Chapter XXXV – Lillian Makes A Friend

Coal Dusters 

Chapter XXXV

Lillian Makes A Friend

Lillian made her way along the rutted lane back to Pitt St. She stopped to look back at the houses on either side of it. How could she ever live under such conditions?  How could families live under such circumstances. If Birk was enterprising enough, with her encouragement, he could make more of himself than this. She would see to that. She strode along Pitt St. purposefully.

She had never spent this much time in the homes of any of the miners, not even her uncle’s parishioners. The houses were so … unkempt. That must be the result of children she figured. How many did Mrs. Nelson have? Four that were alive now and was it another four lost. Eight! No wonder she looked so worn down. When she married she wouldn’t let herself go like that. Pride of self wasn’t something she’d sacrifice easily.

“Miss McTavish! Miss McTavish!”

She stopped to see who was calling her. It was Mrs. Seldon.

“I was hoping to speak to you before we left.” Mrs. Seldon said.

“Left. So soon!”

“Without a roof over our heads what else could we do? At least the company isn’t going to hold us responsible for the goods that were destroyed by the fire.” 

“I see. Where will you be moving to?”

“We’ll be in North Sydney until the company finds a new position for husband. He hopes to know where within the month. Of course that also depends on when this strike comes to an end. I hear they may be legislated back to work.”

“Hardly seems fair. To force then to accept no change in their work conditions.”

“How fair was it for them to do what they did. It’s not as if BritCan broke into the store and set it on fire. Castleton’s a nice place but I’ll be glad to be out of here. We never felt at home here. Though I will miss our times together.”

“As will I.”

“Will you be staying her much longer? Doesn’t your family back in Boston miss you?”

Lillian wanted to blurt out that to them she was already dead and buried. 

“Yes, but things have changed between us since I’ve been here. I don’t feel that my future lies with them or in Boston any more.”

“The future? It is impossible to know where it lies for anyone. Last week we were looking forward to fixing that spare room so as Charles would have his own room to grow up in.  And now … We’re at Mrs. Franklin’s boarding house for the moment but it’s not a place for a family, if you understand me. Not that there have been many salesmen or travellers since the strike. I’d much rather be doing my own cooking.” She said.

Lillian had met Mrs. Franklin a few times at the company store and had found her to be an eager gossip about things in Castleton and sometimes beyond. The frequent travellers who stayed at her boarding house brought her information that never found its way into the local news papers.

“Oh, speak off the saints here she is now!”

Mrs. Franklin was walking up from the dock with two shopping baskets laden with groceries. She stopped to put down her baskets.

“You’ve been to North Sydney?” Mrs. Seldon asked.

“Yes, well, with the company store gone I needed to get some essentials before those shops in North Sydney hiked their prices. Not that anyone around here could afford their regular prices.”

“Business must good for you?” Mrs. Seldon said glancing though what Mrs, Franklin had bought.

“I’ve had some of the union men saying here and that company representative as well. It’s enough to keep me going for now, but they are particular about the food they eat. I don’t mind as long as the pay extra for it. Though having to do nearly everything myself is a chore.”

“You have no girl working for you?” Mrs Seldon asked.

“No, I can’t afford help. If it weren’t for that Clancy and Birk I’d have no hot water either.”

“Birk Nelson?” Lillian asked.

“Yes. I heard about what he did for you, Miss McTavish, at the fire the other night. Right good young man he is. Quiet though.” she picked up one of her baskets with a heavy sigh. “You’ll be heading to Sydney today?”

“Yes. I was just on my way to the dock to join John. I better get going before  the ferry departs.”

“Let me help you with this,” Lillian picked up the other basket.

“It’s not too much for a wee thing like yourself?” Mrs. Franklin said. “I be obliged for your assistance. You take care now,” she kissed Mrs. Seldon quickly on the cheek.

“I will.” Mrs. Seldon walked down toward the dock.

“Have you lived here long?” Lillian asked picking up the other basket.

“Oh yes. My grandfather was who originally owned much of this when it was farmland. It was my father that built the monstrosity. That’s what I came my house.” she gave a little laugh. “Now most of the land belongs to BritCan. My house too, if things keep going as they have.”

“You must have seen many changes over the years. Families coming and going.”

They came to Mrs. Franklin’s house. Lillian had passed it many times and had admired the porch than ran along the three sides of the house that faced the street. She longed to sit on one of the comfortable chairs there. She followed Mrs. Franklin up the stairs.

“Oh my yes. Some as we’re glad to see the end of too, mind, you. Take the Murphy’s, they were a mess of trouble from the very start. They lived along Upper Victoria, not too far from you. The boys were hellions, pardon my language Miss, but no other word will do. The pa was a drunk and those boys of his took after him. Tried to set fire to St. Agatha’s one Christmas. This was before your Uncle came to the parish.” Mrs. Franklin opened the front door and nodded for Lillian to go in first.

“Not all the families have been so troublesome. The Nelsons seem like good folks.”

“Oh, my, you are right about them. Lost some of their young un’s in the flu a few years a go. Heartbreaking so many were lost then. War was bad enough but this was right in front of you.” 

Lillian followed Mrs. Franklin into the kitchen. The house was so unlike the Nelson’s or even the rectory. The hallway walls were a white wall paper with floral details painted in along the lower edge corners and with birds in the upper corners. The kitchen was large, spotlessly clean. She put her basket on the table.

“I was just visiting with them. To thank Birk for his bravery last night. Is it usual for a man his age to not have … ” Lillian wanted to find out for sure that Birk wasn’t encumbered with a local girl.

“Man!” Mrs. Franklin broke in. “He’s barely past eighteen or perhaps it is nineteen.”

“Oh!” Lillian had assumed Birk was closer to her own age. She took things out of the basket and handed them to Mrs. Franklin to put on one shelf or the other.

“Yes. That hairy face of his adds the years. First time I saw him fresh shaved here, I didn’t recognize him. Honestly. He looks like he was no more than fourteen. I had to laugh but I guess it’s the parents to blame.”


“He never learned how to shave proper. Neither his father or brother George were so blessed by hair. I guess the Good Lord was saving it for Birk. Took Clancy a few soaks to get that face properly shaved.”

“I see.” Lillian was a little embarrassed to hear such personal details about Birk. 

“His mother is some protective too. Perhaps you got a sense of that. Catholic families have a boy they are dedicating to the priesthood.” Mrs. Franklin filled the tea kettle and put it on her stove.

“The Nelson’s aren’t Catholics.” Lillian sat at a table between a pair of corner windows with pale yellow curtains. 

“No, but to some families a child to look after them in their old age is the same thing. I know their Ma was some upset when Geo started kept company with Shelia McPherson. I’m sure you’ve heard all about that anyway?”

Lillian shook her head ‘no’.

“It came as no surprise to any of us at the time.” She took a tea pot out the cupboard, poured some boiling eater into it, swished it around & poured the water back into the kettle. “They’d been hand holding for a few months and when Old Jim McPherson had that accident that killed him the company wanted them out of the house. Didn’t even give them a week after the funeral before sending that notice. Imagine! So to keep their house Geo moves in as border. Before you know it Shelia is indisposed.” She poured water into the tea pot and got a couple of mugs our another cupboard.

“Indisposed?” Lillian asked.

“Sorry dear I keep forgetting you’re the priest’s girl. I hope this doesn’t shock you but Shiela was … with child. Any one could have told this was bound to happen. So George did the right thing and married the girl.” She pour Lillian a mug of tea. “I hope you don’t mind the cup, dear, but I found that the good china couldn’t stand up to the usage of my boarders.” 

“I see.” Lillian sipped her tea. 

“So as I was saying, Mrs. Nelson has been even more watchful over Birk. Not that she wasn’t always protective of him, him being so little and all. Better than some of those Mudtown families who let little’ns run around like a pack of dirty dogs.”

“So Birk hasn’t been keeping company with anyone.”

“Oh no! Not that I’ve heard of at any rate. He’s a bright lad mind you. His pa Blackie has taught him all about the boilers. That’s probably the next step for him, once this strike is over, to get his papers and move out of the mine.”

“Engineer?” Lillian wondered what the pay difference might be. An engineer’s wife sounded better than a miner’s wife.

“Yes. A trade that can travel you know. Boiler’s is boilers no matter where they are.”

A clock from somewhere in the house chimed four. 

“Oh it is getting late.” Lillian stood. “I really have to get back to the rectory to get supper for Uncle Pat.”

“It’s been good to get to know you better, Miss McTavish.”

“Lillian, please Mrs. Franklin.”

“Only if you call me Rose.” Mrs. Franklin said.

“Of course, Rose. It has been a pleasure to become better acquainted with you as well.”

They walked to the front door. 

“Did you do this?” Lillian pointed to the birds above the corners of the door frames.

“Oh yes. My winter pastime.” 

“Thank you again.”

It started to rain as she shut the Franklin’s gate behind her. She pulled her shawl over her head and ran to the rectory. She darted along the side to the back door to void tracking mud into the front hall. She dreaded going back into the dark kitchen. Even on this mild day it was cool. It was so unlike the bright, cheerful kitchen she had just left. Even the Nelson’s house felt more like a home than the rectory ever did.

Inside she leaned against the frame of the back door to knock the mud off her shoes. Had Mrs. Franklin noticed them? Shame flooded her at the state her appearance had come to over the past few months. 

Through the open door she could smell the earth of the back garden. To her it was the smell of the grave. No! She wasn’t going to die here even if her family had already buried her there.

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FatBoy Out Of The House

I first heard The Housemartins in a friend’s place way back in the 80’s. He had the lp London 0 Hull 4 which he had picked up in London well before it was released in North America. I made a an lp to cassette copy of it. The band has a sweet Beatles vibe I enjoyed. Not that they were retro but they were ‘uncomplicated.’

Nice textured harmonies with solid rock music. No electronic effects, no trippy studio gimmicks, with a sense of humour. The same holds true their second lp The People Who Grinned Themselves to Death. The writing is emotional without being melodramatic. Lead singer has a very appealing voice as well. I enjoyed them & eventually replaced my cassette with mp3s of both albums. But before I did that I did pick the cd: Now That’s What I Call Quite Good – a compilation of some tracks from the lps with some out-takes, b-sides & live performances. All fine stuff & well worth tracking down.

The band split up before they really made it big. A couple of them formed Beautiful South. I’ve heard some tracks by South – an extension of House but they didn’t grab me enough to add them to my collection. 

Even more of a surprise is that, Norman Cook, one of that original band went on to become FatBoy Slim! The antithesis of Housemartins. Nothing homey or laidback about Slim. I have stand-alones: You’ve Come A Long Way, Baby; Halfway Between the Gutter & The Stars; Palookaville. I heard a couple of tracks on a compilation of techo-dance music & came across a 2nd copy of Long Way, Baby & really loved him. 

All the cd’s are sample heavy in the best way but as he progressed more ‘original’ electronica developed. His ‘funky’ stuff is great for writing to, his original stuff tends to Moby like soundscapes. Halfway’s Sunset [Bird of Prey] features a tasty Jim Morrison sample. Give it a listen on youtube 🙂 


‘Put that down.’

‘What?’ I pulled my hand away from the shopping bag I was about to pick up. ‘I mean, why?’

‘Just step away from the bag, ma’am.’

‘I don’t understand.’ I glared at the police woman, levelling a gun at me.

‘I said just step away from the bag.’

I obeyed.

‘That’s good. Keep stepping back.’

Two officers rushed between me and the shopping bag.

‘I was just … ’

‘We know what you were just going to do, ma’am.’ The female officer yanked my arms behind my back and handcuffed me. ‘It happens all the time. Can’t leave well enough alone can you.’

‘Cut.’ Stan Johnson called out.

‘Did I hurt you?’ Jean, the actress playing the female officer, asked me.

‘No. That went well, don’t you think?’ Stan clapped. ‘Very well.’

‘Yeah. But …’

‘But what?’ The prop grip came over and removed the handcuffs.

Jean nodded for me to step off the set with her.

‘Don’t go far girls.’ Stan, our beloved director, said.

‘There.’ Jean winced. ‘Calling us girls, again. I’m sick of it.’

‘But it’s just a word. He’s not even thinking.’

‘Yeah, well, even this commercial makes me want to scream.’

‘I think it’s funny.’


‘Yeah. The wife so curious she can’t wait to see what her husband has bought so she can switch it with what she really wants while his back is turned.’

‘Well, it makes me sick. All women aren’t that curious, aren’t all snoops. Plays on stereotypes.’

‘Makes fun of stereotypes.’

‘Still not fair, you know. And where’s the husband? Why not have him arrested as he buys the crappy gift – now that makes me laugh. No, arrest the wife for trying to look after her own needs.’

‘Okay, back on set.’ Stan motioned to Jean. ‘Why don’t you just do your job, sweetheart, and leave the rest of it to us. Market research knows what sells. We aren’t selling to women but to men.’

‘And women don’t know what men want.’

‘Of course they do, but we can’t show that on television. At least not at family hour.’ Stan laughed at his  joke.

‘Places everyone.’ his assistant made sure each of us was on our marks. 

‘Okay. Action.’

I reached for the shopping bag. I didn’t even know what was actually in it. It could be some styrofoam blob.  It didn’t matter. It was a script, an action, not a reality.
November 1 -30

every Tuesday

June  – Capturing Fire 2019 – Washington D.C. 

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

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NaNoWriMo.04 2018

Let me tell you, balancing this year’s NaNo with editing Coal Dusters had been a challenge – the result is that I have good notes on Blludstun but have made little head way is getting the story really going. But I am happy with the progress on the new NaNo & even happier with the new Dusters work.

I try to clear my life of distractions, create more writing time by getting up earlier, shortening my walk & even reading less & succeed to a degree but there is still this blog, & posting a daily set of pictures on Tumblr to keep up. I also had a Hot Damn! to distract & inspire me at the same time. Working on my pieces to perform, even riding some new pieces. 

When I hit my 50,000 target earlier this week I started to take it easy. I’ve keep writing but keeping track of the words is not going to bother me any more. There’ll be a final tally at the start of next week & then I may put Blludstun to rest for a few months as I jump on the Christmas luge  to the new year.

I’ve allowed the narrative to take its own shape so far, some things have worked very well other proved to be blind alleys, but all count toward my word tally. Everything can be fixed in editing & the more I written the more I have to work with when I edit. Much like Coal Dusters I’ll fill in descriptive details not the rewrite. By then I’ll have clear idea of the characters so I can info to expand their characters – things like clothes, room details, and what they actually are eating. When on first draft I write they had supper, in a little draft I can say what they had for supper.

(Ystradgynlais in an actual place in Wales)

When I went back to letter [from Thomasina] I could smell that peppery rose scent. It was even stronger now. My hands smelled of it. I skimmed what I had read already. 

“What I missed most about William were the endless arguments we had over the undying purpose and aim of our research. He felt we had an obligation to change the human race for the better, that we were to shape it more clearly for the future. I was more inclined to believe our purpose was to improve circumstance as they are not set out to dramatically change them. 

He was convinced that his skin research would unlock the mistery of life, that man would be able to take the creation of life into his own hands. When be came this enthralled with his mission I reminded him that he had an artificial hand, not the one he was born with. This he countered with the fact this his man-made hand was superior in every way to the one he was born with.

He also reminded me that with science he had had his gender changed. Science shaped him for the future not some God, or even some quirk of biology. Of course we spoke on with greater technological understanding of our specialized fields. I am telling you this in general terms. Details of our research is never divulged – not even to others in the field.

But the real reason I am writing you, a complete stranger, is to confess that I’ve felt responsible for the death of William all these years. The night of his accident we had our first real disagreement. Sure we had argued as married couples do and had our professional differences but that night we had a screaming match. I am ashamed to say things were broken. We struck each other in our blind rage.

There were things. even after all our years together, that William refused to divulge to me about his life. There were areas of our home that I was denied access to where he claimed he needed total privacy to do certain of his experiments.

I wanted to know what sort of research he was doing that needed to be done in secret. I held nothing back from him that I discovered and didn’t he trust me enough to be as open with him. After all these years of literally working side by side he still hadn’t confided in me the final stage of creating the artificial skin. What did I have to do to finally earn his trust? 

He sniffed and said that he wasn’t ready to let me make the sacrifices he had made.

Sacrifices I said. It’s not as if he’s sold his soul to the devil or some such nonsense. 

It was at that point he struck me. He shouted ‘woman don’t talk about things you know nothing about. Things that I wish deep in my heart that I never knew. Things no one else on this planet should never know or even suspect.’

I was stunned, shaken and also angry that he would resort to such a tired cliche to avoid being honest. I told him in no uncertain terms that there was no such thing as the devil and if he expected me to believe that he was mistaken.

He laughed in my face. That’s when I struck out at him. That didn’t stop his laughter while he told me there were much worse things in this world with greater power than any devil dreamed of having. 

I accused him of being irrational and delusional. I hadn’t realized how close to madness he had become over the last few years. I suppose being so close to him I didn’t notice it until that moment.

He pushed past me and run out of the house. He got into his car and left me there. About half-an-hour later the local constabulary came to the door to tell that there had been an accident and William had been rushed to xx Hospital. 

I later found out that he had lost control of the car and it had rammed into a petrol truck. He had been incinerated in the fire. Turned to ashes, all except his hand. Our most recent advance in Pellotics made the skin impervious to heat. One would have to drop it into an erupting volcano for it to dissolve.

As I said I had looked forward to meeting my only living relative but that is not to be. What is to be is that you will, I hope, enjoy Blludstun Towers as much as we have. Ystradgynlais is quaint and not as rustic as you may expect.”
November 1 -30

every Tuesday

June  – Capturing Fire 2019 – Washington D.C. 

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

Like my pictures? I post lots on Tumblr


Foreground Music


Working through the  227 Rules For Monks. Who knew the simple life could be so complex. This another of the 92 pācittiyas.

Foreground Music 

when the server asked me

a third time

what I wanted

I knew it was time to leave


I came to eat

not shout

I would have asked

for the music to be turned down

then thought

do I want to eat in a place

where the music is so loud

where the customers

are happy with the sonic blast

to distract them from their food

all of them hunched over meals

not looking at each other


did they order via smart phone


I decline to order & leave

I am clearly not 

their target demographic

not their desired patron

I’m used to this leaving

when music is too loud

when too many TVs are on

when the service is too slow


is this discernment

or impatience

is it unfair expectations

or is this entitlement

not that it matters to me

or to them

no one comes running after me

to ask what’s the matter

is there something we can do

to make your experience better


as I leave

they don’t even hear 

the door shut behind me

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

Like my pictures? I post lots on Tumblr

Gift Guide

The Giver Not The Gift

why yes thank you

it’s wonderful

I can’t get over it

you made it yourself

you made it just for me

I’m amazed

not that you made it

I know you are capable of making things

don’t take the wrong way

it’s just that I never expected you

to make anything for me

let alone something like this


I’m sure I’ll find

the right place to put it

not that it won’t fit in anywhere

one might chose to put it

something so unified

that uses only the purest

that uses every possible part

nothing is wasted

but it needs to be the right place

after all the work you put into it

I can’t just stick where

no one else will see


(though I’m tempted

to to do just that

how long before I can regift it

perhaps drop it into some

donation box

share the abundance

but get it out of my sight)


thank you

Over the years I have been given gifts that made me think ‘who the fuck do you think I am?’ who mistaken bright for garish. I have had & passed along gifts that aren’t quite right for – if asked – you ever wearer did you read – it’s easy for me to say I met someone who really loved it so it ent to a better home. 

I’m sure I’ve been guilty of the same though – giving someone something that they felt obliged to say ‘oh how lovely’ or some-such other Canadian politeness response. Now I’m more inclined to let someone dip into my music collection rather than presuppose I have the perfect music for them. Be warned, if you want something similar to Kenny G out of my jazz collection – that’s not going to happen 🙂 

The home-made, hand-made gifts I appreciate are cookies, jam – things that don’t need size & the only taste level is the flavour of the yummy goodies. So. yes, this piece is based on some actual experiences of being given travel purchased t-shirts that I knew I would never wear from people who should have known better. and yes I admit I can be hard to shop for if you think of stuff but if you think of the unemotionally of gift cards then my gratitude is real. iTunes, Starbucks, Tim Horton’s even Swiss Chalet – these are things I use.

As I get older I have less compunction about passing things on. Some gifts have turned up as amazing prizes at Hot Damn! It’s A Queer Slam. Who knows that what you give may not end up making somebody else day. I am grateful for anything anyone takes the time to give me though – I may not appreciate the gift but am always appreciative of the giver.

Hey! Now you can give me $$$ to defray blog fees & buy coffee in Washington at 2019’s – sweet,eh?

Chapter XXXIV – Lillian Pays  a Visit

Chapter XXXIV



a Visit

As Lillian walked along Chestnut Street she stopped to look at the remains of the company store. Some men were removing the charred remains of the flooring. 

Under her arms she carried the package of the shirts and pants she was giving to Birk Nelson. 

Mrs. Birk Nelson. Mrs. Lillian Nelson. The names sounded good to her. Nelson had such a soft sound to it, unlike McTavish with its harsh ‘c’ followed by an even harsher ’t.’ Nelson had a sweet flow to it. How long would it be before she was Mrs. Nelson?

It had taken her most of the morning to decide what to wear. She knew that her Bostonian visiting clothes would be inappropriate. So there would be no dainty gloves with pearl button fastenings on the wrist, no satin afternoon dress with the perfect hat to go with it.

She understood that that sort of attire, even if she had it here, would be too much for this family. It would certainly impress them but definitely wouldn’t allow them to see her as one of them, as someone to be welcomed as opposed to a …. to what, she wondered, a rich, flighty, show off?

Instead of the perfect hat she had a clean bandana to cover her hair and hold it back from her face. The pale blue would make the red of her hair even redder. She hoped her work shift, freshly washed, made her look domestic, practical, like the sort of woman who would make a good daughter-in-law. Not that she’d be so blunt as to bring that up. But that it would ingratiate her into the family.

Finding out where the Nelsons lived wasn’t a simple as she expected. She had asked Mrs. McIssac if she knew. Mrs. McIssac knew in a general way but wasn’t sure which house it was on one of the lanes off Pitt St. that was the Nelsons.

With loss of the company store there was no longer a post office in Castleton. Most the village picked up their mail from general delivery at the store. She was sure Mrs. Seldon would known where every family in the village lived.

Holding her package under her arm a little closer, she walked carefully along the rutted road of Pitt St. She stopped at some children playing in front of a house to ask them. They pointed out the lane and told her the Nelson’s lived in the last house at the end before you get to the fields.

None of the houses had numbers but all looked in good repair. Most needed fresh paint and some had never been painted. All faced directly to the street with no front yards. She came to the last house and knocked at the door. 

She leaned to the door to listen and could hear a woman singing. 

“Bring us to the river, bring us to the river, so we can lay our burdens down.”

She knocked louder. The flour-smudged face of a little girl appeared in the window, she was joined by another little girl. Then they disappeared.

The front door opened a crack and the face of the first looked out at her.

“Is this where the Nelson’s live?” she asked.

The little girl was wearing ragged dress that came to her dirty knees, that didn’t cover legs that needed washing, with no shoes or stockings 

“Yes.” the child replied. “But our Pa isn’t here. He’s at the boilers.”

“I’m looking for Mr. Birk Nelson.” she said. “I have something for him.” she pointed to the package she was carrying.

“No Mr. Birk here.” the child started to laugh.

“He’s no mister.” The second girl appeared and opened the door wider. “No one calls him mister. Birk. Plain old Birk. I’ll get Ma.” She shut the door leaving Lillian standing there. The second child had been as sloppily dressed as the first.  

The first girl’s face was staring at her from the front window.

The door opened and a heavy-set woman stood there, wiping her hands on her apron. “Ah tis you Miss McTavish. I’m Birk’s mother.”

“You know who I am?” Lillian took a step back. 

Mrs. Nelson wasn’t quite what Lillian had imagined. She was tall, almost what her mother would call ‘a lanky lass.’ Her dark hair was pulled back in a loose bun. Her dress was well fitted though, unlike many fo the village she had met who preferred the loose shift that she herself wore most often. Like her girls she was barefoot.

“Most everyone in Castleton Mines know who you are miss.”

“I …” Lillian had expected that Birk would answer the door. She had planned what she would say to him but wasn’t ready for meeting his mother so soon. “I brought these for Birk.”

“There’s no need to thank him for doin’ what was right, Miss.” 

“It’s not so much to thank him but to replace the shirt that was burned so badly when he … rescued me.” She thrust the package into Mrs. Nelson’s hands and turned to go.

“Perhaps you would like to come in for a cup of tea.” Mrs. Nelson stepped away from the door so Lillian could enter. 

The house was very dark and smelled of cooking and something she couldn’t name. St. Agatha’s hall  always had this lingering smell after the miners had been there. She thought of it as the smell of unwashed working people. Could she live in a house like this? 

“As you might tell we weren’t expecting visitors.” Mrs. Nelson said leading Lillian to the side parlour. She quickly dusted an armchair for Lillian to sit in.

“These are my daughters.”

The two girls stood at the doorway. Both had changed into cleaner dress that made their brown legs look even dirtier.

“Maddy, say hello to the lady.”

“How do you Miss McTavish.” Maddy did a clumsy curtsy. “How is your babby? The one that Birk saved from the fire.”

“Oh no! That wasn’t my baby. It was Mrs. Seldon’s.”

“Weren’t you scared?” Maddy asked.

“Of course I was. When your brother got me down the stairs I was so thankful. He was very very brave.”

“He’s too hairy.” Sal said. “Not brave at all. He knew he wouldn’t burn up with all those airs all over him.”

“I doubt that.” Lillian said. She undid her hair. “You see here when I almost caught on fire myself.” She showed them the ends of where the fire had burned her hair.

“Ohh.” Sal began to tear up as she touched Lillian’s hair.

“But I’m safe now, thanks to Birk.” She hugged Sal.

“Now Sal, the lady is a guest not a dolly for you. I go and put the kettle on.” 

“If it isn’t too much trouble.” 

“None at all. Come with me Maddy.”

“Aw. I want to talk with the pretty lady.”

“I have other thing for you to do. Come.” Mrs. Nelson took Maddy by the shoulder and pushed her gently out of the room. “Twill only take a a few minutes, Ma’am.”

Lillian looked around the the small room. Her chair was in the corner beside the window the girls had been looking out. There was a dingy lace curtain covering the window. In front of her was a low table with a doily on it. Along the wall was a settee that had seen better days. a bit of carpet was under the low table. On the wall beside door was a painting of a lake.

“I can read to you Miss. If you’d like me to to?” Sal said. “I’ll go get my a b c book.”

Lillian heard Sal’s footstep run up the stairs and then back down.

“Here tis.” She sat in Lillian’s lap and opened the book. “‘A is for apples. Apples are for pie.’ We have apples in the back field. Ma bakes pies with them but mostly she makes apple sauce because that keeps better over the winter and pie crust doesn’t last that long and the sauce isn’t as much trouble in the long run because all it needs is big pot and some lasses to help it set as it boils and turns into the apple sauce. Have you ever made apple sauce Miss. I can show you if you don’t know how. Ma says I stir it right right even though I needs to stand on the stool to reach the pot and I had to be careful not to get burned. I did get burned once. She pulled back her sleeve to show Lillian a scar along the inside of her arm. “That hurt so much I couldn’t stop crying. That’s why I’m so glad Birk saved that babby from burning up. That would have hurt something terrible. You didn’t get burned beside you hair did you?”

“Sit over here, Sal.” Mrs. Nelson put a tray with a teapot, some tea cups with matching saucers on it. “I hope she wasn’t bothering you.”

“No not at all. She was telling me about apple sauce.”

“I hope you don’t mind the tea black, Miss McTavish. With all that going on it’s been hard to get decent milk. I sent Maddy to see if the next-doors had some to spare.” She poured tea into the cup closest to her guest.

“No! No! This will be fine.” Lillian took a sip. “As I said I brought some shirts for Birk. He isn’t here, is he?”

“No Ma’am, he want fishing with our border. Clancy Sinclair. Clancy’s not from around here but is fitting in with ease. Must be hard for you though. I mean coming from far away to here.”

“It has presented some challenges but a little hardship is what God uses to grace us with strength and gratitude.”

“Ah, quite right you are. I was afraid you were one of those who felt we were … savages … you know, set themselves on high over us because we’re miners.”

“Not at all. You have other children?”

“Not at home. Our eldest George has gone to Alberta with his wife to start a life where there are more opportunities. There was another after him who died, then Birk, then another two who didn’t make it through their first winters.”

Maddy came into the room with a small pitcher. Her knees and legs had been washed but she was still shoeless. “Mrs. Malone said she could spare this when I told her that we Miss McTavish here.” She put the milk on the table. “But she’ll be wanting her pitcher back.”

“I’ll see to it.” Mrs. Nelson said. “Why don’t you take this up to Birk’s room for him. It’ll be nice surprise for him when they get back from fishing.”

Maddy put the package to her face. “Smells like flowers. You giving him flowers too?”

“No! It must be from the other clothes the shirts were with. I picked them from our donations.” She didn’t want to admit that she had put a drop of her rosewater on the note she had inclosed.

“Maybe you could find us some dresses.” Maddy said, tugging at the edge of the dress she was now wearing. 

“Maddy!” Mrs. Nelson said. “Take that package up to where I told you. You go with her too, Sal.”

“Don’t mind them.” Lillian laughed. “I can remember plaguing my mother once for a dress I saw another little girl wearing. I never did get it.”

“Yes, well, miss, we aren’t in the habit of accepting such from folks. We learn how to make do.”

“Sorry I didn’t mean to offend you. I must be going. My uncle, Father McTavish, will be expecting me home.” She stood. This was a sufficient start. When she met Birk the next time it wouldn’t seem so unexpected. “It has been a pleasure to meet you and your sweet girls. It is clear where Birk gets his strength of character.”

Mrs. Nelson went to the door with her. “I’m sure Birk will be sorry him missed you.”

“Thank him for me once again.”

“You best hurry dear. It’s clear it’ll rain soon.”

“You are very pretty.” Sally said. “I pray that I’ll be as pretty as you when I grow up.”

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License
Hey! Now you can give me $$$ to defray blog fees & buy ice-cream in Washington at 2019’s – sweet,eh?

Hot Chip

Next on my shelf I have these stand-alones by Hot Chip:  Coming On Strong, Warning, Made In The Dark, Bugged Out/Bugged In, One Life Stand. Yes I am fan, though I can’t tell you anything about the band itself. At one time being a fan meant knowing what the lead singer’s favourite colour was – now I can’t tell you who the lead singer of Hot Chip is. Yes that information is on the cd covers (I guess) but I can’t be bothered finding out. Not that this is faceless music but the face isn’t that important – at least not the way it is for stars like Madonna.

Hot Chip is part of the techno-dance genre and at the same time is quite emo. Similar to LCD Soundsystem; The Postal Service – I find them easy to absorb but never uninteresting. Lyrics revolve around relationships, life’s ups & downs – in a sometimes sardonic & other times very vulnerable. Vocals are sweet, sometimes a bit detached, emotional yet rarely overly emotional. They don’t rely on manipulative bombast to sell their songs. Overall bubbly fun.

The engineering as amazing. The vocals are mixed as part of the music, as opposed to sailing on top the music. In fact they are sometime mixed under. The sound of the voice is as if it as right there in the room, sometimes double tracked for harmony, but never treated with reverb, voice coder etc. Direct & ‘innocent’ from the heart.

Bugged Out is a double cd of remixes of their own material & other bands – old & new. It’s a dj set of nonstop fun. I came across a rave review of their first cd somewhere & was intrigued enough to go out & buy it – now-a-days I’d hop over to youtube to listen to a few tracks before buying. I was hooked by their electro sound that is bubbly, sometimes slips into a real disco groove and sounds contemporary at the same time. Check them out on youtube & then down load everything 🙂


Liz fumbled with the green garbage bag. She was trying to get it over the cardboard box. The box was covered with red, white & silver paper, some tissue some foil. The bag wasn’t quite large enough for the box.

‘Having a problem?’

‘You can say that again.’ Liz wanted to cry. She’d worked all weekend with her Mom making this post box for her class’s Valentine’s Day Party and now she’d never get it to school without damage.

‘Maybe a larger bag.’

‘Daddy, this is the biggest bag.’

‘Okay. Let’s see.’ Her dad took the plastic bag & shook it out. It opened to twice the size she had opened it to. The box fit easily.

‘Some of these hearts have been torn.’

Around the top edge several of the hearts had been ripped in half and then taped almost back together.

‘Mom says sometimes a heart has to be broke in two before love can find a way in.’

‘She said that?’

‘Oh yeah. Funny thing, but I guess she’s right. Was your heart ever broken Dad?’

‘When I was your age perhaps, but not since then. You want me to give you a lift to the school. I have time.’

‘Oh would you? That’d be great. I was afraid to carry this on the bus.’

He helped her on with her coat and carried the box down to the car. He would have to speak to Trish. What a thing to tell a girl, at any age, that you have to break a heart to earn love. These week-end visitations had been going along so well till this. What else had she been telling Liz? 

He had promised himself not to pry into what went on between mother and daughter. The less he interfered the easier this would be for Liz. The last thing she needed was to think her no-longer-living-together parents where fighting over her.

They got into the car.

‘Didn’t Mommy break your heart when she … you when …’

He didn’t want to tell Liz how relieved he had been when Trish had left, how happy he had been when the divorce papers were signed, settled. They hadn’t even fought over visitation with Liz. It all went smoothly, as if it was all part of how things were meant to go. 

Should he tell Liz he was only too glad to be rid of the shrill, insecure mess her mother became after a few years of marriage. He wanted a child but not to marry one.
November 1 -30

every Tuesday

June  – Capturing Fire 2019 – Washington D.C. 

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

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‘the knife of shame’

Things change 🙂 the morning starts out a little overcast, the sidewalks are clear then an hour later one is caught in a winter wonderland of slush. Hot Damn!’s workshop facilitator and feature gets bogged down by the slush of chronic illness & things change. I end up facilitating the workshop: Vulnerability/Strength. It was productive enough, for me, at any rate. Too bad I wasn’t prepared to do more than to listen & write a little.

Charlie Petch was scrambling for a new feature while getting set for an interview before the show itself. Over supper I went though my note books to see if I had suitable pieces besides the two I had uploaded to my Kindle. It had a few things to present. I forgot what I had jotted down to work on later – some going back a few years.

Vanessa McGowan stepped up to feature, so all I had to worry about was being all judgemental for the slam. Even with slushy snow falling there was a decent house for the show at 8. Lots of great open stagers and some dynamic slammers made for a rewarding & cozy night. Plus good conversation with fellow judge Teddy Syrette.

The participants were the epitome of diversity with indigenous, trans, queers across the gender spectrum, coming from as far away as Ecuador (Hola) to share honest, emotionally raw and sometimes very funny material. This is the real power of Hot Damn!’s vision to create a safe space for queers to perform, mostly without judgement. I say mostly because part of a slam is being judged 🙂

Random lines from the open-stagers & slammers: ‘don’t tell your mother’ ‘children need parents who want to be parents’ ‘I practice reparation by topping settlers’ ‘he was masc looking but not masc looking for masc’ ‘my spirit name is isolate for safety’ ‘I want you all over mt skin’ ‘seeking wisdom in dreams’ ‘I am six minutes behind the world’ ‘nothing scares me – not even clowns’ ‘sometimes bullies look just like body guards’ ‘let me tell you where I left these bones’ ‘the attack from within is worse that the wound from without’ ‘I say to them it’s not your table’ ‘the blood I shed won’t tell me what I missed’

Vanessa’s set was emotionally charged, frank, sometime a little ironic humour slipped in – her social commentary is from within situations not from the p.o.v. of an observer. ‘we met beneath the water line’ ‘I still cannot say your name – my mouth is full of water’ ‘removing the knife of shame from throat so you can remove it from yours’ ‘covering up for poverty is exhausting’ ‘they praise me for being highly functioning’ 

Winner were declared, prizes were awarded (for those names: Hot Damn!) Next Hot Damn! is in St. Catherines in December. It returns to Buddies in Bad Time January 10, 2019.

On the open stage I read Cold Spot & this old piece – if one considers September 2017 old – I dug out.

My Own Devices 

when I came out

to my friends

I did it by stages

like – I’m no queer

but if ‘hot movie star’

wanted to have sex with me

I’d be willing to explore

but truth to be told

I jerked off 

to a bathing suit picture

of that hot movie star


decades later came out


when I came out to my friends

as fully queer

some were 

‘You know I’m not that way’


some never spoke to me again


got drunk with me & explored


When I came out to my mother

she said

‘don’t tell your father’

when I came out to my father

he said

‘don’t tell your mother’


when I came out

no one said

‘how do you feel’

‘what does it mean to you’

no one said



‘it’s about fucking time’

no one

at any point

engaged me in conversation

no one ever asked

‘are you seeing someone’

no one said

‘I work with a gay guy

maybe you’d like to meet him’

no one said

‘you must feel incredibly alienated

in this small-town hard-drinking

cis-hetero-red-neck culture’


maybe I was too stoic

not wanting to let anyone in

being queer was enough

without presenting

as weepy drama queen

I had to be man enough 

masculine enough

to keep up appearances

so no one would suspect

the emotional uncertainty

I was drowning in


I was told

that so & so

who was gay

had hung himself


had stepped in front of semi

on a dark highway

told that by friends 

who never said

‘I hope you don’t do that’

who never said

‘if you feel like that

talk to us’


when I came out

I was left to my own devices

and survived

and sometimes

I jerk off 

to the memory 

of that bathing suit picture

of the hot movie star

Hey! Now you can give me $$$ to defray blog fees & buy ice-cream in Washington at 2018’s – sweet,eh?

NaNoWriMo.03 2018

As some of you may know I’ve been posting Coal Dusters, a previous NaNoWriMo novel, on Tuesdays. So besides working on Blludstun I’ve been doing edits & rewrites on Coal Dusters. Rewrites is putting in mildly as this week I realized I left out an important scene. Yikes. I allowed myself to get distracted and started filling out that scene.

Getting back into the head of that character wasn’t too difficult but the time taken for those 5000 words meant less energy for this year’s NaNo. A sign from the universe to give it a little rest, I guess. The new Dusters scene pretty much wrote itself – the best scenes do. Of course I’ll count those words towards this year’s word-count. I’m never concerned with actually finishing whatever I’m working on for NaNo which gives me permission to write with a sense of ending even if I don’t get to that ending.

I did do some Blludstun work though. Some of it was  a light rewrite of hat I have done already to add another character. I’ve never included a pet in my stories so I figured it was time to add a cat to the mix. Something that doesn’t need dialogue 🙂 Plus cats are standard paranormal tropes. I spend an hour or so of letting that cat get underfoot. I’ve named it Mineo – as a tribute to Sal Mineo & as a nod to Mina in Dracula. 

As I’ve been writing the plot has become cleared to me as well. I need some time for the elements from by inspirations to intermingle in my subconscious to coalesce inot an original story. I’m happy with the direction it is going to take. I’ve also been watching the latest Channel Zero: The Dream Door – which is pretty good in taking the ordinary and turning it into a wild roller-coaster – something which the latest season of American Horror Show has failed to do.

Gabe went into the kitchen and I sat on the couch and began to read the letter. It was dated June of the previous year.

“Mr. Taylor,

If you are reading this letter it means I’ve passed away before I had the opportunity of meeting you in person. When the Lineage agency contacted me with your name and address it was my intent to fly to Canada to make your acquaintance. You see neither I, nor my late husband, have any living, blood family. I wanted to insure that I was leaving the estate to someone who would know what to with it. Much of the cash is going to charity but the idea of our worldly goods going to some auction house didn’t sit right with me.

I’m not sure where to begin. The enclosed documentary will tell you what little there is known about my late husband but it makes scant mention of me. I’m hoping by telling you some my history you may value our treasures as much as I do. Of course you may do what I feared and put our worldly goods up for auction.

I was the only child of James Lionel Taylor, the renowned clockmaker. My mother died in childbirth. My childhood was far from normal, though my Dad did the best he could to run his business and raise a child at the same time. As a result I spent a great deal of time in his shop and workrooms. In fact he had a room set aside for me to sleep in on nights when he was working.

Besides clocks he also made automatons that were so life-like I once asked him to make me a mother. I became so fascinated with them that I began to create dolls and soon he was showing how to construct the mechanisms that would make them move. I recently saw one of his automatons in an auction. It sold for nearly a million pounds.

One day when I was about sixteen a man came into the shop to have his hand repaired. Yes, you read correctly. His hand. He had lost his left hand in in an industrial accident and had it replaced with a fully articulated artificial one. The little finger wasn’t responding as it should and he hoped my father could repair it.

The mechanism was too small for my father to work on easily so he allowed me to try. My smaller hands were perfect for the job. By the way that man was William Blludstun. He was only twenty at the time and I found him very handsome. In order to do the work he had to remove his shirt to give me full access to the connections. 

William took an immediate interest in my education. He insisted that I study the then burgeoning field of robotics with an emphasis on medical applications. He, himself, had developed the very skin that was on his artificial hand. It blended seamlessly with real flesh, felt real except that it had no blood vessels to carry heat to it. So his hand was always at room temperature.

My father was at first skeptical at having this dark stranger take such an interest in his only daughter but if nothing else William was persuasive. When I was eighteen we were married. It was on our wedding night that I discovered the truth. William was, what we call now, a transperson. Once a woman he was now a man.

All of this is now a matter of public record. To me it was a profound shock. I had never considered the malleability of gender. Born a woman I never questioned that fact. As I furthered my medical education I learned that there was a broader range of sexuality even within what one is born as. This was one of the reasons we never had progeny. 

When my research into your life revealed that you were a man married to another man I was very pleased. Perhaps there is something in the Taylor genetic make up. I looked forward to meeting you to compare our d.n.a to see if there was something they would reveal. Alas that was not to be. 

But I digress. As William’s reputation grew so did his wealth. He began to retire more and more from the public eye. We built a home, Blludstun Estate, in a location we kept as secret as possible. This is where we have lived for the past twenty years, as out of the public eye as possible. We continued our medical research and scientific development with the utmost privacy and security.

When William died some ten years ago I carried on as best I could but my heart was no longer in the research. Now I too am dying.’
November 1 -30

every Tuesday

June  – Capturing Fire 2019 – Washington D.C. 

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

Like my pictures? I post lots on Tumblr




it’s not that it isn’t satisfying

in no way is this a judgement 

of the quality

the quantity

there may be deeper flavours

those aren’t the issues


it’s not that there’s a alternative

or some way

of not accepting what is offered

in favour of something else

enough is enough

even if it is only available now 

there is no need to apologize


or delay

what is here

will have to do

this isn’t a complaint 

merely compliance 

taking it in

making the most of it

while admitting

this desire not to have more

at least not more of the same

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

Like my pictures? I post lots on Tumblr