Tweet from Charlie Fish (@FishCharlie)

Charlie Fish (@FishCharlie) Tweeted: In Mennonite Manitoba, hard-up teenager Diedrich Deutsch is getting bullied at school, and tries his hand at basketball. Read Mitchell Toews at https://t.co/dO9tFIbTVq https://t.co/Sgx6bczYGX https://twitter.com/FishCharlie/status/1309550748854878209?s=20

The School of Forgiveness

One of the joys of writing is meeting and connecting with other writers. It’s interesting in a capitalist context to see us buzzing together like communist bees to build a plenary body of literary work: Fiction, Essay, Journalism, Criticism, Opinion, Poetry, Theater, and so on. All done in what are often intensely personal moments of recollection, self-awareness and exploration.

We band together in critique groups, associations and guilds, in events, readings, book launches and on the internet.

Since March 2020, a LOT of internet.

A pleasure and a point of professional courtesy that (no surprise) pays off as much for the giver as the receiver is to read and review work in progress. I’ve been both beneficiary and provider in this regard—giving an increasing amount of effort to reading and less to being read. (Those who regularly get my feckless Momma’s boy pleadings for them to read a story and report back may disagree… You know who you are. But in my defense, we built a loft on the water just to bribe you, so, you know, soldier on.)

Here is a fresh-voiced realist who walks the streets of Every Damn Day Another THING and knows how to tell it on the mountain. I’m pleased to give you one of her stories, below. A pick-up truck with a rose-hued patina on the outside powered by a Boeing jet engine and driven by a hot-rod pilot with one elbow poking casually out the window, even around the bends.

The School of Forgiveness

by Ramona Jones

Electives or required courses? Forgiveness and Patience, two subjects failed time and time again, reappearing and taken until I get them right. I wouldn’t have to study these if I had majored in something quantifiable. Forgiveness paired with betrayal…Do I have to sit here until the class is over? Ramona, pull your head out of the emotion and recount the facts. I don’t like going to hard places in my head without good reason, because those subjects are really tough.

I understand why people block out memories and shore them up behind facades and alcohol. I just forget, or replay parts, over and over until they wear out. Maybe this time I can turn a few off.

In 1981, I lived in a house in Vancouver with my boyfriend, a medical student, and four other students, paying ridiculously low rent. So low in fact that Ron and I saved enough money for a road trip to San Francisco. Two days before departure the phone rang, connecting me to my unpleasant family life in Toronto.

“Mom’s had a stroke.” I could hear the tearful catch in my brother’s voice. There was no choice but to go. No time to do anything but book a hotel. I could not stay with my father, where my strength would be drained to construct mental defences and avoid, whatever.

Clint told me to come quick, this was very serious. I took a cab from the Toronto airport, straight to Saint Michael’s Hospital where my mom lay fresh from surgery. The smell hit me first, alcohol fumes rising through the air to my nose. The next thing—the visual—reminded me of Egypt. Her head was swathed in bandages, a lot of white bandages in a turban. In the peripheral view, tubes entered and exited her body.

I don’t remember the last time I spent conscious time with my mom before that day. My memories of commonplace days with my family of origin blur and soften. That day I only had love. I reached for her hand because she could not see me.

“Mom, it’s me.” I held a swollen hand. It had to be the right hand, because her left hand remained paralyzed  for the rest of her life. She squeezed me back, releasing some of my numbness.

My dad was very upset that I would not stay with him and my brother, but Jacqueline—my dad’s cousin, a school counsellor living in BC—supported my decision to go solo. The hotel offered refuge and calm space at night, while part days were spent shopping and walking on Yonge Street, waiting to see if my mom would make it. Saint Michael’s is downtown, 30 Bond Street, to be exact. I had access to record stores and the Hudson’s Bay bargain floor. I bought a size 10 navy skirt, a red sweater and brown shoes, with gracefully thin straps and low but stylishly flared heels, perfect for my job in a Vancouver government office. I wanted badly to go home, to work, as soon as possible.

I scold myself for being so self-centered. No thought of Clint or my aunts and cousins, who are just as upset, maybe more, as me. Two of my mom’s sisters flew from Manitoba to be there. Neither travelled much—living pure, simple lives in the country, but they came, like me, knowing we were all near death in Toronto.

Only, it didn’t happen. I have a comforting memory of sitting with a nun at the Catholic hospital. She never preached or told me anything about God, just offered me a mug of hot chocolate. So sweet, in the midst of everything. I found out more about what they did and thought about my mom’s cerebral aneurysm after I got home. Dr. Howard, who is my cousin, and is renowned in his specialty, Geriatric Medicine, told me afterwards that he arranged for my mom’s stay in Riverdale Hospital. In her situation, with inadequate support at home, she lived in rehab for an entire year.

I used to think, Eva, my mom, was a bit of a chicken—always anxious, always evading the direct questions I would fire at her from my position as her dependent but selfish child. The stroke threw back the covers, exposing her truth. My mom worked so hard in rehab, she became the bravest woman I ever met. She learned to walk again.

Every challenge was met with a search for a personal solution, not complaining or blaming. With her new outlook, she went shopping, once a week to a mall, travelling by a bus for handicapped people, for treasured time outside of the house.

She never took another drink and assumed a mental independence she never had before, returning home where she relished every minute until the day she died, 26 years later.

My brother had a huge part in her story, but not mine. He told me he prayed hard, hours on end, begging God not to let her die. There is more to what he told God, but that is not mine to share. Clint told me Mom had a dream before the stroke. Jesus appeared to her. He told her, “Eva, Life is going to get very hard for you, but you are going to be alright.”

What did I make of that? This: Forgiveness does heal. My mom showed me how it is done but I am still working to graduate from that course. Patience? If you saw what I felt, watching Mom navigate from a wheel chair, in a walking world, you might not have enough either.

British Columbia’s Dr. Bonnie Henry has nailed this now, in Covid context, but my mom learned it, miles back:

Be calm, be kind, stay safe.

~ ~ ~

Thanks, Ramona!


Imposterism and Perspective

A quick ramble through the blackberries: I write about my Mennonite and my secular experiences–what I love and what I disrespect–as it occurs to me and in roughly equal measure. As a non-baptised cultural Mennonite, and a self-named Mennonite imposter, I am outside of the permission loop that may constrain others who write about the same topics.

But I’m not immune to restraint and inhibition just because I don’t surf the hemlock pews on Sunday morning. (Another one of those surf-slash-theological and pinophytically-correct metaphors, dudes.) Externality, it could be argued or at least considered, gives me and those like me the freedom to be hyper-critical.

In fact, I am rigorously beholden to all of my personal relationships, long held and cherished, with those who DO “surf the hemlock.” Seriously, a perceived outsider (or imposter) has internal motivation–not church-imposed–when speaking out. An equivalent influence? Sometimes jo, sometimes nay.

So… audible inhalation… I would like to and should make it my professional beeswax to know what has gone on in various church groups, conferences, etc. in the history of Mennonite writing. I need to understand those who held or now hold formal rank and wield the power of censure or absolution. The fact that those bodies-politic were, or still are, all-male and seem as intellectually homegenous as those identical rows of psuedotsuga benches upon which they, uhh, ‘hang ten’ bugs me not a little and diminishes their validity in my view. But still.

So, yeah… I’ll work to enhance my knowledge of the history of “insider” writing in the Mennonite fiction canon. It will enhance my POV even as I see my externality as an equally worthy, and perhaps in the final analysis, less incumbered point of origin. My lifetime of personal experiences continue to kick me “right in the back pocket” and won’t allow me to ignore their painful presence. Plus, considering the depth and context of my personal Mennonite experience–with both a Russian delegate and a shunning in my antecedents–and my 50-years in one of the central milieus and eras of Mennonite evoloution… I feel I should tell the stories I have lived.

Flash Fiction and The Group of Seven

Winnipeg blogger and author MaryLou Driedger (“What Next?”) had this interesting post on her site recently: Flash Fiction and The Group of Seven. I’ve re-blogged it here partly because she mentions me in her post.

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She has pointed out that photographic artist Phil Hossack and I will draw from people and places in Manitoba to create an ekphrastic prose-filled artbook. The photography will offer one interpretation and prose another.

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MaryLou accurately points out some similarities between our concept and the excellent new book, The Group of Seven Reimagined published by Heritage House in Victoria and edited by Karen Schauber.

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Like the Group of Seven book and other artbooks that combine visual art and the written word, we too will be called upon to create an aesthetic that is worthy of the subject matter. Our “design charette” has paid attention to the design on the printed page. Some benchmarks: Unity & Variety; Balance; Emphasis & Subordination; Directional Forces (visual flow of pages, spreads, covers, bleeds, etc.); Contrast; Repetition & Rhythm; Scale & Proportion.

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Leading our design… the recurrent themes or stepping stones will be People, Places, and Light. Phil and I are excited, eager to begin, but we’ll wait for the all-clear Covid siren to sound before we hit the road.

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Below: One of Phil’s evocative images, Roseisle artist Stephen Jackson near the Sourisford Linear Burial Mounds. This photo provides a possible example of how People, Place, and Light might combine to suggest a fictional narrative with a distinctive Manitoba inflection.

Roseisle artist Stephen Jackson soaks up the lush landscape at the Souris Ford Mounds, a National Historic site in the far south west corner of Manitoba.

This project, with the working title, “People, Places, and Light — a Manitoba journey” is assisted by a “Create” grant from MAC | CAM.

What Next?

The Fire Ranger by Franz Johnston -1921- National Gallery of Canada

A man guides his plane over the burning forest, scanning the horizon for a place he might land. As he does so he tries to comfort the little girl who is his passenger. 

Little Island by Alfred J. Casson -1965- McMichael Canadian Art Collection

A young woman becomes so engrossed by a painting at the art gallery that she is oblivious to the man accompanying her, a man she connected with on a dating app. 

Lake O Hara by J.E.H. MacDonald -1928-McMichael Art Collection

A woman who has been travelling the universe in her spaceship finally arrives at a place she can call home. 

Those are just a few plotlines from the short stories featured in a new book called The Group of Seven Reimagined published by Heritage House in Victoria.  

Cove by Emily Carr- Collection of the…

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What Leda Knows

This thought has been irritating me, like a pebble in my shoe — a squarish pebble lodged where it cannot be reached. It has bothered me all day and the only way to get rid of it is to jot this down. Barefoot, maybe. Toes wiggling.

Whether it is Irish writing or Jewish writing or Indigenous writing… or even if it is Mennonite writing, I think the full complement needs to be part of the accounting. All constituents must be consulted to speak their unquiet peace. Not only the praise-makers, the honouring, the apologists, the happy-talkers, and the yammering wholly satisfied but most importantly perhaps, all of the others.

All the others.

Who would best know the naked truths and speak freely about what they know? Do the rich paint their discontent on the subway walls? How many fat cats walk a beat on city streets, risking rubber bullets or worse? No, They cause resentment, they don’t suffer from it.

Go ask these: The fallen. The betrayed and the shunned. The aggrieved. The marginalized, the disavowed, the once-close — now distant. The ambivalent who hang suspended still from the ties that bind, but who would cut them if need be… if they had no other choice.

In W.B. Yeats’s dark masterpiece, Leda and the Swan, we are told that Leda could feel the swan’s strange heart beating, “where it lies,” as if it was somehow disembodied, no longer a part of the bestial being.

Does this mean that to capture the truth, we don’t go to the apparent source? Go rather to those who offered up a sacrifice and received aggression in return. Or something sadly “indifferent” as the poet suggests.

The presence of indifference might reveal more than all the rest combined.

 

 

The Grittiness of Mango Chiffon

Hi everyone,

I have a new story out today. The inspiration for this tale comes from my real-life friend Irene M. and her mom. Taking the plotline related to me last summer, I created a composite small-town mom, mixing aspects of Irene’s wonderful tale of resolve with memories of my own mom and her steely side.

The result is the short fiction, “The Grittiness of Mango Chiffon.” This story is live online now, August 10, on the great Canadian literary journal, Agnes and True. 

It’s a special story for me in lots of ways—timely too—and so I’m hoping it will get lots of reads, shares, forwards, and reviews. If you are able, please give it a glance and send it around to friends who might have a special understanding of some of the conditions and the times and places described, or who might relate to the overall grin-and-shimmy of it.

I’m hoping that someday my granddaughter (Hurricane) Hazel will read this and say, “What the crease-resistant Fortrel was Gramps talking about? Could it really have been like that?” You see, Hazel—like all of her aunts, great-aunts, grandmothers, great-grandmothers and definitely her mom—is made of stern stuff, just like the main character in the story.

https://www.agnesandtrue.com/the-grittiness-of-mango-chiffon/

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Mom, tree planting in my sis’s yard, working up some steam and showing a granddaughter how it’s done.

My thanks to Agnes and True!

The Quatrefoil

In art and design the quatrefoil is an important and frequently used element. I don’t know too much about them but I enjoy them for their simultaneous blend of simplicity and complexity. A quatrefoil consists essentially of four overlapping equal-sized circles, with variants on that theme. Like a meander or a spiral, there is an innate optical pleasingness in looking at a quatrefoil and that is one of the reasons why it is a fundamental of visual art and design.

ancient-greece-meander-ancient-greek-cuisine-geometric-art-ancient-greek-architecture-meander
Meander

Both the quatrefoil and the spaces between its evenly aligned ranks and files are visually soothing. Looking at these shapes scratches an itch in your brain, the one you did not realize you had until it got scratched.

Large Quatrefoil Wall Stencil: Amazon.ca: Home & Kitchen
Quatrefoil

I think. I did not look all of this up on Wikipedia, nor have I studied this in the past nor do I have special intuitive knowledge powers (“super genius stuff”), like some C- grade undergrads from Wharton. Wharton is in Pennsylvania. I think.

Four. 4. Quarters. Quatro. Four anything can be represented by a quatrefoil. Four lads from Liverpool, the Ninja Turtles, four ripe plums, or four asteroids in orbit around one of the nine moons of Endor…

Today, I have four good things to talk about. I have listed them as Quatrefoil One through Four:

Quatrefoil One.

Nice people are overrepresented in the business of fiction. Thank goodness. If it wasn’t for the nice people, I would lose my mind because this writing shit is super genius stuff and that means, for me—a non-graduate of Wharton undergraduate studies, Cambridge University or Endor (or any of its moons)—it is hard as f*ck!

Quarrel One. The diamond-shaped pieces between adjacent quatrefoils are sometimes called “quarrels”, especially in a description of fenestration — like the stained glass windows in the King’s College at Cambridge. (A place, like Endor, where actual “super genius stuff” takes place.) Quarrel is a fine word and so I’ll use it here to describe the fillers I have inserted into each space between my four good things. Each of the three quarrels will describe something about quatrefoils. There is no extra charge for these trequarrels of sublime, intermediary (or interlocutory, cuz that is also a fun, six-syllable word) information.

Quatrefoil Two.

I am able to enjoy the lake we live next to in almost any condition. If it is warm, I can swim in it. There’s fishing, but somehow I don’t get around to that much. In summer, on calm mornings, I can row across its surface. When it’s really windy, I can windsurf. Windsurfing is basically a showing-off activity so when I am out windsurfing I am thinking super genius stuff like: “I bet those people sitting on the dock over there would be prett-ty-prett-ty impressed if they knew that I’m a GD pensioner!” Meanwhile, the person on the dock is actually busy wondering if Regina really does rhyme with “vagina” or whether that Canadian guy was just having them on…

If it is just a little windy I can windsurf on a board equipped with a hydrofoil. This is a new windsurfing invention and it really ramps up the “bet those people are impressed” thoughts in my show-offy brain. It may also increase the shoreline spectator consideration of other Canadian city names like Moose Jaw, Upper Rubber Boot, Crotch Lake, Dildo, and Climax.

The strangest place names in Canada | Cottage Life
This is a real place name. It’s in Newfoundland and Labrador.

Quarrel Two. A quatrefoil arch is a common feature in gothic architecture. Cathedrals are loaded with ’em.

Quatrefoil Three. I have work out soon in three exceptional Canadian publications and one based in the U.S.:

Shape Outline Clipart - Quatrefoil Png , Transparent Cartoon, Free ... On Sunday, July 19th, at 2pm Pacific time, I’ll be part of a virtual (online) launch for Pulp Literature Issue 27.  The launch will be on PL’s Discord server channel, and I hope you’ll be able to join in. Just like an in-person launch, there will be door prizes and chances to chat with the authors, who will be reading from their work. The event has contributions from Denmark to Western Australia. But none from Elbow. (Saskatchewan… there may be one from Elbow, Ontario, though — home of the Elbow Roughriders.)

bumblebee1
My story, “Piece of My Heart” was awarded the Editors’ Choice award in the 2020 PL Bumblebee Flash Fiction competition.

Shape Outline Clipart - Quatrefoil Png , Transparent Cartoon, Free ... August will see the launch of a new issue of Agnes and Truean exceptional Canadian online literary journal. I’m super genius excited to be in this market and can’t wait for folks to read my story, “The Grittiness of Mango Chiffon”, a tale of fashion, warmth, and redoubtable resolve.

agnes about

Shape Outline Clipart - Quatrefoil Png , Transparent Cartoon, Free ... I’ll be returning to Just Words, the annual anthology of fiction, CNF, and poetry from Blank Spacesa production of Alanna Rusnak Publishing. This compilation will be out in September. https://www.facebook.com/blankspacesmag

blank spaces team

Shape Outline Clipart - Quatrefoil Png , Transparent Cartoon, Free ... My pick-up truck saga, “The Sunshine Girl” will shine its ever-lovin’ light on Cowboy Jamboree, sometime this fall. “An interesting slice-of-life vignette…” according to Editor Adam Van Winkle. 

cowboy jamboree
“A grit lit rag promoting fiction in the vein of Donald Ray Pollock and Larry Brown and Dorothy Allison and the like.”—Cowboy Jamboree, About.

 

Quarrel Three. Are quatrefoils lucky? Do they have special, magical powers? Do they stay crunchy in milk? I don’t want to influence your religious beliefs or otherwise stray onto private property but I’d say quatrefoils are never considered unlucky.

Quatrefoil Four. Drumroll, please. My grant application to the Manitoba Arts Council | Conseil des Arts du Manitoba has been accepted! My proposal to produce a Manitoba artbook will be going ahead as soon as Covid-19 allows free travel around the province. My collaborator, photographer Phil Hossack, and I will work together to create an ekphrastic collection of Manitoba-based short fiction and photography. The three-part theme we want to focus on: People, Place, Light. We’ll travel the province to gather extraordinary stories and pictures from ordinary folks.

mac logo

More on this project soon, but for now, please let me know if you have a Manitoba location, a person, a story, or if you know someone with a printing press sitting around not doing much. These are all things we could use!

PEOPLE | PLACE | LIGHT

Manitoba is endowed with remarkable people. From Louis Riel to other famous individuals like Gabriel Roy, Cindy Klassen, Miriam Toews, and many, many more, there are lots to choose from. There’s also a plethora of the not-so-famous—but just as interesting. It’s predominantly this latter group we hope to meet and share with our readers, though story-telling and visual arts.

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Our province is one of diversity not just in the origins of its people, but in its geography too. The North, the prairies, the boreal, rivers, lakes, a great city and numerous smaller communities with singular stories to tell and show. Manitoba places make for fascinating discovery and study.

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Sunny Manitoba. As every Manitoban who has spent time out of the province knows, it is our light, both in terms of the vast size of the sky over the flat prairie landscape, and its year-round abundance that makes the sun’s absense felt most acutely when we are away from home. Whether it’s sitting on a Whiteshell dock in the unfading light of a late June evening, or waiting impatiently for the sunrise on a frozen January morning, Manitobans’ relationship with daylight—with the sun—is special and unlike any other place. So too, light plays a dominant role in the art of photography and we believe that by paying special attention to light in our photos (and in our fiction!) we’ll uncover truths that may otherwise have gone, uh… unilluminated.

So that’s it. Four cool things. A quatrefoil.

allfornow,
Mitch

 

One Day on Mars

It could be that this fanlit flash (launched May 1 on my Facebook page) has some prescience! For those who love a good conspiracy theory, Romulans, Klingons, and the Orange Menace.

One Day on Mars

Picard: Queen Sensula, do you mean to tell me that the Romulans created and then spread the deadly Space Virus? (Appalled. Much Elizabethan flavour.)

Oh, but I shan’t doubt it, my dear Queen. Those secretive Romulans are capable of…

Queen Sensula, leader of the Teuton Nebula: No, Jean Luc, I’m telling you that, Orangitus, the Klingon ruler means to promote such a theory in order to demonize the Romulans!

Picard: But that’s PREPOSTEROUS! No one in the galaxy would do such a thing… to lie in order to turn the universe against a single planet? Why surely even Orangitus, that PATAK, is not capable of such a VILE RUSE! Why?

Sensula: Don’t call me Shirley… and not only is Orangitus accusing the Romulans, but he also has impugned the Intergalactic Health Organization! Accused them of being in league with the Romulans!

(She continues with smouldering, Fiona Hill-like intensity) Why? Orangitus knows these three things: One, that if he persuades the universe of the Romulan guilt, he can exact stiff penalties from the rich Romulans. He will claim these penalties as reparations for Klingon, citing his planet’s devastation—Klingon has suffered more than a quarter of the deaths from the Space Virus.

Two, Orangitus will pit himself against the Romulans—a race already distrusted—and glean political power for himself in the bargain. Plus, his staggering accusations cover up his own bumbling mismanagement of the Space Virus on his home planet!

Picard: My, my! Do go on dear lady, please.

Sensula: Third and last, but most cruelly, Orangitus KNOWS that by assassinating the character of the IHO, he will be opening up a path to ignore their universally-agreed creeds and laws. Instead of sending vaccines—once they are formulated—to the universe’s poorest planets and systems…

Picard interjects: Is that the usual IHO mandate?

Sensula, nodding her two heads: Yes, it is the time-honoured way; to protect the most vulnerable. But Orangitus will wreck the IHO’s reputation and then force other planets and races to bend to his will by threat of economic and military sanctions! Klingon and Orangitus will get the vaccine and only once their selfish needs are met will the rest of the universe be saved!

Picard, cursing obscurely: BY ANDROMEDA’S STRAIN, you say! My word… What are we to do, oh, wise Sensula?

Sensula: Get off our privileged asses and VOTE the swine out in November.

Picard: MAKE IT SO!

 

(And yes, I’m aware it is May Fourth and I also know the difference between the two space sagas and the fanaticism of true fans. Nannoo-nannoo. )

Winter Shrinkage

My contribution to Earth Day, April 22, 2020.

With sorrow for coronavirus victims—direct and indirect… past, present, and future.

With hope for humankind; hope that we change the things that brought this pandemic upon us.

 

Winter Shrinkage

by Mitchell Toews

It was an average winter. I spent idle days virtual-thumbing through online catalogues, dreaming ready-to-assemble dreams, exercising my PayPal muscles and the Charter of Rights and Free Shipping. But one morning, Janice and I were unnerved — not a little — when we were forced to climb out of bed like U.S. Marines going over the side of a troop carrier in a Turner Classic Movie.

“It’s that shrinking virus,” our doctor’s young voice boomed after a half-hour wait, my damn cell phone now the size and shape of our Trolstrop end table and just as heavy.

Shrinking? But how? This is Canada, not Skull Island! Was this to be our polio? Our influenza? Our Walking Dead, now come to pass?

And it was true. We were shrinking. All — or at least, most of — the people in the world were getting proportionately smaller. Just like The Atom or Ant-Man in the primary colour universe of my pre-teens but without the attendant super-powers. Unable to undo my lifelong sense of divinely assigned supremacy, I felt as though it was not us shrinking, but the rest of the world growing. The world was suddenly upside-down, growing enormous due to some horrendous mistake, through no fault of the people of the Earth.

I frowned through the window at the grinning, darting chickadees. The size of flying monkeys. Disturbed, I imagined a population of mutant human giants — immune, immense — clomping around in Adidas Gazelles the size of actual gazelles; amok in our shrunken Canadianopolises, now Kandors, with no tiny Supergirl, boy or man to protect us. I want to be immune, I thought, a little pouty.

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After a month or so, for amusement, Jan and I sit atop our Frukskol serving tray. Its buoyancy — pounded out of a bucket full of ground Amazonian treetops — floated us serenely during our laps around the meltwater in the swimming pool. A cat, swaggering poolside big as a dragon, watches us with yellow eyes and we stay in the middle until it pounces on the mini-deliveryman, here to drop off our latest package of mini-toilet paper rolls. He screams like a robin chick fallen from the nest.

“Maybe we all just need to go back to eating more carbs?” I suggested as we paddled along, making smooth synchronized strokes with our Svart Svan salad serving spoons. The plastic is so light — made with real boreal forest tree flour!

Our desperation grows. We succumb, weary of our teeniness. Despondent in our miniature solitude we sit each evening in the never-ending flickering blue light that shines down upon us like our own personal drive-in movie… reclining, as we do, on a stack of expired Netflix gift cards, we watch the pandemic on TV, eating popcorn puffs the size of cantaloupe. We the shrunken, armed only with our snacks.

“I’m glad about one thing!” I posted online with cheery intent to distant unseen friends in less-effected regions — racing home before they can no longer see over their dashboards. “This malady does not affect our heroes…” I wrote. “Gretzky is as big as ever; he hasn’t shrunk an inch.”

“That CBC interview last night?” A buddy texts me back. “That’s just an old replay. He’s actually the size of an Ütfart flower vase now, I saw him on the news last week.”

How belittling. I find it on YouTube. Gretzky, his hand-puppet sweater tucked in on one side, wearing a Jofa helmet made out of a thimble.

And what about the billionaires? They too have become tiny but, their wealth remains Costco-sized. They urge us to keep doing “normal” things, to keep the economy going despite our dimunuation. “People may shrink but our economy must remain LARGE,” they say with conviction. Right… They don’t have to dodge hungry sea gulls on their way to the Wendy’s drive-thru in a Barbie Star Traveller motor home! We do — we feed the trickle; the trickle-way-way-down.

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But then the tide turned. Stealthily, the blessed Tillväxt came among us, lifting Her cloak tails discretely as She crept along, and we began to grow. Praise Tillväxt.

“A long cool woman in a black dress,” one alleged eyewitness reported. Soon after, steady enlargement came announced only by the smallest of shudders, like a cement truck hitting a pothole outside your office building. Humankind began its journey back.

One day, I noticed how it only took me a few minutes to stamp out a text to our daughter, whose small children were like a string of ellipses, following behind her, their 14 pt. ampersand mom. I jump on the keys like Tom Hanks to send out my message, ending with, #feelingweighty. r u guys growing? I ask, with joyous smiley faces on a field of red hearts.

Incrementally, day by day, our statures grew. All of us, around the world. O blessed renewal! Some claimed it was on pace with the mercury in the thermometer. Others cleaved to the ascendant gospel of the Tillväxt, now the third-leading religion worldwide. Sun theory or benign magical Mother Almighty, I welcomed our return to normal and the coming warmth of summer. I could hardly wait to be tall enough to turn on the air conditioning!

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Whatever it was that caused it all, whatever the scientists can cipher — once they are again big enough to operate their laboratories and not self-immolate in the flame of their Bunsen burners — the human population enlarged. Jan and I soon found ourselves standing eyeball-to-bullnose with our Fullspäckorp kitchen island countertop. Progress!

Comforted by the unknown natural vaccine, the grace of Tillväxt, or whatever, I luxuriated, expectant, my anticipation sky-high. I relished the mental imagery: Visions of humankind, rising up and reaching outwards like that pansy caught in time-lapse photography on The Nature Channel.

I renewed my password-protected online consumerism but it felt a little off, as though something had changed in me during my big-small-big passage. Disconcerting thoughts filled my head. Packed freeways. Smog-filled urban skies. Jet trails playing Hangman in the sky above. Mountains and forests and glaciers and clean water once again going, going, gone.

Yes, we’ll grow back. We’ll unshrink! Once more the human race will reach titan proportions and resume our species’ ordained privilege; our filthy, greedy, pleasure-dome domination of the planet and its lesser beings — flora, fauna, and anything else we can batter and fry, cut and pulp, exploit and extirpate.

Until that is, the next usurper comes to take away our crown — invited unknowingly by we humans and the havoc we create as we attempt to hold dominion over nature, acting för stor for our britches, as always, I fear.

End

 

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