Babbling in Berkeley

Like many people, I check my phone too often. Like all writers with work outstanding, “Pending Response”, as Duotrope describes it in a much-muted fashion, I check my inbox WAY too often.

A few days ago, I received a note from Publication “X”, with whom I have a short story under consideration. Their note was not directly related to my submission, however; it was addressed to me as one of a group of “Contributors”. My writey-sense a-tingle, I double-checked and the answer came back from my beer-blunted memory, “No, you have not yet been accepted by this pub!”

I shrugged it off as a Mail Chimp accommodation – the message had come to me as a request for a donation to Pub X’s funding efforts for 2018. I had not contributed a story, but I had submitted and I supposed that they had amalgamated the lists — submitters and contributors — into one mega-list for their pitch mail-out.

Knowing the punch-in-the-throat feeling of believing, “Score!” only to have Lucy yank the pigskin away with a flourish, I was guarded with my feelings. Oh yes, the ponies were ready, all right:  the wild horse in the breaking surf joy. Galloping joy. Unbridled. Splashy, splashy. Joy.

But, I said, no. “Whoa, horsey,” I proclaimed aloud, sipping my Beausejour Co-Op dark roast, in-store special blend. I remained an inscrutable Mennonite, the horses quiet in my mental house-barn.

So, anyhow… I then received a note from riverbabble. Like Publication X, I did have a submission pending with these good Berkeleyites. The email contained a publication release form. My blood froze – just like my sewer line did a week ago. Here is a better way to put it:

 Cold oils slid along his vein chilling his blood…

JAMES JOYCE, Ulysses, Calypso, 2734-2743.

Oh bah yo! I heard a distant nickering. Then an urgent whiney. Hooves stomped on hay-strewn floorboards and equine snot made a splatting, sticking, allegorical dark spot on the half-dry concrete of the barn’s centre aisle.

The horses wanted out! “Let us the beach be running,” they cried to one another, eyes wide and nostrils flared. Horseflesh shivered like potluck Jello from the cheap guy at the office. Metaphors reared up on their hind legs.

And then it was true and I was astride one of them – a fierce blue-black beauty who led the thundering herd, salt water and sweat frothing his flanks. I gripped gritty fistfuls of wet mane hair and wept while I shouted and rode the hardpacked sand at full speed, reckless and jubilant.

Typing furiously, I spilled my cuppa Co-op coffee in a crescendo of communicative copulation… Oh. Too much. Sorry.

riverbabble 32 cover
So, it’s true. My short fiction, “In the Dim Light Beyond the Fence” will be a part of riverbabble 32, Winter Solstice Issue, 2018. Having run out my delirium, I sit now at my writing desk, a barn blanket warming me as the sweat cools on my back. “In the Dim Light…” is a story that is as noir and clenched as this blog post is fractured and silly. Light and dark, they both have their place, it’s said.

Thanks to Editor Leila Rae and her clan. It’s my second admission to this group and I know now — I didn’t the first time — just what a fine thing it is to be a contributor to riverbabble!

And who knows, maybe Publication “X” will come through as well. If so, the beach will beckon again and I’ll be only too happy to pound along that broad strand, “with one hand waving free, silhouetted by the sea,” as they say in Hibbing, MN.

 

 

allfornow friends,
Mitch

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A final plane and polish, by Sue Tyley

 

Editing: “Nuts and Bolts and Oiling”

January 10, 2018. Here’s a thoughtful article from a skilled editor. Sue Tyley did the editing on the upcoming print anthology, “The Best of Fiction on the Web”, in which my short story, “Nothing to Lose”, appears. The book is in for typesetting now and Senior Editor Charlie Fish is working on a cover and other design and content decisions. A foreword by author Julia Bell and a felicitous contribution from actor-writer Richard E. Grant – of Game of Thrones fame, and more – are two items to be included.

A final plane and polish, by Sue Tyley

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For more information on the “The Best of Fiction on the Web” anthology, follow the following fish:

icon_FOTW fish

And here’s the LATEST from Fiction on the Web, a cool place to hang out, NAWMEAN!? P.S. – My affected London accent has a flat, nasal, Plautdietsch ring to it. Keanu Reeves ain’t got a ‘fing on me.


allfornow friends,

Mitch
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The Rothmans Job

Dec 30, 2017 – It’s 30 below zero (Celcius) and our sewer line is frozen. Here’s a story to suit. This story appeared on CommuterLit January 30, 2017 and was reprinted on SickLit March 30, 2017.

The Rothmans Job
By Mitchell Toews

A STORM LIKE THIS was rare. Snowflakes blocked out sky and sun and moon and stars. The flakes – as big as baby fists – had been falling for three days. Light and dry, they flew, then settled, then flew again – whipped by a dodgy north wind. At night, the tops of buildings disappeared except for the occasional glimpse of a red tower beacon or a snapping row of flags, like those atop The Bay.

And the people, knowing about these storms, stayed home. In the downtown core, only buses, snow ploughs and police cruisers were out. These motorized vehicles, accustomed to roaring at will, crept along the blanketed streets in peevish silence, their motors and tires muted by the all-enveloping snow.

No humans, no dogs, no birds. It was up to the storefront mannequins – who must have longed to sit – to maintain a watch over the streets. Vigilant, they gazed unblinking through the plastered glass at the frozen lunar streetscape.

Through this otherworld trudged Waxman and Thunderella. The diminutive Waxman led. He wore two snowmobile suits and his knees could not bend more than a few degrees. A bearded Weeble, he waded roly-poly through the drifts ahead of his towering accomplice, Ellen Thundermaker; aka “Thunderella”.

Thunderella towed in her powdery wake a red and yellow child’s sled. It was a Union Flyer and a likeness of flighted Pegasus was screened in reflective paint on both side rails.

Waxman, Thunderella and Pegasus pressed on like arctic explorers. Their goal was the unlocked side door of the Rothmans Cigarette warehouse on Harbour. Waxman had promised fifty bucks to Abie Wiebe – the inside man.

“Hey, Waxman,” Thunderella called from the rear. The wind had died and her voice only had to overcome the snow that coated every surface and baffled the air itself. This snowfall was ultra-absorptive like paper towel brands promised to be.

“WAXY!” she repeated, straining to be heard above the zizza-zazza of his nylon pant legs. He was a heavy man with thick thighs.

“What?” he shouted straight ahead, unable to twist around because of his insulated entombment. He halted, breathing hard, his moustache and scarfed chin hoary with frost. Thunderella bumped into him as she slogged along, head down.

The collision, one of many rear-enders on that street that winter, was enough to push Waxman off-balance. He fell, landing in a puff of white. Cursing and then laughing, he walrused his weight over so that he lay on his rounded backside. He picked a package of Rothmans out of the top pocket of his quilted inner overalls.

“We gonna make it?” she asked, reaching for a smoke.

“No problemo, ‘Rella,” he replied, shooing her hand away. “Two blocks, then through the side door by Perkins Cleaners; then open up the cage. That’s where the expensive stuff is. Abie says that cage lock has been busted for a year.”

#

Roland Barislowski bent forward, touching the freezing cold steering wheel with the absolute least amount of finger skin required to maintain vehicular control.

He peeked through the tiny fan-shaped portal of clear windshield.

“Need a periscope, like Lindbergh,” Roland said aloud. His voice sounded muffled in the anechoic enclosure; six inches of stubborn snow capping the rooftop.

The call had come around two A.M. He had just fallen asleep after pounding Old Viennas with Art, his brother-in-law from Virden. Art was stranded in the city because the highway was shut-down.

“Warehouse alarm went off. Cops’re there,” said his boss, Pozzo.

“Where’re you?” Roland said into the phone, his voice phlegmy.

“Regina airport,” Pozzo said, placing an unenthusiastic Rollie in charge.

Roland’s bottom was warm on the quilt he had tossed into the front seat but the small of his back felt like it was packed in ice. He lit a cigarette and blew smoke rings at the windshield. The rings – twirling in languid slow motion – disintegrated when the blast from the defrost fan hit them.

His brother’s name was Paulos. Everyone called him Poland — Roland and Poland. Very funny, Roland thought. They weren’t even Polish. But nicknames were nothing new in the North End – everybody had one.

Just like Paulos, Roland worked at Rothmans. It was Paulos’ job to take calls like this – the wonky alarm was set off by rats every two weeks or so. But Paulos was out-of-town and so Rollie had been given the key on this cryogenic night.

“Man, there is no one out here!” he said in the coffin quiet of the car interior.

He drove west until he hit a major street that had been cleared. Heading north he came up on the warehouse. An empty police cruiser sat idling at the curb. The trunk was open a crack and a bungee cord, hooked to the underside of the bumper held it shut. He parked beside the police car and went in through the side door of the warehouse, which stood wide open.

“You Poland?” said the cop. There were two of them. This one and a little guy down near the cigar cage. Mutt and Jeff thought Rollie – what his dad, Otto, always said when there was a big guy with a little guy.

“No, I’m his brother, Rollie. I work here too. Paulos is outta town.”

“Eh? Who’s this Paulos guy?” the big cop said, bleary-eyed.

“Paulos is ‘Poland’,” Rollie said, employing the ever-useful air quotes. “His real name is Paulos and he’s my brother. He’s away and I work here too and I got the job of coming out on this mother of a night.”

“Who’s a  mother?” said the little cop. He had walked over from the cage and was holding a few crushed packages of cigars and cigarettes. He saw Rollie studying the packages and said, “Gotta take these. Evidence.”

‘Yeah, fine,” said Rollie. “So, I guess you want me to do an inventory – see what’s been taken?”

“Good idea, Poland,” said the big cop, yawning. He yanked his police hat down low over his face, closed his eyes and leaned back against the forklift. “You guys sure you wanna report this?” he said without opening his eyes. “Seems like a lot of bother, this close to Christmas, for a lousy coupla-hun worth of smokes.”

“We’ll see,” Rollie said, grabbing the clipboard from its spot on the cage door. He used the pencil that was attached by a string to check off the missing items.

“Hey, Officer! Flip the cage light on please – the switch is right behind you,” he yelled. “Close that side door too.”

The little cop stopped stuffing the cigar boxes into his overcoat and did what Rollie asked.

#

Rollie sat in his car, which was now uncomfortably warm. The plastic frost-guards on the windows were broken and while the rest of the window was clear, the section in middle was fogged. He keyed letters into his pager, holding his breath as he concentrated on tapping the tiny buttons. He entered Pozzo’s number and typed the message:

Many CASES RothM King missiong. Cops took stuff but don’t think they were in on it. Call me!! – R

It’s gonna be an insurance jackpot, Rollie thought. His boss was crafty. He’d shut up about the stuff that Officers Mutt and Jeff had swiped – including the loot crammed into the cruiser trunk – in exchange for their listing an inflated tally on the police report. Pozzo would use their complicity as “wiggle room” to alter the report as required. Pozzo would make money on the deal; his Caddy stuffed with pricey goods that were easy to sell to bar owners and smoke shops.

Rollie and Paulos would get a C-note or so to play along.

“Nice work if you can get it,” Roland said to himself. That nugget courtesy of his late father, Otto. Otto Barislowski had run a ramshackle sash and door shop – BARIS GLASS – for thirty years. Honest guy. Never made much but his family was fed and clothed. “You get a roof over your head and there’s coal in the chute,” the old man would say to Rollie and Paulos.

Rollie pointed the old Ford east and took side streets home. He coasted through the stop signs at each intersection, as stealthy as Santa’s sleigh. After a few blocks, he killed the lights and prowled along at idle speed from streetlight to streetlight. Cranking down the window, he could hear the snow compressing under the tires. The air smelled clean like the laundry he would bring in from the winter clothesline for his mother – his t-shirts like stiff slabs of flake cod.

“Otto-Matic Windows,” Rollie announced to the empty park that abutted the road. He wound his window up a few turns and thought of his father’s invention – a house window that cranked open and closed like a car window. A year after Barislowski’s gadget came out, a big window brand from Minnesota launched a similar version – but more refined – and that was that. Otto Barislowski always believed the US outfit had stolen the idea from him. Disillusioned, Otto sold the company a few years later.

#

“Jesus H. Christ!” said Waxman. He panted as he lay on his back in a snowdrift, the heavy case of Rothmans Kings beside him. “It is frickin’ hard work being a criminal mastermind!”

Thunderella watched him. The Pegasus sled rested behind her loaded with its own case of cigarettes and also a 24-pack of Super-Fluft Toilet Paper Rolls. Three-ply.

“What the hell are you doing with that?” Waxman had growled at her when they were in the warehouse.

“They were in the bathroom! We are almost out at home – so, I figured, ‘Why not?’” she had explained, in reply.

“I guess we can get $3, maybe $4 per carton for the smokes,” Waxman said from the snow bank, bringing her back into the now. He held a mittened hand up so the big flakes would not land in his face. “So, we got 96 cartons – that’s three hundred bucks! Kids are gonna get some great presents this year.”

“No way, Waxy. It’s gonna be all imported cheese and fancy wine for you and me. Crab meat. Vienna sausages…” she said, stopping to let him join in.

“Ha-ha. Yeah – uhh, Heineken beer, Dijon ketchup, Swiss chocolate – or, you know, one of those giant bars, ahh,”

“TOBLERONE, TOBLERONE!” she shouted out.

“As if,” Thunderella added, suddenly serious. She pointed a gauntlet at the elfin figure below her, “you know the only two reasons I’m in on this stupid caper, right Einstein?”

“Yeah, and they’re both home sleeping, Ellen,” Waxman said, holding a hand up to her.

“It’s a bent-ass world,” she replied. It was her stock comment to the many philosophers who populated the dingy Nox Beverage Room where she worked slinging draught beer. It seemed to fit the moment.

Thunderella helped Waxman up. “Ready to go?” she asked.

#

Rollie saw them about the same time they saw him.

“No sense in running, ‘Rella,” Waxman said without breaking stride.

“It ain’t a cop anyway,” his wife replied. “Maybe we can get a ride? I’m pooped.”

Waxman stopped. He dropped the case of cigarettes down off his shoulder and held it against his belly, arching his back. “Hell, yeah. My back is killin’ me, eh.”

“Fuckin’ A,” she said, tugging at the sled. “Let me go first.”

“Yeah, show a little cleavage,” he said.

Thunderella stuck her tongue out at him and strode; pushing through the fallen snow with purpose towards the approaching car.

“Jesus H. Christ,” Rollie said to himself. He rolled the window all the way down. It’s them! He recognized the “Rothmans” name and logo on the side of the boxes. He calculated: one case on the sled, one case being carried. “That makes two plus one that the cops had and the two in my trunk,” he said out loud. “Five cases of RM Kings altogether.” This was perfect, seeing as he had told the cops to mark down ten cases as stolen.

“Hi, honey!” Thunderella said to him as she neared the car. He shifted into park. She was a tall woman. It looked like she was about six-months pregnant, but it was hard for Rollie to tell because of the puffy parka she wore.

“Mother of a night, or what?” said the man behind her. Roland was surprised by Waxman’s appearance – short and almost round. He walked like a wind-up toy.

“Listen,” Thunderella said, fanning her face with a mitten. “We live maybe ten blocks that way, at Schultz Street,” she said, pointing east. “Any chance a girl could get a lift?”

“What’s that?” Roland said, feigning ignorance and pointing his chin at the cigarette cases.

“Well,” Waxman said, leaning sideways to speak around Thunderella. “We was shoppin; and then this buddy of mine, he got a deal on smokes. So we went down to his place and scored these smokes and then we had a few pops – well I did, anyway, she’s up-the-stump, eh.” Waxman spat the story out and while he did, Thunderella swivelled around so Rollie couldn’t see her face and gave her husband a cross-eyed look.

“Got a helluva deal on the ass-wipe – I mean toilet tissue,” Waxman said – a bit distracted – in conclusion.

“Yeah, I’ll bet,” Rollie said.

Rollie rubbed a glove against the inside of his foggy windshield, thinking about what to do. The cops had left the warehouse by now. These two lived right on his way home. He peered ahead in the headlights – there were no signs of movement in any direction. Not a creature was stirring. He considered himself, Paulos, Pozzo and also Mutt and Jeff. He considered the little beaver of a man and the beautiful, imposing pregnant woman standing beside the road in the frigid, forsaken night with stolen cigarettes and toilet paper.

A minute later the old Ford crept down Flora Avenue, the snow-crusted roof bearing three cardboard boxes and a flying horse. The red taillights vanished in a flurry of blowing snow.

#

Pozzo walked into his office, tucking in his shirt and adjusting his tie. He sat down at his desk and then dialed the phone, pushing the little buttons with extra vigour. He was in a fuming swivet about something.

“Poland!” he said in a loud voice. “What the hell is wrong with that shit-for-brains brother of yours?” Pozzo listened intently to Paulos’ reply.

“What do mean, ‘What do you mean?’” he said in a sing-song voice. “First I get stranded in the bloody Regina airport then I find out we got ripped off. And then,” he re-gripped the phone and moved it close to his mouth. “And then I go to the can just now for my morning constitutional and guess what?”

“No frickin’ TOILET PAPER, that’s what!”

First Birthday

It will soon be a year, June 21, 2016, since my first short story was accepted and published by a literary journal. That story was Encountered on the Shore, on CommuterLit.

Since that time I have added 24 acceptances to my credit roll. By now, I am pretty sure I am committed to, “this fiction thing,” as those near me tend to describe it.

It has been hard work. “Ha!” you say, and the old-school, Menno scoffer in me tends to agree, but it’s true. I have submitted 112 times and have 21 submissions currently outstanding. My written word count is somewhere in the 125,000-word range. My acceptance rate on Duotrope is .342 for fiction. That’s the same as Babe Ruth’s lifetime batting average. (The Bambino, as you prolly know, was a helluva wordsmith…)

So far, it’s been fun. Rewarding; a satisfying ego boost when you see your name in print. There is collateral damage though. I am boring and tedious at parties, of which — no surprise — I attend few. Golf buddies roll their eyes and their putts. My wife is an excellent changer-of-topics.

It is also dismaying — seeing all the strained passages and obvious typos that everyone (mostly me) missed.

But, I am now entering the second ring. My stories are a little harder to write because I am choosing more controversial topics. I am beginning to piss people off. (Something I’ve always found easy to accomplish.) My kids don’t always want to read my stuff and I am pretty sure my son-in-laws have used the, “must be some other Toews guy,” excuse, at least once.

I am not sure what the outcome will be, but like old Ad Francis in “The Battler”, it feels good to hit and it feels good to be able to take a hit. (I have been scolded by more than one editor.) Here below is the current list of publications and a more detailed accounting (with links, log lines, and excerpts) may be found here: https://mitchellaneous.com/write-clicks/

 

Kits mitch zoom
Me, striking a prose…

 

CommuterLit
Rhubarb Magazine
Voices Journal
Fiction on the Web
Literally Stories
Red Fez
Broken Pencil
The Machinery
SickLit
Storgy
The MOON magazine
Alsina Publishing

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Social media touchpoints: Facebook, twitter, Niume, LinkedIN, Flipboard, Stumbleupon, Tumblr, Google+, Gravatar, and Instagram. Also, as you well know, comments, liking, following, sharing and favouriting are things that help an emerging* writer in the hunt for readers.

Tweets: @mitchell_toews #mitchelltoews #amwriting #shortstories #canlit #mennonite #fiction

allfornow – mitch

*At my age, maybe more like submerging? A distinction that writer, translator and friend Hege Anita Jakobsen-Lepri pointed out. https://www.linkedin.com/in/hege-anita-jakobsen-lepri-8231856/

 

The Rothmans Job

My noirish crime fiction, “The Rothmans Job”, has earned a reprint in SickLit Magazine. Readers seem to like the characters in this story. Me too.

SickLit is an online zine with the tagline, “Bringing the real. Keeping the weird.” I suppose that this twisted tale fits that mandate. Thanks to SickLit for picking me up on such a cold, dark night. Thanks too, to CommuterLit, who ran the story originally.

Like ‘Rella, in the story, I remain optimistic. “Against all odds”, is not such a bad place – at least you know where you stand. If you like this story – please share it. If you hate it – hit me in the face a few times and I promise not to counter-punch or argue. I’ll just get back up and keep trudging until I disappear in a flurry of snow.

bb48de0d4e107d2f3c9922b13a254df5 pegasus

allfornow – Mitch

@Mitchell_Toews

The Creative Economy

Hardworking Old Dude…

I am in the middle – eight hours today – of editing a collection of short stories. 200 plus double spaced, TNR 12 font pages of prose from Toews.

As a formality (I thought) I searched for “ly” in Word and to my dismay, TO MY UTTER DISMAY, I found that my manuscript contained 768 ly words. Lots of adverbs like “nervously”, “amateurishly”, “hopelessly”, “f*ckishly”, and the always-lyrical, “rejectingly”. Non-adverbial LY words like “family” & “only” were present in the text and were not guilty of a felony, but still: 768??

768 is a lot. That number is the total combined career home runs hit in major league baseball by BROTHERS. It’s an easy Google search, but how about a FREE ZWEIBACH BUN for anyone who can name these brave-hearted brothers, without looking it up.

That is almost four adverbs on every page — too many for a self-proclaimed* “dirty realism” adherent like me.

(* And some readers say so too. I love those people.)

“The adverb is not your friend.”  –  Stephen, “The Adverb-Slayer”, King (No less!)

So, having pulled my short fiction collection together, created a TOC, and an Acknowledgements Page, I thought I was pretty close to crying havoc! and pressing send. After all, most of these stories have been accepted by literary journals and have been edited and re-edited many times. Some have gone under the knife so often they look like zombies on The Walking Dead! So they should be somewhat adverb-free. Nope.

As a result, this Sunday was spent curbing my adverbyism. “Out, Out! Damn adverb!”

In Search of Art…

“What is Art?” you might ask. Good question. For a Mennonite, the answer could be, “Art Martens? He’s a farmer,” or “An EMBer,” and so on.

But I ask, “What is Art?” because that appears to be what I am working for: Art for Art’s sake. To scratch the creative itch.

It has come to my attention, thanks to a wonderful article in Broken Pencil Issue 74 by Suzanne Alyssa Andrew (The Hustle, page 20) that, in Canada, “the market for art, writing, and music is broken.”

The author goes on to present these disappointing, but true, statistics for the True North:

  • Canadian musicians only earn an average $7,228 a year from music…
  • Most musicians can only afford to spend 29 hours a week on music…
  • Canadian writers are making 27 percent less today than they were in 1998…

I worked my guts out from 1977 to last year so that I could finance food, heat, power, beer and wine AND write me some fiction. Now it seems like I should have quit in 1998 to become inky.

More dire stats showing the 19-year, and counting, slide away from the ever-increasing COL for l’artiste:

  • Affordable housing, studio and venue space is at a premium…in 2016, the median monthly rent for the average one-bed-room apartment costs $1,740 in Vancouver, $1,350 in Toronto and $960 in Montreal.

Ms. Andrew concludes that, “The creative middle class is dead.”

For me, this is unfortunate but not debilitating. However; had I followed my dad’s advice back in the seventies and followed the creative trail – trying to make a living from the artistic side of the dirty, confused world – it could have been a hard go, with things getting worse every year. I worked for forty years to finance my current slim pickins, so it’s not as bad por moi as it is for the many young artists today working one or two part-time jobs to finance their passion.

Ideas…

I suppose I could pay starving artists $0.10 per adverb for pest control in my short stories? But, with some perseverance, I can eradicate them myself. (Note how I did not write, “Hopefully,  I can eradicate them myself.” Eh? Ehhhh!!!?)

What about:

  • More funding for, less bitching about, Canada Council for the Arts?
  • The PM gives artists a major tax break, because Canada is close to committing the eighth social sin: Living without art. (Art the life-affirming pursuit, not that Martens guy.)
  • For street performers: Plop down a FIVER instead of a meagre Loonie. (Mennonites of course only ever applaud with gusto – we need to start with a Loonie and work our way  up.)
  • TIP HEAVY and prevent someone from sleeping on the streets. C’mon Moneybags, you have made gross, old guy, creepy remarks to the angel that brought you that Caesar with Extra Chicken & Diet Coke – now it’s time to bust the 15% ceiling. He or she may or may not be an artist, but either way — they need that extra coupla bucks more than you.
  • Buy some art. Yes, for the next few birthdays, Xmas, Hanukkah – go downtown, find a seller and shell out top dollar for Canadian art, music, writing. Think of it, sitting at the hockey game telling your buddy you just bought a $400 piece of art. They are gonna think you are loaded and – hoping for a hot stock tip – invite you to their cottage where you and Mrs. Moneybags can consume $425 worth of ribs, steak, wine, beer and outboard motor gasoline. (Do not mix consumables.)

The artist wins, your wife is lookin’ at you kinda funny (the good funny) after her third glass of free merlot, AND you are up $25 bucks! Tax-free!

(PLUS… you have just read an LY adverb-free article. No extra charge.)

allfornow – Mitchly

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

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