Growth SIStem

Photo by Fayette Reynolds M.S.


As your body generates new cells …

code the new issue of cells with what you want to be your beliefs. 

Code the cells with your life purpose. 

Code them with your Growth SIStem of: Persist, Resist and Insist. 

Growth SISTEM:

Persist in growing by being curious and humble

Resist the low levels of energy that use pettiness and apathy by being firm in what you believe and flexible in how you achieve it. 

Insist in dignity and authenticity. 

Integrate your beliefs into daily life:

Using short prayers composed of a few words to align your intentions; or

Long prayers of putting those intentions into action. 

New cells are like a newborn baby – fresh from the source – innocent and clean passing from the marrow through your bones Into your bloodstream. There is a heritage of knowledge passed on from ‘old’ cells to the fresh ones. The brand newest of cells are reasserting your well being and ready to receive the human ancestral wisdom. They have a purpose. They have an intelligence. They have a mechanical infrastructure. They have their engraving agility (as opposed to emotional agility). This is an agility to transcribe and translate the DNA via RNA into actionable instructions. This is cellular level synthesis of energy into magnetic information that can be repeated.  The residue of this cellular synthesis is hosted by the blood. 

What do you want to host in your blood as your cellular orientation.  Can they grasp what you want now, as an adult? Or is your childhood programming stronger than what you want? 

To the Power

To The Power of …

As in mathematics.

As in exponential.

As in the power that is incumbent in the design of all things.  In the case of humans, power refers to the powers to resist, insist and resist.  Resist the lower levels of energy in pursuit of meaning.  Insist on being responsible for your thoughts and actions that support the community.  Persist in elevating to higher realms that love to be in service to perceptions about growth.

However we are self-inflicted with auto-GMO.  The design has been messed with.  In the physical, psychological, emotional and spiritual domains.  

It’s been a fierce few thousand years of downward pointing modification that we have not been able to resist.  Modification of men and of women.  Of education.  Of religion.  Modification away from the natural design towards the power of profit.  Profit has perverted the power away from purpose.

Maybe the market momentum for electrical vehicles these days is unconsciously mirroring a need for realignment towards something less abrasive to the surroundings; be those people or the planet.

Consider the formula:

Man to the power of two = Man squared.  If you think about it, that means man to the power of himself.  Whatever he considers himself to be is what will give him power.  If he has confidence in himself, in his skills and qualities, they are empowered by his degree of confidence in his ability to get stuff done.  Whether that stuff supports mutual growth or the attainment of power. 

More man power formulas:

Man to the power of self ignorance; man to the power of the life stage he is passing through; man to the power of soul trajectory.  All of these energies a man can process in a span of a few seconds – boom boom boom.   Which can cause him to not know what he wants because there are conflicting energies petitioning his awareness.  And those around him can think he is lost or doesn’t have ambition.

Man to the power of …  anything – implies there is a great versatility in the design of a man to be amplified.  And that is what every teenage boy is waiting for.  Anything that leads him to build his identity.  A teenage identity can be the foundation which leads to meaning for a man as he passes from adult into elder.

A man needs clarity to choose his own alignment?  Clarity can take time: perhaps in a conversation, through years of therapy or on one’s deathbed. 

What are your alignment options?  Align yourself to success, to a sense of community, to your inherited religion – or possibly a mix of all of the above. 

What is required to make your alignment relevant and (yet) religious?  Actually making it relevant points to a religious life;  making it religious makes it relevant – to what is above and below – past and future.

We all use the same tool to measure love. The instinct is like the heart of the soul – pumping the marrow of the moment into your capacities.  The instinct assumes that you want to be in the best possible health so your faculties will be in service to your soul trajectory.  Confluence of corporeal and soul health is exactly what the planet looks for in a human.  

The challenge is when we are lost – meaning not in touch with our instinct – not in communication with the human instinct.  When someone is lost, it can be difficult to find the ramp to exit from the highway to nowhere.  

Like GPS on your phone is for you to get to the farm outside the city where they have those really expensive u-cut your own Christmas tree, the instinct is the GPS of the soul.

Your instinct resonates with the truth of you in the moment.  

The greater we can, on a daily basis, jump out of the claws of being lost and into the embrace of love and its corollaries of awareness, sharing, service, understanding and agility, the more we can experience being responsible for our daily relevance and religious alignment.  Thus in the equation/formula of man to the power of  ___________ we can insert the alignment we want for us based on our generation of personal beliefs (big and small). 

Turn Your Genes Inside Out

Photo by Ivan Rudoy on Unsplash


New cells are like a newborn baby – fresh from the source; innocent and clean. They have a purpose. (Since most days of our life there are new cells generating this offers a thread we can follow to connect us to our purpose.)

These cells have an intelligence with which they are eager to permeate our being.  Issuing from within your marrow your cells have a mechanical infrastructure to get the job done with grace.  Grace is a trinity of strength, beauty and meaning.  Cells appear inside you that foster your awareness of meaning. Your meaning seems to us to be written in hieroglyphics because it is written into our DNA.  These unique string stories refer to your universal nature that you reveal in your fealty to your instinct in daily life. 

Adjacent to your emotional agility is your cells engraving agility.  This is an agility to transcribe and translate the DNA via RNA into actionable instructions. This is cellular level synthesis of electrical energy into magnetic information.  The residue of this cellular synthesis is hosted by the blood. 

What do you want to host in your blood as your cellular orientation?

You are the conscious leader of unconscious cellular syntheses, which can function as your troops. Are you on the same page? Can they grasp what you want now, as an adult? Or is your childhood programming stronger than what you want? 

These are micro dynamics that are true to their function and produce accurate results at the level of Elevated energy.  The macro dynamic is everyday life.  You are the macro manager of the purpose of your cellular micro life.

Our job is to find a way elevated information can be integrated into daily life. 

It’s easy when it flows and it is difficult when our intentions are out of sync with our cells’ purpose.

Short Story: The Pythia

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It wasn’t supposed to be a beauty contest.  If it was, Nicola would not have won.  Her bigger bones had sharper angles; her beauty didn’t quite fit into her body.  Being an odd, perceptive woman she attracted people’s attention but not the love of a man.  Which was one of the reasons the priests chose her.  Her father’s connections were another.  And the position was open as a third.  And by coincidence, Apollo was unlucky in love.

Being one of The Pythia engaged Nicola’s thoughts and replaced her need for a man’s love even if most of the priests that surrounded her had no interest in her.  Within six months of Niolca starting her training Anna, the most experienced Priestess, contracted pneumonia, could no longer attend the temple and was buried soon after. The other priestess got knocked up by one of the visiting supplicants who she met bathing in the Castalian spring.  With her two ushers unavailable Nicola had become the Oracle of Delphi.

Though Nicola knew she lacked sufficient training and practice she felt her belief in herself could make up the difference until she had more experience.  Her belief however was not important to the priests of the Temple of Apollo.  They felt she hadn’t observed and absorbed the wiles of Anna.  Anna was an excellent actress; she could feign possession by the spirits and struggle to find the human lexicon when translating the message from Apollo   She tailored her private performances to each supplicant so they would go away with a prophecy that was promising yet mysterious.  If the prophecy didn’t lead to their desired result then the supplicant could be accused of lacking faith in the Pythia and follow through on the prophecy.   

Now Nicola would be in charge of an apprentice.  She didn’t want her assistant to know more than her so she asked her father to tell the priests to interview her brother-in-law’s sister as the next Pythia in training.  Dimitra was a young woman of status but not of any specific intelligence that could be developed for the role of the Pythia.  Plus Nicola felt, in those warm afternoon breezes, she looked better than Dimitra in the colourful, flowing robes of steel blue and ruby red.

Before being tarnished by greed, being chosen as the Pythia was an honour. It was one of the few official positions where a woman’s instinct in the society was valued.  Now the priests would appear beside the supplicants and provide context to the cryptic message from the Oracle.  Nicola grasped that she was to play the role of a possessed priestess or she would be replaced.  

She coached Dimitra on how to respond to the requests of the supplicants.  Both women faked possession by the attendance of the essence of Apollo. Most of the time the priests had no idea what their message was; they simply knew what the supplicants were looking for and would convert the gibberish into witty riddles and enigmatic poems that could be taken either way.

The more tenuous the connections between the woman, her instinct and the planet, the more accessories were used during the ceremony.  The clouds of incense that filled the temple gave Dimitra a headache so she couldn’t think straight.  She would become dizzy  causing her to wobble on her stool which only helped to further the myth of her possession by Apollo.

Nicola and Dimitra preferred to knock their clients off their game so their methods couldn’t be questioned.  Relaxing them with an excess of food and libation and possibly female distraction they were less demanding for details about naval victory or political alliances as they were now feeling more satisfied in the moment.  For those who came with questions of lesser importance, like family disputes they would simply embroil them in greater family drama using guilt and blame.  In such cases there was no connection with Apollo, nor consultation of any respectable god energy.

The elders had called a Symvoulio, a local Council meeting, to express their increasing concern about the direction of the gymnasium for the children, Apollo’s sanctuary and the descent of the Pythia towards drachma and away from caduceus. Jonas, one of the local elders, showed up with a handful of arrows and a scowl.  The myths, rumours and convenient lies that manipulated the role of The Pythia for social and economic means was atrocious. The priests were scared.   

The elders told the priests to choose, as the next Pythia, a woman who didn’t abandon the female instinct.  A woman who knew her decisions would impact generations of Pelasgians and many rotations of the planet.  A woman who loved the beautiful story of the gods as a way to make the higher realms of life energy tangible yet still sacred.  

Lydia had travelled with her dad’s cousin Jonas on one of his business trips; was engaged to Tobias who was working his family’s olive orchard.  She saw that not only did Dimitra and Nicola not have the desire to deepen in the understanding of higher connection but lacked the capacity to engage the discipline of the role of an oracle.  Lydia knew not to attempt to clarify for these flousies that Apollo was not the source of the vision of the future – that it was a local planetary energy that permeated the rock of Delphi, resonating in the minerals and the water reaching hundreds of metres down.

Sprouting at the shore of the Gulf of Corinth there was a gnarly vine of human survival ascending from fishing off the coast to olive groves on the mountain side levelling out to ranching sheep as Mount Parnassus plateaus to where the spring hosted the Oracle.  

Provoked by a sense of purpose Lydia’s gait lightened as she climbed the mountain path to the temple.  Lydia sensed that she had become a nexus of powers that expressed themselves through a human life.  Challenging; confusing and possibly crazy making while being inspiring and intriguing. It was on her walk up the mountain to the temple with her head covered by a white sheer headscarf and a turquoise skirt she could feel the force settle on her head like a sparrow on an olive branch.   It was weird the first time it happened.  When Lydia asked, Dimitra had no idea about any sensation of attendance of higher forces.

The day before she is to provide prophecy Lydia feels the power of the office of Oracle settle in her body.  She eats a small bowl of vegetable broth and drinks water with lemon the rest of the day.   As dusk would succumb to evening she would sit in her small room looking out her window above the neighbour’s roof and into the sky.  When she lay down to sleep she felt received by a benevolent force that rejuvenated her.  She was learning this was the attendance of what was called the power of Apollo.

In the temple, Lydia had placed a piece of amethyst crystal in a tiny accidental niche in the wall in the rear porch where the air stayed cool. It was a gift from cousin Jonas and  not something Lydia could afford to replace.   In the morning Lydia trained herself to inhale and exhale along the lines of her connection to the amethyst in the temple. She would breathe in the immense sky then, in her mind; walk to the temple picking up the wafts of myrrh before arriving, feeling her fingertips running over the dimpled limestone columns.

On these vision walks in her mind, she was discovering that the Pythia’s role was more of a healer than a diviner.  It was the healing guidance she offered that made people think she knew the future.  She knew that if you had issues with uric acid then juniper berries would help flush it out.  She knew that the incense could be used for much more than just bathing the supplicants in dramatic clouds of smoke; it had the capacity to elevate the atmosphere into a higher realm of awareness.  

Lydia was not popular because she didn’t require the service of the priests to translate her prophecies because she did not spout trance induced Gibberish.  Using her powers of observation plus her instinct Lydia promoted clarity and well being by applying two of the three Delphic maxims: Know thyself paired with nothing in excess.  Her straightforward manner angered the priests because it lacked mystique; it had a way of clearing mental fog with belief in oneself. The priests banked on that fog and people relinquishing their belief to the translation abilities of the priests.

Whereas the Priestess Pythia was portrayed as a beacon of serenity behind the scenes there was a lot of infighting.  Lydia argued with the other two because they insisted they had to wait 7 days after the new moon before they could offer prophecy.  Lydia explained that the point was to be clean, both the Pythia and the supplicant.  That is why she had designed a 3-day retreat for the supplicants as opposed to the bacchanalia of Dimitra and Nicola.  The retreat was only to include fresh fish from the gulf and water from the spring.  Likewise it was the woman who would, once cleansed by the moon, be ready to receive, grasp and deliver the message of the gods. 

The priests knew that Lydia was very well prepared for the role of Pythia.  Much more so than the current two that were neither experienced or perceptive.  Lydia’s sincerity jeopardised their business model.   The Castalian spring was well known and had many visitors even before the reputation of the Pythia grew.  There were important visitors from afar bringing gifts and wealth. The priests didn’t want their status or their economy to be diverted.  With international fame the energy of the place was more about the buzz of commerce than the connection with Gaia.  

Lydia wanted the opposite to happen – she wanted a thriving community based around listening to the Oracle – even if it wasn’t her because she knew there could be somebody much better than her at connecting with the air of Apollo.  Someone who is fresh as the vapour from the spring yet as wise as emanation of the rocks. 

Tobias agreed to help her decorate the temple in a manner that would be pleasing to the attendance of Oracle energies.  He was happy to support Lydia but also wanted to get on with their life as a family.  They had a sincere love that their parents remarked on but the family growth was stalled.  First it was because Tobias went to war but that was 4 years ago now.  When he returned home he discovered Lydia had left on a trip with her dad’s cousin Jonas to Italy. This was quite unusual for a woman at the time but not unexpected of Lydia.

It was the sound of how he inhaled that said it was over.  Which was no surprise.  But it wasn’t fair.  Lydia knew that she could be The Pythia and a wife and a mother.  She knows it.   It was heartbreaking.  Like this moment now with Tobias.  She loved him and she knew he loved her but she couldn’t let go of the Pythia. It was more her than she was herself if that made any sense.  Lydia said it was her duty to her lineage, her land, to be The Pythia. 

Lydia’s father could not understand why Lydia didn’t marry Tobias when he was ready to make a life with her.  Lydia’s mother who knows how to deal with her dad and chose her moments when his point of view needed adjusting.  This was one of those times.  She stood up and he sat down.  No words were spoken.  He was glad because he had no idea what to do next. 

Within a year Tobias would be a happy husband and a satisfied father.  He would make his father so proud by marching off to fight for the Spartan Alliance in the battle of Marathon.  He would make his wife distraught by not coming back. 

Emotional Agility Series – Inheritance

Emotional Agility is the capacity to synthesise elevated emotion with daily life.

Elevated emotion is the power within the growth of natural development.

What is your inheritance?

Is it: money, traditions, culture, a place in the family tree, unconscious beliefs, family trauma, a house, a business, lack of love/ self love, belonging, forgiveness.

Compare the following life themes in previous generations to identify what you have received and what you have impacted: family, neighbourhood, how much money there was and the work to get it, the awareness of the condition of the planet, religion, health, education, travel, communication, marriage, old age, language, goals.

Beliefs

How do all those themes influence your beliefs?  Are your beliefs the same as the previous generation(s)?  Have you updated the beliefs that you inherited?  How much do they impact you?  Do you have information previous generations didn’t have that you have used to update your beliefs?  Are your beliefs better than other peoples?

Ask yourself:

What do you want to give continuance to?

What do you not want to inherit?

Use your Sistem.

Persist – towards the light, towards elevated emotion, building Emotional Agility.

Resist – below and around you; friends, enemies, opportunities, habits; low level leeches

Insist – inside you.  Insist to uphold what you stand for.  What do you stand for?

Clarify your Big and Small Beliefs

Big B Beliefs are those about what it is unto itself,  in theory, for everyone.

Small b beliefs are how that Belief reveals itself in your life, in practice, in your daily life.

The challenge is to make small b relevant to Big B and Big B relevant to small b beliefs.  The flow of belief in action highlights your Emotional Agility.

Example

A Man

Big B Belief – A man is willing to participate in the growth and well being of his community.

Small b belief – I, as a man, love seeing my family safe and curious about life. 

In the wake of the recent shootings read this – Angry Young Men: 10 Good Reasons to be Angry

10 good reasons for young men to be angry young men:

1. Nobody can tell them about their Soul

Ayo Ogunseinde on Unsplash

2. They can’t get traction on responding to the stages in life.

3. He has been cut off from Nature.

4. They don’t understand women.

Nick Karvounis on Unsplash

5. The proverbial ‘man cave’ does an injustice to their abilities and needs.

6. They have no real rite of passage into manhood.

7. Satisfaction and Fulfillment have been usurped by blame and guilt.

8. They can’t find an elder.

9. Their youth and future have been tarnished by lack of vision by weak elders who know fear and lack of resistance.

10. The female instinct is not respected.

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Short Story – Toad part 2 of 3

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The two month delay because of the strike meant the real estate developers were way behind schedule to get 120 townhouses framed on their big Rowntree 3 project.  In order to avoid stiff fines for not having the homes ready for their buyers to move in on time they had to get the project done in a ridiculously short window of time.  As a result they were paying top dollar and brought in any and all guys who could swing a hammer.  Diego could swing a hammer.  He could also stand around with his hammer in his hand and talk while you work.  You would think he was single and had no one to talk with at home and so he used work as his therapy.  Paco wasn’t single either, he just looked that way.  His family was back in Guatemala where he hasn’t been in the three years he has been in Canada.  

“Donde chingados esta mi coche?” said Diego, freakin out. “NO me dices esto,” he says, with his eyes scrunched shut and pulling on his short black hair.  His new-to-him cobalt blue (no sunroof) 2016 Chevy Cruze is gone. He stood still for a few seconds playing a very brief mental movie in his mind called Fear.  

Fear of his girlfriend/mother of his daughter cell-yelling when he wasn’t home by 5:30. If he was driving he couldn’t text but when he declines her call that drives her crazy.  Then he would text her to say he would be another 30 minutes and she would think to herself why is he texting if he is driving.  Or maybe he isn’t driving, he is with una vieja and I’m gonna pull his hair out and feed it to her and pull his hair out and feed it to her.

Then, according to the script, when he gets home he can expect:

‘I told you not to get a car.  You know you can rent a car for like 80 bucks a day so to take my mother to Niagara falls you don’t need a car.   So you can’t say it was for me or for my mom or for the baby.  It was for you because you don’t want to wake up early and take the bus.  

‘Or stand in the fuckin cold at the bus stop,’ Diego, the pudgy whiner, imagines himself saying.

Paco looks at the screen on his cell and sees it’s a call from Diego –  he already regrets recommending this guy to Gus.

“One second Gus,” Diego turns away and sings as much as he talks his greeting. “Que pasa hermano?” 

“Alguien robó mi pinche coche.  Vieron algo?”

“No me dices esto bro,” said Paco without caring. 

“Preguntale brother,” insists Diego. 

“When are you gonna learn English cabron?” said Paco.

“Askem bro, por fa,” said Diego thinking his Spanglish would help his cause.

As Paco drops his hand with his phone to his hip he puts it on speaker.

“Hey Gus, Diego’s car is gone.  Do you know anything?” Asked Paco. 

Gus motioned with a quick flick of his chin towards the side street beside the job site. 

“No idea. Remember. I told you earlier. Tellem – Don’t park there – they will towem. And fuck me.  Looks like they did just that,” said Gus, restraining a  stupid-people-do-stupid-things-laugh. 

“Is that what you yell this morning?” asked Paco.

“Ya. I saw you nod and smile,” said Gus.  “So I thought whatshisface would move his car.”

“Porque no me dijiste pendejo?” Diego heard everything over the speaker. 

“Sorry bro.”

“Where take it, you know?” Diego yelled into his phone so Gus would hear.  His love of his car overcame his fear of speaking English.

“You gotta phone the city. They impounded it.  Shouldn’t be too far.”

“Impounded?   What the fuck,” cried Diego.

“Diego buddy Tabarnak, they towed it.  That’s all I know.” said Gus looking at Paco with wide eyes that asked ‘who the fuck is this guy?’.

“How much pay?” persisted Diego.

“Dunno. Couple hundred bucks maybe.”  said Gus accepting his steaming hot coffee,  “Thanks Dimitri.”

“Couple hundred?”

Gus was a few years older than Paco but both of them were in their 30’s.  Over the past few years they had been on a few projects together.  Gus liked Paco but didn’t make friends on the job because when push came to shout Gus couldn’t have any favourites.  But there was that one time when the concrete guys saw his name on his hard hat and started talking shit like, ‘Paco, where’s the taco?’ and all of them laughing.  Gus in a very calm voice actually said to their foreman.

“If you and your fuckin clowns don’t shut it and say sorry to my guy then there might be an engineering report that says the drainage is not to grade and this whole slab needs to be repoured at your expense.  And I don’t think your butt ugly money grubbin boss is gonna like that.  Are we clear?!”  Said red faced Gus staring the foreman straight in the eyes.

“We are,” said the pissed off foreman.

“I want to see you in the site office now.” Gus yelled at Paco,

At this point Paco had been with the company only a few months so he wasn’t sure where he stood with management.  Once in the trailer Gus keeps talking,

“Did you hear what they were sayin? Calice” Gus swore in French.  His French is still really good but he only uses it for choice swear words.

“Is no big deal,” said Paco.

“I am not going to school those fuckin morons on Latin cusine am I?”

“No,” agrees Paco, having no idea where this was going.

“Guatelmans don’t eat peaches tacos,” said Gus pacing around the trailer with the awareness of his poor pronunciation but in the moment he felt he had earned some cultural credibility by trying to swear in Spanish.

“You are so right Gus,” said Paco wondering if this out-of-character burst of Latino solidarity maybe came from a previous life when Gus was a Mayan curandero.

So now when Gus gave the ‘kill it’ signal with his hand at his throat Paco took it off speaker.  

“Diego, come back and I will help you later,” said Paco and hung up.

“Hey Paco, what did you think I said?” asked Gus.

“When?”

“This morning.”

Paco laughed at himself and shook his head.

“I thought you say, tell Diego he’s a fuckin toad.”

“I said – tell’em if he doesn’t move they’ll fuckin towem”. 

Maritza was gonna kill him.  It was Diego’s first day on the job and he was losing more money than he was making.  He relieves his self inflicted stress by comforting himself they will start receiving the child tax credit very soon. Diego says once the baby arrives she will want a car.  But she says they have a bus stop right out front and the No Frills supermarket is 3 blocks away.  She keeps repeating that you don’t need a car in the city. It’s a waste of money according to her dad. 

Maritza remembered her dad being there in person for her eighth birthday. While he worked in the US for 6 years they would Facetime but it felt weird. It was sad when he would sing Las Mananitas on her birthday. As he sang her mom would bring the gift that he sent money for from Oregon where he was driving a tractor in a vineyard.  He was close to Canada but never went there.  He figured the Americans would grab him at the border before he crossed.  He should have tried, he says to his wife now that he has been sent back.  If they wouldn’t have let him travel to Canada then they just would have sent him back and it is the same result.

He got deported when he got in a car accident in town with a lawyer who had been drinking.  The car accident meant he came back home which made her happy but that is where Maritza got the idea cars were a bad idea.  Plus the maintenance.  But when you get one, if you can’t afford a good one – don’t buy one.

Her dad taught her English even though he and Diana, his wife, knew that meant she would be more apt to leave when she got older.  Also he wanted to prove that being away so long has brought some benefit to the family.  He had sent more money than he could have made if he stayed in Mexico but he hadn’t been there for the childhood of their daughter and son.  Or for their marriage.  At least he came back.  He was faithful to his family – to his wife not so much. Reynaldo, his son, was bad at school but good at soccer.  He was a good striker being tall for his age.  He didn’t show potential so he had no future as a pro player.  It was fun for now but difficult for later.  Maritza was the bright light of the family.  

Before she gave birth Maritza worked as a Cook A in a restaurant for 2 years while Diego would spend about 6 months in each job.  She worked till she was 7 months pregnant and then couldn’t handle being on her feet all day.  The restaurant liked her from the get-go and had offered her a full time job after a few months.  That way she could apply for a work permit.  Diego also got a work permit being her common-law spouse.

She was really scared when she got pregnant.    But now they had to rely on Diego’s income for the whole family.  Maritza knew that was a recipe for a stress fueled, argument filled disaster.  She needed something she could do while the baby was sleeping.

Also she didn’t know,  maybe they would cancel her work permit and it wouldn’t give her enough time to apply for permanent residency.  Rhonda, the manager of her restaurant location was so supportive but it was not her decision – it was the owner’s: Mr. Jackes.  But she would speak to him.  He had various restaurants and other businesses on the go.  Maritza knew Mr. Jackes was a lawyer and had met him briefly once when he came to wish everyone a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.  

A few weeks later Maritza was tying up her apron and looking at her belly when  Rhonda called her into the tiny, cramped office.  Rhonda motioned to the only chair in front of the desk.

“Have a seat Maritza.  How are you doing?”

Feeling fine,” she said, seated on the edge of the plastic chair rubbing her belly.  “We just had other doctor’s appointment, all good,’ she said, putting two little thumbs up in front of a weak smile.  “But obviously I’m nervous.” 

“Yes, of course. Obviously no heavy lifting.  Get Clifton or someone to help you,” said Rhonda.

“Yes, thank you very much.”

“Listen Maritza, I talked to Mr. Jackes last week.  I explained to him your situation and I told him you were an excellent person and an excellent team member, fast learner and that it would be a good idea to find a way to keep you on board.  And of course for your work status right?” Rhonda looked into Maritza’s dark anxious eyes.  “So he called me this morning and he had a very interesting idea.”

Maritza nodded as if she was riding a bike on a bumpy road and wrung her hands.

“His idea is for you to transition out of the kitchen into an IT role.  Updating websites with promotional materials for his restaurants and stuff like that.  What do you think?”

“Wow,  sounds amazing.  Thank you so much.  Because…”

“Because in a few months you can’t be in the kitchen all day on your feet.”

“Yes, of course,” Maritzasat back and laughed, then she breathed a huge sigh, then she cried as the stress left her body and joy germinated – all in succession over the course of ten seconds.  She looked at Rhonda and smiled  and suddenly she hiccuped.  They both laughed.

Short Story: Toad – Part 1 of 3


It was Diego’s first day on the job and he was excited.  Not so much that he found a job.  That was good too.  It was the first day he had driven his car to work.  Sunday night he texted Paco offering to pick him up even though it was 20 minutes out of his way.  Paco said he was good taking the bus.  Diego parked close enough so he could keep an eye on his car but not too close so it didn’t get splashed with mud.  At 7:30 in the site office he showed them his certifications, took his orientation and then tied up his work boots while Paco waited for him outside the trailer.  Through the open door he could see Paco outside talking with Gus the site supervisor.

Qué dijo, el jefe?” asked pudgy Diego.

Que eres un sapo,” said skinny Paco.

Raro tu jefe.” 

Mira, como ellos me pagan entonces ‘no complaints bro’.”

At 10 am the coffee truck driver honked his augmented air horn so they dropped their tool belts and Diego took off to check on his car. It’s like taking your headphones off when D leaves. The guy talks nonsense  nonstop, mostly about his car and rarely about work.

The house they are working on today backs onto an established neighbourhood with mature trees.  Standing with his tool belt dangling in his hands he breathes in and holds his breath to maximize the impact of the autumn morning fragrances of wet leaves and mineral mud.  Since they cut down the majority of the trees there are only two little pockets of trees on the site.  He is on the second floor and looks right into the back yards flaming red maple leaves and the tragic yellow from the aspen. 

You could say its not worth it walking all the way to the gate, lining up for coffee and then walking all the way back.  There is no time to even drink your coffee.  The point is to get coffee and everything that goes with it.  Giving your shoulders a break, stretching your legs and shootin the shit with Dimitri the coffee guy.  He should teach marketing classes or something because he makes the whole experience uplifting.  He wears an apron over his heavy sweater today but it’s funny to see when he wears it under his winter jacket.  He has a personaized brown baseball cap that says DC Coffee whe nthe ‘DC’ actually means dimitri’s coffee. Somehow he remembers how you like your coffee out of the probably thousands of guys he sees each week and he knows when to up sell you a sticky danish with an extra coating of heartburn.  He talks hockey with the Canadian guys but Paco doesn’t really care about hockey. 

Paco walked alone for ‘a block’ along the muddy/gravelly road towards the gate.  The smell of the mud transports Paco to when he was six and seven years old.  Swimming with his brother and cousins in the Motagua river thet squeezed the silty mud between their toes, brought it to their hand and threw it at each other.  He misses the emotional logic of being with his family, part of his land and living his culture.  If he can’t get them to come here in the next two years then that’s it – he will go back to El Porton and start a business.  Some kind of tourism because he sees there is so much money here that people have no idea what to do with it.  Just look at D and his stupid car he doesn’t even have money.  

Gus fell in step with Paco as they turned the corner and got in the short line for coffee.  Gus was great until he wasn’t.  He was cool 80% of the time and red faced maniacal when he felt he could lose his job because of some dumbass sub-contractor. 

Gus’s first ex-wife divorced him exactly because of that explosivity.  His second ex-wife would have said the same thing but she up and left him right before their second anniversary.  She didn’t need or want anything from him.  Ex-2 wasn’t going to let herself get impregnated by this guy like Ex-1 did.  Then she would be divorced from the guy but still get infuriated dealing with him about things like who is going to pick up the children from daycare.   

Ex-1 and Ex-2 knew each other because of the weekend visits with Gus Jr. so it was funny but the second person Ex-2 called after walking away from Gus was actually Ex-1.  They got together for coffee to commiserate and so Ex-2 could dish the truth about Gus.  Before he tried to micromanage the weekend visits now that he was single with no maternal figure in his home for Gus Jr.

Gus’s construction management skills had not helped him express his desire to make his wife-of-the-moment happy.  The honeymoon with Ex-2 was over before the wedding reception finished.  Six months later Gus drove solo the six hours up north to attend his grandfather’’s funeral. Gus was named after his grandfather Angus.  His grandfather was a hardass from Rouyn-Noranda, Quebec who worked the copper mines and didn’t seem to say much to his wife in French or English.  Maybe that had something to do with Rene, Gus’s dad wanting to work on the railroad – to get out of town and get a fresh start.

Manon, Gus’s sister, had already driven home because she lived close by.  Gus was staying the night and driving back in the morning.  He sat in his funeral suit on the living room couch where he watched Hockey Night in Canada on Saturday’s he opened up.

“Hey dad… How do I even say this?”  Gus moved his bum to sit on the edge of the blue velvet couch.  “How did you cross that threshold from wanting her to be happy, to making her happy?

Rene held Gus’s eyes as long as he could with a look of love that needed to be listened to.

“Son, I don’t know if the X-factor to our marriage was that I needed your mother more than I loved her or the other way around. Or maybe we were just a good match as a man and woman.”

“But there was, is an ingredient, that in the moment,”  Gus searched for the right word.  “Secretes understanding into your brain so you understand.  Or at least do the right thing.”

“Things have gotten that bad?” asked Rene.

“Ya.” Gus fidgeted.

“So this marriage is based on love… not like the last one,” the locomotive engineer drove his train straight ahead. 

“That hurts but I can’t really …” then Gus interrupts himself, “I am lost.  On the job site I tell guys what to do based on the blueprints and they do it.  If they don’t, they get a tongue lashing.  They know it, I know it – no need to argue.  No grey area.  Only blue.”

“Well, that’s useful,” said Rene, hearing his wife’s voice in his head, ‘Help Angus honey, talk to him – he’s doing it again.’ 

“I just focused on work when it was time to work and on family when it was the priority.  Maybe it skipped a generation but you turned out more explosive –  like grandpa.”

“This is the kind of stuff I need to hear, I need to know this.”

“Maybe my work gave me the kind of satisfaction that allowed me to be the man I needed to be.  I know you like getting stuff done, but does your construction management, in the city, bring you satisfaction?” 

“It’s a little late to be asking that.  I mean I bought into the whole industry, the training, the contacts I’ve made.”

“You can pivot.  Picture it – you’ve got the puck in the slot but you don’t have a clear shot so you send a quick pass off to your winger down low, pivot on your back heel to get around the defenceman and he passes the puck right back to you and boom it’s in the net – top cheddar.”

Gus was reliving the rush of his hockey days from his dad’s analogy and losing the whole point.

“Have you ever tried skating in figure skates?” Gus figured that his dad knew that the answer was no.  Gus had been a good hockey player growing up in New Liskeard and his parents would drive literally hours in northern Ontario from town to town through crazy snow squalls at all hours.  Because his dad was away for work a fair amount his mom did the bulk of the driving.  Sometimes other parents would give Gus a lift so his mom could stay home with his sister instead of dragging her along on school nights because she wasn’t staying home alone.  

Rene continued,

“Figure skates have a coupe of sharp points in their pick you can use to do graceful twirling jumps.  Manon wasn’t a poster child for graceful figure skating but she did quite well.  My point is you can use the pick to fly up, or if you catch the pick on the ice you fall flat on your face.  Or you can kick someone in the shins if you really get angry at them.”  Rene paused again, waited for the light to go and then he spelled it out.

“It depends what you want.  What kind of man you want to offer those in your life”

Gus nodded his head as he was impressed at the clarity and poetry of his railway engineer dad. 

Rene felt guilty that he didn’t know his son and that his son had no inkling of how emotional scrabble worked.

“I don’t know if you ever met Mark, he drove train too.  Way back in the early days we would go where they sent us and sometimes have a layover at the same time.  Well, he said the funniest thing to me, and this was some 30 years ago now.  He liked games n actually brought a mini scrabble board with him.  If you didn’t keep yourself busy on those layovers it just became a booze fest and that was not a good mix with having to drive a train the next morning.  So we were playing Scrabble which he would always win n so he is gatherin all the letters, those littlewood tiles, n he says, ‘but I think you are better at emotional Scrabble’.  Obviously I asked him what the hell is that.  So he says,

‘Emotional Scrabble is when you want to communicate something of value in the moment so you access the resources available to you.  In emotionally Scrabbling, you share your resources and it helps others as well as generating fresh ones for you.  If you don’t use your emotional energy creatively and sincerely,’  He paused as he sorted through the tiles, turned a few over as he searched for the letters he wanted, and then put them on the two wooden tile benches and showed me, ‘then you get random letters like: n,o,l,o,s,t,w and u,b,i,t,t,e,r.  ‘I have seen it happen’ he says.

So when it came to dealing with Gus, Paco just kept his head down, his mouth shut and did his work.  His dark green hard hat has his name on the back was his security system so no newbie can show up hungover and steal it.

Gus fakes remembering Paco’s name but actually just reads it on his hard hat.

“Hey Paco, how was the weekend?” 

“Love this weather bro, not too hot, not too cold,” said Paco.

“It’s the bugs man, hardly any.  That’s why I moved to the city.

“Where you from?”

“New Liskeard.”

“New What?”

“New 6-hours-north-of-here.  Hey, how’s the new guy workin out?” asked Gus.

“He knows his way around a job site.”

“Cuz if he is any good you can bring four more guys like him tomorrow.”  Then Gus lowered his voice a bit as if he was privedeging Paco with the inside scoop, “We gotta fuckin knock this one out fast and dirty if you know what I mean.”

Paco and Diego met last year at the Plaza Latina when they both went to get their haircut Saturday morning.  

“Que tal.”

Diego stepped into the barbershop with his untied work boots and unzipped orange winter jacket with its hi-viz reflective stripes.  Even though he wasn’t working he wore his work clothes.  Diego did it as a signal to his girlfriend Maritza, that he was serious about getting a good job.  It didn’t fool her.

The basement barber shop was a tiny 10’ x 20’ space with two red barbershop chairs. The two plastic chairs for the people waiting were squished together in the corner so it was easy to see what the person next to you was looking at on their phone.  Paco was watching videos of high speed trains in China going 400 km/h.  Diego was watching the construction bloopers of building materials falling off of a forklift.  How do people catch that stuff on video?

“Nada más se están filmando los forkleaf con la esperanza que algo se cae o que?” Asked Paco peeking at what Diego was watching.

“Si guey.  No trabajan – se quedan con el pinche celular en la mano todo el día para hacerse un famoso Youtuber.” 
The Carpenters’ and Allied Workers Local 16 strike had just ended.  Neither of them had been allowed to work as a framer for almost two months.  Paco wasn’t never going to risk it and take on any non-union jobs. So in the meantime his buddy squeezed him onto a crew working commercial demolition.  He liked the change of scenery and it gave his wrists a rest from swinging a hammer.  But he needed more money and wanted less dust so he was happy when he got the call to go back to work. Diego picked up work here and there, mostly painting.   Paco was back at work the day after the strike was called off but Diego was still looking.  Which was strange considering the need for framers.  Paco should have taken it as a sign.

_____

from the Short Story Series Tool by Kevin McNamara

Short Story: Jack-in-a-box

Lukas on Pexels.com


“Cheers bro,” said Manuel as the second round arrived. “We haven’t hadn’t had beers in months.”

Oddie had become the fixer just like Andre said.  Sandoval was so insulted they went ahead and created the position right under his nose. And angry because he didn’t notice it was all going on.  But when he yelled at them he told them they should have told him because he would have said yes.

Everyone knew Sandoval would have said no to the idea.  Because it wasn’t his idea.  And because that is exactly the kind of position he wanted Ricky to have.  That way he could tell his dad if someone was stealing materials or dealing drugs on his jobs sites or the union was coming around.

Being the fixer was very cool.  He bought a pick up truck once he heard what he heard what his salary was going to be.  The site supervisors loved him if they understood this guy was the best solution to their day to day issues.  Or they hated him because they saw him as stepping on their toes.

“How you gonna get home?  Cuz you’re not drivin anywhere bro,” said Manuel.

“I know, I know,” said Oddie with a swig of beer and a look over the patio wooden fence into the summer dusk. He stifled a sigh.

“Are you sighing bro?”

“No.”

“Jes you are. I heard you.  And I saw you go like this.” imitating heaving his chest and for effect glossing over his eyes as if he was a mime.  “Are you sad for Trina?” Manuel teased Oddie.

“Grow up.”

When Oddie drank he pined for Trina; when Manuel drank his English got better.  Oddie was haunted by his ex: Trina. It irritated him – the clarity she and the app (fuck their plans for the app) had given his life before.  

Behind the gaze over the patio fence, in his mind Oddie was replaying the call from Sandoval at 7:30 this morning.  

Sandoval knew that Oddie was the guy who mentored Ricky for the five months he worked on site.  Was that a good thing, Oddie was trying to figure out.  And now Sandoval had him on speed dial.  When he saw the initials JS on the screen of his phone in front of him – he took a deep breath, answered and put it on speaker.  

“This is Oddie,” he said on his way to the Ardale site.

“Oddie, good morning.  This is Juan Sandoval.”

“Good morning Mr. Sandoval.”

“You can call me Juan, remember.’

“Ok Juan.”

“How is my Jack-of-all-trades today?” Sandoval asked all chipper.

Oddie was stunned for a moment as that was the phrase Trina used in their last argument.

“Ready and raring to go,” said Oddie.

“Good to hear. Where you headed today?

“Ardale.”

“Ok. Who is the site super up there:  Oswald?” asked Sandoval even though they both knew it to be true.

Oswald was one of the supers who welcomed Oddie’s help as the fixer position and gave the office great feedback about Oddie.  It had become the Oddie and Ozzie show at Ardale.

“Yes,” said Oddie, sounding formal.  His instinct was poking him in the stomach with a thin twig.

“Ok. Change of plans. I will notify Oswald at Ardale.  I have a specific task that needs your focus.”  Sandoval was skilled and shameless at turning his needs into your responsibility.

Specific task was code for doing Sandovals’ dirty work.  It had come up once before and Oddie had phoned Andre right away.  

“If you don’t want to do it – don’t,” Andre said. “The thing is, and there is nothing I can do about this, he will fire your ass if you don’t.”  Andre was a good boss but he wasn’t afraid to share with Oddie the heat he felt from head office.  This time Oddie didn’t bother calling Andre because the fewer people that knew about this shit the fewer people could rat on him. 

“Earth to Oddie.”

“What?”

“The waitress is asking you to marry her,” said Manuel.

Oddie looked at the waitress and smiled.

“Not in this lifetime honey.  But if you like I can gecha another pint.”

“Sounds good,” said Oddie, finishing his pint and handing the waitress the empty glass.

“Bro you look like shit.  Do you have a terminal disease we don’t know about?” asked Ozzie.

“No bro, I’m just not eating well.  I’m a burger slut,” said Oddie, patting his belly that had definitely rounded out with an extra 15 pounds in less than a year. 

“Are you gonna cat my Stevens?”  asked Ozzie.

“What the fuck does that even mean?” asked Oddie.

“Cat Stevens went all Muslim when midlife came and tickled his soul,” said Ozzie.

“Mid life!  Bro I’m 27.”

“Just sayin you aren’t the you of before and I was wondering if it was work or, are you spending time with your uncle and studying your Arabic or what the hell is rattling around in that brain of yours.”

Instead of saying anything about the task this morning Oddie says, 

“Cat Stevens – that’s a pretty obscure reference.”

“I have an eclectic taste in music.”

“And women.”

“Hey I like women.”

“And they like you,” said Oddie, motioning his pint towards the group of women who just sat down at another table on the patio and had found Ozzie on their radar.  Ozzie responded to the love by raising his pint towards their table, “Cheers ladies.”

“See what I mean,” said Oddie.

“What?”

Ozzie was divorced and had a six year old son who was on summer vacation with his mother so Ozzie was not losing a moment to enjoy life.  He liked hanging out with Oddie because it made him look younger.  Or at least feel younger.  Even though 35 is not old – it is if you don’t want to be in the market for divorcees who could see him coming from a mile away.  But that can also work in his favour.

“The question still stands or at least the principle does,” said Ozzie referring to his Cat Stevens question.

“What was your question?” asked Oddie, not remembering and seeing if Ozzie remembered as his attention had been hijacked by hormones.  

“Can you even stand?  You handsome drunk bastard,” said Ozzie, redirecting. 

“You know what I can’t stand,” said Oddie to the world.

“Here you go guys,” said the waitress putting down pints for Oddie and Ozzie.

“Thank you ma’am,” said Ozzie.  Oddie takes 3 long gulps of his beer and says,

“I can’t stand people who don’t do their own dirty work.”

Manuel could tell there was a story to be heard behind that statement and he was glad Ozzie was there to make light of whatever it was.  He was also glad Oddie was buying because he didn’t want to have that argument again when he got home.

“Man you wouldn’t believe what goes on behind the scenes.  This morning Sandoval calls me all buddy/buddy, first name basis bullshit… “

”Dude, we all have to deal with the bullshit,” said Ozzie.  “You deal with it in a pick up truck, Manny deals with morons al day and I deal with it when the fuckin PM prances around my job site.  And I’ve been dealing with it much longer than you.”

“Whaddya mean, I’m not gonna be anybody’s fuckin lackey.”

“What’s a fuckin lackey,” asked Manuel.

“Someone’s bitch,” said Ozzie.

“And then there is the law.”

“Exactly bro. So in the end you work for a company and the company is responsible.”

“Not exactly bro,” said Oddie.

With that Ozzie could tell Oddie was talking about something beyond the run of the mill regulatory hijinks they were asked to condone but he didn’t want to kill the vibe.

“Shut up and don’t think so much bro,” said Ozzie.  

“Ya bro, it’s Friday, relax.  That pendejo doesn’t own your weekend.”

“Listen to Manny.  Stop feeling sorry for yourself – you should come out tonight.”

“Let’s order some wings,” says Oddie.

It just happened, in the last few minutes and Manuel usually listens to it. 

“I gotta go,” said Manuel.  He drained the remaining half of his pint. 

There’s that threshold between relaxing after work and partying. It starts with a few beers after work with the guys on the patio. Then it eases from dusk into night,  flirting with the women at the other table, eating fried pub food and ordering shots, tequila in honour of Manuel, they yell.  Manuel wasn’t Mexican the last time they ordered tequila which Manuel didn’t drink because he doesn’t like it, and he isn’t Mexican today.  His wife is.

Manuel texted Azucena from the bus saying he would be home in 45 minutes, did she need anything from the supermarket. 

He didn’t bother grabbing a plastic basket so he is piling everything up in his arms: cilantro, the small bag of yellow onions, sour cream and he found the good tortillas.  Azucena reminded him he already had two tins of chipotle at home so he didn’t need to get any. He actually has three at home; two stacked in the kitchen cupboard that she knows about and one hidden in the bottom kitchen drawer.  The beer has released his inner rebel so after passing the salsa section in the Mexican food aisle he stops, walks backwards saying out loud to himself in English,

“You never know,” as he puts a small tin of chipotle on his small pile of groceries. 

Without breaking his stride he leans over and grabs the expensive roasted chicken before taking his palace in the express line.  Since it is now 7:30 pm the roast chickens aren’t the best.  They can be a little dry unless they did a second batch mid afternoon. He can’t complain to the chicken. But he just might ask him if he is the best. 

Manuel is intrinsically logical.  And then there are those other days, like today, he lets beer run his decision making.  Manuel hardly cooks so there is no way he can tell Azucena he hates the smell of boiled chicken.

Hugging the hot plastic chicken container to his chest  he wavers a little as he reads the gossip on the cover of the magazines. He is glad he didn’t have another beer because he has a nice buzz on now.   

Azucena hates the whole beer and wings thing.  She doesn’t mind the beer so much as Manuel doesn’t drink all that often but can’t stand that he would eat eight stupid little chicken wings for $19 when at home he has homemade tinga de pollo.  Already fending off his wife even before he gets home, he justifies bringing home his new best friend, he says out loud, “No estamos en tu pueblo flaca.”

Alan: Short Story

Ron Lach on Pixels.com


The rain was neither here nor there.  The thing was, which was becoming irritating, Gerry.  How is he going to react?

“D’you check how long the rain is supposed to last?” asked Oddie

“All fuckin morning,” said Gerry.

“Gerry, we’ll be in there,” said Oddie over his shoulder as he ran to the trailer.  “Let us know if you go on a coffee run,” said Oddie from the top step. 

“I’m gonna leave the door open cuz otherwise it gets too steamy,” said Oddie.

“Bro, that guy sucks the energy right outta the room,” said Manuel.

“What room?”

“Jou know what I mean, moron.”

“How do you say moron in Spanish?”

“Imbecil,” said Manuel motioning to Octavo to take a seat in the trailer, “Sientate guey.”

“Imbecil.  I was expecting something with more, you know, meat, less English.  More insulting.”

“Sorry pendejo.”

“That’s more like it,” said Oddie smiling.

They took off their wet hard hats and shook off their jackets putting them over the back of the plastic chair.

“Si nos pagan por estas horas verdad?” asked Octavo.

“He’s asking if they pay us to sit on our asses?”

“For an hour.  Any longer than that and Gerry will panic and send us home.”

“Que tiene en contra del Herry?” asked Octavo.

“He’s asking what you have against Gerry.”

“Nothing really.  It’s just ya know.  Nothing wrong with therapy but the construction site isn’t the place.  He panics, usually for no reason and we always deliver results regardless of what he fears or thinks.”

They broke out their lunches even though it was only 9:30 am and ate to the sound of crinkling aluminum foil and slurping coffee.  

Oddie’s phone pinged on the dirty, white folding table so he picked it up and disappeared into the screen. 

To Manuel rain meant mud which smelled of the minerals of home which transported him fast and far.  He leaned forward in his chair as he picked at the dry skin around his fingernails.

Octavo leaned back in his plastic chair, joined his hands on his belly and closed his eyes, soaking up the peace he got from being on a good team and the satisfaction of working with his hands.  

Octavo was sliding into snooze mode and Manuel was staring out the open door when he heard Oddie talking to himself.

“Yashmal kula shay,” said Oddie.

“What’s that bro,” said Manuel.

“Nothing bro.”

“I’m no exper but was that English?”

“No.”

“So?”

“Arabic, bro.”

“Are you doin an hechizo on me?

“What?”

“Hechizo, you know, like magic n all that.”

“No, no no.  I’m learning Arabic.

“Cool. Are you going to Arahbia?”

“No, bro.”

“Is Arahbia coming here?”

“No, Arabia! Is not coming here. Stop being stupid.”

“But is so easy for me.”

“I’m…  Listen,” said Oddie and he paused as he breathed in deeply.

“Listening …”

“My uncle got me into studying the Quran.”

“What’s that like?”

“Cool.  But ….  I am lost.  It’s so .. big and ..”

“What jou say?  A minute ago in Arabic”

“Oh.  Yashmal kula shay. It means ‘encompasses all things’.”

“What does encompass means?”

“Like include.”

“Does that bring jou closer to God?

“Allah?”

“Less call him,” said Manuel, spreading his hands apart above his shoulders like it was a banner, “‘The big guy, in the sky.”

“Well I want something more than this shit,” Oddie kicked some mud off his boots.  

“I’m with you bro.”

Octavo yawned and stood up, stretched as he put on his jacket and went out to the port a potty.  The rain had let up a bit.

“So, tell me abou the Quran.”

“I don’t know.  Its ancient, is huge it’s mystical and its confusing.”

“Sounds like Gerry,” said Manuel laughing.

“Ya! Minus the mystical,” said Oddie smiling.

“No really.”

“I listen to a couple of these guys talk about their experience and they reference the Quran.  It helps to guide them in some kind of higher purpose they say.  I don’t know if those are my kind of words.  But, anyway, I can feel something.”

“Un impulso…?”

“Impulse. Ya, I guess.  It’s an urge but it’s not mine.”

“Who is it?”

“I don’t know – who else could it be?”

“Is annoying no bro?”

“It’s annoying but, annoying like when you’re in high school there is a cute girl but she is really stuck up, but you still are attracted to her, you want her. Why do that?”

“What is stuck up?”

“Arrogant.”

“Your God is arrogant?”

“No bro, not at all.  It’s the feeling I have that annoys me.  Like I need to do something that takes me beyond. But what?”

“Beyond, that sounds far out.”

“Ya .  Beyond the daily grind.”

“Was daily grime?”

“Trabajo bro,” said Oddie.  “That’s why Gerry is so annoying.  Not him. But the feel of the cloud that is always over his head. That there is nothing more to life than a shitty job bro.”

“Bro you need a anger management session at the pub.”

“That’s the thing.  It’s not anger at anyone.  It’s, it’s frustration that I, there isn’t a person I can talk to, you know, someone to…”

“The church has priests.”

“The church also has lawsuits because those priests can’t keep their hands off little boys.”

“True.”

Octavo stomped back into the trailer, shook the rain off his jacket and took his seat.  His entrance broke the flow of the conversation so they just sat there in the musty yet gritty trailer air.  After scrolling for a bit Manuel spoke,

“I read the bible.”

“You read the bible now or you used to,” Oddie sought clarification.

“When I was jung.”

“What did you get out of it?”

“Well it was the bes way to talk with girls because the mamas approved of bible class.”

“Smart.” 

“Honestly, is like I remember nothing.  But I have this residuo of believe.”

“Resi what?”

“Residuo.”

“Like residue?”

“I guess.”

“Residue of belief.  I like that.  And how does that impact you?  My point is do you have, do you feel an impulse, impulso?”

“For …?”

“For answering the call.  It’s like I can hear my cell phone ringing,” said Oddie, putting his hands in and out of all of his pants and jacket pockets.  “But I don’t know which pocket it’s in,” said Oddie, hunching his shoulders.

Octavo understood very little but the conversation caught him.   He listened to them with his eyes closed as if it was the World Cup finals on the radio.  Manuel pulled on the various hairs in what passed as a beard and sat up straight. He hadn’t thought about this stuff in a long time so it was really clearing away cobwebs in his mind. 

“Bro, is like the daily grime is analog and belief is dihital,” said Manuel. 

Oddie sat there a while with his elbow on the table and his chin on his fist digesting Manuel’s pronunciation and then the concept.

“No.  Is like Defi.” continued Manuel with his next analogy.

“You mean like crypto?”

“Ya bro.”

“What does Defi mean again?”

“Decentralize finance.  And that iss what I think you are talkin about.  Taking control of your shit, your destiny.  That way bro, jou discover what has value for jou, here,” said Manuel as he sent his right hand into the air imitating lift off.  “ And for jour beyon.” 

 Autumn rain fell on the trailer roof as the soundtrack to this episode of connection.  Their phones forgotten, they could hear their own breath as they picked at dirt on their boots for a while, sipped coffee.  

Oddie walked to the trailer door and looked at the lumber skeleton of the house they were framing.   He associated with the wood and the precision and instinct it called him to use.  He hadn’t realized that before.  That was why he liked his job.  Not so much his job but the work: the feeling of building something – and working on a team – and needing vision to complete a project.  

Octavo looked at Manuel.  From behind Manuel looking at Oddie framed in the doorway.  Manuel could tell Oddie was engaged by something. 

The rain had let up.  The air was clean as Andre the project manager pulled his SUV up to the curb.  Gerry jumped out of his pick up where he had been this whole time and said,

“Quit playin with yourselves and get to work,” as he walked to greet Andre.  Nobody in the trailer moved.  Gerry shook hands with Andre.

“Now,” Gerry yelled at the trailer.

“Alan,” said Oddie standing in the doorway as his mind landed back in his reality.

“Who is Alan?” asked Manuel.

“Alan?  I dunno.”

“But jou just said his name.”

“Oh, Alan.  Wow.  I said that outloud?  Alan means now in Arabic.”  

____

Alan – From the Short Story Series: Tool by Kevin McNamara

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.

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.

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.