Archive for February, 2016

tuinman

Eunice Macfarland opens a carefully folded note and pins it against the kitchen window using a pair of salt and pepper shakers. With the resolve of a decoder, she scrutinizes the handwriting. 782 BERMUDA. Recognition floats along the shores of her memory, but she’s unable to reach the depth where the meaning of the characters resides.

“Raymond,” Eunice calls out in a paper-thin voice. She waits, then calls his name again. A cat drifts into the kitchen, meowing insistently.

Eunice shuffles to the refrigerator and returns to the counter with a left over plate of flaked tuna. When she pushes aside the jumble of soiled dishes littering the Arborite surface, a china cup and saucer slide from their place atop an angled cereal bowl and smash into shards. The jarring sound causes Eunice’s eyes to well up. She fishes a wad of tissue from the wrist of her sweater and dabs under the rim of her glasses. The cup and saucer were a wedding gift from Raymond’s cousin and his wife, Mary. They live in a little town, the name of which Eunice can’t recall.

782 BERMUDA. Why has she been carrying this note in her apron pocket? Her mind stutters like the peevish tractor engine Raymond is forever fiddling with. Whrrr. Whrrr. Whrrr. Three cats wind around her ankles now. They look up at her like old souls that know the answer to her question. Eunice’s lips press into a white line.

The telephone rings in the front parlour.

“Raymond,” she calls as she carries the plate of tuna across the kitchen. “I’m going out now.” The ringing stops and the quiet of the house fills her with unease. “He must be tinkering again,” Eunice explains to the cats apologetically. “Raymond wouldn’t hear a bomb go off if he’s fixing something or working on a puzzle.”

The cats trail after Eunice when she pushes the screen door open. She sets the plate on the porch, then wipes both hands on her apron while the cats devour the tuna. Now that they’ve lost interest in her, she’s free to visit the chickens.

Eunice’s breath punctuates the autumn air in short frothy bursts as she labours across the uneven ground to the barn. 782 BERMUDA. Something about the note rankles her. The tall block letters, so unlike her delicate script. The barely discernible E. Perhaps it’s Raymond’s handwriting. She’ll ask him about it later.

From the doorway of the barn, Eunice sees the lid sitting askew on the chickens’ feed bin. She shakes her head at the scattering of grain and mouse droppings on the ground. It’s the kind of oversight she’d expect from Raymond, yet Eunice is certain it was she who last fed the chickens.

The coffee tin is missing too, the one she uses to carry the chicken feed to the coop. It’s probably on a shelf somewhere holding another of Raymond’s disassembled gadgets. Eunice gathers the hem of her apron with one hand, and with the other, she scoops the feed.

When Eunice opens the door of the run, chickens spill franticly into the barnyard. She disburses grain in elegant arcs. Hens race back and forth, clucking and pecking. They remind Eunice of children scrambling for candy tossed along a parade route. She loves parades. When she was a little girl, Eunice’s mother and father brought her to see an elephant walk down Main Street, followed by a candy-throwing clown dressed in a top hat and a bright red suit. They bought ice cream later. Rum raisin, two scoops, on a waffle cone.

Eunice gathers the last handful of chicken feed from her apron and offers it to a pair of stragglers. They peck at her palm until it’s empty. She thinks of Raymond pecking away as a Morse code operator during World War Two. He enlisted in the Canadian military with his cousin from that little town she can’t name. There’s a photo of herself and Mary with the boys when they were on leave. Eunice is wearing Raymond’s hat tipped rakishly over one eye.

Raymond. He lavishes in the challenge of bending numbers and letters to his purpose. 782 BERMUDA. A thought ignites in the centre of Eunice’s brain like the picture tube in an old television set. The spark grows until it bursts into a fully formed idea.

Eunice hobbles across the yard, up the porch steps, through the screen door, across the kitchen and into the parlour where the rotary telephone waits on a heap of newspapers. She pulls a pen from a bowl of plastic fruit on the coffee table and writes 782 BERMUDA across the top of a classifieds page. Her finger traces the rotary dial and stops at ABC. She records the corresponding number 2. Her heart races as she continues to DEF and number 3. There are only letters R through A to code. A minute later, she giggles at the numbers recorded across the top of the newsprint: 782 2376832.

Eunice takes a deep breath and dials the numbers in succession. A dull warble. Silence. Another dull warble and then, “Hello.”

The voice is familiar.

“Hello?” the man says again. “Is anyone there?”

“It’s Eunice,” she manages to squeak out.

“Oh, for Jesus’ sake, Eunice! Just a minute.” His hand must be covering the mouthpiece. “Mary,” he calls in a muffled voice, “come quick.”

“Who is this?” Eunice asks.

“It’s Will.” He waits then adds, “Will and Mary. Raymond’s cousins from Truro.”

“Oh yes.”

“We were so sorry to hear the news about poor Raymond. It’s so hard when they go — you know, all sudden like that.”

“All sudden …” Eunice repeats.

“Mary and I have been trying to call you since we heard at the end of June. How are you managing?”

Eunice lays the receiver in her lap. She feels like she’s underwater. A disconnected voice implores her from far away.

“Eunice, are you there?”

 

 

Gwen Tuinman’s  short fiction is included in The Renaissance Anthology  and is currently featured in a text and photography exhibit at The Robert McLaughlin Gallery. She is a former member of the Board of Directors for the Writers’ Community of Durham Region and writes for The Word Weaver. She is currently at work on a novel. Research and reflections relative to her works in progress can be found at http://www.gwentuinman.com./

 

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cullen

When age collides with vanity
mammograms and blood tests;

when we are neither sunset, nor flower
nor brilliant season;

when our mothers are all departed
and when still, we are descended from Eve;

who will call us Darling?
Who will name us Sweetheart?

 

Nancy Jo Cullen’s  stories have appeared in The Puritan, Prairie Fire, Grain, Plenitude, filling Station, The New Quarterly, This Magazine and The Journey Prize 24 and 26. She has published three collections of poetry with Frontenac House Press.  Her most recent book, the short story collection Canary, is the winner of 2012 Metcalf-Rooke Award. Nancy Jo is the 2010 winner of the Writers’ Trust Dayne Ogilvie Prize for Emerging LGBT Writer.

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Up Next:

tuinman“Raymond,” she calls as she carries the plate of tuna across the kitchen. “I’m going out now.”

 

adderson

She was a character — the crone who hobbled around the block pulling a rickety wire cart, broad bamboo hat on her bowed head. Collecting bottles. Once I saw her going past and called to her. She possessed not a word of English, and I had very little Chinese, but somehow she understood me and waited while I went inside for the empties from the party the night before. After that she would often stand at my gate if I was in the yard and smile with her few brown stubs. “Yes,” I’d tell her. Or, “Sorry, not today.”

Who was she? Someone’s granny put to work for her keep? Wealthy immigrants settle in this neighbourhood now. She could just as easily have been a victim of habit. Having toiled through a history that included several iterations of revolution (Communist, Cultural, Industrial), how could she stop now?

But she did. I haven’t seen her for years.

One day I found a crumpled note lying by the gate, indecipherable to me. Yet in those characters I thought I recognized a word. Remember.

And I did.

Caroline Adderson’s  first collection of stories, Bad Imaginings, was published in 1993; stories from it have appeared in 19 anthologies world-wide. She has gone on to write internationally published novels (A History of Forgetting, Sitting Practice, The Sky Is Falling, Ellen in Pieces), another collection of short stories (Pleased To Meet You), as well as books for young readers.  She lives in Vancouver, British Columbia, with her husband, the filmmaker Bruce Sweeney, their son and their dog.

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listen

Posted: February 18, 2016 in elyse friedman
Tags: , , , ,

friedman

 

I’m trying, Michelle
I’m going to try
Bottom of page 6
Top of page 7

Guide me back to
Warm and good
Middle of page 9
End of page 5

You say I never
And I don’t, but I will
I promise, Michelle
Middle of page 4

I know
Now know
I now know how
Bottom of page 111

Tell me, yell me
One more chance
Open your lips and
Stop my mouth

 

Elyse Friedman  is the author most recently of The Answer to Everything (HarperCollins Canada).

Find her at www.elysefriedman.com

 

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adderson“Wealthy immigrants settle in this neighbourhood now.”

looking up

Posted: February 16, 2016 in cindy watson
Tags: , , , ,

watson

Where’s that damn list?

She rummaged through her bulging purse, emptying the contents onto the car seat beside her. Not there. Dumping everything back in, she set it on the passenger side floor-mat.

I had it in my hands when I got into the car. Didn’t I?

She dug through the center console’s mess of papers and reached down, feeling along the coffee-holding panel of the driver’s door. Not there.

Think, Norma. What was on that list?

She raked unpolished nails through unwashed hair and caught her reflection in the rear-view mirror. Hard to recognize the former Miss Mariposa staring back at her with tired, blood-shot eyes. She couldn’t recognize her Swiss-cheese brain these days either. Or her sudden-onset rage episodes. Or the never-ending crying jigs.

Ah, Shoppers, for my meds. She nodded. That was on my list.

It helped to say it out loud, to make connections that otherwise wouldn’t come.

Some-City-Nincompoop-Visited-Norma-Going-Zany: S-C-N-V-N-G-Z. Seroquel (600 mg), Cymbalta (60 mg), Nexium (40 mg), Vescare (5 mg), Naproxyn (500 mg), Gapapentin (2400 mg) and Zopiclone (15 mg). She smiled, pleased to have remembered.

I’m a veritable medicinal cocktail. Shoppers should be paying me dispensing fees.

The beat-up Cavalier’s odometer displayed 220,006 km as the engine turned over.

Oh, crap, she thought. One more expense to cover with money she doesn’t have. Ten years without a single god-damn support payment. And of course Caleb pretended not to notice Mom’s dementia. God forbid the prodigal son share the cost of the nursing home. And Sara’s summer science camp. Another 1600 bucks…

Ah! she said out loud. Another thing on my list. Those Scholar’s Choice resource materials Sara’s teacher offered. A genius Miss Sommers had said.

Who’d have expected a genius from these loins? I just need that bloody disability insurance cheque to set me straight. She slapped the steering wheel. Aha! Pick up the doctor’s note. That was on my list, too.

Damn insurance companies. Never want to pay benefits that good people paid into their whole working life. Damn employer too. Why should she need another doctor’s note saying she still can’t work? After sixteen years there ought to be some trust. The doctor said this was the last note. That he didn’t have time. His job was caring for patients, not writing reports for insurers or human-resource-types. As if it were her fault. As if she wanted to see those words on paper: Bipolar Affective Disorder Type II – Cycling with Depression/Severe – Obsessive Compulsive Disorder/Moderate – GAF score 45. Medical gobbledygook. All she knew was that she didn’t know herself anymore.

Ramming the gear shift into drive she noticed an edge sticking out from under her purse. Pulling at the bent corner, she retrieved her ‘to do’ list, speckled spatters of almost-mud across the back, but otherwise intact.

Ha! I knew I brought you. I’m not losing my mind.

  • Pick up doc note
  • Scholar’s choice
  • Shoppers

I remembered all three. Maybe things are finally looking up.

Leaving rusty balconies behind, she didn’t notice the sedan, tucked behind worn playground equipment, pull out behind her; couldn’t see the video camera; couldn’t know the insurer’s investigator (hired at her employer’s request) would follow her, capturing her at Shoppers, the doctor’s and school, write a report saying she appeared able to conduct day-to-day activities of life, which would almost certainly lead to cancellation of her benefits and maybe her job.

Cindy Watson is the author of Out of Darkness: The Jeff Healey Story (Dundurn Press, 2010), winner of the Golden Oak Award, as well as Unloved and Endangered Animals (Enslow Publishers, 2010). She is currently at work on a novel, Bruised. She lives in Muskoka with her husband, three children, 170 lb Newfie ‘pup’ and two goats.

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a culling

Posted: February 11, 2016 in ruth walker
Tags: , , , ,

walker

Unfold the paper
glance past the untidy creases
to follow the recipe for disaster
there are urgent symptoms you cannot
ignore, rules that demand
full focus and a strong gut
for diarrhea (even if the h slips to the end)
spelling is not the first rule
or even the second despite the fever
it’s the vomit times two
that precipitates a call
warns that your obligatory lip
was laced with poison
timed for release
no later than 9 AM

 

 

Ruth E. Walker  is a poet, playwright and the author of Living Underground. She lives and writes in Oshawa and dislikes litter except when it has a story to tell…

 

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watson“Some-City-Nincompoop-Visited-Norma-Going-Zany”

dillon
Wee small fairies
hungry and
loose
in the street

jettison the cup and straw

wee left you in a mailbox taking cover
afterthoughts
perched
on
our signatures

 

 

Jude Dillon  has won several awards as a news photographer. His poetry is published in magazines online and in print throughout Canada, the United States and Europe. Solitary walks with his camera, playing guitar and reading are distractions that inspire. He lives in Calgary, Alberta.

He can be found at: www.judedillon.com

**photo by Jude Dillon

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walker“your obligatory lip was laced with poison”