Boundary Issues

Boundary Issues

don’t take this personally

but I cannot set foot in your house

again

it isn’t you

but the peanuts

 

you must understand I have nothing

against you as a peanut eater

well not too much

but the fact that nuts

of any kind

have been in your house

prevents me from entering it

 

the smell remains in the air

it coats everything

I cannot come into contact

with even the lest vestige of almonds

walnuts peanuts

just saying their names

makes me nauseous 

 

it should be a criminal offence

for anyone

anywhere

to be in public after having eaten

a peanut butter sandwich

don’t they realize the risk to 

those with allergies

 

so I can’t go into your home

can’t even shake your hand

lest your last contact with nuts

of any kind

has left even a trace amount of poison

in your sweat

on your breath

 

if you really cared

you would make 

that one 

teeny 

sacrifice for me

 

while we’re at it

no meat either

A community centre I go to, that also has daycare, has signs posted in the kitchen about the dangers of peanut contamination. Parents are warned that even if their kids have no allergies they have to consider children who might. I’ve read of children being sent home from school when it was discovered that they had peanut butter on toast for breakfast. Halloween candy comes in boxes marked ‘nut free.’ People who enjoy nuts are almost criminalized for their thoughtlessness. I wonder how the nut industry is doing in the face of this criminalization.

 

So that was what sparked this piece. There is an underlying resentment too in this sense that I am responsible for sorting my halloween trees into piles & then asking the kids nuts or no nuts – this year we opened for potato chips to avoid that. 

 

The piece also about accommodating others – often not even knowing who those others are. I recently attended an event that was ‘fragrance free.’ I’m not even sure how that is possible. What about the scent from my laundry detergent? Does the smell of my coffee count? How do I know who, on transit, is going to have a reaction to the cologne that got sprayed on me when I foolishly walked into the Bay? Who gets charged with the assault – me or the Bay?

 

I am pretty lucky in that these are not my issues to the same degree they are to others. But to be honest I do back way from people who smell of cigarettes, or of the joint they toked on two minutes ago. I hate walking behind anyone smoking. No one smokes anything in my home. I make that clear so they don’t have to guess. If you come to my house the peanut butter is safely behind closed doors.

 

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Chapter XXXIII – Birk Gets A New Shirt

Coal Dusters

Chapter XXXIII

Birk

Gets A

New Shirt

They got their fishing rods & a net basket for holding their catch from the side shed. 

“Think we’ll try the Blue Ridge Trail to the lake this time. We can check the rabbit traps on the way.”

“Faster?” Clancy asked.

“About the same but avoids the town.”

“Don’t want to see the damage, eh?”

“There’ll be time enough to see that m’sure.” Birk wanted to skirt the town to avoid possibly running into Lillian. “Sides I … Ya saw how my sisters acted.”

“You mean about you playin’ hero?”

“Yeh. I don’ need people comin’ up to say anythin’ to me about that. It was something any man’d do.”

“What’s wrong with people taking notice of ya in a good way.”

“That’s not why I did it. When I get a good word about my work in the pits don’t want it. I hate to think people are watching me. Not that I want to be cussed out. The less notice I get the better.”

“Yeh I see what you’re gettin at.”

Even though of the snares had been tripped there was nothing in any of the rabbit snares other that bits of fur. 

“There’ll be more when they start to have babies.” Birk adjusted the snares. “In a few weeks we’ll have more than enough.”

The ridge took them through the fields of the near by farms. They bypassed one that had a black and white bull in it. The bull walked over and stopped a few feet from the fence to paw the ground and snort at them.

“Smell that.” Birk took a deep breath. “Cow shit.”

“Yeh.” Clancy took a deep breath. “Almost gets rid of that smoke smell.”

“Must be in our clothes. Same way the coal dust is. It’ll take a day or so for it to go. Unless it rains.”

“I’d rather smoke than mud.”

The less-used ridge trails were overgrown as they hiked though them to the lake.

“Good sign.” Birk said. “Means not many’s been up here.”

Low lying branches whipped at their faces as they made they way through the woods. Brambles caught at their pant legs. Every now and then a flock of startled pheasants flew up to their left echoing through the trees.

“Too bad we didn’t bring a rifle.” Clancy said.

“Yeah. I’ll remember where they were for the next time.”

“Y’ sure y’ know where yer going’?”

“Pretty sure.”

They came to a low hill clearing and stopped.

“Take another good breath” Birk said. “I can smell the water. Can’t you?”

“No. I can still smell that cow shit though.” He rubbed the soles of his boots on the ground. “You got a better nose than me I suppose.” Clancy said.

“Jus’ through here.” Birk lead Clancy through another thicket of maples and alders until they came out at a rocky outcrop about halfway beside a waterfall.

“These the Blue River Falls. This is where the the river makes that turn. Over there’s where we fished the first time.”

The elevated ledge gave them a clear view of the expanse of the lake. 

“You can follow along t’other side to where it narrows again.”

The descent along the rapids involved two drops. The first was about three feet but the second was nearly ten. At the top of the second Birk tossed the rods down, handed his lunch tin to Clancy and jumped.

“Drop the tin down to me. Gentle. Don’ want to break that bottle o’tea, do we?”

He caught his pail and then Clancy’s.

Clancy stood at the edge of the drop.

“Come on b’y, s’not that far. Yer taller ‘n me so you don’t have to far to go either.”

“Easy fer you to say.” Clancy paced along the the rocky ledge. The shale was solid underfoot. One side was splashed by the rapids. The other hooked back sharply into the wooded area and then became even steeper.

“Come on Clancy b’y. I’ll catch yer.”

Clancy sat on the rock edge of the precipice. He turned so his belly hugged the rock and he lowered himself with his arms. His feet got what grip he could on the uneven rocky face of the drop. The rocks under his left hand gave way and he fell into the air. 

Birk caught him around the waist and they both collapsed to the ground.

“Oof. Man yer eatin too much of ma’s cookin.” Birk said pulling himself out from under Clancy.

“Yeh.” Clancy stood and brushed debris from his pants. “You’re making a habit of savin’ people.”

“I suppose so. You only had a few feet to fall anyway. More important to save this though. Them cookies are precious cargo.” He picked up his lunch tin. “We’re almost there.”

The rapids fed directly into the pool that then flowed into the lake. They took off their boots and socks and waded along the shore to were they had been fishing before. From there one couldn’t see the rapids.

“Looks as if no one else has been here since us.” Clancy toed the dark ashes of their previous fire. “Not even that rain washed it all away.”

Birk baited his hook, pulled off his shirt and pants and waded into the lake in his underpants. He cast his line.

Clancy followed suit. 

“I thought this would be a popular spot for fishing.” Clancy said.

“Most don’t think to come over them bluffs the way we did last time. None cares for that climb down along the rapids either. Fishermen keep good spots secret.”

“Land belong to anyone?”

“County as far I know.”

“Ever thought of owning a piece of property?”

“A farm?”

“Yeh. Where you didn’t have to worry about where yer food was comin’ from. You could go into your own field and pick what you wanted to eat.”

“Like them apple trees behind our place?”

“Sure why not. That’ ad be grand.”

They caught a dozen or so fish each over the next couple of hours before they stopped for lunch.

“Sure is getting warm.’ Birk said. “Guess that rain’s holdin’ off fer now. Think I’ll set for a spell in the sun.” He rolled his pants into a pillow, pulled off his under-drawers and stretched out on the warm rocks.

“That orchard all you thinkin’ about.” Clancy said as he did the same.

“Nope.” Birk said softly. “I think about what we did the last time here. Rubbin’ on each other.”

“We did that to avoid the sins of self-pollution.” Clancy teased.

“Yeh. Only this time I don’ want no rock scrapes on my knees and elbows. I get enuf of them in the pits.”

“Happy to oblige.” Clancy lay on top of Birk.

“Uh.” Birk gasped. “You a mite heavier than I was.”

“Don’ want to hurt you.” He began to roll off

“S’fine though.” Birk put his hands on Clancy’s behind to keep him in place. He tried to respond with hip movements to Clancy’s grinding. The hard rock under him made it awkward.

He turned his head to face away from Clancy. Clancy was breathing in Birk’s ear. They pressed at each other for several minutes. Each trying to anticipate movements by the other.

“I’m going to …” Clancy gasped. He raised himself with his left arm and with his right hand he forced Birk to look him in the eyes.

“Me too.” Birk tried to resist looking Clancy in the eyes but Clancy held his head firm. Clancy’s warm spurt oozed around his member. He spent himself seconds afterward. 

“You closed your eyes.” Clancy said. “When you spewed.”

“So did you.” Birk replied. 

“Wonder why that is?” Clancy continued to hold Birk’s gaze.

“So as we won’t see what’s in t’other soul.” He returned the gaze even though Clancy had let go of his head. “Ma say the eyes are windows to the soul.” 

They lay a few moments with eyes locked. 

Clancy licked his lips and pushed himself off Birk and rolled on to his back.

“Yer not so heavy after all.” Birk said. “I think’s time we did something about that bed at home though.”

“Get rid of the squeak, you mean?”

“I’m thinkin.” Birk rolled to his side, head propped on his elbow. “We don’t want to keep waiting till we come up here. Not when the snow flies, at any rate.”

“Or till we’re both covered with rock scrapes!’ Clancy jumped up and ran into the lake.

“That’s right.” Birk followed, leapt on Clancy to push him under the water.

They dried off and fished until the rain clouds darkened the sky.

“Let’s get these fish cleaned. We can take the town trail home.” Birk said. “It’ll be a lot faster.”

They were passing St. Agatha’s rectory when the rain started. Light drizzle at first and then a heavy downpour. They were drenched by the time they got to Birk’s house. 

“Don’t bring that wet in here.” His mother said as he handed her the fish they had caught.

“Can’t come bare skin into the house Ma.”

“Go on with ya.” She handed them two of her aprons. “These are big enough for ya till ye can get decent again. I’ll keep yer sisters in the parlour till yer upstairs.”

They stripped down to their under drawers and hung their clothes on the clothes line. 

“That’ll save us having to wash’em.” Birk said.

“Hope the rain takes that smoke out of them.” Clancy haded Birk of of the aprons.

They tied them around themselves, went into the house and rushed up to their room.

“We’re in Ma.” Birk shouted down.

“Barely covers yer arse.” Clancy laughed.

“Lest my little feller isn’t nosing about.” He pointed to Clancy privates. He’d put his apron on so hasty that the hem had been caught in the waist of his under drawers. 

“Thought it was a might breezy when I rushed up here.”

“Want to come out and play some more?” He reached out and touched Clancy’s member.

“Hey.” Clancy pulled back. “Not till we fix that squeak.”

“What’s this?” Birk noticed a package in brown paper on the bed. His name was printed on it. He tore it open and it was a couple of white shirts with a pair of dark grey pants under them. On top of the shirts was a handwritten note.

He glanced at the note and handed it to Clancy and put on the pants and one of the shirts.

“What’s it say.”

“I th’ot you could read?” Clancy squinted at the note. The handwriting was frilly.

“I can when ‘tis printed but this writing stuff I can’t make head nor tails outta it.’

“You know whose it from don’t ya.” Clancy sniffed the letter.

“No!” Birk buttoned the shirt. The white dazzled him. It was a large on him. He’d never touched such a fine linen.

“It’s from her who you plucked out of the fire last night.”

“What?” The pants were too large. The waist would need a belt and the legs were so long there was a good three inches beyond his toes. He sat on the edge of the bed and rolled the cuffs up.

“Dear Mr. Nelson,

Please accept these items to replace the clothing of yours that was damaged in the fire last night. They are apparel of my uncle’s that no long suits him. I trust they will fit you. If not I will be happy alter them.

My uncle, Father Patrick and I dearly wish to express our gratitude in person if you would kindly join us for a luncheon this Monday at the rectory. 

Sincerely

Miss Lillian McTavish.”

“I’ll be fused!” Birk said. “She wants to meet with us?”

“Just you.” Clancy grunted. “Shame you don’t fancy the gal as much as I do.”

Birk bounded down the stairs to show his mother the clothes.

“When that package come? Who brung it? Did you speak to her?” He blurted before answers could be made.

“I answered the door when the lady come.” Sal said. “She had a pretty face but dressed no better’n Ma. Called you Mister.”

“Made us laugh.” Maddy said. “Told her there was no Mister Birk living here only a plain old Birk.”

“She asked us our names.” Sal said. “I read to her from the good book too. Ma made me to do that.”

“I had to ask her in for a cup of tea.” His mother said. “Not every day we get one of them calling on us. Told us how you have been so brave at the fire. Very pretty she is.”

“I think she’s sweet on you.” Sal teased. “But that babby isn’t hers.”

“Sweet on me! You know ma’d kill me if I ever took up with some girl when I have the two of you to look after.”

“Yeh particularly a Catholic.” Clancy said. “The priest’s niece she is.”

Birk paraded around in his new clothes. 

“This is how I’d look if I were a priest.” He crossed himself. The pant cuffs refused to stay rolled up. “Guess the Father counts on God to keep his pants up.”

“Birk!” his mother laughed as she swatted at him with her wooden spoon. “Show some respect.”

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License

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Locatelli Lully Plus

On my classical shelf  are three cds of lps to cd transfers all from MHS recordings. The first of which is Jan of Lublin: Tablature and Introduction to Medieval  & Renaissance Music. For decades I thought Lublin was the composer’s last name, but it where he is from. These are transcriptions from organ music to guitar. I don’t have my original lp so have no idea who did these transcriptions or who is playing the guitar. I didn’t realize these were originally organ music until I tried to get more & all I could find where organ pieces – even then they were scattered. There was no one lp of the organ music.

Jan is a renaissance composer & I first heard a piece  of his on the MHS compilation Introduction to Medieval  & Renaissance Music. I love these Introduction lps for the range and quality of the music. All selected from MHS releases – so it was easy to track down the Lublin. Good luck on finding these transcription but they are well worth having.

Another composer I first heard on an MHS compilation was Pietro Locatelli. here I have his music for  Flute and Guitar; Two Violins; Oboe and Guitar; Two Flutes; along with Johan Stamitz’s Flute Concerto. I love Renaissance flute music and these two composers wrote delightful, playful and sometime relaxing chamber music. The Locatelli was intended for living room entrainment in which the children would play his music. Life before radio.

 

The last is a pair of Baroque composers together on a cd of MHS lps: Jean-Baptiste Lully: Suites; Georg Philipp Telemann: Flute Trios. Lully was a French court composer & his music is sweet, a bit busy but charming. He also wrote a few operas that are still performed today. Telemann was a German court composer. Here I have a sonata of his flute trios which are soothing & also charming. I have more  Telemann but that can wait until I get to ’t.’

Just Start

‘I’ll start by explaining ….’

‘Why don’t you just say what you are going to say. Don’t explain it to me. just start.’

‘Yes, but …’

‘Just start and once you’ve done you can explain, if I don’t get it. Okay.’

Dave had an address to give the local PTA. Not often were gay fathers asked to address anyone expect lawyers and case workers, so he was rather nervous.

‘Ahem,’ he gave a little cough. ‘ Do you think this is what I should wear?’

‘Bad start, Dave. Don’t ask these parents what you should wear.’

‘Steve, that is not the start of my talk. I was asking you, if you thought this is what I should wear.’

White shirt, unbuttoned at the collar, black dress pants, black loafers. Neat and tidy.

‘I don’t know.’

‘What do you mean?’ He looked himself up and down.

‘Let’s see your undies. You can’t do this in those …’

‘You want to heard how I sound or what.’

‘Of course. I think you are worrying way too much. Those that get it will, and those that don’t, will never get it. It won’t matter how conservative you dress, how polished or even-handed you sound they’ll stop hearing you after you say homosexual or gay. So let’s hear it …’

‘Ahem,’ another throat cleaning. ‘I’m David Bradly and both my son and daughter are in classes at this school. Jan is in third grade and Cliff in sixth grade. They’ve both been here at Cedar Grove Public school for the past two years. …. Good so far?’

‘Yes. Go on.’

‘Do you think I need to tell them more, like how we came to move here, as opposed to staying in LA or …’

‘Yes, and while you are it, you might bring an overhead projection of our financial portfolio and notarized copies of our bank statements, as well.’

‘No, I just mean, I don’t want them to think we dropped in here out of the blue to invade their community.’

‘Dave, you know very well we aren’t the only gay couple in Cedar Grove.’

‘We aren’t?’

‘If you’d stop trying to fit us in like a normal hetero couple, you may have noticed. There’s the two women over on Green Crescent.’

‘Yes, but they don’t have any kids in this school. Do they?’

‘No. But one of them is on the town council.’

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November 1 -30

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November 15: Hot Damn! It’s a Queer Slam – 8p.m. – Buddies In Bad Time Theatre, Toronto


http://www.queerslam.com

every Tuesday


June  – Capturing Fire 2019 – Washington D.C.  capfireslam.org 

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#NaNoWriMo18.02

A week into NaNo & how things change in big ways & small way. Being a pantser I jump in with ideas period. No names for characters or no professions. Quickly those things appear, as they need to appear. Jobs are only important because characters have to have jobs, whether that job relates to the plot is irrelevant but it can inform our hero’s actions. But when events only happen to them because of their job it can seem a bit hokey – serial killer profiler who gets stalked by a serial killer.

Names are important as they can inform readers of nationality, gender, class but, for my liking, have to be easily pronounceable if they re going to appear more than once. So my character’s names have changed a few times already. For my secondary characters I’ve decided to use names drawn from either Frankenstein or Dracula to pay homage to two of the inspirations for Blludstun. 

 

I was going to have a gay male triad but found that three voices striving to be heard was too much work & also distracting. Two is enough. Professions are falling into place. I have my hero, Matthew Taylor, as a transcriber in a hi-tech security firm – he makes hard copies of investigators’ written and/or dictated findings. His partner, Gabe Zhang, has become a 2nd generation Chinese, doctor doing the final year of his residency as St. Michaels (a hospital here in Toronto). This gives both of them ages, locations & tells us something about their background.

 

Progress is being made 🙂

please note Don has been renamed Gabe – it’s established that he is Chinese & that he is in last year of residency at St. Micheal Hospital. Also keep on mind this is unedited cookie dough – I put things down in rush as images came to me.

“How long was I … in a trance?” Gabe sat in his armchair.

“Less than two minutes. I wasn’t looking at the time.”

“Two minutes! It felt like hours. It had to be longer than that. My legs are aching from all the walking. Even doing the morning rounds was this exhausting.” Gabe rubbed his calves.

“Walking? You were out this afternoon?”

“No! In the trance I found myself in a … house. No outside of a house. It looked like one of those ultra-modernity places only it had some deco touches around the door frames.

“You were with me for the first moment then you went into the house so fast I lost sight of you. The front doors were shutting behind you as I ran up the stairs to follow you. It’s all so vivid. I can smell the lemon polish on the door. It hadn’t quiet shut and opened with just a gentle touch.

“I was surprised because it was a massive door. Thick, twice as tall as me. It shut noiselessly once I was inside. I was in a foyer that had a pair of stairs curving along each wall like arms reaching down to hold me. There were doorless rooms on both side.

“I looked into each to see which room you had gone into. I knew you hadn’t gone up the stairs. There were two regular doors in the middle of the wall under the stairs. I wanted to study the furniture it all was in the same style as the outside of the house.  Lamps, side tables, even the carpet seemed to repeat those same deco details. I was thinking someone very rich must have really loved that deco look. 

“I also thought it was odd that there was no other detailing, you know, like floral sprays or abstract patterns. Everything was along the edges while the body was in solid colours. Mostly deep rust with gold detailing but there were some in a garish yellow with blue detailing.

“I could hear someone walking quickly away from one of doors. The foot steps were on marble. I opened each of the doors and the first opened to carpeted hallways and the other opened to a marble floor. I could hear your footsteps. I called out to you but all I heard was my echo. I took my shoes off so you wouldn’t hear me following you. I wanted sneak up to surprise you.

“The marble was warm underfoot. After walking along it I sensed that the corridor had sloped gently downward. There were doors along it either and I was thinking I hope Matt knows where this leads. The floor began to feel less polished underfoot. I looked down and it was no longer that high grade marble but a sort of granite. You know the stuff with bits of mica in it that glitters when the sun is on it. I stooped down to feel it. When I stood I was at a doorway that had a brocaded curtain over it.

“I pushed the curtain aside and found myself in a chapel. There was several rows of pews on each side of an aisle. The door opened into this central aisle. swag lamps on either side illuminated the room. There was an altar at the far end with statues on either side. The light was dim at that end so I couldn’t really make out what the figures were. 

“The room was musty, like it needed to be aired out. The pews were dusty too. On the walls were tapestries of forest scenes filled with strange beasts. Not dragons but serpentine horses rearing fearfully. I was afraid. I sensed this wasn’t where I was supposed be. There were no footprints in the dust on the floor in front of me so I knew you hadn’t come into this room.

“The tapestry to the left of me fluttered as if someone had been there watching me. I lifted it and there was corridor behind it. I called your name as I walked down it. You replied ‘Hurry up slow poke’ I walked faster. This corridor wasn’t straight, it had sudden corners. Some sharp other with curves that I feel were taking me back the way I had come. I stopped to catch my breath, put my shoes back on and saw a flight of stairs that lead down.

“I went down the stairs. I wondered where the light was coming from because I didn’t see any wall sconces or overhead lights. The stairs began to curve into a spiral until I found myself in what I assumed was the basement. There were shelves of containers with various dishwater, sheets, household stuff in them. One was filled with what looked like silver spoons with monogrammed handles. I took one and there was were gems in the middle of the top of an ornate ‘B’. I put it in my pocket.

“By now I was exhausted. You know me, five minutes of walking and I’m ready to sit down but I didn’t see anyplace to rest. I thought there would be an area for furniture down here both this other stuff they’s stored in the basement. I figured if I came to another set of stairs I’d sit on them for a rest but I knew I had to keep following you.

“I heard some chanting and followed it. I found myself in another … I want to say chapel but was more of a grotto, a cave. Rough hewn walls, wet and lit by tall candles. When I stepped in the singing stopped. There was about a dozen people in robes and cowls. Just like in the movies I thought. They all turned to me at once and pushed their cowls back. Their faces. Oh my God. Their faces.

“I must have fainted and when I came to you were holding me. I was back here in this room.”

Gabe was trembling so much Matt pulled a blanket from the floor beside the couch and put it around their shoulders. 

“All that is those few minutes?” Matt said.

“They were chanting ‘Vos autem non rogavimus – Nolite facere malum in arbitrium’” Gabe sang the words as he had heard them in the chant.

They sat in silence for a few minutes. Both staring into space. 

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November 1 -30

http://nanowrimo.org

November 15: Hot Damn! It’s a Queer Slam – 8p.m. – Buddies In Bad Time Theatre, Toronto



http://www.queerslam.com

every Tuesday


June  – Capturing Fire 2019 – Washington D.C.  capfireslam.org 

Hey! Now you can give me $$$ to defray blog fees & buy coffee in Washington at 2018’s capfireslam.org – sweet,eh? paypal.me/TOpoet

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Get Off The Pot

samprules2Get Off The Pot

there is a time & place

for everything

except this

because this a time for nothing

a time to do nothing

to save nothing

this isn’t that rainy day

this isn’t when

the cows come home

when the crows roost

so stop waiting

for those eggs to hatch

no matter what you have on your hands

this is not the time or place

to save stitches

to waste your breath

or make yet more excuses 

no more chances

there is no grace period 

its now or never

and either suits me fine

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Still Waiting For Godot’s Tip

Waiting For Godot’s Tip

 

some people

you know

expect to be thanked

just for sitting at a table

if you don’t say

thank you for eating here

thank you for looking at the menu

they start making demands

with their eyes

 

mind you

you know

they expect you to know

what they want

expect you to apologize

if the specials aren’t special enough

if you don’t

bring water fast enough

they are waving their hands

 

you know 

I do this for hours

keep track of every little motion

every wrinkle of the brow

to stay on top of their needs

to fulfill

because that is my job

that is the job of the world

to be constantly aware

and ready to happily fulfill

unspoken desires

all for lousy 10% tip

 

you know

most days it isn’t worth it

but it’s better than

starving 

right

 

then I think

this is the job of the world

to be constantly aware

and ready to cater

to the unspoken desires 

of those around us

particularly

when we don’t know

what we want ourselves

Back to the 224 Rules for Monks after the October boo break 🙂 The rule that prompted this one is about not being too pushy with someone who is supposed to supply you with something. As I often do I changed the point of view to someone upon who we often make demands – in this case waiters. Have you ever tried to catch the eye of a waiter expecting them to guess you wanted another glass of water?

The notion of waiters easily lead me to the title – a play on Waiting For Godot – a play in which the lead characters wait for this guy to show up and offer them some sort of salvation – spoiler alert: he never shows up. The tip is what is awaited here – the hope for something of size – our reward to them for being pleasant. 

I’ve seen customers take it out on waiters for things that aren’t the waiter’s fault. Waiters bring the food, they don’t cook it, they don’t plate it, they bring it and let you eat it. They don’t wash the dishes, the cutlery, or decide on the portion size of your drinks, the strength of the coffee, or even what tables are available. Trust me they’ve heard that joke (whatever one it is) hundreds of times.

In editing this for more than typos (I’m sure there’s at least one) I expanded it as I realized that in life we all serve someone – bosses, partners – we live in a world of unexpressed expectations & cultural conditioning. The tip we get is the other person’s approval. This construct is impossible to transcend without being a hermit. It ends with admitting that often we really don’t know what we want, merely what we think we want or what we’ve been taught we want. That’s what the ad industry is built on. We get sold the ‘smoke’ but end up getting the cancer.

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Chapter XXXII Birk Changes Shirts

Coal Dusters

Chapter XXXII

Birk Changes Shirts

The acrid smell of smoke hung in the humid morning air when Birk woke up. He lay on top of the bed to enjoy the gentle breeze that came through the window. Even in just his undershirt and underdraws it had been another night where it was too warm to sleep with covers on. He had woken a couple of times feeling the floor give way beneath his feet. Clancy, with just a pillow case over his behind, was still sleeping on the other side of the bed with his back to Birk.  

Birk could hear his mother in the kitchen downstairs singing, “Bringing in the sheaves. Sowing in the sunshine.” Her voice getting louder each time she sang ‘sheaves’ and ‘sunshine.’ His sisters would join in on ‘sunshine.’

Through the open window he heard people talking on the street. He caught small bits of conversation as they passed. 

“Terrible about that fire.” 

“What ya think the company will do?”

“She run up them stairs faster than a cat on fire.”

He sat up, swung around and reached for his shirt. Even though he had rinsed it before he went to bed it still smelled strongly of the fire. He’d have to leave it on the clothes line for a day or two to let the wind blow the smouldered stench away. The shirt was spotted with little holes where the scattered embers of the fire had showered on him when he ran up and down the stairs to rescue Miss McTavish. Most of the burns were along the shoulders. A few of the holes were large enough for his little finger to poke through.

“Ruin’t” he whispered. He took a clean shirt from the ones hanging on hooks along one wall. He had three other shirts, an old white, dressy one with thin black pinstripes, that Blackie out-grew, which Birk wore for only special occasions; the final one was his usual canvas mine work shirt. It was also hand-me-down from George. The once dark blue canvas was soft and faded pale from all the washings it had had and the patches on the elbows would soon have to be replaced. What was left of the cuffs was beyond repair. At least it didn’t smell so strong of the fire. He put it on and started to do up the mismatched buttons. 

“Come on lazy arse.” He gave Clancy a playful push. 

Unlike Birk, Clancy was happy to sleep in the nude. He was also not shy about being seen completely nude. Clancy rolled to his back. 

“Another day and no dollars.” Clancy stretched his arms to the ceiling.

“Don’t we know it.” Birk pulled on his pants.

“Fishin’s today?” Clancy reached up and pulled Birk on top of him.

“At’s right.” he half-heartedly pushed himself up.

“Feels as if your little feller’s ready to catch something.”

“Yers too.” Birk grinned sheepishly as he rubbed against Clancy. “But we … “ he didn’t want his sisters coming in to find them this way. Bad enough that Clancy was naked. “… better get crackin.”

“Didn’t we bring home enough last night?” Clancy got out of the bed and got dressed.

“Needs something to go with it.”

When Birk came down to the kitchen with his damaged shirt his two sisters sat wide-eyed and silent, staring at him.

“What is it?” he asked them. “I grow anudder head?”

“Mrs. Malone was here.” Maddy said.

“She says you saved a babby from burning up the fire.” Sal said rocking her doll in her arms. “No fire going to burn you up my little one.”

“You said nothing about that last night.” His mother pushed the loaf of bread toward him. 

“Didn’t think much of it.” Birk cut off a slice of the bread and sat at the table. “I ruin’t my shirt in the fire though.”

He handed it to his mother. “You think it can be fixed.”

She took the shirt and held it up the sunlight coming through the window. “I guess I could put a patch on these two big holes but not on all them little ones. Might just as well make a new shirt. Pity as it was good shirt.”

Blackie took the shirt. “Good thing you didn’t catch fire yourself.”

“You think I wants to hear things about my son from folks next door?” His mother twisted his ear.

“Ow! Ma I didn’t think much of it. I had enough of m’mind getting myself in and out of the company store with stuff you. Wasn’t that flour and such enough for you?”

His sisters grabbed at the shirt and each of held a sleeve to her nose to smell it.

“You wore this when you saved that babby?” Sal asked as her eyes grew big.

“Of course he did.” Maddy said looking though the burn holes. “I can see the flames now as they come down on me. Ow! Ow! Ow!” She ducked under the table.

“Ow! Ow! Ow!” Sal echoed as she ducked under the table.

“Let me check your back.” Blackie said. “Time’s I’ve been caught in a flare from the boilers and not seen how burned I was till I laid on m’back.” He began to help Birk unbutton his shirt.

“Not in my kitchen.” His mother pushed them to the back door. “Take him out back. There’ll be sun enough to see better, anyway.”

Before they could go out Clancy came into the kitchen.

“I suppose you know’d all about it, too?” his mother said to Clancy.

“Bout what. Mrs. N?”

“Birk saved a babby.” the two girls said almost in unison. Then began to dance around the kitchen singing. Each holding one the the sleeves of the shirt. “Saved a babby. Saved a babby.”

“Maddy! Sal! Quiet down.” Birk’s mother took the shirt from them. “If’un you tear this up there’ll be no way to fix it.”

“That’s not all he did.” Clancy helped himself to some of the bread. “He saved a gal too. You know, that one from away. Boston.”

“One that lives with the priest, that Father Patrick?” Birk’s mother asked. “That sort always looks to be the centre of things.” She sniffed derisively. 

“Same one.” 

  “Din’ matter to me who she was.” Birk pushed the backdoor open. “Caught her apron skirt on th’door tryin’ to get that babby out of the fire. That’s all. She done the saving. I only got her away from the fire. Let’s go out, Pa I do feel something on m’ shoulders.” 

“Birk, sometimes I feel you have a whole life outside these walls I know nothing about.” His mother said as Birk and Blackie went into the back garden. “Here take this salve out with you. It’ll help with the burns.” She took a glass jar out of the cupboard. She handed it to Clancy. “I uses this when I get a little burn tending the stove.”

Out in the sun Birk fidgeted while his father examined his arms and back in the light. 

“See much?” he asked.

“Lot’s a hair.” Chancy gave a little laugh.

“Yer not too bad.” His Dad said. “A few blisters though …”

“Where the embers didn’t bounce off your hair.” Clancy opened the jar and took a gob of the lotion out. He rubbed it along Birk’s neck. “Worse along here.”

“I’ve had worse sun burns.” Birk flinched as Clancy rubbed the lotion into him. The lotion was a thick petroleum grease that had a slight camphor smell to it. He could feel it cooling his skin here it was rubbed in. 

“Some along here too.” Blackie said, rubbing some of goo into Birk’s forearms. “Sometimes I get so used to the heat I don’t even feel it burn me.”

“I didn’t feel anything at all.” Birk said. “There a spot along here?” He gestured to his lower back.

“Felt nothing? Not even her kiss?” Clancy asked as he rubbed lotion where Birk had indicated. 

“Kiss?” Blackie said.

“That priest’s niece was sure happy to be rescued.” Clancy said. “She threw her arms around Birk and kissed him right on his mouth.” He put the lid back on the jar of salve.

“And crushed the baby?” Birk’s mother was standing on the porch with the two girls.

Sal had wrapped her doll in Birk’s shirt.

“Kissed a girl.” They broke into a song. “Birk kissed a girl.”

“Nothing of the sort happened.” Birk pulled his shirt back on. “She was grateful but the baby’s mother was right there and that Father McTavish. There was no kissin’. Her uncle shook my hand.”

His sisters kept up their chant. “Birk kissed a girl.”

“You stop that.” Birk swung his open hand playfully at them. “Or next time there’s a fire you won’t be getting no candy.”

“Don’t be scared.” Sal said to her doll. “He’s trying to save you.”

“They’re having you on b’y.” His father said.

“Now, here’s something t’eat while you are up there fishin’” His mother plunked his lunch tin on the porch rail. “There tea in the jar. Made fresh with what you saved from the company store.”

Birk flipped the lunch tin open and there was more of the bread, some cheese and a couple of cookies, still warm.

“You ever sleep. Ma?” He bit into one of the cookies.

“This hot, only time to cook is at night. Here’s for you Clancy.”

“Yeh, but you don’t ever sleep Ma.” Birk said. “I can never remember seeing you on the bed.”

“That’s enough of that talk.” she pulled her wooden spoon out of her apron pocket and shook it at him. “I gets rest enough in m’chair in the parlour.”

His mother had an over stuffed armchair in the parlour with a foot stool where she would sit when she had done her chores or when she was waiting for something to finish cooking. The flowered print had worn off from her hands smoothing the sides and the pillows before she sat in it.

His sisters sat on the back porch bench giggling and whispering to Sal’s doll about Birk kissing a girl.

“We best be off.” Clancy said.

“Sky’s clouding over so keep an eye for it.” Blackie warned.

“Yeh. We’ll try to be back before the streets are mud.” Birk said. “Then we can fish for mud suckers.”

“Bring us back a babby if you catch another one.” Maddy said.

“Bet those burns are where her kisses burned you.” Sal said and the two girls burst into laugher.

Birk’s face flushed. “There was no kissin’” He shouted at them and glared at his mother and father.

“Means nothing if there were.” His mother said gently. “Birk they mean nothing by it.”

“Yeah.” Maddy piped up. “Who’d want to kiss a hairy monkey like you anyway.” She grabbed Sal by the hand and the two of them darted into the house. The tail of the shirt caught in the door as it swung closed. His mother frowned as it tore as it was yanked divot the house.

“I know that Ma but still … it was bad enough with George makin’ fun of me. I was doing the right thing, wasn’t I.”

“Of course you were,” Blackie said. “Don’t think we are aren’t proud of you for doin’ it, while others stood around watching.”

“It happened so fast I can scare remember what I did. I saw her up there strolling. I can’t even say if she screamed for help. Did I run up them stairs?” he asked Clancy.

“I don’t know. I wasn’t paying that much attention to you, until I saw you up there with her. Could be you jumped up there from the ground for all I know.”

“Maybe m’ sisters are right that I did let that gal kiss me.”

“She did get your name though. I remember that. Asked who you were after she smothered you with kisses for recusing her.”

“Sounds like your sore because she did ask who m’friend with the bags of flour was?”

“Candy. I had those jars of candy.”

“Doesn’t matter now.” Blackie said. “Today’s another day. We have to figure out what to do now that there’s no store in Castleton to deny us credit.”

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License

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Horn to Horne

Next are two legendary vocalists. First is Shirley Horn: I have these stand-alone: Loads of Love/With Horns; Jazz ’Round Midnight; Light Out of Darkness. Loads is a pair of her early lps – Loads of Love & Shirley Horn With Horns. Both from 1963 & both delightful but like many female vocalists she was working with producers who saw her as a voice not as a person. The songs are are show tunes or jazz classics like Do It Again, Wouldn’t It Be Loverly. 

Jazz ’Round Midnight is a Verve compilation series that includes this one of her. It repeats some of the Loads tracks. Because of her difficulty is working with producers & studio engineers who knew better than some woman she stepped away from recording for some time. When she did return in 1993 with ‘Light Out Of Darkness’ (a tribute to Ray Charles) she was fully in control as producer & arranger.

This is a great set of Ray Charles songs from Hit The Road Jack to It Isn’t Easy Being Green. Her voice has aged well & her takes on the songs is hers. She doesn’t duplicate the Charles versions but remakes them & makes many of them her own in what feels like an effortless fashion.

Next is Lena Horne – strand alone: The Lady Is A Tramp; tucked into an Mp3 collection: Lena & Gabor: Watch What Happens. I enjoy Lena Horne more for nostalgia than as a singer. She was a trail-blazer for black women in film & was considered a great jazz vocalist but to my ear, she’s no Billie Holliday. Tramp is a compilation of ‘hits’ full of jazz standards. Her work with Gabor Szabo is more jazzy – he is a genius guitarist. Recorded in 1968 it includes unexpected current pop songs i.e Rocky Racoon.

Both are excellent vocalists for starting a jazz singer exploration. I do prefer the 1963 Horn compilation. Though Lena Horne’s work with Szabo is more pop than anything Shirley did. I’m such a big fan of Szabo anything he plays on is worth listening to & he certainly plays well with Lena.

Saggy Baggy

‘Hi.’

‘Hi.’

‘Saw you in here the other day. Last week?’ I added soap to the clothes in the washing machine.

‘I suppose so.’ He leaned against them machine two down from mine. His newspaper vibrating on top if it.

‘Good thing all the machine are working today.’

‘Yep.’ he answered without looking up from his paper.

Baggy saggy ass jeans hugged his hips, waist-band of boxers showed above. Glimpse of flesh where his tight t-shirt had slid up some.

‘You live around here?’ I wanted to keep the conversation going. to get him to look at me so I could see more of his face. 

‘No I take a cab here special cause this is such a friendly laundromat.’

‘Sorry I didn’t mean that to sound like such a line.’

‘Well it did.’ He finally looked up. Little trail of dark hair around his chin & up into his toque. Soul patch under his lip.

I wasn’t sure what to say or do next. I needed more text, a comment that was the right tip-off that took the action somewhere. Not that it could go anywhere outside of the laundromat. As much as I enjoyed the casual then lingering street eye-contact I never felt confident enough to ask it into my home.

I retreated to a chair that allowed me to watch my laundry till the light went off that it was ready for the drier. I did a crossword puzzle. Five-letter word for wet snow.

‘Sorry.’

I glanced up. He stood before me. He scratched his hard, flat stomach inches from my face. I didn’t really want to look up.

‘It’s just that guys are always hitting on me for some reason. I’m not … you know … gay.’

‘Life is like that.’

‘Must be some sort of vibe that I send out. I don’t know. Can’t help being who I am. Can I?’

‘No more than some guys can help being who they are either.’

‘Yeah. Right.’

I expected him to move away but he leaned against the coke machine beside me.

‘Funny world. Takes a lot of getting use to.’ He pulled up his saggy baggy jeans.

‘I don’t think one very gets used to it.’

My machine dinged.

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November 1 -30

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Ruby Red Christmas

Hot Damn! varied its usual slam context for a an evening with Jillian Christmas at Unit 2 in the west end. Home of Bricks & Glitter it provided a simple intimate space to feature this great poet/singer/storyteller. Host Charlie Petch was effusive, emotional and, for the most part, focused 🙂 Plus some mighty fine open stagers (including myself) made for a great evening.

Too many open-stagers to name – they ran the gamut from national champions to just plain folk. Pieces covered self-realization, the desire to be a rich bitch & scary Halloween (scare provided by me.) The space was welcoming for us who made it through the rain to fill the house. Some pieces brought out tears, some laughter. All satisfied.

 

I’ve known Jillian for several years now so my thoughts on her may be slightly biased 🙂 One of the good things about knowing performer over time is that one can see the changes in their approach and even in subject matter. It’s been maybe two years since I last heard her perform. She was one of the lucky Hot Damn! season winners who represented Damn! at Capturing Fire – which, I might add, she also won.

 

Her set was generous with a great range of styles, p.o.v and emotional frankness. Pieces about relationships, family, the ecology, same-sex self discovery & magic. Accompanying herself on uke (which she elevates to lute like delicacy) at times, on a snare at time & even with both at the same time for one piece – she held the audience spellbound. By the time she was done she left us as one heart – ruby red.

Next Hot Damn! November 15: Hot Damn! It’s a Queer Slam – 8p.m. – Buddies In Bad Time Theatre, Toronto



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one of the horror pieces I read on the open stage

The Villagers

Anton was restless 

it had been a boring week

it seemed like ages

since they had stormed the castle

to stop the brain surgeon

who had transplanted 

criminal brains into spiders

which wasn’t as much fun

as the time the villagers 

had tracked down

the radioactive slime centipedes

let loose by the deranged 

unmarried woman scientist

she had hoped the slime

would restore her youth

but instead turned flesh

into hair then eyeball eating centipedes

 

Anton longed for the days

when there was castle

worth storming 

when fools who would play God

with forces of nature

would be forced to face the wrath

of uneducated villagers

the last time they had lit their torches

was to storm

the local coffee shop to force it to add

pumpkin spice latte to the menu

but that wasn’t as satisfying  

as chasing the giant 

bone-marrow-sucking mutant leach

into the power lines

to electrocute it 

that smell lasted for weeks

 

Dragos stopped him

‘Anton did you know

that the abandoned meat factory

that was once the asylum mortuary

has been leased to a Doctor Mortise’

 

things were looking up

it would soon be time

to open the torch shop again

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NaNoWriMo.01 2018

I wasn’t sure if I wanted to tackle NaNoWriMo this year. I’ve done good work every outlast year it felt like work – previous years were like sailing without needing a steering wheel. Last year was like rowing in molasses. So this year I’m going to start with cliche plots, queer them up & see where that takes me.

 

Cliche plots will include haunted houses, possession, paranormal investigators, explicit gore and who knows what else. I’ve been watching the current season of American Horror Story (mildly enjoying it), recently watched Castle Rock, have the current Channel Zero on my pvr to watch – so I’m clearly interested in this genre yet have never really written about it so time to get on that broom 🙂

Rather than try to fashion a single plot, plus sub-plot I’m going to a series of linked short stories using the same characters in various supernatural circumstances. Perhaps allowing the lead pov to move from story to story. Starting with one of them getting a mysterious letter informing them that they’ve inherited a mysterious estate in a mysterious country.

I also want to play around with various form of narrative – Frankenstein is told by the captain who finds the doctor on the ice floes; Dracula is told via letters & journal entries. I recently watched The Saragossa Manuscript  in which a man tells a story in which a man tells story about man telling a story. James Joyce’s Ulysses as a horror novel 🙂 Working title The Blludstun Chronicles.

Please keep in mind this is a fresh off the keyboard sample that has had minimal editing – I haven’t even checked it for typos.

“Matt, You’ve got mail!” It was a text message from Don, my partner.

“Thanks” I texted back. I checked my email box and there was nothing there. Don would often send longer messages as emails because typing them in the cell phone annoyed him.

“There’s nothing there.” I sent back to him with a frown emoji.

He texted back a photograph of a letter addressed to me. ‘Mr. Matthew Taylor, 75a Crombie Mews, Toronto, Ontario” All written by hand.

“Very clever marketing.” I texted back. “Looks like real handwriting.”

The video alert flashed and Don was sending a live feed of the envelope.

“It’s not marketing.” Don said. “I recognize real ink.”

“Show me the stamp.” I said.

He angled the letter so the stamp came into view. 

“It’s a real stamp!” Don said as he picked at a corner of the stamp. “Glue not pre-sticky.”

The stamp was a Greek athlete throwing a disc. The lettering on the stamp wasn’t one I recognized. I did a quick image search on Google. It was from Dashan. 

“It’s from Dashan!” I exclaimed.

“Who is Dashan?” Don asked. 

“It’s a country not a person. Who’s the sender?”

“I can’t tell. The return address is in that gothic font.” He brought the return address into view on the phone.

“It’s blurred.” I said. “Hold it still.”

“I am.” He pulled the cell away from the developed so it was all in view.

“Strange. Everything else is readable except it’s like there’s some smudge on your lens distorting it. Open it!”

“I don’t think I should.” Don panned his phone’s camera to the lower portion of the envelope.

In thick red hand printing it said “To be opened only my the addressee.”

“Go on,” I said. “The envelope won’t know who opened it, will it?”

“Something important?” Frank, my supervisor was standing by my desk.

“Yeah. I got mail!”

“Not on company time.” 

“Sorry. But I mean I got snail mail.”

“What?” He stepped inot the cubical to take a closer look at the photo on my phone. “I’ll be.”

“I gotta go. I’ll open it when I get home.” I turned off the video link.

“It’s not your birthday.” Frank said. “Or did I miss the reminder.”

“Birthday?”

“It was at one time a tradition to snail mail birthday greetings.”

“It’s not my birthday. I have the Beaufort report to finish.”

“George Innis was on that case?”

“Yes. His notes are impossible to read and transcribing his audio is no easier. When he isn’t spilling coffee on his paper he’s slurping it went he records his findings.”

(Matthew works for a corporate investigative firm that specializes in corporate surveillance.)

When he got home he saw that the envelope was on the dining table. Unopened. He went toward the table and the air was noticeably cooler. 

“You feel it, too?” Don came out of the kitchen and kissed Matt. “The cool.”

“Yes. Must be draft from one of the windows?” Matt hugged Don and looked over his shoulder at the envelope. All day he’d wanted to get home to tear it open but now he wanted to wait.

“You didn’t open it?” He asked Don.

“I … it didn’t feel right.” Don said. “After I showed it to you with the cell I couldn’t wait to put it down. It was almost if it jumped out of my hands.” 

I stared at the envelope. It was an off-white, a little larger than standard business. 

“Why are you staring at it. Open it.” Don gave me a little nudge toward the table.

“I don’t know.” I approached the table. “I get this strange vibe from it too. Fuck! It’s even colder here. Maybe I’ll need my gloves to even pick it up.”

I picked it up and the cold immediately dispersed. The paper was a linen weave. Expensive, not some drugstore bought envelope. I could see the return address clearer but the name was indecipherable. 

“Open it.” Don said. “The suspense is killing me.”

“Okay. Here goes.” I ran my finger under the back flap. As it opened I caught a scent, sort of a peppery rose, that came from it. A place red mist flashed out of it then dispersed. I dropped the envelope. The lights flicker and dimmed in the room. I could no linger see anything around me.

Don moaned. I looked at him and his eyes rolled up in his head. He stepped back unsteadily, turned and reached for the sofa. He collapsed to the floor before he could reach it. I tried to help him to sit but my hands couldn’t grasp his body. It felt like I was trying to pull spotting out of an oily river and that something kept slipping out of my hands.

“You have no choice. Don’t make the wrong one.” Don spoke but the voice wasn’t his.

The room had gone from freezing cold to suffocatingly warm. I hooked two of my fingers into Don’s pant waist and pulled him to me. I clasped him to me. His body was vibrating.

“You have no choice. Don’t make the wrong one.” He repeated several times. For a moment I couldn’t feel the floor under me. Don’s body shuddered then went limp in my arms. The lights returned to normal.

“What does it say?” He asked.

“You don’t remember what just happened?”

“Yes you opened the envelope. What? Did I miss something?”

“You went into some sort of trance.” I said. “When I opened the envelope you seemed to be taken over.”

“Taken over? Please.”

“I don’t want to know what’s in that letter. From what’s happened already without even reading it I don’t want to know.”

“Whatever it is, now that you’ve opened it you have no choice.”

“I can put it in the shredder undread, I mean, unread.” I stopped to pick it up and saw the the contents had scattered on the floor. One of them, folded in three, was held by a gold ribbon. I picked it up and turned it over. It said “The Last Will and Testament of Thomas D. Blludstun” 

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October scary poetry every Wednesday & Thursday

November 1 -30

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November 15: Hot Damn! It’s a Queer Slam – 8p.m. – Buddies In Bad Time Theatre, Toronto



http://www.queerslam.com

every Tuesday


June  – Capturing Fire 2019 – Washington D.C.  capfireslam.org 

Hey! Now you can give me $$$ to defray blog fees & buy coffee in Washington at 2018’s capfireslam.org – sweet,eh? paypal.me/TOpoet

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