CONVERSATION WITH A SPIDER

8 legged friends are good friends …:)

Kit Troyer Blog

I always feel pretty good about myself when I relocate a spider from the house to the garden. But the experience probably feels different for the spider.

If the two of us could talk, the conversation might go like this:

“What the hell? What’s happening?”

“I’m taking you outside.”

“HELP!”

“I’m not going to hurt you. I’m taking you to the garden.”

“No! Please! No, no, no –“

“Listen, if my wife sees you in the house, she’ll kill you. The garden will be much safer.”

“No, no, no, please –“

“You’ll be fine.”

“Oh god, it feels like I’m going to pass out.”

“I’m sorry you’re feeling this way. Can you try sitting with the discomfort for a second?”

“What?”

“In the human world, we sometimes say that if you — “

“NOT OUTSIDE, I’M BEGGING YOU –“

“Oh Jesus Christ, all right.”

“What just happened? You stopped walking.”

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52 Weeks – Week 6 – The Hitchhiker

Fabulous creativity!

Bridgette Tales

Prompt: Picking up a hitchhiker

Include: hospital, defer, interface, experiment, beaker, visualize, mattress, skyline, interpret, zap

Read Anna’s Week 6

Through the Glass Windshield

Alice can’t remember being this bored in her life. She flops down on her bed, disturbing a pile of textbooks and papers. Her tutors seem intent on overworking her since her sister left for college as if an increased workload could keep her from her feelings. Alice wishes it could.

Bianca, the fluffy white cat her sister left behind, jumps onto Alice’s stomach and begins kneading her belly with its paws. She should shove the cat off because she’ll get white hair all over her nice blue cardigan and white dress but she doesn’t think it’s fair. Bianca is sad too.

Alice reaches her fingers out in front of her toward the peaked ceiling of her attic bedroom. Her nanny Margaret used to say “adventure lies…

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Short Story – Odd Man Out

Photo by Kevin Grieve on Unsplash

“I’m gonna start my own home services company,” declares Oddie as he and Reggie load the morning batch of 2×4’s onto the forks of the loader to lift them up to the second floor to start framing up there. 

8 am on a chilly September morning, the summer heat has peaked and subsided.

Oddie imagines he is an angelic combination between Chris Rock and Lenny Kravtiz; funny and suave.  If you saw him you would probably think he looked more like a cross of Kevin Hart and Danny Devito; short and obtuse. 

Reggie, the ragged yet loyal employee, smirks out loud and pauses to straighten his back for a moment, 

“Right you are.”  The clean Spruce fragrance was a weird source of Reggie’s optimism over the years.  

Oddie stands for Odd Man Out which is the lengthy nickname the forming crew gave him in his first week.  They just had to look at him: his boots were too skinny, his hard hat was on crooked, his face was puzzled.  He just looked odd.  But he was quick on the job site.  

“That’s right.” 

“What’s your company called?

“I don’t know yet.  It’s a service that connects the trusty handyman with homeowners needing odd jobs.” said Oddie as if it already existed.

“Right,”  repeats a smug Reggie and turns to grab an armful of lumber. 

“What now?!” 

Reggie loved yankin this guy’s chain.  He gets so hot under the collar at the blink of an eye.  With his grey gloves he touched his left index finger to his right baby finger and started counting,

“First of all, you do know there are like at least 5 of those apps out there that provide those services and seconofall they have like, just a little bit of a head start on you.  Third they have millions in financial backing and…”

“And what?” 

And .. they aren’t you.”

“Meaning what?”

Reggie straightens up again and looks Oddie directly in the eyes and says nothing.

“Fuck you!” says Oddie.

“Right.” 

“I don’t care what you think.” Declares Oddie.

“You don’t want to care but you do,”  Reggie exhibits his clarity of mind as he straps on his tool belt..

“Fuck you, get to work,” Oddie orders Reggie

“Get to work, Fuck you”

Be original

“Hey Reggie, Gerry the site supervisor yelled from ground level, “Ya gotta sec?”  

Reggie undid his tool belt saying under his breath “What the hell does this dipshit want now?”

Gerry was squinting up at Oddie framing in a door as Reggie got down there.  Gerry starts speaking to Reggie while still looking up at the second floor. 

“You have to be weird and know it to get a nickname like Odd Man Out and live with it.

And that the shoe fits says everything.”

“He loves it.” said Reggie staring at the side of Gerry’s ugly head.  “We gave him a back door to being part of a team of foul mouthed framers and he took it,” 

“Are you a fucking psychologist?”

“The guy needs what you need.  He is shit at how to get it.  About the same as you are at dropping in a plumb door header.  That’s why they made you supervisor,” said Reggie.

As soon as Reggie heard Gerry say  “Listen Reg.”  His bullshit detector went off.

“I gotta bit of a situation.  Sandoval’s son needs a job and the office threw it in my lap.  You worked with him before, right?”

“That pip squeak would carry the same 2×4 from one end of the job site and hide on his phone for 30 minutes.  Then carry the same 2×4 to the other side and do the same thing all over again.”

“Ya well he got in some kind of trouble.  It’s either cars or drugs.  Maybe both.  Anyway the message from Sandoval is to keep him busy so they know someone is keeping an eye on him,”  then Gerry laughs as he reads the text message he received from the office this morning.  “So he learns the value of work.”  Gerry looked to his right for confirmation from Reggie but didn’t get it.

A wave of humility and appreciation ran through Reggie.  He realised what he already knew: that Rhonda, his wife, was his hero.  She had been super strict with their son and daughter and that is why Cherise their daughter was on academic scholarship at McMaster University and their son Malcolm was in grade 10 following in her footsteps. 

“He’s not the only one …”

“What’s that supposed to mean”

“Nothin”

“What can that miserable little shit do here without fucking up my job site.”

“Nothin.”

“Ya I know,” agreed Gerry. “Wait.  Let’s put em with good ol Oddie.”

“Let’s not.”

Gerry pulled a purple e-cigarette from his inside jacket pocket and hauled on it.

“Oddie and I have a decent rhythm if you hadn’t noticed.”

“Listen Reg …” Hearing that phrase again Reggie just turned to walk away.  “He starts tomorrow,”  Gerry yelled at Reggie’s back.

Ricky parked his 2022 metallic blue Jeep Rubicon beside the portapotty at 7:45 because he was afraid that his dad would take away the Jeep if he was late.  His dad was the owner of Sandoval Developments.  If the forming crew thought that Oddie looked out of place, Ricky looked like he was modelling for the Home Depot website.  Everything he wore was functional, just like Oddie and Reggie.

But the function for Ricky was to look good. New construction boots, tight hi-viz black sweatshirt with silver and yellow reflectors, shiny black hard hat with a Sandoval decal on the front, fresh yellow leather gloves and tinted safety glasses.  He never took his ear buds out.  He was instantly labelled Slick Rick.  Reggie loved how this clown brought comic relief to his day.

Oddie hated working for $24 per hour for some rich fuck.  He hated that the same rich fuck didn’t give a fuck for his own son.  He didn’t hold it against Slick Rick.  Oddie adopted him like a younger brother even though they were the exact same age.

“Bro, you’re holdin the hammer all wrong,” said Oddie.

“Ricky.  What did I tell you about holding the nail between your fingers?”

“Dude, did you even put your level on this stud.  From here I can see that the thing isn’t plumb.”

Wow.  Nice.  Look at that.  Fits perfect.  Reggie did you see?  Our man Slick Rick is good on the saw.” 

“Dude.  Look at me.”  Oddie schooled limp Rick on the reality of belief in yourself.  “Haven’t you realised that they think I am a freak.  They have more in common with you than they do with me,” said Oddie even though it wasn’t true.  As a young man lost at sea Ricky instinctively grabbed his phone to ground himself cyberspace.  

People didn’t understand Oddie’s sense of tribal inclusion.  In truth, neither did he.  He simply felt like we are all in this together.    Oddie had no reason to question because that was who he was. He also knew he needed to accomplish something everyday so he got some satisfaction.  He wanted to share this.  

Slick Rick was a textbook spoiled brat.  A tragic teenager.  His parents weren’t on the same page about children, marriage or money.  His mom’s love wasn’t going to magically make him into a man.  His absentee dad supplied everything but the intangibles.

Sandoval pulled up in a white Mercedes SUV to see how his son was being made into a man.  To get out of the vehicle would have been to break the macho archetype he loved more than his son.  The back seat tinted window came halfway down.  Ricky looked at Oddie, looked at his phone, undid his toolbelt and climbed down to talk to the tinted window.

Reggie and Oddie unabashedly stood at the edge of the second floor watching the father/son debacle.    

“For the last 15 or so years Sandoval has shown he doesn’t give a fuck about the well fare of his own son,” said Reggie. 

“Dude, we are providing a babysitting service to Richie Rich,” Oddie said to Reggie. “The fuckin father needs to know that.”  Reggie looked sideways at Oddie and said,

“You are not going to pity Richie Rich.  That’s not gonna pay your bills much less fulfil your  crazy dream of your Odd Man app.”

Oddie nodded at Reggie’s name for his odd jobs by a handyman app.

“Ya bro. Or do you want to be in the business of handy jobs?” Reggie laughed at his own joke.

Odd Man Out is from the short story series Tool by Kevin McNamara

Short Story – Papa and The Bertrand Brew House

Photo by Josh Olalde on Unsplash


Cappy survived the electrocution.  

It was torture.  Not stuff of Guantanamo Bay legend.  The torture was not being able to use my hand, Cappy remembers saying as he turned over his calloused hand and listened to some pencil pusher tell him how the world worked.

The engineer who had signed off on the project, saying that it was ready to remove the old boiler, forgot to disconnect the power in the mechanical room.  And Cappy got zapped with a near lethal dose of 240 volts three years ago.    

“Ok.  Ok.  I will.  Ya, you too,” said Cappy, hanging up the phone.  He looked through the streaked windshield but was talking to his supervisor Sammy on his right.

“They agreed that we can bill them for the extra labour.  The fuckin moron hadn’t even read the contract when he signed it.”

Sammy just sat there.  He could feel it coming even though it hadn’t happened in something like a year.

“I just want to rewind the movie of my life to the day before I get electrocuted and just be there with that dumb ass engineer, and just ask him, ‘yo bro didya double check that the power got disconnected?’  And then when we both see that even though on his little officey clipboard it has his signature with his little P.Eng number right under it, that the fucker didn’t do his job.  And I can see his reaction and look im right in the eye and say, ‘Bro!!?  What the fuck?!”

Sammy had heard Cappy’s rant a thousand times.  The vitriol towards the engineer, the engineering company, against life was on a gradual decline.  Sammy didn’t clench his stomach anymore when he accompanied Cappy down this road.  

Sammy waited a few seconds before saying, “You done?”

Cappy looked over at Sammy, the four days of whiskers slide across the collar of his hi-vis orange coat.  “Ya.  I’m done.”

“Ok great.”  Sammy rubbed his hands together and then cupped them to blow on them.  It was more theatre to break the moment and get a move on as opposed to actually needing to warm them up.  “So now ya think you might be able to throw yer fancy truck into drive.  That will help me get a little bit closer to my cup of coffee and my breakfast sandwich”

“Why in the world are you gonna get a breakfast sandwich?  It’s noon.”

“At this rate I’m not gettin anything if we keep sittin here.”

After fifteen minutes of idling during the phone call Cappy finally started driving and as a joke slammed on the brakes while they were still in the parking lot.

“Whoa, bro, settle down.”

“You’re a fuckin joy to work with,” joked Cappy. 

“I can see why your wife keeps sending you to work.  She doesn’t want to have to look at your irascible face all day.”

“Wow.  Irascible.  That’s a big word.  Do you need to take a nap now?”

Sammy laughed hard as he looked out the passenger door window and saw the temps coming down the stairs . 

The boiler extraction had gone sideways because they couldn’t get the bin up to the loading dock to just dump all the metal. They had to hire some temps just to unload the debris from the indoor cart, carry it down the loading dock stairs and reload it into an outdoor cart so they could take it around the corner of the building because that was the only place they could put the bin because they weren’t permitted to block any of the loading bays.  It was a shit show. 

It had actually been decent weather for February.  Minus 15 degrees or so Celsius.  The temps made a good team and got it done.  A temporary worker wants to impress the boss so they offer him full time work so it can actually work out really well for all parties.

Cappy got a pretty good pay out in the settlement with the engineering firm.  They still do business together but who knows what happened to that forgetful engineer.  

Cappy could’ve retired with his union pension and the payout but what would he have done.  At the time of the accident he was 59 years old and didn’t golf.  Even if he did he wouldn’t have been able to hold a driver properly.  After 2 months of moping around the house his wife sent him back to work.

It made him famous.  They wrote articles about him in construction safety journals and engineering publications.  Even the guys taking down the perimeter fencing at one job site grew his legend:

“That’s the guy …”  

“Wow!  How is he still alive?”

“Much less working.”

“And at his age he should be at home.  Unless his wife can’t stand him”

“How many watts was it?”

“Two watts?”

“Is that a lot?”

“Man, he is livin on borrowed time.”

“I’ve seen him before, what’s his name?  I think I worked on the bridge repair with him years and years ago.”

“They call him Cappy.”

“Like as in Capitain.”

“I guess.”

Sammy visited Cappy at the hospital daily after the accident.

“We’re amazed that Mr. Moravic survived.  And to be honest a little worried that he is so adamant he is going straight back to work after such a massive jolt of electricity lit him up,” explained the doctor.  “We want to hold Mr. Moravic for observation for an extra few days.”

“Ok doc, he’s all yours.

“They don’t make em like that anymore,” said the doctor. 

“Ya, Marty’s old school all the way,”  agreed Sammy.

 I am just so amazed.  And very happy for Cappy.”

“Cappy?  Who’s Cappy?”

“Ya they nicknamed him Cappy”

“Why would they do that?” asked Sammy.

“He shouldn’t be alive much less lucid after getting fried like that so we are bringing all our interns to come and see him so they can have first hand experience with his case.  This group of interns gets a kick out of giving the patients nicknames.  They don’t tell the patients.  I really shouldn’t have told you,” said the doctor.

“But, what does Cappy mean?” 

“Ya, of course.  Well you probably know better than me but capacitance is the ability to hold an electrical charge.   And your boss can hold more charge than anyone we have ever seen.  And lived to tell about it.  So they called him Cappy for capacitance.”

Sammy thought this doctor was a real cowboy.

“And what are the side effects and timeline to recovery and all that?”

“He will need to come back in for revision in two weeks and once a month for 3 months and then we can give him the all-clear to go back to work.  Or not.  Depending on his progress.  We have to ensure there are no motor or cognitive issues.”

“Three months?”

“Well he can do stuff.  He just can’t work for the time being.” 

“He is going to be bouncing off the walls,” said Sammy.

 I can see that he is such a hands on guy that he might get a little antsy.”

“That’s an understatement.”

“Ya he has been somewhat impatient already, said the doctor”

“”Ya, and he is only getting more irritable the longer he isn’t working.  You might see him again.  If he has to stay home for very long his wife will start throwing pots and pans at him.”   

Tomas was Veronica’s dad’s name so she wanted to honour him by naming their first born after him.  Five years later Cappy liked the name Bertrand for his second son.  Tomas is a lawyer who moved to Ottawa to work in government so they don’t see him too much.    Tomas looked for a job in Ottawa because first Sheri landed a job out of law school working on intellectual property law.  Tomas got a job in the Department of  Innovation, Science and Industry.  Veronica doesn’t like such a long name or that his wife took her son so far away.

Veronica tells Tomas, 

“Are you losina weight?  Cherry should start to cook a little for you,” Veronica mis-pronounces Sheri’s name on purpose.  Even though she has been in Canada for over 40 years Veronica still blames it on her accent.  It used to drive Tomas crazy but now he just glosses over it.  He just visits by himself because Sheri called her relationship with his mother temporarily suspended in the best interest of everyone.  Sheri came for the funeral but hasn’t been back since.  

“She is just as busy as me working so I can’t just expect her to …”

“That’sa right.  It should just naturally be what she wants to do.  Anda do it,” interrupted Veronica as she stirred a steaming stew on the stove to prove her point.  Veronica gets all theatrical with her old country accent when she feels she is being left behind by her sons.  By life.

“Anyway Cherry is no a very good cook so maybe it’s even betta, that Cherry doesn’t cook so much.”  Veronica stuck to her one more time.

“Ma, Sheri is a good lawyer and focused on her career.  Plus, Sheri makes more money than I do.” Both Veronica and Tomas know he never says she when he talks to his mom about his wife just so his mom knows he doesn’t accept her mom’s pronunciation. 

“Ti in tvoj denar.  Just like your papa,” said Veronica.

“Ma, that’s totally unfair.  I gave Bertie twenty thousand for his brewery business.”

“Twenty?” said a surprised Veronica.  “Your papa told me you gave only ten.”

“Only ten?!  It’s a lot of money, ten thousand dollars!   Listen ma.  I told papa I gave Bertie ten in case, if papa were to ask Bertie if he can help that you wouldn’t feel pressured to give more if I had given more.   Also I figured if I gave him twenty then maybe he would feel what he brought to the table and that he wouldn’t take money from you and papa.” 

“We gave ten.  I wanted to lend them more money but papa said no-no-no. ” said a proud Veronica.

“Have they paid you back yet?”  asked Tomas.

“Mashee, don’t be like dat!”  Veronica scolded Tomas using his childhood nickname.  But, yes they had.

The other son, Bert, partnered with a friend from college and they started their own microbrewery.   The brewery was just getting off the ground when he died.  Killed by a drunk driver on a beautiful spring night as Bertie rode his bike home after visiting his new girlfriend.

The closure, as a couple, they never had about Bertie’s death has felt like a really bad hangover since he died.  It was the drunk driver who did all the drinking and now Cappy and Veronica feel like shit everyday.    Cappy couldn’t deal with the stupidity of it all. So he boxed up his grief in a strong box and purposely forgot the combination to the lock.    

Bertie had been a really good soccer player in highschool but lost interest after no American schools gave him a scholarship.  Upon graduation he immediately focused on learning about business.    He took business courses at night at the college campus downtown.  Even though it was easy to take on-line courses he liked doing the group work so he could meet girls.  He also met Chad at school.

Chad and his dad Ross brewed beer at home as a hobby for years.  Chad and Bert put together a business plan and took it to Ross.  Ross put up most of the money.  Bertie needed three credits for his diploma when they signed the lease for the brewery. Between working full time, opening up a brewery and his new girlfriend finishing a college diploma took a back seat.

With all the supply chain delays they had to postpone the opening of the brewery so for the last six months Bert worked at Chad’s dad’s accounting firm learning the ropes of corporate taxation.  Bert was more of a numbers guy, Chad was the beer guy and Chad’s half brother Brad was supposed to be the marketing guy.   Brad came up with a cheesy name and logo for the brewery but after Bert died they decided to call it The Bertrand Brew House.

Through the church Veronica tried to get Cappy to go to grief counselling.  Then they tried anger management as a back door to get Cappy to talk.  Cappy stonewalled them all.  Gently enlacing his massive fingers on his friendly belly he would just sit there.  It’s not that he didn’t listen to them.  He actually couldn’t hear them.   He generated a force field to block out anyone who wanted to fix him.  He doesn’t even remember the funeral.  No one saw him get drunk and weep, look at pictures of Bertie or even scream in anguish at the gods demanding to know why.  He just couldn’t deal.  

Almost two years after Bertie was killed, Cappy got electrocuted.

That is why Veronica doesn’t want Cappy at home.  When he’s home it’s like there is a pinata filled with grief hanging from their living room ceiling, slowly swinging back and forth like when the air conditioning is on.  And what Cappy just needs to do is grab the stick and bash, smash and crash that pinata.  Make it bleed sweet grief.  And rejoin the party.

The coffee shop is buzzing with Saturday afternoon millennials typing and talking into their laptops.  Sitting down with his brother-in-law Paulo Sammy gets distracted by all the attractive young women sipping chai latte thingamajigs and just stops talking mid sentence.

‘“Focus Sammy Focus,” said Paulo.

“Bro, I think I am officially old.  The girls are so young and …”

“So you called the ambulance and …,” prompted Paulo. 

“Ya so anyway, I went to the hospital with Cappy.  We’re in the ambulance and I am just shitting myself.  I am practically yelling at him, Don’t die you stubborn fuck. And the paramedic guy says for me to cool it.  So I’m looking at Cappy lyin’ there thinking  Marty, If you are gonna be stubborn – today is the day – now is the time – you’re gonna live.   In those days we still called him Marty.  Cappy refused to die like the stubborn mule that he is.  

“Once I knew he was gonna make it I went over to his house to speak with his wife.  So I go get my truck and I’m driving over there.  Actually I am amazed that I didn’t get in a car accident.  You know when you are imagining something inside your mind and that is where all your focus and your consciousness or whatever goes.   Then you are just totally on autopilot.  Well, that was me driving all the way to his place imagining how I was gonna tell Veronica Cappy was in the hospital.”

“At least you didn’t have to give her worse news,” said Paulo. 

“True enough.  Anyway I was so surprised when he asked me about you,” said Sammy.

“Well, I am happy to be of service if I can help.  I’m pretty sure I met Martin, or Cappy, years ago at your place for a barbecue, a birthday party, something like that.”

“Ya, I think so too,” said Sammy.

“So according to you what would be a good result from our meeting?”

“Cappy needs to talk.  After that if he commits to follow up or something with you that would be awesome.”

“Would you say he is reserved or introverted?

“No.  We have great banter at work.  He’s just, gotta get comfortable and feel that you, or whoever, is sincere.  Not yankin his chain.”

“That makes perfect sense.”

“Ya, and I doubt he will do the whole small talk thing; how are the wife and kids.  I think he will want to … Hey there he is.”

Sammy and Paulo stand up and shake hands with Cappy.

“Grab a seat there handsome,” Sammy directs Cappy who was dressed in his church clothes:  checked button-down long sleeve, v-neck sweater and his navy blue windbreaker.  

“Cappy.  You remember Paulo.  He was saying you guys met at my place one time.”

“Hey Cappy.”  Paulo felt weird calling him that.

“Paulo, how ya doin.”

“Can I get you a coffee?” Paulo asked Cappy.

“Green tea if they have it.”

“Since when did you start drinking green tea?” asked Sammy.

“Coffee is giving me bad heartburn all the time and my family doctor said green tea is good for me”

“Green tea it is,” said Sammy.  “Let me get this.  Paulo, did you want anything?” 

“No I’m good, thanks,” said Paulo.

“It’s one of those March days ya know when the warm sun on your face feels great but once you turn the corner and you are in the shade of a big building it drops like 10 degrees.”  Cappy is talkative because he is happy it’s spring which means the days are longer so they can work later.  

“I guess I should call you Cappy.”

“Ya.  Your knucklehead brother-in-law over there just had to go tell anyone who would listen about that nickname they gave me in the hospital.  And now here we sit.  It stuck like flies to shit.”  

“Cappy it is.”

“Doc. listen. You’re a doctor right?”

“No, I’m a psychotherapist.”

“Sammy told me you were a doctor.”

“It’s confusing, all the different titles.  A psychiatrist is a doctor.  I focus on behaviour change through something called Accelerated Experiential Dynamic Psychotherapy.  All that means is we talk about options for how you are going to grow.”

Cappy was almost stunned by the word grow being applied to him and not referring to his round belly.

“Keep talkin.”

Phillips: A Short Story from The Tool Series

Photo by Maxim Shklyaev on Unsplash


Where’s Debbie?” asked Tim.

“She went in the house to talk to your mom,” said Oscar Phillips. “Hey, I heard you had a new girlfriend.” 

“Yep.”

“Is she coming?”

“No, Trish had to work.  She’s a nurse.” 

Tim leaned against the workbench and picked at a scab on his index finger.  Oscar sat on the chopper with the sparkling silver gas tank.  Everyone, including Oscar, knew the theme of this family barbecue was to offer him a hand up as he lurched in the quicksand of depression. The radio effortlessly played classic rock; Spirit of the West ushered in the moment. Spirit Of The West “Home For A Rest” – Official Music Video

“So, did Debbie bring home any boyfriends.  To do the meet-the-parents thing?” asked Oscar instantly regretting using air quotes. 

“I remember one guy.   He was really smart, tall and polite.  Debbie was still in college but he was working a full time job.  He had a pick up.  My Mom didn’t like him.  Dad did.”  Oscar straightened his back and bent his neck to crack it.  Oscar feared Tim’s dad Stan. 

“Debbie is like, 10 years older than you?” said Oscar.  

“Yes, 10 years and 8 months apart.  In school Debbie always had a part time job.  I saw her on weekends.  Kind of like visitation rights with your own sister while living in the same house. Basically we grew up in two different families with the same parents.  Debbie was before the accident.”

“Right,” said Oscar.

“She wasn’t perfect or anything but she didn’t cause my parents so many headaches like me.  We never really had any big brother-sister fights.  Never lit the kitchen on fire heating the pizza box in the oven or anything like that”

“Right,” said Oscar.  

His shoulders deflated in a whatever surrender. Depression is usurping his mojo.  It’s a pesky grinding of his tectonic plates causing landslides of conflict between him and Debbie.    

Tim took in the Oscar’s theatre in response to his question.

“What the fuck do you want me to do,” Oscar imitates an exasperated Debbie.

Then nodding to Tim.  “And you know Debbie never swears.”

“So …?” 

“So what?”

“So bro,what … do you want Debbie … to do?” asks Tim.

“I don’t know what I want to do,”  Oscar throws his arms open.  “So how the fuck can I tell her what to do?”

“Dude.  Fake it till you make it.  Ya know, tell ‘em you wanna buy a house.  Or have children.   Or to go for that promotion.”

“What promotion?”  Oscar needed to know.

“I am making it up.  It doesn’t fuckin matter.  They just need to hear that you are the man. They need you to make them feel they made the right decision bro.”  

Tim and Oscar nodded as they sipped their beers.

“Sorry man,”  Tim tried to redirect the heavy silence that was weighing them down,  “I’m just tryin to help.”

‘This family therapy gig is getting old quick,’ Tim thought during yet another awkward pause.  Oscar kept himself busy by thinking, ‘I just need to keep the conversation going.’  But he couldn’t find anything to say so the bottom fell out of the conversation again.  Tim turned around to face the workbench and grabbed a long, red handled Phillips screwdriver.  He spun it in the air, caught it and turned back and looked at Oscar.

“Look bro ….”

Oscar looked at him.

“It has everything to do with you and nothing to do with you all at the same time,”  Tim pointed the red screwdriver handle at Oscar.

As Oscar’s soul mined him for traction, he heard his instinct, ‘Reflect.’

Like a witch Tim says,

“Listen bro, you just need to reflect on, you know, the situation.  But, you have to fuckin swear you will not sit there and stew in your own regret.   You cannot, cannot mire yourself in your own, you know, bullshit.”  

Like the open garage door, Oscar gaped.  Tim was proud of how he used the word mired.  He had never used it before.

“Dude, I can see why Debbie is so frustrated.  Your mojo, your fuckin chi!” Tim extended his neck at Oscar, “Has been sucked out of you like you were a cherry freezie on a hot summer day.  Know what I mean?” 

“If I don’t, Debbie does.  And she isn’t shy about telling me. Daily,” said Oscar.

“Is she right, daily?”

“Is this a yes or no question?”

“Yes.”

“Yes. I mean, sure we had all those immature marital squabbles cuz our parents didn’t orient us about marriage.  I know now that’s nothing personal.  But now we are a fuckin tsunami of feces even before we wake up.  We don’t talk, we argue.  We don’t speak, we yell.  We don’t love, we dread.  It’s real.  It’s horrible.  I want to fix it,” said Oscar with the humility of a porcupine before a gale force wind.   His own words stood him up from the motorbike.  Tim was impressed.  Oscar looked at himself standing as if he just woke from a dream.  He sat back on the motorbike.

Bobcageon by The Tragically Hip reminded the radio of younger times. 

Oscar and Debbie lived in a condo downtown Toronto.  Having recoiled from most of their relationships, Oscar squats at home all day coding; becoming paler, losing valuable hair and gaining stupid pounds so he can be a better punching bag for depression.

His man cave was either: early morning concrete coffee cross legged on the 5 x 10 balcony overlooking the Gardiner Expressway or: seated on the ground in a clutch of red pine trees in the lakeside park across the street from the condo.  In other days, these ‘encuentros’  would have provided better dividends. 

The garage was Stan’s man cave.  Storage boxes stuffed with sentimental anchors among aged yard equipment collected on his shelving unit.  He was a salesman for Global Racking Systems.  One day a client wouldn’t pay for one of Stan’s sales, so the install team took back all the racking and put it in his garage.  

Tim had never seen his dad in work mode.  Stan started out really appreciative of the install team bringing it over and installing the racks.   Then in the flip of switch he was really bossy when it came to the installation.  Then he gave the guys pizza and beers.  It was fun for Tim to observe others caught in his dad’s passive/aggressive jousting.

Tim shuffled his feet on the gritty garage floor painted slate grey, looked back at the racking and realized he was proud of his dad.  He decided he would ask his dad about how to invest in a house.

The earthy air of the garage buoyed Oscar from falling deeper into the abyss of depression.  There was a hint of oily rags coming from the corner.  The ceiling was high enough and the garage wide enough so you didn’t sense you were missing out on the day when you were inside the garage.  

“Lemme see that thing, said Oscar reach for Tim to pass him the red handled screwdriver

“This thing is probably older than you,”  Tim said.

Oscar exhaled laughter,  “You know I am actually named after this fuckin thing.”

“Get outta town.”

“Ya.  My dad is a total tool geek and he insisted my name be Henry Phillips – the guy who patented the cross screwdriver.  He didn’t tell my mom until after I was born.  I’m pretty sure that is why they got divorced.”

“What?!”

“Well not exactly, but it couldn’t have fuckin helped.  Anyway, I was like three.  My mom made sure from then on everyone used my middle name.

“Oscar,”  Tim said.

“Nice to meet ya,”  Oscar raised his empty beer bottle and they both laughed.  Tim wanted to get them another beer but feared breaking the moment by going to the kitchen.

“Guys.”  Stan opened the door connecting the garage to the laundry room with his left hand and held up his right hand carrying two green bottles of beer.  “Do I have any customers?”  

Oscar jumped to his feet.

“Right on.  Perfect timing dad.”

“Where’s your beer Stan?”  Oscar asked.

“Back at the barbecue.  Burgers are gonna be ready in 5 minutes,”  Stan said, closing the door.

“Thanks dad,”  Stan loved hearing those words.  They ferried beautiful meaning.

“Nice and cold, thanks Stan,”  said Oscar as he grabbed a metal scraper with a wood handle from the workbench and popped the bottle caps off.

“Boys, dinners on the table,”  Tim’s mom chirped and then she knocked on the door.  Tim and Oscar chuckled at the backward sequence of it.

ar Oscar imagined that the granite boulder of depression weighing on his shoulders was crumbling into shiny grains of crystalline red, black and silver sand that fell off his back spilling around his feet.

—- Phillips is part of the Short Story Series called Tool by Kevin McNamara

Kuari Pass Trek (Lord Curzon Trail)

The Perceptions Square

Kuari pass Top

When nothing in life makes sense, when you feel lost in the polluted urban jungle which you call home, then you have to go back to your roots, the wilderness from where your species evolved. That place, those mountains from where you truly belong.

After another difficult year , I decided to go for another Himalayan trek in the last week of October 2021 and my destination was Kuari Pass which lies at 3876m height (from sea level) in the Garhwal region of Himalayas ,Uttarakhand.

It was an autumn season in the Garhwal Himalayas and the entire trail was coloured in green , brown and golden colours. You can only see snow above 4100 meters at various mountain peaks that surround you through out the trek.

Among clouds above tree line

Some of the peaks that takes your breath away during this trek are Mt. Dronagiri…

View original post 322 more words

Short Story – Timber

Photo by Callum Hill on Unsplash

“Hey, let’s go grab a beer and wings at the pub.  They probably have the Leaf game on.”  said Stan.

“Wow, ok, ya dad.”  Tim said. “ But where’s mom?”

“She went over to visit your Aunt Magda.”

“Again?”

“Nothin to worry about.  Grab your coat.”

Stan poured them both more beer from the pitcher. 

“Thanks dad.”  Tim said without looking up.  Stan had trained himself to savour those phrases.   Tim really liked this father-son moment sitting at the bar watching the game and licking the bbq sauce off their fingers.

“Ya know, one of the other sales guys at work says his numbers are down because of the pandemic.  Everyone else’s have gone up.  What do you think is going on with that guy?”  Stan asked. 

“Dunno.  Lots of factors: pandemic, budgets, competition.  Or it could be something personal”

“Exactly.  Those are the same factors for all salespeople.  So why would his sales be lower?” 

“OH yes.  Oh, no.  Shit, nice stop by the New York goalie.  Nylander should have gone 5 hole.  Sorry dad. What was the question?”  

Stan made himself busy gnawing on a chicken wing.

“Right, why are this one guy’s numbers lower than the rest of you?  Ummm.  Well I don’t know the guy personally so it is tough to say.” Tim distanced himself from the question.

“He doesn’t know what he wants.”  Stan said.

“Well, who actually wants to sell industrial racking systems?”  Tim grabbed another wing from the plate between them with a rapid glance at his dad.  “I mean does it bring him satisfaction?”

“With all these Amazon fulfilment centres mushrooming up all over the place it is an amazing opportunity to build a career.”

“Are you suggesting that I apply for a job there?”

“If that is what you want.”  Said Stan.  “You see, I don’t see you passionate about graphic design.

“Well, in a way, you’re right.  It’s my entrance into the gaming world and the whole Metaverse and NFTs.  Remember I explained that whole scenario to you.”

“I remember you told me Eminem invested thousands of dollars in a pdf.” 

“It’s more complicated than that.”

“My point is Tim, it has been a year and a half since you finished high school and I haven’t seen any, you know, growth.  I see you in your gaming chair and hear you scream when one of your buddies shoots you.  But don’t hear anything about your on-line courses.  I haven’t had you come up to me with a notebook and specific questions you have for growing a business or finding clients.”

Tim wiped his fingers with that noxious moist towelette they give you and grabbed his beer, 

“So what happens now?” He arched his back after being hunched over his plate of wings and looked straight ahead at the big screen tv.

“You start paying rent the beginning of May.”  Stan said

They stared at the same screen but were miles apart.

“If you want to go to college, for graphic design or anything else, I will pay 50% of the tuition while you live at home.  And at that point we can negotiate the rent.”

“That was over two years ago.” Said Tim grabbing another nail from his pouch.

“So whadaya wanna do, bro?”  Asked Manuel 

“I wanna buy a house.  I dunno, maybe flip it.  We’ll see.

“So what’d your dad say when you told im that?”

“Well of course I didn’t talk to my dad the whole Uber ride home like any self respecting 20 year spoiled brat would do.  Then lying on my bed with a pleasant beer buzz.”

“Wait, who says pleasant?” Interrupted Manuel. 

“Hey, it’s my fuckin story pal?”

“And who says pal?”  Manuel teased.

“Do you want me to push you off this fuckin floor?  Pal?” 

“Chill bro, chill.”  

They were framing the second story of this new house they had been working on for 2 weeks.  They were supposed to have finished by the end of October but they didn’t get started till the beginning of November. And still the general contractor was putting pressure on them.  But it wasn’t their fault.  The general contractor didn’t want to pay such a high price for the lumber so he delayed hoping the price would go down.

The price didn’t go down so that backfired and Tim and Manuel had to pick up smaller jobs in the meantime.  Tim had signed up on one of those handyman apps.  It was called Odd Man.  Horrible name but they paid.  He wasn’t supposed to because he was in the union.  And the thing was the local carpenters’ union had worked out really well for him.

That Friday night Tim went out with his gaming buddies Raf and Tony.   They were attempting to meet women so they were at a bar with Tony’s sister and a few of her friends.

“So chillin there, on my bed with a mild beer buzz I felt the house really, I don’t know, empty without my mom there.  I grabbed my phone but focusing on that kind of killed the beer buzz and only made me angry.” 

“Angry?  Why?”  Asked the friend of Tony’s sister. 

“I have lots of reasons, bro.”

“I’m not your bro.”

“Sorry, man.  Sorry again”

“Like…?”

“Like what?”

“Like what reasons.”

“Like… Well in this case ‘cause my dad was harpin on me about my entire future right.  Anyway, I, like I say, I don’t know but I was driving myself crazy so I went down the hall and my dad was reading at the kitchen table and I said,

“Hey dad …?”

“Tim…”

“Sorry for not, you know, for not talking to you on the Uber ride home.”

Stan looked at Tim slouching in his dropping sweat pants that had never seen a drop of sweat in their life.

“I remember, I took a big breath making me stand up straight and I said, 

“What about Marco, Vince’s son?  You said he joined the carpenter’s union and makes good coin.”

“That’s right.”

“Well that’s what I want.  To make some good coin.”

“Give him a call.” 

“I don’t have his number.”

“He lives right around the corner.  Knock on his door.”

“Dad, nobody knocks on anybody’s door these days.”

“Then be a nobody.”  

“And that was over 2 years ago.”  Tim said.

“So,  Are you a nobody?” She asked.

“Look at my hands.  Are these nobody’s hands?”  Tim displayed his scratched hands, palm and back, to Trish, the friend of Tony’s sister, for her to appreciate his calluses and cuts.  

Trish put her phone in her back pocket “Look at my hands.  Are these the hands of a nobody?”  Turning over her manicured hands, palm and back for Tim to appreciate her silver rings and bright red fingernails.

“Those are the hands of …”  Tim had nothing.

“The hands of the cute young woman at the bar you are going to offer to buy a drink.”

“That is … exactly correct.”  Said Tim, briefly bowing his head.  “What’s your poison?”

“You sound like a bartender,  You’re not a frickin bartender.”

“Ok.  Hey there cute young woman with ravishing red fingernails,  can I interest you in a beverage?”

“That was cheesy but better.  I’m going to the bathroom.  Order me something you think I would like.”  Trish nodded to one of the other young women in the group of friends of the sister and they headed to the bathroom.

Tim turned to the bar.

“What’s your poison?”  The bartender asked.

Tim shook his head quickly.  

“Did you see the woman I was talking to?  What do you think she would like to drink?”

“I actually don’t recall seeing her specifically but you can’t go wrong with a Tom Collins.”

“I’ll get one of those and another pint of Creemore?”   

“Do you remember my name?”  Trish asked as she accepted the drink.

“Do you know my name?”  Tim countered.

“Tim.”  Trish placed the limp slice of lime on the napkin on the bar and sipped the Tom Collins.   “Your turn”

“I don’t … recall.”  Said Tim, copying the bartender.

“Do you live with your parents?”  

“If you can believe it I would prefer the answer to be yes.  I’m trying to save up to buy a house.  I actually live with 2 other guys in a shithole with a filthy bathtub that hasn’t been cleaned in months.”

“Then clean it.”

Alcohol Intelligence is the original AI.  It has been the modus operandi of many a shy/angry/ill-equipped-for-life man.  It has worked well in the moment thousands and thousands of times.  It has damaged lives thousands of times.  It is the algorithm of getting sufficient alcohol into the body of at least one of the participants so they disconnect from reason, standards and dignity leading to sex within the first night, if not hours, of meeting each other.  Whether they want to or not.  

This, not surprisingly, was Tim’s default strategy.  He had not encountered any other creative techniques for flirting .  Stan was a good father/husband in that he was there day to day.  He provided.  Regardless, he didn’t know how to speak about women with his son.  Which is a major reason why now, at the bar, Tim was preprogrammed to align all mental and verbal efforts towards sex tonight. 

“Tina ..?”  Tim raised his eyebrows making a stab at her name.

“Trish.”  Trish wished Tim would stand up straight.  Three beers in, Tim wished he could smell her long back hair.  

“Trish, you wanna get outta here?”  

“And go where?  To your place.  Not until you clean it.”

“Why me?  I am waiting for my lazy roommates to clean it.  We all have our responsibilities in the home.  I am responsible for the kitchen.  Raf, did you meet Raf?  That’s him in the brown Atari t-shirt still holding his first beer of the night – he takes care of the garbage/sweeping mopping and shit like that, and that guy beside Raf …”

Trish shook her head and then leaned in to look into Tim’s eyes to make him stop.

“And why in the world would I be interested in your dysfunctional bro show in Nerdia?” 

“Bro show in Nerdia?”  Tim’s brain was temporarily blocked as her cool blue eyes hijacked his arterial system.  “What the fuck is Nerdia?”

“Oh that is what we call the imaginary place a gamer’s mind goes to when he enters his video game zone.  It’s a combination of nerd and Narnia.”   

“It sounds like you are pretty proud of yourself for coming up with that … title.”

“It works doesn’t it?”  Trish smirked with her eyes and sipped from the pink paper straw.  “I can tell you actually like the whole idea of having your own little niche in the Metaverse.”  Niche got its own punctuation: a wrinkling of the nose 

“Are you actually talking with me or am I like that half dead mouse that a cat plays with?”

“You did pretty well with the drink.”  Trish referred to the Tom Collins not wanting another one but wanting to keep Tim’s focus on her. 

Monday morning was light years away from the here and now of Friday night at the bar.  Right now Tim was the man of the moment.

“Timber or lumber.  What’s the difference?  Tim asked.

“It doesn’t matter.”  Manuel puffed out clouds of steam in the cold morning.  He hated working outside in the cold so he came to work pissed at Woodley, the GC because he delayed the project to save a few bucks and they ended up framing outside in late November. 

“You’re right it doesn’t matter,  It’s just I like to learn stuff, to understand stuff.” 

“What a fuckin waste of time.” 

Tim stopped hammering for a second as he felt the bubble he was in after going out with Trish again on Sunday afternoon was now being burst.   

“The problem with you is you’re a lazy paycheck to paycheck typical idiot.”  Tim puffed.

“Do you lay awake thinkin all these high school insults?”

“You’re worse than the fuckin spolied Canadians.”

“What de fuck you talkin about pendejo feo? Yer Canadian.”

“You don’t know what you’re talkin about.”

“If it was my choice, I’d fire your lazy, insubordinate ass.”

“Insubordination?!  What are we in the fuckin army.”  Laughed Tim.

“Shut your face and pass me another 2×4 before I freeze to death.”  Manuel said.

“Entitlement is usually reserved for white trash Canadians, not immigrants who usually have a better work ethic.  Unless they hate their parents.  Do you hate your parents?”

“What the fuck.  I’m bein paid to frame fuckin houses.  Not be psychoanalyzed.  This is bullshit.  Esto es una mierda.”  

‘Someone always ends up paying for the bullshit of others’, Tim thought as he dropped his toolbelt with a thud on the plywood floor of the open second story.  Their friendly barbs had never landed them actually angry at each other.   

He didn’t really need to take a piss but he needed to create some space between the two of them.  He learned this technique from his dad.  Also it would put him in a better mood because he just loved the inventive names the portable toilet companies had like Willy Make it, or Royal Flush.  The one at the end of the driveway was Urinbiz.

“Here.”  Manuel made up with Tim by getting him a coffee he didn’t ask for.

“Thanks bro.”

“Bro, this is the last job I do for Woodley.  If you wanna keep workin wit em, man it’s totally your right.  But me bro, this is my last. I’m done”  As Manuel sipped his double double he was holding onto a loose 2×4 like it was a small tree.  He let it go and as it began to fall he said in a whispered yell,

“Timber.” 

Short Story – Duct Tape

Duct tape

‘Ya baby’ Joe says to himself.  Emerging from the forest he wipes sweat from his eyebrows as he slows from running to a walk.   Sitting on the bumper of his open trunk, he chugs water and scribbles the perceptions of the tree sap.    

On his forest runs, Joe duct tapes tree sap (today it was Blue Spruce) to his forehead,  wraps his head with his blue bandana and runs in the forest.   As he runs his heat starts to liquify the resin. Joe’s theory is he will absorb the essence, the history and the mineral of the sap.  Then he needs the grammar to be able to translate it.

~~~~~

‘Hey bro, I’m gonna take a shower.’  Felipe said when Joe opened the door to their apartment.

‘Wait.  What’s your problem? You’ve been in bed all fuckin morning and, unlike you, I have to work.  Why the fuck would you need to clean your shitty body right now?

~~~~~

‘Dude, I apologize.’  Joe said after showering first.  ‘I was in another space when I arrived because … whatever.  I’m sorry.’

‘Ok, Whatever.’  Felipe copied Joe. ‘ Are you off to work now?’

‘No, I am going to make lunch.  Are you going to shower?’ Asked Joe.

‘No’

‘What?!  ‘When I got in I thought you were going to shower.’

‘The moment … passed.’  Felipe said.

‘Don’t tell me.  You’re hungry for the food I make.  But you’re not hungry for the food you don’t make.’  Joe grilled his roommate.

Felipe accessed his go-to guilt mongering moves:  slow shoulder shrug, meekly look to the floor. 

~~~~~

A month after kicking Felipe out Joe’s new roommate would be a friend of Sarah’s (one of Joe’s first clients).  Irena was arriving in town in 2 or 3 weeks.  She already had work and just needed a place to live.  Felipe only took his belongings so Joe paid to dispose of the mattress but left the desk and chair in the hope of saving the world from another Allen key assembled desk and bookshelf.  

‘Here is first and last month’s rent.’   Irena said, ‘Holding out her hand with twelve one hundred dollar bills.’  

Walking up with a bunch of clothes on hangers, Irena’s dad locked eyes with Joe, ‘All good?’  Joe nodded too many times, too quickly thinking he had been seen checking out the guy’s daughter.

~~~~~

‘Hey, what are you listening to?’  Asks Irena as she comes in from her night shift and Joe happens to be putting away his grocery shopping (for the last hour).

‘That’s some early The Weeknd’

‘It’s a little whiny.’  Tests Irena.

‘The guy is talented. 

Within a week of Irena moving in the apartment smelled so fresh it made Joe think of getting flowers but that would have been weird.  He would put down his phone just to hear Irena walk from the shower to her room.  Joe didn’t want to jeopradize the reliable rent but his body was crushing with lust for Irena.  Joe was slow.  Irena had picked up on that signal weeks ago.

‘Irena, I think we both know that I think you’re hot.’ Joe knew now he had to shut his stupid mouth.  And wait what feels like millions of seconds.  Wait like an idiot or speak like a moron.

Irena’s radiance fills their 2 bedroom apartment.

‘Ya I agree.’  Irena talking tough, delayed a second, ‘ I’m pretty hot.’  Irena demures through her eyebrows; and then they both break out laughing.

‘You wanna go to the Mexican place up the street for a bite?’

‘Who me?’  Plays Irena.

‘No, with my assistant coach from peewee hockey!’

Walking into the headwind on Hitchens Street North Joe hugged Irena to his side.  

~~~~~

At times Irena’s shift work coincided with Joe’s night cleaning contracts.  It worked when the frolicking couple wanted to be together.  Joe surprised himself how he shared with Irena his deepening engagement with nature.

‘While you are working with doctors helping people I am barely learning to work with nature.  It’s a whole education.  The forest is a university.’  You know what I mean?’  Joe asked.

From the simple lexicon of willingness to love and be loved Irena said. ‘Yes.’

~~~~~

‘Mmmm, I love that pine scent – so sweet, vibrant and earthy.’  Irena inhaled the pebble of red pine sap she rolled in her fingers.

Joe thanked the tree for the sap then pulled a small piece off.  He stuck the duct tape with the nugget of sap to Irena’s forehead.’

‘Weirdo.’  Joe said, smiled at her with a cross-eyed look and kissed her.

‘Ok captain.’  Says Irena knotting her pink bandana and pumping her legs.  ‘Let’s heat up some of your sap.’  

In the autumn afternoon facing the forest, Joe speaks, 

‘I have no idea what this sap contraption does but it just has become my ritual between me and the forest.

He stood erect, shoulders back, vision focused deep into the forest for 10 seconds, and with a slight nod of his head, they entered the forest.

 ~~~~~

Joe is shaken.  ‘What?’  

‘Why not?’

‘Why not.’  Said Joe scared shitless to go out into the forest at night.

‘You are awake anyway, neither of us are working so let’s do it.’  Irena said

‘We can take a thermos.’ Joe rallied.

The trees having surrendered most of their leaves to the cycle of the seasons allowed them to take in a wide swath of stars.  Sat on a long shelf of river shale they wrapped themselves in the red wool blanket as they cupped their steaming tea.

‘I need to be different.’   Joe said

Irean looks at Joe sideways, ‘Don’t worry buddy, you are plenty different.  Which is plenty sexy.’

‘No.’  Says Joe ruining the moment. ‘Irena, my point is I need to not be my dad.’

‘You aren’t.  You won’t be.’

‘I can’t do that to you.’

‘We won’t let that happen.’

‘I can tell your dad is a big bad ghost lurking in your past.  Still I wouldn’t mind meeting him – so I can know you better.  So I can see where he finishes and you take off.’  Irena said.

‘It’s not like I am in a fight with my dad.’ Joe winced. ‘I don’t even know if he is alive.

‘My dad took me on my first fishing trip when I was like 6 or 7 years old.  He yanked me out of school and we went up to a cabin on the French River for almost the whole week.  My mom was furious he didn’t take her anywhere mid week on the spur of the moment.  One night when we finished dinner in the main lodge and got back to the cabin it was pitch black.

‘Where’s your tackle box boy?’  

‘I don’t know. Isn’t it here?’

‘I don’t see it.  Are you calling me blind?’

‘No, daddy, no.’

Well if it isn’t here where daya think it is hiding?’

‘Did I take it to the main lodge after I tied up the boat?’

‘Damn good question.  You gotta keep track a your gear.  The fish aren’t gonna’ do that for you.’  

‘What do I do?’  asked a trembling Joey hoping his dad would offer to look for it together.

‘You do what any good angler does.’  Joey’s dad stood with his back towards him and said, ‘He finds his gear before someone else does.’  

‘Where is the flashlight?’ asked Joey.

‘It’s in your tackle box?’ He lied.

‘So,’  Joe said looking into Irena’s eyes, ‘I walked towards the lights of the main lodge but my tackle box wasn’t there.  I was scared shitless because I had to go down to the dock.  There was no light.   I nearly kicked the tackle box into the water.  It was on the dock beside our rented boat.

So that kind of ruined any nighttime wilderness adventure for me – till now.  Till you.’ 

Irena readjusted their blanket and caressed Joe’s hand as she breathed in every ounce of the moment.

‘You know what my dad said before he left the day I moved in?’  Asked Irena.

‘I have no idea.  But he did give me the once over when we were unloading your stuff.  By his reaction I think he felt you had nothing to worry about.’  Joe said.

‘Meaning what?’

Meaning that there was no way a woman like you would be interested in a schmoe named  Joe.’

‘Maybe.  Or maybe he could tell you weren’t a prick.  And that I was safe.’

Joe loved the breath he was breathing, ‘You are safe.’

Irena laid her head on his shoulder and her imagination went to work.

After a few magic minutes, ‘Hey, what did you mean by a woman like you ?

‘A total babe with beautiful brown eyes; not afraid of the dark and not afraid to duct tape sap to her forehead.‘

Short Story – Rootball

Photo by Gigi on Unsplash

Root ball

The boss explained to Roger it was the pandemic.  His manager told him it was Artificial Intelligence.  

‘Buddy,’ Rick, his colleague, relished saying, ‘ You just don’t fit in with the company vision.’  

‘Vision for what?’ Wanted to know Roger even though it really didn’t matter as he was on his way out the door.

‘A vision, you imbecile, of making money off of paying clients.’  Rick the dick chuckled as he rubbed Roger’s face in it.

‘That was.’  Roger shook his head as his shoulders sagged, ‘Harsh.’

‘Yeah. Who cares?’  Rick stared into Roger with his legs astride as if he was on the podium having won the Italian Grand Prix at Monza. 

‘So, you spineless piece of shit, how do you fit into their money making vision?’  Roger needed to know.

‘Me?  I just count the stuff as it comes in.  I transferred to accounting.  I don’t want to be in the field anymore.  I don’t want to be made obsolete.’

‘Like me.  Right’

‘You said it, not me.’

Leann, Roger’s wife, made her younger brother Ryan give Roger a job.  She has been working from home for almost a year and for 4 months of that Roger had been out of work and driving her crazy.  

‘It’s like I didn’t even know my own husband until I spent time with him.’  Confides Leann.

‘That doesn’t bode well.’   

‘It turns out the more time you spend with him the more Roger he becomes.’  Lets slip Leann.

‘What’s that supposed to mean?’  Her mom needs to know.

Realizing she said that out loud Leann now has to reconcile it with reality.

 It’s not really a bad thing.’  She tells her mom by Zoom. 

‘Darling,  meaning what exactly?  That he gets all creepy and …?’  investigates her mom.

‘No, no no. Nothing like that.  It’s just that, after a while, he lands on the annoying side of bizarre.’  

‘How long is a while?’  Mom gets right to the point.

Leann sighs.  Looks into the Zoom version of her mother’s eyes, drops her eyes to her computer keyboard and returns to meet her mom’s eyes again.

‘Half an hour.’

When Leann and Roger married they had an understanding there weren’t going to be any children.  Leann would have been open to adopting if he was but Roger who didn’t want to spin the roulette wheel on someone else’s DNA.  Over time Leann saw what he meant first hand.  Twenty-nine going on thirty years old was not yet the prime age for a mid-life crisis.  Leann would need to find another excuse to assimilate Roger’s lack of traction with daily life.

~~~

Straight outta calculus Ryan jokes when asked about when he started his company.   In his final year of high school, 3 months before final exams, he slammed his textbooks closed, ignored his mother’s pleadings and walked out the door.  With his rusting pickup truck, his best friend Mark and the family electric lawn mower he started a landscaping company.

In his first summer landscaping, he and Mark, with a bout of the munchies, were waiting in McDonald’s drive-thru aching to scarf down a few Big Macs.  Back in the day you could drive high.  

‘The company needs a name bro!’  Says Mark in the wait between placing their order and the pick up window.

‘Why?’

‘To meet girls.’

‘What do you have in mind?’ An interested Ryan asks. 

‘Nothin’’

‘No shit!’

‘Except visions of Big Macs dancing in my head.’ Mark says grinning like an idiot. 

Ryan turned down the radio and leaned forward looking at the big McDonald’s logo: those famous Golden Arches; ‘Golden Branches …?’

What?

Golden Branches Landscaping bro!  Whaddaya think?

Dude …! 

I know right …?

Golden Branches Landscaping baby!

Ten years later, sitting in the driver seat of his warm white 4 x 4 pickup with the engine running, Ryan pulled at his scruffy beard as he mentally digested his odd brother-in-law. 

My Roger doesn’t need dope – he can go interplanetary under his own steam – thought Ryan

On a podcast Ryan had heard that if you want to work things out try talking to yourself.

My Roger …’  Ryan started, which self-startled him causing him to stall.  

‘Why the fuck is he My Roger?’  Ryan shook his head at himself. 

He gazed into his blue and white Toronto Maple Leafs hockey player bobblehead glued to the dashboard that subtly wiggled and jiggled to the purr of the diesel engine. 

Having slid into a pensive moment Mark startled Ryan by jumping into the passenger seat of the cab.

‘Dude we have to talk.  We are falling way behind on this fucking project.  Did you see the forecast?  We are getting more frost 3 days in a row.  We need to…’

‘I know genius!!  I know what we need.’    

‘Whoa!  Bro oo… What the …?  Let’s go for coffee. I’m buying.’

‘Fuck coffees.’

‘Ya know that small alien creature that crawled up your ass and took a shit must have been some ugly?’

‘Let’s go.  Let’s show these guys this isn’t a babysitting service.’ Ryan jumps out of the truck.

No one on the team knew Roger was the boss’s brother-in-law.  They just thought he was one of those flakes who finds work with them each season.  The flotsam of society. Men that know what they don’t want.  Guys who are connected to reality by gravity, government checks and little else.  They want to be paid cash daily,  they call everyone by a nickname after meeting them 5 minutes ago and you hardly ever see them eat.  One day they never show up again and their work boots will stay behind the back seat of the work truck until the end of the season and then get donated.  

Roger’s previous job as an insurance assessor was less than a year ago but felt like a lifetime away.  The money was steady and the questions were few, the rules were clear and the creativity was zero.  There should have been little chance for him to alienate himself yet they still found a way to push him out the door.  Roger wasn’t sad or surprised because he easily could have told you he wasn’t living and working in the here and now

In the bowels of spring are frigid February nights with minutes colder than hours. Roger needed to tell someone how, in the fathoms of darkness, cut loose by the leylines of sleep, he lay awake as sewer rats and hoary bats were gnawing at the sinews of his soul.  And then he would quickly submit a disclaimer to whoever would listen that while all this was achingly paralyzing there was, available, an undercurrent of light that was freeing.

Sleepless and alone in the basement pull-out bed with his blue eyes wide open he had a 3 am epiphany about what gave him satisfaction: Delivering results while doing work that congealed in him a real here and now feeling.  Unaware that he was picking at the earth under his fingernails he loved what he just learned he wanted.

Along a client’s side and front lawn they were planting a row of cedar trees.  As he plants and rakes, weeds and waters Roger is fascinated by the potential of that root ball that the trees come with from the nursery.   On his knees with his bare hands in the moist and fervent soil, Roger inhaled the poignant autumn air.  It was like he was being paid to do downward facing dog.  

Like roots drawing minerals into the plant – Roger spoke under his breath as he helped to guide Jose driving the Bobcat as it dropped one of the cedars gently inside the hole where it would be planted – parents draw minerals into their child’s life. 

Roger’s insight continued –  the challenge in the progression of a man is to mineralize his own life – with what he wants.

That is exactly what is happening to Roger.  Whether he knows it or not. 

To them Roger seemed to talk more with the trees then he did with them so the guys nicknamed him Rootball Roger.  They needed to pigeonhole him in order to accept him as one of their own.  They want to accept him as part of the tribal urge to work together.  Then there is what goes unmentioned, and poorly understood; the importance of accepting a guy so he doesn’t feel the loneliness of no tribe.  

‘Rootball.  Mrs Crowsworth always asks us to knock on her door just so she knows we are working around her place.’   Robbie, the lead hand, told Roger.  ‘Plus she likes meeting the rookies.’

The truth Robbie knew was Mrs Crowsworth hates when anyone knocks on her door.  She patented peering out from behind her living room curtain at the people working on her yard.  The guys pretended to be busy oiling the clipper and gassing up the leaf blowers in anticipation of the show.  Mrs. Crowsworth did not disappoint.  

‘Did your office not tell you to not bother me?!

‘I’ Stammered Roger taking a step back having rung the doorbell.

‘Are you new or dumb or both?!  I‘ve never seen you before.’

‘If no one can knock on your door how do you see them?’  Roger got suckered in.

‘How dare you?  I keep tabs on you people you know!  I am going to call Ryan and cancel your crazy company.’

‘Crazy…?’  It slipped out.  ‘What the hell?!  No, no please don’t call Ryan!’ Pleaded Roger.  ‘It won’t happen again, I promise.’

‘That’s what the last guy said.’  Scowled Mrs Crowsworth while sizing up Roger having sensed his sincerity.

Back at the work truck Robbie and Jose were almost pissing themselves with laughter.  They couldn’t have had a better victim to offer Mrs Crowsworth.

‘Hook, line and fuckin’ sinker baby!’ Howled Jose watching from the truck and high fiving Robbie.

When Roger left at 6:30 am each morning Leann sent him off with a hot coffee and what was once a lukewarm kiss was now an air kiss.  Once he was gone Leann breathed easier and could send off a few emails so her colleagues and clients would see she was working really early.   The plan was to work a few focused hours then live her life while Roger was at work.  Leann had found a great online yoga teacher that went at her speed.  Her friend Rita recommended a great online cooking show with a spontaneous cook who made dishes based on a Mediterranean diet.  She alternated days between yoga and cooking or watching travel videos.

Then around 4:30 pm he would open the back door, drop his backpack and say ‘Hey babe, how was your day?’ as he reached into the fridge for his first beer.  Leann would make sure she was back at her work desk with her headset on to ask, 

‘How’d it go today hun?’

‘Good, just working late with the west coast office.’  Leann would lie so they wouldn’t have to sit down to dinner across the table from each other.  Which made a lot of sense as they were no longer sleeping in the same bed.  Or the same room.  Nothing wrong with separate beds but these two were on different tectonic plates going in opposite directions.   

‘It just feels like I am losing money. Even though I know he paid the down payment.’  Leann confides in Rita.

‘Leann, honey.  We all know that was $30 thousand from his parents.’  Rita reminded them.  ‘And you have been basically bringing home the bacon for the last year while Roger does his pre mid-life crisis soul searching.’

Ya, I know.’

‘How’s that going?’

‘Well if his soul is in the basement then he may be on to something.’  Leann offered.

‘What – he moved down to the basement.  I knew you weren’t sleeping in the same bed but this is new.’

‘Ya.  He kind of lives down there.’

‘What the hell?!  How long has this been going on?’  

‘It’s been a few months.’

‘Leann?  Rita was lost for words which she didn’t like.  Have you talked to your mom?’

‘She knows but she doesn’t know the details.’

‘Do you know the details?  Wake the fuck you stupid woman!!  This is your life.  And for what it’s worth, it’s Roger’s life too.  He doesn’t have the capacity to give you what you want.  And you have the capacity for love, young lady.’

Except for when Ryan called asking him to help clean up a whole bunch of broken branches after that violent windstorm in the middle of December Roger hadn’t worked since the beginning of November.  Landscaping season leads to snow shovelling for guys with nothing better.  Roger’s weakening back can’t handle shovelling snow for a living.  It was now almost February and Roger could only think of having to contribute to the mortgage payments.  

‘If I didn’t have the mortgage pressure hanging over me then I would be hating thinking about being 30 and living in my own basement.’  Roger admits to Dean.  Dean and Roger were neighbours growing up.  They bumped into each other at Canadian Tire so Roger invited him out for a beer. 

‘So, how would you say Laura is dealing with your whole situation?’ Asked Dean, gradually embracing that he was being pulled into some guy’s uncomfortable marriage drama. 

‘Work or relationship?’ Deflected Roger not correcting Dean when he got his wife’s name right.

‘The whole enchilada.’  Frowned Dean as a way to distance himself from participation in Roger’s reality.

‘Well out of some sense of weird self respect I can’t make my wife have to put up with me while I am like this.’ 

Roger lifts his hands to then point his fingers back at himself.  ‘This. This is being lost.  But.’  He raises his index finger as he lowers his gaze. ‘The good news is I know I am lost.’

‘How does that make you feel?’  Dean asks having gone full-on therapist.

‘I don’t like it.’  

‘And I doubt your wife likes it either.’

‘She doesn’t.’ Admits Roger.

‘She doesn’t?!  Then leave.’  You moron Dean says with his eyebrows.’

‘What…?’

‘Leave.  Pack your bags.  Move out.’  

‘Hey man, what the hell.  I am looking for a little man to man compassion here.’

‘What you seek is compassion and what you need is a kick in the ass.’  Proclaimed Dean before  taking a long sip of his crisp second pint.

‘Shit and fuck!  Man you know I am just at the end of my no good Goddamn rope here!’

‘Dude, wake the fuck up!!’  Dean was sensing the best thing he could do for Roger was to rattle his cage.  ‘From what I am hearing you don’t have a relationship.  You’ve got a rental agreement.’  

‘No relationship is perfect.’  Justifies Roger.

‘Exactly.  That’s my point, numb nuts!!  Yours has crossed the line from, what I imagine was a living connection with your wife to a business deal where your client is actually disinterested in your services.’ 

‘Did you fucking rehearse this shit before you came here?’

‘Dude.  You invited me for a beer.   You know man talking with you, it is frustrating. Infuriating. You’re such a …’  Dean doesn’t complete his thought.

‘Say it’  Begs Roger.

‘Such …. I mean from 20 minutes of swilling beers with you all I can say is you feel like a lost cause of a man.’  Dean gives what Roger asked for.

‘A lost cause’ repeated Roger.  Both guys drank long from their pints.

‘How ya feeling now?’

‘Like I’m drowning.’

‘Good’

‘Good?!’

‘If you’re drowning then you swim straight to the surface, like a mad man.  You become the fucking solution.’

‘Fucking solution.’  Repeated Roger unconsciously. 

‘You.’  Dean aims the word as he tips his pint at Roger.

Roger downed the rest of his beer staring Dean in the eyes.

In a matter of days Roger pivoted.  He cashed in his RRSP, gave Leann 6 months of his part of the mortgage payment during which he said she could sell the house or buy him out.  He bought a 4×4 pickup like Ryan’s and got on Instagram promoting Trent Urban Farming.  Or as Roger liked to think of it by its initials: TUF

Pivot was one of those buzz words like unprecedented and quarantine that hogged the vocabulary of the Global Covid Republic 2020 +.  

Roger had pivoted out of insurance, paused in landscaping and set his sights on urban farming.  About which he knew nothing (except 3 months with Golden Branches Landscaping) but he really thought having a lawn with grass in front of your house was stupid.  Including his own suburban piece of paradise.

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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