My Girl, Your Boy

I was inspired to write the story below back in 1987. The images that flooded my mind as I pushed my baby daughter on a swing in the park were too vivid not to be developed into a short essay once I got home.

Over the years, my thoughts would return every so often to this story I’d written. I wondered about the very special boy who would someday steal my daughter’s heart. I would think about his mom, as well—and I just knew that she loved him as deeply as I love my girl. 

Yesterday, as I scrolled through my files, I stumbled upon “My Girl, Your Boy” again. And guess what? My story has become reality. That wonderful boy married my beautiful girl, and now, his mom and I are overjoyed to share twin grandbabies—a little boy and a little girl. 

My story has come full circle.

MY GIRL, YOUR BOY

I am pushing my baby girl in a swing at the park when you first enter my mind.

It’s a perfect spring day: watercolor blue sky, warbling Robins, a breeze as soft as a whisper carrying a hint of new blooms, mown grass, clean wash on the line. 

The park unfolds at the foot of our street, just a few steps from our front door. The ancient swing set, anchored between thick iron chains, has wide leather seats that have been worn smooth from use over the years. There is also a tiny basket seat, tailor-made for babies. This park is perfect for us.

My seven-month-old girl is strapped into the basket seat. This is her first time on a swing and her feelings are evident—downy head flung back, mouth gaping open in a grin that bares two tiny white crescents breaking through the top gum. Her dimpled, sausage-roll legs jerk about and she squeals with each gentle push that I give her. The purity of her joy causes my heart rise into my throat. Out of the blue, I think of you.

Perhaps you, too, are in a park right at this moment, as your mother pushes you on a swing… or chases behind you as you creep with surprising stealth through the grass. I can feel you. I also know how helplessly, hopelessly, heels-over-head-over-heels in love your mom is with you as her eyes capture these fleeting images and preserve them in her mind: the curve of your elbows, the creases behind your knees, your round eyes sparkling with mischief as you pause, mid-crawl, to glance back at her over your shoulder.

I hope that she will teach you all the things that are truly important: please and thank you, the value of honesty, respect for others, respect for yourself. I hope she will prepare her boy just as I am preparing my girl.

In my mind, I reach out to her and we share a smile. I know that someday, she and I will laugh joyfully together across a kitchen table set for tea, as we bounce the grandchildren we share on our knees. I know that you, baby boy, and my baby girl are destined to share a wonderful life together, pushing park swings of your own.

Bored shitless? Here’s a short story for the current times…

Better Get Betty Some Butter

Betty ran a hand through her silver-white hair as she stared down at the baggie on her counter. That baggie contained a thing most precious to Betty—a single slice of Wonder bread. There was a time when her freezer had been jam-packed with loaves of that good old, plain white bread and pound after pound of Gay Lea butter. But that was before the virus had turned the country into a wasteland of food stores with no food—just aisle after aisle of dust-laden shelves scattered with battered tins bearing no labels and perhaps some packs of cat treats.

Betty glanced between her toaster and the appetizing slice of bread nestled in ziplocked safety. Closing her eyes, she swooned at visions of golden brown toast dripping with real butter. Her last bit of butter had run out long before the loaves of bread, and she’d been forced to switch to the government-issued margarine, which was comparable to eating toast buttered with candle wax. Now, she was down to her last precious slice of Wonder.

Last week, she’d ventured outside and onto the doorsteps of some of her neighbours, yelling through their locked doors in an appeal for a spot of butter that they might like to trade for perhaps a tin of sardines? All she’d heard in response were a few muffled “fuck offs.” She’d never much liked any of the assholes anyway.

Betty was tired through to the marrow of her bones. The world had changed in the most terrible of ways and, after well over a year of social distancing with thousands of deaths reported every day in the news, she didn’t have much hope that she would live to see the world change back to how it once was.

Every Monday, government officials in hazmat gear performed a door-to-door delivery of a few essential dry goods, left in a sterile box on the front doorstep of each house. Stale bread. Pats of margarine. Well screw this, Betty thought to herself, I want a goddam piece of toast with butter.

Betty wrapped a bright fuscia scarf around her neck, then shuffled to her front closet and yanked out her sunny yellow spring trench coat. She shrugged into it, hung her purse on her arm, then out the door she went into the quiet of the new badlands.

The supermarket was only two blocks away. Residents were not permitted to go there unless they needed emergency essentials, which was why she was going. She needed butter.

Betty kept her head down as she marched along the sidewalk. She was in no mood to make eye contact with any of the jerkoffs peeping out their windows at her. Her arthritis had done a number on her hands—she couldn’t even give a proper middle finger any more.

The fresh air had Betty feeling slightly more chipper by the time she began to cross the empty supermarket parking lot. There were two cars parked up near the front door. She remembered the days when she would curse the fact that finding a parking spot was like panning for gold in the Don River. How she longed for those days again.

Betty entered the store. Most shelving had been dismantled, and only about a quarter of the store was now being utilized. It was really more a bodego than a grocery store. The proprietor stood behind the only cash register, glaring at her over his face shield.

“Lady, you should be wearing a mask,” he barked.

“Mask, shmask,” Betty snapped, “I’m 88 years old and more than ready to leave this hell-hole of a planet anyway. But I do need to purchase something first.”

The man shook his head and went back to wiping down the counter.

Betty made her way down the one aisle and around the corner to the dairy cooler, where a small, stooped figure draped in a long rain poncho and what appeared to be a beekeeper’s headgear stood peering through the glass doors. As she approached, the figure started, and turned toward her.

“Why aren’t you wearing a mask?” It was the gruff voice of an elderly man, whose features she could barely see through the thick black mesh covering his face.

“Why are you dressed like an apiarist? I don’t see any bees around here,” Betty replied, tightening her hands on her purse handle in case she needed to swing it at him.

A guffaw burst from behind the mesh hood. “How the hell do you know what an apiarist is—which is what I once was, actually.”

“Because I’m smart,” Betty said. “That’s how I know.”

“More like a smart ass,” he snarled.

Betty glanced at the cooler and gasped. “Butter! There’s a pound of butter in there!”

“Yep. And it’s mine,” the man said. “I was here first.”

Betty scowled. “Oh yeah? Beat it, buster.” She yanked the cooler door open and reached for the foil-wrapped treasure.

The man’s gloved hand swatted Betty’s hand aside, and as he grasped the butter, Betty coughed repeatedly on him. The man shrieked, dropping the butter on the floor as he hurtled his body away from her.

“Thanks! Don’t mind if I do!” Betty said, snatching up the butter and digging a five-dollar bill from her purse as she hurried toward the cash register. “Here,” she said, tossing the bill at the proprietor. “Keep the change.”

That evening, Betty savoured a large bowl of her favourite split pea soup…

along with a perfectly toasted, golden-brown slice of Wonder bread slathered in real butter.

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.

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!

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.

 

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?

The Big Bang

bare treeI clutch the creamy vellum envelope in my trembling hands, willing the letter inside to tell me what I have been yearning to hear, as I delay tearing it open.

I have been badgering the Big Guy for the past hundred years or so to consider my plea for a sabbatical. Not only am I weary right through to the marrow of my bones; I am bored stiff as well, and tired of giving to those who take my work for granted. It’s not easy to be creative in a job that you’ve been performing day in, day out, over and over and over again for longer than you can even begin to remember.

I pinch around the envelope, trying to gauge how many sheets of paper might be in there. It seems an awfully thin package—God knows, it only takes one sheet of paper to say the word, “No.”

Unshed tears burn behind my eyelids at the thought of another rejection. Over the past decade, my midnight blue melancholy has begun to stain the canvas of my labours, leaving splotches of ash grey and charcoal. My favourite pots of sunny yellow and sky blue and leaf green have begun to harden and fade. The chill that spreads beneath my brush makes me shiver.

The little rebellions that I have unleashed in recent years have not been bold enough to prod the Big Guy into relenting.

My sigh ripens into a strangled moan as I pluck at the envelope’s golden seal. My damp fingers slide the single translucent sheet of parchment from its holder and I gently smooth it open on my lap.

The proof of my misjudgment causes me to gasp aloud, for there at the top of the page, in His delicate calligraphy, are the four words that I’ve been praying for: “You have my blessing.”

I turn my head to the side briefly so my joyful tears won’t mar the precious missive. Quickly swiping the back of my hand over my eyes, I resume reading His tidy, gold script.

“My dearest Mother Nature. It is with great sorrow that I release you from the significant role you have performed with exceptional dexterity for all of eternity.

Tomorrow, you shall receive your release forms by courier dove, along with formal authorization to execute a final act of mass destruction, upon which your tour of duty will end for an unspecified time.

You have been an exemplary servant and I shall miss you. Go forth and go out like the regal lioness you are. And do enjoy your much-deserved rest.

Bless you, my dear,

God
meteorite impact

A Redneck Christmas Poem

I’ve been negligent with my posts in recent weeks. I was in Cuba with my daughter for a week, and we spent some wonderful, quality time together. I’ll post some pictures in a future post. Work has been busy. Life has been busy. It’s a busy time of year, yada yada.

With all this busyness consuming my life, my brain has been going through a dry spell with any creative writing too. Not sure if I’ve mentioned this before, but I moderate a community writers’ group that meets the first Wednesday of every month, and we’re expected to bring something to read aloud at meetings. Of course I had nothing prepared for our December meeting.

To make a long story short, I wanted to write a quick poem during my lunch hour and hadn’t been able to think of anything to write about all morning, when suddenly, an image of a redneck who’s pissed off Santa popped into my mind (only God would know why…and maybe a psychiatrist). You can read the result of my brain fart below.

Mullet_redneckA Redneck Christmas Poem

Santa don’t come down
muh chimney no more,
He don’t even come through
a window or door.

No more presents for me,
‘cuz I think he bin told,
‘bout the six-pack-o Bud
an’ the smokes I done stole.

An’ how I drunk moonshine
straight from the still;
Spent two days in a whorehouse, smashed to the gills.

Borrowed Clyde Dooley’s truck to cross the town border,
An’ pick up the ten pounds of weed I done ordered.

Hid the weed in Clyde’s barn, where I thought I could trust it,
Sheriff got wind, an’ poor Clyde, he got busted.

Next day, I beat a ho with a hickory switch,
‘cause she gave me somethin’ that made muh balls itch.

Dancin’ and scratchin’, I dug out muh 12-gauge,
An’ blew more than a gasket in muh boy-gone-wild rage.

Now, there’s a mess of buckshot in the whorehouse walls,
An’ no more glass windows in the ol’ town hall.

Sheriff’s car? Well it done look like swiss cheese,
spoutin’ with fountains of green anti-freeze.

Needless to say, it weren’t a good year,
I don’t give a damn ‘bout no peace an’ good cheer.

Christmas ain’t comin’ for me anytime soon,
Just the sheriff and his jailhouse posse o’ goons.

There ain’t no frickin chimneys in the county jail,
for Santa to come down and pay for my bail.

Feel free to come knockin’, ‘cause my trailer ain’t be rockin’,
I know I’m getting’ coal instead’a crack in muh stockin’.

‘fraid I won’t be gittin’ no presents no mo’,
No mo’ boobies and butt under the mistletoe.

Yep—Santa—he don’t love me no mo’.
‘cause this year, I bin a baaaad, baaaad bo’.

 

Nursery rhymes for serial killers and other frightening types

I’ve been negligent with my posts lately because I’ve been so busy with work, work and more work. Ugh. Well, there is some light at the end of my tunnel because I’m off next week on a much-needed vacation to the beaches of Cayo Coco in Cuba.

For now, I’d like to offer a belated salute to Halloween with these scary scary nursery rhymes that are NOT meant to be shared with children (unless said children share all the characteristics listed on the FBI’s behavioural science checklist, warning signs that you may have a budding serial killer on your hands. If that’s the case, these nursery rhymes are the least of your problems.)

Little_Bo_Peep_3Little Bo Peep

Little Bo Peep’s
In trouble deep,
And isn’t sure where she should turn.
She stuck the mister
With her sewing scissors,
Last time her affections were spurned.

In a panic, Bo Peep
Fell sound asleep,
And dreamt that she heard him bleating,
But when she awoke,
There lay the bloke,
Messing her rug with his bleeding.

So up she took
Her silver crook,
Determined to haul him outside,
It took more than a sec,
With the hook ‘round his neck,
To drag him to shore by high tide.

As he bobbed out to sea,
Bo felt wistful, indeed,
For life’s lonely at times with just sheep.
If he’d only behaved,
Her rug could have been saved,
And he’d not now be down in the deep.

Bo Peep heaved a sigh,
Wiped a tear from her eye,
And back over the hillocks she went.
Once again, sought her sheep,
Not a one was a creep,
They were far more endearing than men.

 

pixabay2Mary, Mary, Quite Contrary

Mary, Mary, quite contrary,
How does your garden grow?
With Harold’s eyes,
And Robert’s thighs,
And Ray’s ribs buried all in a row.

 

gratisography.comO Where, O Where Has My Manager Gone?

O where, O where has my manager gone?
O where, O where can he be?
With his ears in the freezer,
His tongue down the drain,
There’ll be no more demands made of me.

 

The Queen Of Hearts’ Son, Jackjack and knife

He cut out the hearts,
Of the neighborhood tarts,
‘twas a signature of Jack’s.

Fortified with gin,
He absolved them of sins,
Tied their hands up with cord at their backs.

Jack’s mission began,
When he punished his mam,
The biggest tart of them all.

She and her feller,
Are laid out in Jack’s cellar,
Tucked up in a funeral pall.

 

pixabay3Sing A Song Of Sixpence

Sing a song of sixpence,
A pocket full of lye,
Four and twenty digits,
Baked in a pie.

When the pie was opened
By the county coroner,
He quickly then determined
That a murder had occurred.

A hand was in the suspect’s house,
Stiffened ‘round some money,
An ankle in the parlour
‘tween sliced bread and honey.

A torso in the back yard,
Hung among the clothes,
And a scarecrow in the garden
Wore the victim’s severed nose!

 

there was a little girlThere Was A Little Girl

There was a little girl,
Had a gun inlaid with pearl,
Aimed right at the middle
Of his forehead.

When she was broke,
She was very, very broke,
And when she was broke,
She went robbin’.

Photographs compliments of gratisography.com and pixabay.com

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