Striking a Prose

An unfortunate tourist(er) from “The Beefeater and the Donnybrook”, running May 19 on Fiction on the Web

Two Short Stories are Going Live on Friday!

Unrelated except that they are both original, previously unpublished stories of mine, these two yarns appear on two different literary websites. They are QUITE different; which is like saying that the current American President is quite unconventional.

That’s the beauty, right? Pathos, irony, absurdity and sorrow; alternating or simultaneous. What is more tragic — or more joyful — than a simple life?

Friday, May 19! Storgy.com: “The Log Boom”; tragedy across three generations in British Columbia’s Lower Mainland, and Fiction on the Web: “The Beefeater and the Donnybrook”; humour on the gritty streets of London.

“Do not wait to strike till the iron is hot; make it hot by striking.”

(WB Yeats)

With thanks to the editors @morestorgy and @fishcharlie!

allfornow – Mitch

That is “CNN-Scary”!

I LIKE AMERICANS. I also like Somalis. Or, de Dutch. Or Bull Riders. (Some examples.) I like most people I meet, so I may not be the most discerning guide.

I know more Americans than I do Somalis. Also, the Somali leader’s activities do not generally affect my investments, the Canadian government, my sleep, and I am not bombarded with news about it, 24-7.

So, I pay attention to Americans. It’s hard not to. I am pleased when we Canadians resist the immense pop culture spill-over and continue to think and act like Canadians. I don’t like Tim Hortons coffee, except as a metaphor. As a handy symbol for Canuckness – I LOVE my cuppa Timmee dubble-dubble, or whatever you tastebud-dead people say eight-squillion times a day, your cars idling in the line-up like Mike Duffy’s stretch limo on the Confederation Bridge at rush hour.

Somalis looking for jobs and Syrians holding babies are not scary to me. Many say, “Paus opp, Toews!” (Mostly that comes from our alarmist Plautdietsch neighbours – squirrels and crows and the like.) And while no Mennonite trusts Russians, nor are we afraid of them because we can out-farm them any day. Wary as I may be, I am not seeing masked soldiers roaring out from behind rusting granaries near Whitemouth in old Datsun pick-ups, waving black flags and parting my hair (figurative hair) with a machine gun. I don’t believe they will be taking my job (my semi-job) or doing other bad guy stuff that used to be the responsibility of Chuck Norris and Rex Murphy to fix. I don’t think they are going to ruin our economy or wreck our education system or blare call-to-prayer loudspeakers into my bedroom at dawn.

badenov
Sneaky Russian Hacker Terrorist (Note “beet-red” eyes.)

If they do that last thing, the loudspeakers, I may have to go ballistic (you’ll get it in a minute, keep reading) and don my spandex shorts and do my yoga out on the yard. That would at least give me a bargaining chip (and give them an unshakeable mental image).

So, when I hear James Earl Jones doing the promo it’s like a dinner bell to me. I think I’ve been slipped a mickey – a CNN roofie.

Anyway, as you can see, I am normally not that interested in international affairs. Justin has not called me up to discuss foreign policy and so, I’m leaving it to him. But, we do have a TV and we do get CNN. So, when I hear James Earl Jones doing the promo it’s like a dinner bell to me. I think I’ve been slipped a mickey – a CNN roofie. I sip coffee and shout liberal platitudes at the screen. I scroll through tweets and think of puns like, “He’s on Flynn ice!”

But now it’s getting really scary as the local otters are taking Korean lessons online and my financial guy is either having caviar baths or making cat food and peanut butter sandwiches. He seems “uncertain”.

I don’t know what to think. If Trump is a success, I am scared we will get a made-in-Canada clone – O’Leary; Relic from The Beachcombers; Don Cherry; that guy from the A&W commercials… it’s a spooky list.

Here’s hoping that Trump gets in big trouble with the principal (that Bannon guy and his Blue Ox); gets his twitter account put on a time-out for a few years; does a bunch of very, very unfair things that make my investment guy buy cigarette boats by the carton and then… after a totally embarrassing sexting scandal with Arnold Schwarzenegger (so predictable) fade away into the Presidents-that-shoulda-been-impeached seats at Yankee Stadium.

Then the Democrats can put that ballsy Yates lady in charge for eight years and she can repeal deplorable laws, like:

  • no torture on Sunday,
  • no lynching on Sunday,
  • CBHO* lanes on highways (*Coal Burning Hummers Only)

You heard it here first.

allfornow – Mitch

Winter Eve at Walker Creek Park

A NEW SHORT STORY appears today (Feb 17) on CommuterLit. “Winter Eve at Walker Creek Park” will be my 20th overall to be published online and in print, and the seventh to be accepted by Toronto’s CommuterLit e-zine. It is “Friday’s Flash Fiction” and is indeed a flash fiction; about three sips of coffee long.

The story is set in St. Catharines where loved ones, dearly missed, reside.

See CommuterLit for LINKS to my other tales:  In June 2016 editor Nancy Kay Clark chose “The Red River Valley Trilogy“: “Encountered on the Shore”, “A Vile Insinuation”, and “Without Reason”. The linked stories concern, respectively: the aftermath of a violent encounter on a city street; a young American leaving the ball fields of North Dakota for the killing fields of Vietnam; and a devout Mennonite man grappling with cancer and faith.

“Gather By the River” ran the week of Dec 5. It appeared in two parts on consecutive days. “Zero to Sixty”, the lead segment, introduces the chief character and his circumstances; sparking some poignant memories of Hartplatz, his childhood home. In the second piece, “The Margin of the River”, the protagonist returns to the scene of the previous day’s incident with troubling results.

On January 30, 2017 “The Rothmans Job” a wintery, noir-comedy-caper story set in downtown Winnipeg ran on CommuterLit.com.

The Bottom of the Sky

Hi everyone!

I have a new story.

It is a prequel to the story that first appeared in Rhubarb Magazine, “A Fisherman’s Story”. This piece becomes a Part 1 to that original tale of a family on the shores of the Pacific Ocean.

Part 1 is in 1955, in Acapulco and tells of one of the original characters, when he was a younger man, captaining a fishing charter boat. The original piece is Part 2 and is told primarily through the experience of the wife; the mujere.

I have re-named it, “The Bottom of the Sky” , comprising Part 1 Acapulco 1955 and Part 2 Puerta Vallarta 1975.

Here are a few excerpts:

Avelino walked the tourist beaches. His officina, as he liked to joke with the Americans who lay like white cordwood in neat rows, toes pointing at the sun. He had a photo album with pictures of the azul boat; fish strung on the scale at the Acapulco dock; smiling American faces, sun-tanned with movie-star sunglasses and drinks in hand. He was charming and good looking and he hooked many gringo fish.

[Snip]

After a quiet half-hour of trolling they came to a feeding fish. In the split second before it happened, Jose could feel the strike. Then the rod bucked in the holder and the line peeled out in a persistent zazzzzz sound like fingernails on nylon. The pinche yelled and the woman named Angel clapped her hands, her red fingernails looking like spattered blood against the bright horizon.

[Snip]

“Senor Bart! Por favor,” Jose strode rearward with the rod harness, its buckles jingling, passing it to the large man. Then he hurried to the transom where the fishing line danced and swung like a kite tail above the bubbles in the wake of the boat.

[Snip]

The boat rocked in silence at the wharf, next to the scales. Jose sat on the dock staring down into the dirty water. The American had shouted something, cursing as he climbed into a taxi with the women. Doris stared at Jose from the car, her eyes dark and hateful – not the fairy blue they were when she reached over and touched his arm with hers.

[Snip]

YOU KNOW HOW IT IS, RIGHT? You create something that you feel good about – it’s honest, or you believe it to be so. You love it. Shitface drunk love. Then you slowly get to know it – you see it age like a child – and you recognize flaws that you were earlier willing to ignore. You work on it over and over until it is the best you can do; things become stale and the edits you make just become a false shuffle of the deck – nothing really changes.

Then a month goes by (or six) and you read it again. You see things and maybe after a sleep – waking up at three A.M. – you figure out what to do.

And then you love it again the same way it was when it was born, except maybe it’s a more mature love – maybe you accept it in a way you could not before, including the things that you could still change, but, you don’t. The story, like the characters in it, is partly good and partly bad – flawed but capable of splendor.

Blah-blah-blah. 🙂

I am a proud father today and maybe this will find a publication home. I’ll send it to a few “early readers” in the meantime and will report it here if it does get picked up.

Another day in the life — I better get down to the beach before my wife becomes certain that I have lost my mind.

allfornow – mitch

Copyright Mitchell Toews ©2017

 

 

 

 

And When I Dream of Death

 

Hi all,

Here are a few excerpts from a new short fiction that I wrote. I will be submitting for publication with journals that feature flash fiction. I flashed the sign for curveball on this one.

1,129 words

And When I Dream of Death

By Mitchell Toews

WHEN I DREAM of death, I dream always of baseball. Oh, how unaligned these two things are! One threatens absence in the lurking dark while the other reaffirms presence and joy at the bottom of the boundless, lighted sky; the bluest thing in all the world, put there so we could, “Play ball!”
 [SNIP]
Remember?
I do: the rasping of rakes on the basepaths and the tink-tink-tink of rusty spikes at 60’6″. And the Gatling-gun, syncopated smacking as the warmup tosses go back and forth. And bantering, “Howza kids, howza job, howza arm?” to settle nerves and shed workaday worries.
 [SNIP]
I see our boys on the bench, leaning forward, chattering as the first batter digs in. Then I am up and I see the red stitches spinning as the soft liner clears short and settles in front of the galloping fielder, one-hopping into his glove.
[SNIP]
I can see the catcher’s eyes through his mask as he gauges my lead. Too much chaw, I think. He looks drunk. As if he heard me, he tilts up his mask and a thin brown stream re-wets a dark spot on the sand. The Mexican pitcher, shoulders like a pit bull, rubs the ball with leathery hands as he looks towards home.
“Never know,” says Kornelsen as I take my lead.
[SNIP]
And then a funny thing happens and the air goes still and so do the crickets and frogs in the ditch. A purple black cloud is edging towards us out of the west and I hear a woman in the stands say, “He flew too close to the sun,” which is a damn strange thing to hear at a ballgame.
[SNIP]

Copyright Mitchell Toews ©2017

The Beefeater and the Donnybrook

 

Update: 4.11.17 – Hi, from a sunny day in April, beside the lake,

Janice and I have been travelling and have both been down with a cold lately. My blog activity has been limited, though I have been able to keep up with daily writing. Today I heard from editor and literary paragon, Charlie Fish, that another of my stories has been accepted for his award-winning site, Fiction on the Web.

Feedspot has named FotW a TOP 20 short story site on the internet!

Short-story_20_transparent_216pxHere’s what Charlie says about FICTION on the WEB: “It is a labour of love. Every single story on here is hand-picked and carefully edited by me. I don’t have a staff, and I don’t make any money. I do this because I want to give authors a chance to get their work out there, and I love sharing great stories with the world.

FICTION on the WEB has been online since 1996, which makes it the oldest short stories website on the Internet.”

Here are a few snippets from my latest story:

The Beefeater and the Donnybrook

By Mitchell Toews

Copyright Mitchell Toews ©2017

MICAH JAMES WAS shorter than average and had an interesting kind of face. His eyes were recessed and penetrating and his complexion had the weathered texture and ruddy colour of a mountain climber or a big game hunter. He was neither. Micah James was a quiet, middle-aged family man – an engineer working for the City of Halifax in Canada.

The Jameses were leaving together soon on a long-awaited trip to London. His wife, Marion, had planned the trip from the packing process through tipping and all conceivable forms of disaster planning.

[SNIP]

“Ok, I’m on it! Walk will do me good.” Micah said, giving Marion an assuring glance and summoning up some energy for the trip. It was fine – the kind of little blip he had been secretly hoping for.

[SNIP]

Twisting in his crouch, Micah was eyeball to kneecap with a pair of creased black pants, gold piping on the sides. His eyes followed the stripes up to a white satin tunic and topping that, a dapper red fez. Then the voice again, but softer, “Are you alright, mate?”

[SNIP]

He waited in line at the reception desk, listening to an instrumental version of a Bob Dylan song. It was piping out of a speaker in the tile ceiling above him and he laid his head back to peer at it. Thinking of his own rapid descent into hell, he picked detritus from his oily beard; bits of styrofoam and other rancid urban spod. His thinning hair hung in limp disarray and the belt of the raincoat had come loose and was dragging on the ground behind him like an obedient, filthy snake.

[SNIP]

See it on FotW on May 19: an ever-worsening yarn that plays out on the streets of central London. 

Other stories that have appeared on Fiction on the Web:

Nothing to Lose

July 8, 2016. A baker and former hockey player reminisces on his colourful history as he delivers buns in the dusty Manitoba sun.

Heavy Artillery

Oct. 30, 2016. The story of young Matty and his characterful neighbour encountering a travelling salesman in the sleepy Manitoba town of Hartplatz.

The Preacher and His Wife

 Jan. 23, 2017. In Hartplatz, rural Canada, a neighbourhood scandal brews when young Sarah reports that her grandmother’s engagement ring has gone missing.

Commute…Commune…Convive

AN ONLINE LITERARY PUBLICATION to which my stories have been posted is called CommuterLit. It is run by a sharp editor – meaning she is clever and does not miss much, not that she is noticeably angular or drawn by Picasso. Nor does it mean that she is in pain, or plagued by pangs of hunger or regret.

Well, we all have regret. Like me, right now – stuck way out on this implausible introductory branch, with no apparent way down.

Anyway…when my stories ran on CommuterLit, which is Toronto based, I always imagined the trains alongside the 401 and other major routes. I like the names of the stops, glottal and otherwise: Coburg and Newcastle; Yonge, Mount Pleasant, Baif Boulevard and Halton Hills. Very Ontario sounding to my Manitoba slash BC ears.

I like also to think about the people who read my stories on those trains. Who they were (are, will be). They could be professors and plumbers, students, office employees, hungover people, still-drunk people, high-minded folk who ride for political reasons, frugal people who don’t, people fed up with driving,  annoying people kicked out of their car pools, ambitious people churning away on their laptops to prep for a meeting and wanting a quick mental wasabi to clear their cognitive pathways and leave them mentally…

Sharp.

There. Back on terra firma. Phew.

CommuterLit ran a trilogy of mine called The Red River Valley Trilogy – so named because all three installments took place within easy snowmobiling distance of the winding Red River of the North.

Here is a link – for all of you professors and plumbers, to my stories on CommuterLit. Each story has pingbacks (no, that is not a Trump pejorative; they are links) to the other stories in the trilogy. The overall theme has to do with guardian angels – but I am sure you will get that, hungover, or not.

So please – feast on the trilogy, and on the many, many other great stories on offer – for free – on this great reader’s website.

 

Copyright Mitchell Toews ©2016