Monday, May 31, 2010
“No, it’ll be okay, just watch”. Ted lit a tentative match and placed it on a small pile of grass. The barn was airless and smelled of wood and hay. In an instant the heap, no bigger than a seven year old’s fist, went up in flames and within seconds the entire barn was in flames.
The boys escaped in time but 40,000 bales of hay were gone and the cows went without their tea.
So, on the beach, where most of the fire pits tended to come and go with the tide and the season, there was always one guaranteed to gather a crowd, whenever Nick happened by with the latest trick he’d discovered on the Internet or received through the mail.
Sunday, May 30, 2010
Saturday, May 29, 2010
That would give our son some independence without actually forcing him out, a step out into the real world but with a guaranteed lifeline for food and water and power and poop.
Sure, let him eat what he wants, sleep when he wants, party as loud as he can; and maybe someday, if he ever finds something he’s good at besides video games, he’ll scrape enough money together to buy enough gas and get that thing out of my driveway.
Friday, May 28, 2010
And every night I’d hobble home to my warm little bed and my overheated imagination and regale myself with a series of increasingly fantastic escapades of what could’ve been.
And start making plans for tomorrow.
Thursday, May 27, 2010
Lainie hated Chrissy Hynde because she married Jim Kerr, thus robbing her of the delicious fantasy she’d been conjuring for several months. It didn’t matter that Jim was the front man for Simple Minds and Lainie lived in Tecumseh. My Richard would happily sleep with Keira Knightley if she came on to him at Gretsky’s but given the unlikeliness of that ever occurring, he says she’s too thin for him. I’m convinced that the reason Pete Townshend and I are not together is because he’s only seen me once, and as it was Massey Hall he was a bit preoccupied.
And the kid, who is Thom, looks back at us blankly and says, “I dunno, what?”
He’s new to town, and here we are, the only other boys in the neighbourhood, blocking him out of the playground, and screaming out the answer together—“O-oooooh–HI–o-oooooh!”—and laughing . . . at him, of course, not the riddle.
But he smiles all the same. “O-oooooooh!” he says, like he’s just discovered our deepest secret, turned our joke against us, and knows it’ll be years before we figure it out.
Wednesday, May 26, 2010
My mother suggested I give it to Eddy, my friend, who, although he’d not been on my team, had certainly worked harder than me. Except I wanted the ball and felt, in a way, I’d done my part, because we certainly wouldn’t have won had I bothered to show up.
Tuesday, May 25, 2010
It was located, appropriately enough, beneath a monstrous tower built for the executives of Ontario Hydro, where at the end of every working day, young men might mingle with their future selves and swear they’d take a different path.
But this is the story of Ray, a chemical engineer, who was caught there one night with a vial of pure ethanol, and so became the only engineer I’ve known to be banned from a bar just for drinking.
Monday, May 24, 2010
“A natural redhead,” said Hercules, smiling.
“And you know, how?” asked Nick.
“Nothing like that,” said Hercules. “A party by the river. She showed up late with some dude, it was really hot, and they were already drunk enough just to strip right away and dive in . . . ”
“Can we talk about something else?”
“. . . a remarkable sight, really, considering what most girls end up sacrificing down there for guys just looking for a little tail.”
Sunday, May 23, 2010
And yet I was once the boy I saw you with, tall and strong and horny as hell . . . that young man still, but stuck inside this decrepit shell, with a quiver of middle-aged wiles—the wine and the car and the gifts that boy couldn’t ever afford—and maybe your shortcut to the grown-up world.
Or would you rather take the long way around?
Saturday, May 22, 2010
Friday, May 21, 2010
“Don’t you dare,” cautioned Rich, when he saw the twinkle in my eye.
Thursday, May 20, 2010
Sergio and Vic maintain that I was fired from the Department of Justice because I positioned my desk at a 45˚ angle. But I believe it was the crystals in my window. DOJ’s tolerance for eccentric decorating decreased as you moved up the corporate ladder. It indulged those paralegals with gee-gaw cluttered cubicles and a forest of spider plants. Corner offices, reserved for senior lawyers were expected to be pristine, allowing for only a tasteful print or a yucca plant. I had a tiny middle office and a nebulous title, so I could blur the lines, but not that far.
Image: Lunch by George Tooker, 1964, Columbus Museum of Art.
Wednesday, May 19, 2010
Tuesday, May 18, 2010
“Why not just buy a little helmet or something?” asked Atalanta.
“No, there’s more. Like this trip. Suppose the script calls for you to fall overboard and I save you?”
“But who’d save you?”
“Exactly!” said Nick, “Because it wouldn’t be me, and there’d be no way to tell us apart . . . except, perhaps, for the scars.”
“You do realize there’s barely room on this boat for the one of you, right?”
Monday, May 17, 2010
Sunday, May 16, 2010
At one of my rare house parties, someone had the effrontery to describe my CD collection as “the febrile browsings of the bargain bin,” and I had nothing with which to defend myself, except to tell him that I had, in fact, purchased most at full price.
At another party, someone else told me that timing was more important than pitch, but I suspect he was a drummer.
Saturday, May 15, 2010
Till then, they had been mostly innocent affairs, all chips and cookies and an afternoon off, but suddenly they were all about dancing . . . slow dancing . . . with girls.
It was as if the entire female half of the class had made a secret agreement with Mrs. Applebaum to allow them to humiliate the boys. Maybe one day we’d get what we wanted, but in Room 26, the girls still ran the show. They chose the music—mostly slow—and they decided who danced with whom.
Friday, May 14, 2010
“Probably not,” said Atalanta. “Unless you want to break the law.”
“Okay then, princess, how about a dance instead? Unless there’s a law against that, too.”
“Sorry, captain, but I already have a boyfriend.”
“But I don’t see him here with you now.”
“He doesn’t like to dance.”
“No drinking. No dancing. So, what does bring you here on a night like this?”
“A horndog with a minivan and a fistful of free drink coupons.”
“Well played,” said Jason. “Maybe you can buy me a drink.”
“That guy’s staring at you.”
Joan was avoiding eye contact.
Now he was removing his shirt, pretending he wanted to get some sun, but Joan knew he thought he could seduce her with his body. She suppressed the urge to curl her lip, knowing he would use any reaction as an invitation.
He was making it hard, though, as he hiked up his pants, obviously believing that she would find his bulge impressive.
You could not tell a guy like that he was pitiful; he would think you were flirting.
Thursday, May 13, 2010
How has society evolved so that it’s taboo to expose breasts, two of the most beautiful things God gave us, but acceptable for any garden-variety tree sloth to go barefoot? I know someone who grows her toe nails extra long to make her feet look thinner. Another has a penchant for slides yet the backs of her cankles resemble packed gravel. And why don’t they arrest women with bunions who insist on flip flops? And the guys? Why is it unseemly if a man enjoys a beer in a public park but okay for him to parade around in Tevas?
“Attractive?” she said. “I don’t need you to be nice to me, Nick. What I want is your objective opinion.”
“I was just trying to . . .”
“Well, let’s just try again harder now, shall we? . . . starting at the bottom with these ridiculous feet, which may be great for swimming, but try to find a nice pair of shoes. My hips are too wide, my eyes are too narrow, and this beak of mine is only preposterous . . .”
“Should I be writing this down?”
“What are you looking at?” She asked.
Wednesday, May 12, 2010
So, to hell with Shakespeare in the park, and to hell with everyone staring as he picked his way down the crowded hillside. But most of all, to hell with her having to explain all the time why her boyfriend was wearing a skirt.
“It’s not a skirt,” she sneered. “It’s a sarong.”
Poor Catherine was the only fair lassie there, and although she was happy with the swarthy lad who’d escorted her, the Sons of Scotland just assumed she’d arrived with only true Scot at the table . . . who was gay.
“Salut!” she proclaimed.
A pause, then her host raised her glass in reply.
She wished she knew what she was toasting.
“And no one talked to you for the whole time?” Kim smiled, incredulous.
“No. Nobody knew us so they weren’t interested. They just ate their hamburgers and talked about the Bass Pro Shop.”
“On the women, yes.”
Tuesday, May 11, 2010
And speaking of danger, you might also consider your proximity to the subject of the story, who quite unexpectedly heard: “ . . . and what would you say if I told you it wasn’t the fertility treatments at all, but that his mother was fucking her doctor?”
And who answered from across the room: “You’re dead, you little prick.”
I have no beef with stay-at-home-moms, unless you have nineteen children and are featured on a TLC reality show. You know who you are, you born-again corn-pone doormat. I just watched how, in the spirit of racial tolerance and understanding you took your Chiclet-toothed hoard to an Ethiopian restaurant. Such bizarre food and entertaining people! You felt like you were actually in Africa, bible in hand. Wasn’t it funny when little Jimbo said he felt like puking? Or when little Jambo kept rolling her eyes? Next time, just feed one of your children to a starving family in Dolo Odo.
Maybe it was a stay-at-home mom with too much time on her hands, or even the best of intentions, but she ended up creating an inexorable rise in birthday-party expectations that began in her neighbourhood and spread outward like a virus. She was Patient Zero in an epidemic of conspicuous consumption made all the more insidious because it masks itself as a kindness to children.
I may not be the first to curse her, but I’d really like to be the first to find her.
Image from Goodie Gum Drops.
Monday, May 10, 2010
Saturday, May 8, 2010
The first I bought when I hadn’t much money but really wanted a knife that could cut down a tree.
The second—a Christmas present from my sister’s new boyfriend—fit on a keychain and, as he said, was handy for clipping your nails when you had nothing else to do.
The third was a parting gift from my first job, the largest model available, and so should’ve been my last; but for the fourth, which I got from my girlfriend and thought . . . why don’t you know I already have three of these things?
“Something rare and beautiful.”
She really did not care, as long his offering demonstrated that he paid some kind of attention to her soul. It was what she sought to do when she chose gifts – to delight and surprise with the unexpected. She refused to be like her friend, Gail, who gave her husband a shopping list of purchases to make that included directions to which stores and in which sections to find the items. Although she was not above dropping hints. Had he been listening, he would never have needed to ask.
Friday, May 7, 2010
Image from the Calgary Cinematheque Society.
Thursday, May 6, 2010
“Tear Drop.” said Richard and went downstairs to watch the British election, a story full of imploding assholes.
“I’m sorry,” said Atalanta, “but I think it’s just another case of Jason Strikes Again.”
“So, you’re telling me I should have seen this coming?”
“Well, as mother always said, a leopard can’t change his spots.”
“But why do something like that?” said Nick. “Why be like that? How does someone get that way?”
“Maybe it’s like one of those stories,” said Atalanta, smiling. “How the Camel Got His Hump; How the Giraffe Got His Neck; . . .”
“Exactly!” said Nick. “How the Ass Got His Hole.”
Wednesday, May 5, 2010
Tuesday, May 4, 2010
“It’s a pretty new club in a pretty small town, so Mr. Littlebear brought us on to round up all the pretty boys and girls we can and help them find a better party.”
“Do you really think a girl can find a better party at a place called Booties?” asked Atalanta.
“Admittedly,” said the driver, “we do get more guys.”
Monday, May 3, 2010
Well, more like a little school bus for grown-ups.
And in spite of the party, and the fact that her ride had run off, the man she knew nothing about was about to save her the rest of a long and dark walk home, and then . . . who knows?
“It’s not like that at all,” he said. “It’s my job. To round up girls. For the club.”
“Of course,” she said, putting on her shoes.
Sunday, May 2, 2010
Sure, some will say that you’ve got play with the hand you’ve been dealt, but let’s lay our cards on the table and call a spade a spade: people like that are seldom playing with a full deck.
Because really, even when the chips are down, you’ve probably still got at least one more ace up your sleeve, and that’s the best time to follow suit, up the ante, and call their bluff.
Saturday, May 1, 2010
Most Americans, for instance, still believe Betsy Ross sewed the first flag. There’s even a story of how Washington’s original sketch called for six-pointed stars—like the Star of David—until Betsy demonstrated how easy it was to cut one with five.
In my story, however, I imagine a world where they stuck with George’s design and how, through a series of subtle alterations to the timeline, this small symbol led to the landslide election of President Joseph Lieberman.