Chapter XXXVII – Birk Pays a Call

Coal Dusters – Chapter XXXVII

Birk Pays a Call

Holding Maddy loosely by the hand Birk stood at the corner street. He stared down at the door of the rectory. His mother had pressed the shirt and finally stitched the cuffs of pants Lillian had sent to him but he thought he still looked unkept. His borrowed belt made the pants bunch out around his behind. That was a tailoring job his mother said would take more than a few stitches to do. He was already sweating from his walk there. His face itched from shaving it twice in the same morning. His hair refused to stay down no matter what he tried. He looked down at his work boots wishing he had shoes more fitting to wear. 

The boots, even when they were new, didn’t hold any kind of shine. There weren’t meant to. His sisters had tried to clean them but there was nothing to be done about the scrapes on the toes. The crease of the pants made the boots look even more unsuitable. His mother wouldn’t let him go in bare feet.

“We going to stand here all morning?” Maddy asked. She was wearing her Sunday dress with a new piece of lace sown around the neck. There was a yellow satin bow in her hair that she kept pushing back into place.

His mother had insisted he take his sister along so she could see how those outside Mudtown lived. He was sure it was to make sure he acted proper. He wished Clancy could have been with him but after the scrap they got into yesterday that wasn’t going to be. 

When Birk had woken that morning it took a few minutes for him to remember that Clancy was gone and not sleeping on the floor where it was cooler in the summer.

He walked to the front door of the house and knocked. No answer. Knocked again a little harder. Maddy kicked at the door but her shoes did make much of a sound. 

“You sure you got the right day?” she asked.

“It’s the day Clancy read to me from her note.” Did he have the wrong day? Wrong time? Clancy had read those things to him off the note. Was that his idea, to send him there at the wrong time to make an even a bigger fool of himself. Maybe the note didn’t ask for him to lunch. “You read it too, didn’t you?”

“Yes.” She stood on tiptoes to see through the side  window.

He turned to leave.

The door opened.

“Mr. Nelson.” Father Patrick said. “You have to knock louder than that.”

Birk turned back to the door. “Sorry.. uh … Father McTavish. I wasn’t sure how ….”

“Come in, please.” Lillian appeared behind Father Patrick and pushed past him.

“Thank, ye, Miss. You remember my sister Maddy.” He was awed at Lillian’s appearance.

“Hello.” Maddy curtsied. 

Previously Birk had only seen Lillian dressed in dark green pinafores with darker green aprons around them, a black kerchief of some sort covering her hair. So similar to a nun he had assumed that she was one.

Today she was wearing a light blue shift with a pleated skirt that ended directly below her knees. A row of blue buttons along the back went from her neck to her waist. How did those buttons get done? He had enough trouble with ones that went up the front of his shirt. She was wearing black shoes with small heels and with straps across the top of her foot.

He took this all in with a couple of rapid shy glances as they followed her into the parlour. She continued through the parlour to another room.

“How is your family faring during the strike?” Father Patrick asked him. He gestured to a chair for Birk to sit. Maddy sat on chair by the fire. Hey eyes wide as she looked around the room.

“We gets by.” Birk looked briefly at Father Patrick. “We have … a little garden… we hunt some and …. fish in the lake.”

The room wasn’t much bigger than the parlour in his house. The furniture was more ornate. The window panes were so clean as to be nearly transparent. The lace curtains barely held back the sun.  He was nervous with the crucifix on the wall that loomed over his shoulder.

“Very enterprising.” Father Patrick said. “How are you doing is school.” The priest asked Maddy.

“Good. How do you get the windows so clean? The curtain are so white. My sister Sal wasn’t feeling strong today so she couldn’t come with us. She supposed to help Ma with picking pears, which means finding any that fall from the tree.”

“Pears?” Lillian asked. 

‘Yes ma’am.” Birk said. “There some pear trees and apple trees in behind our lane.”

“Very nice. I’ll get the tea things.”

Lillian retuned with a tray on which was a tea service. Birk had never seen such a set. The tray was highly polished silver. The whitish ceramic tea pot had a thick gold braid along the base, the cups had saucers that matched and weren’t cracked. The gleaming ivory of the china glowed in the sunlight that came through the window. He was afraid to handle it.

“Tea? Mr. Nelson.” Lillian asked him.

“Why thank ‘er miss.”

She handed him a cup and saucer. 

He quickly put them on the table beside him before they could notice how much he was shaking. Maddy went to the tea service and brought the milk over and poured some into Birk’s cup.

“Thank you.” He said as she stirred for him. He tired to pick the cup up by the handle but his fingers could barely hold it. He sipped trying not too look too clumsy.

“Father Patrick, my uncle, and I wanted to express our gratitude for your daring rescue. Your brother is very brave.” She put a cup and saucer on the table beside Maddy and poured her a cup tea.

“T’wasn’t me who saved that babby, it was you miss. That took a brave heart to do that. I only helped when I had to.”

“Be that as it may, I wanted to thank you in person.” She handed Birk a plate with a couple of biscuits on it. “I made these fresh this morning.”

Birk looked directly at her face for the first time. Her dark auburn hair shone in the light that came through the window. The light gave it a reddish tinge. Her skin was clear. No sign of the bruise remained. She smelled of flowers. He didn’t know what kind. Lilacs or roses. A delicate clean smell.

“This is thanks enough for me.” He touched the shirt she had sent to him.

“A little large on you.” She laughed lightly.

“True miss but it’ll wear well.”

“Not those trousers through.” Father Patrick said. 

Maddy started to giggle. “Me and Sal each fit in a leg of them.”

“Stand so I can see how they fit you.” Lillian said.

Birk blushed as he stood. Some of his mother’s hasty stitch work had come loose. The cuffs were unrolled and caught beneath the heels of his boots. The waist was bunched by the belt he had borrowed from Blackie to cinch it. They had tried suspenders but the pants drooped so he looked as if he was wearing a cloth barrel.

“I am much taller than you, my lad.” Father Patrick grinned. “But I think Lillian can alter them to fit you somewhat better.”

“Yes. Thank you …” Birk blushed that they were going do those alterations right away.

“I can bring them over another day.” Maddy said. “Ma’d’ve done them but she was busy tending to Sal.”

“Yes.” Lillian laughed. “We aren’t going to do it now, if that’s what you feared.”

“I like your biscuits.” Maddy said. “Can I have one to take home to Sal?”

“Of course.” Lillian turned to Birk. “Do the men think the strike will last much longer?” She asked.

“Can’t say miss. We have the … demonstration at the end of the week.”

“The attack on the company store was not a wise action.” Father Patrick said. “I’ve sure troops will be brought in soon to make sure order is maintained.”

“Not as if that at the pluck me was planned. Happened so fast none of us was ready for it.”

“Not from what I hear.” Father Patrick said. “It has been brewed up by a couple of the men for a few days. They were waiting for an opportunity. You know Jim McKlusky?”

“Sure. He lives next door to us in Mudside.” So Jim was the ring leader of that pack.

There was knock at the door. Lillian went to answer it. She brought Mr. Bowen, one of the mine managers, into the room

“It’s Mr Bowen, Father Patrick.”

“Sorry to barge in on you this way Father but ….” he caught sight of Birk. “Oh, I see you have company.”

“Yes. This is Birk Nelson. The young miner who  saved my niece from the fire the other night.”

“Least he could do. It was them bastards that started it.” Mr. Bowen glared at Birk. “You men should know better.”

“I didna’ have anything to do with that.” Birk said. 

Mr. Bowen give a dismissive snort and turned to Father Patrick. “Father I have some urgent business that I must speak to you about. In private.”

“Why don’t we step out into the garden Mr. Bowen.” Father Patrick said. “It won’t take up too much time will it Mr. Bowen?”

Father Patrick lead Mr. Bowen out through the kitchen to the back garden.

“The garden is where we first saw you a few weeks back.” Birk said.

“I was not very happy that day. You were going fishing with your brother. I envied your freedom.” Lillian got up and leaned against the fence.

“Clancy’s no brethren to us.” Maddy said sharply.

“Oh I see.”

“They fights like brothers though.”

“Sush Maddy.”

“It’s true! You and Clancy were as bad and you and Geo t’other day punching away at each other.”

“He’s had some schoolin’ mor’n me and thinks he’s better n’ me ‘cause of it. Same way as so many mainlanders, you see. I jus’ got tired of him lordin’ it over me.” Birk said.

“You do want to improve your mind, don’t you.” Lillian looked at Birk, “You don’t want to be a … an uneducated miner for the rest of your life, do you?”

“Twas good nuf for my father, his father, good enough for me.” Birk shifted uneasily on his chair. Each move of his caused it to squeak.

“The mines can’t last forever you know.”

“Long nuf for the sorts of me, ma’am.”

“Is it such a bad thing, I mean, to improve your mind.”

“No ma’am. But I jus don’t see the point in it, for me. Fir my sister’s it’s different. Ma wants them to leave here one day.” Birk stared up at her. “There’s isn’t much else for me. Not that I care for the coal but …”

“Don’t you have any dreams, Birk.”

“Dreams, miss. Sure but they are dreams not life.”

“You don’t want, say a wife, someone to look after you and someone you can look after.”

“Got me ma to look after me and I got my sisters to look out fer. My family’s enough family for me.” He nodded at Maddy.

“The right wife could be a helpmate in that though, wouldn’t she?”

Birk was confused and unsure what she was getting at. He didn’t want to ask her because he knew Maddy would be telling his Mother everything she heard here. He stood. “I thank you miss, for taking the time to talk with me. We best be on our way though.”

“Wait a moment and I’ll give Maddy some of the biscuits to take home.” She took Maddy by the hand and they went to the kitchen.

He looked around the room. He couldn’t picture Lillian living anywhere else. She would never be suited to a life in Mudtown.

Maddy and Lillian were laughing when they returned from the kitchen.

“I’d be happy to come by to visit with Sal.” Lillian said to Maddy. 

“She would never believe how nice you are.” Maddy said. “She’s gets better and better, so our ma tells us.”

“I’m sure she is.” Lillian smiled. “Don’t forget what we talked about.” She adjusted Maddy’s hair ribbon.

“I won’t. Thank you kindly for the biscuits.” She curtsied. “We can go now, Birk.”

She took Birk by the hand as Lillian opened the front door for them

“Thank you again for rescuing me.” Lillian kissed Birk quickly on cheek.

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MRF I Monster

Next is an mp3 collection of over 7 hours is an assemblage of current electronica & pop. I sometimes get this urge for this decades cultural & this is the result: I Monster: Neveroddoreven, A Dense Swarm of Ancient Stars; MRF: Elevator Music, Mob Music; Mark Ronson: Uptown Special, Version; Black Rivers; Kate Pierson: Guitars and Microphones; Flight Facilities: Down To Earth; Jimmy Somerville: Homage.

 

Someone on my Tumblr feed posted a couple of tracks by I Monster – electronica with some dance components, some experimental. Unsettling sonic landscapes, along with pretty, nearly new age moments plus a sense of humour. Good engaging music for Moby, Lemon Jelly fans.

I found MRF thanks to Facebook. The band responded to one of my music reviews a few years ago but sending me a link to a free mp3. Jazz, pop, emotional – sax centric music. A step above lounge with great covers, strong regional material. Lead by Mike Flanagan who is a very hot, gay, bearded talent on sax and keyboards – MRF is easy on the ears & worth downloading.

Mark Ronson is a consistent top 10 pop performer, – is he a remixer, a dj? These sets are mainly collaborations with the likes of Bruno Mars, Mystical, Santo Gold etc. Nicely structured songs, bouncy, a dash of rap, some electronica that is well produced & serves up those hits than become golden oldies. Music you can dance to at weddings.

Black Rivers is a side project by members of Doves – more of their dark, emotionally intense adult pop worth listening to. Flight Facilities is a pop-electronic group similar to Chicaine that I discovered via the Red Rocket Coffee FB page. Nice background music for sex.

Not all new music is made by ‘unknowns’ 🙂 Kate Pierson is/was a member of the B-52’s who has finally done her solo lp. Solid music but kind of faceless at the same time. I was hoping for a bit of the B52’s retro energy. Jimmy Summerville (of Bronski Beat ) pays Homage to the day of disco glitter with this fine, fun set. His voice is in good form & the songs are romantic, openly queer & here to stay.

Heart of the Morning

She could smell it. Fresh and sweet. Not to far away either. More than one.

‘Mmmm.’ She hummed to herself. Each breath made her pulse  beat a little faster. ‘Smells  so good.’

The morning mist over the park began to dissipate as the sun broke through the clouds. Reds, yellows, pinks infused the grey air around her.

‘Looks to be a good day.’ she said to no one in particular. ‘A good day indeed.’

She stretched, flexing her calves and ankles after the six laps around the park. Sweat soaked her T-shirt. She held her hand out and saw the sweat rise in a mist from herself. ‘Smokin’. I’m smokin’ today.’

She took several more deep breathes. ‘Mmmmm.’

She could smell it. Fresh and getting closer. Not what she had expected, at least not so early in the day.

Four children scampered into the park. Chasing each other and screaming. An adult followed close behind.

‘Hey.’

‘Hey.’

‘Hey.’

‘Hey.’

Their shouts scattered the pigeons from the underpass. She breathed deep in their direction.

‘Ah, so it is them. Young too. Easier to handle.’

The adult with them was a man, one of their fathers? No, an older brother.

‘Morning.’ She spoke to the brother. ‘Good day to be up and out so early.’

‘Yep. Hey Greg slow down.’

‘Kids.’

‘Yeah.’ the brother flashed an amazing white smile. Dark black hair.

‘Enjoy.’ She wanted to follow them, follow the smell of their youth. Fresh and sweet. Blood that would taste so fresh if she could only get it. Just one heart would do. Didn’t matter which one, did it? The smell wasn’t as strong on the brother as it had been on the youngsters.

The sun was out full now. She pulled her hood up and did a couple of knee bends and started to trot off in the opposite direction. Or at least she thought it was the opposite direction.

‘I must be going in circles.’

She found herself round a corner and into the path of the galloping children. Two girls, two boys with the old brother not too far behind.

She lowered her hood and stopped to allow them to rush past her. Didn’t want to bump into one, not yet. What time was it? Did they make this take this route everyday? She’d have to come back here tomorrow morning. Get them comfortable with her. Time to feast and the gods were bringing the right sustenance at last. Fresh and sweet. Not ripe, not tired of anything and ready to leap into life.

Ready for her to reach out and scoop out their hearts. Mmmm breakfast of champions.

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January 10, Thursday: 8 p.m. Hot Damn! Its’ a Queer Slam – Buddies in Bad Times Theatre: feature Regie Cabico

http://www.queerslam.com

every Tuesday 2019


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

August 2-13: getting back to my roots in Cape Breton 

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

Like my pictures? I post lots on Tumblr

https://www.tumblr.com/blog/topoet

 

#Carnival Planet #Calliope

TOpoet

Calliope

there is this circus of flesh

that moves faster

than the blood can pound

that over rides all cautions

lessons learned  go out the window

when that circus opens

cotton candy balls of fun

for the ones who surrender

to take give take give

rise and fall

expectation and delivery

the fierce red flush of ginger hair

that surrounds the heave and heft

of the the timid and free

fleeting and heavy

melt of the stars

into a mouth

into the sudden rise

shape fall

stomach churning moment

when a glance is returned

can it be for me

take this opportunity

to ride the ride

to strut the street

to be in the middle of the bed

sheet strewn masses

wrinkled rivers of shadows

dim corner

vibrant and frightened

tongue chasing twists

buttons popping

slow stroke of zipper

happy slide of pants

shirts

sweaters

shoes socks

fly through the…

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I Was A Teenage Coward

TOpoet

My sense of masculinity growing up was never up to the rough-and-tumble masculinity that was expected of me. I never lived up to those unquestioned imperatives. Some of this was because we moved east from Manitoba for a couple years making it difficult for me to establish ‘buddy’ friendships with other boys. When we did settle in Sydney, Cape Breton we changed neighbour hoods at least two times before settling in a third.

I did many ‘boy’ things mind you – rode my bicycle everywhere, played backyard baseball with a bunch of kids near by. But was never a fighter. I got into a couple of fistfights but it was easier to avoid them. So I never establish a position of respect amongst boys (or as I felt, with my father.)

Because I was never a fighter I was called ‘yellow,’ ‘coward’ long before I was called ‘gearbox,’ ‘queer.’ Being…

View original post 611 more words

I Was A Teenage Coward

My sense of masculinity growing up was never up to the rough-and-tumble masculinity that was expected of me. I never lived up to those unquestioned imperatives. Some of this was because we moved east from Manitoba for a couple years making it difficult for me to establish ‘buddy’ friendships with other boys. When we did settle in Sydney, Cape Breton we changed neighbour hoods at least two times before settling in a third.

I did many ‘boy’ things mind you – rode my bicycle everywhere, played backyard baseball with a bunch of kids near by. But was never a fighter. I got into a couple of fistfights but it was easier to avoid them. So I never establish a position of respect amongst boys (or as I felt, with my father.)

Because I was never a fighter I was called ‘yellow,’ ‘coward’ long before I was called ‘gearbox,’ ‘queer.’ Being queer was to be less than a man, to be feminine – a girly-boy who would never be considered masculine & thus to be derided, ridiculed etc. There was no support system for ‘otherness’ other than becoming a butch fisted boxer to eat the shit out them – which wasn’t going to happen. I’m glad that I didn’t get the help that I needed then because sexually confused teens were given chemical castration, lobotomies to make them non-threats the fabric of wholesomeness.

That feeling of being a coward has never fully left me but I’ve just finished reading Mad Blood Stirring: The Inner Lives of Violent Men by Daemon Fairless. The book addresses the nature of violence as a means of defining masculinity. A definition that is culturally approved. The drag queen that beats the crap out of homophobes is respected, the one that minces away to avoid conformation is not respected.

Mad Blood Stirring is an excellent book, part case study, part interviews with ‘violent’ men, part the author’s own journey to discover the roots of his own violent nature. He recreates incidents of violent confrontations so vividly that I could feel the emotional rush that pushed him over the edge. As I said this is an excellent book well worth reading even if one isn’t a man or violent. 

That fact that I didn’t take the bait of confrontation wasn’t because I was a coward but because I was already stepping out the cultural imperative that manhood is only in the fist. Or maybe I had a testosterone imbalance 🙂

(one again WP does weird things to lines breaks)

The Killer In The Morning 

with a harsh shout 

the killer awoke from a dream
someone smothering him
a pillow over his face 

when heʼd killed 

he never used a pillow
or anything that hid the face

the best part of the kill
was in the eyes
that I canʼt believe you are doing this 

combined with the actual pain
as his hands crushed 

the wind pipe squeezing
hollow bones in his strong hands

he could crush an apple
the hardest granny smith
heʼd hold it up so juice 

splashed his face 

like a warm summer shower

cleaned and ready 

the killer sat at his kitchen table 

looked out at the sunny day
at people on their way to death 

death at his hands 

maybe not right now 

but soon sooner than they expect
at least one of them would die today

he knew that
the knowledge armed him
gave him power
gave him a reason to live
to be there amongst them
each of them ripe for his desires 

the headlines no longer cowed them 

they had little fear
a killing a day
the papers screamed 

who will be next 

the tv clatter box went on and on 

flashed from his latest victim 

to breakfast cereals
that would help you lose weight

ha he laughed to himself
I have a program
thatʼll give you a permanent weight loss 

donʼt bother calling
Iʼll find you today
it is a good day to die

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January 10, Thursday: 8 p.m. Hot Damn! Its’ a Queer Slam – Buddies in Bad Times Theatre: feature Regie Cabico

http://www.queerslam.com

every Tuesday


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

August 2-13: getting back to my roots in Cape Breton 

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

Like my pictures? I post lots on Tumblr

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The Echo

samprules2

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

The Echo

because I disagree

doesn’t mean you are wrong

 

seeing things differently

doesn’t mean I know better

our ideological differences

ultimately don’t mean anything

minority majority

there’s always a power disparity 

yet your control over me

is still limited 

I may not be in charge

but neither are you

as we are caught in this dance

of conformity

 

there are noisy 

spokespersons on all sides

who shout down each other

as to who is right wrong

when the loudest wins

its only the echo

of what could have been

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Underwear Changes

Change Nothing Changes

if nothing changes 

nothing changes

safe is secure

but it isn’t always productive

 

constructing a life

that is safe and secure

denies the power of insecurity

the energy of being unguarded

 

things work fine

leave them be

why replace what is still working

even for a newer faster model

with features I never needed

 

what will I do with the time I save

find more ways of being 

safe and secure

of not taking any creative chances

 

why change the scenery

what’s the point of a new shoes

when all the old ones

are perfectly fine

 

why moan about the lack of growth

when growth means being open to change

it’s as if

only the dramatic change

is worth seeking out

 

as if growth only comes from

the greatest pointless risk

that surviving danger

is the only catalyst for moving forward

 

though why move forward

when things are as good as they need to be

boredom contentment

complacency 

the new hair cut

the step away from all black

to blue and yellow

 

the opportunity to replace 

what works fine

is to be open

to what may work the same

yet move things forward

 

to allow change

let go of the comfortable

that defines one

step into uncertainly

with the certainty things will change

Declaimer: I do not impose sequence or time of posting to coordinate with the time of year so it is ‘coincidence’ that the forces lined this piece to come at this time of year 🙂 

As I’ve blogged before I believe gradual change works better than dramatic change – I also believe that ‘superficial’ physical change can lead to deeper emotional change. I have a female friend in recovery who loved a pair of glittery sandals that were always falling off when she walked. She complained of feeling emotionally unsure about certain things & I suggested she get real shoes so she could walk steadily. She looked at me as if I were crazy. I said if she could walk without fear of losing her shoes her emotional footing would also improve. She did & it worked.

Some of us are object hoarders, others are emotional hoarders, some are both 🙂 Giving up a sense of never being good enough is difficult in a culture where feeling good enough is seen as conceit, as arrogance. Inadequacy become comfortable and losing it means replacing it with a change attitude about the self. Would I rather stick to that familiar sense of self or let it go – who would I be then?

I remember watching Hoarders & saw people willing to change, who clearly needed to divest yet who balked at the work needed to do it – they were ‘happier’ in the womb of their stuff – they didn’t know who they would be without it. Sometime I felt ‘the helpers’ did too much, too fast for those ‘rescued’ to adjust to a new clearer reality. Plus relying on guilt & shame in the process is never productive.

In my life change is constant in small ways & sometimes in big ways. I replace perfectly good things – tee-shirts, underwear, socks, mugs, music taste, daily routines – in order to encourage forward motion. Going to Capturing Fire a few years ago was a big change – taking myself out of the comfort of the local poetry scene into a bigger one paid off creatively. It was a logical progression as result of my participation in Hot Damn!

Changing my underwear has also been an interesting process. I don’t mean changing it more often but ‘upgrading’ from the standard solid colour Stanfields/Hanes multipacks to patterns, styles, even fabrics changed my sexual sense of self from the unglamorous functional to a more fun & unexpected sexy secret self that has resulted in a fuller sex life & possibly an even more confident me on stage. 

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

Chapter XXXVI

Coal Dusters – Chapter XXXVI

Birk and Clancy 

Fall Out

Since the start of the strike Birk had been going to the Sunday morning service with his mother and sisters. This morning he had spent a good part of the morning getting the pants Lillian had sent to fit him better. His mother said she would make alterations but he didn’t want to wait.

The striped shirt didn’t look too bad to him. The collar was okay as long as he didn’t button it all the way. He rolled the cuff one fold so his hands could be seen. But the cuffs needed studs to hold them closed

The pants refused to cooperate. The legs took three folds to get them to ankle height. The waist left five inches slack around his waist.

“That uncle of her’s must have a belly bigger than a cow.” Birk said as he cinched it with a rope. 

“Guess he was fully grown. Not half-sized the way you grew.” Clancy said. “You’ll look an idiot going anywhere in those clothes. Ya look a kid trying on his Dad’s clothes.”

Birk took the pants off. “Here. Ya try ’em on then.” He threw them at Clancy. He was able to pull the shirt off over his head without unbuttoning it.

“She sent them to you not me.” Clancy threw the pants into Birk’s face. “Besides they already stink of you.”

“Says who?”

“Says me you … you … runt. At least I finished growing up. The only part o’you that’s man sized is between yer legs. And you didn’t even know what to do with it till I showed ya!”

Birk shoved Clancy into the wall as hard as he could. “These fists are man sized too. In case ya forget.” He punched Clancy in the stomach with his right hand and in the ear with his left.

Clancy walloped Birk in the side with his right fist.

Birk yelped.

“Hope I broke something. I’ve been wanting to that for a long time.”
“Me too.” He swung and hit Clancy in the nose. Blood spurted.

They grappled with each other and fell on the floor at the foot of the bed.

“You boys stop fightin’ or I’ll get Ma.” Sal poked her head in the room.

Birk stood and hauled Clancy to his feet by the front of his shirt. Clancy stomped on Birk’s foot and pushed him back and out the bedroom door.

“When I came here that first time. Saw that it was you lived here. I almost changed my mind.” He hit Birk in the chest. “But it was cheaper than Mrs. Franklin’s.”

“Too bad you didn’t.” Birk connected again with Clancy’s jaw. “Ya soft arse know-it-all mainlander. You should’ve been paying me to put up with you.”

“I couldn’t sleep proper till I got you sort of washed up. I’d wake up and think I was stuck in some … Hell that stank of feet and … pig shit.”

Birk had Clancy in a headlock and lost his footing at the top of the stairs and they tumbled down over each other. They pulled away from each other when they landed.

His sisters were screaming for them to stop fighting.

“These feet ya mean.” Birk pushed his bare feet into Clancy’s face as they lay on the floor.

“Pigs’ i’d smell better.” 

“I’m sure you’d know that.”

Clancy bit Birk on the instep.

“Ow.” Birk pulled his foot back then slammed it into Clancy’s shoulder as Clancy was pushing himself up.

“Birk! Clancy! What’s got into the two of you.” Birk’s mother was trying to come between them.

“He’s had this comin’ calling me stupid, a runt.”

“I thought you guys had become good pals.” she said.

“Me too.” Birk wiped blood from his mouth. “Me too.”

“The last puss I want to see most mornings is this one.” He swung at Birk and missed. 

Birk pushed him through the kitchen and out into the back yard.

“Watch those tomaters.” His mother shouted.

Clancy stumbled and fell. Birk kicked him in the side. Clancy grabbed at the dirt and threw it into Birk’s face as he got up. They lunged at each other. Heads locked on each other’s shoulder and hitting at each other’s sides and stomach.

“Ya can always go back to Mrs. Franklin.” Birk gasped into Clancy’s ear.

“You can go to Hell you stinkin’ mine rat.”

Birk braced himself and gave Clancy a shove with both arms. Clancy reeled back against the shed and slumped to the ground.

“Soft arse.” Birk spit a gob of blood on to Clancy’s face and went back into the house.

“I’ll be ready for church in a bit Ma.” He splashed cold water on his face. Rinsed the blood out of his mouth.

Up in the bedroom he carefully folded the pants and shirt. He’d get his mother to alter them later in the day.

He passed Clancy coming up the stairs as he went down to join his mother and sisters for church. 

On the way home after the service his mother asked. “What was that dust up?”

“Nothing Ma.”

“I knows better. That weren’t no horseplay. Neither of you were holdin’ back.”

“He told me it made him sick to look at me. That  ‘cause I wasn’t tall, I wasn’t a full man and would never be one.”

“Hurtful words.” She shook her head. “How he feel about the gal as sent you the pants and shirt.”

“He think’s she’s pretty and such.”

“Could be he’s sore she sent you something nice and he got nothing.”

“But I don’t give a care about her. Could have been anyone caught in the fire and I’d ’av done the same thing.”

“I know.”

“I know my duty to you and the girls. Besides she’s practically a nun.”

When they returned to the house from the morning service he found that Clancy was gone. All his clothes and other belongings had been removed from the bedroom. On the bureau was a note:

“Seeing as you can’t read writing I’ve printed this note to tell you I got word that my mother was poorly and I have gone to tend to her. Clancy.”

He tucked the note into his pants pocket. Picked up the shirt and pants that Lillian had sent him and took them downstairs.

“Ma you think you can fix these so they fits me better.”

She shook the shirt out. “That’s quality.” She held it to her face then studied the seams. “Don’t want to tamper with it. Look at that stitching. It’s a blessed art. I could never sew that that fine.”

“Look! We fit yer pants, Birk.” His sisters had pulled on the pants, each standing in one of the legs and holding them up by the waist. They hopped toward him.

“Get outta there.” He laughed.

“Priest’s a big man.” His mother said. “These wouldn’t even fit Blackie.”

The girls got out of the pants and Birk pulled them on over the pants he was wearing.

“Even if ya can fix the cuff some.” He folded the hem several times so that it rode at the hight his present pants did. “Even if they too big around the waist I won’t be stepping on them when I wear them.”

“Your waist will always grow.” His mother laughed. “Give ‘em here. I can do a a few stitches to keep them from dragging along.”
“Thanks Ma.”

“Where’s that Clancy gotten too?”

“Gone.” Birk said. “Packed his things and gone.”

“Yer joking.” she went up to the room and came back down. “So he is.”

He gave her the note.

“I knowed his Ma was ailing.” She said. 

“He say anything to you about goin’ to see her?” Birk looked at the note.

“Yes but didn’t say when.”

“I’m sure he’ll be back for that union march at the end of the week.”

“Depends on his Ma.” His mother said.

After supper Birk went out to check his rabbit traps. There was one caught but he left it there as he continued on his way to his favorite sitting spot. He climbed up high in a branch of the oak tree.

His Ma was right, the things Clancy had said were to him mean. It was same as his first months in the mines where he had to prove himself everyday. The men all riding him for being so small, then for being so hairy but he showed them. Showed Clancy too that he wasn’t going to take that from him either. 

But how could Clancy have been hidin’ those thoughts the past months. Acting as if they were friends. Making him feel he was …. someone he wanted to be with. But foolin’ him all the time. 

Getting him to talk about his hopes and making him think about the future. All that was a big show, a sham. Birk rubbed his head against the bark of the tree. 

When he got the rabbit on his way home he remembered showing the trap line to Clancy, showing him to skin the rabbit easy and where the salt was to treat the pelt.

He sat on the garden bench. He didn’t want to go into the house. He didn’t want to go up his empty room. He didn’t know what he wanted to do. He couldn’t figure out why this had happened to him. That someone could become such a part of his life that when they were gone it was if he had no life ahead of him.

He heard men talking in the road in front of the house, the McKlusky’s arguing next door. 

“I’m going out.” He heard Jim yell. “Where to is none of your business.”

“Don’t be late. I know it isn’t union this time o’ night.” His wife shouted back. “It’s to that Dan’s you’re going.”

“I’ll go where I want and I’ll stay out as late as I want.”

A gate slammed and Birk half hoped it was Clancy coming back but it wasn’t their gate. It was Jim on his way to the bootlegger’s. 

What was his life before Clancy showed up? Him and Geo eating at the table in the morning. Shovelling coal into the carts. He missed that. Doing things with his hands kept his mind from thinking about anything. He wanted to stop thinking. 

His mother came out of the house with a couple of mugs of tea.

“Sweet summer night,” she handed him a mug and sat beside him. “Before you kids came along me and Blackie ‘d sit out here. Then you could smell the hay.”

“You ever want to get out of here? The mines I mean.”

“Before I wed Blackie I thought about teaching or even nursing but once I had Geo those were a girl’s dream. Never can get ahead with the company. You buys from the company store, owes them money. You pays the company a fair price for a house, too, as long as you working there, but the house never gets to be yours.”

“It would nice to have something that was yours.” Birk sighed heavily. “Think I’ll take a walk.”

“A walk?”

“Clancy ‘d do that to get away and think a bit. Yeh something to do.”

Birk headed along their lane and to Pitt St and along to Chestnut Avenue. The smell of the burned company store was still in the air. He nodded to a few folks as he passed them. We went out of his way to pass Mrs. Franklin’s. There were boarders laughing and smoking on the veranda but none of them was Clancy.

He went along the pier and sat on a piling staring out at the reflection of lights on the water. The last drop off by the Dingle Dandy had been half-an-hour ago.

He’d never had this much free time. Time with nothing to do except worry about when the strike would be settled; what had he done to rattle Clancy so; what was he going to do at lunch with Lillian and Father Patrick. 

If this was what a man of leisure had to do, he wasn’t interested. He’d rather be worked to the bone and back sore from the pits than have time to think about things he didn’t understand and problems he didn’t know how to solve.

The Reverend Brown once said that God makes each man to his purpose. All along Birk figured his purpose was to work, to crush coal, bring his pay home to the family, sleep and do it again. Cut and dry so he didn’t have make any decisions himself.

“Taking the air?” someone said from behind him.

Birk started and almost fell off the piling and into the harbour. 

“Oh, Jim, you about knocked me over.”

“Saw you and that mainlander having a go at each other earlier.”

“Got in one another’s way. Gave him a good what for though. Sort of thing I never could get away with Geo.”

“That Geo used to love to torment you some.”

“Ma says it was what brothers were supposed to do.”

“Never had a brother. All sisters. Thought getting married wud be an escape from that. Trouble is sisters is women and I married  a woman. Them ‘s the breaks.”

“How long you think this strike is going to go on?” Birk asked.

“Not too much longer after us burning down the pluck me.  Sort of thing the Corporation won’t stand for. There’ll action and not the kind of action we’re going to appreciate much.”

“You ever think o’ getting out of the mines?”

“And do what? I suppose I could try for the Steel Plant, or that iron foundry in North Sydney. But this is what I know. You want to try your hand at something else?”

“Clancy said future’s black underground. He got some schoolin’ though he could get on. Oh … I dunno … I was pretty happy doin’ what we all do …”

“But you feel there’s something more? I know that feelin’. When I was your age I wanted something more too. Sure wish I done something about it then. What did I do? I changed shifts in the mines. That’s what I did. Come on I’ll spot you a tip at Dan’s.”

“Ma ’d kill me if she finds out I went to the bootlegger.”

“You only die once.” Jim laughed. 

“Sure why not. I’m wanting to do something different. Maybe this is it, eh?”

Dan’s house was at the edge of the end of Castleton Mines past St Agatha’s hall. Birk knew that after the recent union meetings some of the men would end up there drinking their strike pay.

“If it’s not Blackie’s boy.” Dan greeted him. “Thought you tea-total same as yer old man.”

Birk grinned. He recognized several of the men there. There was also a couple women there. Wearing not much of anything. The place smelled of beer, cigarette smoke and sweat. He peered around afraid he’d see Clancy there.

“Aren’t you the hairy beast.” one of the women brushed up against him and put her hand into his shirt. All she was wearing was an untied silk robe. He saw that she was naked underneath it. He moved back.

“Look ladies we got a virgin here?” she laughed hoarsely.

Birk continue to back away. 

“Don’t be afraid, little man. I won’t hurt ya.” She touched his face and moved to kiss him.

“No … n … no … thanks Ma’am.”  Her perfume made it hard for him to breathe.

He turned and rushed out of the house and ran all the way home. Was this were McKlusky spent his time? Was this what men did? 

He took his boots off on the back porch of the house and went in quietly.

His mother was at the kitchen table.

“Where you been?” she asked.

“Down the dock. Thinking.”

She leaned over and smelled his shirt. “All this time?”

“I got took over to Dan’s. Ma it was … I never been in there … you gotta believe me. I was so afraid I’d find Clancy there. There was women. I didn’t know what to do so I bolt out of there fast as I could.”

“Who took ya?”

“I don’t want to say. Don’t ask me. I wanted to see what went on in those places. That’s all.”

“I believe you Birk. I do.” She shook her head. “You go to bed. You got to meet that nun tomorrow.”

“Nun?”

“The priest’s niece.”

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

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WordPress 2018

Coming to the end of another WordPress year & looking at my stats. I’m amazed at my world wide reach of views. India has jumped to #3 for the number of views! Slovina at #4! USA still heads the list but I’m amazed to see it go from A(merica) to Z(imbabwe). I slip by the firewall into China. even Russia. 

My number of followers has jumped from 217 to 298! WTF. The one stat that WP doesn’t provide is where my followers are from or I’d brag a little about that too. Time for Greenland to represent 🙂

 

Hey! Now you can give me $$$ to defray blog fees & buy coffee on my trip to Cape Breton – sweet,eh? paypal.me/TOpoet 

Ibibio and Beyond

Filed under Ibibio Sound Machine is an mp3 collection that included: Ibibio Sound Machine, Uyai; Lorez Alexandria: The Ultimate Collection; Anita Ward: Ring My Bell; Laura Mvula: The Dreaming Room (Special Edition); King: We Are King. Work that spans generations & genres. On random it makes for great driving music – though one has to deal with varying sound levels.

Starting with Lorez Alexandria: The Ultimate Collection – over 50 tracks mostly from her late 50’s & 60’s recordings. She is similar to Carmen McRae. Her voice is appealing, the material is standards with a torch leaning. I love her work on songs like You Stepped Out of A Dream, Good Morning Heartache. Underrated. 

Anita Ward is disco but not a disco diva. Her one big hit Ring My Bell brings back good memories for me. The rest of the songs on this lp are okay, romantic fodder nicely produced but not as catchy. Download her hit. More modern is King – a fine harmony group with dance underpinnings & some gospel thrown in. Easy on the ears with songs about relationships, & some social commentary. Amazing harmonies, ethereal then earthy. 

Which is also true of Laura Mvula’s The Dreaming Room (Special Edition). Part Kate Bush, Enya mixed with Beyonce sass: emotionally inviting, sweet and comforting – excellent production – though I find the vocal a little too buried in the mix – you have to listen harder 🙂 I found Mvula thanks to a Capturing Fire poet raving about this album.

Ibibio Sound Machine combines1980s afrobeat and 90s drum-and-bass into a fresh 2018 world music sound. I have their 1st self title release and Uyai. The horns remind me of Osibisa & also Aster Aweke. The music bubbles with rubbery electronica, Singer Eno Williams is sweet and emotional when needed. I read a rave review in Entrainment Weekly & downloaded the lps & am happy I did.

The Polishing of the Magi

The Armature Theatre Guild has been forced to cancel this year’s presentation of “The Polishing of the Magi” – I understand this will come as a disappointment to many of you – especially those of you whose children had been fortunate enough to be chosen to play the parts of the shepherds, lambs, sacrifices, dervishes and of course, the ultra blessed couple themselves.

Rehearsals had been going better than ever, according to Hank Grebly. It was the first time someone other than a member of the McGinch clan had been given the opportunity to direct the production and Hank was making the most of this opportunity.

But alas, as things often do, it all went to the apple press in a hand cart when it was clear that the McGinch’s weren’t willing to allow things to progress smoothly. Not that this comes as much of a surprise either, mind you. We all pay for our indulgence of this family and its anti-social actions.

But not to give up all hope, as it seems Hank and some of the cast will be presenting a childless, clown version of the same story. It may not have the same impact, but the show must go on. We will be spared the often bitter competition over whose baby gets to play the pivotal role of the fulcrum of all religions. That alone almost makes up for not having a full scale production, doesn’t it?

On a lighter note the Visitor’s Mall will be hosting their annual Midnight Madness sale, for those us who have time and need for yet more shopping. As the Mall says ‘Shopping is in the true spirit of the season, and if we don’t spend, we just aren’t pious.’

I pray their prayers are answered.

Please note that the Left-Handicraft Fair slated for the Pumpkin County Area has been cancelled. It was to be a fund raiser for the production of the “Polishing of the Magi” & seeing as that has been cancelled, there seemed little reason to have the craft fair.

Those who had planned to pick up some of Sylvia’s Jams and Moose Tarts can find a display of them at Bea Petratica’s Bridalle Shoppe and at Meg’s Cafe. Get there early as these delicious treats don’t last long.

Sylvia has introduced two new jams this year that I, for one, can’t wait to try. The Orange & Maple Ashes with Nutmage and Quince with Ginger & Bark. I have no idea what bark she has used,  but I’m sure it will be a savoury delight to perk up those you who are disappointed by the cancellation of the “Polishing of the Magi.

https://wp.me/P1RtxU-2f6

January 10, Thursday: 8 p.m. Hot Damn! Its’ a Queer Slam – Buddies in Bad Times Theatre: feature Regie Cabico

http://www.queerslam.com

returning every Tuesday 2019


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

August 2-13: getting back to my roots in Cape Breton 

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

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