Short Story – Timber

Photo by Callum Hill on Unsplash

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

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

“She went over to visit your Aunt Magda.”

“Again?”

“Nothin to worry about.  Grab your coat.”

Stan poured them both more beer from the pitcher. 

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

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

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

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

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

Stan made himself busy gnawing on a chicken wing.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“It’s more complicated than that.”

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

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

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

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

They stared at the same screen but were miles apart.

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

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

“So whadaya wanna do, bro?”  Asked Manuel 

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

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

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

“Wait, who says pleasant?” Interrupted Manuel. 

“Hey, it’s my fuckin story pal?”

“And who says pal?”  Manuel teased.

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

“Chill bro, chill.”  

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

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

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

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

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

“I have lots of reasons, bro.”

“I’m not your bro.”

“Sorry, man.  Sorry again”

“Like…?”

“Like what?”

“Like what reasons.”

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

“Hey dad …?”

“Tim…”

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

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

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

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

“That’s right.”

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

“Give him a call.” 

“I don’t have his number.”

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

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

“Then be a nobody.”  

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

“So,  Are you a nobody?” She asked.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tim turned to the bar.

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

Tim shook his head quickly.  

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

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

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

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

“Do you know my name?”  Tim countered.

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

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

“Do you live with your parents?”  

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

“Then clean it.”

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

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

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

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

“Trish, you wanna get outta here?”  

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“What a fuckin waste of time.” 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Thanks bro.”

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

“Timber.” 

Short Story – Duct Tape

Duct tape

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

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

~~~~~

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

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

~~~~~

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

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

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

‘No’

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

‘The moment … passed.’  Felipe said.

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

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

~~~~~

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

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

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

~~~~~

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

‘That’s some early The Weeknd’

‘It’s a little whiny.’  Tests Irena.

‘The guy is talented. 

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

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

Irena’s radiance fills their 2 bedroom apartment.

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

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

‘Who me?’  Plays Irena.

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

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

~~~~~

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

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

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

~~~~~

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

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

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

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

In the autumn afternoon facing the forest, Joe speaks, 

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

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

 ~~~~~

Joe is shaken.  ‘What?’  

‘Why not?’

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

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

‘We can take a thermos.’ Joe rallied.

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

‘I need to be different.’   Joe said

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

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

‘You aren’t.  You won’t be.’

‘I can’t do that to you.’

‘We won’t let that happen.’

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

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

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

‘Where’s your tackle box boy?’  

‘I don’t know. Isn’t it here?’

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

‘No, daddy, no.’

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

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

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

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

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

‘Where is the flashlight?’ asked Joey.

‘It’s in your tackle box?’ He lied.

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

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

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

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

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

‘Meaning what?’

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

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

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

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

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

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

Short Story – Rootball

Photo by Gigi on Unsplash

Root ball

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

‘Like me.  Right’

‘You said it, not me.’

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

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

‘That doesn’t bode well.’   

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

‘Half an hour.’

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

~~~

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

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

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

‘Why?’

‘To meet girls.’

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

‘Nothin’’

‘No shit!’

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

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

What?

Golden Branches Landscaping bro!  Whaddaya think?

Dude …! 

I know right …?

Golden Branches Landscaping baby!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

‘Fuck coffees.’

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

‘How’d it go today hun?’

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

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

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

Ya, I know.’

‘How’s that going?’

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

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

‘Ya.  He kind of lives down there.’

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

‘It’s been a few months.’

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

‘I don’t like it.’  

‘And I doubt your wife likes it either.’

‘She doesn’t.’ Admits Roger.

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

‘What…?’

‘Leave.  Pack your bags.  Move out.’  

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

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

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

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

‘No relationship is perfect.’  Justifies Roger.

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

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

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

‘Say it’  Begs Roger.

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

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

‘How ya feeling now?’

‘Like I’m drowning.’

‘Good’

‘Good?!’

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

‘Fucking solution.’  Repeated Roger unconsciously. 

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

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

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

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

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

In The Meantime

Photo by Content Pixie on Unsplash

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Short Story Excerpt – Blue Spruce

Photo by Greg Rosenke on Unsplash

Hey, What the hell are you doing?!!  

What the hell is that loser doing?  

Get off my property!  

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

You know I can’t

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

Joe explained his suburban sap stealing catastrophe.

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

You know I know that.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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. 

Seek and Offer with Liz Taylor

In addition to her Foundation for AIDS and more than 40 movies plus television shows, the generational movie star Liz Taylor squeezed in 8 marriages from 7 husbands.  This shows Liz Taylor was into recycling before most people on your block.

In her personal life Liz Taylor sought what her heart petitioned.  To love and be loved; to receive and be received. In a personal relationship Ms. Taylor offered insecurity (when you are a good friend of Michael Jackson your life currency includes high frequency ego)  and warmth.  In a man she sought not only romance but a source of stability.  She had a need which she felt would be satisfied by a solid relationship.  Taylor wanted a marriage strong enough to support her as a woman yet flexible enough to be able to handle the whims and intrusions of Hollywood. 

In the classic movie Cat On A Hot Tin Roof Taylor plays the empathetic yet tempestuous wife to Paul Newman as her failing husband.  The 1958 movie could have been called ‘Lost and Found’.  Newman’s character Brick Pollitt was lost in life and Taylor’s Maggie desperately wanted him found in her life; in her heart.

What you seek is almost certainly available in the person you seek it in.  Ms Taylor probably found some of what she was seeking in Richard (twice) at some point, Conrad, Mike and Michael.  After the proverbial honeymoon was over they may or may not have wanted to offer it up to her.  Once she felt her man couldn’t, or wouldn’t, offer Liz what she wanted then she needed to look for it elsewhere.  In one of her marriages it was only a matter of months before Taylor’s marriage had become unfulfilling . Although it makes sense that when the love is gone then why stay married, but it would be costly in divorce lawyers.  

Maybe Liz didn’t know how to ask to be loved the way she wanted to be loved.  Maybe the men she chose weren’t up to the job.  A few of her relationships definitely were complicated by drugs and alcohol. 

Unfortunately a common conundrum for a man is not knowing how to love his wife.  He wants to but can’t understand what expression that takes.  Love gets contorted by our handling of the emotional unpacking of our inner lives, life stages and development urges, professional success, physical health.  So it is easy to understand how two confused adults can fail in a relationship.  Especially if they had no guidance from their parents.

Without simple yet deep conversation sprinkled with wisdom we end up with men who are in fact lost with no idea what they seek and what they offer.  That is frustrating for everyone.  And can be dangerous because the man can think anytime he is being asked to do something it is because he has done something wrong.  Which is incorrect.  He is being asked because it is his responsibility to participate in a relationship and family.  

Also, if he is being asked it says he is capable and can be relied upon based on what he offers as a man.  We get this good reputation by doing a lot of small things, day after day.  This repetitive signal that upholds our marriage is a practical way to seek love.  As we grow and learn we can refine our seeking.  Refining our seeking means that we use our experience and intuition to know where, when and how to seek.  It means that our spouse can feel that embedded in our seeking is an offering of love and support for her as a woman.

What you seek can be found in what you offer.  It’s almost like saying you already have what you seek – you just want it reflected back to you.  And is reflected back to but just like in a mirror, it is reversed and is based on what your spouse seeks.  You seek honesty and so your spouse delivers the truth; you seek happiness and your spouse offers laughter; you seek companionship and your spouse offers you conversation.

If you don’t get what you seek then perhaps before pointing a finger it is to ask if it is clear to you what you seek and offer.  That can be as simple as writing it down on a piece of paper:  3 things you seek in your relationship and 3 things you offer to your relationship.  Is one contingent upon the other?  Yes and no.  It isn’t tit for tat at the moment.  We all have to put up with our spouse in the bad days and relish the good days.  And they provide you the same service.  However a living relationship needs the give and take of seek and offer to have a flow between both people that continue to define and refine their mechanism  for loving and being loved.   

By persisting in what you offer to your wife, offering her safety and your sentiment for her happiness, it will help define what you seek.  Meaning you know what you want as a man and as a husband that is valid unto itself while at the same time strengthening the marriage.  This requires understanding what satisfies you as a man and making yourself responsible for it.  This involves learning what fulfills your spouse and supporting her in that endeavour.  You seek being loved and someone to love.  

Obviously not at all costs.  With dignity for the person and their stage in life. 

Pioneer The New You

The following is an excerpt from my new book Satisfaction: How A Man Elevates His Skills And Qualities To Generate What He Wants. The book highlights men’s Emotional Agility. Emotional Agility here refers to a person’s capacity to synthesize daily and devotion emotion. This is the degree to which a person can cultivate their own sense of meaning while integrating the sense of peace this brings into their daily life. Emotional Agility is the way a person is able to rise up above the grind of daily life to recognize higher realms of awareness.

Pioneering implies going into the unknown. That is scary and can cause us to retreat into our habits when we actually can feel a need to grow. Pioneering the New You requires us to be brave and creative, perseverant and sensitive.

From page 108 … “The New You doesn’t exist without the old you. Yet the New You uses the past and resists being used by it. By standing firmly on your past with eyes into the future you invoke perception about what to do now. Each day, for each of us there is always a New You available. A version of you that comes with a higher level of intention.

Your New You grasps that a man changes as he is processed through the succession of Life Stages. He also realizes his spouse will experience a corresponding change thus the New You is nimble in the moment to update himself with the intricacies of her growth. the New you isn’t scared of the moment because he has no need to control it. the moment is free to flow into the future. So is the New You. Free to stop, smile and tell your wife she looks great.

The New You accesses his agility to get satisfaction. He is tune to his finesse to facilitate Fulfillment in others. He declares what he wants and has the humility to do the work to make it a reality.

The Post Apocalyptic Mind Set

Tallahassee, Little Rock, Wichita, Madison, Columbus and to a lesser extent Albuquerque and Berkeley.

Said in a Canadian way: Point Pelee, Flin Flon, Moose Jaw, Sault Ste. Marie, Calgary and to a lesser extent Charlevoix and Tofino.

Photo by Some Tale on Unsplash

The American locales are the names taken by the characters in the violent and witty post-apocalyptic movies Zombieland and Zombieland: Double Tap starring good old Woody Harrelson. The Canadian names are perhaps the names of the characters for Zombieland 3! Regardless they might be places worth a visit for some fabulous wine, awesome skiing or dinosaur bone hunting.

So Tallahassee, played with gusto by W. Harrelson, and his fellow small U.S. city companions are fighting a daily battle to be normal as they stay alive despite the persistent zombies with a thirst for their brains. Frighteningly similar to our Covid covered daily lives!

You too can star in your own post apocalyptic film too. Actually you probably already have. It is the fall out from any big argument you have with anyone, usually family – especially your wife. We all argue and disagree.

The idea here is to plan for the apocalypse. It’s not so much to be a prepper who has all their tins of chicken soup and bags of lentils stacked nicely in some pantry. Or to be a ready survivalist with their mental checklist and go bag with: knife, beef jerky, water filter, compass, rechargeable headlamp, small tarp and wire (to trap small animals).

The thinking is to have something to think about after the Big Bang of a heated emotional argument. Because if you yell and scream, shout and stamp and bang then once you calm down you will be emotionally emptied out. This can feel quite good actually. To have cleaned yourself out of that backed- up stress and nagging frustration. However it is a wise one who curates what fills their empty emotional bucket. Because either way it is going to get filled zip-zoom fast.

We have to know we are going to have disagreements. That’s not bad. it’s that some of those disagreements turn to arguments. Some of those moments of poor understanding we reduce to fights. So prepare. Yes avoid the arguments you can avoid. But fights seem to come out of nowhere. Like a tax bill, or a hernia, a mother-in-law.

Have your formula for instantly, cleverly creating your own life line out of the confusion of anger and pettiness that pollute the planet during and after a fight. To do this, you sincerely want to have a good relationship with the other person as a foundation. Then write the phrase you want to mentally/vocally be saying to your wife in the wake of the anger and frustration. Maybe you are with her – both quiet, tired and hurt. Or maybe you have jumped in your car and have tunes cranked as swear words and insults are swirling in the ether ready for you to launch them in your wife’s general direction.

The suggestion here is to substitute something like the following:

“I am your man, forever and always. I know it. You know it.”

“The moment was a blackhole for my patience but I know I love you.”

Phrases like these can slow and reverse the downward spiral that is so darkly magnetic.

“I seek to be understood by you, at the same time I seek to understand you”

That was not what I want. I want us to fight together for something; not fight against each other.”

Re issue of 5 things a young man needs to hear from an elder

  1. Always be generating.  Generate your own reason for what you’re doing.  This makes you the author of your own story so you aren’t at the mercy of someone else’s laziness. Be clean.
  2. Connect with nature: breathe through your nose, put down the phone, walk barefoot, let yourself be marveled. Make nature your man cave.  Use the peace in the moment and the power of nature to visualize you: healthy, successful, happy, spontaneous, loved, loving and emotionally agile.
  3. Frame your journey according to the various stages of life.  This really helps when dealing with stress to understand what is impacting us so we can take responsibility for it.  This is a proactive measure to rise above violence against women.
  4. Understand how to understand women. If you don’t know how to access your abilities you will end up squandering your mutual love. As a man you can do what your wife asks you to do. As a husband you can ask yourself what she would want and then do it.
  5. Be of service.  Find people who don’t count the cost.  Read the books they read.