The Daily Rapture — Wrap Party

By Pastor T, with @metgohnaJake

A serialized peek at Pastor T’s mailbag as he answers questions about the rapture.

I Thessalonians 4 17 Then we who are alive, who are left, will be suddenly caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will always be with the Lord.

Editing and curation by @metgohnaJake in a hovel, near a place of strong drink and non-domestic tobacco, far from salvation, somewhere in Macedonia. @metgohnaJake is a former marketer and tends to see the world in a cynical way, where every act is specious performance and all players have ulterior motives and all motives are self-serving. He learned this while making rich people richer, so we can’t really blame him, despise him though we might for his complicity in Pastor T’s snakey-eyed activities.

In each episode, Pastor T will address reader questions about the rapture. Pastor T has, he informs us, had the good fortune to ascend into heaven on a day pass and discuss the matter with the powers that be and so is qualified, ordained you might say, to speak on the matter. 

pt hat

Pastor T is just as qualified to speak on the rapture as any other person on Earth. No one can say differently, and make it stick.—Pastor T

Here’s the CONCLUSION to the short-lived but lively as a rodeo-clown-with-diarrhea three-part series, “The Daily Rapture”.

Q: WHY not-so-anonymous ghostwriter Toews, why did you take the time to grind out this spotte-fest? Why bother? Do you have a shit-disturber disorder? What skin have YOU got in this game?

A: Here’s my list, in more-or-less random order.

  1. Why was this rapture business not a big deal when I was a kid? I grew up in a God-fearing town, where Die Owlah’s vengeful nature was known and preached with some regularity—in homes and from the pulpit. Sure, there were some “end times” conversations and we all knew “Revelations” was not bedtime story material unless maybe your dad was the Marquis de Sade… But, other than that, the RAPTURE was not common fare among the religious set, within whose margins (and abodes, sometimes) I resided. I don’t know much about the growth of evangelical influence in respect of rapture preaching within Steinbach churches, but something tells me that the correlation factor would be high. For me, at age seven years (1962), when my Grandma Toews led me to Jesus’s warm embrace, I can guaran-damn-tee you I would not have gone if that rapture shiet was being tossed around like a live grenade! No way. Even back then, my trusty bullshit barometer would have been at ELEVEN on a scale of ten.
  2. The Snake Oil Factor. Why, with any caricature in the wide world to choose from, would I have created a Main Character with the persona of the Hee-Haw host? (Minus the gitar-pickin’ skills.) Why not pattern “Pastor T” after a solemn student of scripture, an academic, ecclesiastical show-jumper with a pedigree a Molotschnan mile long? Eh? Well, I just felt like the rapture is more suited to the big-lunged revival tent gang: “COME TO THE FRONT, BROTHERS AND SISTERS… COME TO THE FRONT AND REPENT… THE BUSES WILL WAIT… COME TO THE FRONT! (We take VISA!)” You know the type.
  3. The “Of Mice and Men” factor… As I alluded to in the third installment (“The Daily Rapture — Act Three”) I find it cruel and irresponsible to put a child or any person of diminished intellectual or emotional capacity in the line of rapture fire. What will the rapture message do to a person deep in the throes of depression? How will thoughts of the rapture allay despair? To hear that you yourself, or your loved ones, your more-sinful friends, or even just the wide world of random strangers (billions of people, according to a fast Google search) are going to be left behind to suffer the whole mess promised in the good book… Nah! C’mon man! If you want to circle dates on the calendar and scare the pants off of people, pick someone your own size, so to speak.                                                                                         admit one
  4. You get what you pay for. A problem I have is accepting the transactional nature of some teachings. (If it’s a transaction, where’s the faith?) Okay, in all of life on earth, actions have consequences. Mostly. You let your guard down at the water hole and, BAM! Your ass is grass. See you later, alligator. We are tempered by the harsh reality of physics, chemistry, and “The Boy Who Cried Wolf”—we’re taught that the world will kick your donkey if you’re not careful. Soooo, it follows then that our eternal address must be purchased, cash on the barrelhead, in advance, right? Like insurance or guaranteed seating at a concert? NO, I DON’T THINK IT DOES FOLLOW. I can’t swallow it…can’t believe that this much-promoted eternal entity made of pure light and love and blah-blah-blah is there at the wicket, handing out tickets like a carny huckster. I think the hucksters are the human beings who try to sell us on this tit-for-tat confidence game that the whole rapture biz is based upon.
  5. The people I love have a brain, a big heart, and a firm spine. The misguided few who put up with my pap—especially since I started this whole Toews-prose shake-rattle-and roll in 2015—are people with whom I don’t always agree. They are individual members of a broad, diverse, and eclectic collective. While they might not agree with my personal take on the RAPTURE, they probably get why I might have some issues with it and some might even agree with me, at least in part. If they do or if they don’t, I’m certain their eternal fate will not change one bit, because that is my faith. In return, I pledge my friends and relatives my ongoing, unaltered friendship, love, and respect even if I disagree with their rapturous viewpoint. Like the staunchly adversarial disciples of Ford and Chevy, Coke and Pepsi, keto and carbs, etc.—we can disagree and still have a cordial (lite) beer together. And so…
  6. It’s a free country—with one caveat. Everyone should believe as they wish, as long as no one else is harmed. Can this be a rule for religion? Can we agree to curb our fervour at the point where others are involuntarily involved?

w abbit

6.1 It’s a free country—not a magic country. I see prayer calls for people in dire straights… I get this and have no complaint—fill yer boots! This action comes out of caring and an honest desire for good; a human reaction to hardship. Empathy. Part of faith that can do no harm. (Well, except for gun violence, where prayer can supplant real, effective action, but that’s another whole case of huckleberries.) Another example: I see prayer calls for a nicer house, a pay raise, or for a certain motorcycle to pop up on the Buy & Sell and I am not impressed. That’s an easy one, right? Many people disavow this kind of shabby, picayune, bent-knee self-serve. I also see directives from influential clergy calling for their congregations to prepare for the rapture by modifying earthly activities as though the rapture was an absolute certainty with a specific date. Hmm. In light of all the prior FAILED FORECASTS, that is magical thinking of the highest order and it may well cause some harm. Harm for whom? The poor, the vulnerable, the marginalized in the flock. Not the preacher—he just pencils in a new rapture date and checks the Buy & Sell for that bike he wants to buy. What I don’t see are prayer calls to re-grow a severed arm or leg. Why not? Because, deep down, even the most devout and the most earnest and the most cynical can all appreciate the difference between faith and magic.

LAST: We are already in a period of rapture, with nature, if only we would recognize it and stop screwing it up.

“God doesn’t need to come down upon a mountain,  for the mountain itself is the revelation. We only have to look at it and we will know how we should live.”-—John Moriarty

Disclaimer: No bonnets were harmed in the making of this spotte. The use of the phrase, “The Daily…” is purely random and coincidental and bears no relation, resemblance, derivation, kinship, or wolf-fur from any other internet phenomenon, past or present. It does represent admiration and writerly puppy-love of the non-Ewww! kind.
Spotte (schput): To deride, scorn, mock, scoff…

 

The Daily Rapture — Act Three

By Pastor T, with @metgohnaJake

A serialized peek at Pastor T’s mailbag as he answers questions about the rapture.

I Thessalonians 4 17 Then we who are alive, who are left, will be suddenly caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will always be with the Lord.

Editing and curation by @metgohnaJake in a hovel, near a place of strong drink and non-domestic tobacco, far from salvation, somewhere in Macedonia. @metgohnaJake is a former marketer and tends to see the world in a cynical way, where every act is specious performance and all players have ulterior motives and all motives are self-serving. He learned this while making rich people richer, so we can’t really blame him, despise him though we might for his complicity in Pastor T’s snakey-eyed activities.

In each episode, Pastor T will address reader questions about the rapture. Pastor T has, he informs us, had the good fortune to ascend into heaven on a day pass and discuss the matter with the powers that be and so is qualified, ordained you might say, to speak on the matter. 

pt hat

Pastor T is just as qualified to speak on the rapture as any other person on Earth. No one can say differently, and make it stick.—Pastor T

Q: Pastor T, you can call me Holthacka Hank. I’m a school Principal and a church member. I love horses and pickleball. (Don’t test my backhand!) I remember being disturbed, terrified as a matter of fact, by the Easter story. We went to our neighbours for an “Easter egg hunt” that turned out to be a two-hour resurrection camp with no snacks, but plenty of visual aids. At one point, we were handed six-inch spikes, “like the ones used to nail Christ to the cross…”

That 1965 Easter story was offered as history. Not the impending future. It was violent and binary—non-Christians committed horrific acts of cruelty, Christians heroes with rock star hair, athletic builds, blue eyes, and cool sandals suffered their pain with the stoicism of John Wayne and the steely bearing of Davey Keon. But the Easter story did offer HOPE and it spoke of a future that would be better.

So, that leads—I hope—to my question: Should children be exposed to the prophecy of the rapture? Do they have the capacity to process the dire forecasts without spiralling into a frightening world of fear and depression?

Likewise, what about those with decreased mental ability? Both those who have been diagnosed and also those who, like most, suffer unknown and untreated. A person close to me used to receive communications through the doorbell and would have me disconnect it so that we could have “a private conversation…” Those with mental and emotional disorders may not have the resilience or the discernment required to manage images of end times and all of the stone age violence promised in the rapture narrative. 

What wisdom can you bring to this discussion, Pastor T?

A: They warned us about you secular humanists. How’s about I warm my feet by the bonfire of your books of iniquity? How ’bout that? And you know what else? Well, we’re just gonna shut today’s chat down—that’s what! So why don’t you all just go listen to NPR or CNN or whatever it is you do!

a storm
A stormy day in the heavens

[Dull thump, like a microphone, falling onto the stage floor…]

“@metgohnaJake! Wind this’ere clambake down. And we gonna have us a discussion about filters and pre-screening and the like. You read me, Jake?”

“Sure do, Pastor T. Say, why don’t you just mosey on down to your dressing room while I tell the folks about our specials and bonus offers!”

[Heavy footsteps recede… a door slams like a gunshot… muffled cursing. Silence.]

“Well, seems like we broke the fourth wall there. Don’t worry, a little Vitamin W (the kind distilled in Gimli… in a bottle…) and he’ll be right as rain.”

“Holthacka Hank did raise some points though. What are the consequences for children and those unequipped to manage the extremism at the core of the rapturist vision? I know even I sometimes struggle and I’m considered uncommonly stable. I’d call myself a “very stable genius,” in fact, but that monicker is protected by copyright.”

[@metgohnaJake dallies at centre stage. A tight spotlight opens on him, and he looks up.]

“Think of two children, two earnest friends, each making a list: Those who will rise up into the clouds and those left behind. And then, like Vladimir and Estragon swapping hats, they exchange lists and each finds themself excluded from the other’s roll. Then what? A life of desperate piety to make the grade? Or a life of wanton abandon, because, well, why not? Party on, dood! Either way—both ways—lives of fear, jealousy, hatred, rancour, and doubt.”

[@metgohnaJake, walking offstage, a bag of promotional goods—travel mugs, bible covers, lip balm—drags along behind him like a dragon’s tail. He stops and in a Napoleonic voice that projects to the back of the now-empty hall, pronounces, “all animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.”]

Spotte (schput): To deride, scorn, mock, scoff…

 

The Daily Rapture — Part Two

By Pastor T, with @metgohnaJake

A serialized peek at Pastor T’s mailbag as he answers questions about the rapture.

I Thessalonians 4 17 Then we who are alive, who are left, will be suddenly caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will always be with the Lord.

Editing and curation by @metgohnaJake in a hovel, near a place of strong drink and non-domestic tobacco, far from salvation, somewhere in Macedonia. @metgohnaJake is a former marketer and tends to see the world in a cynical way, where every act is specious performance and all players have ulterior motives and all motives are self-serving. He learned this while making rich people richer, so we can’t really blame him, despise him though we might for his complicity in Pastor T’s snakey-eyed activities.

In each episode, Pastor T will address reader questions about the rapture. Pastor T has, he informs us, had the good fortune to ascend into heaven on a day pass and discuss the matter with the powers that be and so is qualified, ordained you might say, to speak on the matter. 

pt hat

Pastor T is just as qualified to speak on the rapture as any other person on Earth. No one can say differently, and make it stick.—Pastor T

Q: Pastor T, I have 1,450 golf balls in my garage. Will they be assumed along with me?

A: Ernie? Ernie, is that you? Well, if it is you, Ernie… Well, les’ jus’ say I’d be worried more about the golfer and less about the balls if ya know what I mean. Catch m’ drift, so to speak? Also, the way you golf, those balls will soon enough all be sliced off into the rough. Right Ernie? Har! With the Earth spinning at 1000 MPH, there’s gonna be a lotta fellers with the shanks during the Tribulation, am I right?

Q: Good one, Pastor T. Seriously, though: Where can I get a Pastor T hat?

A: @metgohnaJake here, with some good news. This week, we have a special on all size 8-1/8 and larger. So, all you giant-meloned rapturists, rise up (see what I did there?) and GET YOUR LID ON!

pt hatpt hatpt hat

Pastor T Rapture Hats are carbon fibre-lined (for ceiling impact protection) and for just $9.95, we’ll monogram it with your personal Christian initials! See our Etsy site, The Rapturists’ Rummage Sale!

Q: Pastor T, will those Kosher hot dogs from Costco be available up in the clouds?

A: Well, I reckon if they ain’t, I may jus’ decide to play some golf down’ere with Ernie the Welcher… Just joshin’ of course. The answer is yes. We gotta eat, so pack some napkins, on accounta, them dogs is JUICY!

hot dog rapture

Q: Pastor T, will the rapture include all races? Asking for a racist neighbour, two nativists, and three Republican Senators. (Not those ones—the original ones from ancient Rome.) And a back-up question… Will the rapture be an open carry zone?

A: I’ll answer this double-barrelled question in our next installment. Be sure to tune in when we do a deep dive into WRATH! (Like Twix Bars, every rapturist’s secret delight.)

Ernie writes: Dear “Pastor” T. (If yer a Pastor, I’m on the PGA Tour.) Another thing, of a theologial nature: you can’t say, “I don’t take nothin’ worse than a five… six is an unholy number,” when we is bettin’ real money on the game. Not cool T, not cool.

.

We voted. Again. You’re OUT. Again.  You may get raptured, but you’re outta the foursome, just like you were April 24-25, 1982… Sept 11-13, 1988… Oct. 28, 1992… Jan 1, 2000… April 17, 2008. But, April 23, 2020, is absolutely the date—for sure!”

.

Harold C. says, “Hey!”

 

Spotte (schput): To deride, scorn, mock, scoff…

 

The Daily Rapture

By Pastor T, with @metgohnaJake

A serialized peek at Pastor T’s mailbag as he answers questions about the rapture.

I Thessalonians 4 17 Then we who are alive, who are left, will be suddenly caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will always be with the Lord.

Editing and curation by @metgohnaJake in a hovel, near a place of strong drink and non-domestic tobacco, far from salvation, somewhere in Macedonia. @metgohnaJake is a former marketer and tends to see the world in a cynical way, where every act is specious performance and all players have ulterior motives and all motives are self-serving. He learned this while making rich people richer, so we can’t really blame him, despise him though we might for his complicity in Pastor T’s snakey-eyed activities.

In each episode, Pastor T will address reader questions about the rapture. Pastor T has, he informs us, had the good fortune to ascend into heaven on a day pass and discuss the matter with the powers that be and so is qualified, ordained you might say, to speak on the matter. 

pt hat

Pastor T is just as qualified to speak on the rapture as any other person on Earth. No one can say differently, and make it stick.—Pastor T

Q: Pastor T, who exactly did you speak to on your journey to the hereafter?

A: Fellow sinner, I was able to speak to the Acting Head of Rapture Education. He was a soft-spoken gentleman with a BTh from a fine Canadian institution of higher learning. He got him pre-raptured during a mink farming accident in the Sixties.

Q: Follow up—was he a Macedonian, Pastor T?

A: No, a Funk, from S.E. Manitoba. Next question, please, @metgohnaJake…

@metgohnaJake: Incidentally, Pastor T has asked me to tell our readers about today’s COZY 60% off BLOW-OUT sale!

tea cozey
Use of tea-cozies as support undergarments, male or female, voids warranty*.

It’s a prayer tea-cozy, specially made of synthetic mink fur and available in three rapture grades of luxuriousness: Cumulus, Altocumulus, and Ultra-Luxurious Cirrocumulus! Shipping is free on orders of three or more.  Now, back to our mailbag!

Q: Will my border collie be raptured, Pastor T?

A: [dead air…dead air…dead air…] Sinner, you have to ask herself three important questions: Does your dog bark? Does your dog bite? Does your dog shed? The rapture ain’t twitter, so not every dog is welcome.

Q: Boxers or briefs, Pastor T? #swiperightsarah

A: I’m glad you asked, sinner… @metgohnaJake, perhaps you’d like to take this one?

@metgohnaJake: Sure, PT! How about a pair of our famous ASS-cendant boxers? In three sinner-sizes!

boxers
Sizes: Skinny Cow, Fat Cow, Mad Cow

Q: Will the Raptures win the NBA Championship?

A: Yes. Yes, sinner, they will.

@metgohnaJake: That’s all for today’s Daily Rapture. Tune in again soon to get the answers to important questions like:

Q: Pastor T, the Gulf War… I guess that was actually just, like, the warm-up band?

Q: Pastor T, what does the T stand for? #swiperightsarah

Q: Pastor T, Millennial Kingdom or Millennium Falcon—which is faster?

___

*May cause dizziness, hives, and anal discharge. Do not use if allergic to synthetic mink fur.

 

 

The Fighting Writing Fool

In the first round of a tough fight, only a FOOL shouts, “I yam fuh-reaking’ lovin’ dis crap!” usually just before being knocked out by an infinitely more dangerous opponent.

Also, although I own a black toque, I ain’t Rocky and the world of fiction ain’t sides of beef. Hell, I ain’t even Italian.

Undeterred, I move forward, absorbing jabs and body shots. Relentless, bloody, concussed—I stumble on. It feels good to hit, it feels even better to be able to TAKE a hit…

Alls I’m sayin’ HEAH, is… I’ve been writing a lot lately. And, like heavyweight champ, Winslow Homer, I’ve been experimenting boldly.

The result is a small but wiry catalogue of recent work that I am actively pitching or intend to pitch to upper-tier, paying mags. Sure, some of these are gonna get knocked out before the first paragraph is read. It’s likely to be a bit of a bloodbath and “We’ve chosen not to include your story at this time,” will be spray-painted across the subway cars of my submission train more than once.

And that’s okay.  I won’t wail every time I get rejected but I will let you know when I land a punch! (I’ll grunt.)

The Mighty Hartski—A 7,400-word rommedriewe, from a snowmobile crash on a frozen field to a shared understanding, bedside in Bethesda. Still brooding over this one, ’cause I’ve been writing it for fifty years.

Tiptoe—Teenage hangovers hurt the most. Bob Dylan and Willie Nelson and a smoky donut shop on Osborne.

Grudge—Worked hard for this one, put some Beta readers through their paces too. Waiting for one more critique before I set this Victoria story free. A crime spree down by the Bay Street Bridge.

Red Lightman—You can’t spell empathy without r-e-s-p-e-c-t. 2,400-words.

“I’m burly and brawny,
not squirrely or scrawny
and if you don’t like me
that’s tough.

I shit thunder and lightning
and everything frightening
and where I come from,
that’s enough.” 

Hazel Creek—1,500 words, set in the place where I live, sharp and hard as life can be.

The Three Sisters—The type of story that gets you mad: At me, at the sad protagonist—pure as the wind, at the sister who won’t play along. 3,400 words.

~ ~ ~

FIND recent stories of mine online here: “Shade Tree Haven” in (mac)ro(mic)…  “Holthacka’s Quandary” in Lunate Fiction…“The Business of Saving Souls” in Literally Stories…  “Encampment” in TINY SEED LITERARY JOURNAL.

COMING SOON to Literally Stories, Blank Spaces, Agnes and True, and Pulp Literature.

 

Podium

I don’t enter too many contests. They almost all charge a fee, which is understandable.  I am a cheap Menno—also understandable to those who have taken the pledge of frugality that is part of every Oma’s hand-me-down tool kit for survival in the wide welt.

A contest I have entered a few times is from Pulp Literature Press. It’s called the Bumblebee Flash Fiction Contest. In 2019, I made the longlist. This year, my story was named the Editors’ Choice. A ground-rule double, which I will take with as much bat-flippin’ humility as my over-caffeinated morning-person self can muster. I’m damned pleased.

Furthermore, I felt as though this story was, in part, a product of my excellent Writing Circle in Wpg, led by Wpg Public Library Writer-in-Res, Carolyn Gray. It’s a talented group and I’ve learned a lot from our meetings.

PL is an exceptional lit mag… small press… group of editors and artists… and a judge with plenty of creds. It’s an exemplary part of the white-hot West Coast writing community; home to a blintering sky full of starry writers and poets. As a former BC resident (nine years in the WACK) I am proud of what Pulp Lit has done and is doing.

Here’s the link: BZZZZZ!

Shorts

I read a lot of short stories. Not as many as a literary journal editor—the former editor of Crazyhorse (or maybe it was The Literary Review) estimated at one time that he had read 10,000! That’s a lot. Crazy many. Wilt-like.

Not counting my own stories—read and re-read on a seemingly endless cycle, editing or not—I read at least a story a day and usually two or three. This has reduced the amount of fiction I read in novel form. And, kind of contradictory to the novel result, I now read far more poetry than ever before. I don’t write (much) poetry, but I sure love reading a verklempt-provoking line, even if I don’t quite know WTF is going on, distracted as I am by the many swooshing sounds I hear over my freckled skull.

I no longer read newspapers, something I used to love—right up there with beer, bacon, and baseball. Now I get my newspaper calories from the internet. Columnists and pundits, wags and woebegonists.

A treat these last few years is to read the CNF and ramblings of my friends and those I would like to befriend. ML Driedger and Hoss Neufeld are among the former. (Two Snowbird Western writers who resemble Miss Kitty and Marshall Dillon. Or more so Marshall Dylan, when the gunsmoke clears.)

I also read many writers like me, whose lariats spin sometimes wild, sometimes lazy as we seek to lasso the moon. Some oh-bah-fine shorts I have read lately (or revisited, like Hwy 61) include:

“The Laughing Man”, Salinger. Find it online as easy as Bananafish pie.

“Bullet in the Brain”, Tobias Wolff. Also just a gecko-twitch away, via Google. (This month’s group read for the Wpg Public Library Writing Circle, led by W-I-R Carolyn Gray.)

“The Tree Planter”, Spencer Sekulin. On *Fiction on the Web* a UK joint edited by Sir Charlie Fish.

“Sparking Spot”, Ramona Jones Go to Ms. Jones FB page and track it down there.

“What We Bury”, Madeline Anthes. barrenmagazine.com

All this is part of my latest (and one of my bestest) rock-strewn trails: “Travel widely, experiment boldly, love deeply… ” Words to live by from one of my painting heroes, Winslow Homer. I can handle the second and the third as well as any cheroot-chewin’ gunslinger who cares to draw down on me. The travel one too, with buts and caveats—I can go where I wanna go, do what I wanna do, so long as Swoop flies there for next to frickin’ nuthin’, or our grandkids are there/going to be there, or I win the lottery. (The less common kind of lottery for which you don’t have to buy tickets to win.)

But maybe I don’t need to travel as widely as ol’ WH would have me do… I live in the four seasons of nature surrounded not by people and parking lots and coffee spoons, but rather by small-but-tough animals, white-capped water, and a forest of cross-country skis and tall timber. The love of my redheaded life sits across the dining room table from me each day and inexplicably, loves me deeply with her big brown eyes.

So, I hope interesting, unusual, flaky people can drop by Jessica from time to time, so I can hack the Winslow directive to travel widely. We’ll “welcome widely!”

jan grand canyon oil

3.11.20—Addendum: Here’s another story, one to make the hair raise up on your neck and your heart swell a little as it pumps: https://mastersreview.com/new-voices/skin-hunger-by-melissa-goode/ (I spotted this one on Madeline Anthes twitter feed. “Skin Hunger” by Melissa Goode.)

The Sacrifice Fly

If you play enough baseball, you get to a point where you can produce certain outcomes with regularity. This is most true in fielding where extraordinary plays become almost routine. Predictable outcomes are less common in pitching and batting.

At the plate, it’s often the role of the batter to hit a flyball far enough into the outfield to score the runner from third base. The pitcher knows it and throws high riseballs and drops to keep the hitter on the ground or pop her up. But a decent player can often deliver that lazy SAC fly.

I think this is true across a broad spectrum. An average sales professional can renew a long-time account… a basketball player can hit the open J… a practiced politician can deflect uncomfortable questions and provide a safe non-answer without mussing her hair.

However, artists who reach the safety zone are drawn to go beyond. Dylan went electric… Vincent rendered his 200th (500th?) sunflower and looked to the heavens for a new challenge… “Finnegan’s Wake” came out and slapped a lot of people in the face. Art, to reach its potential, needs—at some point—to venture out into uncharted territory and put the artist at risk. “To boldly go where no one has gone before,” as a small Canadian actor with good hair, dimples and a cute little paunch used to say in the opening voice-over, weekdays at 5:00 p.m. in our house on Sunrise Bay.

One of my artistic heroes, Winslow Homer, wrote that one must “experiment boldly.” I agree and even though I still need to hone basic skills (a lot) I feel it’s also time for me to leave my own friendly confines and be bold.

Trouble is, unlike the master, I am not endowed with a limitless amount of talent and a universally loved body of work. But no matter, the feeling of being alone, friendless and at risk is, like landing head-oeuvre-heels in the deep-end… “good for ya!”

Lately, I’ve been on this bold mission. I’ve let myself be led by my Writing Circle and by the greats who went before. Becky Hagenston, Flannery O’Connor, and even Jean Luc Picard—my doppelganger with a Shakespearean accent. (My accent is more East Reserve, with a side order of Simon Biester coarse Mennonite brogue.)

Image result for brogue shoe

Over the last few days, I’ve gone down swinging a few times as I sought the fences. Reviewers and critiquers have sent me packing, without so much as a foul tip. They did give me tips, though—“Bet heavy—sleep on the streets” or messages of that ilk.

Yesterday, a small breakthrough. An acceptance for one of my Nina, Pinta, and hail Santa Marias. From a wonderful band of editors who know the stench of a book bonfire and are not afraid to toss ugly trash into it, but also take a dim view of too easily barbequing writers whose work takes the path less travelled. (They’re not wild about the above confusing potpourri of images, but, hey—this is just a blog, so edges may be rough.)

Speaking of rough edges, “I am a series of small victories,” comes to mind. This quote from Charles Bukowski, an experimenter if ever one there was. NO, I don’t defend his misogyny or off-handed violence, alcoholism, or other missteps and ignoble romps. I like a lot of what he wrote and respect his boundary-crossing as a part of his artistic journey.

Writers must stray. We must, “dance with the Devil in the pale moonlight,” from time to time. Must we not? Not to become a part of that world, but to know how to avoid falling into it.

Anyway, I’m excited to be doing what I’m doing and hope I can come out on the other side, better for the whippings I will take along the way.

allfornow,
Mitch

News on this story in May, when it is due to hit the internet.

Steinbach, that Maudlin Town

“On Main Street; once my street
I just want to say
They did things and do things they don’t do on Broadway”


I just read, and loved, Peter Ralph Friesen’s quietly profound new book, “Dad, God, And Me”

This novel (in many ways) has awakened smeary recollections of my own Steinbach childhood. Unexpectedly, I see stark similarities in our two fathers, although that comment will generate a “Waut?” tidal surge among Steinbachers who knew them both. In my dad’s case, it was more of a generational hand-me-down; something he dispensed with a hip check and then moved on. Or thought he had.

Certainly, the two men had core differences but they both bore the enormous weight of Steinbach in general and Kleine Gemeinde Steinbach in particular. It was, to each man, a stony brook; an overbearing, immovable, and intolerant entity.

In my view, at least.

I see two stoic, driven men—one pious, mild, and somewhat pedantic, the other secular, red-faced, a “man of action”, sometimes to a fault. I also encountered a third shadow presence: Steinbach itself. Looming with Lordly characteristics; a sub-deity.

There’s no place like it… 

Sandburg’s famed city of verse came to mind, also uninvited. The poet describes a place “stormy, husky, and brawling” as compared to my childhood home: Severe, bespectacled, and haughty. Both places feel male, both shod with shit-spackled gumshuh. Both broad-shouldered.

Chicago and Steinbach each have a primal gravitas, an undeniable presence that, like a high slap shot, leaves a mark—sometimes painful.

Adult Steinbach, that is. As kids, I remember our secret underground. Raucously—like the Free French—we chided the powerful, the self-important and the self-righteous behind their backs, schpotting in our hideouts: in the storage bins at “CT’s”, with a beer out at “the pits”, schmeatjing at the sinner’s rink and in the ballpark dug-out. Author Friesen confirms this too, recalling his and his poetic buddy Patrick Friesen’s days as noble infidels. (“Noble” is my word, not Ralph’s.) These two rebelled not with misbehaviour, exactly, but with logic and fearless debate, taking on “murderous literalism” and all those pitching a certainty built upon loose-ends and a fear of hell.

I also enjoyed the author’s many comments concerning his mother.

[…] “her eyes are soft with a deep and wordless sadness.” 

I felt it was a discrete and worthy sub-text. I noted the juxtaposition of her frazzled ham-and-eggs-and-house-full-of-children existence versus the descriptions of all other women in the local vernacular: “Mrs. Peter F. Rempel, Mrs. Jake G. Koop,” etc. Real-life shades of “The Handmaid’s Tale” and that book’s submissive naming convention. Steinbach’s patronymics to the last degree—a practice that attempted through churchy formal-speak to erase a woman’s given name, always seemed to me, as a kid and still, to be evidence of Mennonites “jumping the shark.” Women might as well been forced to address men as, “Your Honour,” and curtsey.  

Somehow, I can’t imagine my rebellious Mercury Cougar-driving mom, in 1968, to succumb. If she did, it would only have been with such an overflowing ladle-full of withering verbal irony that passing pick-up trucks would have been stuck in their Penner Tire tracks as they encountered her sticky sarcasm.

To her credit. I always speculated that my mom, despite her scandalous reputation, was secretly—perhaps guiltily—admired by some of those name-stripped Hausfraus—who regarded themselves as Madam Curie NOT “Mrs. Pierre Curie”.

Altogether, “Dad, God, And Me” is a well-written, thoughtful examination. Forensic, in ways, but never mean-spirited or overly disdainful. Those strong feelings are withheld, but they still add a salty sprinkle of complexity with their just-noticeable absence. It is written with clean text and a forthright style. There are seamless and fluent excursions into German both High and Plaut. The book is built on a firm foundation of self-examination: Candid, telling, and like the prose style, unadorned. I found it, once I adjusted to the cadence, flowing and beautiful.

Near the end, Author Friesen offers a red-hot ember of guilty truth and we are invited to share as he explores with honesty and integrity, as if he is splinta’ noaktijch… When he reveals himself so freely, we know we can believe in him and what he has told us.

Thanks, Ralph! 

P.S.–Alien revivalists do get a little sandpaper, and I was glad for that!

Encampment

My thanks and regards to the editors of Tiny Seed Journal.

TINY SEED LITERARY JOURNAL

Northern lights, drunken ranks of Chernobyl ephemera, waver pink and green high above the boreal shield. In November an odd wind blows sharp from the south, kicking skiffs of snow ahead of it. Nodding, heavy head. Insistent… pushing down on the ice all through the night as it rushes unflagging across the fetch, pouring north into the invisible low pressure hollow. The raspy-rough crust on the ice surface catches the gusts. Cat claw on a ball of yarn. Using this purchase the wind is brutish in its labour, heaving with heavy legs.
     In the winter morning the young ice platooned along the windward lakeshore, only inches thick and still vulnerable, is the last line of defence. When the ice can’t—it just can’t—push the land out of the way, it buckles with a shotgun crack. The skirmish continues until the shoreline looks like a long line of pup tents…

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