Category Archives: fiction

Believe what you will but let me believe what I will

[pure off the cuff, spur of the moment fiction, by ~burning woman~ ]

“No, no!” I said. “Stop beating me up with it, I thought we had agreed we were not going to discuss this. I know what you believe and it doesn’t bother me, it’s your choice. By the same token, you know what I believe and it’s my choice.”

We were sitting at the table in the dining nook, me at the window facing west, he across from me. I had a glass of white wine, he his strong, dark beer. It was already late, of a Summer Sunday evening, and I just wanted to enjoy the darkening skies and the fading colour from the clouds hovering near the horizon.

This is how it started:

“I am going to watch for meteors,” I said. “Make a wish, you know?”

“That’s pure superstition,” he replied, looking up from his book and taking another sip of beer, “when are you going to give up that childish nonsense? It’s embarrassing.” He looked at me with his mouth turned down, making it obvious how displeased he was with me at that moment.

Only he wasn’t talking about my wishing upon a shooting star, he was talking about my belief in the spirit world and particularly in my insistence that I was fully aware of past and future lives.

We had agreed, before we decided to live together that our differences in those areas we would accept from each other and only broach the subject philosophically, in a “what if” sort of way. It wasn’t supposed to become another patriarchal relationship in which he, the man, decided the correct way we, meaning me, the woman, should believe, or think for that matter.

When it came to beliefs, as far as I was concerned, there never had been and never would be a “we” in the equation. I didn’t care what he believed or believed in. He was (still is!) handsome, kind in his own way, supportive most of the time, great in the sex department, an important aspect of the relationship to me, and I must admit that I loved him, well, sort of. Is it love when there is no passion in it, just an easy comfort?

But does that mean I have to give him my mind so he can fill it with his own ideas while excluding mine? Not on your life. I’m not made to take things that way; to be taken for granted, or thought of as the little trophy woman who bats her eyelashes and exclaims, ‘Oh, but you’re always so right, dear!’ No, he’s not right, not when his “right” needs to supersede, or cancel my “right” as it does when I express myself in what he calls a superstitious way.

This isn’t about who’s right, who’s not. This is about who is free, who is not. I didn’t sign up to have my ideas replaced by someone else’s. Not that I signed anything to get into this relationship mind, but you know what I mean.

So I countered: “When you buy a lotto ticket, what do you call that feeling it gives you? You don’t buy a ticket without some hope that you could win, even win the jackpot. What do you call that hope, if not a form of superstition? Logically it’s patently ridiculous for anyone to buy a lottery ticket because the odds are so against you. So in that moment you override your logical thinking and allow yourself a wild moment of magical thinking. You allow yourself to be pulled into that shameful realm of illogic.”

“It’s not the same thing,” he replies. “I don’t believe in the lottery as if it was some spirit force, some divine being, an angel or the Great Pumpkin. It’s just a game.” He did enjoy mocking me with that reference to the Charlie Brown cartoon super being of Linus’ he called the Great Pumpkin.

“But it’s a game of chance!”

“So?”

“It’s a game of luck!”

“And?”

I could feel myself becoming frustrated and upset. “It’s superstition, honey. The other morning, when you came storming back in the apartment and said, ‘God, I went and locked my keys in the truck last night,’ were you subconsciously praying to some superbeing you say you do not believe in because you were in a tight spot, in a hurry and didn’t remember where you kept you spare set of keys? Instead of invoking some deity neither of us believes in you could have said, ‘Karin, do you know where my spare set of keys is?’ and I would have told you. I told you anyways but you didn’t ask me. You addressed the problem through a kind of superstition of your own which you justify with excuses and that hurts. Do you think I’m so stupid I don’t notice these things?

“It’s late, I’m going to bed and I’m sleeping in the spare room. We’re both working tomorrow, I’ve got a pile of reports to check over before my first class so I’ll be off early. I’ll eat on the way, you make your own breakfast, or not. Tomorrow evening I want you to apologize to me and reaffirm our agreement to enjoy each other and leave our beliefs as sacred and private to each other. If you cannot do that, and do it sincerely, I’ll be leaving by next weekend.”

“Where will you go?”

“That’s a really stupid question. Since we’ve been together I’ve been propositioned at least a dozen times, the last one was just a week ago. I travel light as you know and there are a lot of lonely beds out there whose sheets will eagerly part to let me slip in. Don’t self-blind Rico or think I need you because no one else will have me!”

I was getting angry and hated the feeling.

“You’ll miss me.”

“Of course I’ll miss you, you don’t have to state the obvious. But that too shall pass because I choose intellectual integrity over a great fuck.”

“Is that all I am to you, a great fuck?”

“That doesn’t please you?”

“Well, yeah, but isn’t there more for you?”

“Of course there is, or there could be but not when you try to emasculate my choices. My feelings for you cool very fast then.”

“So I’m wrong then?”

“I’m tired and I’m not going around this mulberry bush with you Rico. Good night.”

That was a year ago, probably why I remembered it today. He didn’t apologize, he said he couldn’t see that there was anything to apologize for so I left him that weekend, I could tell he was going to try to talk his way around the problem but I was having none of it. I’ve seen him a couple of times since; he bought me a drink the last time. How are you doing? Fine, you? Oh, OK, I’ve got a girlfriend, Nina, she’s Italian. Good for you. Our team lost again. Yeah, too bad. I had her change the drapes in the bedroom; they reminded me too much of us. Good idea, no point dwelling on the past. That was about it. I suppose it never was what you’d call a deep relationship, more of a convenience.

It’s not the way I prefer them but it’s the only way to keep my options open. I’m sort of living with a guy too but I saw no point in mentioning that, he’d already assume I was or he’d already know that through his male gossip circle. I know the pub where the circle meets and what is talked about there.

You know what? I need to find another direction for my life, I feel I’m on treadmill if not on a dead-end street. I don’t like myself much these days and I used to feel so sure and so proud of what I’d accomplished for myself. I feel that the more I insist on my independence, or perhaps the way I go about it, it’s making me increasingly self-centered and selfish. That never used to be me and I’m certainly not blaming the men in my life for this quandary of mine. If this was another girl’s story I’d end it with: “Get a life, woman!”

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Seabird Point, a short story

[short story by Sha’Tara]

Introduction: I ask myself so often, why do I writ these emotionally charged stories that tell stories that rarely, if at all, see real life emulate? Then I realize that what I cannot have; what man’s “real world” will not give me, I need to prove to myself that it can be regardless. Man’s “real life” is the fake news. This simple little story and how it concludes is “my” real life. I choose to believe that what you will read here could be the normal world you wake up to in the morning. Dream on? Sure, why not, I’ve spent much of my life dreaming until I made those dreams a reality I could not only live with, but actually love being a part of. So, have a look at an alternate world, and thank you for reading.
____________________________

Jeffrey Lewis is a rich man, at least by the standards of the ten or so thousand population of Seabird Point. He may not be well liked by the residents of his chosen locale, but they are deferential to him nevertheless since his pleasure craft factory employs most of them.

Seabird Point is a promontory that looks upon the open Atlantic and boasts a well-advertised seasonal tourist industry and between that and the Lewis Yacht Manufacturing Inc., the three mandatory schools – elementary, Middle and High; a lawyer’s office, real estate, the bank and a doctors’ clinic with part-time satellite medical drop in, not much else. Oh yes, I forgot to mention the Presbyterian church that serves for every kind of Christian and bake sale and craft event locals can dream up.

Sorry, I forgot another main aspect of Seabird Point, La Bella Roma Ristorante. How could I forget that? Apart from the yacht plant and government establishment, it’s the largest employer in town in the summer. It is also Jeffrey Lewis’ favourite eating place. Even at the height of the tourist season when every nook and cranny of Seabird Point has been rented out or filled in by unsuspecting south bound migratory tourists with more money than brains, Mr. Lewis can bring himself and his entourage to the Ristorante and get a table.

Today is such a day. It’s eighteen hundred hours; the sun is low but bright over the sparkling chop and not a cloud in the sky. A steady breeze stirs the magnolias restless. Voices of people can be heard through the smoke and aromas of barbecues behind scented flowery hedges. Well, what do you expect? This is, after all, Seabird Point. Are there problems here? At the height of tourist season? Certainly not outside the camouflage.

Jeffrey Lewis’ chauffeur driven limousine flashes its grey paint down the main avenue. He’s hungry and eager to find his comfortable place at the table overlooking the break water past the yacht club with its sea of waving masts and brightly reflecting hulls. The parking lot is full but that doesn’t matter. The imported British chauffeur stops the car by the steps leading to an open set of double doors. He briskly steps out and opens Mr. Lewis’ door. Jeffrey nods, puts his white yachting cap and jacket on and steps up. He is greeted by a young and very attractive hostess in a short black décolleté, past the usual Friday evening line-up of hopefuls for the lobster feast, to sit alone at his large empty table. The sea is beautiful this time of day he thinks as he receives his drink and the waiter makes a pretense of listing the menu specials. Jeffrey absentmindedly waves the card away to have his usual, specially prepared and served piping and spicy hot.

He waits. There’s a commotion at the entrance. He turns to observe, partially interested. A family of tourists, he expects, is getting antsy waiting for a table? He sees a wheelchair being pushed forward by a small woman, and pushed back by the hostess. Two waiters attend the scene. Interesting. No altercations are permitted on Seabird Point at the height of the tourist season. It’s just not in the program. Who is re-writing the lines? Everyone in town knows how to behave to pluck the most amount of money from the migration.

For some time now Jeffrey had begun thinking over his life. It had been exciting once but now that he owned the fastest racing yacht along the coast, where was the challenge to win a race, or the pleasure in receiving the expected award? The plant was doing well, certainly, but it was a boring enterprise over all. Mostly small orders for cheap fiberglass fishing boats. It smelled also, even in the office on the fourth floor of the Lewis Building three blocks from the factory. His wife had left him for a skipper and his two daughters were safely out of his reach, one in New York married to a law firm (or was it a lawyer?) and the other in San Francisco pretending to be an artist on his money. He’d had several affairs, but they were much like his contracts for small pleasure craft – they wouldn’t take a long voyage in deep waters. And Jeffrey had once loved deep waters.

He heard the woman pushing the wheel chair cry out. That’s it, he thought, I’m intervening in this. I can’t have this in my town. He gets up and walks tall and very white in his uniform, to the entrance. The woman holding the wheelchair is short, as he’d thought, but feisty. She wasn’t going to be pushed out so easily.

“Ah, excuse me please.” Everyone in Seabird Point knows Mr. Lewis’ voice.

Silence now, except for the woman who looks him in the eye and says: “Look, I don’t know who you be sir, but I know this. There’s a large table over there where you was sittin’ and I just asked if I could push my son’s wheelchair in and we could sit there. Me ‘n the three kids,” she points to a young girl of about fifteen years much taller than her mother and a younger boy about twelve, “been on our feet most of the day. Sir, my son in this here chair is dyin’ see? Some cancer thing they got more names fer ‘n Carter’s got pills is the cause.

“So I took my savin’s to bring him to this place as I was told of from my friend Cathy who does the Internet thing. Nice place she says, and beautiful view of the ocean. Took all I got but I reserved a bed and breakfast that would take my little Jeff in and we come by train yesterday. Today I made a reservation for dinner here so he could see the ocean while I fed him but they stuck us in the back along a windowless wall. That wasn’t the deal, sir. Jeff wanted to sit and watch the gulls soar, the yachts move on the water and the sun set on the open ocean. We be from Kentucky sir. There ain’t no ocean to see or smell. It was gonna be this one time for us all. Janie, will you wipe his mouth girl? Sorry sir, he can’t quite manage no more… and sometimes I think I won’t either, but each day comes and we manage it, all of us together.”

Customers and staff alike, everybody is struck dumb. The woman’s story hangs like a pall over their self-centered lives. But Jeffrey Lewis has a vision. A beatific vision. He is transported to some kind of heaven while listening to the woman’s dream. Such simplicity, such beauty. Hell, such power. In his mind he compares her to his prize yacht and realizes she is much more, by far. This is it, he thinks, this is what I’ve been waiting for, hell no, what I’ve been setting myself up for, all those years as seas just billowing past my bows as if I was nothing at all, just another piece of driftwood from an expensive wreck.

Tall and imposing, he looks down at the owner of La Bella Roma Ristorante, Mr. Arturo Bellini who, upon being advised of the commotion, had waddled his portly self to the scene still wearing his chef’s hat.

“Signore?” One word that leads to the predictable answer:

The servile tone is almost overbearing, “Ah, yes Mr. Lewis. We will escort her out immediately. I’ve called the police. There will be no more outburst, I promise you.”

“You don’t understand, Art.” Jeffrey intones in an exaggerated soft southern drawl, “Throw her out and I buy this place and shut it down. No, I burn it down myself and sit out there on the stone wall to watch until the wind blows away every speck of dust and rust of it. You will bring this woman and her family to my table now.”

He turns and walks back to his table, taking his drink to another seat, leaving the view side open for the wheelchair. He punches his cell phone and calls off the local constabulary. Then he makes two more phone calls, one to his pilot. The other to a private clinic in New York.

It’s a truly magnificent evening as the breeze dies down and the chop eases off. A small flock of rock doves lands among the terrace tables and the iridescent birds peck intently for fallen crumbs as the sun drops from a pink sky to a much deserved rest below the phosphorescent sea.

What’s your Story?

[a short story by Sha’Tara]

I think we should observe one-another more; and without judgment. Not much of a starting line to a story, but where to start anyway? With the obvious, I suppose.

I normally work around the town of Abbotsford. It’s there that I noticed him last year. At first I paid no heed, but as he kept appearing along the streets I normally drive, I began to wonder about him. He was in his early forties I’d say, of normal height, that is, about my size; dressed clean, not expensive. Jeans, sweat shirt, jacket, on if it was cool or off on warmer days and slipped in the lower straps of the pack he carried. He was usually clean shaven, but sometimes he’s sport a short beard and mustache. He had reddish hair, curly and cut fairly short, complemented by that cheap Irish skin, you know the freckly kind that loves to turn bright red and peel at the mention of sunshine. He always wore a bone-head hat and I figured it was so the extended visor would keep the sun off his nose. He wore glasses, carried a faded dark blue back-pack and unless it was raining, he had a spiral bound notebook and a pen in his hands. And that completes my description of his general mien.

I’d see him at the intersection of Gladwin and South Fraser Way, then down by the Real Canadian Super Store or further down, past the Shell Station at the George Ferguson Way and Gladwin crossroads. Sometimes he’d show up further east, by the Chevron and McDonalds at Bourquin Crescent and South Fraser Way.

It wasn’t that he was usually at the crosswalks that intrigued me, but that he’d walk up to people, it didn’t seem to matter what age or gender, or whether there was but one person or several, and he’d say something, holding out his spiral-bound notebook and pen. The response was always the same: some kind of gesture, or words I couldn’t make out and he’d move on to someone else.

One day, I think it was a Wednesday if I remember correctly, as I waited for the lights to change on South Fraser Way I saw him approach an elderly man by the Toronto Dominion bank. I quickly rolled down the window of my service van hoping to hear what he was saying to these people. What I heard was unforgettable.

In a voice that carried well he asked: “What’s your story, sir? Would you tell me your story?” The elderly gentleman turns out not to be so gentlemanly after all. “Fuck off jerk or I’ll call the cops.” And to emphasize the point, he pulls a cell phone from his pocket. The spiral notebook guy backs off, turns away slowly, notices the lights have changed and proceeds across Gladwin to talk to a couple of young mothers with baby carriages. Again the gestures and the angry looks. Next he approaches three Middle School age young girls. They laugh in his face, say something and scamper across Gladwin as the walk light comes on.

I watch him put his notebook away and walk towards the next intersection. I remember it started to rain then and the wind was picking up. By the time I’d turned down Trethewey for the Husky station I’d forgotten about him. Slush machine issues require “Geek” level concentration and that particular Husky gas bar has three of them.

A few days later I remembered him again. I remembered suddenly that after months of his presence on the periphery of my life I had not seen him since the Friday of the week before. Well, you know what that’s like. You get used to something or someone just being there and take it for granted until suddenly they are not there and an empty feeling forms in your heart. I wondered what had happened to him. I knew he was well known in the neighbourhood so I asked the manager at the computer shop in the corner strip mall if he knew anything about him.

“Oh yeah, that idiot. The cops finally picked him up last Saturday. I guess someone had had enough of him going to people and asking for their story. Certifiable, if you ask me. You’d think they’d have places for people like that. Who needs that kind of crap around town?” Ok, so not the most compassionate person in the world here, but I’m trying to remain neutral. This is not my town, I just work here. I mostly just drive by on the streets so I don’t know what I’d done if the Note Book Man had come up to me and asked for “my” story.

I wonder. Do I have a story to tell that would be worth someone else’s time to write down? Would I ever get that chance? I did. My Note Book friend came back a month later. At first I wasn’t sure it was him. He was sitting on a bus bench, his back-pack lying next to him. On top was the spiral-bound note book. He was not accosting people, but holding his head in his hands, looking at the sidewalk. I had an idea. It was close enough to lunch time so I turned into West Oaks mall and parked by the Tim Horton’s in the corner there. I took my wallet, locked up, alarmed the vehicle and quickly strode to the sidewalk. I’d have to cross two lights to get to the Note Book Man. A bus came by and my heart sunk, but he did not get on. I made the lights and came to the bus stop.

“Hi!” I said. Not very original but one must start somewhere neutral with people. “Hi!” is usually safe. There was no response. I sad down beside the back-pack and looked at the note book. “Mind if I look at your notes?” I asked. He moved his head towards me, looking at my leg, I guess, then pointed to the notebook. I picked it up and opened it. I read the contents.

“What’s Your Story?” – an interview by Eugene Proulx.

I thumbed through the rest of the pages. They were all blank, except for those nice straight blue lines, like artificial veins under too thin and too white a skin. There was no story. There were no stories. No one had ever taken the time to give him one… or no one had thought that maybe they had one to give.

I felt a terrible surge of compassion for this man.

“I’ll tell you my story, if you want to write down some notes.” I said to him.

He looked up, not to my face, but as high as my shirt pockets this time. Then he took the note book, closed it softly, put it in his back-pack and closed that, slipping one strap over a slumping shoulder. I reached to him and put my hand lightly on his arm.

“I meant it.” I said.

This time he looked right into my eyes. Tears were welling up and rolling from his eyes. He stood up, turned and walked away.

Take me Home, Lon

(short story – by Sha’Tara)

“Take me home, Lon!” She leaned heavily upon his arm though to him she seemed as light as an autumn leaf landed on his shoulder.

He looked tenderly upon his Lalika and in her gray hairs he read the story of their times together, times he knew were about to end. He knew also she was blissfully unaware of all that had befallen them, and their little world, in the last few weeks.

How does one face total disaster? If one remains alone in a destroyed world and a landscape reminiscent of a Dante’s inferno? That’s one thing. If there remains one truly loved one to cling to, or to care for? That’s another.

When the house burned; when the children and grand children died one after the other in screaming agony, Lalika had done all she could to ease their pain. When it was over she’d stood at the edge of the blackened skeleton that had been their home and simply shut down. She had turned to Lon, smiled sweetly and said, “Of course I’ll marry you, Lon. Why have you waited so long to ask me?”

Though she still recognized him, Lon knew he’d lost her. Her sorrow had captured her, heart and soul; stolen her human reality. She was gone into the world of the gossies, a ghost of times past. No future would be available for her to walk into. That was the price she had to pay at the end for having defied the gods and chosen a life of bliss in true love for herself instead of the expectation and the demand made of her, to serve the temple gods.

“You are cursed, Lalika, for chosing a man over the gods! In the end, all that you wanted; all that you lived for will be taken from you. All, even your memories; all that means anything to any living being. You will wander alone and haunted in the worlds of the gossies! You will have no voice, you will sing no song forevermore!”

Thus had the prophetess screamed at her as she had exited the temple for the last time to join her lover by the great River, running, smiling and jumping, lightly as a doe, into his wide fisherman’s canoe, to let him take her away from her family, friends and everything she had known.

“Take me home, Lon.”

She had never looked back, never once uttered a sigh of reget if she ever thought about her life in Barnard town. She lived with Lon, for Lon, in a fisherfolk shack on the edge of the great River. The children were born there, raised there, and married in turn. The grandchildren had come there to play and listen to their grandmother’s stories. There had been much laughter, some sadness, as when little Del drowned or when the fishing had been poor and food scarce. It was life and she accepted that.

Today, she accepted the inevitable by closing down the future. She would live in her happy past, forevermore. Lon would always be there with his cedar canoe. She would always be laughing with him, then with the children and their children. She would play the recording of her life, over and over and never get tired or bored.

“Take me home, Lon!”

Redemption

(part 2 – a short story by Sha’Tara)

“Let me show you something, Reed.”  He got up and led me from the kitchen down a short hallway.  A closed door I knew hid a bathroom, I could smell it.  He opened the next door and reaching up, pulled on a string, turning on a light bulb also hanging from the ceiling.  I was amazed.  The bedroom had a clean, fully made double bed in it and the walls were painted white.  A crucifix hung over the headboard and a bible was on its shelf.  One small closet and a set of drawers completed the room.  He opened the closet and there were a few dresses and a couple of what were called ‘maxi’ coats, terribly out of style as were the two pairs of small shoes on the floor.  I smelled the mothballs that must have been in the pockets of the garments.

“After she left I moved out and kept it as ‘ours’.  This is all I’ve got left of her.  I got rid of the pictures, they were too painful to look at.  But this, I thought, was OK.  It was an invitation for her to come back.  Then it just became a shrine.  I come here to pray.  I read from that Bible, the only thing she insisted on bringing with her when I took her away from her folks.  But I don’t find any consolation in it.  I’m not of those who believe they re-encounter loved ones in heaven.  If she didn’t want to be with me in this life, what would have changed her mind that she’d want anything to do with me in the next?  I don’t know the rules there, but I don’t think I’d be able to court her all over and make her fall in love with me for the rest of time.  I’ve thought about that a lot.  It doesn’t add up.

“Anyway, if you want, you can have this room.  Just leave everything the way it is, if you can.  If you must move something, please let me know.  I want everything back the same after you leave.  I know I keep the house a bit chilly but I’ll make sure there’s a good fire in the stove tonight.”

I agreed to staying the night and we returned to the kitchen table to talk.  I wanted to hear the details of his story, why Sally left, how she left, alone or with someone?

“Except for her folk, mainly her dad and her oldest brother who were what you’d call assholes, the people around here are quite open and trusting.  We don’t think bad of any stranger until they give us cause.  So after we’d been here three years and eight months,  May came around and spring was in full when a government surveyor came by.  He offered us some money if we’d put him up.  We had the extra room then behind the house-kind of collapsed now-and he said it’d be fine.  We certainly could use the extra money.  He’d come back after each day out surveying and putting those steel markers at the corners of each section.  He had bundles of those in the back of his government pickup truck.

He talked to Sally a great deal; I was too tired to talk much, after the field work and the chores.  But Sally couldn’t get enough of his stories, and she looked through all his magazines.  He gave her a transistor radio and she was happy to be able to hear what all was going on while she worked around the house.  I never paid much attention to it all.  Up here, a man’s married, no one bothers his wife.  She’s safe with any stranger.  And women know to stay with their men, that’s our way.  You don’t worry they’d ever leave for another man.  That’s city stuff, Hollywood stuff, not what real people do.

“But one day I come home from the fields to do the chores and there’s no one in the house.  The dishes are done and in the drying rack, but there’s no cooking.  The table’s not set.  I get worried thinking she went out and got herself hurt.  I call her and I look everywhere.  Then it occurred to me that Jean (that’s the surveyor) isn’t there either.  Now I think maybe he’s taken her into the city and maybe she thought she’d be back in time, so didn’t bother with a note.  I waited a bit, made a sandwich, although I wasn’t hungry.  I milked the cows and fed the pigs, going through the usual chores, trying to figure out what had happened.  Finally I took the old Chief and drove to Webster’s Corner.   She’d been there, and left a note.  I could tell the store keeper, Mr. Jameson, was very upset when he gave me the unsealed envelope.  I guess Sally’d told him what she was doing.  He’d tried to talk her out of it but she had gotten really angry and left.   She’d gone off with the surveyor.  I read her note.  It was a terrible thing.  I remember it, although I tore it up then, then burned it later.

“Dear Pete,  Thanks for taking care of me and taking me away from my folks.  I never really loved you but I felt I owed you for helping me.  So I didn’t know what to say when you proposed marriage.  I really had no choice: either you, or them.  You were nice to me.  But that wasn’t the life I’d been dreaming about.  Jean’s taking me to Toronto, or maybe Montreal, he speaks French and knows people there.  I won’t be coming back.  Find yourself a proper woman, Pete and forget about me.  Take care of yourself, Sally.”

“I didn’t know what to do then.  I went to the police and tried to enlist their help to find her.  The RCMP were very sympathetic but there wasn’t much they could do.  Although Sally was a married woman, she had the right to leave.  Legally, there was nothing they could do, except to try to find out for me where she’d gone, or was staying.  They traced her in Toronto.  I sold our four cows and the pigs for the money and went there to find her, sure I’d talk her into coming back; that she’d have seen through it by then.  But that was already two years later, two years it took for the police to trace her from an employment bureau.  By the time I got there she’d moved again.  Again they traced her, in another part, where she’d worked in a hotel.  But she quit before I got there.  Three years now.  I traced her again to a slaughter house.  Four years.  I took odd jobs, lived in low-rent areas and sent just enough money to my folks to pay the taxes on the land.  Five years, and finally another break.  She was working for the CN as janitorial help.  I tried to locate her but that company was reluctant to help me.  Not our policy, they said.  So I had to hire a private detective.  It was him who found out she’d had a baby.  Not only that, but she did the one thing that made me stop looking for her: she’d abandoned her child in a department store.  I don’t know how these people find these things out, but I believed him somehow.  I suppose because I figured he knew it would mean the end of that job for him.  He told me to go home, forget her, and get my life back.  But all I heard was ‘get your wife back’ and isn’t it amazing how those two words are so much alike?  He told me the little girl’s name was ‘Redemption’ – that was the tag they found in a  pocket of her coat when they picked her up.  Even the police could not find her after that: she must have planned it carefully.  Maybe she knew by then I was after her and I’d take the child.  Only I didn’t.  She wasn’t my kid.  I wanted my Sally, not some bastard kid by some hated surveyor I would have gladly killed at the time.  I could have found the kid.  She’d be in an orphanage.  The police would know.  I could lay some claim to her and adopt her, most likely.  But I chose not to go that route and I came back home.

“But it was never the same again.  If you’ve ever considered the meaning of the phrase, ‘a broken heart’ well, that’s what I mostly suffer from.  Some people heal and some don’t.  I suppose it’s like other diseases that strike people, it seems, at random.  Cancer, heart attacks, that sort of thing.  I love Sally, Reed.  I know I always will.  Even if there’s a heaven, I’ll love her there just as much even though I have no hope inside me that I’ll find her there either, as I mentioned to you before.  It seems as if I’m under some strange spell that nothing can break.  Do you know how many times I’ve thought that maybe it was because I just didn’t want to stop loving her; that I was in love with something I’d made up and all I had to do was just stop?  Stop, then start again fresh.  ‘Get a life’ as the young people say now.  Yes, wouldn’t that be easy, simple?  Just change my mind about that part.

“Fine, except it’s not in my mind, it’s in my heart.  It’s in every aware part of me.  I guess you could say that half of me is, or was, Sally.  It was that good and great half of me that left me.  How could I deal with that?”

He started sobbing heavily, and tears ran down his face unto the old blueprints.  I walked over to stand behind him and I put my arms around him gently, then hesitantly I put my cheek against his stubbly one.  I was surprised at my own feelings.  I held him tighter and when he calmed down I asked him to tell me about the blueprints.

“Mr. Jameson had been an architect of sorts before he bought the store at Webster’s.  He knew how to make blueprints and everybody knew this.   Some of the richer folks around had hired him to draw buildings for them, and make blueprints of the plans.  One day while talking, Sally and I laughingly said, ‘Let’s get Mr. Jameson to make us a set of blueprints for our new farm house!’  Well, it was something we could laugh over together-we’d been drinking dandelion wine she’d made and feeling silly-but she decided on her own to ask Jameson how much he’d charge us for a house plan.  ‘I’d be honored to do it for you as a Christmas present’ he’d said.  We were shocked, but we accepted.  The plans arrived on Christmas day and we pored over them through that long winter.  We were able to scrape just enough money from the sale of our pigs to pour our foundation for the new house.

My folks and her two younger brothers (they were the decent ones in that family) came to help.  It was the happiest time of our life together.  When we’d taken off the shiplap forms, pulled the nails and stacked the lumber, we sat in what would be the living room and we drank her wine with our help.  She’d also made egg salad sandwiches and bowls of fresh vegetables from her garden.   Simon, her youngest brother, brought his fiddle and we danced to his scratchy music but no one cared.  It was the best of times.

“Give us two years,”  I said to Sally, “and we’ll be raising the walls and maybe put the roof on.  In five years we’ll have our new home.  You’ll see.”  And she smiled and sighed and kicked one foot against the other from behind as she always did when she wasn’t sure how to deal with a situation.  So, she smiled again.  That was her answer:  we’ll see.  But she meant more than that.  She was becoming restless again.  She’d always been restless as a kid but I thought it was because of her home life.  I didn’t think-didn’t know, even-that such people remained restless all their lives.  Join up with a loving partner and everything changes, right?  You know Reed, us humans, we’re a naïve bunch.  We don’t know anything about each other and yet we assume we know it all.  And that’s where we go wrong.  We should never assume we know what the other person is thinking, or thinking of doing, at any moment.  All of us, we’re liked cocked guns just waiting for something to pull that trigger.  Of course we have all sorts of safeties we could use to make others safe from ourselves, but of course, we don’t believe we are the dangerous ones, only the others are.  Our downfall is thinking that we are either better, or worse, than others and living within that constant judgmental attitude.”

I watched his head droop lower and I felt I’d heard enough for one day.  I too was dead tired.  The house was cold and I wanted a hot bath, which I would not get, so I wanted to get inside my sleeping bag on top of the nice clean double bed, pull my comforter over my head and cry myself to sleep.  Yes, me, tough Reed, the girl who survived the orphanage, was never adopted because she was too strong willed-was returned twice!-now feeling like crying over some vague thought, idea, wish, dream.  I’d come all this way in my own way to find a story-no, to find myself, or rather, to find a me that would be more real than the one that was raised in that horrible orphanage and who clawed her way to the top of her profession simply because she kept burning her bridges as she moved forth.  There had never been any turning back for Reed.  Her life was lived from a one-way ticket to another.  When she left the orphanage with the help of a visiting priest, she closed that door.   When the affair with Edward cooled, it was over-the end, that’s all she wrote.  Now here I am, all emotional over an old man and his rather pathetic story.

I’d been warned in college not to get involved with the people in my stories, or with my sources.  It was just business and you used your feminine attributes to get into places no one else could get into, and to get the answers that made great copy.  You bargained with the chips life handed you.  A female body was a great asset if you knew how to use it without getting slammed.  If you got caught, your career could be over in a day.  Found out.  Exposed.  A slut, cheat and liar.  Men could do it, of course, but women, while giving the impression they were doing it, could never afford the possibility they’d be caught actually doing it, not if they held any kind of professional status in a man’s world.  And journalism is a man’s world, make no mistake about that.  As is publication.  It’s a man’s world because it is a money world.

“Uh, Pete?  I’m sorry, but I’m dead tired.  Could we continue this tomorrow morning?  I notice there’s a bathroom next to my room.  Is it OK for me to use it, or… do I have to use the outhouse I saw out there?”

“Oh, sorry about that.  I didn’t think to ask you.  Sure, use the bathroom.  Everything works, but there’s no hot water.  It’s not the cleanest place in the house, I’m sorry.  If I’d known sooner that you would be staying overnight I would have cleaned up…”

“That’s OK, thanks.  See you in the morning then?  Say around eight?”

“Anytime.  I’m up around six anyway, don’t need to sleep much.  Today’s the most excitement I’ve had in years so maybe tonight I’ll sleep more.  Good night.”

I watched him for a bit but he didn’t look up.  So I went out to get my stuff.  It was raining, cold sharp needles that hit the skin and felt as if they were drawing blood.  I shivered, grabbed my bag, sleeping bag, comforter and ran back in the house.  Pete was stoking-that’s what I think it’s called-the fire in the stove and putting more wood in.  The smell of dry wood burning filled the house and I suddenly felt really warm, good, safe.  ‘Thank you’ I said to no one in particular, but if I’d been pressed to say, I would have said, ‘to the goddess’ and been none the wiser as to who I meant. Emotional shit is what.

(end part 2)

Mr. Valentor

 [a short story by   ~burning woman~  ]

Ada Muir has just finished with the bathroom and exits into the hall leading into the kitchen when there is a knock at the door of her small, clean suburban bungalow.

She thinks, ‘What the…at eight AM?’

She looks through the peep hole and sees a man with what appears to be a roll of papers under his arm. She opens the inner door a wedge, “Yes?”

“Ah, good morning ma’am. My name is Valentor. My company has just expanded its readership into this area and I represent the Venus Monthly, a magazine with a varied theme, but dealing mostly with stories emanating from this system. If you could give me a few minutes of your time, I could introduce you to our feature article of the month.”

“I’m sorry, but do I look like I was born last night?” She replies a bit huffed. “I don’t have time for this nonsense.”

“Oh, ma’am, time need not become an issue. If you don’t have any of yours, I’m entitled to let you use some of mine, within reason. Shall we say, a half hour of my time for free and you take out a one year subscription to Venus Monthly.”

Ada Muir, as it happens, is a part-time reporter for the Rosedale Herald and she realizes this cockamamie story could have potential. Plus she is totally taken by his rich, deep, bass voice. She unlatches the inner door.

“C’mon in, Mr. Valentor.”

He walks in. She sees that he is very tall, possibly the tallest man she’s ever met. Well dressed and under the sharp suit, she senses a body of perfect proportions. The face is chiseled but not harsh. She is particularly attracted to his lips and his ears… she gets a sudden urge to kiss him and chew on his earlobes.

‘What’s the matter with me!’ she remonstrates to herself as she smiles at her visitor.

“Nothing is the matter with you, Ada,” says Valentor. “I have that effect on most earth women. It’s called “sex appeal” and one of the reasons I’ve been given charge of this sector. It’s enjoyable for me. I hope it will prove as enjoyable for you.”

“You know my name; read my thoughts?”

“Yes, of course. Why? Should I not? Is this a breach of protocol?”

“I can’t read yours so it isn’t really fair, is it.”

“I don’t understand ‘fair’ in thought exchanges. Whether I read your thoughts or not doesn’t stop you from having them.”

“What if I thought something, well, too personal, or critical of your appearance, and such like?”

“What of it? It makes no difference. They’re still your thoughts. Have them.”

“What if they hurt your feelings in some ways?”

“That is of no concern of yours, they’re my feelings, not yours. What I do with my feelings is my business. Speaking of business, can I show you this month’s copy of our magazine? Cover page here, that’s the Crab Nebula, awesome isn’t it?”

“Are we on your time now?”

“Yes.”

“When you leave it’ll still be eight o’clock my time?”

“Yes, of course. That was the understanding.”

Ada shakes her head. “Oh my, so sorry but in all this I forgot to offer you something to drink, to eat? Do you drink coffee, Mr. Valentor?”

“Yes, I have developed a taste for coffee. It is pleasant. I will have a coffee.”

She deftly slips a pod in the machine, slides a cup under the spout and flips down the actuator, pressing ‘medium’ to be safe.

“Cream and sugar?”

“Sugar only please. Two lumps.”

“They taught you to say that, didn’t they, your trainers before you came here? I knew it, I just knew it!” She half laughs, half smiles. She smells a story; she’s on track.

“I don’t understand. If you knew it, why did you ask?”

“It’s a different kind of knowing. Never mind. Have you ever tried your coffee black only, or with cream, or cream and sugar?”

“Those choices were not included in my training manual. I was not made aware of their availability.”

“Are you an AI Mr. Valentor? Artificial Intelligence? A robot? Are you human?”

“All of the above, of course, but I am also Pleiadian, primarily from source.”

“You mean from the actual Pleiades star system? Now you’re pulling my leg.”

“I would never do such a thing! Such a pointless and cruel thing to do to anyone; particularly to someone as pretty as yourself. What made you think I would pull your leg off? Why? You have such crude notions of relationships here.”

“I didn’t mean that literally! It’s just what we say when we think someone’s lying to us.”

“Why not just say, ‘You’re lying to me?'”

“Never mind. Here’s your coffee. Tell me if it is to your taste.”

“How could it not be? I don’t understand how it could be to someone else’s taste when I’m the one ingesting it.”

“Forget it!”

“That is an order I cannot comply with. I am designed to remember everything.”

Ada puts her head in her hands, “Oh, God! This conversation is becoming anal!”

“I am not God and you have no need to pray to me. Do not be worried, you will get your magazine, I assure you, and on time each month. To clarify, we were not having an anal conversation, we were definitely using our mouths.”

“Arrrgh!”

“Would you like a glass of warm water to help clear your throat impediment?”

“I don’t have a… Look, if we’re going to get along, will-you-please-not-comment-on-everything-I-say?”

“That seems quite impol…”

“Shut up! Just shut up, Mr. Valentor.”

Ada knows that she is now quite flushed and before she even realizes what she is doing, she stands up abruptly. Facing her alien salesman, looking down at his gorgeous face she drops her robe. Valentor looks up at the nude twenty three years, eight months, three days and thirteen hours of age Earthian female and thinks, ‘this I understand.’ He stands also, makes his clothing vanish and lets Ada get a full frontal view of his anatomy, waits while she tries to gather her thoughts, knowing what would come next.

Ada impulsively throws herself into the man’s embrace and hugs him to feel all of him. She then backs away, takes his hand and leads him to her bed.

It is a good thing the neighbours had already gone to work and their kids to school. If they had heard Ada’s cries they would have been certain someone was killing her and likely have called 911. The aftermath of an armed RCMP intervention would definitely have made a colourful story, though probably not one Ada would have cared to read about, much less watch on the evening local TV news.

There’s a lesson for us ladies here. Watch out for those tall, dark and irresistibly handsome time-traveling Pleiadian magazine salesmen. They’re a lot more than they at first appear. Just sayin’!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Sword, the Bow and the Staff – Part I, The Calling: Chapter 19

 

Finally, I think I’m caught up on the blogging scene. I’ve read how to write better; how to improve my health; what to do in case of Armageddon; how to win a cricket match; that Russia isn’t to blame for anything; that we’re in deeper s**t than I even thought possible; how to make free electricity; how to awaken; that Sandy Hook mass shooting never happened (again) and that I’ve got to give peace a chance. That said, let’s get on with this story before it becomes “The Perils of Pauline” and Phil manifests himself on the blog waving a massive eraser and I lose all my subordinate clauses and loose conjunctions…


Chapter 19: Meeting the priest; all is set for the wedding

To Lo and Nal, it wasn’t much of a ‘town’ but to the others it was impressive as towns go. Not only the large church that sat imposingly in the centre of the main town but the shops, so many shops, and people everywhere. There were people on horseback and horse-drawn carts clattered on cobble-stone sections of the main street hauling various merchandise. At an open air butcher shop women were haggling with a portly butcher over the cut meat and the hanging geese and chicken. After each left with a purchase, she was replaced by another just as eager to haggle over the prices.

Children ran wildly through the filthy streets, yelled at by the adults whom they splattered when their bare feet slapped into puddles of stagnant, stinking water.

As Ian and his group walked deeper into the town, most people stopped doing whatever they were doing and stared. The men were particularly attracted to the three young women, the two tall imposing light-haired ones and the short, small dark one. But the main question on their faces was, who are these armed people and what do they want here?

Then some recognized MacGruder and greetings were exchanged. Women came forth to greet lady Jen MacGruder and their daughter whom they had not recognized so grown up she was. They were introduced to Lo whom they openly admired, and the two other young women, Genti and Deanna. Ian ventured the news that they intended to have a wedding here in Glowmere between the two travellers who were trading friends of the MacGruders, from the south. He announced that Nal and Lo, whom he singled out, were to be united in holy matrimony at the kirk if the priest was in agreement.

The news was greeted with a loud cheer that spread up and down the main street and brought the curious street urchins forth. Soon items went missing here and there from the shops and stalls as the cries of “Thief, stop him!” or “That miserable scoundrel, stop her!” followed by some useless chase that only left a shop or stall open to more pilfering.

“An where does one find the priest?” Ian asked politely and diplomatically for he realized such a location would be in proximity to the church. An urchin offered to lead them to the priest, for a price. Contrary to his usual parsimonious nature, Ian good-naturally accepted and paid the rascal. They intercepted the priest as he was stepping out of the kirk and getting ready to bar, bolt and lock the door.

“Wouldn’t want yer God er his saints t’ run off come night eh Father? Keep ‘em locked up, that’s the sure way.” said Ian with a large smile.

The priest, a tall, stringy sort of creature in a fading black cassock failed to acknowledge the joke. He eyed MacGruder with a frown and asked, “An what do ye be wantin’ fro’ me, mon?”

“Well Father, ‘tis not what I want, ‘tis what these young un’s here be needin’ – an’ that’d be a proper weddin’ t’would be, if ye be amenable to it?”

The priest cast a haughty look over the group trying to figure out which of them were to be the victims. Unable to decide, he turned to MacGruder and said, “They be proper Church people then? Baptized and knowing their catechism?”

“Aye of that I’m sure Father. Might not hurt ‘em just the same to have a confession afore the ceremony?”

“That is mandatory mon, and may I know whom I be addressin’ and whom the intended’s be?”

“I be Ian MacGruder, perhaps ye’ve heard of us from up t’ cottage? An’ here are the two ‘intendeds’ as ye put it: Lo ‘n Nal. Don’t know if there be any family names attached to ‘em, I reckon not.”

“Well, I’ll need such particulars for the book ye understand. We keep decent records here, not like the old pagan days thankfully gone from here, praise God.”

“We’ll get ye the names Father.” MacGruder’s voice had grown somewhat harsher and definitely colder as he prepared to haggle prices with the priest.

Having heard their names mentioned, Nal and Lo came forward and introduced themselves to the priest. Again he gave his haughty look, equally met and brought down forcefully by both Nal and Lo who would not tolerate such from a pawn of the Church. For a moment the priest sensed something that scared him and was of a mind to refuse the ceremony, then thought of the money and held his tongue. On top of the incentive of good gold, there were those deadly looking swords, bows and staffs to reckon with. It might not do to upset these and seemed more prudent to let the moment have its way.

‘I can deal with any sorcery and paganism afterwards and I certainly will.’

All three, Nal, Deanna and Lo, had been mind-focusing on the priest and heard his thoughts. Here was another dangerous enemy, certainly for Genti and the MacGruders. This priest would have to be dealt with after they settled with the Betrayers and before they carried on to further adventures, such certain to come about as a result of Nal’s vows and Deanna’s need to return to Torglynn.

As there was overt thoughts of violence and murder in the priest’s heart, Lo felt no qualm about disposing of the creature come the right time. This work might well fall to wolf and his mate he reckoned. Both Nal and Deanna agreed though Nal who had some personal scores to settle with the Church insisted she’d be involved in the priest’s demise. They left it at the stage where the priest would be killed but not who would have the honours.

Meanwhile, they agreed to let the hypocrisy of the moment reign supreme.

“Any o’ these others gettin’ married also, Ian?” Asked the priest, trying hard to sound innocent, caring, and friendly but inwardly licking his greedy lips thinking of the gold a double or triple wedding would bring, winter being financially remarkable only from the increase in burials.

“Hasn’t been mentioned Father. Must be waitin’ for spring, t’other ones eh? So then to business, time and cost? Ye’d be needin’ gold yea?”

“Gold, yea. Six ounces, weighed on the scale at the kirk. As to time, does next Saturday suit ye, Ian?”

Ian called his group together and after consulting with Jen asked them, “Does next Saturday suit ye all for the weddin’ t’ take place or ye havin’ second thoughts now? Last chance ‘fore I put down the money.”

Nal and Lo smiled broadly at one another then burst out laughing while a spark of hope flashed through young Giles’ heart only to be extinguished in the same moment when Nal said, “Saturday is perfect for us ‘n the sooner t’ better to get it done. Can’t wait! An’ Father if ye be wantin’ our clan names, I be a McBanish, n’ m’intended here, he be a MacDunit.”

“Interestin’ names. Can’t say I ever heard o’ those clans, interestin’ indeed. Saturday then, ten o’ the mornin’?”

“Aye that’ll suit us fine, that will, Father,” quickly answered Ian.

They left the skeletal priest standing there like a patiently expectant vulture on his favourite dead tree perch and Ian declared they all deserved a drink at the Wild Horse Inn, a good, friendly place, he added.

Once out of the priest’s hearing they all burst out laughing until the tears were running down their faces. Ian had to lean on a hitching post to keep himself upright.

Only Deanna failed to join, finally asking what the sudden hilarity was all about.

“Dinae hear girl? McBanish, MacDunit? Who ever heard o’ such nonsense? That was good that, truly magnificent, gal, and he slapped Nal on the back, making her jump.

Ian didn’t give his charges too much time to develop introspective moroseness that would demand another round and declared it was getting late and they had a fair walk ahead of ‘em yet.

As they were crossing the small drawbridge, Lo stayed behind to speak to the guard detail. He gave them each enough coin for a couple of rounds at the inn and was rewarded with some slaps on the back and cheers. Then in a vibrant voice he wished them a wonderful end of the day and a safe, healthy, prosperous and long life. They received his words as if they had been gifts, realizing that there was more than words in the blessing. They waved sheepishly then, thinking this was no ordinary man. They all sensed that their entire lives ahead of them had been magically blessed and the words would prove true.

Entering his speed lope he soon caught up to the group and immediately noticed that Deanna was gone and Nal was carrying her clothes.

“So she’s gone back to her wolf then? How did she manage to take off her clothes without upsetting the group?”

“We slipped into the ‘by woods to do that. She’ll inner nudge me when she needs ‘em again.”

“Let me strap those to my pack then, Nal, so you keep your hands free. It may seem silly here but remember that ultimately we are always alone, working singly, and must always think thus. Never rely on anyone else to take the point, or protect. Let them if they want to but don’t ask it nor expect it and I repeat, never rely on it.

“Keep your hands, arms and legs free at all times and your weapons handy.”

“Truly sorry, I temporarily forgot. Too much on m’mind an’ don’t push me, MacDunit.”

“Indeed I’ll endeavour not to, Miss McBanish.”

They laughed, hugged fiercely and kissed again.

Don’t look at me like that and I heard that snort. Look, I’m just writing it the way I see it. And remember, they’ve been apart for thousands of years, how do you think you would act if you suddenly found yourself back in the arms and love of a lover you knew was dead and you hadn’t seen for, say, twenty thousand years? Would you say,

“What? You again?” or

“I really wasn’t expecting you back this soon.” or

“I hadn’t planned on this; I have a life now.” or

“Things getting too boring for you, decided to come back?”

Right, I didn’t think so. More likely there would be sparks, maybe a flame, and hugging and kissing would just be the breeze that sets everything on fire. So put up with the hugging and kissing and let me go on with the story, which by the way is turning out pretty good, in my opinion, if I’m allowed to have one.