey, Greg." She braked at the bottom of the hill that led to their front yard. Her younger brother hunkered down in the ditch, muttering at himself in a hand mirror.


"Pardon?" She swung off her bike and sat down beside him.

"I'm a freak."

"No,you're not."  Ally put her arm around his thin shoulder and gave a small squeeze.  "Why would you say something like that?"

"Billy Schmidt said I was a freak."  He scowled at his face in the mirror.

"Billy Schmidt is a poppy-head."  Her brother didn't laugh.

"Bobby and Ryan laughed at me.  They said I even looked like a freak!"

"You don't look like a freak."

Greg stared at himself even harder.

Ally tried to take the mirror from him. He had a strong grip for such a little kid. "You're not a freak."

"Yes, I am. Look!"  He turned his face up towards her.

"Where did you get the mirror?"  She gently pried it out of his hands, one finger at a time.

"I snuck it out of Mommy's purse."  His bottom lip quivered.  "I'm a freak and a thief."

"You're not either one of those things."

"Yes, I am."  He grabbed the mirror back from Ally.  "They said I had big round eyes just like a freak.  They said Mommy and Daddy are going to lock me away. That freaks don't belong in school."

"I'm going to punch all three of those boys."  She leaned over Greg's shoulder so that both of their faces were reflected back at them.  "Look.  My eyes are the same as yours. Same shape.  Round.  We are not freaks."

"Yes, we are!" Tears flowed from Greg's eyes. "We're both freaks and some guys are going to take us away from Mommy and Daddy and make us live in square rooms with padded walls and we'll never be able to see each other again."

"We are not freaks."

"Yes. Yes, we are. We have big round eyes."

"Oh, for pity's sake!" Ally grabbed the mirror from Greg and threw it into the ditch.  It broke into several big pieces. She'd come back and clean the mess up later. Right now, she had a bigger problem.

"Let's go inside and talk to Mommy.  She has big round eyes just like we do and she's not a freak. She didn't get taken away from Grandma and Grandpa.  C'mon."  Ally tugged Greg to his feet.  "Let's go inside."

"Mommy's going to be mad that you broke her mirror."

"I don't think so, Rusty.  I don't think she'll blame me at all." She hugged him tight.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016


Nothing good ever follows the statement "things couldn't get worse". I learned that in spades the day we buried my brother.

My heart ripped in half by the loss of my twin. Grief was a living throbbing pain. Son of a BITCH, it hurt to breathe. I sank to my knees beside the grave and considered tunneling in.‎

The bizarre thing was we'd never been particularly close. We didn't have a secret twin language, finish each other's sentences or have similar tastes. We didn't even live ‎in the same country.

Our parents Split when we were twelve years old, on the cusp of puberty. Naturally, they decided they should each take on of us to be raised by the same gender parent.  Of course, they swapped kids for two weeks every summer. My brother and I barely knew each other.

Not much changed when we grew up, moved out and forged lives of our own.  We met up every summer for two weeks with the parents and got to know each other as much as possible. It was a bit like a science experiment.

He was an engineer. I was a pharmacist. There was so little for us to talk about.


Someone had shredded my heart and buried it with him.  

No matter how estranged or distant we'd become no one had the right to diss family than family.  No one had the right to kill my brother.

Except me.

Friday, February 12, 2016

Ally the adventurer

Ally stared out her bedroom window. It was kinda cool to be the only one awake in the house. Everything was quiet except the steady clip-clop of the horse pulling the milk truck down the street. It reminded her of the Olden Times that grandpa talked about when most things were delivered to the house, the phone was usually only used for emergencies and children respected their elders.

The horse and buggy passed out of her view and her gaze dropped to the side of the house. Her bicycle was propped against the front porch right where she'd left it yesterday after school.  Ally didn't waste any time changing clothes, her pjs were warm enough.

She raced down the stairs as quietly as possible, made sure to skip the third step from the bottom because it squeaked. Once outside, she mounted her bike and pedaled down the street. There wasn't very much traffic but the sun was up.  She could smell fresh bread from the bakery. It was on the other side of the railroad tracks though so she didn't pedal that way. Instead, she turned the corner on the right side of the tracks and followed along beside them.

A car's muffler backfired and startled her. She weaved and fell from her bicycle and landed in a pile of clover.  A small buzzing sound made her look down at a honeybee gathering pollen. She lowered her face as close as she dared to watch it extract energy from the flower. Last week, they studied bees in school.  Bees made honey. Ally loved honey. Ally loved bees.

She grinned as it flew from one clover to another further away from her.  Ally hopped on her bike and followed the bee as it danced from flower to flower then away from the clover patch all together. It flew faster and further away.  Ally had to really pedal to keep it in sight. It was such a tiny speck. It was a good thing there wasn't much traffic to distract her. Maybe the bee was flying back to its nest.

Ally crossed the train tracks then pedaled down to the canal bank.  There were lots of apple trees along the water's edge. Maybe one of them was home to the bee.  She couldn't see it any more.

She coasted to a stop. The sun was hot on her bare head and her breathing was labored. Even her legs felt tingly.

 Ally took a good look around. Zoiks. She was a long way from home. Too close to the water, on the wrong side of the railroad tracks. She'd be grounded for life if Mom found out.

She turned her bicycle around and headed for home as fast as she'd left it. Mr. Dumas waved at her front the back of the bakery as she flew past. Mrs. D'Amico yelled at her as she passed the old lady hanging up her morning wash. Yuck, was that a brassiere?

She raced up the street to her own house. Daddy's car was still in the driveway so maybe Ally hadn't been gone too long. She dumped her bike on the front lawn and snuck up onto the front porch. If everyone was awake, they'd be in the kitchen by the back porch eating breakfast.

Ally's stomach growled.  The front door opened with a screech and Mommy stood there.  "Exactly, where have you been, young lady?"

"I went for a ride around the block."  Ally hated lying but she hated  being grounded even more.

"Really?  Did you want to reconsider your answer?"  Mommy held the door open for Ally to walk through.

"I went around a couple of times.  It is a really nice day out."

Mommy squatted in front of her and plucked a clover leaf from her hair.  "Were you near the train tracks?"

"Yes. I watched a bee gather pollen. We learned all about pollen last week.  And how important bees are. It went from one flower to another.  Mr. Donnelly says pollination is the most important role a bee carries in life."

"Did you follow the bee?"  Mommy skimmed her hands down Ally's pjs.

"Oh, yes, it was very inter-" Ally slowed down.  Oh boy.  She was in big trouble. She could tell from the look on Mommy's face.

Mommy plucked a leaf from the top of Ally's sneaker and held it up. "Did you go down to the canal?"

"How can you tell from a leaf where I went?"  Ally slumped onto the bottom step of the staircase.

"Mr. Dumas, Mrs. D'Amico and Mrs. Sullivan all called to tell me they'd seen you race past on your bicycle. They all said you weren't paying any attention to traffic. And Mrs. Sullivan wondered what kind of a parent would let her child out to play in her pajamas at six o'clock in the morning."

"Mrs. Sullivan saw me?"

"Well, Ally, she does live in the largest house in town - overlooking the canal."  Mommy pulled Ally in for a quick hug. "Go to your room.  You're grounded. Twice."


"Yes, twice. Once for lying to me. And once for crossing the train tracks. Just be grateful I don't ground you three times for going down to the canal.  You know you're not allowed anywhere near the water without Daddy or me."

"It's the first day of summer vacation.  What am I supposed to do?"

"Sit in your room and be grateful the neighbours called me and not Daddy."  Her mom slapped her lightly on the butt and sent her upstairs.

Ally slammed her door shut and flung herself onto her bed.  She grabbed her pillow into her arms then rolled towards the wall.  Fine. She would just stare at nothing all day. It's not like she'd gone swimming or stolen bread or gotten hurt.

It wasn't fair. She was eight years old. Not a baby. It was her first day of summer vacation. She should be out there exploring the world!

She sighed. Nancy Drew wouldn't get grounded for following clues.  Maybe if Ally had come home with some honey...her eyes drifted shut.

It was going to be a long summer.  

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Ally to the rescue

"Mommy, Mommy. Come quick!" Greg burst through the front door open to let in a spring breeze.  "You have to help Wyatt. He's stuck in a tree."

Ally and her mother ran to Greg's side. He was smaller than most of the five-year-olds in the neighbourhood, and often slower to understand things.  "Where is Wyatt's mommy?"

"I knocked and knocked and knocked but she didn't answer."  Greg threw himself into his mother's arms and wailed.

"She's having a nap with Mr. Miller." Ally stepped into her sneakers and laced them up.  "I'll get Wyatt."

"Be careful, Ally."

She raced over to the park.  She could hear Mommy and Greg behind her.  It was reassuring to have an adult as backup but she would be fine. Ally had been climbing these trees for as  long as she could remember.

Not Wyatt, though. He wasn't much bigger than Greg. The two little pipsqueaks went everywhere together, looking out for each other. Last week, Wyatt the accident-prone little monkey had fallen off the merry-go-round and hurt his arm.

"Up here, Ally." The very scared voice of her brother's best friend drifted down from the top of the highest pine tree in the park.

"Don't worry, I'm coming to get you."  Ally scrambled up the tree bark then boosted herself to the lowest branch. How had Wyatt managed to get off the ground with a splint on one arm.  She climbed the tree,  hand over hand, foot over foot, branch to branch and asked herself that question over and over again.

"Hurry, Ally."  His voice was quieter than before, almost as if he was scared speaking would make the branches move.

"Can you move at all, Wyatt?" She climbed quickly, closer and closer.

"Noooo." His voice trailed off.  "I think the branch is gonna break."

"No, it's not, Wyatt."  Ally could see his skinny white legs wrapped around the branch above her.  "This tree is tough. Strong. Just like you."

"No, I heard it creeeaak," he whispered.

"Look at the cloud, Wyatt." Ally slowed to follow her own advice.  "Are they moving?"

"Nooo," his voice wavered. Poor kid was going to start crying any minute now and then how would she get him down?

"That's good. It means no wind.  Definitely not hurricane weather.  Right?"

"I wouldn't climb trees in a hurricane."

"That's a smart boy."  Ally pulled herself up level with Wyatt.  The hand on his good arm clung to a tiny sprig on the tree trunk above his head.  "Shimmy back towards the trunk."

His tiny bum wiggled until his back hit the tree.  "Good man, Wyatt. Now slowly stand up."

"I can't Ally.  I'll fall."

"Don't look down."  As soon as she said it, he did.  His lip quivered.

"Don't cry, Wyatt.  Look at me." She stepped around him and out onto the branch.  With one hand holding the branch above her, she held her other hand out to Wyatt.

"Take my hand, buddy." He shook his head.  "Let go of the tiny branch." He shook his head again and his eyes filled with tears.

"Okay."  She squatted down in front of him.  "Slowly lift your leg up and stretch it out in front of you.  I'll show you."

Ally dropped down so her butt landed on the tree branch then dangled her legs over the side. She scooted back a bit, further out onto the narrower part of the branch. Wyatt's eyes were huge and his lip trembled.

She slowly lifted one leg up and stretched it out on the branch.  Then lifted the other.  "C'mon.  You do it."

Wyatt  nodded then followed Ally's example. It took twenty times longer for him to do it than for her but all that mattered was his back against the tree and his legs in front of him.  "Do your legs tingle a little bit?"

He nodded.  Ally bent forward and rubbed some life back into his legs.  "That happens to me sometimes when I sit too long."

She reached up and grabbed a higher branch then pulled herself up.  "You can do it, Wyatt. Use that hand to pull yourself up."

He shook his head.

"Don't be scared. I'm right here. I can help you." She grabbed his elbow above the splint and held on. Not too tight, she didn't want to hurt him, but enough to steady him as he pulled himself up.  He clung to the tiny branch and did just that.

"Good job, Wyatt. Ready to climb down?"

"How?  I'm scared. What if I fall?"

"You won't fall.  I'm right here with you. Do you want to go first or do you want to follow me?"  Ally reached around him so that he was pinned between her and the trunk.  "How about we do it together. You put your feet where mine are."

It took a long time to reach the ground that way but they made it. There was a crowd waiting for them when their feet touched dirt.  All the kids cheered. Greg ran over and congratulated his friend on the adventure.

Ally's mom gave her a big hug. "That was a brave thing to do."

She hugged her mom back.  "I don't know how he got up that high only using one hand to climb."

"Not well."  Her mom laughed.  "It took three hands to climb down."

She turned and swept the two boys into the hug.  "What a good job you all did.  I'm so proud of all of you."

Greg wriggled free.  "Can we go play on the swings now?  I want to swing as high as Wyatt in the tree."

The two boys ran off, neither scarred by the climbing mishap.  "Boys!" Ally rolled her eyes and her mom laughed again.

"Girls will give you just as many sleepless nights, young lady."

Ally laughed, ran and tumbled forward into a carwheel.  "Ta-da!"

"Ta-da, indeed." But her mother smiled and sat on the bench to watch all of them play with their friends.  Wyatt's mom never did join them.

Friday, February 05, 2016

Surprise for Ally

After Daddy left for work, Mommy took Ally to the park. There were other Mommies there but her Mommy pushed Ally on the swing, so high she could touch the sky.  Then they climbed a tree and watched the Nelsons' dog chase a ball.  The dog had big floppy ears and a tail that swished the ground.  It always ran over when it saw Ally then flopped so she could rub it's belly.

"Now that I'm four, can we have a dog, Mommy?  I'll take very good care of him.  I will feed him and take him for walks and play fetch. I'll rub his belly and give him baths when he's stinky. I'll share my Mr. Bubbles with him."

Mommy laughed. "You are a big girl now, Ally."

"Does that mean I can get a puppy?"  Ally jumped off the branch and did a somersault just like the Bionic Woman.  She had a dog. A bionic dog with supergood hearing.  "He doesn't have to be bionic like Max.  I don't have six million pennies."

"We'll talk about it later when Daddy gets home.  He and I have a surprise for you."

The rest of the day was slow. Ally filled three colouring books, watched Sesame Street and took a nap and it still took FOREVER for Daddy to come home from work. Then it was supper time, her favourite mac and cheese with cut-up hot dogs, and Daddy talked about Mommy's day. "I hope you didn't overdo it, Helen."

Mommy rolled her eyes and Daddy laughed. He didn't like eye-rolling but tonight he seemed pretty happy.  He and Mommy laughed at every little thing.  Some times grown-ups were so silly.

After dinner, Mommy poured a big glass of Daddy's favourite beer. "No Magners for you," he said.

Mommy giggled then pulled Ally onto her lap on the couch. "Daddy and I want to talk with you about our big surprise. I hope you'll like it."

"I know you'll love it as much as we do, Chief."

"I knew it. We're getting a puppy." Ally hopped off her mom's lap and raced to her bedroom. She rooted through the toy chest until she found what she was looking for on the very bottom.

"He can sleep with Jerome."  Ally handed over the old stuffed giraffe.  "Just like I did when I was little."

"Oh, Ally."  Mommy held Jerome close to her chest and breathed deep. She choked.  "He's a bit old and dusty."

"That's very nice of you to share him."  Daddy lifted Ally up into his lap on the couch beside Mommy.  "We're not getting a puppy.  We're going to have a new baby brother or sister."

"But I want a puppy."  Ally's chin started to quiver. She wrinkled her nose to hold back the tears. She was four years old, not a baby. Everyone knew only babies cried.

"It. Will. Cry. All. The. Time. And. No. One. Will. Be. Able. To. Sleep." Ally hiccupped.

"It's okay, Chief.  It won't cry all the time. It needs to eat, too."


"We don't know if it's a boy or a girl yet. What am I supposed to call the baby?" Daddy hugged Ally.  "Babies grow pretty quickly and then you'll be able to do things together.  It will be better than having a puppy."



"We can call the baby, Rusty, until we know its real name."  Ally sniffled.  "I was going to name the puppy Rusty."

"Aw, Chief, Rusty will be a good brother or sister. You'll be able to do lots more with this Rusty once it - he or she - gets older."

"Like catch and fetch?"

"Yes, and you'll be able climb trees with this Rusty.  Puppies aren't very good tree climbers."

"Do babies like to snuggle like puppies do?"


"Will I have to clean up after him like I would a puppy?"

"No, that's Mommy's job."

"Will Baby Rusty love me like Puppy Rusty would?"

"Of course."

Ally wrinkled her nose. Her eyes were wet again.  "Will you love Baby Rusty more than you love me?"

"Definitely not, Chief."  Daddy pulled Ally in tight for a bear hug. Mommy kissed the top of her head.

"Okay."  Ally snuggled in deep for a moment and enjoyed her parents' attention.

"Wizard of Oz is on tonight."  She wiggled free.  "Can we watch it?"

"Absolutely!"  Daddy crossed the room to turn on the television so it could warm up.

"Can we make jiffy pop?"  Ally ran to the kitchen pantry and pulled one off the shelf while Mommy laughed and followed her into the kitchen.

Later, Ally snuggled between her parents on the couch and watched Dorothy follow the yellow brick road.  Would there still  be room for her when Baby Rusty came to live with them?  Ally's friend Shelly said having a baby sister was the worst thing ever. She had to share her room, her toys, even her clothes.  Worst of all, Shelly's sister was allergic to animals.

Ally watched Toto prance along beside Dorothy.  Dorothy didn't have a brother or sister. She had the Cowardly Lion, the Tinman, Scarecrow and a little dog.  Ally would like to be more like Dorothy.

"Can we send the baby back if we don't like it and get a puppy?"

Her parents laughed so hard she didn't hear the wicked witch scream at the flying monkeys.  A dog would have been a nicer surprise.

Wednesday, February 03, 2016

Ally's brother

"Ready to meet your baby brother, Chief?"

Ally clutched the vase of blue daisies close to her chest and nodded at Daddy.

He pushed on the door to Mommy's hospital room then stopped in the open doorway to crouch down and stare her in the eyes.  "Mommy and I are very excited your baby brother is finally here."

Ally wanted to roll her eyes but didn't.  Daddy hated it when she did that. He said five year olds should behave like smart girls instead of smart alecks.  Besides, he was wearing his serious I-mean-business you-better-listen face.  He placed his big hands on her small shoulders.

"There will be some changes in our lives and how we do things but you'll always be my special Chief.  Ok?"  He looked in to her eyes and waited.

"Ok, Daddy.  Can I see him now?"

"Absolutely."  He her her hand in his and led her to the side of Mommy's bed.  Mommy's face was read and shiny and her hair stuck up in lots of different directions  but she looked happy. really really happy.  In her arms she held a long white bundle. "He looks like a pig in a blanket!"

Her parents laughed and the little hot dog opened his eyes.  They were blue! Just like Ally's and Mommy's eyes. Poor Daddy. His eyes were green like grass and his favourite football uniforms.

A little hand moved at the top of the blanket.  "Ten fingers and ten toes," Mommy announced.

Her baby brother turned his head towards Mommy's voice.

"Look how he tracks who's in the room."  Daddy chuckled.  "Do you want to hold him, Chief?"

Ally couldn't hold back a grin.  A baby brother was way better than a new doll.

"Be careful.  Hold his head.  Like this."  Daddy slid his arms beneath Ally's to help her support the baby's head.

Mommy gently lay him in her arms.  "Got him?"

Ally nodded.  Daddy pulled his arms away.

"I'm doing it! I'm holding my baby brother!"  Ally turned her head to look up at Daddy.

The baby squeaked like a little mouse and Ally dropped him. She stood there holding the blanket as he tumbled from her arms straight to the hard floor.  The heaviest part of him, his head, hit the floor with a wet thud.

Ally and Mommy both screamed.  The baby just lay there, quiet and not moving.

Ally covered her mouth with her hands and hiccupped until the screams stopped. Big tears filled her eyes and made it hard for her to see him.  She pretended she was a fort and the gate was closed. Nothing could get in or out. The screams and tears stopped.

A nurse ran in and scooped up the baby.  "What happened?"

Daddy used his Big Boss voice to explain the baby fell. He didn't tell her Ally dropped him.

"I have a pulse."The nurse took him from the room.

Mommy started to cry quietly, like she didn't want to make any noise.  Daddy held her by the shoulders. He didn't say everything would be okay.

Ally stood by the fort gates.  Afraid to move. Afraid to make a sound.  It was an accident but that didn't matter. She hiccupped back another scream.

Daddy held out his arms and Ally ran to her parents.  With his arms around both of his girls, he told Ally it wasn't her fault.  He didn't call her Chief.

But Ally knew he was wrong.  It was her fault.  Her baby brother was going to die and it was all her fault.

Both Robin Berkley and I wrote about brothers today, despite the fact that it wasn't one of our prompts.

Friday, January 29, 2016


Robin Berkley's entry I'm enjoying how different we interpret the writing prompts.

A dozen shiny spheres clunked against each other as Ally tipped open the brown cloth bag Daddy had given her that morning at breakfast. They were warm and heavy in her hand.  She looked around the playground hoping someone would offer to teach her how to play marbles.

A group of girls from her class huddled around a teen magazine, giggling.  Another group of girls had linked arms and were skipping across the yard singing. Most of the boys were flicking hockey cards against the school wall while a few played catch with a deflated football.

Her little brother, Greg, sat beneath a tree at the edge of the playground. He'd arranged some empty beers cans into a windy twisting train. She watched him move the lead can forward and to the right.  He used a stick to measure the distance between then cans then lined them all back up in their previous formation, just a few inches forward of their previous position.  Greg liked angles, exact measurements and geometry even though those things made Ally's stomach hurt.  She turned away.  He was fine over there playing by himself.

She spied Tommy and Max on their knees in front of hole they'd scratched out of the dirt.  Even though they were a grade older her than Ally, they sometimes talked to her on the school bus.  Tommy always wanted to know what she had for lunch and Max always told him not to be a bully.

Ally crossed the yard to watch them.  Tommy glared up at her.  "What do you want?"

She held the bag out for him to see. "Will you teach me how to play?"

Tommy grabbed the bag and spilled the marbles onto the dirt.  He sorted them out by colour and size.  "I'll take this one as payment." He held up a large black marble full of white clouds like a misty morning before dawn.

Ally shrugged.

"Try to get your marble into the hole without knocking our marbles in."  Max flicked a blue green marble as a demonstration.  "Whoever has the most marbles in the hole wins all of them."

The three of them knelt down to play.  It took a few tries for Ally to get the hang of it but she had one marble in the hole and two on the lip. Tommy's marbles were the furthest away and Max had two in the hole. His yellow marble clinked into Tommy's green one.

A squirrel ran past and Tommy kicked at it.

Ally yelled at him. Before she knew it, Greg barreled past her and shoved Tommy.  "Leave it alone!"

Tommy shoved Greg down into the dirt.  Greg kicked him and Ally threw herself on top of her little brother.  "Stop!" she yelled at both of them.

"Leave the little kid alone, Tommy" Max tugged at his friend as a crowd grew around them.

A pretty blonde girl strode up to them. Her two equally blonde and pretty friends followed on her heels.  Tracey planted herself in front of Tommy. "Leave him alone, Tommy or I'm telling Mom and Dad."

She whipped around so fast her long hair hit her brother in the face.  "I'm Tracey."  She held her hand out to help Ally up.  "These are my friends Terry and Tonia."

"I know."  Ally pulled Greg up with her and kept his arm around his small shoulders. He was still primed to fight.  "We're in Miss Stickles class together."

"Do you want to be friends?"

Ally narrowed her eyes.  Was this a trick?  The 3 Ts didn't talk to any of the other girls.  They went everywhere together and acted like no one else was in the world.

"Hey, anyone who takes on my brother is a friend of mine."  The other Ts nodded.  "I don't know why Max hangs out with him."

Max shrugged. "He's not all bad."

Tracey held out her hand.  With a scowl Tommy dropped a couple of marbles into it.  She dropped down onto her knees and flicked all three marbles straight into the hole.

Greg clapped and smiled. Ally released him.  He walked back to the tree and his beer can train.  A black squirrel sat at the base of the tree and watched him approach.  It didn't run off or scamper up the tree.

That was one of the things about her brother. Animals trusted him. They liked to be around him. The only time he ever showed any temper was when one of them was threatened.  Ally had spent most of his life protecting him from bullies like Tommy.

Tracey handed all of the marbles to Ally.  "Justice."

Ally looked at her brother content beneath the tree.  Tommy glared at his sister.  "I didn't want them anyway.  Marbles are a baby game."

Max rolled his eyes.

"Thank you."  Ally fished through the handful of marbles searching for the black misty one. She handed it to Tommy. A peace offering.  "Thank you for teaching me how to play."

He crinkled his face and kicked at the dirt.  "Nah, you keep it. I cheated you out of it."

"Nope.  It's only fair payment for the lesson."

Max cuffed his friend in the shoulder.  "Take it, Tommy. It's a beauty."

Tommy grabbed the marble. "You're alright. For a girl."

The school bell rang to end recess.

"Want to play again tomorrow?"  Tommy tucked the marble into the front pocket of his corduroys.

"She can't." Tracey looped her arm through Ally's.  "We're going to show her how to flip her hair so she looks like one of Charlie's Angels."

Ally smiled to herself.  Daddy was going to be so surprised when she told him he was right. Marbles did help her make friends.  He would laugh because Mommy had said no one would want to be Ally's friend. She was too strange.  She didn't know how to have fun.

Mommy was wrong. Ally had a lot of fun - especially when Tommy got beat by his sister. A girl. She had wanted to laugh until he looked like he was going to cry. He looked too much like her baby brother right then.

That made her sad. So she gave him the marble. It didn't mean anything to her.

Tommy ran ahead of her and shoved the marble under another guy's nose. "Look what I won!  Suckers!"

Friday, January 22, 2016

String, glass and Bowie

Robin's entry in the challenge

Ally and her friends did cartwheels across the lawn while David Bowie sang about spiders from Mars on the stereo speakers her mom had blasting from the kitchen.  It was a weird song.  She tugged her pigtails out from her halter strap, took a few deep breaths and chilled at the edge of the front lawn.  Gymnastic practice was hard work even if it did look like fun. There wasn't a lot of traffic on the street below but still, it was safer to practice their moves towards the house and away from the hill.

Terry, Tracey and Tonia all did back flips.  It was strange not to have a name that started with a T but it wasn't the only reason she felt like an oddball in their group.  Ally's parents were still married to each other.  She only ever received one set of presents at Christmas and birthdays. No trips to Disney like Tonia took with her dad so he could tell her she was going to be a big sister thanks to her new mom.  No pony lessons like Tracey got from her mom and new dad when they moved out of the old neighbourhood. Terry's parental bribes were more along the lines of concert tickets and the latest albums for all of her favourite bands.  They'd replaced the Bay City Rollers three times because Ally and the 3 Ts wore it out.  S-A-T-U-R-

"C'mon, Ally, get the lead out!" Tonia called.

She shrugged before tucking herself into a ball like the raccoon she'd watched roll across their backyard the other  night. It was annoying the way her parents treated her like a little kid when she was 12 years old, practically a teenager.  Ally was going to pierce her ears for her thirteenth birthday, just like Tracey did when she turned twelve.Mom and Dad promised she could.  They said she'd been really patient with her brother Greg and all the attention he got because he was slow.  Terry's brother called him a retard.  Ally had punched him on the nose.

She'd been expelled for three days from school because she punched him on the playground during recess. If he had said at home she wouldn't have missed any school. Mom said she was disappointed that Ally felt the need to resort to violence.  Dad took her outside and told her was proud of the way she stood up for her baby brother.

Almost as if she had conjured him up by thinking about him, Greg ran onto the front lawn and tried to stand on his head. Of course he fell over. He was as co-ordinated as a piece of string.  If someone didn't put his body into the right position he fell over. A lot.   He followed the 3 Ts to the edge of the lawn at the top of the hill.  All stopped to tie up her shoe. It would hurt if she tripped over it while setting up a cartwheel.

"Look, Ally Bally Bee! I tumble just like you."  Greg dropped to the ground and started to roll, backward down the hill.

"No, Greg, stop!"Ally ran across the lawn but it was too late. He'd slipped over the side and was headed for the street.

Greg giggled like a madman.  Her friends screamed and Ally ran faster than she ever had before in her life.  Halfway down the hill, with every breath in stabbing her throat, Ally got in front of her little brother.   Momentum barreled him right into her legs and she fell too.

Blue sky, blue car, green grass. Blue sky, blue car, green grass.  They flipped past her vision faster and faster til it was just blue and green.  Everyone was screaming. She could hear them but had no way to stop.  Blue green bluegreen bluegreenblue.

She wrapped her body around Greg's and tucked him beneath her as they slid to a stop. The screech of tires filled her ears and she waited for the hot steel bumper to hit her.

Ally's arms shook as Greg struggled to break free.  If she could just keep him still, she'd be able to keep him safe.  She just needed to hold on.

Weird. She could taste the coppery strangeness of blood but she hadn't felt the car hit her.  Ally listened hard, tried to hear anything over her friends screaming.  Greg pounded on her arm.  "Let go, Ally!!! Let me go."

She smelled the older boy before she saw him. Incense and weed, her neighbour Doug always smelled like that. Her parents told him not to come around the house but sometimes he plunked himself in a lawn chair at the end of his driveway.

Ally opened her eyes.  The blue VW bug sat a good twenty feet away. No dents on the hood or the bumper. "Are you alright?" the driver asked.

She nodded and sucked in a breath. Jeez that hurt. Greg climbed out of her embrace.  "That was fun."

A gasp from the driver was followed by more horrified screams from the 3 Ts.  She looked Greg over head to toe. He looked alright. He waved his arms around recreating the cartwheel somersault free-for-all that had carried them down the hill.

Why was it so hard to breathe?  Ally looked down at herself. Nothing strange there. Man, her back hurt.  She twisted but the boy, a high school boy with long blond hair and the greenest eyes she'd ever seen, put his hand on her arm. "Don't move."

She shivered. A high school boy touched her.  Just on her arm. It was no big deal. But the 3 Ts were going to ask her lots of questions about how that felt. Jeez.  It hurt to breathe.  Her back felt funny. The boy looked like he was going to be sick.

"Don't move. You'll just make it worse."

"Make what worse?"

Greg stopped bouncing around her friends and came back to Ally's side.  "Ally Bally."  He squatted down to examine her closely.  "Why do you have a big piece of glass sticking out of your back?  mom said we should  never play near glass. Never. It could hurt you."

"Glass?" Black spots popped and hopped around Greg's head. That was bad. Really bad.

"Yeah, a great big piece of broken glass."

The driver nodded.  "Someone dumped a mirror into the ditch. You must have rolled onto the jagged piece when you came down the hill."

"Ally!"  Her mom pushed her way through the 3 Ts and shoved the driver aside.  Her face twisted then smoothed out into her serious Mom face.  "Terry, Tonia, Tracey, please take Greg back into the house. Everyone have a glass of milk. There are cookies on the counter. Please stay inside until Mr. Robbins or I come to get you. Please."

The spots were more like a lava lamp, just blooping up and down all over her vision.  Hmm, her back didn't hurt as much.  How big a piece of glass could it be anyway?

"I love you Ally Bally."  Her mom's voice sounded like it was coming through a tunnel.

Everything was cold. Nothing hurt any more. Her last thought was of the mirror she'd tossed into the ditch the other day.  The mirror she'd smashed to bits.  Except for that one piece that reminded her of an icicle.

Bowie's voice drifted down the hill. "There's a starman, waiting in the sky."

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Tires, hockey, club, bakery and ivy

Follow this link to read Robin's Results.  Mine are below

Tires gripped the asphalt as the car hit the icy curve too fast.  The bungee cord holding the passenger door in place stretched to its point of no return. A white box slid through the gap before the door slammed shut.

Dave watched the retreating taillights and shivered inside the light hockey jacket he'd worn non-stop for the last two years. He slowly checked in both directions for oncoming traffic before he darted onto the road and retrieved the broken box. One red velvet cupcake stood straight in the center of the box while cookie monster, minion and spiderman cupcakes lay dented on their sides. Two Olaf cupcakes had fallen from the box to hit the pavement upside down.  Dave grabbed those two by their paper liners and snapped them off just above their contact point with the road. Pleased with the day's bounty, food for the aching belly and a cardboard hat, he hurried back to the relative warmth and dryness afforded by the underpass.  Nothing at his Ivy League school had prepared him for the harsh reality of a wind pelting him with snow with the level of ruthlessness a homeless man experienced.

As a journalist, he'd done his research. He had expected rough conditions, a scarcity of food and cruel people. His undercover stint as a homeless man had shown him the other side of things, the compassion, decency and creativity of people on both sides of the situation.

The freedom was unexpected. No longer a slave to deadlines, cell phones and demands of family. He thrived on the streets, living like a wild man dependent on no one or nothing that his wits in order to survive. No more country club, fancy cars or facials.

The freedom had been a surprise but no more so than the realization that he liked it.  Dave bit down on Spiderman's head. Eighteen months after the assignment finished, he whooped as the sugar hit his malnourished bloodstream. He was never going back to civilization.

Monday, January 18, 2016

Writing prompts update

Robin Berkley and I have decided to join forces to do the writing prompts twice a week and share with our combined readers. Anyone is welcome to join us. At the very least, I hope you'll be willing to toss a few words or phrases our way.

The schedule will be Monday - gather prompts for two sessions.
Wednesday and Friday post the results of all that creative brilliance.

The library's writing group does something similar with paintings. Artists and writers inspire each other. I'm not sure which comes first but the art that comes out of it, printed and painted, are beautiful.

Writing prompts don't take the place of novels but they do a great job of kickstarting the brain.  We like to make connections with even the most random of things.  These exercises embrace those connections. A paragraph can lead to a scene which can lead to a chapter.  Occasionally, they will inspire an entire novel.   Most books start from one idea.

So. Wednesday.  That's when you'll see what happens when you put tires, hockey, club, baking and ivy together.

Any other words you'd like to see us string together?

Friday, January 15, 2016

New Year, new goals

I'm thinking of a slight revamp to the blog. My life is no less crazy than it has been the last few months. I've got at least two more months of this insane care-giver schedule. The blog will continue to be neglected if I don't change it up slightly.

Not writing makes me cranky. To be more accurate, it turns me into a grade A bitch but I was going for creativity over honesty.  Today while waiting for my car to be healed at the garage, I wrote around 300 words. It needs a bit of tweaking before I share. The twist is dancing just on the edge of my consciousness.

The other thing I did today was find the photos of Stanley. I will scan them and see what they inspire.  I did pick up a crow painting by Kathleen Thorsen.(I'm having trouble connecting with her website but that link will show you some examples of her work)  It's encaustic which adds so much depth and texture to the painting.  Go check her out.

Every week I'll post a short story based on writing prompts provided by you, either over here or on Twitter. So Monday, send me five words on any topic. On Wednesday, I'll post the story it inspires.  That way, I'm back into a routine and the blog is active, even interactive.

Today's prompts were tires, hockey, baking, club, ivy.  The last two words are still missing. Once I figure them out, I'll post the answers - on Monday.  This week's schedule is a bit off just because it only came to me about an hour ago.

Depending on how Stanley's story goes, it will go up as a bonus treat some time in the next two months.  Trips to the garage, and a break from caregiving, are not that frequent.

See you Monday!

Sunday, January 03, 2016

Animal Intelligence

National Geographic has a feature every couple of years about animal intelligence. It's a bar that's constantly being moved so they don't catch, or even surpass, humans in that area. Every time I turn on the news, I thinks it's too late.

Our multi-generational household is shared with two dogs, two cats, two parrots. All are rescues. The second parrot is the only one we went in search of. While they all comfort, love and entertain, they each teach me every day. The cats trick the dogs all the time, the dogs have taught us how to give them what they want and the parrots change the tone and inflection of common sentences to get an appropriate response from us.

Give any one of them an unfamiliar task and they will all find a way to complete it. Unless it's the cats. They never do anything they don't want to do.

With all this in-house entertainment, you'd be surprised how many videos I watch online of crows at play. They know how to have fun. Windshield wipers are an amusement ride, jar lids are toboggans and car hoods offer fresh snow on which to make crow angels.

Corvids, dolphins and octopus are the top three performers in self-awareness, intelligence and play. I've been fascinated by all three my whole life. Nothing will pull me out of a story faster than an author mocking animals.

I'm not back to typing full time yet but I have pulled out my sketchbook that is full of Stanley the crow. I think its time he got his own story. A little bit of romance, a touch of horror but definitely the happy ending he failed to receive in real life.