Winter Whisky – Part 4

Scott was bigger than me so I wasn’t sure if I had much that might fit him. My one piece long-johns would do the trick for now. I had pyjamas for myself. I pulled on bottoms too as I usual slept with just the top. 

Donnie came up, bumping along the sides of the stairwell as he tried to warm himself by roughly rubbing a towel on his head.

“Stand still. You can’t dry your feet while you’re walking, you know.” I said to keep him from falling back down the stairs.

“I know. Jus’ fix us a good drink, m’son, and we’ll be fine.”

He slumped into the living room and sat heavily in an arm chair.

Scott came up. He had taken a bit more time getting dried off and was pushing a comb through his matted hair. My long-johns weren’t as long or baggy on him as they were on me.

“I feel a little strangulated in these.” He adjusted his balls.

He sat in the other armchair and dropped the towel on his lap.

I brought out a bottle of whisky with three glasses. “Have a quick one.”

“Don’t mind if I do.”

Scott twisted the top off and drank a huge gulp from the bottle. He shuddered a little as it went down. “That’s almost worth getting here. Takes the chill off.”

Donnie did the same before he handed the bottle back to me. He slumped back in his chair, took a few ragged breaths and passed out.

“Some guys can’t take the snow,” Scott laughed.

We sat in silence for a few minutes, Donnie’s snores the only sound in the room. The warmth of the house made me feel sleepy too. After the cold, the longing for sleep was hard to resist.

“So what’s your secret?” Scott threw his damp towel at me.

“Secret? What d’you mean?” There was only one secret and I had made damn sure no one suspected.

“You never seem to get caught up like I do with some bitch.”

“ ’Cause I don’t think of ’em as bitches.”

“Don’t hand me that.”

“You have better luck than I do.”

“Luck! When Suze and I broke up, I wanted to kill myself. Fuck, we’d been together for two years. I even bought the rings. And how long has it been? Three years, now? And I’m still not over her. You know? Yet when you and Cindy broke up after four, it was if she was never there. Know what I mean? She really dug you. Still does.”

I shook my head to clear it. Scott was talking and I drifted out of consciousness.

“Sorry, I must have dropped off a bit there.”

How long had I been out? The room was dim. Scott was talking, but I couldn’t make out what he said. I focused on him in hopes that would keep the room from spinning. His head and face were sort of twisting too.

“What were we talking about?’ I asked.

“Why you and Cindy split.”

“Oh, she wanted kids. I told you guys all this before anyway, didn’t I? I’m not ready to settle down. You . . . ” I reached for my drink. The coffee table was suddenly closer than I expected. The drink darted away from my hand.

“You sure that was why?”

“You mean that other guy? Of course that too.”

“Or was this is what you really wanted?”

He had something in his lap. At first I thought it was his drink. He stood up. Through the haze I realized it was his cock. The foreskin was so tight, the head of it seemed to be bursting through and being choked at the same time.

I fell back into my chair. It was what I wanted, but not from him. I didn’t know what to say. The truth was as always out of the question.

“Fuck no!” I pushed myself up, shoved him away and went to the bathroom. I had to hold myself up along the walls to keep from falling.

I recalled a guy, Greg, at university, and how I had to be this drunk before letting him know I was interested. I knew it was safe because Greg made the first move. We were both pissed but after that first drunken fumble, we were able to meet sober as well. But we had to be careful. Rumour had it that known homos could be denied their teaching license.

Greg was safe because I knew once I left there I probably wouldn’t have to see him again. He was going to teach in Africa or was it China. It was easier to be honest with someone under those circumstances. But that was nearly three years ago and I hadn’t had a man since then. I’d even started seeing Cindy that last year to convince myself that I really wasn’t that way after all. She was the cure for what was just a phase. Only it wasn’t a phase and I was merely pickled not cured.

“You’re pickled not cured.” I sang as I pissed. “Pickled not cured.”

I flushed the toilet and went to my room. The house felt empty as I sat on the edge of my bed. Empty again. What was so right once now seemed miles away and so wrong. To let people know I was queer would change everything. This comfortable life would cease to exist. It wouldn’t matter if I was pickled or cured. I never did hear from Greg after he went to China.

I felt a draft. The guys would be cold in the living room. Even with the heat turned up, that wind always found some way into the house. I got a couple of spare blankets and went back to the living room. Scott was gone. Donnie was still slumped in the armchair.

“Scott?” I looked in the bathroom. “Scott? You dumb fuck you passed out somewhere?”

When I got to the kitchen, the back door was open. I pushed it shut agains the wind.

“You down here?” I went into the basement and his clothes where gone. He had left.

I tossed a blanket over Donnie. Back in my bed I finished off the whiskey. I knew exactly where to put the bottle in the dark so I wouldn’t knock it over in the night.

I woke around eleven the next morning to the smell of bacon frying. My head throbbing, I made my way to the kitchen.

“Have a seat, m’son, and dig in.” Donnie put a plate of bacon and eggs on the kitchen table. “Where’s Scott?”

“Not sure. He was . . . uh . . . here when I went to bed to pass out.” I didn’t know what to tell Donnie. I pick dup a piece of the bacon with my fingers and tried to eat it. “Maybe he went to pull your car out.”

“Fuck. I forgot all about that! I should be there helping them. My coat in the basement?”

“He’d’ve called if he needed your help.” I chewed another piece of the bacon and swallowed it. “Perfect for a hangover.”

It was the end of February and I hadn’t heard from Donnie about a good drink for a couple of months. That wasn’t unusual for us, but I had that thirst myself. I missed the guys but wasn’t sure why.

I saw in the paper that Scott’s band, Pals Of Mine, was at Stoners that night for the pub’s Survived Valentine Blast. Rather than call Donnie, I decided to drop down to surprise them and see how things were.

There were bristle board hearts on the outside windows. They were drooping and the red was dripping thanks to the melting snow. Over the door was a sign that said “Lover’s Leap.” Someone had written ‘on each other’ under it.

The place was full when I arrived. I was sorry I hadn’t taken a few more belts before I left home. That always made me feel more relaxed when I went anywhere. The tinsel tree was still in the corner only now it had hearts dangling from the branches.  Donnie and Trish were at a table near the front with another pretty girl. I walked over.

“How’s it going?” I asked.

“Good, Dave. How’s by you?” Trish turned and smiled at me. “We haven’t heard much of you of late.” She nodded to the empty spot at the table. “I was asking Donnie if you’d show up to join us for a good drink. You can make up for the ones I can’t have.” She patted her stomach. “Any day now.”

“Work, you know.”

“Yeah, right.” Donnie scowled at me and glanced up at Scott on stage. Scott scowled back.

“Let’s go over to the bar. I’ll buy you a double.” Donnie got up from the table. “Excuse us, ladies.”

Donnie walked me past the bar to the front door and stopped there. 

“Look, Dave, why don’t you do yourself a favour just fuck right off. I know what you tried with Scott. Fuck only knows what you did to me in my sleep. We don’t want no fairies hanging ’round with us. You get that?” He poked me in the chest with a finger. “That kind of shit makes me sick.”

My face burned. I didn’t know what to say or how to say it. “What the fuck are you going on about?”

“Something happened between you and Scott. That much he’s sure of.”

“I don’t know what he thinks happened. Fuck, I don’t think there was anything.”

I didn’t know how to make my story convincing. Scott’s cock had become the tip of an iceberg, the iceberg being all the things in my life that I was trying to avoid and hoped would disappear somehow or stay beneath the surface forever. I didn’t know which way to turn without sinking myself.

“Maybe I should talk to him.” I glanced to the table at Scott’s back. He had his arm around the other girl and was nuzzling her neck.

“He’ll kill you. It took me all I could do to keep him from torching your place. Just get the fuck out of here and this’ll go no further. Got it?”

There was enough truth to what he said that I didn’t know how to let him know what wasn’t true. And now I wasn’t sure myself. Maybe something more had happened with Scott. I could remember his hand on his cock and him asking me if that’s what I wanted. I was sure I didn’t do anything.

But maybe I had.

  What were my choices? To brave it out? My thirst had left me. There weren’t enough drinks in the bar. There was nothing to tell Donnie that would fix anything. Cindy was right. Who needed those assholes? If that’s what he wanted to believe, then he could go right ahead and believe it.

“I thought we were friends.” I said as he walked away.

I stood in Stoners doorway. It wasn’t as if this was the only place in town where I could have a good drink. I could feel the cool night air behind me, as I watched Jen bring a tray of draft over to their table. Scott’s laugh echoed over the din of the bar.

I glanced at the other tables. Similar groups of couples or solitary guys sat. Arms pulled hordes of glistening glasses towards them, doses of fortifying alcohol that would allow them to float from one moment to the next. That’s what I had been doing, wasn’t it? An iceberg floating from one moment to the next, hoping the surface would remain calm enough for easy drifting.

I walked over to the bar. Hec brought me a double without being asked. Donnie and Scott glared over at me but didn’t move.

“What’s with those two?” Hec asked.

“Pour me another and I’ll tell you.”

Tonight I would drink myself to the truth.

-the end-

Winter Whisky – Part One: https://wp.me/p1RtxU-39y

Winter Whisky – Part Two: https://wp.me/p1RtxU-3fR

Winter Whisky – Part Three: https://wp.me/p1RtxU-3gz

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Winter Whisky – Part Three


Winter Whisky – Part Three

“Earth to Dave.” Donnie shook my arm. “You were out there with Santa.”

“I was thinking about Cindy.” I leaned back in my chair. “Hard not to this time of year.”

“I know what you mean Dave. I didn’t know how I could live without Suze, you know? I never met a girl like her before, you know? I was such an idiot for letting her get away. Fuck. I should have set fire to that guy’s place.”

We’d heard Scott’s Suze moan so many times now, Donnie would recite it word for word. Soon he’d pull that photo of the two of them on some beach in Mexico. Susan, the one that got away before any of us met her.

“Didn’t you say she met him when she moved to Alberta after she left band you started in Toronto?” I reminded him.

“Says who?” Scott’s scowl was comic. He reached for his glass and missed it.

I envied him. When he came back after his attempt to make it big we saw he was more than disappointed. He was broken. All Donnie and I could that first year was make sure the booze that numbed his pain didn’t drown him.

Through that I envied him. I wanted to know what it was like to love someone so much the pain of losing them could hurt years later. He’d met other women since then, but none of them made him love Susan less. What hold did she have over him?

“She was well rid of me anyway. She was right, you know. I’m just a drunken guitar player who’ll never get further than playing at the next bar for tips. She was well rid of me. Fuck.”

He downed his glass and signalled for another.

Jen came over. “Sorry boys. Time to close up. I wanna get out of here without a snowplow.”

“Yeah, yeah.” Donnie nodded. “Time we got out of here any ways. There’s more where this came from at my place any who.”

“Yeah, sure.” Scott fumbled to put his jacket on. 

But we sat at the table, immobile in the dusty yellow light of the bar. The other tables were empty. Hector turned off the swag of Christmas lights that dropped in loose loops over the dusty mirror behind the bar. The dim house lights got a little brighter.

“Time to haul ass, guys,” Hector shouted. “You’ll aha etc follow the snow plow home. If he’s going your way, that is.”

Hector was a large, heavy man no one sober would want to tangle with. His sturdy arms and shoulders needing a good massage was the one fantasy I had about any of these guys. “So get the fuck out of here so I can get home to my dog.”

“I’m gonna leave the guitar here. Bad enough we have to go out on a night like this.” Scott shut the lock on his batter guitar case. 

“Put it under the tree.” Hector said. “It’ll be as safe there as anywhere.”

“Thanks, Hec. You putting out beer and a pickled egg for the bearded one.” I said as we headed the door.

“Sure enough guys.” He said then locked the door once we were out. 

Outside the the night air was bracing. The snow had stopped. The sky was empty of all but a wisp of black cloud against its own black.

It took ten minutes to clear the snow off the roof of Donnie’s car. While it was warming up one of us suggested food. 

“Polly Cracker’s Chicken.” The three of us shouted at the same time.

The smell of the fried chicken filled the car. It made my mouth water.

“Has any of you every had Polly’s without a few good drinks first?” Donnie reached behind to me in the back seat and pulled a potato wedge out of the bag.

“Can’t say I have.” I pushed a wedge into my mouth. It tasted of salt and pepper but not of potato. 

“So where to now?” Scott asked biting into one of the wedges. “Man these need more than salt and pepper. I hope one of you put some hot sauce in here. He wiped his hand on the front of his parka. “I said, where to now?”

I knew he meant let’s go to my place. Both had parents to deal with who wouldn’t put up with our late night carrying on.

“Okay, okay. Let’s go to my house.” I rolled the top of the bag closed to keep them from eating it all before we got out of Polly’s parking lot.

Donnie started the car and carefully headed into the street. Luckily, there was no traffic. There were tracks from the snowplow that had recently been through. The streets were slippery from the snow, and Donnie was hunched over the steering wheel, squinting hard as he drove.

“I should cover one eye. I’m seeing double.”

“Come on, asshole. We want to get there while the chicken’s hot.”

We drove in silence for about ten minutes. It started to snow again.

“Hey! You missed the turn.”

Scott nudged Donnie’s arm. The car skidded to the gutter.

“Careful!” I clutched the bag with our chicken in it.

He pulled the car back on the road and turned down the next street. The steering wheel spun in his hands and the car continued to spin. It turned two or three circles and stopped.

“Look what you made me do, fuck-head.”

Donnie gunned the motor and tried to back up, but the car wouldn’t move. The wheels spun on the ice.

“Don’t baby it, for Chrissakes.” Scott leaned over and jabbed his foot onto the gas. The car jolted forward, and we were over the curb and into the trees.

“Where those fuckin’ trees come from?”

Donnie tried to turn the steering wheel, but we were on our way down the side of a hill. Branches smacked the windshield until the car bumped to a halt with a loud, tree-snapping crunch.

Donnie turned to Scott and pushed him in the face. “You dumb fuck.”

I opened my door. There was about three feet between me and the ground. I could smell gas.

“Let’s get out of here before she blows.”

“Blows up?” Scott sniggered. “You’ve seen too many movies.”

He opened his door and stepped out.

“Holy fuck!”

He dropped to the ground.

I let myself down cautiously.

“You okay, Scott?”

I made my way over to him.

Two fir trees were wedged under the front of the car, the front wheels spinning in midair, the back resting on the ground. Donnie had to crawl out of Scott’s door as the driver’s side was jammed shut by another tree.

“You got the chicken, I hope.”

“The hell with the chicken, Donnie. How are we going to get out of here?”

The car’s headlights didn’t give much illumination through the trees.

“Back up the way we came.”

“Get the fuckin’ chicken anyway, fer Chrissakes. At least we won’t starve.”

I boosted Donnie back into the car. He turned off the motor and handed the chicken down to me. The front wheels stopped spinning.

The way up had been cleared by the car’s descent. Clambering over bent and broken trunks, we were soon back on the street.

“Where the fuck are we?”

“Franklin Road!” I guessed. It was one of the areas that faced the wooded ravine.

As we slogged through the snow I could see a street light. I couldn’t figure out how we had gotten so far down Franklin without realizing we were even on Franklin.

“Fuck Donnie, you must have turned left instead of right at Kelly Road.”

Donnie was panting as he pushed through the drifts. “It’s not my fault the only place open to get food was Polly’s, the way the fuck out here.”

“Come on.”

Scott was a few feet ahead of us.

“If we go any slower, they’ll find our bodies in the spring.”

We got to the streetlight and stood leaning against the pole as the snow swirled around us.

“Can’t be much farther,” Donnie mumbled.

“Here.” I pulled the mickey of bourbon out of my inside pocket. “Seems like the right time for a good drink.”

The whiskey was ice-cold. I couldn’t gulp more than a mouthful before I passed it on. After Donnie and Scott, it came back to me half empty.

“Sure hits the spot. Maybe we should have a little something to eat with it.” Scott opened the bag of chicken and we each pulled out a piece. What was left of the greasy warmth was a welcome relief.

We lurched back into the storm. After a few steps the snow stopped. The wind died down. It was as if we had drunk ourselves into calm.

“Scott, isn’t that Saint Aggie’s hospital?”

A large building with random lights glowing in many of the windows faced us.

“Yeah, Donnie. What if it is?”

“If it is, we’re going in the wrong direction. My place is north of here, not south. I think we’re heading south.”

“No we aren’t. You are drunker than a skunk, Donnie my friend.”

“Where are we going then, Scott?”

“To Dave’s, right? We’re going to his place. Remember?”

“Shit! I thought we were going to my place. That’s why I took that turn back there.”

“Like fuck. That’s not even the right way to get to your place. Last time we’ll let you drive.”

We were on the bridge over the creek that ran behind the hospital. 

Scott stopped and leaned on the railing. “Let’s serenade them.”

“Who?”

“The dying fucks in there. Oh dying tonight.” He sang out to the tune of Silent Night.

“Quit it.” Donnie began to laugh.

“Oh you’re going to die tonight,” I joined in. 

Our thin voices echoed in the cold night air.

A couple of lights came on on one of the floors. 

“Come on. Let’s get out of here.” Scott nudged me. “Don’t want to get busted for singing out of key.”

“You should talk.” Donnie laughed as we pushed back into the dark.

“Where the fuck are we going?” I asked. The mickey was nearly empty. “There’s just enough in here for one more round.”

“I thought we were going to your place?’

“So did I, but this isn’t the way to anywhere.”

The wind came up again and we huddled at the next street corner. Snow was whipping around the light poles and the stop sign.

“This way.” I turned towards my place. The wind was coming from that direction.

We finished off the mickey, had another bite of no-longer-warm chicken and headed into the wind. In the distance we could hear snow plows.

We trudged in silence for what felt like hours. Up one hill, through the park and, at last, my place was in sight. The wind died down again though the snow continued to fall. Wisps of smoke rose into the dim moonlight along the rooftops.

I kicked snow off the back porch and opened the door. I glanced behind at Scott and Donnie. They were covered with snow and ice.

“Hope the fuck you’ve got something to drink in there.”

“Don’t I always? Basement,” I slurred. “Head for the basement.”

We trundled down the basement stairs. I fumbled for the pull cord on the laundry room light that swayed back and forth as we pried off layers of snow-encrusted parkas and pants.

Donnie reached for the pile of dirty clothes and pulled on grey sweats I had been wearing yesterday.

Scott sniffed first and wasn’t willing to do the same. Neither was I. I dashed upstairs in wet socks and undies to grab some towels and tossed them down.

“Here, dry off with these. I’ll find us something to wear.”

Winter Whisky – Part One: https://wp.me/p1RtxU-39y

Winter Whisky – Part Two: https://wp.me/p1RtxU-3fR

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

Winter Whisky – Part Two

Winter Whisky – Part Two

I opened the fridge and behind some A&W take-out bags found the remains of a big bottle of Coke. Enough mix for the first few drinks.

We went back to the living room. I moved a pile of clothes off the saggy sofa to sit down. I recalled helping him drag the sofa he’d found outside someone’s house down the stairs.

“Here, I’ll put them away.” He sniffed them. “These are clean.” He flashed a big smile. “I guess I’m learning. Next comes folding. ” He disappeared into the bedroom.

“Ironing comes before folding.” I called out as I poured us each a couple of fingers of his Scotch.

“Don’t get too far ahead without me.”

He came back. He pushed some newspapers off his favorite chair and reached for his glass. “I’ll save the mix for later.”

He gulped the Scotch. “Nothing like that first bite. Right?”

I wasn’t up for raw yet. It took me a few mixed drinks before I was able to gulp them down the way he did.

“Now, that’s what I call a good drink.” He turned his head and wiped his mouth on the upper sleeve of his tee shirt.

He poured himself another and downed it. “Been keeping okay?”

He leaned back in the armchair.

“No complaints.” I finished my first drink. The flat pop didn’t quite mix with the Scotch. So I didn’t use as much with the next one. I drank it down as fast as Donnie had. It hit the spot.

“So how long has Trish really been gone?”

“About a month. She’s here nearly every other day though, so it’s not like she’s really gone. If she weren’t preggers, I’d tell her just to piss off, you know? But that’s just not in me. She’s a nice one. My Mom tells me not to lose this one.”

“You mean she puts up with your b.s.?”

“Something like that.”

He gave a short harsh laugh.

“Plus, she loves me. At least, she tells me she does. Nice ass, too. Yeah.” Donnie pushed himself up out of his arm chair. “Com’on see what I’m working on.”

We went through the kitchen to the unfinished part of the basement. This was his workshop. I had to stoop a little so I didn’t hit the door sill top that he had no trouble getting through. The workshop was as neat as a pin. This was his domain. His living room would always look like a storm had hit it but his workshop would be in apple pie order. 

It wasn’t often he’d ask me in to see what he might be working on. Often it was some cabinet or a gun rack. His wood work business had taken a few years to get established but he was doing okay, even after the recent housing project closed down. People always needed kitchen cabinets.

The trouble was I never quite got whatever it was he showed off to me. Joints – dados all that stuff. I couldn’t tell a piece of pine from a piece of walnut. 

This time it was a crib.

“Looks great.” I tried to sound enthused.

“Yeah. I found this here old crafts book and sort of copied it from there. Turn of the century. See.” he touched it and it rocked back and forth gently in its frame.

“Very sweet.”

He grinned. It was only when he smiled this wide that I caught a glimpse of his two broken side teeth. In the clear light his redness seemed almost unnatural. Red hair. Red freckled face. A big kid bursting with pride.

“Being a dad may suit you after all.”

“I hope the fuck so. It’s not like we’re getting a dog or something. But as long as there’s a good drink nearby, I guess it won’t be so bad. I’m going to do some carving along on the backboard here. You think deer or rabbits?”

“No legs on a rabbit to deal with.” I laughed a little. 

“I suppose Bambi is good for boys or girls.”

We went back to the living room. I turned the TV while Donnie went to take a shower. I watched the screen without the sound on. My eyes drifted out of focus so all I saw were undefined blobs moving back and forth on the screen. 

“Okay, m’boy I’m as clean as I need to be.” Donnie plopped heavily on the couch beside me. “But I needs one more to mellow me out enough to drive.” He grabbed the bottle of Scotch and gulped down the last of it.

………..

Stoners was near empty when we arrived. Not a good sign for a Saturday night.

“Sheesh. What’s up?” I asked. “Nobody like your Christmas decorations? Maybe it’s time to invest in a new tree.” 

Lazy loops of tinsel garland had been strong along the lights along the back of the bar. The tree leaned in a corner, one of the legs on the base having been bent out of place in a fight two years ago. According to Hector, the bartender, replacing the silver aluminum tree wasn’t possible as they had been discontinued as fire hazards.

“Looks like the snow’s kept most folk in t’night.” Hector poured doubles for each of us without being asked. “Even Scott’s band couldn’t make it.”

We took our usual table near the stage. I always made sure I sat where I couldn’t catch my reflection in any of the mirrors around the room. Even in the dim lights I didn’t like to watch myself when I was drinking. I waved to Scott.

“The driving didn’t seem that bad, did it Donnie?”

“Hard to tell with all that friggin’ snow.”

We laughed.

Scott was alone on the stage. “The rest of the band get caught in the snow up in Meat Cove?” I called up to him. The rest of the band would have been a bass player and a drummer.

“I’m going to close with one of my favourites.” Scott tuned his guitar. 

“Close? What time is it?” I looked at my watch. It was nearly midnight. It had been around nine when I went to Donnie’s. Where had the time gone? We left there around eleven. It was usually a twenty-minute drive from Donnie’s to the bar.

“It’s for someone I loved once. And well . . . still do.” He sang Leonard Cohen’s Suzanne.

The love of his life was a Susan none of us ever got to meet. Depending on his mood, the song would stick to the original lyrics, or if he was a little down in the dumps he’d add verses. Tonight was one of those morose nights as he sang, “Suzanne puts you down, deeper than t…he river, even when you give her all the tea in China.”

“Ooh,” I thought, or at least I thought I thought it, but I must have groaned out loud because Donnie gave me a hard nudge. “Not so loud, eh?”

Jen put a pitcher of draft on the table with three glasses. Again we didn’t have to order. I liked that. What we wanted was ready for us. “Ta, Jen. Busy later?” I asked.

“Who wants to know?” she laughed. “I’ll let you know when I counted up m’tips.”

Every guy who drank there hit on her at some time or the other. Some of them never figured out that her easy going way was primarily for the tips. If a guy didn’t behave she’d just nod to Hector and he’d come over to put him in his place. 

Jan wasn’t a bad looking gal so it was easy to flirt with her because she knew it was just flirting. It allowed me to pass for one of the typical drunken bozos who’d hit on anything in a skirt.

The song went on. ‘Just as you start to kiss her, she tells you she has no love to give you.’

The only light seemed to be the overheads on the stage. I peered around and couldn’t make out much in the gloom around me. Even Scott’s voice slipped into the darkness. Scattered applause around me pulled me back to the room.

Scott put his guitar into its tattered case and sat at the table, poured himself a draft. “So how are things in the chalk mines?”

“Dusty.” The chalk mines referred to the school where I taught drafting to teens who often couldn’t draw straight line with a ruler.

Even though I showed promise in university the competitive drive in my dream field of architecture was more than I wanted, so I settled for something more practical. Teaching. I pushed the pitcher of beer over to him. “How’s things in the grease pits?”

“The pits. Haha. Same old, same old.” Scott downed a double with a quick beer chaser. “Now that’s a good drink.”

Scott worked at Turcott’s Auto, the service station his dad owned, which he would own one day. There was always that smell of oil about him. At six foot something, he was taller than either Donnie or myself. His brownish and sparse facial hair made him seem to scowl. But if scraggly was good enough for Bob Dylan then it was okay for him. I found it hard enough to listen to Dylan let alone look at him.

“Must be nice to have weeks off at Christmas.” He signalled for another pitcher of draft. 

“Would be if I didn’t have papers to worry about. Just because I’m not at the school teaching, doesn’t mean I’m doing nothing. Even during the summer there’s something.” 

“Yeah, yeah, yeah.”

“Besides, you mechanics make more than we teachers do. Even Donnie makes more than I do.”

“You hinting that I get the next round?” Donnie patted his pockets for his wallet. “Looks like I left my wallet at home.”

“Again.”

I couldn’t resist. Donnie leaving something behind was business as usual. Many’s a time we had to come back to Stoners to get his jacket or hat, once his shoes.

“Smart ass,” Donnie snorted.

“John McAuley’s one of the teachers at your school?”

“Yeah.”

“Well,” Scott’s voiced dropped, “he’s a fucking useless cock-sucker. A gear-box. He was in the garage the other day pawing at Mark, the kid my Dad hired last summer. Seems he was McAuley’s favorite. All over him he was. Made me sick. Isn’t it against the law for queers to teach? If it isn’t, it should be.”

“All over him?” Donnie asked. 

“Practically!” Scott made a limp wrist and lisped. ‘Ooo Mark your jeans are so oily.’ He went back to his usual self . “You could tell he wanted to slip on that oil and into the kid’s jeans. So I told Mark to get to friggin’ work and asked McAuley what he was lookin’ for?”

“Which was?” I poured draft into each of our glasses.

“Not the oil change he was hoping for.” Scott laughed. “He was gettin’ his winter tires.”

“Just in time too.” Donnie looked into his empty glass. 

John taught two grades ahead of me. I had heard whispers at school about him, and so I kept my distance. Mark had been in my class as well. He was repeating a year after getting out of ‘junior detention.’ 

Keeping that distance was a part of my life. Everyone had some secret and this was mine. I was safe as long as I saw to it that no one suspected. Letting go of Cindy was part of that, too. It allowed me to pretend I still had feelings that kept me from pursuing other women.

Cindy was a fun woman to be seen with. Pretty and always all over me in public. But in private there was really nothing. I had learned how to satisfy her sexually, but all the touching and rubbing never did much for me. Sometimes I couldn’t even get hard with her. Had to think of some man I had seen in the street or the drummer from Scott’s band. When she wanted that final commitment, marriage, I had to get out of it. Told her it might be wise if we saw other people for a while.

Winter Whisky – Part One https://wp.me/p1RtxU-39y

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The Unreliable Narrator

Ursula K. Le Guin: “What the majority of our critics and teachers call ‘literature’ is still modernist realism. All other forms of fiction – westerns mysteries science fiction fantasy romance historical regional you name it – is dismissed as ‘genre.’” The Wave Of The Mind

By dismissed I sense she means: regarded as inferior and less authentic as personal expression. On Spec has gone though difficulties regarding grants because the quality of their genre fiction has been deemed not up to literary snuff.throne03

de(iced)throne(d)

I’ve recently read three excellent collections of short stories: Casserole Diplomacy: On Spec’s 25th Anniversary Retrospective collection; World Enough and Crime a collection from Carrick Publishing; and Peter Unwin’s collection ‘Life Without Death’ (When We Were Old). I am an On Spec subscriber, I know many of the authors included in ‘Enough,’ Peter and I are friends.

Each collection is quite different and yet very much the same. The stories are all well-crafted, some with sudden bursts of violence, unexpected endings, poetic insights into personal realizations and the also the human condition. Many have a bracing humor.

throne02

the cold seat

Peter’s stories have a consistent tone, a direct look at men and women under the stresses of family, romance and their own needs. Insightful, sometimes playful & often surprising. Ending rush up when you least expect them and a few times rewrite everything you’ve read – which is a technique used at times in the other two books of short stories.

On Spec’s stories go from hard core sci-fi, space opera, sword & spell, folk lore and real poetry. The same holds true for the Crime Enough collection – some of which would be at home at On Spec – locked-door mystery, cozy, police procedural, smart old ladies and even some real poetry.

throne01

double tanked

LeGuin’s comment always comes to mind when read ‘genre’ fiction because when I tell others I enjoy reading outside the notion of modern realism it’s as if I’m not reading literature that counts. Frankly I’ve had it up to ‘here’ with searing, tender novels about childhood abuse, drug abuse, dying parents and losing a lover. I can get that modern realism people around me.

Three collections of authentic-voice, fiction that all play with the same literary notions: narrators who are unaware as the reader is aware, unreliable, sardonic, and sometimes as unprepared for the revelations as we the readers are. All highly recommended.

On Spec   Peter Unwin   World Enough

soon

January 3 – attending – HOT DAMN! It’s a Queer Slam featuring Johnny Trinh

Hot Damn

https://www.facebook.com/events/1521088544810933/

January 18 – hosting – Out of the Fire – a fundraiser for Kyle Andrews

k&D2

https://www.facebook.com/events/575346262566333/

sample

The Unreliable Narrator

yes I was there when it happened

but I wasn’t looking

yes my eyes where opened

no I wasn’t asleep

I wasn’t focused on my cell phone

I just wasn’t looking

you know what I mean

I guess I was thinking about something else

no I can’t remember what

yes I know this is important

and I wish I could help you

wasn’t there anyone there

I can’t remember

I didn’t notice who else was there

I had things on my mind;

no I don’t know what things

I was lost in my thoughts

I sensed something going on

but I couldn’t be bothered

focusing on it

I knew someone else would hear

would do something

so I wouldn’t have to

but I guess no one did

least ways not till

you showed up

so someone must have called

it wasn’t me

I was busy doing nothing

that’s an art you know

to be able to do nothing

to just tune out the world

so completely

to be present in it

but unaware of it

of what is going on around you

it doesn’t happen often for me either

but for a few moments I reach that sacred point

that transcendence of self

of the moment

and now you tell me this happened

in my moment

and I have to believe you

I see the evidence in front of me now

as I look around

yes I was there and not there

so I can’t help you

throne

gutter bowl

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Day One of Bloody Words 2014

Bloody Words is off to a an excellent start – thanks to no construction on the streets driving here – normal traffic was bad enough. Room check in was simple enough, room on 10th floor with a view of the CN Tower. At this price though I think $2 for a bottle of water is ridiculous.

regis registration looming

Did my stint on the registration desk – giving out loot bags & meeting people. http://mesdamesofmayhem.com in full force. Hard to judge the turn out but didn’t feel as busy as it has in past years. Maybe subway closure on the weekend has put people off.

bags bags full of books

Lots of panels to chose from on opening night. I opted for ‘Are Short Stories the New Black?’ at 8. Several familiar faces from Loyalist in the audience & on the panel made it a dry run for the workshop there at the end of the June. The consensus is that thanks to ePub short story has become very popular – easier to read one on your phone than Gone With The Wind. The growing genre is paranormal erotica. Time to finish my story about the guy with the haunted dick who meets the guy with the haunted ass.

programs so many panels so little coffee

I followed that at 9 with ‘Indie Publishing: We’re Here to Stay.’ This time no familiar faces on the panel. For some the Why Indie was more a time factor – not wanting to waste time getting agent, publisher etc. self-pub means a book can be finished & on the market within a year, not within a decade as it seems with traditional publishing. With even Traditional publishers expecting authors to do the bulk of self-promotion why not jump in & do it all yourself.

Technical considerations were talked about briefly – formatting, dealing with smashwords & Amazon. Making sure one had a ‘clean’ piece of work was stressed. By ‘clean’ they meant properly edited, no typos on every other page, consistent formatting for all versions too. If Amazon gets too many ‘quality’ control complaints that work gets pulled.

A great day one.

cn looming view from my room

The Rajapaksa Stories

I heard Koom Kankesan read a section of the story Celluloid Visions recently at Racket at the Rocket. After reading my review of his reading Koom asked me if I wanted to do review of the book itself & then sent me pdf copy of it.

blue grid
blue grid

Let me first say my politics consists of one-liners as opposed to thoughtful opinions. Thank to media politics is mostly another well edited reality show – the world’s next top leader or worse ass-hole – which could be won by the same person depending on the spin.

Koom’s book is a cynical, no holds barred, set of stories about the Rajapaksa family junta that rules Sir Lanka – beyond that it is about the racial battle between the Tamils and the Singhalese – the sort of tribal warfare that has driven many cultures.

black horizontals
black horizontals

I loved the relentlessness of Koom’s ironic tone and vision of this family. One is dismayed, appalled but sometime sympathetic toward them and their foibles – from their fascination with American hop-hop gangstas to bathing in the blood of virgins.

At points laugh-out-loud funny and sometimes unexpectedly poetic, the stories held me with their easy and clear sense of place, character, and motivations. I particularly enjoy the subtext of the search for identity though popular America movies. I loved the male Singhalese Rajapaksa pretending, on a dating site, to be a female Tamil fashion model – these layers of sexual, tribal confusion are deliciously drawn and the results hilarious.

green spiral
green spiral

Of course Rajapaksa ends up in Toronto meeting with our own bombastic autocratic Rob Ford in the final story that goes out with sweet intergalactic swirl of Moonraker, the Scottish play & reincarnation (of a sorts). The Rajapaksa Stories are highly recommended. http://koomkankesan.webs.com http://www.amazon.ca/The-Rajapaksa-Stories-Koom-Kankesan/dp/1897275757

samples

Cow

My brother wanted to get out of the car. He’d never seen a cow before. Neither had I but I had no interest in seeing a cow. We were on one of my Dad’s Sunday adventure drives. He’d hop in the car with us kids – me, the oldest, my brother then our two little sister. Then drive without a goal.

There were some places we’d see at least once a month. Places our Dad knew we’d like. But at least once a month we’d have no idea where he was taking us. This time he’d suddenly turned off the highway – nice smooth and paved and onto a dirt road. Gravel pecking at the underside of the car.

Empty fields then forest clumps more empty fields. Up hills then down. A puddle from recent rain at the bottom of this last one where we made the biggest splash I’d ever seen.

My sisters screamed with glee and fear as my brother shouted “We’re going down down down. We’re going to drown drown drown.”

We didn’t drown but the bottom of the car scraped something with an ugly grind. At the level end of this lane Dad got out to look underneath.

“Looks fine. Nothing leaking.”

That’s when the cows came over. Only four of them. Not in a hurry but slowly they came over to the fence as our Dad got back in the car. He started off again and the cows seemed to follow us along the fence as my Dad drove slowly. My bother wanted to stop.

So we stopped. Me and my brother got out and stepped over to the cows. Their gigantic headed drooling as they nodded to us. The smell of cow shit was over powering. “They stink.” my brother laughed. “They smell worse than you girls.”

My sisters got out of the car. Eyes bigger than cow eyes. Each of them had half an apple that our mother had cut for a snack later.

One held it up to the nearest cow. Big pink tongue licked out for the slice and both my sisters screamed and ran back to the car.

We boys got back in.

“What did you think was going to happen.” I asked. “They don’t have hands to take food from you.”

My sister was wiping her hand on a towel. Smelling it and wiping it some more.

“Now you know where milk comes from.” My Dad said, as we eased back on the road.

“Milk?” My sister turned pale. She was never fond of milk after that.

a growing up green
a growing up green

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Lazy

When I set out to upload my novel, City of Valleys, I didn’t realize it would take 70 excerpts and seven months to do the job. It certainly filled up my blogs pages and the number of ‘actual’ hits I got has steadily increased, even some new followers, and subscribers. Some get email copy of each post which only count as hits if they click through the blog (as opposed to just reading the email).

FanExpo2012
FanExpo2012

The next step will be a proof-read edit. Then I’ll contract it out for the final preparation for smashwords. I’ve read the style guide and could probably do it myself but I’m lazy. If it were as simple as uploading my present Pages version I’d do it, but it has to be formatting in some non-Mac program with all the Mac coding stripped out – too much work for me

Special Delivery
Special Delivery

Plan is to get it ready for October. I’ll have to delete all the excerpt first though because Amazon price point always equals the cheapest on line – so if I have it free here they’ll automatically price it free as well.

Last Friday I got out to my first writer’s group meeting – most of whom are writers I know from Loyalist. Felt good to be with such an attentive, tough bunch of fiction writers. I’ve tried to get into a couple of groups before only be told there’s waiting list in such a way that it was  clear they didn’t think I was worth their effort – ditto for some of the poetry workshops around – by invite only apparently & no one thinks I’m worth inviting. Such is life 🙂

Tim's Tanked
Tim’s Tanked

The writing sample, rough draft, is first part of the piece ‘Compound’ I submitted to the writer’s group. Part 2 Monday.

writing sample
writing sample

The Compound

The hostages were unhappy. Even I could see that but what was I to do? Overseeing captives was new to me, a promotion in fact. It had come quite unexpectedly. I’d been in the security branch of the service corps for several years. Kept my nose clean. Did my job, did what was asked without question.

I was proud of this advancement, more responsibility meant more respect, more money. The day I got notified I was Overseer, I couldn’t wait to tell my lover. He merely nodded. He never really approved of the corps, even though he found the uniform erotic. It was dark red with blue piping in the pants – blue stripes on the arms for each small advancement, then gold florets that equaled five stripes. I had five stripes but wouldn’t get my first floret till I had a sixth.

I flourished my arm with the the five stripes. Good things were bound to follow. That finally I was a son any father could be proud of.

My lover, as I said, wasn’t as pleased as I was. He said only war could follow. Did I want war, people to die, so I could get gold florets.

When we made love that night he was distant and mechanical.  I didn’t tell him he’d regret this coldness if I died in war. Guilt never leads to passion.

The hostages were sullen. Grim faced they walked the perimeter of the exercise field, scowling up at the cameras as they passed them.

My second-in-command suggested we try talking with them again. The hostages refused speak our language and acted as if they did not to understand us. Each time I had tried to talk with them had ended up with them slouching into the dark corners. Even when our linguistics experts spoke to them in their language they acted as if they didn’t understand. There was no way to reason with them.

There were nearly two hundred captives in our compound. Each bore a random number. No names were to be used.  I had a troop of twenty-four under my command plus my second-in-command. All good men and women. None of whom could communicate with the hostages. We had tried everything – mime, writing in the ground, pictographs, hieroglyphics.

Each attempt made the hostages more fearful. Blame was clear in their eyes, as if it was our fault for not trying hard enough. As if communicating with them was our job but it wasn’t nor was it our job to make them happy or comfortable.

We merely had to keep them alive till their nation met our demands.

My lover snickered at my frustrations. The fact that the war wasn’t my idea didn’t soften his attitude. Not that I cared, in fact, his indifference challenged me when we made love. I strove with a new found passion that left him limp and gasping when I was satisfied.

The hostages were restless. They paced their compound fast for a few laps, then slow, then they would stand huddled in groups of two or three in each of the corners. One of them in each group looking sullen at the cameras that followed their every move. We used sound sensors to pick up their conversations, to find out what, if anything they were plotting but I didn’t feel any threat. Well, I did sense a threat but knew that anything they tried to do would be an exercise in futility. But they never spoke, not even to each other. Even though my orders were to confine and protect them – to see that no harm came to them I wouldn’t hesitate to kill to one keep the others in line. Besides, after two weeks, they still hadn’t spoken.

We had had no word from Capital City for several days now. Communications lines were staticy and even when they worked would stop in mid-transmission. Our enemy had damaged our communications system with their bombs and their ultra high frequency jamming devices. Some days even the Internet wasn’t working.

I would go home after my day at the compound and look for some sympathy from my lover. He would snort and tell me that I shouldn’t act so dismayed, this is what life with captives is like. Both keepers and captives pay a price. My price was to be drained. I asked him why he was so bitter, told him it wasn’t my fault we were at war, that we had to do what was necessary to protect our fragile economy. After making sweet love he rolled away from me in the bed with barely hidden disdain because they hadn’t drained me of everything.

I lay in the bed beside him looking at the moonlight on the wall as it moved, dimmed and brought in the morning while I counted his breaths, my ears snuggled into his quiet sighs as he rolled unaware that I was wanting his touch once more. A touch that would make this war all worth while. What difference did it make to me if it didn’t make any difference to the ones I loved. The ones we were supposedly protecting yet who felt only a sense of discomfort when we tried to tell them what this war was like.

There had been no supplies from Capital City for over a week now. We were running short on water and food for the hostages. We had taken to rationing. I could tell they were unhappy. They stood in doleful clumps in view of the security cameras. Their eyes wide and glaring up at the lenses, through the lenses at us, pleading for something but unable to tell us what it was.

Perhaps they are thirsty my second-in-command suggested. I cursed at her that there was nothing I could do. We had barely enough water for the troops. I was taking water home to my lover to keep him happy too. The village’s water supply had been tainted in the last uprising and this war had come so fast on its heels we hadn’t had time to set it right. It wasn’t my fault. It had happened before we were stationed here. I explained this to my second-in-command who was no more understanding and sympathetic than my lover.

My second-in-command had children to worry about. Her babies, she told me. I knew this but chose to ignore it. I told her that she shouldn’t act so dismayed, that is what life of captives is like. Both keeper and captives pay a price. She toyed with the handle of her pistol and glared at the monitors as the hostages loomed at the security cameras.

Some of the hostages began to hover in front of the security cameras blocking our view of the compound. The operator was forced to swivel the cameras gently which caused the images to break up, smear across the monitors. We knew they were up to something.

I stationed guards along the perimeter of the chain-link fence to keep human eyes on them. The hostages would gather and stare. Hatred and frustration glinted from their dusty, dirty faces. This was the first time we had come face-to-face for several weeks. Even when food and water was delivered we merely put it in the eating room of their compound while they were in the open air yard.

The smell was so unpleasant when we did this that our sympathy for them was diminished. Who could  feel compassion for people who didn’t wash themselves. Even with limited water it was possible for them to keep clean.

Once again I attempted to communicate with them. I stood at the gate and called out a solemn hello. At first they paid little heed to me. Then two of them walked warily over to the gate.

With crusted eyes and dry voices they made noises at me. I explained slowly that there was a problem with the supply route, that even my own men were suffering from the same lack as they were. That I had to decide between water for them and and water for my men. It was unfair to all.

They looked at me blankly. They didn’t understand. Or they refused to understand. One of them spat at me and turned away. The other stepped closer with an apologetic shrug. He was unshaved. Unwashed. There was something familiar about his eyes.

He smiled weakly. Blood ringed his teeth. He fell to his knees with with a sob. One hand reaching out to me palm up for something. What could I give him when I didn’t understand what he wanted.

I had the gate opened and two of my men picked him up and brought him out. His eyes were rimmed with red.

The hostages shuffled quickly to the gate as it was locked shut again. Fear and dread in their eyes. I assured them that we wouldn’t hurt this man. But perhaps I was lying. I didn’t know. They wandered off.

…………..

structural.04
structural.04

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Grindstone Days

I want to put my nose to the grindstone but I have to decide which grindstone to start with, & which nose to put on it. The How To  workshop is less than a month away & I have yet to decide what to bring for workshopping – another section of Lazarus Kiss (my NaNo 2011 novel)? something from The Priest’s Niece – my NaNo 2012 novel. Or a short story? Which nose?

bye bye jodi
bye bye jodi

I’ve been continuing my research for Niece. The more I find out the more I wonder how historically accurate I want this book to be. Can I get away with a sort of mash up of what suits my story or should I stick to strict ‘this is how it was’ – not that I want have my 1925 coal miners using cell phones. The story is culturally true to the time era I’m working in but I don’t want readers griping that my Dragermen equipment wasn’t that developed by 1925 – unless I say it was prototype? hmm.

under water
under water

Last year at the workshop I gave a presentation on e.publishing that was based on my minimal experience, podcasts & the Bloody Words panel. This year I’m going to do a presentation on something I’m more equipped to talk about: how to give a reading.  The participants are all fiction writers – several published so I’m not going to pull my punches.

broken record
broken record

Even more than poets novelist feel compelled to set-up a section endlessly. My theory is if it takes ten minutes of set up you’ve picked the wrong passage. Avoid scenes with more than three characters – it just confuses the listeners. Maybe we don’t need very word of the detailed description of period shoes, stockings and accessories. Yeah, this going to be fun (for me).

01.Nano-Winner-Certificate1.2