Cirque de Picture Perfect 

Looking back to my 2014 blogs about writing Picture Perfect – Cirque de #NaNoWriMo 2014 – http://wp.me/p1RtxU-Uo – follow the link to see where it all started 🙂

My writing process hasn’t changed that much – write – walk & think – write more. I’m not doing NaNoWriMo this year though to give me time to think of edits. One of things I’ve heard is you put your first draft away for a few years then go back to it. Which is what I’ve done – 5 years to be exact.

Much of that first draft has never been looked at since it was written so it needs lots of edits. Lots of typos, wrong words filled in by spell check, ‘x’ where names should be. In the edit process I’ll be keeping notes of names, connections. I have collected all the written sections in a file & have seen that I was organized enough those years to keep a running plot outline of what was in each section. How much will remain is to be seen as I start the work.

In the mean time I’ll be reposting each of my original NaNoWriMo blog posts from 2014/15/16 – with some editing to remove things no longer relevant.

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Picture Perfect Coming Soon

Lining up the 78 sections into a Picture Perfect file to start the editing & stitching together of the sections. I have almost 190,000 words to deal with that written as part of Nanowrimo in 2014/15/16. My next step will be to look at each section & write up a brief summary of what is in it. 

I have my characters, their backstories, motivations & events fairly clear in my mind but will be discovering how much of that is on the actual page 🙂 Some portions had been lightly edited for blogging here as I was writing them but things changed by the time I got to the end of story arc in 2016 so changes are to be expected. I’ll resist making those changes until I’ve skimmed through all sections. 

I also wrote out of sequence so I’ll have make sure my timing is right. I also let myself follow tangents some of which will remain as they are seeds for my hero’s next adventures. I also stopped worrying about creating a publishable work, which allowed me to make some diversions that weren’t necessarily pushing the story line, nor were they seeds for future story lines. Something I learned from American Horror Story.

I’m not planning to blog chapter until 2020 – editing on the luge to the new year can’t be difficult but not impossible. Unlike Coal Dusters I imposed no restrictions on language or explicitness not am I doing chapter titles – I’m not even sure I’ll be doing chapters anyway. In City of Valleys I did it by seasons & days of the week, so that may happen with Picture Perfect as well.

Here’s the opening that sets up the main plot & two of the main characters –

“You’re not listening to me.” Sanjay took the remote from Dan and muted the TV.

“I was.” Dan grabbed the remote. “You said my sister had a good point.”

“But you are going to ignore her?” Sanjay tried to get the remote back before Dan could turn the sound back on.

“Some thing don’t change.” Dan  blocked Sanjay’s hand, looked him in the eyes and kissed him. “If I had listened to her, we would not be together. You know that that.”

“So you keep telling me.” Sanjay pushed Dan away from him, got up from the couch and stood in front of the TV.

“Sanj, If you want to distract me you’ll have to drop your drawers.”

“We’re talking a lot of money, Dan. A lot of money.”

“I’m not paying for you to drop them. Now, step away from the TV. I was watching something.”

“You’re always watching something when I want to talk to you. You’ve recorded this anyway, so you can go back to it.”

“You asked me to clear things off the recorder, remember. Now that I’m trying to, you want to talk me.” Dan hit pause. “You’re the reason I don’t think we need a cat.”

“What?”

“Cats ignore you till you are trying to do something and they are all over you.”

“You wish.”

“This is nearly over anyway. Ten minutes.” Dan unpaused. “Step aside?”

He pressed the back button to rewatch what he’d missed talking to Sanjay.

“What’s it about anyway?” Sanjay sat beside him.

“Missing kids on the east coast.”

“I should have known.”

“Yeah, everything is homework for … hey! That’s me!” Dan hit the pause button.

It was a photo of two boys on the front steps of a house. Arms over each other shoulders, grinning at the camera.

“You sure aren’t missing.” Sanjay said.

“Yeah yeah I know. It’s the other boy Timmy Dunlop. I guess.”

“Guess? I thought you were watching this.”

“You mean, trying to watch. My Dad took this picture. I remember it. It’s been years since I’ve seen it though.”

“Yeah, right. How many photographs have you seen?”

“Enough, but some you remember. I had a crush on Timmy. We played doctor a couple of times. When we moved I kept hoping to hear from him but nothing.”

“I guess you know why now.” Sanjay stretched. “I’m heading for bed. I leave you to your homework.”

Any reality show dealing with crime was considered Dan’s homework. He saw things in photographs that most didn’t see. His eyes had been trained to discover and recognized what might appear ordinary to the untrained eye.

He went back to the beginning of the program ‘Canada Cold,’ that looked at cold cases across Canada. He’d worked such cases with the RCMP and that had tweaked his interested in them. This episode was about a the disappearance of several children in the Maritimes in the mid-80’s. Dan had no recollection of it at all. His family had moved when he was eleven, the same summer of these disappearances.

As he watched he jotted down the names and locations of the children. None struck a chord with him expect Timmy’s. The place name were familiar, Stellerton, Digby, Wolfville in Nova Scotia; Small Town & Port Something in New Brunswick. His Dad had been an itinerant photographer, “Photos By James”, who travelled from school to school, taking class pictures and individual portraits. For the summer’s he would take the family with him, spending a day or two, or up to a week in various small towns. 

Dan pulled himself out his reflective daze, replayed the ending of the show again and wrote down the number one was to call if they had any information. He’d call once he had found those photos his Dad took of him and Timmy. Stellerton had been one of the longer stays and one of the last as he recalled. 

They’d been there long enough for him to renew his friendship with some of the boys he’d palled around with the previous summer. They left pretty quickly. He remembered being pretty pissed because the Happy Hippo Carnival had just set up and he wanted to so badly to go it. 

Moving to Toronto wasn’t as important to him then as seeing the side shows. Even his sister was somewhat disappointed because she was seeing some guy their mother didn’t approve of. He figured that was why they were really moving away and for years blamed her for ruining his childhood.

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Coal Dusters – Chapter LXX Birk’s Rude Awakening

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Coal Dusters – Chapter LXX

Birk’s

Rude

Awakening

#Toronto #Wordpress #coalmine #amwriting #gayromance #lgbtq #nanowrimo #CapeBreton #novel #Ontario

Birk could hear his mother downstairs in the kitchen. Singing “Bringing in the sheaves” as she clanged the stove top covers. He could still feel Clancy’s hands on him, feel the slide of their tongues  in each others mouths as they kissed. They had started out in the front bedroom Clancy was to use but ended up back in Birk’s room in the bed that was familiar to them.

He rolled onto his back and stretched his arms and legs as far as he could on either side. The bed was cool where he expected to feel the heat of Clancy. There was no one there with him.

“Clancy?” He sat up. He pulled on his pants and went to Clancy’s bedroom. It was empty. The drawers were open and empty. There was nothing in the closet either. On the pillow was a note. 

“Birk

I’ve got too much to do with my life. It wouldn’t be fair to you let my feelings keep me where I don’t want to be. When I can I’ll be back. If I can’t come back I’ll never forget you, you hairy monkey.

Clancy”

#Toronto #Wordpress #coalmine #amwriting #gayromance #lgbtq #nanowrimo #CapeBreton #novel #Ontario

Birk could hear his mother downstairs in the kitchen. Singing “Bringing in the sheaves” as she clanged the stove top covers. He could still feel Clancy’s hands on him, feel the slide of their tongues  in each others mouths as they kissed. They had started out in the front bedroom Clancy was to use but ended up back in Birk’s room in the bed that was familiar to them.

He rolled onto his back and stretched his arms and legs as far as he could on either side. The bed was cool where he expected to feel the heat of Clancy. There was no one there with him.

“Clancy?” He sat up. He pulled on his pants and went to Clancy’s bedroom. It was empty. The drawers were open and empty. There was nothing in the closet either. On the pillow was a note. 

“Birk

I’ve got too much to do with my life. It wouldn’t be fair to you let my feelings keep me where I don’t want to be. When I can I’ll be back. If I can’t come back I’ll never forget you, you hairy monkey.

Clancy”

– the end –

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Chapter LXIX: Lillian Catches The Train

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Coal Dusters – Chapter LXIX

Lillian

Catches 

The Train

Lillian arrived at the station with five minutes to spare. Her trunk had already been taken aboard. She went to her seat and sat back.

She checked her purse once again to make sure her bank draft was there. Next she made sure her transfer ticket to Montreal was there so she could change trains when she got to Truro.

The departure call was made. To her relief there was no sign of David Henderson. The train started to pull out. She smiled to herself at the image of him standing on the platform as the train pulled away.

Behind her she heard the conductor at the doorway talking to someone.

“Come on come on.” The conductor was saying. “Reach up and I can pull on if yer fast enough.” He grunted. “Ouf. There you go. Next time be here on time.”

“Didn’t know till now that I was going anywhere.” A man said.

The train picked up speed. 

Not that way.” The conductor said. “That’s for first class. Yer family ticket gets you caboose. T’other way.” 

As the train sped up Lillian let the scenery blur grateful that this was now her past not her future.

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Chapter LXVIII – Birk’s First Kiss

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Coal Dusters – Chapter LXVIII

Birk’s

First

Kiss

Birk and Clancy were in the small backyard of the house breaking up the soil so his mother could start a garden. 

“Birk get in here, now!” His mother shouted from the back stoop.

He and Clancy followed her into the house. 

There was a stranger sitting in the living room.

“This is Mr. Joseph from the steel plant. This be Birk and our boarder Clancy Sinclair.”

The man stood and shook hands with them. “I’m sorry for your loss.” he said.

“Loss?” Birk looked at his mother. “Maddy?”

“No,” she began to sob. “Mac died at the plant this afternoon.”

“Couldn’t catch his breath.” Mr. Joseph explained. “I work with him with the boilers. He was shovelling the number 3 and stopped heaving for air. Took him to the infirmary and then they rushed him to the city hospital but by then t’was too late. Doc there says t’was his heart gave out.”

“After them done broke it.” his mother said. “Goddamned BritCan pulled that heart right out of him.” She dabbed at her eyes with the edge of her apron.

“I came to tell yer Ma myself. Didn’t know Mac for long but he was eager worker. Told us how good his boy Birk was around the boilers, too.”

“Some, but not as good as he was.” Birk said. Without Mac the responsibility for the family was now his. There’d be no leaving to anywhere for work with Clancy.

“Thank you from coming to tell us.” Birk shook his hand. “I see Ma’s given you some tea. You want another cup?”

“No thank ye. I have a family awaiting me too. I’m over Hanson Road. Not too far from here. Number fifteen. Come by the Plant in the morning and I’ll see if we can fix you up.”

“How’s that?” Birk asked.

“We took Mac because we needed him. We still need him. We can give you a try to see if you’ll do.”

“I already have work at the Patterson millworks.”

“So yer ma tells me but you’ll get paid more, travel less and keep ahold of your house.”

“I’ll think on it.” Birk shook his hand again glancing at Clancy who had remained silent since coming into the house.

“You boys had supper?” his mother asked once Mr. Joseph was gone.

“Can’t say as I’m much hungry Mrs. Mac.” Clancy said.

“Come out the kitchen while I sees to supper.”

Maddy was the the kitchen table. “When Poppa coming home?” she asked.

“Not fer awhile.” Birk said. “Not fer a long while.”

“He’s gone to be with Sal.” His mother sat beside her.

“Sal?” Maddy teared up. “Sal gone to be with God.”

“So she has.” his mother said.

“That why that man was here?”

“Yes Maddy.”

“I hate him. He sent pappa away didn’t he.”

“No.” Birk said. “Mac was tried that’s all. Moving here and changing was too much for him.”

“For all of us.” His mother ladled out stew for them. “Eat and we can talk more about this later. I’ll say grace, ‘God thank you for the food we have that will give us strength to face what has to be faced. Amen.”

Birk washed the dishes while his mother put Maddy to bed.

“You’re some silent.” He said to Clancy.

“It was all so clear to me this afternoon. It made sense to leave here and build a life on my own plans not on something set out before me. A life for two of us.” Clancy said.

“Nothing holding you. You said you got no family here.”

“There’s you.” Clancy said softly. “You know when I took off that last time I didn’t mean to come back. I was through with all this, with those micks who want to lynch someone for not being a God-fearing mick.”

“Lynch?”

“That’s what they’d call that mob that Father Patrick brought over to teach you, us, a lesson. They would have strung us the nearest tree if they coulda. You know that. And why? For being naked?”

“For what we were doing.”

Clancy took Birk’s hand. “We were doing nothing, Birk. Nothing. But I was feeling something.” 

“To you maybe but to them it was something.”

“Exactly. I don’t want to live in fear for someone disapproving of the way I sneeze. Of who I want to be with. That’s what brought me back again. To get you to leave with me.”

“You had me convinced too.” Birk brushed the back of Clancy’s hand on his own chin. “But you know I can’t go now.”

“Fuk,” Clancy stood and let his chair fall over to the floor. “I knows that. I have to think about what to do, for me.”

“Millworks will be lookin’ for someone when I go.”

“Yeah.” Clancy gave a small laugh. “That isn’t what I had in mind.”

His mother came into the kitchen. “I see you done the dishes. That’s something I could never get Mac to do.” She picked up the chair that Clancy had knocked over. She sat in it with her elbows on the table and her head in her hand. “Sometimes I feel my age.”

“It hasn’t been easy,  Mrs. Mac.” Clancy said.

“So Clancy you back for good?” she asked.

“I can’t say Mrs. Mac. Birk and I was discussing that too. It’s not as if I’m kin to you or anyone else around here.”

“True. I’m trying to be practical about things, is all. I need to know what I can count on before making any decisions. I don’t want you and Birk disappearing one day.”

“Ma…” Birk started.

She held up her hand. “Birk I know you wants a life of yer own. Geo did too. That sure can’t happen here. I expected you to go with Geo when he went to Alberta. He offered to take you but Pa said it had to be your idea not something we planted in you.”

“You did?”

“Yer Pa and I talked about what was going to become of you. Then I got afraid that mick gal was trying to lure you off too. So I said things about her I didn’t mean. When she got set with O’Dowell I breathed easy again.”

“Ma! I was never one for her. I knew that from the first time met her.”

“I know, son, I know. But comes a time when we have to let our children look out for themselves.”

“This isn’t that time Ma.” Birk said looking to Clancy. 

“It is Birk. Isn’t it Clancy?” She looked to Clancy too. “You want Birk to take a chance on a bigger life with you?”

“I won’t deny it. I talked to him about it. There isn’t much more opportunity for him here than there is for me. You want him to die with a shovel in his hand the way Mac did?”

“We all die Clancy.” she half-laughed. “Don’t matter what we’re holding in our hands at the time.”

“Ma, I’m not going anywhere with Clancy.”

“Maddy and I can go live with my sister in Guysborough. There’s enough to do around their farm to keep us.”

“Aunt Dierdra? The one you curses under your breath anytime you get the opportunity.”

“The same.” she took a deep breath. “If’n you want to stay Clancy, we’d be happy to have you. Mac never got settled in that room of his upstairs so you can have it for yerself. You won’t ‘ave to bunk up with Birk at all.” 

“We all have a lot to think about.” Clancy got up from the table and went to the front door.

Birk followed him. “Clancy you know I can’t go now. Maybe the steel plant is my opportunity.”

“For you but not for me.”

He left Birk standing in the open doorway.

Birk sat in Mac’s armchair in the living room. Even though Mac had a bedroom for himself Mac still fell asleep in his old armchair. The chair wasn’t as comfortable as it looked when Mac sat in it. The curves and bumps were ones that had been created by Mac’s body over the years. Birk sat on the sofa and out his feet up on the low table in front of it.

This was his duty. Family. The adventure that Clancy offered had tempted him sorely. He was glad now that he didn’t have to make the decision to go or not. That he’d stay was plain to him. 

Lying on his bed he heard the backdoor open and someone come into the house. He pulled his coveralls on and went to the top of the stairs to listen. He heard nothing. He went half-way down the stairs and could see his mother asleep in Mac’s chair in the living-room. The street light softening her face with its yellow.

“Clancy!” he whispered.

“Shush.” Was the reply. “Who would it be?”

Clancy came to the bottom of the stairs holding his shoes.

They walked up the stairs.

“I didn’t think you’d come back.” Birk said.

“I had no choice.” He took Birk by the hand. “My heart is here.”

“I …” Without hesitation he pulled Clancy to him and kissed him. He didn’t want that kiss to end.

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Chapter LXVII: Lillian Gets A Surprise

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Coal Dusters – Chapter LXVII

Lillian

Gets A

Surprise

The Saturday of the unveiling was a windy overcast day. Rain threatened but never happened. Steven had been buried in the family plot at Hardwood Hill Cemetery. The bagpipes could be heard as she and Clara walked up the path to the family plot.

“Mama was a Presbyterian you know, and never converted, so when they wouldn’t bury her on Catholic soil our father didn’t want to be buried anywhere but her side. I know Steven felt the same way.” Clara leaned on Lillian for support.

There were several others already at the site. The Nova Scotia flag covered the small stone monument. It bellowed in the breeze.

“Good day Miss O’Dowell, Miss McTavish, I mean, Mrs. O’Dowell.” The custodian greeted them.

“Thank you Mr. Crookshank.” Clara shook his hand and nodded to other men there.

“He will be sorely missed.” Gus shook both their hands.

They stood in the wind for a moment listening the the piper. Clara signalled for him to stop.

“Lillian would you give me a hand?” Clara indicated to Lillian to stand opposite her by the grave stone. 

Once Lillian had taken the edge of the flag in her hand Clara leaned and undid the string that was holding it. They lifted it together and Lillian, expecting Clara to hold it, let go of her side once it was clear. Clara let go of her’s at the same time and the flag was blown away by the breeze to get stuck in upper branches of a near by oak tree.

“Oh my!” Lillian said and started to get it.

“Leave it for now, dear.” Clara said putting an arm around Lillian’s shoulder.

The monument was pink-grey marble column, the top edge had an inlay of black onyx carved to look like lumps of coal. It was topped with miner’s lamp made of brass. 

Clara read the inscription, “ ‘Greater love than this no one has, that one lay down his life for his friends. John xv:13’ ” Then she began to weep. The bagpiper began to play.

Lillian squeezed Clara’s hand and they walked down the path. Followed by the others and the bagpiper.

 

The silence back at the O’Dowell house was a relief to Lillian. She’d said all she had to say and longed to be on her way. It was worse than those last days at school before summer vacation. Clara had taken to her room and Lillian brought up a supper tray for her.

“Lillian you must understand how hard this is for me. To lose Steven and now to lose you so soon after.” she patted Lillian’s hand. “I know I’m beginning to sound same as an hysterical old woman but …”

“I will be back Clara.” Lillian hoped she sounded reassuring.

“Yes, but not till Christmas. Oh, do see if you can take some time to visit while you are at college.”

“Yes, yes.” Lillian said. “Once I know what my classes are and what work I’ll have before me I’ll know what time I have to spare.”

“This house has been so empty without you or Steven to share it with.”

“You’ll get used it so quickly you won’t want any intruders other than a cat or two.”

She went down to the kitchen

“Don’t awaken Miss Clara, Aileen.” she said. “I think it best if I slip away with less fuss than I arrived.”

“Yes miss. Am I to send the things in your room along to you?”

“No. They’ll be there for me when I return. Knowing my favorite blue shoes are here is sure to bring me back. I’d like you to have these.”

She gave Aileen the pair of stocking she had bought for the wedding. One less memento of a time she hoped to forget. 

 

She planned to leave Monday morning. Being here had become unbearable for her now that her escape from the island was assured. 

“I can’t quite believe you are going.” Mrs. Franklin said as they waited on the boarding house porch for the cab to take Lillian’s luggage to the train station.

“I am so grateful for everything you’ve done for me Rose.”

“Thank you, Lillian, you’ve been a joy to … “ she began to tear up.

“I’d like you to have this.”

“Oh  …” Mrs. Franklin pulled the tissue paper off what turns out to be an ornate carved ivory fan. “It is beautiful. The roses look so real.”

“I realize it isn’t that practical. Much like me, I suppose, I was brought up to be pretty but not practical. Life here has taught me to be practical.

“It was a gift from my father. He bought it for me on one his trips to the continent. I don’t want to have too many impractical memories.”

The cab pulled up. Once her luggage was safe at the train station she had the driver take her to the cemetery. She had given herself time to go back Steven’s grave. The day was sunny but the wind was strong around the grave.

As she knelt the wind pulled off her hat and her hair came loose. She laughed to herself thinking that Steven always did appreciate her hair.

“Steven,” she said softly, “forgive me for what I am doing. Even if you had lived I would never have been content here on this rock with you. Never.” 

“Lillian?” a man’s voice came from behind her. “Lillian McTavish!” The man repeated louder.

She stood, shivering, and turned around. The sun was in her eyes.

“Steven!” Had she brought him back to life? 

“It is you, Lillian! I thought it was a ghost.” He took her in his arms. She tried to push him away. 

“David Henderson? No, it can’t be. It can’t be.” She stumbled back away from him.

“It is.”

“How? Why?”

“When news of your death reached me in India I was devastated. I had hoped to return to Boston one day to be with you. I should never have let my family pressure me into leaving you. Never. It was torment I shall never want to experience again.

“I could hardly sit through the memorial service your uncle conducted in Boston. It wasn’t right to me. I had to see your grave to … be near you one last time.” Tears streaked his face. “To find you alive! How is that possible.”

“My uncle was … mistaken.” Lillian stared hard at David. He looked much she remembered. Older and less naive.

“He said at the memorial that you had been interred here with the other flu victims. I now see why the custodian was so puzzled when I asked about Lillian McTavish’s resting place earlier. He said that if you were here today it might be up here at the O’Dowell plot.”

A nearby church rang eleven.

“I … don’t know what to say David.”

“Tell me that my affections might still be returned.”

She started to walk down to the street. “Much had happened in the past year David. I can’t say what my affections are for anyone.”

“I understand that Lillian. I do honestly.” he stopped her and took both of her hands in his. “We can become reacquainted.”

He let go of her hands, put his around his waist pulled to him and kissed her. 

The wind wrapped her hair around them for a moment. They broke free and she quickly plated her hair and secured it under her hat. Was this Steven’s answer to her prayer for forgiveness?

“David I’ll be direct.”

“As you always were.”

They got into the cab that she had waiting for her. “Train station please.” Lillian said.

“I’m staying the The Royal.” David said.

“That may be, but my train leaves at noon. I intend to be on it.” Lillian’s thoughts were reeling with this unexpected, undreamed of event. Regardless of it she was determined to leave. “I can’t make any decision or plans as long as I am here.”

“I know that Lillian, but please hear me out. After my father’s death I inherited the firm and have increased its holdings in India considerably. When I first met you I was a young man with possibilities, now I am man of property.”

“I can see that. I presume you know that I was compromised by James Dunham.” She saw no reason to hold anything back from David.

“Compromised?”

“Yes. Do I have to explain that for you? That’s why I ended up here. I had a child by him. It was still born.”
“Lillian,” he clutched her hand and brought it to his lips.

“Do you still want to be become reacquainted with me?”

“How could you doubt it?” He said softly.

“You are free to come with me. I am not promising anything.”

“Yes. yes. Thank you. Drop me at the Royal and then take Miss McTavish to the train station.” The cab pulled up at the Royal. He jumped out. “It won’t take me long to pack my things and I’ll meet you at the station.”

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Story Bundle On My Kindle

I have a raft of Story Bundle offerings on my Kindle. In the past I’ve had their annual lgbtqia selections. I also pick up their world scifi collections & currently am working through this bookshelf:

Cannibal Chef – Cassandra Khaw

Priome Meridian: Silvia Moreno-Garcia

The Secret History of Moscow – Ekaterina Sedia

The Apex Book of World SF 3/4/5

The Vanishing Kind – Lavie Tidhar

Under the pendulum Sun – Jeanette Ng

The Thousand Year Black – TOBI Hirotaka

Slipping – Lauren Brukes

Nexhuman – Francesco Verso

Falling in Love With Hominids – Nalo Hopkinson

Escape From Bagdad! – Saad Z. Hossain

After the Falre – Deji Bryce Olukotun

AfroSF v3

I enjoy these looks at the future from writers outside the ciswhite heterosex context. I have read the first two volumes of The Apex Books & loved them. 

Also waiting to be read are: Dune Messiah: Frank Herbert; Point of Dreams: A Novel of Astreiant – Melissa Scott – this is the 3rd in this series that I first came across in a Story Bundle of lgbtqia scifi. Star: Yukio Mishima – Mishima is an inspiration to me. I saw this on the shelf at a book store & checked on Amazon & downloaded a copy. Too bad there isn’t away to do that as an in-store download purchase or I would have done it there.

Psychedelic-40 – Louis Charbonneau; Sexperiment – Clyde Allison – I stumbled on these thanks a Tumblr feed of pulp scifi feeds. The covers were enough to make me want to read these plus those titles are fantastic. I can’t wait to read them. 

Looming Low Volume I; Dig Two Graves: Anthology Vol. II; Anathema: Issue 8. Looming & Dig feature stories by my niece Betty Rocksteady (she writes nightmares 🙂 ) Gory with a helping of sexuality & insects. Anathema is a Canadian spec fiction magazine that is strongly lgbtqia. I’ve been a subscriber from issue 1. Excellent stories minimal gore.

Recent additions are Valley Of The Dolls: 50th Anniversary Edition – Jacqueline Susann. Susann is another of my literary inspirations – this book in particular with its mix of soap opera, wish fulfilment, showbiz & sex. I’ve read it several times & my paperback is showing signs of age. Deep Work – Cal Newport: a self-help book! A friend of mine read it & it pushed him to remove diversions from his life so he can focus on productivity or at least on things that move him forward. The Internet is full of fake-productivity time-wasters like Facebook, twitter, linked in, etc. 

Most recent addition is What happens on tour, stays on tour by Kevin Paterson. I ‘met’ Kevin online via WordPress. This is the fourth ebook book of his I’ve downloaded. Yes I did read the others & quite enjoyed them so I’m looking forward to this one. 

The Witch

the witch that is my name

cartwheels over the city

clowns around when there is nothing

here to laugh at

when there are only tears to spill

to dampen the grave dust grace

of lost stars and missed chances

 

you aren’t the only one

needing to be charmed back to wetness

not the only one who had lost his day

in the night of frustrations and distrust

not the only one who thinks

the witch that is my name

can do more that any one name

can possibly do

besides

you don’t believe in fairy tale stuff

there are no happy blending

no shuffled coils

that can ever lead you back

to the safety of the tomb

 

the witch that is my name

cannot remove the pain

that creeps into your bones

that leaves you feeling

like a ghost without a skin

cannot move you along this path

any farther than you are now

but will not sit around with you either

there are floors to be swept

things to be undone

 

the witch that is my name

flies around blind alleys

with the same discomfort as any other

lost hankering figment

the blood in my veins hurts for you

takes me where I least expect to be

and leaves me the word

the unutterable word

that cannot help anyone

that cannot bring comfort to anyone

but me

cannot replace your skin

cannot take your place

 

the witch that is my name

has been divested of all power

except the power you give yourself

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every Tuesday 2019

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15 – Stratford Festival – The Crucible

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The Secret Handshake Gallery – feature – date TBA

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23 – Hot Damn! It’s Queer Slam – Buddies and Bad Times Theatre

March
March 5 – Hot Damn! It’s Queer Slam – Buddies and Bad Times Theatre

April
April 3 – Hot Damn! It’s Queer Slam – Season 6 finales Buddies andBbad Times Theatre

June  – Capturing Fire 2020 – Washington D.C.  capfireslam.org 

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Chapter LXVI – Lillian Makes Up Her Mind 

Coal Dusters: Book 1 is now available as as PDF – this covers the first 35 chapters – 65540 words – send $1.99 to  paypal.me/TOpoet

Coal Dusters – Chapter LXVI

Lillian

Makes Up 

Her Mind 

Lillian unlocked the front doors to O’Dowell’s Sydney store. She bent over to pick up a few scraps of newspaper rear had blown into the corner. There was almost something caught in that corner. She left the door unlocked for the rest of the staff. She saw that Mr. Oakley, the store manager, was already there.

“Good morning Mr. Oakley.” She called out. “I’ll leaving the door open for the rest of the staff.”

She took of her gloves, then her hat as she walked up the stairs to her own private office on the second floor. It was a space in a back corner, reclaimed from the storage area on the second floor.

She had started working at the O’Dowell’s in New Waterford to pass the time. She explained to Clara that she wanted to learn the family business as she was now part of the family. Spending the winter days at their home hosting meetings of the various Women’s guilds that Clara was involved in didn’t appeal to her. 

In the new year she moved to Sydney and started working at the Sydney store. Supposedly to learn even more about the business but it was part of her plan to escape Cape Breton. Mrs. Franklin had managed to sell her property in New Castleton and had opened a new boarding house on Cottage Road in Sydney.

“Mrs. O’Dowell would you come down when you have a chance.” 

“Yes, Mr. Oakley.”

She quickly checked her hair and make-up in the mirror by the door of her office. She admitted the way the simple one-piece shift look both pretty and practical. She had convinced the other female clerks in the store that wearing what the store sold would sell even more. 

As she walked down to the first floor she could smell coffee perking. That had been another of her suggestions. Some of the Boston department stores had lunch counters. Even though the trade at O’Dowell’s wasn’t as brisk as Boston’s she decided it would a worthwhile ‘experiment.’ So far it had been breaking even.

“Good morning Miss Lillian.” Theresa, the counter girl curtsied as Lillian walked past her. “Here is your coffee.”

“Something is smelling good.” Lillian took a sip. “What is it today?”

“Thank you ma’am. That would be the ginger crisp.”

Lillian went to the door of Mr. Oakley’s office.

“You wanted to speak with me?”

Before he could say anything a voice from behind said. 

“Lillian I must speak with you.”

She recognized the voice immediately. “Not during working hours Uncle Patrick.” She replied without turning around.

“That’s quite alright Mrs. O’Dowell. We can discuss the Ladies Wear order later to day.”

She turned to face her uncle.

“Is there someplace more private we can talk.” He asked. “It is important or I wouldn’t have come here.”

Lillian knew that since the closure of the Castleton Mines the diocese had decided to close the church there so they wouldn’t have to replace her uncle when he left for Africa.

“We can go up to my office.”

Lillian’s office was so small there was only room for her desk and a chair for her behind it. Test rest of the room was shelving for goods and a file cabinet. There no place for anyone else to sit down.

She sat at her desk. “What is it?”

He took a document out of an inner pocket of his overcoat.

“I’ve done you a service.” He said. “You’ve been granted an annulment.”

“An annulment!”

“Yes. When I explain the circumstance of your marriage. That it was done without proper church requirements, that your husband died without the marriage being consummated the request for an annulment was granted.”

“I never requested this.” Lillian crushed the document in her hands. “My marriage stands. It will stand in a court of law. You know that very well. Steven’s lawyers ascertained that in probate.”

“Lillian, don’t you understand me. It frees you from any obligation you may feel to the O’Dowells. You are free to go back to Boston.”

“Boston.” She stood. “I have no intention of ever going back to Boston.”

“What keeps you here? It was clear when you arrived that you loathed this place, these people. I don’t see that has changed much. Is this your future?” He gestured at the office. “A struggling clothing store where you can be … what … queen? At least you arrived you had prideful ambitions for a bigger life.”

“Get out of here.” Lillian restrained from screaming at him. She realized that he was partially right. No matter what she accomplished at O’Dowell’s it would never be her home.

“Think about what I said Lillian.” He straightened out the decree of annulment. “All you have to do is sign it.”

“I said get out.” She came out from behind her desk.

He backed out of the office. “I’ll be leaving for the mainland this afternoon. The first step on my African adventure. I do have you to thank for that. If Miss O’Dowell hadn’t interceded with the Monsignor I may have remained trapped here as well.”

Lillian stood at the bottom of the stairs and watched as he left the store. Trapped! Was she trapped?

“He did what?” Mrs. Franklin handed Lillian the serving platter of scalloped potato.

“You heard me, he had my marriage annulled.” Lillian held the kitchen door open with her foot so Mrs. Franklin could pass through the to dining room with similar platter of pork chops.

They each placed their platters on the inning room table and took their places beside each other at the table. While the other boarders passed the platters around the table to help themselves Lillian continued.

“It’s as if I might have forget his action in the past.”

“What did he expect you to do?” Mrs. Franklin asked.

“He did realize that the marriage meant I was now a Canadian citizen. Steven’s death didn’t change that.”

“So you declined the offer.”

“Certainly. I also destroyed the document. Threw it in the furnace at the store. But he did say something that was worth while.”

“Ah.”

“Yes that he felt trapped here and was grateful his actions towards me resulted in him being set free.”

“Set free?”

“Of his obligations to the parish.”

“No one felt he was ever happy here, if you know what mean. Not that he was as unkind to others as he was to you but …”

“He didn’t make a home for himself here?”

“Exactly.”

“I am like him in that I way, Rose. I feel trapped here.”

In her room Lillian took out the leather binder that held her important papers. The Bank of Montreal’s white with blue cloth along the spine was the first thing she looked at. She checked it every night whether she had made a deposit or not. This was her money. It had grown over the months since Steven’s death. 

There was finally enough for her to make plans. It was time to leave. All she needed was to decide where. No, she would decide that when she was her way. The train to Halifax would start her journey. Once she was there she make further plans. 

The next morning at O’Dowell’s she informed Mr. Oakley of her decision to leave the store.

“This is rather sudden Mrs. O’Dowell.”

“I have been thinking on this for awhile and spring seems a good time to make such a move.”

“You’ve told Clara, I mean, Miss McDowell?” 

“I will this afternoon. We will be finalizing the plans for unveiling Steven’s memorial this Sunday. I hope to be leaving the following day.”

“Where do you plan to go?” Mr. Oakley asked.

“I’ll be discussing that with Clara as well. Until then I’ll keep that to myself.”

The meeting Clara, Mrs. Donaldson and Mrs Donaldson took place over tea at Mrs. Franklin’s. Once the unveiling plans had been discussed with them she took the opportunity to make her announcement.

“Ladies.” She loudly to get their attention. “Mrs. Murphy, Mrs. Donaldson. I am deeply grateful for your concern and support over these past months. I feel I have a family here to replace the one I left in Boston.”

“Lillian …” Mrs. Murphy teared up.

“I know you will be happy to know that I have decided to bid you farewell.”

“You can’t mean you are going to leave us?” Mrs. Donaldson said.

“It hasn’t been an easy decision. I don’t think it’ll for long but I will be leaving. I’ve made some inquires and there are few places left in the next term at the Normal College in Truro. I shall go there to become a qualified to be a teacher for all your children.”

“Lillian!” Clara said. “What an excellent idea. I felt you were wasting your self in the store.”

“I won’t be leaving till after the unveiling of Steven’s monument.” she said.

“That’s an excellent plan.” said Mrs. Murphy. “I always knew you were a practical girl.”

Lillian took a tray of the used cups and saucers to the kitchen relieved that they had believed the half-truths she had told them. She had no intention of going the Normal College. Even if she did she would never come back to this place. Never.

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Chapter LXV – Birk Gets An Offer From Clancy

Coal Dusters: Book 1 is now available as as PDF – this covers the first 35 chapters – 65540 words – send $1.99 to  paypal.me/TOpoet

Coal Dusters – Chapter LXV

Birk

Gets An Offer

From Clancy

Over the winter Birk settled into the routine of a new above ground life. Most days he was able to catch a ride to the Patterson Woodworks with T’Jean who lived a few streets over from them in Sydney. The mill offered snow shovelling to those who could afford it, so Birk was kept busy while the millworks was idle. He’d rather shovel snow that coal any day. He also enjoyed improving his carpentry skills in their workshop.

Spring was slow to come but burst suddenly upon the island. One mild day he spent unloading and sorting the first truck load of timber for the spring. At the end of the day he unconsciously went down the ferry back to Castleton Mines. He was half way down the lane from the colliery before he saw what he had done.

He stood in front of their old house, the sun reflecting off the windows. He walked to the back. There was nothing drying on the porch rail, nothing flapping on the clothes line, only the remains of the wood pile for the stove. The garden had green shoots sprouting.

He went into the house through the back door. The kitchen was empty without his mother at the sink. The floor where the stove had been was charred, the wall behind it discoloured. The living room was larger and wooden floors cleaner than he knew.

The stairs creaked as he went up to his room. The steps were uneven in ways he had never noticed before. The wallpaper yellowed and peeled away from the wall along the ceiling from where water always leaked through.

His sisters room smelled of them. They had never gotten around to fixing that spot on the wall where the girls fell one Christmas and cracked through the plaster to the lathing. The area around it was white after being covered by some drawing his sisters had made to hide it from them.

He went to his room half-expecting to find Clancy there. The room was as empty as all the others. There was pillow tossed in the corner, a single sock in the corner of the cupboard. The floor was gouged where the feet of the bed had rubbed a rut over the years.

He went out the front door. The only solid door in the house. He had helped his Dad and Geo rebuild the door frame under his mother’s watchful eye.

“A front door that was solid will keep a house from falling down around your ears.” She had said. She was right about that. Too bad it hadn’t been solid enough to keep the family inside.

“Come back for one last look?” Jake Malone from across the lane said from the front of his house.

“Turns out that way. So used to coming back here after work I came back here after work.” Birk laughed.

“Them old ways is sure hard to shake off.”

“You here for much longer?”

“Probably. BritCan may be gone but life here has to go one. I’m fixed with Jim Gillum on the boats. You?”

“Looks good for me at the Patterson’s Millworks.”

“Good on you. Yer mate?”
“Clancy? Not sure. He went back the mainland before Christmas. Nothing to hold him here.”

“Shame. You and he got along pretty good. Hard to find a mate that loyal.”

“I knows that.”

“Yeah after all that shite that got talked about you and that McTavish bitch he stuck by you. That’s a true mate.”

Birk was shocked to hear Lillian called a bitch. “She don’t mean no harm Jake. No need to cuss her out.”

“Don’t be so forgiving Birk m’boy. Them micks think cause they know a bit of Latin they can lord it over the rest of us. Let’em get away with that and there’ll be no end of it.”

“Best get going. Ma’ll wonder what became of me if I don’t get back to Sydney soon. Hours late as it is.”

“Tell’em we miss you even thought it’s been a day.”

The steel plant whistle was blowing 11 p.m. when Birk finally arrived home.

“Where you been boy?” His mother said. “Sent your sister over to T’Jeans to see what became of you. You could’a fallen into one of them saws for all we knew.”

“Sorry Ma. You’ll get a laugh when I tell you what I did. When I left the mill works I headed back to Mudside.”

“Mudside!”

“Yes’m, my feet took me back the old way and rest of me followed. The old house sure looks empty without us. I heard that Mrs. Franklin sold off her boarding house. Setting up the same here in Sydney.”

“You want a bite of supper?”

“Na sat a spell with Jake Malone. He’s working on the boats for now. I’m going to turn in. This house is so quiet without all the boards shifting but the noise of the plant can get some fierce too.”

“Go up quiet now. Yer Pa’s sleeping like I never see before.”

Birk took off his boots and tip-toed up to his room. He reached for the lamp then remembered they had lights, electric lights. But his Ma had been sitting in the back kitchen with only a lantern on. One of her old routines that was hard to break. He left the light off and went to the window.

He looked out to the houses around him and some of them had a lanterns flickering in a window. He turned the light on and had to close his eyes as it was too bright. Then turned it off quickly. Who needed so much brightness at night.

In the dark he went to the bathroom and ran some water to wash his face and hands. He was getting used to a bathroom with its own tub and running water. The old company house had a pump in the kitchen and buckets to bring water upstairs for washing up.

He folded his overalls on top of the dresser. This room about the same size as the old one. Longer but not as wide leaving no room between the bed and the wall for more than his legs. He was too restless to fall asleep. The house smelled so different. 

Sydney smelled so different from Castleton Mines. So close to the plant the the air was sour and sooty. Not that the pits smelled much better but once you got far enough away some of the smell was gone. Here it seemed to be everywhere. The midnight whistle sounded as he drifted off.

 

During his lunch break at the mill Birk heard a familiar singing near by.

“This is the hands that makes the boards, this is the hands that picks up sticks.”

Birk jumped up on top of a squared pile of lumber to peer around.

“Clancy! Where the hell are you by?”

“Hiding in the woodpile.” Came the reply.

“I’ll give you a hidin’ if you don’t show yer face.” He jumped to the ground and darted along the piled squares.

“This is the dog that can’t find a stick.” Came from behind him. 

He spun around and there was Clancy. He grabbed Clancy and wrestled him to the ground.

“Enough. Enough.” Clancy laughed and pushed him away. They stood up and brushed saw dust off their clothes.

“It’s months since we last saw ya b’y.”

“I know. I been working with my cousins down Hawksbury way. Tough work keeping that train moving across at Canso.”

“I thought might be doing more schoolin’?”

“Takes money to do that ‘less I ‘prentice with someone. Even that getting harder to find though.”

“So you back again. For good?”

“Can’t say but I’m for a bit.” He took a roll of money out of his pocket. “Made hundred-fifty bucks though so …”

“You rob a bank Clancy Sinclair?”

“Me! You know me to do a dishonest day’s work?”

“Tell me!” Birk stared at the money. He had never seen that much cash in anyone’s hand.

“I’ll be back when you get finish here.”

“T’Jean’ll take us back to Sydney.”

It started to rain at the end of the work day so they sat in the front cab of the truck instead of stretching out in the back box. Birk between T’Jean and Clancy.

“Snug b’ys.” T’Jean said.

“Better close than wet.” Birk said enjoying the nearness of Clancy.

“You smell like a pine box.” Clancy said.

“At’s what Ma says. She isn’t missing me coming back with coal dust in my hair. Least way I can actually wash this out.”

“You know the Sinclair’s over Boularderie?” T’Jean asked.

“Can’t say as I do. My Dad was Kenny Sinclair. Worked for the railway. Can’t say as he ever got over to the island much though. My Ma is related to the Roberts in Louisbourg.”

“Runs the bakery over there?”

“Yes. I should look them up too. Never thought of them. Cousins nearly as good as folks, right?”

“Depends on what you expect from them.’ T’Jean said. “The less you want the happier they’ll be to see you.”

Birk listened to Clancy and T’Jean talk families for the entire ride to Whitney Pier. He found out that Clancy had more kin here than he’d known before.

They got out at T’James. Three girls rushed out to greet him.

“You’ve met my daughters. Clarice, Catherine, Christine.” Each did a little wave as her name was said. “All getting to marriage age. This here be Clancy. Time to add another C to the household?”

“Poppa.” Catherine squealed. “Mama’s down at Aunt Mary’s”

“Thanks again for the ride T’Jean.” Birk said as he and Clancy headed down the street.

“Clarice, Catherine and Christine?”

“Runs in his family. He’s got brothers and sisters Jerome, Jenny and …”

“Jumpin’ Jesus?” Clancy laughed.

“James. So tell me!” Birk demanded.

“Tell you what?”

“Where did you get all that money?”

“From the railroad pension of my Pa’s. I can draw on once’t a year. This is as good a time as any to do that.”

“Not while we was scrounging in the woods for mushrooms during the strike.” Birk said.

“I was tempted but with so many in need around that I wouldn’t have helped anyone. Now it might do some good. And I found out some better news.”

“Which is?”
“My rail pass is good for two. Me for free and you for half-price.” 

“Me! Where we going to go?”

“Any where the railway takes us. Montreal. Toronto. We can leave here.”

“What put that idea in your head?” They stopped in front of the house.

“You did. There isn’t anything to hold us here. Work?”

“Family.”

“There’s no future for us here. The BritCan company has pretty much seen to that. Sons moving away. Fathers crushed in mine collapses. Sisters dying overnight. Isn’t that message getting through you. This island is worse than the water at the bottom of shaft. Wake up and get out of here with me.”

Birk’s mother came to the door.

“Get in here. Where you been Clancy Sinclair?”

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Chapter LXIX – Birk Leaves Castleton

Coal Dusters: Book 1 is now available as as PDF – this covers the first 35 chapters – 65540 words – send $1.99 to  paypal.me/TOpoet

Coal Dusters – Chapter LXIX

Birk

Leaves

Castleton

Once Reverend Browne left, Birk and Clancy went out to the back porch.

“Been a long couple of days.” Clancy said.

“Things changed so fast at times I don’t know what’s going on. Was what we were doing such an evil thing?”

“I don’t know, Birk. There are some who think so. Maybe t’was all my fault for coming back.”

“How’s that?” 

“I wanted to be with you.” Clancy said softly. “I missed you.”

“I missed you too Clancy. It was the same as when Barky died.”

“Barky?”

“Yeah. A mutt I’d found out back of here when I was a kid. Sure was a friendly dog. He’d wait for me at the colliery gate to go home with me. When he died I was so … heart sick.”

“You loved that dog.” Clancy said and gave a playful bark.

“I sure did. I’m not calling you a dog!”

“No more than I was calling you a monkey.”

“Yeah.”

“Though monkey’s is less hairy.” Clancy laughed, got up and walked to the end of the garden.

Birk followed him.

“What’s all this mean Clancy. We’re pals, right? Isn’t this how pals is supposed to feel. In the mines looking out for each other. That don’t end down there.”

“No, it doesn’t. But I don’t know any more than you about … could be we take to each other too much. A man takes a wife not another man.”

“I know that! I will one day cause that’s what Ma wants.”

“Is that what you want?”

“Not, if gals are like Miss McTavish. All proper and acting they know better.”

“There are some that is and plenty that are like your Ma and mine, too. You never know what you’re going to get with women.”

“Why are they such devious things?”

“That’s the way they are made. You’re asking the wrong man anyway.”

“You not looking to married?” Birk asked.

“Yes, but I agrees with you. I’m no hurry for that, I need a reliable job to plan for sort of future.”

“You don’t have family to worry about the way I do.”

“Yeah, but same as you I don’t see the need for it, yet. I want be settled as something. What would I have to offer besides the clothes on my back. Don’t even have a place to call my own.” Clancy sighed.

“You always got a home with us, you knows that.”

“Yeah but that’s not the same as having a place of my own. Takes more scratch that I’ve earned to get that.” He kicked at the ground.

They headed back to the house.

“What’s buggery, Clancy?”

“Why you asking that?” Clancy give a little laugh. “What do you think it is?”

“I hear it around the mines often enough, about the union being run by useless buggers. I thought it had something to do with the rats as we always call’em useless buggers too.”

“You got that right.” Clancy laughed again. “Let see how I can tell you.”

“It’s what that Father Patrick called us at the police station, remember?”

“Yeah I recollect that. You know how a baby gets set don’t you?”

“Pa explained that. You put yer little guy into the woman’s little slipper, between her legs.” Birk said. “Only the gals don’t encourage that sort of thing but they do as a duty. Husbands enjoy it though but a gentleman don’t bother no lady with that business less she makes it known she wants to make babies.”

“Mac told you pretty good all you need to know on that account.”

“What’s that got to with mine rats?”

“I’m getting to it. It’s when a man puts his little feller up the arse of another man.”

“What!” Birk stepped back, his stomach churning. “In the shitter?” The image made him sick to his stomach.

“‘Fraid so.”

“You ever …”

“No.” Clancy said loudly. “When we was called abominations that was what they was talking about, though.”

“I …” Birk was looking for the words. “Where they get that notion from in the first place.”

“Something in the Catholic good book. I don’t know it well enough to tell you were they get it from. All I know is the ten commandments and that sure isn’t one of them.”

“What about what we was doing? Lettin’ our little fellas rub. That was pleasuring each other, wasn’t it?”

“So what if it was. It weren’t no one business if we were.”

“But it became their business when Miss McTavish caught us at it.”

“She done didn’t catch us at anything except being naked.”

 

The next morning Birk left Clancy helping the family pack up their possession for the move to Sydney. He caught the ferry to New Waterford and walked the mile or so to the millworks. 

His mind kept returning to the conversation he’d had with Clancy the night before. He wondered if anyone thought of him and Clancy the way Father Patrick did. Calling them unnatural. All he wanted to do was … what? That first time on the rocks with Clancy, naked together was so natural. Something he couldn’t have done if Clancy had been a girl. Was that good feeling what the priest was going on about. Was it a sin to feel that good feeling? 

His first day at the mill was simple hard work. Stripping branches off trees, keeping an eye out for boles that might trip up the saws, keeping the saw blades oiled proper.

The boilers were similar to the ones at the colliery. He showed them what he knew and they were impressed. Dan’l made it clear he’d have to get his proper papers before he could do more than check the dials with T Jean.

At the end of that day he was covered with sawdust and wood shavings.

“Nice change from the coal dust.” He said to T’Jean as he shook the dust off his overalls.

 

When he got back to Castleton Mines the second cart load of their possessions was packed and ready to go Sydney. His mother was leaning against the sink in the empty kitchen and crying.

“Never thought I’d leave this house alive.” she said wiping tears from her eyes. 

“It’s BritCan’s problem now.” His father said.

“No more winter winds to warm us in the night Ma.” Birk said.

“No more garden for us in the summer either.” She replied. “No apples in the back orchard.”

“We can always come back for ‘em when we wants.” His dad said. “No one’s going to be buying this property up in a hurry. These half fallin’ down shacks’ll be full fallen by the time the snow flies.”

“The house’ll be so cold without us.” Maddy said.

“I’ll come back to light a fire.” Birk consoled her.

“How did things go at the mill?” His father asked.

“About as hard as the mine only more daylight. They had me hauling trees around, digging some for the new water main that’s coming through. Least I still know how to use a pick.”

“Hands okay?” His mother asked.

“No trouble.” he showed his palms and waggled fingers. “Healed up pretty well.”

“Guess all the holy moaning over where you put’em did them some good.” She gave a little laugh.

“Put’em?” he asked.

“She means all that foolishness by the good Father.” His father said lashing down the last of the furniture.

“At’s a man who needs to keep his own flock in order, if you ask me,” His mother said. “At least two unweds on Carter Street. Those nuns can’t keep their own legs closed. Then bringing his dirty minded ideas over here to plague us.”

“T’wasn’t m’fault though Ma.” Birk shrugged. 

He clambered onto the back of the cart with Maddy. His mother sat in the front next to his Dad. 

“Look Birk any full-grown woman who is so shocked at the site of a naked man isn’t in her right mind. It may not be something we see often but when we do it’s something we have to abide and keep our … distaste in check.”

“You see Clancy at all?” He asked.

“He’s in Sydney at the new place. Getting some things sorted out for us and then going to see about work for himself.” His father said. “May not be much for him though. The steel plant’s been cut back since the war.”

Birk lay back on the sofa cushions as comfortable as he could and watched the clouds and sky go by over head as the cart bumped onto the ferry. On the other side they reloaded their possession on the millworks truck to drive it to Sydney. His Dad took the cart and horse back to Castleton for the last of their furniture.

“A lot of changes for us, eh Ma?” Birk said.

“Good for you at your age Birk. More opportunity for you outside of Mudside. Might be time for you to meet someone. More gals in Sydney.”

“Yeah Ma.” Birk answered. “Thought you was saving me for your old age?”

“At this rate I’m probably not going to make it.” She laughed bitterly. “There will be a decent school for Maddy. More kids her age.”

“If’n I stay on at the millworks I may want to live nearer to them.” Birk said. “I have to get my boiler man papers soon.”

“You think you can handle all the reading and writing?” He dad asked.

“I can try. When I spoke with Magistrate Doucet at the courthouse he said closing the mines might be a good thing as it’ll force us out of the ground and into the world. No more hiding down there where all I have to do is figure if I got enough dug out for one day.”

They pulled up to the new house.

“A paved street!” He hopped out of cab and lifted his mother out. “No more sinking to our knees in the mud.”

He helped unload the rest of furniture into the house. It didn’t feel as large as their old place but it was cleaner and the walls had corners that met, with level floors and electricity. Maddy had to be stopped from pressing the lights on and off.

By the time Brik was ready to go to bed Clancy hadn’t returned.

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