Chapter XX – Birk Catches A Fish

Coal Dusters

Chapter XX

Birk Catches A Fish

“The crying’s coming from over there.” Birk nodded to a nearby back garden.

They walked over to a fence covered with sweet pea vines. A woman sitting on a bench in the corner of the garden was sobbing.

“Why, miss, what is the matter?” Clancy asked.

When she looked up Birk recognized her. “Ah tis her.”

He saw the bruise on her face and though she explained it as some sort of accident she caused herself he didn’t believe her.

“Come on, Clancy we best be on our way.” Birk didn’t feel comfortable in this part of the town and especially talking with with someone in the priest’s yard. After the way they had led on Manny last night he didn’t want to add anything to that fire.


They continued on their way.

“Burns me up,” Clancy kicked a stone on the path. “See a woman treated that way. Any man that’d do that don’ deserve to live.”

“We sees it often enough around though don’t we. Ma says it’s a sin but a good man’s fault too. Some wives can’t keep their mouth shut when a man needs a bit of quiet. I hear that in the house next to ours. He says ‘Give me a bit of rest’. She says ‘Rest! I got them kids all day, I needs the rest.’ And the next thing you know – bam.” He hit the palm of his left hand with his right fist.

“Not right.” Clancy shook his head.

“Another reason fer me not to get married. You see how fast I can be with m’ fists.”

“Yeh but who’d want to hurt her? Surely not Father Patrick, a man of God would never do that sort of thing.”

“True. Maybe she was speaking the truth. Ma slipped in the kitchen once’t and hit her face some hard on the table. Most knocked herself out. Bruise was bad for days after that. Everyone thought Blackie done give her a whooping.”

“Yeh but …”

“Funny thing to see her right after Manny jumping to defend her honour against us.” Birk said.

“It’s a sign or something do you think?”

“A keep away sign, if you ask me.”

It took them another half hour to get to Blue Lake.

“It isn’t a full lake, ya see. River starts somewhere in the hills there.” Birk pointed to some distant mountains. “There’s rapids along not too far that cuts it off, makes it swells up here before turning back into the river. Best place for fishin’ is along here.”

They went along the rocky shore of the lake. Then walked through a patch of purple wild flowers and scared a rabbit into the open. Some ducks squawked and swam away from the shore.

“Gramp Dusty used to bring me and Geo along t’ here. Dusty lost an arm in the mines and two fingers off’n his other hand – wasn’t much he could do after awhile but he kept busy lookin’ after us boys. He always said we was more than a handful. That’d alway make us laugh ‘cause he didn’t have hands. But he could sure catch fish.”

“Gramp Dusty was your father’s father.”

“That’s right. Lost the fingers when he was about my age. Crushed in a rock fall. But didn’t stop him from becoming the best fuse man they had. Then one shift he’d set the fuse and it didn’t go off. They waited long enough and he went back to check and boom!” Birk had held his hands apart as if he was holding a ball then threw them apart when he said ‘boom.’ “Not a chance to think of gettin’ away.”

“Don’t expect I’ll want to be a fuse man any time soon.” Clancy scratched his forearm. “Even it does pay more.”

“Company pensioned him off with hardly anything. He taught us all how to cast and fish though.”

They climbed over a small rocky bluff above a cove that was sheltered by maples and willows. There was a trail that lead down to the lake.

“This is best spot.” Birk pulled off his boots and socks. Slipped a basket across his chest to hold the fish he caught. He rolled up his pant legs and waded into the lake. 


“No worse ’en the wash tubs at the mine.” he said. He cast his line, pulled it back, cast it again. “Gramp Dusty taught us this way to give the impression of a fly flying.”

Clancy waded out a few yards to Birk’s left. “Ya think she’ll remember who we are?”

“She? Ya mean that Boston gal. Maybe.” There was a yank on his line. “Got something.”

He let the line play a little then pulled it back. The fish darted up into the air trying to escape. Birk let it have its head then begin to pull it back in again. 

“Just a brook trout but got some fight, eh?” Birk grinned as he dropped the speckled fish into the basket around his belly.

With an hour they had caught a dozen fish between the two of them. Birk catching the most. Most were trout but here were a couple of smallmouth bass.

“How you tell ‘em apart?” Clancy asked.

“Can’t till we lands ‘em. Bass shaped a different. Trout’s got spots. Ma’ll be pleased with these. We’ll save the bass for her.”

“I’ll be pleased with these. Don’t care what yer mother thinks.”

Clancy found some dry scrub brush and started a small fire. 

“Let’s see if I’m a better cook than a fisherman.” He gutted and cleaned two of the smaller trout and speared them with a branch and held them over the fire, a little out of the flames.

“A grand day.” Birk laid back on the rocks and shaded his eyes with his forearm.


“How did you end up here in Castleton?” He rolled over to watch Clancy turning the fish carefully to cook them.

“Took the train.”

“Yeh, I know that, but why here? You could a gone anywhere, Halifax even Montreal.”

“When my Da died I knew I had to something. I was still in school, you see, doing pretty good.”

“School? How far did ya get.”

“Grade ten. Graduated that but with my Dad gone and us needed something, I knew I had to do something for my mother and sister. Not that they needed much. My mother comes from good folks. She went back to their farm. I didn’t see myself working in some farm so I set out.”

“Yeh, but with schooling you could be doing more than raking coal. You could be one of them clerks, even an engineer like Blackie. Why break your back.”

“I had to prove to myself that I could do it.”

“I sees that. Wished I stayed for more schoolin’ though.”

“Suppose it was different for you though. Not much opportunity for anything else, eh?”

“Once a miner’s son always a miner. I knew I was going to follower me Dad as he followed Gramp Dusty into the pits. Not the same pits mind you but coal’s in the blood. No need to decide anything.”

“These are ready.” He pushed one of the charred fish onto a piece of bread and handed it to Birk.

Birk took a bite. “Not bad.”

“Nothing beats fresh air and sun to make a bad cook job taste the best thing you ever ate.” Clancy laughed. He took off his shirt. “Sun feels good.”

“Yeh.” Birk finished his fish. “Yer right about sun being the best salt.”

“You saying you didn’t enjoy my cooking?” Clancy swatted at Birk’s bare back.

“The branch might’ve tasted better.” Birk joked.

“You …” Clancy rolled on top of Birk and they wrestled each other.

It started playful but became serious as each refused to surrender to the other.

“Think you tough, ya mine rat.”

“Tougher than some soft arse like yourself.”

Unaware they rolled into the embers of the fire.

“Ouch. Ouch. Yer burning the hair off m’back.” Birk shoved Clancy off himself and jumped up. He dashed to the lake and dove in.

Clancy followed suit.

“Whoa that’s cold water.”

“Not too bad once you get ducked under.” Birk jumped on Clancy and pushed him under then released him.

Clancy surfaced sputtering water. “Guess I had that coming. Turn around I see how bad the burns are.”

Birk turned. He could feel Clancy’s fingers as they pushed his hair.

“A bit red.” He shivered. “Too cold to say in this water though.”

He went back to the rocks and peeled off his pants and under drawers and put them to dry in the sun. Birk did the same. They lay back on the sun warmed rocks using their dry shirts as pillows.

“This is the life.” Birk sighed. “Can’t remember having a quiet day away from the mines.”

“Think I’d rather be spending it with that priest’s niece though.” Clancy said.

“You got that gal stuck in your mind. You never seen a pretty gal before or what?”

“Sure but there’s something about her. I can’t say what though. She goes from my mind to down here.” Clancy put his hand between his own legs.

Birk glanced over and saw that Clancy was handling his manhood.

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Graduation Secrets

For the summer I’m going back to the series of pieces mythologizing my growing up in Cape Breton.

Graduation Secrets

at my highschool graduation

in my village

I was sworn to secrecy

to never reveal the names

of those men & boys

whom I learned to undress

some whose names I never did know


many had faces I had never seen

doing my sacred ceremony

in garages with no lights

even the windows were blocked

not to permit any glimpse

as with the strip clubs

the men were allowed pleasure

without identity

there were times

when all that was allowed

was the undressing

there could be no kissing


my hands were allowed

to close enough

for the over heated warmth 

of our bodies to be felt

the rest was only for the imagination

to fuel our dreams of what could be

but would never be


we sacrificed the joy of actual confirmation

to the will of the moose

not to give in

was a testimony to our belief


yet there were times

when the darkness was dispelled

faces were clear in the street light

that shone on the back seats

of abandoned cars

were I would sometimes meet

those whose need was great 

to be undressed by me

they would send me notes

tied to a robin’s leg

requesting my services

even then visual contact

was kept to a minimum


with the seal of the moose

burned into the instep of my left foot

I was always to remember the vow I took

to respect the sanctity

of other men’s fear

In high school I became a member of DeMolay, as sort of Jr. Free Masons group. The ceremonies associated it with were secrets we were sworn to keep as part of the induction process. The ceremonies were banal to the extreme & I can’t remember any of them, not even the secret handshake. So some of the ‘secret’ here comes from that memory.

There was also this secret knowledge that I supposed I would learn when I left high school. The key to being an adult – like the secret to success. As if finally being old enough to buy booze without a permit would uncork adulthood. There is also the secret of ‘don’t tell anyone.’ Then there’s the sexual secret of being queer with no one to tell it too.

This piece looks as some of the myths of secrets & the power they hold over our futures. What sex I had before coming out was always cloaked in being hidden, sometimes under the excuse of ‘we were so drunk’ Here my hero indulges in sex-capades in which anonymity is part of the ceremony, because in the village sex is a ceremony performed in the dark. If neither party sees the other the sacred is maintained, as well as the secrecy. Those secrets often scar us, a brand on the foot, in ways that are often near seen by others, or even ourselves.

It ends with a respect for secrets – no not respect buy for a willingness to keep them without judgement. I’ve seen & see married men who have this secret life. Yes, even today there are active gay/bi men who are in the closet – who for their own reasons don’t want to be out or outed. I don’t think it is a positive thing but I don’t judge them either. The sanctity of their fear is up to them to break.

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Chapter XIX – Lillian Bruised

Chapter XIX 

Lillian Bruised

“Lillian!” He was shocked. “What is the meaning of this?”

Mr. O’Dowell released her and moved quickly away. “Father Patrick I … invited myself along with my sister to learn more about the Catholic Missions in Africa. Miss McTavish had no idea I would be here.”

“You will kindly remove yourself from my house at once, Mr. O’Dowell. And as for you Lillian go to your room at once.”

Lillian ran up to her room, yanked off her smock and threw herself on her bed pounding it with her fists. She could hear Mr. O’Dowell’s protestations as her uncle lead him and his sister out of the house. Miss O’Dowell apologizing as she explained that her brother had foisted himself upon her.

After a few moments there was knock at her door.

“Come in.” she said. She didn’t know what to expect from her uncle. The news that Mr. O’Dowell knew something of her past had stunned her. It was supposed by her family that she would be safe here from any rumours.

“I had hoped you were changed Lillian.” Her uncle began quietly. “It appeared to me for a time that you were repenting and atoning for your untoward actions that hurt your family extremely deeply. But to see you practicing those same wiles under my roof disappoints me.”

“Wiles uncle? I … I did not know Mr. O’Dowell would be here. It was you who invited Miss O’Dowell, not I.”

“Lillian, explanations do not further your case. I am aware of the subterfuges you indulged in to play the sham with your family. They may have worked on the simple men in Castleton Mines but they will not work here in my house. They will not be allowed. There will be no more callers at this house. Do you understand that. I have a reputation to maintain even if it means nothing to you.” He went to the dresser and removed the mirror. He stepped into the hall with it and she heard it smashing as he threw at the wall.

“I will send a message to the Mother Superior. It is clear to me you must be placed where your wiles will not gain foothold. You will leave this house tomorrow whether she agrees to take you or not.”

“Father Patrick.” Lillian was on her knees. “Please. You must believe me I did nothing …”

“Nothing! I saw you! In his embrace. In my home.”

“That was none of my doing.” She was wringing her hands.

“That is why you must be removed. If you are as unaware as you claim I must make sure others are protected from you.”

“Uncle! Father Pat.” She began to stand and reached out to him.

“Do not come near me.” He smacked her across the face with his open hand. She stumbled back to the window. His next smack sent her sprawling on the bed. 

She rolled over to protect her face. There was stinging across her legs. 

“All women are vessels of deceit. You are vessel of deceit.” Her uncle said. “This is something that brother of mine should have done a long time ago.”

She glanced over her shoulder to see that he was holding the old bamboo fishing rod she would use with a cloth on one end to reach corners in the house for dusting.

“He thought his money would be enough. Thought it made him better than me.” With each statement he brought the rod down across her back and shoulders.

“All the money a man has cannot buy his way into grace. He bought disgrace through you. But you will not bring that same disgrace into the House of the Lord.”

The rod whizzed through he air as it cut down on her. It was tearing through the crepe of her dress

“This will beat the devil out you. You hussy. As bad as the whore of Babylon. Temptress.”

“Father Patrick!” a woman’s voice came from the door way. “What in the name of God are you doing.”

It was Miss O’Dowell.

“My brother confessed to me your niece’s innocence in his attentions. I … knocked at the door and when no one answered I came in and could hear your accusations.”

“These are not accusations.” Father Patrick turned to face her.

Lillian painfully sat up on the edge of the bed.

“Irregardless this is not the way of the Lord either. It says clearly in Deuteronomy ‘Vengeance is Mine, I will repay.’ Not your’s Father Patrick.” She took the now frayed bamboo rod out of his hand and went over to Lillian. “Are all right my girl? My foolish brother has never been capable of much decorum where his interests are concerned.”

“I …” Lillian faltered. “I am willing to face ….” she wanted to explain that in some way she was deserving of being punished but not to this degree.

“Miss O’Dowell your interference in private issues of a family matter are most unwarranted.” Father Patrick said.

“They are proper when a member of my family is the cause of this conflict between you and your niece. Come my dear.” She helped Lillian to stand. “You will come with me. I cannot allow you to remain under this roof.”

“Thank you Miss O’Dowell but …” she would not be driven out of another home. “But this is my home now. I’m sure you understand.”
“Very well. But if I hear of any further … abuse, I will pursue what channels I have available to me.” She looked Father Patrick in the eyes. “We have powerful connections.”

“I’m sure you do but I too, have connections. More powerful than yours.” Father Patrick glanced upward.

“Perhaps you are unaware of my mother’s maiden name Father Patrick. Before marriage she was Madeline DuPont. Sister to His Eminence Georges DuPont. The Bishop. A word to him about your behaviour Father Patrick and I can have you removed from this diocese. Is that clear. Perhaps you would be happier in the African Missionaries.”

“Is that a threat?” Father Patrick said.

“The O’Dowell’s do not make threats Father.” Miss O’Dowell said coldly. She turned back to Lillian. “The next meeting of the Catholic Ministries in Africa will be this Monday night. I hope to see you there Miss McTavish.”

“Yes, Miss O’Dowell.” Lillian replied.

“You may see me out, Father.” She reached out and took Father Patrick firmly by the forearm. “These steps are rather steep. Watch out for the broken glass.”

Alone Lillian took a few tentative steps but each movement rippled painfully across her calves and back. She heard the front door shut.

“Lillian.” Her uncle called from the bottom of the stairs. “There appears to be sufficient prepared for your luncheon that didn’t get eaten. I will have that for my supper. You can remain in your chambers for now.”

She removed her dress. She teared up to see that the back of the dress was in shreds but she was grateful to see that there as no blood. Even her own father had never raised a hand to her. Perhaps her uncle was right, that she might have been better for a firmer upbringing. She didn’t know.

She rolled off her stockings and there were red welts along her calves but once again the skin hadn’t been broken. As she looked at her wounds she found it difficult to connect the bruised flesh with her. With the her who had once lived such a carefree life in Boston. 

She carefully pulled her usual pinafore over her head and wrapped her apron around once again. She stepped over the broken mirror and slowly made her way down the stairs. 

She glimpsed her uncle on his knees in the parlour praying on front of the crucifix there. In the kitchen she saw that he had cleared the luncheon tray away and left it on the sideboard by the sink.

The tea was no longer hot but as she was now accustomed to the cold tea she didn’t mind. As she washed the sandwich tray she heard her uncle picking up mirror pieces on the stairs. He took the pieces to the trash bin behind the house and went to the church. With a small broom and a damp cloth she cleared up the the remaining shards.

The rest of the evening was spent in silence. Her uncle said nothing as he ate his dinner. He did look to her once and she held his gaze. If he was looking for a sign of forgiveness from her she wouldn’t give it.

The morning also passed with the same somber silence. She heated water for laundry and had filled the tub on the back veranda. It was a sunny and already warm day as she fried his one egg, piece of bacon and toasted his one piece of bread to go with it. If the cold tea was good enough for her then he could enjoy the same this morning.

“Lillian?” he broke the silence. “I’m shamed by my actions of yesterday.”

“Are you Father Patrick?”

“I forget that you haven’t had the same kind of up-bring as the families here.”

“I am aware of that. Father Patrick there may be something amiss in me, some lack in the eyes of our Lord. I do not fully understand but accept that is so.”

“Then you forgive me?” he asked.

“No.” she replied. “As you have said in your sermons. Only the Lord can forgive. Seek forgiveness there. Not from me.”

She went into the back garden. As the weather warmed and greenery started growing this had become her refuge. This was the day to wash the linens. The work allowed her mind to clear itself as she concentrated on the tasks at hand. As she worked the soreness in her back began to lessen as well. After hanging sheets on the line she sat at the small bench at the rear of the garden. 

Her uncle came out. “I will be at the church office Lillian.”

“Yes, Father Patrick.” It was only when she was sure he was gone that she allowed herself to weep. Whatever female weaknesses he thought she was a vessel to, he would never see her sorrow.

“Why miss! What is the matter?” a male voice asked from the lane that ran behind the house.

She looked up and there were two young men with fishing poles over their shoulders.

“Ah tis her.” said the shorter of the men. “The gal looking for the colliery after the gas.”

“So it is.” Said the taller of the two.

“What has happened to ye?” The shorter one asked.

“Happened?” Lillian stood to see them better.

“Yer face?” he continued.

“Oh!” she covered her cheek where her uncle had first hit her. Was there a visible bruise?

“Some man been putting his hands on you?” The taller one asked angrily. “Isn’t fittin’ ”

“That’s right. No man should … ” the shorter one had put down his fishing rod and raised his fists. “If I caught someone hurting a lady I’d learn him different.”

“No. I … dusting the other day … stumbled …”

“I see miss.”

“Come on, Clancy we best be on our way.”

“Hold yer horses Birk. Good day to yer miss.”

Birk’s shirt was unbuttoned, untucked so that the light morning breeze caught it. Her eyes were caught by the sun’s gleam in the curly black hair on his chest. 

The men continued down the lane. 

It took Lillian a few moments to connect these faces with the two that had given her direction a few weeks ago. Today these faces were clean. What names they had … ‘Birk’ … ‘Clancy’ … How carefree they were too. Free to fish. To do what they pleased. Did they have wives at home who were tied down to children, who were, as she was, washing and cooking, while they were off on a lark.

She went back to the laundry tub saying their names over to herself Clancy … Birk … Birk. 

She was comforted that there were men who would want to protect her. Not shunt her off, not blame her, but want to look after her.

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George Harrison

I have to confess I was never a huge George Harrison fan. One of my least favourite big hits of the Beatles is  Something & if I never hear it again I’ll be happy. But I admired & respected his outlook on life & his willingness to trade on his fame to help. He also opened the door to music that I may never have discovered.

I had the Wonderwall soundtrack on lp, replaced eventually by mp3. I have never seen the movie though, has anyone? 🙂 It certainly wasn’t pop music. I also had All Things Must Pass on lp. Eventually replaced by mp3. His spiritual leanings weren’t as interesting to me as his reflections of life eon the road as a Beatle – Apple Scruffs. 

But after Pass I took a pass. I heard bits of other things, Bangladesh but never felt drawn to having anything else by him. His guitar work, to me, was good but unexceptional, same for his voice & his lyrics. 

In the past few years I added the New Morning Sessions: his work with Bob Dylan which is of interest as a curiosity; George: another solo lp that I can’t recall a track of. In fact most of his writing, except for Pass, hasn’t drawn me into it. I searched out other stuff via YouTube & found it unexceptional.

I have the 30th Anniversary edition of All Things Must Pass – the bonus material is endless but worth hearing. It is on an mp3 collection along with Shankar & Friends – a nice set of instrumentals & song with Ravi Shanker that sparkles. On this particular is also Paul & Paula: Best of  – Hey! what can I say Harrison needed a historic context 🙂 Here too is the Electric Prunes: Release of an Oath: a rock group infusing music with spiritual searching. The Best of the Troggs: Beatles compatriots. Harrison did collaborations so I found Pay Pack & Follow John Phillips collaboration with Keith Richards! It’s a bit of a mess mind you but fun.

Wait there’s more on this cd: Paul Butterfield Band’s Sometimes I Just Feel Like Smilin’ – great fun blues work Finally Eric Clapton’s Rainbow Concert – where Harrison appears uncredited due to some weird contract, record label conflict. An interesting concert that also features Steve Winwood, Pete Townsend & others. Sound quality is good.

Land of the Lost

‘I must say this room has never looked neater.’

‘Thanks.’ Stef wasn’t sure whether this was a compliment or a dig. ‘Every now and then strange things do happen here.’

‘So what brought it on?’

‘Brought what on?” Stef wished her mother would come right out and say things. If she thought Stef was a bad house keeper why not just say it.

‘You know what I mean, dear.’ Her mother smiled and sat at the dining room table. Stef’s ‘office’ was under the window in that room and the dining room table was often an extension of it. It spent much of its time buried under piles of papers, magazines, books and, as much as she hated to admit it, the occasional pizza box.

‘It was time for some tidying up. After all, you’ve told me many many times cluttered house cluttered mind.’

‘Did you find it?’


‘I remember the one time your room at home was spotless was the time you had lost … what was it now … some political button a boy had given you.’

‘I did not lose anything.’

‘Just misplaced.’

‘Misfiled. Mother I’d rather say, I misfiled it.’

‘And you never found it.’

‘Not yet, I mean I stopped looking. But …’

‘There there dear. I know you creative types aren’t the best of maids.’

‘You are right there.’ She didn’t want to tell her mother how she had spent the last three days going through nearly every corner of the bungalow looking for the dust cover of the book she was reviewing. Bad enough it even had one but she had put it in a safe place while she lugged the book around on buses, read it in coffee shops. Now she was done.

‘You have no idea how much like you father you are. The same furrow of the brow.’

‘Thanks. I guess.’

‘So how are things. You know when I see the place this neat I worry you aren’t working as much as you should.’

‘Things are good. Better that they were last year.’

‘Getting any work done on your novel?’

‘As much as needs to be done.’ Stef knew she was avoiding that project with all these others. But it was these others that paid the rent, paid the bills, for now.

‘You need to concentrate on one thing at a time. That’s how things get misfiled. Thinking of too much at one time.’

‘Thank you mother. I’ll keep that in mind the next time I’m homeless.’

every Tuesday

October 5/6/7 – Gratitude Round-Up

September or October but to be confirmed – feature – The Art Bar, Free Times Cafe

June  – Capturing Fire 2019 – Washington D.C. 

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No No No


Working through the  227 Rules For Monks.

Who knew the simple life could be so complex.


no thank you

I’m just not that hungry

I’ve learned to say no

to what I don’t want

it has nothing to do with you

it’s not something I would

ordinarily eat anyway

I’m watching my weight

my intake

so no thank you

I’m really not hungry

I had a snack earlier

yes it looks good

but no thank you


why can’t you take no for an answer

no I won’t want it later

I realize all the work you put into it

the time it took

that you planned this specially for me

I am pleased by the efforts you took

but that’s not enough

to make me want to eat

what I don’t want to eat


I know where that compliance leads to

so I’m saying no now

I won’t be pressured

no doesn’t mean open for negotiation

if I let you talk me into this

and you’ll think

you can talk me into anything

that you can coax me

into doing things I don’t want to do

even those harmless things


so this no is relevant

so no thank you

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The Great Fire

For the summer I’m going back to the series of pieces mythologizing my growing up in Cape Breton.

The Great Fire

we were awakened

but the resonant howl

of the harbour foghorn

deep endless 

blasts so rapid they overlapped 


away to the window I flew like a flash

the black of night was blacker

than the print in the red bible

no stars or moon to be seen


at the edge of my vision

I saw the flames

scatter sparks like leaves

into the sky

‘fire fire’

someone below was shouting

‘the great cathedral is aflame’


my father dashed out of house  

men from other houses followed suit

‘fire fire

we must save the relics’

I had this terrifying image

of the Moose at the foot of the cross

melting into a golden puddle

at the feet of the blessed one

everyone in our village

gathered to watch and pray

as the firemen did their job

the choir spontaneously burst into song

singing ‘The Moose and The Saviour’ 


the hoses were attached to the hydrants

only a trickle of water appeared

this was also the hour

the fission plant

was flushing out the their flow valves

when contacted

they refused to stop

because if the flow valves

were not flushed 

there would be hell to pay


we stood and watched

as our beloved

centuries old cathedral 

paid the price of prosperity

while the acolytes 

darted in and out of the flames

rescuing all they could

up and down the 10001 steps

like an army of ants


then from out of the smoke

the men from the Whistling Wood appeared

they danced around the fire


arms linked

the flames flickering & illuminating

their private parts

as a group they coiled up the steps


faced the flames

holding their flame framed privates 

began to piss on the fire


the stench of their burning urine

made many vomit

the naked men

began to pelt the fire

with moose dung

the stench of the burning shit

made many vomit

the flames began to die down 

in the steaming smother

of piss and moose shit

that oozed down the 10001 steps


the fire stopped

the naked men 

vanished into the mist


the next day

when the water pressure returned

the fire department

hosed down the ashes 

to wash it clean of the shit and piss

to reveal

no scorch marks

only glistening golden surfaces 


the cathedral

was whole again 

In Sydney we lived one street away from a fire station. We were occasionally awakened by sirens. There were a few big fires but none that we ever saw, unlike my hero. The worse, which happened after I left, was when Moxham Castle burned down – actually it was gutted by flame & then the brick shell collapsed. My experience of fires comes from movies. 

This entry in the Village Stories pulls on many threads of the mythology: the choir, the moose, the 10001 steps. I recently saw a documentary on the Windsor Castle fire in which people were rushing in & out of galleries saving the art. They weren’t regarded as reckless but as heroes. Oh no not the Faberge egg collection! 

I also had to take another poke at the fission plant and water. I have read of cases where, in some cities, the water pressure was so low thanks to ‘industry,’ fires couldn’t be put out – hence the invention flame suppressant foam. Yes I know fire engine pumpers supply the pressure but if there’s not enough water they are useless.

The praying & singing villagers make me think of those politicians who sent their thoughts & prayers at a time of crisis but that’s it until they tell people to be strong: i.e. don’t moan & bitch about your losses because we’ve done all we can by praying for you. Cheer up because your unhappy faces won’t make things better, neither will we.

I was happy to see a reappearance by the naked men of the Whistling Wood. They present a facet of male magic that isn’t destructive while at the same time isn’t pleasant. Often the things that rescue us have a cost one doesn’t expect. Like the dentist’s freezing – slurring & drooling for an hour is a cost. I also couldn’t resist that image of male private parts illuminated by the fire.

I love the way this ends with a miracle. The Villagers prayers were answered by the outcasts of the Whistling Wood. These men pissing on the cathedral have magically restored it. 

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Coal Dusters – Chapter XVIII – Birk Saves A Life

Coal Dusters

Chapter XVIII

Birk Saves A Life 

Birk and Manny shoved roughly against each other as they went up the gangway to board The Dingle Dandy. He and Clancy went to the aft with some of the miner they knew. Manny and his friends went to the prow. Their drunken shouting then singing echoed over the water.

“Too bad the engine can’t down ’em out.” Birk laughed. “He’s in for it though. Coming home drunk as a … I don’t know what. Won’t please his folks none. Sure goes to show how good them Godly Catholics are, eh.”

“Shows they know where to get Holy hooch.” Clancy said.

“Where’s those mine rats. There they is.” Manny and his friends clambered over the decks to them. “You know I could always smell you a mile away.”

Manny turned to his buddies. “Man was I glad to get away from this one. My prayers were answered.” He took a swig from a bottle he was carrying in a pocket inside his jacket.

“Surprised ya could smell anything with all that stink ya burns in church.” All Birk knew about Catholic services was the incense they burned.

“Funny ‘nuff.” Manny leaned close to Birk and breathed deep. “Ya don’t smell all that bad tonight. Though may be the fish rot on the docks has covered ya.” he laughed. “Or wuz you meeting some gals?”

“Nah,” said one of his buddies. “No decent gal from around here would want a hairy mine rat in her bed. Bad enough to find ‘em under the floorboards.”

“Could be a gal.” Birk nudged Clancy. “Right Clancy?”

“Lots of gals. Well one in particular.”

“Not from around here is she?” Manny persisted. “They prefer their men fully growed. Not half-sized hairy buggers.”

“Nope.” Birk  held himself ready to fight at any moment.

“He’s bunkin ya Manny. There’s no new gals here, less you count that teacher in Waterford.”

“He’d haf to know what a school was before that could happen.” Manny bellowed.

“Then who?” One of Manny’s friends said. “Not that one living with Father Pat?”

“What!” Manny turned to his friends. “No good Catholic gal I’d look twice at an orange rat. None. Especially that one. Did ya see her blush when the Draeger man stepped outta his suit.”

“Don’t be so sure of yourself.” Clancy said.

“What you mean?” Manny pushed his face at Clancy.

“She sure can tote a basket, eh, Birk.” Clancy nudged Birk.

“Yeh.” He saw that Clancy was talking about the woman they had seen going to the colliery.

“Pretty she was. Nice figure too.” Clancy went on. “Even under that apron.”

“You down low fu …” Manny staggered and swung at Clancy.

Clancy stepped aside and Manny fell over the side of the ferry and into the harbour.

“Stop the boat! Man overboard!” one of his friends shouted and ran to the helm where the captain was. “Man overboard!”

“Help!” shouted Manny from the water. “I don’t swim that well. Help!”

“Then try walking on water?” Clancy shouted back. “Or isn’t your faith deep enough.”

Without thinking Birk pulled his boots off and was about to jump.

“Gimme yer coat, lad.” Clancy said. “No use ruinin’ it for that fat arse fool.”

As he handed Clancy his coat the boat stopped. He launched himself into the water. It took a few strokes to reach Manny. Someone threw them the line with a life ring attached to it and pulled them back on to the boat. The ferry started up again.

Manny’s friends brought them blankets to dry off with.

Manny was shivering. “Thanks Birk.” he stuck his hand out. “You know I was joshin’. Hope you were too.”

“Savin’ you was no joke.” Birk said refusing to shake Manny’s hand. “Twas the decent thing to do.”

“Besides no one wants to be eating a lobster that ha’d been fed on your insides.” one of the other miners said.

Manny and his friends went back to the prow of the ferry which was docking to let the New Castleton passengers off. 

Birk and Clancy headed directly to the road that would take them to their section of the town.

“You still thinkin’ on that gal from the other day?” Birk asked.

“Not thinking but dreamin’.”


“Yeh, I had a dream about her a few times since that morning. Some ‘at about her sticks with me.”

They stopped in front of the catalogue office to admire the goods on display in the window.

“Sure wish I could get a couple of those pretty dresses for m’ sisters. They would go crazy over them.” Birk said.

“I bet they’d go crazy over anything other than that calico you mother uses.”

“Twas cheap and she did buy a lot of it. Had to keep her from making me a shirt out of it.”

“I dunno, you might look better in calico?” Clancy laughed and darted away.

“You tuilli.” Birk chased after him. 

They stopped at the front of Birk’s house. No lights were flickering.

“Best quiet down some Clancy.” He dropped his voice.

They slipped quietly round the house to the back yard. Clancy sprawled on the bench by the back fence with his legs stretched out in front of him. He lit a cigarette.

“Hey!” Birk said. “When did you start to smoke?”

“Since that Manny dropped his cigs takin’ a swing at you back on the docks. Good thing you jumped in after him before I could or these’d be ruined.” He passed the cigarette to Birk.

“Makes you feel yer a proper man.” He held it in his hand the way he’d seen men around the mines do. He took a few puffs and coughed. “Not as if we don’t breathe in enough slag when we’re there.” He handed it back to Clancy.

“You ever think of getting hitched same as you brother Geo?”

“Nah. Ma says I’m all she got when Dad passes on. That’s my sacred duty, she told me, to look after the family I have now, not to start another one. She was some unhappy when Geo got married too. Though she understood why.”

“Sheila going to have a baby?” he handed the cigarette to Birk.

“What! Nothing of the sort. Someone had to look after them, that’s all. Ma saw the sense in that.”

“You mean they wasn’t in love?”

“Love! That’s foolish talk. If you marries everyone you loved, there be more married to their dogs than their wives, ya know.”

“That’s truth.” Clancy laughed.

“You thinking about getting hitched?” Birk passed the cigarette back.

“Me! Not much, but I know it’s one of those things that happens. Same as dying. Sometimes I wonder how it’d feel.”


“Yeah that and getting married. I wonder if there’s a difference.” He laughed and stubbed out the cigarette.

“Guess we best turn in if we expect to get some fishin’ in tomorrow.”

Birk paused at the bottom of the stairs, flexed his knees and ankles for a little leap that let him catch the bottom of the railing. With a quick jerk he flipped himself up over the bannister and onto the second floor landing outside his room.

“Birk! How many times I told you I don’t want of that foolishness in the house.” His mother scolded him. “One of these days that rail’ll give and you’ll be on the floor with a broken back and I’m not going to look after you.”

“Yeah ma. You know we fixed that bannister so only a . . . a hurricane will budge it.”

“Don’t give me no excuses. One of these days you won’t be looking and you’ll land on one of your sisters. How you think that’ll make you feel.”

“It’ll give us one less mouth to feed.” Birk did a little step dance. “You comin’ up or enjoying gawking at me!” He said to Clancy.

Clancy stood where Birk had for his jump and measured the distance with his eyes.

“Think you can do it?” Birk asked.

“Not if I don’t want go through the ceiling.” He walked up the stairs. “You do that a lot?”

“Not anymore. Used to as a kid though. Knew it would drive Ma crazy. It was always a good way for me to get out her way when she had the spoon to tan me hide for something.”

In the morning Birk stood by the bed looking down at Clancy. He flicked some water from his tea mug on Clancy’s face.

“Get a move on, soft arse. Gotta get to the lake before the fish wake up. Easier to catch ’em that way.”

“They’ll be there when we get there Birk.” He pulled the blanket over his head.

Birk went downstairs. Sharing with Clancy wasn’t as bad as Birk had expected. His sisters took to him pretty well too. The first two mornings when Maddy came in to wake them she thought it was Geo come back.

Unlike Geo, Clancy didn’t move around in his sleep. Birk felt that he had the bed to himself after all. Geo was a restless sleeper. Thrashing about at night; rolling over and pulling the blankets, at times pushing Birk out of the bed to the floor without knowing what he was doing. Clancy hardly moved once he laid down on the bed. 

Though the friction between them hadn’t fully cleared up as Birk lost his temper more than once over some slip ups at the mine. He also refused to hear any of Clancy’s talk about the various girls in the neighbourhood. That wasn’t the way one was supposed to think of them. As some sort of object to pleasure a man. When he made it clear to Clancy that he wasn’t going to indulge in that kind of talk it became less. But he could always see when Clancy’s eyes were on some gal.

Plus having his ma overhear some of Clancy’s remarks. That sent her into a rage in which she threatened to send Clancy back to Mrs. Franklin’s if she ever heard that kind of diseased talk under her roof.

Birk often heard the men in the mines making coarse remarks about women that he tried to ignore. But in his home they were harder to bear.

He checked the fishing gear in the back yard. A couple of old bamboo poles with homemade spinners and reels that his granddad had fashioned. Nothing store bought for them. 

“Got anything for us to eat?” Birk rattled his lunch pail to get his mother’s attention. “Fishing builds a hunger.”

“Ya can have a bit of that cheese and some bread. That better turn into bread and fishes for us.”

“Yeh, I know bread and fishes. There’ll be some early berries up by the lake too.”

They set out to Blue Lake which was about mile beyond the edge of the town.

“We’ll go around town and the take short cut past St. Agatha’s.” Birk lead the way. “You’ll be happy up there.”

As they passed the backs of the houses along the lane Birk shared stories about the various families who lived there now or who had in the past. They forded the stream that ran off into the harbour. The next leg took them through the richer part of the town. The morning became warmer and Birk unbuttoned his shirt and then pulled out the tails.

“Feels better.” he said.

“How is it you became such a hairy one?” Clancy asked.

“Can’t say for sure. Geo hardly hairy at all. Ma says her Dad was thick with it, not as much as me though. Same with Blackie, his father was a scruffy one. Guess it skipped Geo and all that hair landed on me. Ma calls it my in-hair-itance.”

The houses here were bigger, gardens were bigger too. As they walked down one lane they were stopped by the sound of someone crying.

A woman sitting on a bench at the back of her garden was sobbing.

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The Maple Mantras

For the summer I’m going back to the series of pieces mythologizing my growing up in Cape Breton.

The Maple Mantras

Juck Jackson

the greatest living Canadian poet

came to our village

as part of his mission

to use his reputation

to close down fission plants

everywhere in the world 

he wanted world peace

he dreamed of golden sunsets 

unlike the ones we now had 

of mustard smeared ketchup 

suns sinking down in shame

as he said in one of his poems

in his collection ‘The Maple Mantras’

that had won more prizes

than you could wrap around a strip pole

Booker, Griffin, Governor General

Lambda, Nobel


Juck Jackson

the greatest living Canadian poet

arrived on a rainy day

he refused to step into the rain

lest the chemicals it has absorbed

for the fission plant

sullied his skin

as he wrote

the rain is the carrier

of progress’s pernicious poison


when he appeared to the public

the following day exactly at 12:15

he was wearing

the golden hazmat suit embroidered 

with red gulls and beaded maple leaves

his shimmered like an apparition

in the relentless afternoon sun

from one of his pockets

he took an actual maple leaf

he held it over his head

this is not a maple leaf’

he declared

‘this is our nation


I was shaken to my core

the use of image and language

changed how I saw the world

how I saw myself


‘when ever you see

a mottled maple leaf

when ever you see the moose

you will be not be seeing 

a leaf or a moose

you will be seeing yourself

these are Gaia mirrors of your soul


I looked around me

at the crowd filled stadium

these were longer people to me

familiar faces ceased to be memory 

they became chains

to hold me here

that kept me from

flying on the wind like a leaf

it was then I decided

it was time to leave my village 

to leave the island of isolation


in the dark of a strip club

I cornered Juck Jackson

freed him from his hazmat suit

to thank him for the revelation 

of his maple mantras

‘yes fly young man’

he said once he had confirmed 

by touch that I was a man

‘you can find a way

but I cannot help you

my funds are limited 

I only have a tiny apartment 

in the big city

too many people want 

what I cannot afford to give

I hope you have purchased 

a copy of my Maple Mantras

for an extra $5 I will autograph 

it with my blood’


I left him there

feeling his hands

still on my body

his kisses on my lips

knowing they were the taste

of the future

There is no Juck Jackson ‘any resemblance to any person, poet living or dead is not intended or should be inferred’ 🙂 But he does represent an archetype. The name is unreal as well but I wanted something sounded ultra-Canadian yet slightly pretentious – I think Juck does that, it sounds like Jack & joke at the same time. 

Growing up in the east coast I don’t think we were ever visited by a great Canadian poet though. If we were they confined themselves to higher academies of learning than high school. We did get visits by Don Gillies – who would choreograph Rotary shows. ( Though when I attended some writer’s workshops at UNB I did get to meet some literary stars, the most notable being Alden Nowlan. 

His mission to create change via his reputation is real enough as so many ‘noted’ writer, movie stars, use their fame to bring attention to noble causes. I’m commenting sardonically about the real lack of power poets have regardless of their awards. Awards that rarely result in profit, but maybe the opportunity to teach courses in creativity. The poetry quotes are fiction but reflect a type of Canadian many find worthy of awards. I love his hazmat dash of glamour.

Juck’s visit to the village is chance to sell more of his books while protesting the fission plant. Like my hero my decision to leave was based on freeing myself from my growing isolation in Cape Breton. My example was more of other’s who had left to pursue opportunity, to capitalize on their village success. I’m thinking of a man who won a play festival, went to Toronto & sort of vanished. I did run into him & he was plugging away in the theatre scene & living in a tiny apartment. 


Nearly every work of fiction I have read about writers visiting small towns had included their sexual dalliances with locals – cis-hetero conquerers so I had to have Juck get lucky with my hero but I wanted to keep than within the odd naive point of view of my hero. A hero, like me, knowing that kisses were the taste of a future worth pursuing.


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Chapter XVII – Lillian’s Unexpected Visitor

Chapter XVII

Lillian’s Unexpected Visitor

The next morning at breakfast Lillian asked her uncle. “Father Patrick is it fitting that I should be receiving this many visitors?” 

“Lillian, it is His will that you be more of service to the parish.”

“One of the women asked for my council on a … delicate matter of which I have little knowledge. They think I have access to … information that you know. I know little about marriage or child rearing.”

“The seminary didn’t prepare me for some of these matters, either. There I was instructed to see things though the words of the Bible. I have found often listening is enough.”

“Did you know about the rampant use of alcohol in Castleton Mines?”

“Yes, I am aware. I cannot be there to stop them. To chastise will only harden their hearts beyond redemption. Many say that drink is a good man’s reward not a sin. I know our prayers will work if we are fervent enough.”

“Where does the drink come from though. Can’t the authorities control it somehow.”

“What doesn’t get made in secret, comes from St. Pierre. Smugglers.”

“Aren’t the French good Catholics? How could they …”

“France owes no allegiance to our laws Lillian. You know the history of the area. They lost the province to the British and have never forgiven that loss.”

“It isn’t right that this should be allowed to go on.” 

“It isn’t right but it does go on, my child. Even the Church needed special dispensation for the sacramental wine. It can never leave the church. Because it has been transubstantiated doesn’t make it less potent.”

“And the wine you served here … from Mrs. Donati ….”

Father Patrick reddened. “On the rare occasion I will serve it.”

“It isn’t the sacramental wine?”

“No child.”

“So you too have been purchasing from … bootleggers. Adding to intemperance.” She saw that her uncle wasn’t such an honourable man after all. That he too was capable of wrong doing.

“Mrs. Donati is no bootlegger. Besides the wine is her donation to the parish. There is a difference between a glass of wine and being intemperate.” He pushed his chair away from the table. “Just as there is a difference between chastity and purity.”

“Yes Father Patrick.” Lillian said.

“If you find the issues my parishioners bring you beyond your understanding do not hesitate to refer them to me. That is what my role in their lives is. To guide them.”

“It is difficult for me to stop them when they begin to unburden their hearts to me.”

“You are beginning to know what my life consists of. If you wish I can make it known that you do not encourage callers? Has someone told you something that you find troubling?”

“No!” She remembered her promise to Mrs. Hollerhan. “Father perhaps this is how I am to learn about life. I’m grateful God has given me this opportunity. ” Her heart was racing because she was enjoying this change in her life. The last thing she wanted was for uncle to prevent it from continuing. She was happy that she had a use other than washing dishes and maintaining the rectory for her uncle.

“I had prayed that the Redeemer would show you a way to atone for your dereliction. That is where this will help you.” He gestured to the Bible that was kept in the parlour. “All answers are in there.”

“But I don’t always know where to find them.” 

“Patient study will guide you. Do not forget that Miss O’Dowell is calling on you this afternoon.” 

“Yes, Father Patrick.” 

The O’Dowells were amongst the upper class of not only Castleton Mines but if the province itself. Miss O’Dowell’s bother,  Steven, was assistant to the local member of parliament. The family owned department stores in the towns in the area as well as one in Halifax. 

For the occasion her uncle had allowed her to retrieve one of the dresses from her trunk. He had deemed the dark green silk crape as being decorous enough for such visit. It had been airing overnight in the back veranda.

Once he left she had her breakfast. Pleased to know of her uncle’s small weaknesses.

She brought the dress in, took it to her room and changed into it. It was a joy to wear something that fit her form this well. The pale green in the embroidered detailing work around the squared off neckline kept the shift from being monotone. She wished the long sleeves were long enough to cover her hands. Perhaps she should get a pair of her gloves?

Putting her shift over it she went back to the kitchen to prepare for Miss O’Dowell’s visit. She relished the feel of the fabric on her skin. It’s softness was such a change from the coarse linen shifts she had become accustomed to wearing when doing the housework. No matter how hard she washed the shifts did they didn’t get any softer.

She brought the Royal Worcester tea pot, cups, saucers and serving platter for the sandwiches out of its cupboard. As she dusted them her mind went over the events of the past week. Something had altered her uncle’s attitude towards her since the mining accident. Had he finally realized she was capable of more than baking bread. 

She recalled the two men she had spoken with in the Mudside area on her way to the colliery. Their smell and the dark danger that came with them. Not that they had said anything untoward to her at the time but she had sensed their eyes on her. The dark hair of the smaller one. The bright white smile of the taller one. She knew few men who were not Catholics. Did they live as righteously as she did? 

Her revere was broken by a knock at the door. She waited a moment for it to be answered then went to it herself. She was so accustomed to having one of her family maids answer the door she sometimes forgot that it was up to her. 

As she opened the door she noticed that she still wore her dirty shift.

“Come in Miss O’Dowell. I’m sorry I didn’t have time to …” she began. She stopped when she saw that Miss O’Dowell was accompanied by her brother. Her uncle had said nothing about Mr. O’Dowell.

“Please accept my apologies Miss McTavish.” Miss O’Dowell glared at her bother. “I had no intention of being accompanied by anyone.”

“But when I heard where Aggie was going I insisted on at least coming this far with her.” Mr. O’Dowell gabbed Lillian’s right hand and brought it toward his mouth

She pulled it away before he could kiss it. She hid both her hands in her smock. Letting the women see how chaffed her hands were was one thing, but not one of the men regardless of whether she wanted to see him or not.

“I have arrived safely, Steven you may leave us now.” Miss O’Dowell pulled off her gloves.

Mr. O’Dowell pushed past his sister and entered the house. “I will only stay a moment until you get settled in Aggie dear. I know you women have important things to discuss.”

“This is far too much.” His sister said sternly as she following him.

“That’s quite alright, Miss O’Dowell. I’m sure I have enough tea for another guest. That is if Mr. O’Dowell insists on staying.”

He had already removed his tweed coat and put it on the back of a chair. “Thank you for your pleasant invitation.” 

Miss O’Dowell shrugged apologetically.

“I have come to talk to you about the Catholic Ministries in Africa.’ Miss O’Dowell began. “We are holding an afternoon tea social in June to raise further funds. A strawberry social.”

“Father Patrick has spoken to me about the importance of this missionary work.” Lillian poured tea and saw she only had cups and saucers for two, not three.

“I hope this is more of your delicious bread.” Mr. O’Dowell took one of the sandwiches without being offered one and bit into it. “You truly must get the recipe from her, Aggie. You could fund all the missionaries in Africa and China by selling this bread.”

“Thank you. Let me get you a plate for that Mr. O’Dowell. You’ll also need a cup and saucer if you wish to have a cup of tea.” Lillian went to the kitchen. 

She had to get away from him. The smell of his cologne was over-powering. She couldn’t stand his constant smile and that look in his eyes. Each time she saw him he reminded her more and more of James Dunham. She was now glad she hadn’t taken off her shift.

“Can I be some assistance.” Mr. O’Dowell had followed her into the kitchen.

“No!” she said sharply. 

“You must know I find you very attractive.” He backed her to the counter. 

“Mr. O’Dowell, I do not return those feelings. Nor do I encourage them.” She couldn’t breathe as his scent filled the room. She reached into the cupboard for a cup and saucer.

“I’m sure you would if only you give me an opportunity.” He forced her to turn around and face him.

“Any such opportunities will have to be permitted first by my uncle, Father McTavish. With out prior approval to insinuate yourself in here in this way, uninvited, and assault me in this way, is … an affront to his position in the community.”

Mr. O’Dowell stepped closer to her. “Is that what you told James Dunham?” 

Lillian gasped.

“I meet Mr. Dunham in Halifax this past month. He was there on business and we dined together. He was most eager to hear news of you.” He slipped his arms around her waist and pulled her close. 

She struggled to push him away.

“There is no need to play the coy maiden with me.” He whispered in her ear.

At that moment her uncle entered through the back door.

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Coal Dusters – Bonus

Editing work to blog the chapters of Coal Dusters has been going very well. So far I’ve ‘published’ just over 32,000 words with at least another 80,000 to go. I say ‘at least’ because the edits so far have expanded each chapter more than I anticipated. 

I realized that I had included little or no historic time marks other than references to WWI. I’ve found spots to add facts that give a stronger sense of ‘when.’ Facts such as who was king: George V; Pope: Pius XI – people who were relevant to the lives of good Catholics, or good loyalists at the time. I found a couple of female silent movie stars so I could have their ‘photos’ stuck on the men’s washhouse wall. I didn’t have to work hard at creating places for these time marks.

I’ve also enjoyed expanding the social context of families at the time to make them more realistic. So there are new scenes of domestic violence & drunken abuse. As with the time marks these new scenes fell into place naturally – which tells me they are what the story needs to be real even if they don’t directly add to the plots. The same holds true for adding clothing descriptions.

Another thing I’ve really enjoyed is creating a new graphic for each chapter. I figured using the cover art week after week isn’t going to capture anyone’s eye. I’ve searched out images that suit some point in each chapter. Billie Dove for ‘Birk Blushes’ – these graphics only appear on the Facebook or Twitter links for each chapter as it gets posted. I do have to resist that research hunt rabbit hole though – falling down a mine shaft is enough for me.

Poke At The Pope

I had this dream

the Pope wanted to have sex with me

I told him that I wasn’t interested

that I was no altar boy

that I was over the age of consent

reassured him that it was’t his age

I have no dislike of old holiness

but he carried so much history

vestments invested with too much 

that I could’t see past

that to take and eat 

wasn’t going to happen


I’m not catholic 

not particularly religious

but I do read the papers

I’ve seen their polite rationalizations 

for the irrational

the endless trail of righteous decisions 

that held so many out of the embrace 

of whatever comfort their belief offered

pleasure was punishable by fish on Friday

all that stuff

all in the name of the unnamable


not that I am one to judge

I’m probably as biased and invested 

in my own sense of values

after all I’m only human

and for once I can say 


I don’t want to see the sacred

turned into scared then scarred

and one way is to do that 

to leave the mystery fully clothed

so I said no the Pope

every Tuesday

October 5/6/7 – Gratitude Round-Up

September or October but to be confirmed – feature – The Art Bar, Free Times Cafe

June  – Capturing Fire 2019 – Washington D.C. 

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