Here come goosebumps. A story on the dark side…

Together Again

 

Sadie ruffles the child’s copper curls before stooping to mop up the pool of milk splattered on the kitchen floor.

 

“I’m sorry, mama,” the timid voice pipes from overhead. Sadie sighs and her brow relaxes at the sight of the small feet dangling above the floor.

 

“It’s ok, Timmy. It was just a little accident. Finish up your dinner now.” As she wrings out the towel above the sink, her eyes dart toward the clock.

 

“Oh, God, he’s gonna be home soon,” she moans under her breath, spinning quickly to clean up the remaining mess. She has almost finished when she hears the front door slam. Her head snaps up and her heart flutters wildly at the thunder of boots against gleaming linoleum.

 

“Well, well. What’ve we here?” The low, lazy drawl slithers across her scalp, around her neck, along her spine, like something dank and reptilian. She scrambles to finish, sopping up the last of the milk, then tilts her chin upward. She blows at a few tendrils of hair that have fallen over her eye and smiles at the bear of a man towering above her.

 

“Oh, this? It’s nothing. I just knocked over Timmy’s milk by mistake. But we’re all good now.”

 

She jumps up quickly and on trembling legs, swivels to rinse the dripping towel at the sink. Attuned to the silence, she runs a dry tongue over her lips.

 

“So, Pete… did you have a good day?”

 

The blow to her head is sudden. It sends her stumbling sideways across the room, the wet towel sailing in the opposite direction to land with a thud by the baseboard. Her hip slams into the floor and the stunning surge of pain steals her breath and makes her curl into herself like a centipede.

 

The drawl becomes a snarl. “Yeah. I had a good day. Till now. Till I came home to my slob of a wife.”

 

Lucidity returns to Sadie in a great gush, at the sounds of the frightened whimpering that’s building in intensity from behind the kitchen table.

 

His roar is a clap of thunder sent down from the heavens, if there is such a place. “You are your mother’s child. Quit your whining, you little wimp. Either shut up or get the hell outta here.”

 

Fear leaches into every pore and parches her throat until she hears the fading patter of Timmy’s Sponge Bob slippers as he dashes down the hall and out the front door. The pool of relief that blankets her is deep and cool and soothing. And it revives her.

 

Swallowing against her nausea, her fingers inch up and over the face of the cupboard door to grip the lip of the counter top as she slowly pulls herself to her feet.

 

“You promised,” she cries softly, dabbing at the warm trickle under her nose with her wrist. “When we got back together, you promised you’d never do this to me again. I believed you.”

 

He weaves toward her, pitching forward until their noses are almost touching. The lingering scent of the woman he was with fills her sinuses and makes her gorge rise. Swaying slightly, he regards her through whiskey eyes that simmer with rage.

 

“You promised!” he apes in a high-pitched squeal. His upper lip curls into a familiar sneer that flushes her veins with ice water.

 

“You’re pathetic,” he spits, and twists away from her.

 

Closing her eyes, she begins to release the breath she’s been holding, as his arm strikes out and a meaty hand grasps her throat. With a mighty shove, he sends her slight body spiraling backward to slam against the kitchen wall. When she finally comes to and can open her left eye enough to clear a narrow path of sight, she sees him hunched at the kitchen table, slack-jawed and snoring. A smoldering cigarette butt burns a brown patch into the linoleum where Timmy’s milk had pooled earlier.

 

Willing herself not to howl with the pain that jackhammers every inch of her body, she pushes and squirms across the floor until, finally, she is resting at her husband’s feet. Slowly, cautiously, she inches her bloodied fingers up beneath his pant-leg to seek out the weapon she knows he has strapped there. He snorts in his drunken slumber but she is certain that he won’t awaken.

 

She releases the safety catch with trembling fingers and strains to pull herself up, leaning against the kitchen table for support. Her lungs are on fire and she takes a few good, rasping breaths before she touches the barrel to his forehead. Gives it a nudge.

 

No games. She pulls the trigger before he’s had half a chance to focus on the blackness in her eyes.

 

She sets the pistol down gently on the table, then crumples to the floor to wait for the help that she knows will eventually come.

 

As she fades into the welcome embrace of the cool, grey shadows, she is laughing inside; laughing and dancing and singing.

 

They will never be together again.

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The good and bad of being an old fart

Ah, the joys of aging! With each birthday that passes, you climb one more rung on the ladder to old-fartdom.

Some of you still have a good distance to go, some are midway along, and some of you have stopped a moment to sit down on a rung near the top because the climb is killing your back.

Regardless of your current position on the ladder, the fact of the matter is that we all start climbing the day we are born.

As someone who’s done her fair share of climbing, I’ve got some good news and some bad news to share about what you can look forward to once you’re well past the halfway mark on your ladder:

First, the bad news…

“Remember when your knees could bend
without that cracking sound?

And the frown lines on your face were there
ONLY when you frowned?

Remember when sensible shoes
were the style old grannies wore,

And you never imagined stairs
could be a mountain-climbing chore.

Remember when you’d drop your keys
and swoop to pick them up,

Without needing a hand from passersby
to help you stand back up?

Remember when you’d grease the wheels
by having another drink?

Now your grease is a tube of Voltaren
used to soothe a new neck kink.

Remember when the scent you trailed
was Chanel Number Five?

What you now save on chic perfumes
you spend on A535.

Remember when you could remember
what you’d been about to say?

When thoughts remained inside your brain
instead of drifting away?

Remember when missing “the pill”
could make your blood run cold?

Instead of nightmares filled with storks,
now it means your cholesterol’s up tenfold.

Remember when a “home” was
what you paid a mortgage on?

Now it’s where you’ll someday be dumped
by your scheming, evil spawn.”

And now, the good news…

“Remember when you used to give a crap
what other people thought?

And believed you had to practice
all the etiquette you were taught?

Remember your shocked concern
if you saw a hair turn grey?

And how you actually worried about your weight
after bingeing at a buffet?

Remember when you’d actually listen
if some young punk said you were wrong?

Now, you answer:
“Bite me, you knuckleheaded schlong!”

And all those senior discounts
couldn’t have come at a better time,

Since you’re sick of being reamed by shops
for every single dime.

Remember when you had to keep
a polished résumé?

Now who cares? You get to sleep in
every single day!

And isn’t it fitting that now the government
must pay your way?

Since they sure cleaned up when you worked full-time
by stealing half your pay.

Yep, growing old has its good days
along with some days we dread,

But I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again,
It’s better to be old than dead!”

My children’s story has been published!


When my daughter was little, we would make weekly trips to the public library to borrow stacks of picture books for bedtime reading. The story that Jennifer loved best of all happened to be the one that I had written just for her. It was about a little sprite of a girl named Abigail Bugsby, and we read it together many, many times over the years.

Contributor’s section

When Our Canada magazine, published by Reader’s Digest, called for submissions of children’s stories, I dug my Abigail Bugsby story out of storage, dusted it off, and sent it in. Lo and behold, the editor at Our Canada chose to publish it in their August/September 2017 issue, complemented with artwork by their talented illustrator, Bill Suddick.

If you would like a printed copy of Abigail Bugsby to read to your kids or grandkids, pick up a copy of Our Canada magazine, which you’ll find on newsstands across Canada this month. I have a subscription for a variety of digital magazines through Texture, and it’s in there too. Here are pictures of the original version I wrote (and illustrated) for Jennifer. My drawings were quick and rough, so it was a real treat to see Bill Suddick’s visual interpretation of Abigail!

What moves you?

It’s a typical day.

Same old. Same nine-to-five routine. Same rush-hour headaches, same group of maniac drivers on the road… when… all of a sudden, my attention is gripped by the sight right in front of me—mother nature’s magnificent ink pots of ruby, magenta, russet and amber spilling to stain the deep blue of the sky—right there before my eyes, waiting patiently to be noticed. In awe, I detour away from the traffic to a quiet road, park my car, and sit in worship of such a perfect sight.


When I see something that moves me like this, I am compelled to stop and take notice… and write about it. Everything about a sunset—the amalgamation of colour, the serene sense of peace it represents, the powerful expanse, the pull of it—is all too special not to be noticed and revered.

Writers have an all-consuming need to translate what moves us into words. When we see something that stirs our feelings, we simply can’t keep quiet about it. If we see something that makes us happy, we must write about the source of our happiness. If we see something that makes us sad—oh woe is the story we’ll write. If we see something that makes us angry—well, let’s just say it’s wise not to mess with a writer because you just might find yourself the subject of a very spirited editorial in a newspaper or other venue. We don’t just see things, we feel them to the core. Which drives our need to write.
If you’ve been down with a case of writer’s block or caught in a mood rut, perhaps you need to rub your eyes and take a fresh look around. It’s all too easy to lose sight of the simple yet astonishing beauty blooming in front of our noses every day, when our sights are ever-focused instead on the hustle and bustle of daily life.

A fat black and yellow bumble bee darting into and out of a clump of blossoms; the metallic flecks that sparkle in an otherwise plain stone; a lone ripple on the calm face of a pond made by the paddling of a mallard duck and her babies; the bouncing pigtails of a little girl playing hopscotch; cream-puff clouds on a blueberry sky. So simple, so precious, so easy to miss.


How many sights do you pass by each day without taking notice—sights that have the power to move you?

Open your peepers. There are miracles everywhere.

Random shit that pops into my mind for no good reason while I’m doing my daily exercise walk

“I think the problem with ISIS is that they’ve never learned how to chill out. Think how beneficial it would be if we shipped an army of yoga instructors over to their training camps in Afghanistan. I mean, why not?—They’re already wearing loose clothing, and their prayer position is almost identical to a yoga pose—why not just continue with some Downward Dogs and Warrior (excuse the pun) poses too?And while we’re at it, instead of fighter jets, the Western world could send over fleets of crop dusters loaded with weed. They could fly over the training camps and douse everyone in clouds of smoke. How much happier would our world be if all that rage and drive for vengeance was replaced with giggling fits and cravings for Doritos!”

 

Random shit that pops into my mind for no good reason while I’m doing my daily exercise walk


“I’m looking up at the beautiful expanse of blue sky above me as I walk, and I’m thinking how amazing it is that it’s exactly the same sky that I played under when I was a little girl. The same sky that I gazed up at to watch clouds drift by on a summer day. The same sky that blazed with sunshine on my wedding day. The same sky that sent down a gentle dusting of snowflakes on the day that my daughter was born. The same sky that’s been above me for as long as I’ve existed on earth. And for infinite years before me. The same sky that dinosaurs and Neanderthals roamed beneath.

Will that same sky be there for future generations to appreciate? I can only pray.

As long as men like Kim Jong Ugh, Vladimir PU-tin, Donald Grump, et al., exist—
men who delight in their power to make things go boom—who knows?

For now, I am looking up at that blue, blue sky, and I’m so happy that it’s still there.”

Random shit that pops into my mind for no good reason while I’m doing my daily exercise walk

Every day, I go for my exercise walk outside, rain or shine. I put on my headphones, listen to great music, and walk to the beat. I’ve found that I brainstorm some of my best ideas for new projects or stories while I’m walking.

I’ve also found that some really crazy-ass, random thoughts will pop into my mind for no good reason, and I’ve started writing them down, just for fun.

Every so often, I’ll share these thoughts here because… well, why not?

A sample of the random shit that pops into my mind for no good reason while I’m doing my daily exercise walk:

“What’s it like to be dead?

I know that lots of people have died and been revived, then gushed about how beautiful death is and how sad they were to have to come back to life on earth.

But how about all the ones who didn’t come back? Is it possible that, during their journey through the tunnel, they kicked and screamed and told God to go find some other sucker? Might they have been screaming things like, “Blimey! Why didn’t I just eat that effing piece of cheesecake the other night! Like it matters up here what my ass looks like!” or
“It bloody well figures. Now I’ll never get to buy a Prada bag or Miu Miu heels! I penny pinched and plucked, and now my kid will be livin’ large—thanks to el cheapo!” or
“Shit! Did I turn off the stove this morning?”

And then again—just in case the powers that be are reading my mind right now—I take it back. I don’t really want to know the answer after all. I’d like to just forget about it and put my focus back on Diana Ross & The Supremes, OK?”

A churchy kind of poem

Spring is here… it’s the time of year when children begin to wind down the school year in preparation for summer vacation, and those in Catholic schools are getting ready to celebrate their First Communion or Confirmation.

My poem is for all the parents who’ve been there, done that,
and all of those who are about to.

Confirmation

Perched in church,
nephew’s confirmation,
swaddled in finery,
big family occasion.

Grandma on the aisle,
camera poised.
Grandpa hunched,
both eyes closed.

Cousins ahead,
aunties behind,
uncles a-twitch
in neckties that bind.

Impure thoughts,
flecked with guilt.
Long time since
confessions spilt.

Mind’s a-wandering,
what a sinner…
wondering what
we’ll have for dinner.

We sit. We stand.
We stand. We sit.
Unfold the bench
and kneel a bit.

We genuflect,
we sing a hymn,
we bow our heads
and pray to Him.

Ah, sermon’s over,
we’ve all been blessed.
Tumultuous minds
for now at rest.

We chatter, we shuffle,
our exit’s begun.
We burst through the doors.
Church is done.

 

What do you get when you put Jack White + The Edge + Jimmy Page together in one room?

The only part of the Grammys that I bothered tuning in to this year was when Lady Gaga and Metallica strapped their TNT together and proceeded to detonate on-stage. As for the rest of the acts? They just didn’t spark my batteries.

Don’t get me wrong—I do love Adele. And Carrie Underwood. And Alicia Keys. And that Bruno Mars guy isn’t half bad (his music aside; I would kill to have his flawless skin!). 

 

But most of the meh music of today just doesn’t do it for me.

There is nothing—and I mean NOTHING—that makes my atoms hum like the thunder of drumsticks gone berserk along with the furious keening of an electric guitar. Obvious, isn’t it, that I was a child of the seventies?

Which takes me to an extraordinary documentary on Netflix that I watched the other night, called It Might Get Loud.

If, like me, you miss the days when you’d turn on the radio and hear the kind of music that made you drop whatever you were holding in your hands to play air guitar, you’ll relish this coming together of Jack White, The Edge, and Jimmy Page, during which they share their love of insane guitar playing.

Talented really isn’t a strong enough word to describe these three men, and it’s stirring to see the raw passion they have for their craft. Driven by this passion since childhood—that they’ve achieved such heights is kismet. What’s fun about the documentary is the way it was filmed—it’s just the three musicians sitting around a coffee table in an old warehouse, sharing stories of their musical journeys and their love for music and playing guitar riffs together, with flashbacks here and there of different key periods in their lives.

Jack White is an absolute force to be reckoned with. And The Edge is, of course, The Edge. But … holey moley ravioli! … Mr. Jimmy Page is ageless when he picks up his guitar. The man is truly a guitar god. 

There’s no doubt about it. You’ll want the volume on full, even though It Might Get Loud.

Can you remember your very first childhood crush?

redhaired-boyHe had thick, dark red hair, and was king of the playground.

I was in seventh grade and new nothing about love. But I did know that he made my heart flutter every time I looked at him.

His name was Paul Warner. It was obvious that he was a popular boy, since all the other boys (and girls) gravitated toward him at recess like a pack of wolves to the alpha.

Boys like him never noticed girls like me—girls who wore their shyness like a cloak of invisibility. If he had ever glanced my way, I know I would have blushed ten shades of red and found the toes of my shoes to be suddenly engrossing.

daydream-girlI daydreamed often about Paul Warner throughout that school year; sweet vignettes that materialized in my mind whenever I should have been focusing on a math problem or listening to the teacher’s commentary on the Hundred Years’ war…

What if Paul Warner bumped into me at recess…and smiled at me…

What if Paul Warner turned around in class…and asked to borrow my pencil… 

What if Paul Warner took the empty seat beside me on the school bus…and…

Perhaps this first crush was simply an omen of my future—a sign that a different Paul was predestined to enter my life someday, the Paul that I would fall in love with and marry happily ever after.

Alas, Paul Warner was never in the cards for me.

girl-dreamingSeventh grade reached its denouement, my family and I eventually moved away, and life rolled on. It wasn’t long before I was head over heels in love with my very first celebrity crush (that’s a story for another day). Paul Warner became as distant a memory to me as Scholz’s star is to Earth.

Although Paul Warner knows nothing of my existence, nor will he ever, I do hope that life’s been good to him. After all, there will always be a special place reserved in my heart for my very first childhood crush.

Now tell me—who was your very first childhood crush?

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