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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 hisself 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.)

8.26.20—And another, read with passion and intelligence at 28:55 in this open mic (San Fran Mechanics’ Institute) by Bay Area author Francee Covington… her BLM essay, “Uneasy Lies the Head of the Black Mom.” https://youtu.be/CwijFbQ-YcM

P.S.—I chime in with a reading of “Freight Trains and Jet Planes” right after Ms. Covington’s performance.

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…

View original post 341 more words

“Penguin, if you’re out there—I hope you’re listening…”

A web beacon (or a pixel tag) is a small, invisible piece of text or image on a website that is used to monitor traffic on a website. In order to do this, various data about each site visitor is stored using web beacons.”

So what? Why should a writer care about this arcane bit of programmerease? Are the rules of grammar or the strength of one’s imagination not more important to a writer?

Of course. Except…

In the new world of Traditional Publishing vs. Self-Publish vs. Indy Publishing, the most marketable skills may not be the inky variety so much as the slinky variety.

Let me ‘splain you: I live 90 minutes from the Winnipeg Floodway. My location is a bit remote, and in terms of population density, it ain’t Brooklyn. However, my Android phone has, in its logarithmic digital wisdom identified Bloodvein First Nation as my nearest population hub.

bloodvein

Hilarious. BFN is a small place. It’s far away. There are dozens of towns that are closer and larger, and yet, this is what Samsung gives me as my location. My point is not to cast shade on Bloodvein but to illustrate the level of technical advancement available to me as an average citizen. It’s pretty sad.

Sure, I can scrape a little basic data from Facebook, Twitter, and WordPress analytics, but it’s meagre at best.

Now go back up to the web beacon description in the lede. See the potential difference? A big-arse publishing house can hire brainy types who love math, puzzles, and Star Trek to pin-point all the Whos in all the Whovilles across the globe! They can ID the entire population of Romantic Space-Fantasy Adventure Horror aficionados to within a pixel point of accuracy, plus or minus one redhead.

Me? I could spend most of the Toews fortune* on marketing and end up with a garage full of UNSOLD, shabbily printed grit-lit, collecting dust and angst.

*Such as it is, we are mostly invested in books, windsurfing equipment, and sewing machines & sewing machine accessories…

And it need not mean that dust-gathering library of Prose by Toews is second-rate—that is not my point. (In fact, I’m hoping you’ll take the opposite inference here.) The point is that FEW in the grit-lit-identity-seeking-Menno-odd-syntax-unusual-language-and-extremely-long-hyphenated-word cohort of worldwide readers will know that my awesome book even exists. The Whos in Whoville will remain drearily unaware. Toewsproseless.

So, it is by definition, existential. Dude. If I want to exist as a published writer, I must not only write good, gooder, goodest—but I have to shout it from the digital mountaintops too. Or aim to be the best-selling author in Bloodvein? (That may be tougher than I think…)

Here’s an interesting related post by Poet-Author Elizabeth Estochen:

https://www.estocheneditorial.com/post/publishing-journey

He stands at his desk and verbs the nouns.

Twelve. Twelve stories since November 9, 2019. Twelve times I have over-hauled, cannibalized or started from scratch. Twelve times I have verbed the nouns until I wrote

End.

I did not craft these alone. Far from it. Besides editor James, who has a hand (sometimes a fist) in almost all of what I produce, I’ve enjoyed a lot of wise help lately. Newfound writer friends, old friends, cousins, heroes, journal editors, my Writing Circle leader and co-members are among these.

What a dimension these voices add! Voices in my head. Danke seea, voices. I see everything in one way. My way. Sure, my vision has changed over the years and I have the benefit of that changing viewpoint, but it’s still my hazy hazel eyes, my half-functioning, and not-tiny nose, my waxy elephantine ears, my salty, shrink-wrapped, suspiciously rosy memory banks. My taste, my tastelessness… my sense of touch and some would say—a Boomer’s loss-of-touch, an old white guy from a small town, a needling, nerjing, argumentative prick who’s more than happy to express an opinion au contraire mon ami.

Anyway, I’m not so much proud of my productivity as I am stunned. (Aside: A master humble-brag, right there, if I do say so myself, and of course—I’d never do that…) What brought on this flurry? Where are the origins of this Alberta Clipper that has sailed into my Manitoba deep freeze?

Was it my faint effort to mirror Winslow Homer’s advice?: “Travel widely, experiment boldly, love deeply.”

Perhaps.

Jan and I spent a month with family in Maple Ridge and Victoria. I rode the SkyTrain. I let my beard grow flaxen and breathed deeply of an urban strain of Pacific pollen not available here in the centre of the continent. I spent time with family and not crawling under the cottage to do battle with dragons and sewer lines. I read a story in front of a crowd of dubious strangers. (Most fully awake.) I lived with a beagle.

I marvelled at marvellous grandchildren, cherished children and found a way to pray for one of them in particular—I suppose that’s true, after a fashion and as John Prine might sing, “in spite of myself.” (I am not first-team all-star when it comes to prayer.) Yes, there was a scary thing.

I’ve worked on less familiar tenses. I cut my dependence on ING words, writing as I too often do, with withering, wringing present participles. I’ve come up with my own Victor Frankenstein of a story-shape theory, resurrected from the cadged prose cadavers of Vonnegut and David Jauss. (They go together like beer and bacon. Piss an’ porcelain.)

fortune complexity
Experiment Boldly: Sure, I will… If I could only figure out what I meant by all of this.

I’ve heard and read learned comments on inspirational subjects:

“Poets are the unauthorized legislators of the universe.”—Mary Shelley

“It’s necessary to be pushy, but fatal to appear so.”—one of Bertram Russell’s old Profs.

“Root your story in what is particular and original rather than that which is re-hashed.”—Carolyn Gray

“I’m burly and brawny,
not squirrely and 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.”—Red Lightman

“The writer stands apart and can adjust all aspects of the story in pursuit of specificity.”—George Saunders, via Carolyn Gray

I’ve filled my characters’ pockets with objects in order to get to know them, but I have not shared with the reader what these things are. I know the precise shade of yellow for all of these things: Mustard after the bottle has been thrown and smashed against a reddish mahogany kitchen wall… a melon… a September poplar leaf… a pickerel belly.

I’ve done all of the former plus more: Put on miles and miles on the X-C trails, heard a lot of Canucks games on my tablet (late in the Manitoba night) and also sipped—near Craigflower Road and other salty strasses—on a fresh Phillips First Bjorn, a delightful, light beer with a helluva lotta HOPS! All of this must constitute some kind of writing magic formula. A love potion expressed in diction and syntax, story, plot, character, and a restless soul.

I have killed two hapless MCs in this batch. Neither one saw it coming. Neither deserved it—not even close. But, hell… Shakespeare killed 74. (One of them ate hot coals!) Ms. O’Connor knocked ’em off like shooting cans offen thater split rail fence yonder. Right? I’m just getting my party started!

“Operation Night Bandit” (YA)  |  1,067 words—written 11.9.19  | Submitted

“A Man of Reason”  |  2,100 words—11.17.19  |  Submitted

“Hazel Creek”  | 1,500 words—11.20.19  | Submitted

“Regrets De Foie Gras”  |  400 words—11.30.19  |  Submitted (contest)

“The Grittiness of Mango Chiffon”  |  1,850 words—12.20.19  |  Accepted by Agnes and True

“Tiptoe”  |  500 words—1.5.20  |  Submitted

“Encampment”  |  435 words—1.10.20  |  Accepted by Tiny Seed Literary Journal

“The Three Sisters”  |  3,450 words—1.16.20  |  Still tusslin’

“Red Lightman”  |  2,400 words—1.17.20  |  Looking for a prospective home

“Grudge”  |  2,800 words—1.23.20  |  Still fussin’

“Piece of My Heart”  |  289 words—1.26.20  |  Still insertin’ stents

“Screwdriver”  |  2,200 words—2.3.20  |  Just startin’ to winnow and weed