Short Story – The Sketchbook

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

Waiting for her Ubers Emily would, once reading the driver’s name on her phone, imagine what the driver looked like.  

Emily lost focus and started dreading what repulsive car freshener the driver might have hanging from his rear view mirror.  She figured the person who invented those things probably had been rejected by the Hallmark greeting card company and these reeking, chemical infused cardboard cutouts was their revenge.  Chemical cocktails that induce stupid headaches with flavours labeled: pure steel (a gross attempt to negate foot odour), pina colada (sweetness gone overboard), spice market (dollarstore ramen spice packet gone rogue), watermelon (grade school lip gloss) or summer linen (why?).  

Emily’s phone pinged – her Uber had arrived.

Gustav pulled up right in front of her and threw it into park so the doors unlocked.

Anything but Spice market Emily sneered to herself.

Emily opened the door  ‘Who are you picking up?’

‘Emily.’ said Gustav the Uberman

‘Ok and you are …?’  Emily didn’t give a shit if the driver took it personally that she made sure she was safe.

‘Gustav’ the driver said. His mask was strung from ear to ear but simply hugged his chin not covering any orifice.

Emily had dressed for an early winter morning but it was now a balmy November urban afternoon.  Bulked up on layers in the morning she was now clammy with slow sweat.  Annoyed how this fickle eastern Canada weather was, she unravelled her scarf and loosened her top button.  

Tossing her sketchbook on the back seat Emily put her phone face down on top of it as she settled in.  She pushed her jaw down to free her nose from the face mask and breathe easier.  Emily questioned herself in case she was imagining a hint of cedar and salt water.  Did she miss the Pacific that much?

Driver and passenger caught eyes in the rearview mirror.  As strangers they connected with unusual ease for an extended second.  Emily felt like she had just been hacked.  Emily shrugged her shoulders to disguise the sudden shudder and looked out the window as Gustav pulled into traffic.  Stopped at a red light they met again in the mirror.  It felt like a prohibited affair where they couldn’t resist the affliction to see their lover.  

Emily nodded and broke the weirdness asking ‘So Gustav … how are you today?’ 

The light turned green, Gustav turned his attention to Ubering, then answered,

‘Me?’  As a painter he was sizing up his passenger’s posture.

‘I am fine.’ he said in a thick accent.

Emily could register several European accents having studied painting in Paris.

‘In 500 metres turn left on Richmond Street.’ The metallic matron GPS voice gave Gustav his next instruction.  Emily gave a brief chuckling breath as she was surprised the GPS didn’t speak English with a hard accent.

‘She sure is bossy’ Emily joked the same joke she always says about the GPS lady.

‘Bossy Boots.’ Readily agreed Gustav, who in fact liked his painting subjects to be strong women.

Emily’s instinct was tugging on her shirt sleeve repeatedly ‘Emily’,  ‘Hey Emily’.

Annoyed by its insistence she growled under her breath and with clenched teeth.  ‘What?!’  

Despite her camouflage Gustav heard Emily anyway and searched for her in their mirror.  Sensing his look Emily didn’t join in.

Gustav drove Uber to see the scenery of people’s faces:  Foreheads as a back alley wall aching for graffiti;  Bags under their eyes were hammocks where spent blues and languid purples reclined.   Each nose, a nexus of cartilage reconciling the face’s horizontal grounding with its vertical reaching.  Cheeks were reflective sharp cliffs or absorbant rounded boulders.  In the way that eyebrows couldn’t be trusted, lips were married to the truth.  Which made no sense because Gustav knew, we lie so much. 

‘Wait!’  Again another word slipped out of her stream of consciousness.

Confused, Gustav needs to know,

‘Madame, did you want me to pull over?’  

‘No no no  It’s all good.  Very sorry.’  Emily assured him through a pained, weak smile.

Emily’s brain was madly rifling through her memories trying to figure out where in the world she knew him from.

Within two minutes, ‘Get out!!’  Erupted another verbal surprise.  This time it was loud.  And accusatory.

‘Pardon me?!’  Now Gustav was insulted.  He had seen many things in his life, especially while driving Uber but he had never been told he had to get out of his own Uber by the passenger.

He in fact had recently told a disrespectful fare reeking of magazine-sample-aftershave to do exactly that.

‘Skedaddle!’ He had ordered his rude passenger who was demanding Gustav take him to a new destination (without ordering a new ride through the app) because the obtuse passenger had just received a text from his friend who had not waited for him at the bar which was the original destination.

The guy didn’t understand what ‘Skeedawdow’ meant in Gustav’s Austrian accent.

What the hell did you just say?! The annoying and arrogant bar guy demanded.

‘Get out!  Get out now!!’ Gustav shouted into the mirror of his own car.

‘Ok ook ok. Chill Uber dude.’ On his departure he slammed the door just to prove he was in fact that immature and arrogant.

‘Sorry, sorry, sorry.  Please forgive my mouth.’  Begged Emily.  ‘It seems to have a mind of its own right now.’  

Needing to identify herself as a lucid person; 

‘I’m an artist.  My name is Emily’

‘Yes, I know.’  He wagged his head quickly back and forth with what Emily called a low tide smile.  Those are smiles that are not insincere but not the real deal.  She didn’t like the word fake.

‘What?’  Questioned Emily – did she just radiate artist?  Did he know her?  No. Of course.  Emily realised her first question before even jumping in the Uber was to confirm her name.

Why in the world did an Uber driver named Gustav with an German/Austrian accent need to know her name, or that she was an artist as he turned down Richmond Street.  

Maybe she just needed to talk, thought Gustav, and so now he was adding therapy to his list of talents while Ubering.  Which wasn’t the first time.

This one fare had jumped into his car and said:

‘Fire it up.  Come on, let’s get this show on the road.  What?’  The woman had asked.  ‘

Is there an issue?’

‘No madame.’  The car was fine but Gustav had stalled. 

‘Then just turn on your little turn signal there and pull Chitty Chitty Bang Bang into the street like it says in the Uber training manual.  Ok?  Good.’

​​Wow!  Was für ein Zugunglück – thought Gustav.  As he pulled away from the curb the GPS lady said the trip to Kensginton market was going to take 24 minutes.  This duration of trip is usually the best money maker.   But who knows with this lady.  

23 minutes later Shelia, as Gustav learned was her name, stepped out of the Uber into Kensington market.  She breathed in the kaleidoscopic air of the neighbourhood: dope, tacos, fish, buskers, coffee, dirty asphalt, more dope, community.  Then she popped her head back into the car,

‘You’re the man Gustav!  Thank you so much. Have you ever thought of becoming a psychologist?  

No.

Do you have any hobbies when you don’t drive?

‘Yes.’

‘What’s that?’  Sheila waited like a dog expecting to be rewarded for a trick.

Gustav looking over his shoulder across the back seat – ‘I Paint’.

‘Cool.  I am sure you’d be good at it.’

Are you married? Asked Sheila without waiting for an answer.  ‘Just saying, you’ve got wisdom coming out the wazoo.  You must be making a lucky woman happy.  That’s all.’ 

So as not to prolong Sheila’s exit Gustav would ask someone else to confirm what he thought a wazoo was.  Sheila was too much.  Like thick cut bacon on a double cheeseburger. 

‘Thank you.  Be well.’  Gustav sealed his conversation with Sheila.

‘Thank you too.  Be safe.’  Signed off Sheila.

Gustav had listened to Sheila’s nightmare story and her confession that she was complicit in the toxicity of her relationship with Bruno.  But Sheila insisted she had actually tried to right that ship.  Bruno it seemed, commented Gustav,  Was happy to just have it run aground. Sheila lapped up his completion of the analogy.  

‘The sketches are good; they are alive.’ He looked back at Emily.  ‘Honest and human.’  Nodded Gustav mulling slowly over each page of Emily’s sketchbook.

But …? Prodded Emily for nuggets of approval while resisting falling into a pool of self sabotage.

But what?   

Car horns honked, bike couriers whizzed by and Emily’s back twinged because she had been sitting too long.  

‘It’s like you are drawing postcards to yourself.  Because you and your art are in two different states.’

Emily’s eyes yearned to decipher the mysterious mist, her hands longed to touch the vibrant green; her lungs inhaled in search of the thread that connected her to the reliable west coast.

‘Are you …?’ How could she be asking this?  She reloaded her question ‘Has anyone ever told you you look exactly like Gustav Klimt?’  In the rush hour of her mind to find out what had been bothering her she hadn’t put two and two together: his name, with his accent and that he looked exactly like Gustav Klimt.

‘Go home Emily!’  Cheered Gustav. 

What I Look For In A Leader (And What You Should Look For Too) – 4 Key Pillars

concise and actionable

strategic teams

When leading people through the murky and turbulent seas of life in its different forms, there are four components I look for in leaders…

Graphic – The Lighthouse – Leaders shine the light on the way forward!

The lighthouse graphic shows the four key elements you need to weigh up when steering your team to greater success. Of course, these elements are just as applicable when trying to find or even help a leader. A simple explanation regarding what I mean by Core, Qualities, Mindset and Persona (CQMP) is provided for you below. Please read on…

Core

The core of a leader is important. Without a core, a leader has no sense of purpose. These are their values, the underlying drivers. For instance, when trying to understand the values they have, ask yourself whether they are ethical or unethical.

Ethics is the process of questioning, discovering and defending our values…

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In The Meantime

Photo by Content Pixie on Unsplash

Yesterday walking up the moist front steps Tammy sniffed some mineral earthy air that her memory associated with the white quartz.  

‘Let’s rent a car.  Take the day off.’ Tammy offers Malik to agree with her fresh idea as she walks in the front door.

Malik stands up straight from his work desk, takes in a big breath and looks her dead in the eyes.

‘Tammy ..?’ His voice, simply saying her name, went through a 2 – part process of getting her attention with a strong ’T’ and dipping at the end trying to bring her back to earth.  Her spontaneous whims always threw him for a loop.  What’s wrong with planning? He says with his eyes.

‘Malik ..?’A It’s-all-part-of-the-package look was how she responded to his need for a plan.

After a two hour drive out of town the next morning they set off on a five km hike into the forest following the curving river lined with attentive cedar and spruce.  On the riverbank the cedars’ gnarly roots suction themselves to the iron infused sedimentary rock that frames the river.  On the forest side of the river bank tree roots delve quickly into the forest floor littered with spongy, green rock cap moss.

It’s a good 5 degrees cooler under all the verdant trees where the river quickly narrows and drops four feet through the effervescent rapids.  Just past the brief rapids as the river widens again slightly is a massive white quartz.   Although radiant and striking, it is so ensconced in the place it can be confusingly easy to miss. Tammy can’t remember how they found out about it.  Malik remembers and relishes holding the mystery. 

A mystery that the quartz holds is its size.  The carpet of bright green moss acts like a receding hairline on the top and also grows on one side hiding where the quartz meets the riverbank rock.  The outlines of the massive white boulder hinted that the beautiful crystal extended some metres beyond what was visible.   In his enthusiasm to find out how far it reached Malik confused it with the pockets of snow clinging to winter under the tree skirts; playing hide and seek with the invigorating rays of the spring sun.  

They came to dwell with the quartz, to remain in its presence, seeking to be transported deeper within and higher up.  The quartz made you wonder. Wonder with confidence. Wonder up.   The massive cool fresh quartz engages you as if you were on time and up to speed on your life trajectory.  It draws your truth out of you.

They agreed to eat lunch in an hour and served themselves some steaming tea.  They sat cross-legged on their yoga mats 10 metres apart on the river bank.  Once settled in, breathing and clear of mind Malik found his faculties subtly intrigued.  He was being pulled to grasp what was going on:  it was the rapids.  As the rapids bounced the water all over the place, they were challenging the river, asking the river how important the flow of water was to it.  The river, regaining its composure a few metres downriver, always answered the same:  I may bend but I will never break.   

Tammy didn’t like a sudden burst of her bubble of connection when they were in nature.  Malik knew that.  But the words just popped out.

‘I don’t think nature…,’ Proposed Malik, impacted by the electrical wash of the huge quartz. ‘… knows the concept of: in the meantime.’  Hearing himself speak he realised he had broken the connection bubble but for him this was a pretty deep thought so he just kept going. ‘Nature is always in the here and now…never waiting… endlessly passionate.’  Malik liked how his poetic kites floated into the early afternoon cool air.  Soaking up the moment with his sense of transcendence he sought, Malik breathed in deeply.  

Tammy, chill, aware and reflective in the robust, rewarding afternoon was shaken by Malik’s declarations.  Hearing him utter in the meantime jolted her out of her cozy emotional vacation and dropped her into an unsettling mental state.  Tammy went from cupping the thermos cup of green tea to strangling it.

In six year old Tammy’s mind meantime was what she called the episodes of her parents arguing.  She instinctively recoiled under her bed in her and Shelly (her half-sister’s) room. Her bookshelf was empty.  Her story books were in piles under her bed.  Tammy lay among the dust bunnies and socks turning pages until the yelling and screaming stopped.   She found a corporeal focus that completely blocked out life in the meantime.   Fifteen  year old Shelly wasn’t around so much so Tammy ended up being the flag bearer of her own safety.  It seemed her parents first had to be mean to each other before they could approach her smiling saying:‘Don’t worry sweetie, come out from under there. Everything is going to be ok. Mommy is happy.’  Nine months and two police visits later there was no more meantime.

Short Story Excerpt – Blue Spruce

Photo by Greg Rosenke on Unsplash

Hey, What the hell are you doing?!!  

What the hell is that loser doing?  

Get off my property!  

Hey – He’s got a knife.  Said the guy as he jumped down the 4 concrete stairs to get Joe. 

Joe, scared shitless, dropped the bulging scab of fragrant sap he was cutting off the trunk of a gnarly blue spruce tree on these guys front lawn.    Joe bolted from underneath the comforting skirt of the blue tree.   Sprinting he glanced at his car parked across the street.   After 4 blocks Joe stopped running, bent over heaving for breath and sweating in the cool November dusk. The sticky of the sap on his hand stuck the knife to his hand. In the panic of being hunted down he hadn’t dropped his knife. 

Laura closes the door to their apartment after her shift at the restaurant.

Hi babe, um I need you to get my car; pick up my car.  I had to leave it on McIntosh Street.

Joe didn’t even give her time to take her coat off.

You know I don’t have a license.’ Laura rattles her head.

You know I wouldn’t ask you if it wasn’t important

You know you have a brother you can ask to do this.’ Laura reminds him

You know I can’t

You know I have no idea what is going on.’  Laura deflates.

Joe explained his suburban sap stealing catastrophe.

You know you totally could have just asked those guys to…, to harvest their sap for your fabulous incense collection.  Just fuckin knock on their door.  Right?   Laura bristles.

You know I know that.

You know…’  Laura stopped herself as she could feel the rock hard tension in her shoulders and sense the futility of generating a modicum of conversation.  Laura’s instinct kicked in and said to her – You know if you don’t leave this moron right now you are a bigger moron than he is.’ 

Laura redid up the same three buttons she had undone on her coat while Joe was ordering her to get his car.  

Her last ‘you know’ still hanging in the air like a silent fart in an elevator.  

With her coat now done up she texted her brother Sam right then and there, ‘I’m done with this clown.’  

Three weeks ago Sam was dropping Laura off at her and Joe’s basement apartment downtown.

‘Listen Laura, it’s your life and I respect that they are, basically, your emotions.  And, and I am not going to even attempt to control you or anything.  But with that said.‘That guy is a fucking clown.’  He was so infuriated he included the ‘g’ on fucking which not many people do.  ‘He’s an angry, angry clown.’  

Laura loved the protection love of her older brother for his sister as compared to some random boyfriend love jacked up on lust and of anti-loneliness.  

Sam is awesome.  Laura wants a boyfriend like Sam.  His wife Bernadette obviously is awesome because she married Sam.  Joe got wasted at Sam and Bernadette’s wedding.  It was a classic, long August day and dusk and night.  The wedding was at a lakeside resort where Sam had done some renovations so he knew the owners.  They had wooden cabins painted white with green trim in a three season resort.

With Laura now staying at his place Sam knocked on the door to Joe and Laura’s (former) apartment and realized there was no point so he walked right in.

‘Dude – it’s over.  Laura’s not coming back.  Sam emptied Laura’s drawers with Black Friday abandon.  ‘I Will be back on the weekend for her furniture.  We both know most of it belongs to Laura.

Sam left the now bare drawers of Laura’s dresser sagging open and took 2 large suitcases without even offering a ‘later loser’ or anything to Joe.
Joe, unable to process the moment using his smartass outlook, stood in the abyss of a  lonely minute, turned around to face nobody, then he got high.  Joe had a unibrow you could see from space but only an emerging moustache so soft you could have used it as a dust brush for your Lp records back in the day.  He had jet black hair and grey eyes that everyone commented how they seemed to change in the light. That was what had won over Laura 11 months ago.

Blurred Vision: Men’s Journal

Sad story, good writing

Matthew Bremner: Journalist

IN THE GRAINY CELL PHONE VIDEO, Sebastian Woodroffe is struggling to stand. Dressed in jean shorts and a black sweatshirt, he’s lying in a puddle, clearly in pain, moaning and gurgling in the blood and the dirt. If he has not embraced his fate, he has at least acknowledged it. Around him, on a soggy, green clearing in a jungle settlement, a crowd has formed. The villagers, maybe 25 in all, mostly men, scream and shriek. “Why did you kill her, you son of a bitch?!” one bellows in an indigenous tongue. Others stand under the thatched awning of a shack, saying nothing; schoolchildren mill around.

A man in a baseball hat then tries to loop a seat belt around Woodroffe’s neck. He throws it off. The man tries again and gets the noose tight around Woodroffe’s throat. Someone shouts, “Pull, pull!” and the man does. He and…

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Final Excerpt of short story – The Coffin

Photo by Roseanna Smith on Unsplash


His husband love got overtaken by business.  In the moment he justified his focus on growing the business.  And his children’s inheritance will prove he was successful – was his mental argument he would have with himself, as he raked leaves or swept the driveway – as a way to  assuage the discomfort of regret.

Gord felt he didn’t have the connection with his children for the same reason as when they were growing up he was growing his business.  Selling plumbing supplies came easier to him than being there for his children.  It wasn’t that he didn’t want to be there. It’s that if he didn’t grow his business no one else would.  Plus this business put food on the table and would pay for university as long as he kept his foot on the gas and didn’t let up. 

‘There are different kinds of love, sweetheart!’  Gord remembers growling over his shoulder at Linda.  His teeth were clenched down hard perhaps in an attempt to not let these silly words out.  He can see it now.  They were in their bedroom one Saturday morning when he was getting ready for work instead of taking Phil to hockey practice and teaching Martha to skate and buying the groceries with Sue.

‘Of course there are different kinds of love.’  Linda was paused by her absolute frustration that her good husband still didn’t get it.’  That’s the point!’  Linda schooled Gord looking him right in the eyes as he buttoned his shirt.  Linda’s abstention from swearing gave her message that much more ummph.  She was no longer in an argument with him but had already transported herself to how it was going to feel in the car later that morning as she drove Phil to Saturday morning hockey practice instead of his dad. Gord could feel Linda’s disappointment but he couldn’t somehow say he was sorry.  Because, he told himself in the moment some 35 years ago, he wasn’t sorry because he was supporting his family.  This memory, and others, were the life recordings that went through Gord’s mind as he would slowly sweep the clean front walk of its minimal weekday dirt.  

In the few years since the death of his wife Gord had this urge to connect with his family so they know their unique value.  Therefore his anchored vision project.  Yes it would have been easier to say he loved them.  And that if he had failed in some ways as a father he was sorry.  But that would have been like the first route he walks in the mornings: short and simple and gets the job done without complications.

Mercifully Gord heard the toilet flush all the way down the hall which yanked him out of his swamp of regret. 

‘It’s all very spiritual and transformative and, and, and earthy.’  Cedar vibrated her hands at her sides as she sat back down to show Gord how she was impacted by their chat.

‘Yes but without the sweat lodge.’  Gord fake laughs quickly. ‘ Or if you want the sweat lodge go for it.  That was never my thing.’  Gord was trying to be funny in case he was coming on too strong.

‘What was your thing GG?’ Cedar asked, using her position as the preferred grandchild to be so direct.

‘I …’  Gord’s shoulders briefly pumped up and down as he gazed out the kitchen window looking out over the driveway and leaned back into his personal journey.

‘My thing would be whatever my thing was at the time.  One thing at a time.  When your grandmother was sick, that was my thing.  When I started my business, that became my thing.  When each child was born, that was my thing.  But, as the years went on, with each child it was less of a thing.’  Gord paused and looked into Cedar’s eyes because Cedar’s mother Martha was his third and last child.  They could both feel that this could be taken to mean that her mother’s  birth and existence amounted to less than the birth of her two older siblings.  

“You mom being the third wasn’t loved less by any means.  There was just, I don’t know, more going on and as parents we weren’t petrified as we were when your uncle Phil was born.’ 

Cedar was the third child as well.  By 7 minutes.  Her twin brother Red went to the light before she did.  

Was I less of a thing? Cedar had never even thought of it.  In the moment she felt good about being a twin, or having Red as her twin because of how it echoed her existence.  Gord saw her face quickly disappear inside of herself but didn’t grasp she was cherishing her birth not feeling any anger for getting the bronze medal.  She was very happy to be on the podium.

‘You and Red were born at the same time so you were a big deal.  A lot of diapers.  Jack loved being your older brother, he was like a mini dad organizing your toys, helping you walk.

‘Actually when your mom told me she was having twins I thought it was great.  But then she said, I have to confirm it with the doctor.  And that always stuck with me.  How did she know?  Now Gord was lost inside his mind where fireworks were going off of beautiful family memories.  And then, as it had come to be a recent habit, it circled quickly back around to Linda.

‘Your grandmother always loved the whole mystery of giving a child a name.  It gave her joy and energy so for me I couldn’t see how others saw it as overbearing or imposing.  Anyway it would be an innocent imposition.  She would bring her little notebook and look into her child’s eyes for a clue – then look to the sky for inspiration. She really loved doing it and thought it was her role to participate.   Martha says it was the only time she saw her mother write.  That wasn’t true.  Martha just felt that they were her children and she, plus her husband, had the ability to name them.’  

‘So how did she know?’  Prompted Cedar for more information on her mother being a young mother.  She wanted to admire her mom as the young, dynamic woman she could see in family photos before she was transformed into a bossy mom.

‘Know what?’

‘That she was pregnant with twins?’  The juicy confessional type of conversation with GG was so novel and satisfying.

‘I didn’t really capture that.  Martha came up with your names before your grandmother could really process that there would be twins and get her motor running, so to speak, on what could be possible matching names.  And truth be told, the names Red and Cedar that your mom had already come up with were so far off Linda’s screen that, well there was nothing to say really.’’

‘So my mom came up with the idea for our names?’  Cedar couldn’t remember asking and hadn’t really ever wanted to get into it.  Her brother had a bit of a hard time because his name was Red but as life would have it Cedar got the red hair of the two.  It confused people that a guy named Red didn’t have red hair but he had a twin sister who did.  So they would get bullied in high school.  That’s what teenagers do when they are presented with something that is beyond their grasp.  They would stand up for each other but he was basically a wimp so he got brushed aside.  Guys would even just hug him instead of beating on him.  Beating on Red was so easy, it was comical.  

As a result, sometimes they would play down they were twins, and a few times even siblings.  There was no abandonment of one by the other.  It was actually an effective teenage social strategy.  It was a way to avoid ridicule.  They would retreat into the fact that they were twins born Geminis.  Twins squared.  It made no difference to anyone who wasn’t them but it just made the route to get to them emotionally more convoluted so it provided an extra layer of protection.  

But in the same breath, in high school her name gave her a way to sound different.  Which she liked because it mirrored the way she felt.  It also spiced up how she dressed and helped her come into her own style.  Tall with her long, wavy red hair she took on a Boho look that seemed to work for her.  

‘I remember your mom saying that she loved the red cedar trees because…’  Gord started.

‘Wait GG.  Actually, I think I will ask my mom about our names.  If you don’t mind.’  Even though she was eagerly soaking up the downloading of family history from her grandfather she stopped him.  

‘We haven’t avoided the conversation, we just made sure we never had it.’  Cedar explained to her grandfather.  As it came out of her mouth she could hear how lame it sounded, but it was basically true.

Cedar was glad she had dragged their good-byes outside because in that way it broke the proximity of the two of them that had grown around the kitchen table.  She didn’t want a hug so Cedar fumbled with buttoning her coat moving toward the door.  Cedar skipped down the stairs and they waved good-bye.   Cedar put in her ears buds as she turned right to catch the bus uptown.   As Gord stood on his front steps breathing the cooling November evening Cedar was reconnecting with the sound track of her generation.  Gord, GG, dad, daddy, hesitated.  He stood on the front steps of his fully paid off house, where 3 beautiful children knew innocence  and joy; where Linda, his wife would bring each of them home from the hospital and nurture them with sincere service that inspired and humbled Gord.

Waiting till after Cedar had turned the corner he then headed back to his garage.   The same garage where he started his plumbing business.  The same garage that was his first warehouse for his plumbing supply business.    This old man was in a negotiation with his own shoulders to determine if he walked back with the hunched shoulders of a defeated man who had nothing better to do than to test drive his coffin.  Or if he was an aging man engaging the role of elder as he addressed mortality with humility/fear/awe/respect.   

Gord was comfortable in his coffin.  It was only the second time he had laid down in it. He kind of felt like a Formula 1 driver slipping into their sleek race car. He had used his yellow measuring tape to get his height and width and depth.  Then he added 6 inches to each measurement.  It was snug, not cramped. 

Kingdom

dripping with wisdom

The Lightening bug

There’s a Kingdom ruled by insecurities,
A land so dark, glistening In hatred,
Soldier of confidence weak and tame,
Sapling of doubts tall and grand,
Inner peace banished to a distant land.

There no king or queen to this uncanny place,
But a master and slave to one’s own self,
Demons are always at war and never quiet,
Terror reigns and there’s no place to hide,
The screams are quiet and tears have dried,
There’s an uproar, “Long live the kingdom! Long live the king”

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Which parts of kid’s brain become activated during film watching to experience the real perceptions of life, objects and happenings?

really important topic and well written

Learnography

Why are we so much connected to the characters, dialogues, behavioral acting, tragedy and places of the film?

In the theater, we believe that the events of film projection are real happenings. Sometimes we laugh on comedy or weep during the watching of pathetic scenes. Where is reality and why do we attach so much to film, music, songs or videos?

We know that the film watching is not real and this is the projection of moving images integrated with enhanced sound systems. Actors have played distinguished characters and highly emotional scenes are prepared with special graphic effects and vector lighting arrangements.

High definition film watching happens due to the strong connectivity of emotions that is produced by the limbic circuit of brain. It is also true that we can rehearse the cyclozeid mechanism of deep emotion connectivity in the knowledge transfer of school system. Will our students be able…

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Next excerpt of the short story – The Coffin

Photo by Ramazan Tokay on Unsplash

‘Or’  Gord, trying to ease the blow of any rejection coming his way said ‘Maybe I have too much time on my hands’.  Being retired and widowed it wasn’t exactly untrue.

‘Wow GG!  That is cool.  I like that.  And I get to choose my own phrase?’

‘Yes!  Of course you write it’

‘And my object’

‘Yes that too.  But.’  Gord put up his right index finger to emphasize his point.  ‘Preferably it is not your phone.  You know something organic.  I suggest a crystal.

‘So the process I go through is write down on a piece of paper the name of one of my children, get out their crystal, then I list some of their good qualities and dwell in them’

Normally he leaves his washed dinner plate in the sink, and puts the electric kettle on. While the water was boiling he would put on his pyjamas and get out his crystal set.  He kept it in a shoe box in the drawer in the cabinet in the dining room. 

Sitting at the dining room table with his cup of chamomile tea, cozy pj’s and comfy socks he would choose one of the three crystals.   Today was: Sue – Rose Quartz.  It isn’t everyday that he does his crystal ritual but the last time he did, it was Phil’s turn: Phil – Amethyst.  After today the next one would be: Martha – Larimar.  

‘Sue got the rose quartz because apparently it helps to enhance self-love.  And Sue needs that.  She has always needed that.  She kind of fell in the space between your grandmother and me.  She didn’t want to impose on anyone but she got so good at it you forgot she was there.  The one time that Phil and I go out for a beer to watch the hockey playoffs at the pub is the night Sue was going to prom so I wasn’t home to see her in prom her dress and meet the guy and do all that dad protecting his daughter stuff.  This was in the era before cell phones but I still don’t know how I missed that.  So when I got home my wife didn’t know what to do with me.  I had finally gone to spend time with my only son and I missed a once in a lifetime event for my daughter.  My point is I am aware that I was not the steel to Phil’s flint.  He wanted to light up life, get stuff done.’

Gord felt cleansed having explained his reasons and ritual to Cedar so she could see the importance of her role and be strong in case anyone tried to minimize the activity (Phil), take ownership of it (Martha) or just take the crystal and put on her windowsill and call it a keepsake of dad.’  As Gord mentioned each of his children’s names his body would contort in such a small, unconscious reaction to how they lived in his mind.  Thinking of Phil, his back would straighten.  When talking about Martha his head would tilt upwards and with Sue his shoulders would drop.  With Phil Gord felt a challenge between men more than a sense of being a guiding elder.  Martha she had always had big ideas that could make you wonder.  Sue wasn’t fat but Gord’s body gave way to the weight of her lack of initiative.

‘Intense – there is a lot going on.’ Then came another pause.  Gord was relieved to see Cedar processing the idea.  He might have been surprised by the dichotomy of her feelings in the moment. She was amazed by her grandfather’s creativity.  Yet at the same time Cedar was confused about why he was making such an intricate ritual instead of just talking directly to his children.’ 

Gord was happy with himself because he felt he was right in explaining his anchored vision to Cedar first before approaching his children.  She could be his marketing department.  Her mother was in the marketing business so Cedar would have it in her blood.  By skipping to the next generation there would be less rejection than with his own children – Gord had figured.  At this point he seemed right.  He assumed his children would listen to Cedar.   And Cedar loved being chosen.   

‘Where in the world did you come up with this idea GG?’

‘Well at my stage in life and … with your grandmother passed away I just started reading about, you know, life.  Death, what have you.  It’s not fair, that if someone wants clarity and preparation about death they come across as a cold funeral director.   When my time comes I want things to be ready and clear so all the emotions like sadness and grief, disbelief and regret, love and appreciation, admiration and forgiveness and acceptance don’t get absorbed by funeral arrangements.  That’s not fair to the person or the process.’

‘Hmmph’  Cedar was getting overloaded with new info, powerful concepts and the emotion they were connecting to.   

‘So’  Gord continued,  ‘So my idea is really not that new.  In the past, I have discovered,  people have used the mind to heal and travel and see things in other parts of the world.  And I came across this whole idea of epigenetics from a guy named Bruce Lipton talking about genes, DNA and belief.’  Gord’s hands were carving the air as a means to capture the impact of what he wanted to transmit.  

‘It was really, really amazing to hear and challenging to read.  Did you know what the word generation says? It says gene – ration.’

What?  

Yes, the word generation can be split into two words – gene and ration.  So …’

Cedar had reached her maximum of what she could take in.  She pulled up the blanket and didn’t hear a thing Gord was saying.  

Her mind quickly wondered what her inheritance would be, just hypothesizing it was in the next 2 years or so, she could go travelling before going to university.  Her mom had studied marketing and it seemed cool.  But stressful.  Marketing and all that was super important in the moment but rendered meaningless days or weeks later by the same market that had made it vital..  But Cedar liked the psychology part of trying to figure out why people do what they do and seeing if you can be in the future of their own decisions before they are.

‘I can see your mind has gone elsewhere, Cedar.’  Gord observed

‘Oh sorry, so sorry GG.   Cedar sipped her tea and looked Gord in the eye to show her sincerity.    ‘I am just…  Well I am really surprised by all this and it’s a lot to process.’

‘I agree.  Death is a funny topic.’  The cool air of Gord’s house turned cold as the afternoon aged. ‘ It’s an even funnier experience.’

‘Wait, how is death funny GG?’  Cedar says not really ready for more information but a little insulted.

‘Well death itself isn’t funny.  I agree with you.   You are right.’  Cedar hadn’t said anything about death not being funny but Gord was using his sales techniques to put himself, and his goal, on the same page as Cedar.

‘What I mean is how we react to death, the passing of the person, the emotions of the past and next steps.  It is a process that we all go through – so in that there is no freedom of choice.  But.’  The right index finger appeared again.  ‘There is a complete freedom in how we think about it.  And this is what led me to this idea of an anchored vision thing. Gord threw on the ‘thing’ word at the end as a kind of hook to make the concept less heavy.  More portable. Gord still hadn’t explained why he said death was funny but Cedar didn’t want to get into it.

‘I need to go to the bathroom.’  Cedar announced as she put down her mug of tea, grabbed her phone from the kitchen table, stretched her arms and neck and walked down the hall from Gord’s kitchen. She loved this house where they had spent years of Thanksgiving Sundays and Christmas dinners.  

Linda and Gord never renovated their home like lots of people in the neighbourhood did.  By the time they had the money Linda didn’t see the point with their children on their way out.  It would be just the two of them living in the house in a few years.  The one thing Gord insisted on was putting in a door from their bedroom to the bathroom so now it was an ensuite washroom that continued to have access from the hallway.  

And for a guy who had his own freakin’ plumbing supply company, why did he still have one of those antique porcelain sinks?  Gord figured Linda wasn’t into modern bathroom fixtures.  So he simply took the best sinks and bathtubs when other people renovated their bathroom.  Linda saw the satisfaction in her husband when he salvaged (with the help of a few of his plumber friends/clients) the best old school taps and faucets and towel racks and tiles.  So the taps in his bathroom had the black letters H for hot and C for cold on the little white porcelain cap. In between them was the cast iron fawcett.  It was white tile with a black tile border throughout.  Elegant but sturdy, just the way Gord liked it.  

To the right of the fawcett was a short tumbler with a single bamboo toothbrush.  Another gift from a grandchild.  To the left of the fawcett was the small yellow box of baking soda Gord used as toothpaste.

In Cedar’s absence Gord thought how he saw the anchored vision was an expression of the Art of War.  The Art of War, for him, was to secure peace and harvest the opportunity that peace provided.  Which is exactly what Gord wanted.  Some peace.  It wasn’t like his life was hectic.  On the contrary.  He woke up every morning without an alarm and made coffee.  When it was light enough out he would go for his walk around the neighbourhood.  He had two routes.  The short loop which he would do if it was raining or cold or that was the energy he had that morning.  The second loop meant he had to cross at the traffic lights so he could get to the park and see people with their dogs and smell the earth and leaves.

Back at home he would make breakfast and read and follow up on emails.  The afternoon included a nap and some kind of outdoor chore around the house for the fresh air and as a strategy to see one of his neighbours for a chat.  He spaced out his day with activities so he could never get too lonely or get caught spiralling down into a funk of missing Linda.   It has been almost 3 years since she died.  An x-ray of his sadness would have revealed that he was not missing Linda that much anymore as a person but of having the role of her husband.  Of being of service to her well being as his wife.   What didn’t let him live in peace was some feeling that he should have or could’ve done more in their marriage.  Should have taken the time, could have filled out the moments. 

Second Excerpt from short story – The Coffin

Photo by Fabio Traina on Unsplash


‘The prize I want for my children is for them to experience generating their own vision.’  Gord nodded towards Cedar.   ‘So that they don’t forget to teach their children to have a life vision.  You are included in this, obviously.   It’s like an inoculation against conformity so you can be loyal to your weirdness without having to feel alone.’  Gord was applying his visionary skills he had used to grow his business now to generating some sort of family vision.  The word alone resonated too long in the air.

‘Once my wife died, I made the monetary aspect of my will known to my family about 2 years ago now.  That way everyone knows the percentage of my wealth they would receive.  Basically enough to buy a small house in a small town.  As long as I don’t live another 20 years.  If I tack on another 2 decades to this life that house purchasing power might diminish into more of a healthy deposit on a house, or a university education for the children, your generation.  But without saddling anyone with that demoralizing debt of a student loan.’  Gord explained as much to Cedar as to himself.  

‘I realized that something was missing.  I don’t know if I felt it was missing in me or in them to some degree, but for some reason I wasn’t able to provoke some sense of vision in life in my 3 children when I was …,  in my role as their father.’

He didn’t want there to be unclarity for them to get their medium-sized inheritance.  His children’s inheritance for Gord validated all the time he spent making money and not making connections with them.  But he did have one condition that he hoped would be fulfilling for everyone involved.  At this point he really couldn’t see them falling into a fight over his money.  At the same time something told him they wouldn’t follow through with his wish if he wasn’t proactive.  That’s why Cedar was sitting in front of him now.  

According to Gord, he didn’t think what he wanted wasn’t complicated or demanding.  Boiled down to what in essence Gord’s wish is, it’s to live in a real relationship with his family up to, during and after his death.

Probably not that unusual of a wish (except for the part after death).   It was just unusual to articulate it, have a plan of action and make it happen before he died.  The challenge for Gord at this point was connecting the moment with his emotions and the words they petitioned.  And he needed help.  

The silence was brief but rotund.  If earlier things felt a little awkward then now they had become almost adversarial.  

‘Wait. So then you want me to learn your,...your life vision and explain it to your adult children, because it didn’t take the first time round?  Sorry GG but is that my role here?’  Cedar was confused, hated bullshit and hadn’t signed up to be anybody’s therapist.

‘Ok, okay.  Listen.  Let me explain.  I have arrived, over the years, at a motto for what a father’s role is.  What I believe.  Basically it’s this:  to give his family things they couldn’t buy.  And that is exactly what I did.  I gave my family a solid upbringing.  A life with respect and reliability.  A home with encouragement and acceptance.  All with the stalwart work of their mother, my wife, your grandmother.’  His voice resonated with the assumption that it was understood that the father, or a man, was the sole source of these qualities.

‘So then.  GG.  What is a mother’s role?  What Is your motto for that?’  Cedar injected quickly before Gord kept rolling.  

‘Well, she um … She does the same thing.’  Surprised, Gord responds. ‘ It’s the same but somehow different.’   More than Gord’s definition of a mother’s role Cedar was really curious about her own motto for what a mother should be.  And how it would apply to her mother.  

None of his children; Phil, Sue or Martha had wanted to continue the family plumbing supply business.  It wasn’t glamorous but it made him what he was.   

The fact that no one wanted to continue with the business hurt his feelings.  It took the wind out of his sails for a while.  Of course he didn’t learn this until his children were well into their 20’s.  He figured they would try working elsewhere and learn they prefer to be a business owner rather than an employee.

In the case of his oldest son Phil that was true. But instead of taking on the family business he started his own tire business.  He had learned a lot from growing up in his dad’s business.  He especially learned from watching his dad that he didn’t want to run after people who hadn’t paid their invoices.  He figured that if he had the key to his customer’s car, they would pay him or they weren’t going anywhere.

Martha pursued a career in marketing where she could apply her creativity on a scale much broader than a small plumbing parts distributor.   Sue pursued her husband which turned out not to be a good strategy because he ended up pursuing someone else and left Sue and their two boys.   All this to say the company that Gord built from the ground up was converted from a family business into a plumbing parts supply business.  

‘The fact they didn’t want to take over my established business and the fact that I am now retired and widowed created a lot of space in my life.  Space and time in me.  So now, I have ended up reflecting a lot on life.’

‘I think that’s a good thing.  I have my introverted side too.’  Accompanied Cedar

Of course’  He said with a chuckle

‘We all recoil, and you know – repair and recharge.  It should be normal’  Insisted Cedar

‘You’re …, you make a lot of sense.’  Another chuckle from Gord.  ‘Getting through those teenage years is a real journey, if I remember correctly.’

‘Ya definitely.   It’s like every moment, every word you say, everything you do, every outfit you wear, every person you associate with creates this watershed that either includes you with or separates you from someone else’s definition of cool.  It’s exhausting.’  Cedar took her turn at using the conversation as therapy. 

They sat in an empty, scratchy moment and took a sip of their tea that had been cooled in the late autumn air.  Cedar brought her feet up onto the chair and hugged her knees.  She had kept her scarf on as she knew GG’s house was going to feel friendly to an arctic fox.

‘Oh sorry did you want a blanket.  Let me get you one.’  Gord got up and Cedar didn’t say no.

‘I just can’t  justify heating this whole house when my daily routine uses up such a small part of it.’

There had been no family conversations of downsizing.  Yet.  Without needing conversation, it was known that it would be Martha’s task to stickhandle that conversation with dad come the day.  But the children knew and respected that time had not yet come.  And it may never arrive.  

Martha, in conversation with Phil after their mother’s death had commented effortlessly, 

‘The only downsizing he’s going to do is from the house to his casket.’  She had no idea 

how right she already was.

The pain of leaving would be just as much about leaving the house as leaving his garage.  The garage was his man cave, his power pack, his church, his cocoon, his therapist, his studio, his laboratory.  He felt it is where he could be himself and not make a mistake and be in the flow of his thoughts and projects.  He hadn’t felt he had that freedom outside his garage.   No doubt this urban retreat would also have functioned as a prison.

‘I am telling you all this now in case, at some point, my health deteriorates quickly and I, I don’t know, I forget or simply lose the courage to follow through with it all.  I am telling you as a way to take the path of least resistance.  And because I trust you.  I trust my children too but, how do I say?’  Gord scanned internally a moment for the words to hang on his sentiment.  ‘I trust my children will do as they have taught me they want to do.  Which isn’t bad but it isn’t naive.’  Gord liked how he felt as if he was a functioning elder, sharing wisdom with the following generations.  

‘It’s so edgy …, new agey of you GG.  So what you are offering is a Vision Quest?’  Cedar looked for clarity.  She hadn’t quite grasped GG’s request for what he called an anchored vision.  He said it was a written intention that is associated with a physical object. 

‘It sounds intriguing but how does it work?  This anchored vision thing?.’  Cedar made air quotes around anchored vision   Cedar was getting pulled into his idea.   ‘I have never heard of that before.’

‘I know. I made the term up.   I want it to mean you write out a phrase and you associate it with an object.  You repeat the phrase and mentally send your intention encased in the phrase to the object.  To come true.’

This was the first time Gord had said his plan out loud so he was a little surprised how coherent it sounded.  He and Cedar had always had a good relationship but there was no guarantee she wouldn’t think this was the stupid rumblings of an old fart and a sure sign of onsetting senility.

The Coffin – First page excerpt from short story

Photo by Veit Hammer on Unsplash

Gord was comfortable in his coffin.  Snugly packed in with the intentions of his family.

~~~~~~

Anyways, that is how he sees himself.

The steam from their mugs was curling and unfurling in the cloudy light of an early Saturday November afternoon.  It’s because Gord kept his house on the cool side that steam was so obvious.  And perhaps that is why he had so few visitors.  Perhaps that was his plan.

Placing a mug of hot green tea on the kitchen table in front of Cedar, his grand-daughter, he slid into the chair opposite her.  

‘Mmm, thanks GG’.  GG is grandpa Gord.

You could smell the crisp green tea distinct, but not in opposition, to the history of the house.   Gord had arrived here in this house as a newlywed, became a father, businessman and grandfather.  And now he has become a widower in this house.

How can you call something that is three years old brand new?  But that is how it felt every morning when Gord would wake up surprised to be alone.  Gord hated the play on words but it was so apropos:  Linda’s sickness was just like her – short and sweet.

To create space on the table he neatly stacked off to one side his library books that were making the place look a little disheveled.  On top of the books he tossed his toque that a different granddaughter gave him last Christmas.  He had been outside on the small front porch fiddling with the Christmas lights when Cedar arrived.  Cedar didn’t arrive late but he just became too anxious and couldn’t wait for her inside.  It wasn’t weird that GG had asked her to come over but it wasn’t a random invitation in the flow of things either.

  

Gord wanted to take a sip of his tea so as not to appear he was jumping straight into his story without being social with small talk.  But by the feel of the mug in his palm he could tell it was still too hot to drink.

‘Cedar, how have you been, school and all?’ Gord manufactured conversation.

‘Pretty good.  Ya, school is busy with exams around the corner.’

It was getting awkward pretty fast so Gord just launched in.

‘I realized that something was missing.  I don’t know if I felt it was missing in me or in them to some degree, but for some reason I wasn’t able to provoke some sense of vision in life in my 3 children when I was …,  in my role as their father.’

He didn’t want there to be unclarity.  Or any sense of guilt for his children.  For them to get their medium-sized inheritance.  His children’s inheritance for Gord validated all the time he spent making money and not making connections with them.  But he did have one condition that he hoped would be fulfilling for everyone involved.  At this point he really couldn’t see them falling into a fight over his money.  At the same time something told him they wouldn’t follow through with his wish if he wasn’t proactive.  That is why Cedar was sitting in front of him now.

According to Gord, what he wanted wasn’t complicated or demanding.