Games

Growing up we had a frequent Sunday night family game with card games & board games. I don’t recall exactly when it started but may bother & sisters were included. We would play in the dining-room, which we rarely used for dining. The table was large enough & was usually clear of stuff. Card games were simple enough Hearts, Crazy 8s. I was told by my Dad not to try too hard to win to my siblings had a chance.

We graduated to Rummoli. I checked it out online & the fold out board is familiar but the rules for the various elements boggle the mind. I recall Cribbage mainly because keeping score was a pain. Gin Rummy was another but that too was a point counting challenge. I usually let someone else keep score for both.

Although we had Monopoly & Scrabble, the board games I recall best are Stock Ticker & Careers. Both were dice games with playing pieces. In Stock Ticker one bought & sold shares as they went up & down with rolls of the dice. The game had its own paper play money. It could go on forever, I think. Or maybe it was over when all the play money was gone or someone had gone bankrupt. The one with the most money was the winner.

Careers was a sort of Monopoly variation. Rolling dice. Moving your piece around the game board & landing on good or bad squares. There was also a form to fill in of what you wanted: fame, money etc. The winner was the one who first fulfilled what they filled in on their form. I was fond of going for all love or all fame as $ wasn’t as lasting 🙂

With the lockdown I hope more families are trying to this old school games. I have tried the computer/video versions of some of them but I like the simplicity of the hard copy 🙂 Card games are too fast even if the computer keeps score. The electronic sound of dice rolling or cards shuffling isn’t as satisfying. Besides you can’t ask the desktop to get you a sandwich while it’s up 🙂

(games photos sourced via yahoo images)

Eggs Rule

there were more eggs 

than the eye could see

they stretched from one door to the next

from one telephone pole to the next

balanced on electric wires

dangling from the tips of tree branches

<>

eggs of all colors and sizes

robin’s blue so simple and pure

lumpen grey brown emu 

shells that couldn’t be cracked 

shells that cracked at a slight breeze

eggs in mailboxes on street corners

rolling around with nothing to do

aimless without purpose

loitering without intent

<>

eggs looking to be scrambled

to be fried by the right pair of eyes

the temptation to let them all hatch

had to be resisted

too many feathers

the gritty remains of shells under foot 

was irritating enough without 

moulting and feathers in the equation

feathers that held microbes mites diseases

eggs were harmless

as long as they remain intact

it was hard to avoid them

<>

eggs on the subway

leaning over your shoulder 

hinting they wanted to sit down

trying to nestle in your pockets

for warm incubation

eggs on tv telling 

newsmen what to say

controlling the weather

refusing you a loan at the bank

spinning dizzy

at any hint of being interested 

in anything you say against them

<>

eggs rule the world now

we might as well accept that

put down that spatula

don’t go near that whisk

eggs are in control

so surrender

this is their world now

it always was

we have been forced out of denial

the truth can finally be told

<>

eggs invited the light bulb

made the first Atantic crossing

landed on the moon

all history books are to be revised

to reveal the awful inadequacy of humans

in the face of facts

that showed our greedy eagerness 

to hog all the fame acclaim glory

that belongs soley to the egg

the egg that wrote the ninth symphony 

the gg that found the first the rose

the egg that invented the book of love

and now wants 

to tear out all the pages

wants to break our hearts

to serve them sunny side up

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See You Again Never

I took this set of photos a couple of summers ago when this hoarding art sprung over the course of a couple of weeks. I loved the message, the style, the use of found objects & how it reprised what was already on the hoarding. 

It’s on the south side of Danforth,  east of Bastedo Ave. The remains of it are still there. Bits & pieces hav been torn off but it hasn’t been obliterated by the city even for Destination Danforth. My only disappointment is it didn’t inspire more of the same on other hoardings.

Oh yes – the hoarding protects an empty pit waiting decades now for redevelopment. At one time there was a hardware store there. The store caught fire & was totally incinerated. Going through the remains the fire inspectors found human remains & evidence that the fire had been set by the deceased.


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Modest Mojo Monae

I bought my first Modest Mouse cd on sale at HMV. That was the moon & antartica. I subsequently added Everywhere & his nasty Parlour Tricks, Good News For People Who Love Bad News, We Were Dead Even Before The Ship Sank, No One’s First & You’re Next. All of which I have as stand-alone cds. In a way they are reminiscent of the Byrds with jangly guitars & sweet harmonies. 

Their sound is a mix of emo & indie-rock. Lyrics are wry romantic commentary with a dash of political. Great word play – as the cd titles reflect. Sort of nerdy, sometimes a bit funky & dare I say – often pretty. Songs that show in for sensitive moments in romcoms & crime movies to give them a ‘hip’ echo. I always enjoy these when I hear them but rarely do I get the mood to pull out for listen.

Mojo, which I think is still publishing, is a British pop music magazine that usually had a cd included. Sometime the cd was a collection of recent releases, sometimes it was one they had complied of covers of songs by James Brown, The Who.  This one from 2007 is Sgt. Pepper lp covers by groups such as Simple Rid, Dave Cloud & The Gospel of Power. These the magazine commissioned. I love Sgt. Pepper & the still obscure groups do a great job with these songs & some actually re-invent rather than re-create the originals. 

I kept reading raves about Janelle Monae. I caught a video of one of her songs, then accidentally saw her live on some daytime talk show as I skipping through channels. I like her retro look & was intrigued by the sci-fi subtext of her videos. So I picked up ArchAndroid on sale at HMV & enjoyed it. Then eventually added Dirty Computer. Great production values, interesting songs & a great voice.

A short story discovered in my archives. It goes back to pre-1995 as the original printout is dot matrix 🙂 I’ve done minimal editing. It is based on a real incident.

The Allegory of Love

2

He laughed, stumbling into me.

“So, what’s the promotion mean?” I asked, steadying him with an arm around his shoulder.

“More money, more responsibility.”

“A good worker like you deserves it.”

He turned. “You always say nice things about me.”

I was nonplussed. “Why not? People deserve all the praise they can get. You’re pretty good people as far as I’m concerned.”

“You never let me down,” he want on, quite serious.

“Let you down? I don’t understand.” I resisted adding, ‘I don’t see you enough to let you down.’

“You’re always the same. You treat me kind. So many guys are just … mean for the sake of being mean.”

“I like you, Steve. That’s the way I treat people I like.” I put my other arm around him & kissed the top of his head. “And you I more than like.”

“I’m sure.” He blushed. “Well, I see 1708 still has a light on.” He was squinting up at his apartment window. “I hope that doesn’t mean what I think it means.”

“And if it does.”

“Come on,” He pulled out his keys & we went in.

“This is still a gays only building?” I joked.

“I suppose,” he answered flatly.

At his door, he fumbled with the keys, dropping them twice. “Shit shit shit” he cursed under his breath.

“Well, here goes,” I whispered as we went in. I headed for the living room. A glance over my shoulder down the short hall & I saw that Ron’s door was slightly ajar. Next to it was the bathroom & then Steve’s bedroom.

“So far, so good,” I thought as I sat on the sofa in the darkest corner of the room.

Steve went into the kitchen & got a beer. He unbuttoned his shirt & sat next to me. There was a rustling sound from one of the cages behind us.

“Ofeelme is preggers.” Steve explained, sitting up on his knees & gingerly putting on hand into the cage to brush the fur of a swollen hamster. “How you doing little mama?” He whispered gently.

“How’s Hamlet?” I asked. 

“Proud as can be. I separated them because the last time Papa got a bit jealous & ate some of the babies.”

“Gross, Steve. You really know how to turn me on.”

He laughed, lifting Hamlet out of the other cage. “He’s happy to see you. Say Hi to Uncle Bri.” He sat holding the hamster gently in his hand, lightly stroking the fur between its ears. “You always love me, don’ you Hamlet? Food in the same place is all you ask. You know,” he turned to me, “he goes back time & time again to the place where he got food hoping to get fed again”

I kissed Steven the shoulder as he put Hamlet back.

“Let’s go to bed.” He gave me another of his wonderful, sloppy kisses.

I darted past Ron’s room to Steve’s just on the other side of the bathroom. As I pulled off my sweatshirt the dark hall echoed with the slap of barefoot on hardwood. It was suddenly flooded with bright light.

“Steven! How dare you! You know I have to work in the morning, you know.” Ron exploded with an exasperated whine. There was the sound of a smack.

I held my breath as the bare feet came directly to Steve’s room. The sound of that smack reverberated in my mind. The last thing I wanted was some domestic squabble. The door was shoved open hard & I was caught in the intrusive hall light. 

“And how dare … YOU? I told Steve never to bring you into my house.”

He clenched his fist & hit me in the chest. “Get out of here, you trash.”

Not much of a punch,” I thought. The glaring light kept me from being distracted by his hairless naked body.

“Get going, now.” He handed my jacket & shoved me toward the door.

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Between The Lines

Between The Lines

so this is how it ends

no bang

no whimper

but with a snort

two lines of blow

careful spread 

on your cellphone screen

<>

that you did 

this sort of thing

didn’t bother me particularly

as long as you did it

without me as an audience

as long as you did it

outside of my residence

<>

when you aren’t here

it’s not a part of my life

not a part of our play

our play is best confined

to the two of us

<>

substances

are like a third party

one that quickly becomes the focus

it takes over

demands to be 

the only thing that counts

me being in the room

was a distraction

<>

you being in the room

was now a disappointment

and when you left

I was relieved to see you go

not wishing you could stay longer

those two lines

closed a door

that will never open to you again

This is a real life experience. I met this man on a site were younger men who prefer older men ‘meet.’ Most gay sites do have a range of ages but on many, older is horrifying, unseemly &, to be frank, discouraged. But agism is another post. I’m not an aggressive looker but if you want to win the lottery you at least have to buy a ticket 😉 Trust me online dating is a lottery.

He contacts me. Sends me a few sexy pics. Young, straight neither of which do that much for me but he was short, hairy, dark & eager. Number, texts get exchanged & eventually he shows up at my door &, gasp, is almost exactly as he presented himself to be. By almost I mean he looked younger than he claimed but he did show me his ID. By young I mean early 20’s, though emotionally he was just an over sexed 16 year old.

I saw him irregularly for a few years. My experience with guys in recovery kept me from taking him too seriously but I saw no reason to be parental with him either. He loved texting me on the sly when he was at clubs with his girlfriend. My lack of trust was justified. My availability decreased & we weren’t so attached I felt the need to tell him why.

He lost job. He got another one. He moved in with a girlfriend. He lost a girlfriend. He moved back in with his parents. He’s text at 6 in the morning wanting to see me asap – as if that could happen. I was more amused than anything else. This last time was after being ‘busy’ when he texted three or four times with a months between each text, I relented.

The occasion, two years ago now, went pretty much as the piece describes it. I may have heard from him since, I’m not sure, as I deleted his # from my phone, which I do often when I haven’t heard someone for a while or don’t care to hear from them. You know, some people will text expecting you to know who they without tell you who it is that is texting. This year I did get a few festive hellos from these unrecognized number strangers.

So guys keep this in mind – If I’m not the main attraction I’m not interested 🙂

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Picture Perfect 50

Picture Perfect 50

The week old newspaper headline read. “RCMP Pranked”

A local detachment was sent to that ratty hotel on a goose chase. Ha! That comes as no surprise does it. They were never that bright. Whoever it was picked the right bunch to annoy though. These Quintex snoops. Maybe that will discourage them because they aren’t going to find anything. I made sure of that. If the Mounties didn’t find a trace of their man then these TV snoops will never find anything now.

That summer it was such fun watching McKillop and his half-assed deputies asking questions. When they interviewed me I knew they were desperate, clutching at straws. I did tell them the truth. Perhaps if they asked the right questions I might have told them more but they were just as bad as the other men though.

Sick minded men who wanted children for their own twisted needs. I could see that. I could feel that in their touch, when I let them touch me, that is. It was amazing to see how they stopped thinking when they got aroused. How they’d let their guards down and tell me anything. Fools that were so easy to fool.

But it doesn’t look that being made fools of will stop them from snooping around. Digging up all these old memories from people who have put the past aside, left it wherein belongs. It’s not as if they can bring those children back to life. Resurrection isn’t possible. At least not in the flesh. That flesh is gone but there are their faces again in the paper, on the TV. 

I wonder who they’ll find all that willing to talk about what happened? Because there is no one who knows. They couldn’t find anyone then could they. Sure they talked to parents. The guilt they’ve lived is what they deserve for being so careless as to let their children wander, let them out of their sight long enough for me to scoop them up.

It was so simple too. So trusting in those days. Not gullible but eager for distraction. All so willing except for that one boy. He knew I was up to something. I could see it in his eyes but he took the challenge. Thought he could out smart me. None of them could out smart me. I knew that by then. 

The Mounties were too caught up in their little turfs, their own precious little pastures, to even trust one another. They made it so easy to hide anything from them. Hide it right under their noses. 

How kind of Quintex to make their plans so public. This map shows where they’ll be each step of the way. Digging and interviewing. I suppose they end up talking to cousins, school teachers? Yeah, a lot of old bats by now. 

I see they’ve brought in some psychic. What a con that is. Like that Madama Cabanalla in the circus that year. I saw her two times and she didn’t even recognize me the second time. Told me crap about tall, dark strangers, money from an unexpected source and travel.

I knew exactly where the money was coming from, he wasn’t tall or dark, but she was right about the travel. I was so happy to get out here when that summer was over. So happy to leave everything & everyone behind.

It must be true there is no way you can escape the past, it always catches up to you. At least I can see it coming back and heading it off wouldn’t be that difficult. 

Dan was surprised to see Robert Warszawa in the war room.

“After talking with the district commander it was decided that a liaison between the force and Quintex was needed. Someone not in the employ of Quintex, I might add.”

“And you were nominated.” Dan said.

“With the case being officially reopened, the force wanted some one with an unbiased eye to step in. So this is your war room” Warszawa walked around the table and sat at the head of it. “Someone’s been watching too much TV.”

Curtis Baxter & Glaucia Vidro came into the room. 

“If it’s going to be on TV it has look like it always does on TV.” Baxter explained. “Pleased to meet you. I’m Curtis Baxter. ” He reached out and shook Warszawa’s hand. “Stephanie told me you would be arriving. I hope there is no … animosity between out show & the RCMP.”

“Nothing that can’t be dealt with. And this is?” Warszawa nodded to Glaucia.

“This is our psychic advisor Glaucia Vidro. I take you already know Daniel James?”

“Yes we’ve worked on a few cases in the past.”

“Let’s get down to business.” 

They all sat around the table.

“What did you find out from Miss McKay?”

Glaucia filled them in on their meeting with the school teacher. Dan nodded in agreement. Adding a few details here and there.

“One thing I wondered about.” Dan said. “Is this lack of communication with the communities. I’m sure the sub-divisions weren’t that isolated from each – so isolated that they didn’t have any idea what was going on. Would there be any reason one would withhold information from the others?”

“You mean deliberately to obstruct the investigation?” Warszawa asked Dan.

“I didn’t want to say it that directly.”

“You mean the officers here might not have wanted the suspect caught?” Baxter said. “Why?”

“It could have been someone they knew. Someone they felt they had to protect?” Glaucia said. 

“That’s a wild accusation.” W said. “Allegations like that need more substance to be taken seriously.”

“It would make some sense though,” Dan said. “The cases got buried fairly quickly.”

“The fact that they couldn’t find anything doesn’t mean they were buried, Dan.” Warszawa said.

“How do we know that?” Baxter said. “It wouldn’t be the first time evidence was lost or falsified to protect someone.”

“Who was the lead investigator for the case?” Dan asked Warszawa. 

“All I know is who was serving during that time. Most of those records have been warehoused. You know that Dan.”

“I know.”

“Warehoused? A good way to bury something, wouldn’t you say?” Baxter said.

“It’s standard procedure. We’ve been through that already. Everything eventually gets funneled to Ottawa for archiving. Paper gets shredded after so many years. Yes, they were using paper in those days. Not bytes.

“It could be on microfiche.” Warszawa suggested. “They had started do that in the late 70’s when it was clear there was more paper coming in & none going out. Now that the cases have been reopened they’ll be looking through the archives for what they can find.”

“How quickly can that happen?” Glaucia asked.

“If my memory serves me well,” Dan said, “We’ll be using when filming the sequel. Years probably.”

“We do know some of the officers are still alive though and we’re already talking with them to see what they recollect. Sometimes they keep their notes from cases that don’t work out. They want to get their man.”

“Great.” Dan said.

“Can you give a day to coordinate with other detachments in Nova Scotia. It will be efficient if they are prepare to cooperate than me showing up at their stations flashing my badge.” Warszawa said.

Baxter consulted the interview schedule on the wall.

“Okay. I can get Stephany can contact the one we have scheduled for tomorrow. We can pick it up later.”

“That’ll give me a chance to check out the Circus Museum.” Dan said.

“Circus?” Glaucia said.

“Yes. The one me and Timmy had planned to see the day before … we left.” 

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

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My Editing Riot

So I’m editing this old short story, from the mid 80’s, so I can air it here on the blog & I get distracted by this show of force in the US capital. Do I want to see what they do or do I want to correctly punctuate a sentence? As they climb over barricades & breaking windows I’m breaking down paragraphs. Are they protestors or terrorists. A rampage of white entitlement that eventually fizzles out. No one even shit on the podium. Death by stress & no change in the results, the forgone conclusions.

In my story there is a change in names, a clarification of motivations but the same result. The story results as comedic as the clumsy crowd of echos lurching up & down the Capital building stairs, bumping into each other as they attempt to get the perfect backgrounds for selfies of their righteous bravery. Everyone seems disappointed at the lack of blood on the floor, that there isn’t any burning buildings for truly dramatic context to tweet.

Already that narrative is being rewritten so that every side is at fault as they insist they are upholding the fine principles of democracy, capitalism & freedom of selfie speech. My characters don’t have that much freedom, even as I change their size & shape they tell me what they should do in the situation I created for them. I allow them to be frail, vacillating & only threats to themselves. As much as they are under my control I end up surrendering them to spellcheck & word count – or should I say word re-count. Even when the story is finished it is not certifiable 🙂 but part 1 was posted here with my music blog on Thursday. https://topoet.ca/2021/01/06/jonesing-for-joplin/

Satisfied

in movies about a future

with few survivors 

that stumble across an abandoned store

with canned food on the shelves

not much

watching we think

how desperate they feel

how sad

so when i go into a supermarket

today

i think

even if what want isn’t there

there is still lots there

there is enough

<>

at one time

thank you

wasn’t enough

there had to be praise

adulation

thank you

didn’t go far enough

i had to be grateful

that i was even allowed

to say thank you

<>

i didn’t look

when the food was served

i kept my eyes unfocused

as i ate

i didn’t ask what was on the plate

i didn’t look to cut

i trusted

each morsel was what

i was supposed to have

i didn’t question

i ate 

taste was surpressed

pleasure was not the point

the point was to eat

whatever was served

not to judge

or comment

to eat silently

then

get the fuck out

so the next person could

be satisfied 

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Jonesing for Joplin

Quincy Jones is a chameleon. His work with others is classic without a sense of his personality over-shadowing theirs. He lets the artist shine & I’ve heard anything he’s been involved with & thought ‘that’s a Quincy Jones production.’ He is not a revolutionary like, say, Phil Spector.

I have a couple of lp to cds of his ‘solo’ work: This Is How I Feel About Jazz, Plays Mancini, Ndeda. The first I found in a remainder bin & it is smooth bop. Ndeda was double set I bought used, that is a compilation of some of his soundtrack music (In The Heat of the Night) & instrumental things like Soul Safari. The Mancini is sweet & they are a perfect match. If nothing else Quincy Jones is a tasteful, elegant producer.

Near Jones is a set of lp to cd transfers of Scott Joplin music performed by Joshua Rifkin, Southland Stingers, Canadian Brass & New England Conservatory Ragtime Ensemble. Joplin almost became a footnote, his music relegated to music scholars until the movie ‘The Sting’ that made his rags universal & they were resurrected by so many ensembles one lost track & sometimes couldn’t tell who was playing which one. I enjoyed them in small doses 🙂 

Most of the recordings are too respectful, treating them like Chopin Etudes, some are jazzier & some are more in the line of sweet polite salon orchestras. So many artists recorded these I’m surprised there isn’t a Tomita version 🙂 Unlike many early 1900 blues performers there are no historic recording sof Joplin actually playing but there are some player piano rolls he made which are fun & can be found on YouTube.

A short story discovered in my archives. It goes back to pre-1995 as the original printout is dot matrix 🙂 I’ve done minimal editing. It is based on a real incident. 

The Allegory of Love

1

“Not again!” I reluctantly pushed Steve’s roaming hand away. “Don’t start something you’re not going to finish.”

He squinted up at me, uncertain & a bit drunk.

I leaned in to speak directly into his ear. “Just because I don’t like being used doesn’t mean ‘stop so soon’.”

“Used?” He took a deep swallow of his beer. “What do you mean?” He stepped back & bumped into a man in leather.

The bar’s music was so loud I couldn’t hear myself. “Call me. I can’t talk here.”

Steve nodded & disappeared into the crowd. 

Thank God I thought, breathing a sigh of relief & dismay. I do like Steve, but too much to continue with pointless flirtation.

I suspected that time a couple of weeks ago was our last encounter. It had been under the same circumstance. Me feeling the lure of the full moon & Steve feeling the lull of enough brew. We’ve had fun many times before & I always look forward to what I called ‘rubbing our two sticks together.’ 

Steve shared an apartment with Ron. When I met them both several years ago at a mutual friend’s birthday party. I was instantly attracted Steve. They were introduced to me as friends not as boyfriends. Ron was a bitch, or so it seemed. Ron & I got into clawing at each other for some reason. Something we’re all too good at, I suppose.

I ran into Steve a few nights later & came on to him like the proverbial ton on brick. It was a meltdown in the sack & has been nearly every time we got our sticks together. Usually at my place but sometimes at his, if Ron wasn’t in. Over the years sex was so good, & Steve comparable enough, I would have set up housekeeping with him, except there was that Ron in the ointment. 

Steve never described them as being lovers, but Ron seemed to run more of Steve’s life than anyone should run anyone’s. But who am I to judge?

I was open with Steve about my affection for him. He wasn’t displeased, but I could sense that emotions frightened him. Staying with Ron seemed to be his way of keeping scary feelings at bay. For lat couple of month I felt their relationship was about to change, but our last encounter made me see things differently.

I’d arrived at the bar later than usual & was making my first foray into the smokey land of men, when Steve reached out of a dark corner. He grabbed me by the belt & pulled me in for one of those long, sloppy kisses that turn me to jelly.

“Good to see ya, Brian.”

“It’s been awhile.” I laughed. I knew he was a bit looped; he usually was to be so bold.

“Watcha’ been up to? The photo biz still keep you in focus?” He teased, running his free hand over my stomach.

“Things are developing well enough. And you? Getting anywhere in men’s wear?”

“Got a promotion.” He said proudly.

“Things must be going well.” I gently bit his ear.

“We’re opening a new branch since I took over.”

“Great! Soon you’ll be Queen of the Reduced to Queers.”

He giggled. “I really like you. You make me laugh.”

“You make me …” I squeezed his bunds.

“Same here.” He returned the squeeze, while draining his beer. “I’ll be right back.”

He darted off for another beer. As I watched him merge into the crowd, I wondered if this was going to lead to one of our meltdowns. Short, stocky & hairy, he was the perfect teddy bear for me to curl around tonight.

Back with a beer, he hugged me affectionately. “You know my little wang goes ‘boink’ whenever I see you.”

“That’s nothing to complain about.”

“How am I in the sack?”

Feeling a little insecure tonight?’I thought, as I replied. “You’re great. I keep coming back, don’t I”

“You treat me so …” he took a swallow of beer.

“Tender?” I offered.

“Yeah! Like you cared.”

“Why shouldn’t I? You deserve it. Just one thing.”

“What?”

“Often we’re too rushed. I want to savour what I enjoy. I hate to eat & run when the food is so good.”

“Thanks.” He pulled me in for another fly-popping kiss. “Let’s go.” He said pulling on his jacket.

“The coast is clear tonight?”

“Ah, who gives a fuck? It’s my home as much as his.”

“You’re sure? You know I …”

“You coming?”

“Sure.” I felt a slight misgiving. “What the hell. We can go to my place, if you’d rather.” I suggested as we walked along. “You really don’t a nose-bleed going that far north.”

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Nine

Nine

O when I was nine

I was still a child

there was no instant communication

news travelled slow

on the radio TV newspapers

that provided an innocence

I knew about war

because my Dad had fought in one

he was a man

my mother was a woman

I was a boy child

who only knew what the culture 

of the time

expected of my gender 

<>

O when I was nine

I did know I wasn’t like other boys

I played backlot baseball

I played with dolls

I  wasn’t the boy my dad expected

I didn’t like to fight

like other boys

I never understood 

why physical violence was required

to be accepted

<>

O when I was nine

I learned to swim

looking at the differences

between boys and girls

anatomy I didn’t understand

the boys where more interesting

I knew shame

when we were caught

I had fear

but no closet

sex was dirty regardless

of the gender of the object

<>

O when I was nine

I don’t that I was making waves

as I waded from nine to nineteen

by the time I left nineteen

I knew

these were dangerous waters

at nine there was only

the fear of getting caught

not the fear

of my culture drowning me

like an unwanted litter of kittens

I heard on a TV documentary about children that our sense of self was basically formed by the time we are ten years old. By then we have absorbed the ‘teachings’ of TV behaviours that inform our subconscious. So, back in the day, I was aware of what the culture of the time expected of my gender. I was also aware that it wasn’t the right fit but I hadn’t developed the language for that beyond feeling it was the wrong fit. Today thanks to instant communication children have a greater knowledge of gender variations. I doubt that at the age of five I would have understood what a faggot was, children today do know what it means. 

Where was I when I was nine? We had just settled in Sydney, Cape Breton after moving across Canada for a couple years. My mother & I had spent some time with her family in Wales during this time as well. I remember ‘living’ in Moncton, Stellerton or was it Truro for short periods of time & going to schools there, briefly. Finally in Sydney, were we lived in three different neighbourhoods before my dad bought a house in Ashby.

One result was that I spent those formative years as a displaced person – someone who was different. My Dad prodded me into things that could show me how to ‘fit in’: cub scouts, YMCA. I did the best I could but felt like an outsider &, as I recall, was fine with that. I did get these weird mixed messages ‘why can’t you be like other kids’ then when I wanted some fad item ‘why can’t you think for yourself.’

I survived partially by hiding in booze & partially by writing & painting as I gradually found language for what I was. Though then that language was loaded – an abomination unto the Lord – sort of stuff. Today I know the tragic flaw wasn’t my sexuality but the way culture regarded not only lgbtq but sexuality itself.


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Picture Perfect 49

Picture Perfect 49

Miss McKay slid a door open at the far end of her mobile home. Dan caught a glimpse of a bed with a lighthouse print coverlet before she slid the door shut again.

“She can’t get many visitors.” Glaucia said. “To go on like that.”

“Gift of the gab is more like it. My Aunt Sissy is just like that.” Dan said. “Great scone though.”

“Too healthy for me.” Glaucia nibbled another corner of hers. 

Dan was tempted to tease her about the vibe she was getting from the scone but was still not sure to make of her. On the drive to Miss McKay’s Glaucia had refused to talk about the meeting lest his preconceived notions interfered with her getting clear images when they arrived. She didn’t even want the radio on for the same reason. She sat beside him in the car with her headphones on listening to ‘white beats.’ He’d have to look those up when he got a chance.

Miss McKay put an oversized accordion file folder on the coffee table.

“I set these aside when school started that year. I mean, I don’t have files on all my students. Only the ones that were promising.”


“They were promising students?” Dan asked.

“Oh, no. Not a bit. They were average. Ordinary. If they hadn’t disappeared I would have shredded this stuff five years after they’d left the school. Sooner perhaps. I was expecting to be contacted at some point, you know, as the investigation went on. But no one ever asked me if I knew anything that might help.”

“Did you?” Glaucia asked.

“I don’t really know dear. Their mother did have a bit of a reputation.” she dropped her voice. “Loose. The bother and sister didn’t look that much alike. You’ve seen the pictures so I’m sure you noticed that.”

Dan closed his eyes to visualize the the school photos and compare them. He could see enough resemblance to make them bother and sister.

“Some of us thought … well anyway when we heard about that other boy in Pictou county going missing it was clear that, well … the Forestier’s had nothing to do with it.”

She took out some large manilla envelopes. “I’ve kept these safe and dry all these years. I hadn’t looked at them until I saw that show and heard on the radio that you were looking for information about what happened. I kept all the clippings from the papers. Even the ones from the Halifax Herald. My, but that reporter was harsh on our lads. They were doing all they could but didn’t seem to be enough for some.”

Dan glanced over the various clippings. Some he had seen before from the Quintex research files.

“You said you had some personal material of the children’s?” Glaucia said.

“Oh yes. These.” From one of the other envelopes she spread out two groups of crayoned drawings and paintings held together with paper clips. Under one clip was a school photo of Madeline, under the other a school photo of Gerrard. 

Glaucia took the group of Madeline’s and slid out one of the middle pictures and placed it face up on her lap. “I need one that hasn’t been handled too much by others.” she explained. “The ones on the top and bottom have been exposed the most and hence have dissipated more of their ethereal information.”

“How thrilling.” Miss McKay squeezed her arms to her sides in delight.

“Shhh.” Glaucia commanded.

They sat in silence as Glaucia held her hands about four inches over the water colour painting. It was of a boat with a trawling net trailing from the side into the ocean with the sun setting behind its mast. The water was choppy brush strokes and the clouds look like they had been sponged on.

“Interesting” Glaucia said before turning the picture over.

The other side had a pencil sketch of the waves and part of the boat on it. Madeline’s name was printed neatly in the lower right corner along with a date.

“Madeline signed that herself.” Miss McKay whispered.

Glaucia ran her fingers over the printed signature. “She was a happy girl when she did this drawing.” Glaucia said. “She wasn’t happy with the way the net turned out though.”

“I have a their class photos from that last year too.” Miss McKay said taking pictures out of the other manilla envelope and handing them to Dan.

They were the standard shots of rows of children talks ones in the back. Neither child stood out in the pictures.

“These were taken outside?” Dan said.

“Oh, yes. The school at that time didn’t have a gymnasium or even an auditorium.”

“Warm day too. None of them are wearing coats.”

“I don’t recall the exact day.” She took one of the pictures and turned it over. “My! My! I didn’t even write the date on the back. 

“It was early in October.” Dan said.

“How can you tell?” Glaucia asked.

“Drawing of smiling Halloween pumpkins in the class room windows behind them.”

“Oh, how clever,” Miss McKay said. “You must have driven your teachers crazy.”

“Maybe.” Dan didn’t recall much of his school days on the east coast other than the pictures his Dad had taken of him on the first day of every school year, then on the last day of every school year.

They next looked at some drawings and letter work that Gerrard had done when he was one of Miss McKay’s students. The pictures were in crayon. The letter work was Gerrard practicing his printing and struggling to stay between the lines.

“So many of them found that hard to learn, you know.” Miss McKay said. “It was always so rewarding to see them gain the … manual dexterity to print on the lines. Gerrard learned how to do that pretty quickly.”

Glaucia looked through the drawings and picked one  of a scribbled streams with similarly sketched in pine trees on one side to scan with her hands.

“Well?” Dan asked.

“He was a happy child.” Glaucia said. “This is on their property. The stream and the trees.”

“Now, here’s one other thing for you. I know it wasn’t right of me to keep this but it just seemed right to have it with this other stuff.” she handed a small envelop to Glaucia.

Glaucia opened it. Quickly looked over the letter it contained then read it aloud. “Dear Mrs. Hollerhan … ”

“Gloria Hollerhan was the principal at the time. She retired a few years later.”

“Dear Mrs. Hollerhan ..” Glaucia began again. “Please excuse Madeline Forestier from Miss McKay’s class and Gerrard Forestier from Mrs. Simpson’s class this Thursday and Friday as we are taking them with us to my sister’s wedding in Halifax. 

Thank You

Mrs. Forestier”

“The two of them were so excited. Madeline even had new shoes and wore them to school that day along with the prettiest dress. It was one her mother had made for her. In fact she rarely had store bought clothes you know. That Mrs. Forestier was an accomplished seamstress.”

“This is everything to have about them?” Dan asked. None of what she offered them added anything new to what they already knew. Rumours about the parents were interesting but weren’t helpful

“Yes Mr. James. I didn’t know the other little boy and we didn’t even know about all the others until that show. It came as quite a shock. Made me scared for the children. I can imagine how threatening it would have been for parents at that time, not knowing if your child might be next.”
“What do you think happened to Madeline and Gerrard?” he asked her.

“Oh …” she shook her head. “It’s impossible not to speculate, is it? It’s not the sort of thing that happens in a place like this, you know. I found it awfully suspicious that it took those parents so long to report them missing. Others did too. If I was a mother I would have been out all night calling for them to come home.

“That inspector didn’t tell us much. No news conferences the way there is these days. He was from the mainland too and acted as if we were too backward to be told anything. As I said, the fact there were other children involved was news to me.”

“You don’t mind if we take these drawings with us?” Dan asked. “I’ll see to it that they get returned once we’ve made copies of them.” He was sure Baxter would want to work them into the show somehow. “We have to get back to our headquarters.”

“Certainly. You take care.” Miss McKay stopped Glaucia. “A good mother wouldn’t just wait, would she.”

“I believe you,” Glaucia said patting Miss McKay’s forearm as she opened the door for them. 

Outside Dan took a deep breath as they waved goodbye to Miss Glaucia. He hadn’t noticed how stuffy her home was. In the car he turned to ask Glaucia what she thought of the interview but she already had on her headphones protecting herself with white beats.

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