Morning Serial: Prairie’s End, Manitoba 1

I wake up most mornings with a half a dozen characters, a plotline or two, and a bunch of run-on sentences running around in my head. After the requisite morning constitutions are ratified, I oftentimes just let these night-grown inspirations fade away.

Well, no more! I am resolved to give my readers something to read! How about a good old-fashioned serial? Compelling, bent-widget characters with a rollicking plot fraught with lotsa knots, cliff-hangers and roundabouts that meet in the middle.

In the spirit of NaNoWriMo, it will be voluminous, spontaneous, and free-flowing. You don’t know where the story and the characters are going, so why should I? I won’t promise 50,000 words, but you never know what my morning coffee will deliver!

Fun? I hope so! My ulterior motive is to build a readership who appreciate my brand of schiet-stained rambling and are on-board for something maybe not so much fine arts mastered but more glockenspiel on acid. You know what I mean.

We begin…

Episode One: Wading for Godot (915 words, about a six-minute read)

Donald and Maria Oswald were happy. They had a quiet, loving marriage and lived in a paid-for double-wide—(“This Unit will make your smiles DOUBLE WIDE!”)—just a fat pitching wedge away from the Beauchamp Highway. Their corner lot was neatly tended, grass grew dense and dark green on the sloping lawn. No weeds defiled this Gretna Green.

“Just ‘cuz we don’t have no basement, don’t mean we don’t need no drainage,” Donald would proclaim. Standing stiff and tall inside next to the ‘Proud Panoramic Picture Window’ like an animated John A. Macdonald statue, he would watch the rain come down. He took inordinate satisfaction from seeing the rivulets run off the convex dome of packed topsoil. “Glad I mixed ‘er wit pea gravel,” he would murmur, his Adam’s Apple riding up and down like a ball on a string.

“Fallin’ on my head like a mammary,” he would sing-song, grabbing Maria’s blue jean mama butt as she walked by and the torrents poured out of the sky.

In Spring and Fall, there was a lot of rain. During the brief heat of Summer, thunderstorms visited them almost nightly, hammering the tinny roof in a deluge. These were angry, driving rains, the drops making pock-marks in the sandy aggregate of their block road that dried hard like smallpox scars. Often hailstones collected, glimmering white in the blue lard bucket that held the downspout, looking like batting practice baseballs before a Reimer Reindeer game.

“Real cedar siding,” Donald would point out to visitors, tapping on the horizontal slats and sneering at neighbouring vinyl facsimiles, their brittle, embossed skins yellowing in the sun.

On the adjoining lot were two Granny Houses. They were placed one at each end of the seigneurial shaped, convex-topped grass strip like identical twins on either end of a teeter-totter.

“We got the Little Big House Deluxe models,” Maria would chime-in as they toured visiting relatives from Wawanesa. “It was a little more money but Juanita and Wade are worth it. Family, you know.”

The Little Big Houses were likewise clad in cedar, with black shingle roofs—(“low-slope”)—and eight-by-eight decks, each holding identical Canadian Tire MeatMaster barbeques. Each home was like a brown Lego piece, wedged snugly into its end of the fish-finger shaped lot, the two protruding decks facing one another like four-year-olds with their tongues sticking out.

Juanita lived in the rearmost cube. She was a pert, big-busted woman with grey hair tousled just so and her strip mall clothes tight-fitting and providing an easy-to-follow focal pathway to her freckled but still-smooth cleavage. “Gotta show the boys what they want,” she’d trill, pushing her butt out and pointing her breasts up. “Hi-beam!” she’d proclaim proudly as Wade cringed. Gino, owner of the local service station and a widower, came by on alternate Wednesdays to align her headlights.

Juanita’s son by Donald was a middle-aged man named Wade. He was her detached co-habitant on the narrow property, living across the grassy curtilage that separated their tidy abodes. Wade was a man for whom two things were true. First, he was not yet achieving the success he foresaw for himself as a child. Second, he won $25,555 in the first ever Lotto 5/55 draw held in Manitoba in 1982. His five numbers won second-prize – he needed the bonus number to claim the top prize of $55,555. It was widely believed that the existence of this latter cash fact greatly contributed to the ongoing truth of the former life fact. This apparent causal relationship was invisible to Wade’s parents, Donald and Maria, and his birth mother, Juanita, but was plainly evident to all of the neighbours in the Jolly Reindeer Trailer Court and Retirement Club.

He was known as “Wade-a-minute,” or, “Wade-down,” or sometimes, “LightWade,” by the sharp-tongued ex-farmers and ex-cops and ex-Reimer Reindeer truck drivers that populated the ticky-tack, block-on-block grid. They thought little of this 48-year-old bachelor living next to the rolling strip of black macadam that stretched from Prairie’s End, Manitoba to Toronto, Ontario.

“He’s just lucky he hit that jackpot,” they’d say, their cups of Timmies steaming in mute agreement. “I’d be set for life too if I’da won that kinda money when I was twenty!” Truth is they didn’t, they wouldn’ta and they had no clue.

Wade knew of their name-calling, but he didn’t care. It was him after all, not them, who had taken the $25,555 Lotto cheque and signed it over to his cousin Woody, a newly-minted investment advisor in Winnipeg. His money went all-in… Apple (AAPL) at $220 USD per share. He had invested on a drunken bet, Woody saying he would give Wade his new Camaro if Apple stock did not at least double in the first year.

Had he not panicked and sold most of his shares in the tumble of 2009, just last year, Wade would be worth a couple of million now. But, unknown to his family and neighbours, he still had done well. Really well, or, “Seea scheen!” as his boss, Old Man Reimer, would say. Wade kept his financial success to himself and worked patiently on his master-plan. He tapped the keys of a calculator and smirked to himself, his pencil poised above a neat column of ledger entries at the kitchen table in the Deluxe Little Big House.

“Just Wade ’til next Tuesday!” he whispered to himself. “Then we’ll see who the ‘under-achiever’ is around here!”

Next: The Stampede is Ont!

 

 

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Brit Screenwriter and Canuck Author Seek Not-for-Profit Film Group

Object: MATRIMONY!

Well, even if marriage is out, perhaps a mutually beneficial, platonic, creative partnership working towards a COLLABORATIVE production effort within an ARTS COUNCIL FUNDED program is a possibility?

Here are the bullets:

  • I’ve written a short story trilogy that has drawn some interest as the raw material for a screenplay. http://bit.ly/FotWBtmSKY
  • I shared it with a friend in London, a screenwriter with some decent film creds, who expressed interest in the story and the possibility of turning it into a screenplay.
  • While we both liked the idea, it IS a longshot and we both have more than enough on our respective, existing, literary plates. We chose to pass, with regrets.
  • THEN, miraculously, or fortuitously, or, at least, with GREAT TIMING, we learned of a co-sponsored, government-funded program designed to:
    • encourage and support the development of creative and collaborative partnerships between artists and arts organizations in the performing arts sector in the UK and Canada.
    • initiate challenging and inquisitive conversations, exchange ideas and practices and develop ambitious, creative research and development projects that can offer the first steps for collaborations and productions between Canada and the UK.
  •  HMMM… our brows knitted across the cold North Atlantic, and we wondered about PROVIDENCE and other ports and harbours on or above the 49th parallel. A bit more specifically:

The program aims are:

  • To fund collaborative and sustainable creative projects that can deliver long-term benefits for the performing arts sectors in both countries
  • To increase cultural exchange opportunities between UK and Canada, allowing for more artist mobility and international opportunities
  • To share best practices and networks through exchange, to increase skills, develop ideas and new artistic vocabulary between professional artists and organizations
  • To support visibility and representation of voices and a diversity of dialogues in the performing arts sector
  • To support research, development and creation, and seed support for future collaborations and productions

And that’s where I, my story, “The Bottom of the Sky”, and my friend the produced screenwriter and general all-around nice bloke reinitiated our plan to collaborate!

NOW, we are looking for a registered not-for-profit organization-group-guild in Canada or the UK and Ireland, to knit up this ravelled sleeve and turn my fictive literature into a script for the screen. 

Please contact me if this knits your brow, your sleeve or any other unknitted item appropriate for polite company. We await your potential collaboration to MAKE APPLICATION FOR FUNDING as we LEAP FROM TREE TO MIGHTY TREE… together.

November 18, 2018 DEADLINE

Seriously, this is a dead-set brilliant opportunity, so please respond if you are part of a non-profit or know someone who is!  mtoews55@gmail.com

 

allfornow, friends,
Mitch

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Toopoabeide

TOOPOABEIDE*, or “working together” is the Plautdietsch word for collaborate. And, thanks to the generosity and skill of one of my hometown heroes, that is what I am able to do in an upcoming story.

I clearly remember sitting cross-legged on the floor in John Henry Friesen’s Steinbach sign-painting shop in the sixties, watching with unflagging attention as he lettered signs and trucks. I attended, usually along with my dad, while “John Henry” built, sculpted, painted or otherwise, “hucked stuff together”. He is a wonderful artist, a creative wonder-worker, and a local institution.

John and I have connected on the internet a few times and not long ago I showed him a draft of a story that I wanted to send out for consideration by literary magazines. A while later he came back with the drawing shown above. In the meantime, my story was accepted by the Canadian publication Pulp Literature and — with JHF’s permission — I sent them a copy of his fanciful artwork. 

Editor Jennifer Landels replied in the affirmative and John’s art will grace the title page of my short story, “Away Game”. I am pleased as I am sure John is too. (“Cool.”) I can only imagine my late father, who has an inspirational role in both the story and the art, is happy about our prose-ink collaboration. Dad was a great fan of John’s and, if my story is at all accurate, still is.

I’ll post the publication details as soon as they are available.

~~~

* Tawp-oawr-bide

 

allfornow friends,
Mitch
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Across the Pond and Beyond

literally stories logo

I am honoured to be in the Literally Stories mix once again. My short story, “So Are They All” appears in this week’s collection of original short fiction – a short story curation that LS has been providing for the past 138 consecutive weeks.

This is my sixth acceptance in this United Kingdom based literary journal. The stories they have chosen (they have rejected five) have in common a Canadian setting and characters that represent various segments of life in Canada, across a number of eras.

main-qimg-c52a555c991ccfdda8925bab3a6d30a1 UK and Ireland sm

Several other UK literary journals* have also published my stories. The UK and Ireland are apparently in my sweet spot and damned if I know why!

I asked my Irish born – now Canadian Permanent Resident – son-in-law what he thought might be the attraction. While he had no conclusive theory, he supposed that the details, set in places and times in Canada that are not mainstream, offer a kind of “comfortable alien” nature. I accept that because the stories Tom tells about his childhood in Nobber are a source of fascination to me, in that same way.

Whatever the chemistry of the long distance relationship between the stories and the readers, I feel privileged to be part of the Literally Stories lineup.

*Fiction on the Web (4 stories published) – Charlie Fish, Editor; Storgy (1 story) – Tomek Dzido and Anthony Self, Editors; Fictive Dream (“The Seven Songs”, to be published on Nov 26) Laura Black, Editor; LingoBites, a part of Alsina Publishing (1 story, with a three-part serial in the edit suite and coming soon) – Lisa Dittmar, Editor (Although–full disclosure–Ms. D is a product of Cascadia, and like all of the editors I have encountered, she is foremost a citizen of the world.)

I hope to add more! (I write every day. Even when it hurts.)

P.S. – of the 35 titles of mine that have achieved virtual orbit online and in print, (“So far, damn it!” the author says through gritted teeth, a clinging scrap of spinach ruining the dramatic effect) quite a few have found Canadian and American platforms, and one Indian publication too.  I love all of my prose offspring equally; so too their adoptive homes.

allfornow – Mitch

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

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 Preacher and His Wife

January 23, 2017

“The Preacher and His Wife” is a comical look at the comings and goings of Mennonite life in a small town in the sixties. It is as pure as the view from inside the cocoon can be — but it’s just one cocoon.

The story goes live TODAY (January 23) on Fiction on the Web

Please find below a few short excerpts and also a couple of links to two other “Mennosphere” stories of mine that are in the FOTW archives.

On FICTION ON THE WEB JANUARY 23
“All family congresses were held in the tiny house and we sat packed as tight as two-yolks in a shell. Chair legs intersected like a village of miniature wigwams, and above that, our arms and forearms were in constant contact; sometimes linked. Our Zehen freundschaft heads – complete with high, overhanging brows – bobbed as one as we laughed or bowed in prayer or swiveled to see the facial expressions of the storyteller of the moment. The incoming newlywed uncles and aunts who found themselves part of this household became used to the close quarters. They soon grew adept at stepping over overlapping legs and socked feet as they picked a path through from the kitchen to the living room, doling out fresh coffee and buns with jam while a dozen conversations hummed and budgies squawked in their cages.”

[SNIP]

“One fall day, when winter parkas were in order, Sarah ran into our house to announce that, ‘Grandma can’t find her engagement ring and she is pretty sure that the Preacher’s wife has it.’
‘What?’ my mother said, stopping in mid-paw as she dug through a box of warm clothes to outfit us for winter. Grandma’s ring was her lone extravagant luxury and unlike other items of some beauty in her possession – furniture and rugs for example – this ring had no redeeming practical use. It symbolized love and fidelity and was purely a thing of pleasure. Grandma loved her ring, which had set a much younger Grandpa back almost a whole season of timber cutting in the Redekopp forests south of town.
‘That’s impossible,’ Mother said, with no opportunity for rebuttal, standing up straight with her hands on her aproned hips.”

[SNIP]

http://www.fictionontheweb.co.uk/2016/07/nothing-to-lose-by-mitchell-toews.html

http://www.fictionontheweb.co.uk/2016/10/heavy-artillery-by-mitchell-toews.html

You may also enjoy, “Our German Relative”. a Christmassy tale from Russia found on Red Fez, or other tales from the fictional prairie darp of “Hartplatz”, on Literally Stories or CommuterLit.

Copyright Mitchell Toews ©2016
Copyright Mitchell Toews ©2017

Three Vignettes

H

Here’s a few excerpts from a new story of mine.

P.S. – The artwork is mine too – a watercolour view of Caye Caulker from the Peach on the Beach looking towards the Split.

920 words

Three Vignettes

By Mitchell Toews

Copyright Mitchell Toews ©2017

One

Albert Thibodeau’s sister Suzanne was sick. His parents were ashen-faced and silent, going about the farm and household business by rote. Albert did homework in her room, his scribblers spread out on the flat, quilted blanket.

Suzanne lay unmoving. When Albert came in the room she would stir, her eyes opening and a thin smile on her lips. Her gums were too red. He would read her jokes from his Archie and Jughead Digest.

[SNIP]

Two

…”One dog, with peppers,” said Bob, busying himself with a bag of buns.

“And MUSH!” said Albert Thibodeau. “Gotta meet sis today and hear about how great she is doing.”

“Tell her I love her.”

“No dice. You are below that woman’s pay grade. You are a smelly dog, selling smelly dogs to other smelly dogs.”

“I love you too, Thibodeau,” said Bob, handing him a foil-wrapped hot dog. Albert tooled down the opposing ramp, skidding into a turn at the bottom in the March slush and then pumping hard twice to get to a picnic table on the courthouse lawn.

“Hey, drivers and registration please!”

[SNIP]

Three

Suzanne lay in the chaise. She was shaded by a wicker palapas and palms. Several green and brown coconuts lay in the sand around her. She gazed out past the reef – “beyond the swash,” like they said here – to where the water was a darker blue.

An easel stood near the lounge chair and a watercolour was underway.

“Carolina blue, cerulean blue, cobalt blue,” she said, from under the brow of a sun hat.

“Labatt’s Blue,” said Albert…

[SNIP]

13:05 1.8.17: Wish me luck in placing this flash fiction with an ezine or lit journal! I’ll post if and when it runs; if it becomes a cherished, “We are pleased to inform you…” 

allfornow – mitch

waiting for class to end, redoux

FOUND: In the back pages of my copy of “waiting for godot”, circa 1974, University of Victoria.

godot

I may not have been the pointiest spike in the railroad, but I doodled well.

But, shouldn’t the likes have stopped when they met in the middle? Maybe they collided and then rebounded back out? Or maybe they just went hurtling by each other; having just missed, like trains on parallel tracks?

Like trains attract like trains.

364e85ff00000578-3691573-image-a-11_1468586522513-trains

I suppose, having sped by one another, they would have slowed until they reached apogee and, inch by inch they would each creep backwards; ultimately accelerating until they sped by in the reverse harmonic. Over and over.

Friction, steadily exhausting the propellant energy of attraction, would ultimately slow them to the point where they stopped and rested beside one another.

The like trains would lie together, trembling with unfulfilled attraction, aching to rest as one on the same track at the exact same instant.

Is that good or bad or some of both? Or neither – it just is? 

allfornow – Mitch