Winter Shrinkage

My contribution to Earth Day, April 22, 2020.

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

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

 

Winter Shrinkage

by Mitchell Toews

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

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

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

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

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

#

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

#

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

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

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

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

#

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

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

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

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

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

End

 

CC BY ND

“Here’s what the coronavirus pandemic can teach us about tackling climate change.”

“Life in a ‘degrowth’ economy, and why you might actually enjoy it.”

 

 

 

The Daily Rapture — Wrap Party

 

 

Here’s the CONCLUSION to the short-lived but lively as a rodeo-clown-with-diarrhea three-part series, “The Daily Rapture”.

Q: WHY, not-so-anonymous ghostwriter Toews (if that’s even your real name—sounds made-up)… why did you take the time to grind out this spotte-fest? Why bother? Do you have a shit-disturber disorder? What skin have YOU got in this game?

PREFACE: Not long ago I happened to catch a TV show featuring an interview with an evangelical fellow who claimed to have been to Christian heaven and back. Okay… He was taking on-air questions and hawking the vanity press best-seller “he” had authored. Right…
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Did I want to reach in through the television set and pinch his money-grubbing snout in a rhetorical way? Yes. Yes, I did, brothers and sisters.

This evangelical-du-jour went into great detail about THE RAPTURE and I found it comically similar—minus the F-bombs, weed, and gross sex jokes—to Seth Rogan’s over-the-top apocalyptic movie, “This is the End”. It is hilarious, and telling, that the evangelical, super-uber-earnest, book-flogger dude and Seth Rogan’s druggy, Hollywood religio-romp came down about the same on the facts and figures of the big ol’ round-up in the sky, the tribulation, and to a degree, heaven.

How many evangelicals would allow their children or grandchildren or those in their care with a less-than-adult ability to discern between fact and folly to watch an apocalyptic movie like “This is the End”? N-O-N-E, with a capital kliewe de, that’s how many. It is worth noting too that Rogan & co-producer Evan Goldberg created their film for mentally fit adults only.

Remember, many of these same end-time extremist folks* prohibited kids from watching “The Simpsons”, and yet, they force-feed the horrors of the rapture to unqualified, unfit audiences without care or compunction. 

*Spot them dancing “Gangnum Style” at Sunday morning services. “Put yo hands in the AY-YAH!”

pt hat

So, with that as the groundwork, here is some other bitchiness I am seeking to vent:

  1. Why was this rapture business not a big deal when I was a kid? I grew up in a God-fearing town, where Die Owlah’s vengeful nature was known and preached with some regularity—in homes and from the pulpit. Sure, there were some “end times” conversations and we all knew “Revelations” was not bedtime story material unless maybe your dad was the Marquis de Sade… But, other than that, the RAPTURE was not common fare among the religious set, within whose margins (and abodes, sometimes) I resided. I don’t know much about the growth of evangelical influence in respect of rapture preaching within Steinbach churches, but something tells me that the correlation factor would be high. For me, at age seven years (1962), when my Grandma Toews led me to Jesus’s warm embrace, I can guaran-damn-tee you I would not have gone if that rapture shiet was being tossed around like a live grenade! No way. Even back then, my trusty bullshit barometer would have been at ELEVEN on a scale of ten.
  2. The Snake Oil Factor. Why, with any caricature in the wide world to choose from, would I have created a Main Character with the persona of the Hee-Haw host? (Minus the gitar-pickin’ skills.) Why not pattern “Pastor T” after a solemn student of scripture, an academic, ecclesiastical show-jumper with a pedigree a Molotschnan mile long? Eh? Well, I just felt like the rapture is more suited to the big-lunged revival tent gang: “COME TO THE FRONT, BROTHERS AND SISTERS… COME TO THE FRONT AND REPENT… THE BUSES WILL WAIT… COME TO THE FRONT! (We take VISA!)” You know the type.
  3. The “Of Mice and Men” factor… As I alluded to in the third installment (“The Daily Rapture — Act Three”) I find it cruel and irresponsible to put a child or any person of diminished intellectual or emotional capacity in the line of rapture fire. What will the rapture message do to a person deep in the throes of depression? How will thoughts of the rapture allay despair? To hear that you yourself, or your loved ones, your more-sinful friends, or even just the wide world of random strangers (billions of people, according to a fast Google search) are going to be left behind to suffer the whole mess promised in the good book… Nah! C’mon! If you want to circle dates on the calendar and scare people, pick someone your own size.admit one
  4. You get what you pay for. A problem I have is accepting the transactional nature of some teachings. (If it’s a transaction, where’s the faith?) Okay, in all of life on earth, actions have consequences. Mostly. You let your guard down at the water hole and, BAM! Your ass is grass. See you later, alligator. We are tempered by the harsh reality of physics, chemistry, and “The Boy Who Cried Wolf”—we’re taught that the world will kick your donkey if you’re not careful. Soooo, it follows then that our eternal address must be purchased, cash on the barrelhead, in advance, right? Like insurance or guaranteed seating at a concert? NO, I DON’T THINK IT DOES FOLLOW. I can’t swallow it…can’t believe that this much-promoted eternal entity made of pure light and love and blah-blah-blah is there at the wicket, handing out tickets like a carny huckster. I think the hucksters are the human beings who try to sell us on this tit-for-tat confidence game that the whole rapture biz is based upon.
  5. The people I love have a brain, a big heart, and a firm spine. The misguided few who put up with my pap—especially since I started this whole Toews-prose shake-rattle-and roll in 2015—are people with whom I don’t always agree. They are individual members of a broad, diverse, and eclectic cohort. They are collectively non-collective. While they might not agree with my personal take on the RAPTURE, they probably get why I might have some issues with it and some might even agree with me, at least in part. If they do or if they don’t, I’m certain their eternal fate will not change one bit, because that is my faith. In return, I pledge my friends and relatives my ongoing, unaltered friendship, love, and respect even if I disagree with their rapturous viewpoint. Like the staunchly adversarial disciples of Ford and Chevy, Coke and Pepsi, keto and carbs, etc.—we can disagree and still have a cordial (lite) beer together. And so…
  6. It’s a free country—with one caveat. Everyone should believe as they wish, as long as no one else is harmed. Can this be a rule for religion? Can we agree to curb our fervour at the point where others are involuntarily involved?

w abbit

6.1 It’s a free country—not a magic country. I see prayer calls for people in dire straights… I get this and have no complaint—fill yer boots! This action comes out of caring and an honest desire for good; a human reaction to hardship. Empathy. Part of faith that can do no harm. (Well, except for gun violence, where prayer can supplant real, effective action, but that’s another whole case of huckleberries.) Another example: I see prayer calls for a nicer house, a pay raise, or for a certain motorcycle to pop up on the Buy & Sell and I am not impressed. That’s an easy one, right? Many people disavow this kind of shabby, picayune, bent-knee self-serve. I also see directives from influential clergy calling for their congregations to prepare for the rapture by modifying earthly activities as though the rapture was an absolute certainty with a specific date. Hmm. In light of all the prior FAILED FORECASTS, that is magical thinking of the highest order and it may well cause some harm. Harm for whom? The poor, the vulnerable, the marginalized in the flock. Not the preacher—he just pencils in a new rapture date and checks the Buy & Sell for that bike he wants to buy. What I don’t see are prayer calls to re-grow a severed arm or leg. Why not? Because, deep down, even the most devout and the most earnest and the most cynical can all appreciate the difference between faith and magic.

LAST: We are already in a period of rapture, with nature, if only we would recognize it and stop screwing it up.

“God doesn’t need to come down upon a mountain, for the mountain itself is the revelation. We only have to look at it and we will know how we should live.”-—John Moriarty

Disclaimer: No bonnets were harmed in the making of this spotte. The use of the phrase, “The Daily…” is purely random and coincidental and bears no relation, resemblance, derivation, kinship, or sheep’s clothing from any other internet phenomenon, past or present. It does represent admiration and writerly puppy-love of the non-Ewww! kind.
Spotte (schput): To deride, scorn, mock, scoff…

The Daily Rapture — Act Three

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, you can call me Holthacka Hank. I’m a school Principal and a church member. I love horses and pickleball. (Don’t test my backhand!) I remember being disturbed, terrified as a matter of fact, by the Easter story. We went to our neighbours for an “Easter egg hunt” that turned out to be a two-hour resurrection camp with no snacks, but plenty of visual aids. At one point, we were handed six-inch spikes, “like the ones used to nail Christ to the cross…”

That 1965 Easter story was offered as history. Not the impending future. It was violent and binary—non-Christians committed horrific acts of cruelty, Christians heroes with rock star hair, athletic builds, blue eyes, and cool sandals suffered their pain with the stoicism of John Wayne and the steely bearing of Davey Keon. But the Easter story did offer HOPE and it spoke of a future that would be better.

So, that leads—I hope—to my question: Should children be exposed to the prophecy of the rapture? Do they have the capacity to process the dire forecasts without spiralling into a frightening world of fear and depression?

Likewise, what about those with decreased mental ability? Both those who have been diagnosed and also those who, like most, suffer unknown and untreated. A person close to me used to receive communications through the doorbell and would have me disconnect it so that we could have “a private conversation…” Those with mental and emotional disorders may not have the resilience or the discernment required to manage images of end times and all of the stone age violence promised in the rapture narrative. 

What wisdom can you bring to this discussion, Pastor T?

A: They warned us about you secular humanists. How’s about I warm my feet by the bonfire of your books of iniquity? How ’bout that? And you know what else? Well, we’re just gonna shut today’s chat down—that’s what! So why don’t you all just go listen to NPR or CNN or whatever it is you do!

a storm
A stormy day in the heavens

[Dull thump, like a microphone, falling onto the stage floor…]

“@metgohnaJake! Wind this’ere clambake down. And we gonna have us a discussion about filters and pre-screening and the like. You read me, Jake?”

“Sure do, Pastor T. Say, why don’t you just mosey on down to your dressing room while I tell the folks about our specials and bonus offers!”

[Heavy footsteps recede… a door slams like a gunshot… muffled cursing. Silence.]

“Well, seems like we broke the fourth wall there. Don’t worry, a little Vitamin W (the kind distilled in Gimli… in a bottle…) and he’ll be right as rain.”

“Holthacka Hank did raise some points though. What are the consequences for children and those unequipped to manage the extremism at the core of the rapturist vision? I know even I sometimes struggle and I’m considered uncommonly stable. I’d call myself a “very stable genius,” in fact, but that monicker is protected by copyright.”

[@metgohnaJake dallies at centre stage. A tight spotlight opens on him, and he looks up.]

“Think of two children, two earnest friends, each making a list: Those who will rise up into the clouds and those left behind. And then, like Vladimir and Estragon swapping hats, they exchange lists and each finds themself excluded from the other’s roll. Then what? A life of desperate piety to make the grade? Or a life of wanton abandon, because, well, why not? Party on, dood! Either way—both ways—lives of fear, jealousy, hatred, rancour, and doubt.”

[@metgohnaJake, walking offstage, a bag of promotional goods—travel mugs, bible covers, lip balm—drags along behind him like a dragon’s tail. He stops and in a Napoleonic voice that projects to the back of the now-empty hall, pronounces, “all animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.”]

Spotte (schput): To deride, scorn, mock, scoff…

 

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.

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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.

 

 

Literally Reruns – “The Business of Saving Souls” by Mitchell Toews

via Literally Reruns – The Business of Saving Souls by Mitchell Toews

Some of my favourite people—and there are many in this inky-blinky biz—from Literally Stories, just north of the 50th parallel and a little east of me, gave me a rerun. I heart them, hard.

Cheers to my friends from London, the Pacific NW, and those tagging rude—but intrinsically artful—images on the stucco backside of a mega-church in Abbotsford, as we speak (in tongues.)

Want some FINE reading? Creative, real, raw, skilled, fun, funny, makes you shake your head with a hearty, “wish I woulda thought of that!” Here:

Allison, Leila

https://literallystories2014.com/?s=henson

https://literallystories2014.com/?s=sheehan

https://literallystories2014.com/?s=hawley

 

Jessica Lake Idyll

Last summer a good friend visited. We drank cold Belgian lager beside a warm Manitoba lake. It was idyllic and pleasant. To add to the enjoyment, Irene told us a story from her past—her mom is my aunt’s sister and that family is famously as full of life and spontaneity as a sizzling firecracker.

I confessed to our friend Irene that the story was terrific and that, guiltily, I was tempted to steal it. She said I could steal with her permission—so, a theft, but legally pre-excused.

Over the next few months, I wrote it first as a short essay, then changed it to be used as the first segment of a more complicated three-part story.

It was, I believed, a truly Canadian story and more so a Canadian Mennonite tale, even though my friend’s mom is not, by origin, a Mennonite. (But she sure as heck lived with Mennonites, as did her sister—my aunt.) I sent it out for consideration by several literary journals, hoping for the best.

Ultimately, I decided to withdraw the story. I had grown dissatisfied with it and a few readers—other writers whose opinion I trusted—felt it was convoluted and disjointed, even if they didn’t say it exactly that way…

Schiet.

But, one of the markets spoke up. Like several of my writer friends, they said the first segment of the story was worth keeping and would I care to rewrite it as a solo piece? “Sure,” says I, happy for the lifeline.

So I rewrote and resubmitted. I felt positive, partly because of the resurrection and also sensing that the reduction from that longer piece was now more purely refined; “Un sirop nappant,” as, René, a spontaneous Jessica Lake neighbour and skilled cook, might have said.

Happily, the editors agreed and come July, “The Grittiness of Mango Chiffon” will appear in Agnes and True, an exceptional Canadian publication.

Agnes and True is a Canadian online literary journal.

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Our journal was founded on the belief that there are many writers whose work has not yet had the chance to be appreciated and many stories that have not yet found their literary home.

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As our name suggests, Agnes and True celebrates the achievement of women, though not exclusively. We are particularly interested in discovering and publishing the work of emerging older writers (both female and male).

My thanks to the editorial team at Agnes and True, home to more than a few sizzling firecrackers, I am sure.

Agnes and True is brought to you by The Trojan Horse Press, Inc. 

 

 

 

 

A Mennonite Imposter’s Discursive Rhapsody

Three Problems with Christianity: Souldierism, Heaven, and Receipts. (And possibly some of the reasons why the author maunders along in so many stories, searching out weak actors like a Red Rock Bible Camp Councillor hunting for Playboys between the mattresses.)

Problem One: Onward Christian “Soul-diers”

  • Mennonite religion (voted *Best Guilt* at Reformerpalooza) is obsessively and unabashedly built upon an army mentality.
  • Follow orders or else. It’s just that simple.
  • Those who ask questions based on some external code or sense of moral dissatisfaction are often eliminated. Shunned, excommunicated, kicked out, shit-canned… The church is governed by court-martial law, coercively presided and prosecuted by high-ranking church officials who are put in place by you-know-who (Die Owlah! An unimpeachable authority.) Just like the armed services, to disobey is to risk extreme penalties and disgrace.

So why is an organization dedicated to peace governed by the same laws, ordinances, and traditions that are used by the world’s militaries; the same rules that were in place for the fearsome armies of the Old Testament?

  • Also like the military, most Christian conventions change, but they are grindingly slow to do so. Examples of past changes I’ve seen in my own adult lifetime: Divorce (with the caveat that it is still far rougher on women then it is for men), Tight Jeans, and Rock n’ Roll. No? Just take a look around at church this Sunday, is there not at least one divorced person in your pew? Are you and others not wearing jeans that would have drawn a hair-afire rebuke in 1970? That musical menagerie: drum kit, synthesizer, and stable full of guitars up on the (ahem) stage is at the ready and is not out of place, in fact, they are the instruments of salvation and worship.

“Last one in the mosh pit is a demon!” 

  • And yet the church, just like the military, battle on in their efforts to resist LGBTQ (see below), to sustain their sadly obvious misogynistic roots, and to disavow the nativism that the church’s unholy co-combatants—far-right conservative politicians—seek to uphold.
  • In 2012, Steinbach, Manitoba’s Southland Church led opposition to a provincial law that sought to provide protection for LGBTQ students suffering from bullying. The church took the position that the Bill would promote “wrong lifestyle choices.” A petite-but-confident and charismatic high school student (not yet voting age at the time) serenely and handily took on the Steinbach Town Council, several adult congregants, a group of not-so-petite (but plenty-surly) adult members of the local ministerial association who carried NOT ON MY WATCH! placards. This latter crew had to be gavelled into silence and was threatened with expulsion from council chambers. Despite being less disruptive than the placardists, a phalanx of spear-wielding ancient Roman soldiers was prevented from entering the chambers.
    • “We want them to change it (the Bill) to say independent faith-based schools do not have to have groups that are in conflict with their beliefs,” Coun. Susan Penner told CBC News on Thursday. —https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/manitoba/anti-bullying-bill-like-persecution-in-steinbach-1.1340156 (The soldiers could be heard grunting and clacking their spears in noisy agreement outside of the meeting room.)
    • At Steinbach’s Southland Church, pastor Ray Duerksen told parishioners during a (“worship”) service on Feb. 24 that God will judge those who don’t oppose the anti-bullying bill.—https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/manitoba/anti-bullying-bill-like-persecution-in-steinbach-1.1340156
  • My QUESTIONS for Coun. Penner and Pastor Duerksen include: “Is it still your watch? An elected or appointed position? Both, you say?” And, “At the point when the church and the town finally change their puny positions on LGBTQ issues, what REDRESS can be expected for your irresponsible and discriminatory actions in 2012? Will this redress be financial? A public apology? Resignation? Stoning?
  • I have no questions for the placard-waving chuckleheads or the Roman soldiers. (These two represent the same fertilizer; in different piles.)
  • It is my prediction that the petite young high school student who—armed with only five smooth stones—stood up to colossal hatred in 2012. I believe she will one day be a legislator who will debate on a level battlefield. I expect she will defeat the doctrine-wielding and the spear-wielding, alike. I suspect her “watch” will be empathetic and egalitarian.

Problem Two: Heaven

  • You rent a house. The owner stresses that you—the renter—have full dominion over that house. It’s yours to use as you please. It’s almost as though the landlord told you, “I got awesome insurance so party on, DUDE!” Additionally, you rent this house knowing that you will be moving to a castle at some point in the future. You’ve taken all the necessary steps to assure your admittance to the castle. It’s a done deal.
  • My prediction, based on close personal contact with numerous rat bastards and almost as many sweet soulful brethren is that the renter is not gonna put a lot of leasehold improvements into that rental house. The renter is not gonna worry about a drywall dent here, or a busted tile there, or a swimming pool filled with empty Tim Horton cups. (Or rusted out Chevy Blazers, dirty syringes or radioactive waste, for that matter. It ain’t the renter’s problem.)
  • The renter’s carefree attitude is in high contrast when compared to their landlord-less heathen neighbours who own their abode and who intend to hand it down to their descendants… Those dumb suckers are tasked with the constant upkeep and care of their place, unlike the renter. Renters have the same rights to live in their home as the homeowners but, ‘cuz of the whole “I’m gonna move into a golden castle in the sky” thing, renters don’t really give a Norwegian rat turd about upkeep, cleanliness, sustainability or any other word ending in pollution or climate change or extinction or any words that are not “dominion over”.

Heaven appears to be an effective disincentive to take care of the earth. “DON’T BE GENTLE—IT’S A RENTAL!”

Problem Three: Receipts

Here’s a modern parable:

You run down to Anabaptist Appliances and buy a toaster. It’s fine, until one day you don’t smell burning toast. Hot under the collar, you hustle back to the store and ask to trade-in or return the toaster or to be given warranteed compensation.

“Sure, Mister Ishmael. Do you happen to have a copy of your receipt? I’m gonna need a scriptural confirmation to verify that everything you are telling me is gospel. Know what I’m sayin’?”

“Of course. But, can’t you just take my word? Have you no, uh, faith?”

“Oh bah jo! I believe everything you’ve told me—the trilogy: alternating|direct|ground… the death of the thermostat and its resurrection via the reset button… the four horsemen of the power surge… It’s just that my boss is a stickler and I really need a  proof of purchase.”

He seems insistent, this clerk. Now, you KNOW you bought the toaster—full retail price—at Anabaptist Appliances and you never abused it or changed anything or went outside of the commandments of the operator’s manual so even though you don’t have actual written proof, you say, “Look, bro. I don’t have the receipt, but my buddy James, on King Street, he can vouch for me. Will that do?”

“Sure. As long as it’s in print, on ancient, rotting scrolls, in an appropriate language not spoken on earth in centuries, and concerns only the toaster model later built in the precise triangular region delineated by i.) the old blood-letting clinic (Abe’s Arteries) on Queen up to ii.) Spadina and then back along Graffiti Alley to the location of iii.) the common pasture … we’ll accept that as gospel!”

“Sure, partner. Sounds like we have a deal. Is it okay if the written proof from James on King is filled with ambiguities about when and exactly how to prepare and eat toast, how a toaster should properly be prepared for sacrifice, the selling of a toaster into slavery, the rules governing the crucifixion of a  toaster, and the throwing of plugged-in toasters into the bathtubs of Hittite neighbours?”

“Hittites, eh? They’re the worst. It can even be co-authored by several hundred of James’s best buddies (just not too many women, eh?) and you can come on down and revise it any time you feel like it.”

  • The main trouble with the good book is that it is the product of WRITERS and EDITORS. Untrustworthy louts, by and large. And the genre—is it literary fiction, is it reportage, is it non-fiction, is it science-fiction, is it fantasy, is it non-fiction? Astrological science?  History text-book or historical fiction? Maybe foodie lit? (What Whales Love to Eat: Old Guys with Long Beards… Superbowl Munchies? How to Feed a Crowd with Just Bread and Fish.)
  • Lots of authors. Lots of (Holy) ghostwriters. Distributors and agents gettin’ their Gideon on too and disenfranchising the Midianite Book Club. It’s quite the anthology!

The Bible is kinda like the Leity high rollers (from a long time ago) assuring all us lunchpail Leity types that a Deity won the big hand except the Deity does not want to show His cards. He wants us to take it on His word that He filled His holy straight. He understands our mortal doubts though, and instructs us to have faith. He gives His Leity pals a few tools to help with the convincing; some insider info to prove what He claims. The suite may be Clubs. (But it could be Diamonds.) He may have drawn the Ten or it may have been a pat hand. Sure, His betting pattern doesn’t support it, but… if you don’t believe the Allmighty, you just might be banished to the basement—with his relative, Diablo, who sells life insurance—for the rest of eternity, so… it’s up to you, but I know what I’d do.

~

Also, you cowboy philosophers and your John Prine mix-tapes (“Jesus Christ died for nuthin'” etc.) and your medical marijuana… you can just stop pointing out that whole, “Well, doesn’t the very presence of evil prove that an omnipotent God does not exist?” thing. The man with the long white robe and the gold throne is getting pretty tired of that whole logic spiel and if you don’t want those glaciers to start melting at TURBO speed, then—verily, I say unto you—just watch it!

Conclusion: Wherein the Author Wraps Up with a “Ha! Toro!” and a Swirl of His Fadadatj

“The Holy Fool”. Another parable, of sorts.

You know the story of “The Emperor’s New Clothes”, where supposedly only those with “a perfect sense of fashion” can actually see the King’s new duds. Those peasants without the chic fashion eye cannot even see the King’s new apparel. At least that’s what the King’s advisors tell the King and his court in order to keep their ruse alive. No one dares point out the folly—they all pretend to be able to see the clothes, including the King—and it goes on and on.

Until, a person in the court, a jester perhaps, the so-called “Holy Fool” steps up and says the obvious. “The King is naked.”

Gasps and outrage follow. Slowly, the truth seeps in and then with a surge, everyone is busy denying that they see anything and the truth wins out after much subterfuge.

I sometimes feel like this “Holy Fool”; one who has no investment in the bullshit, a person who is not a part of it—not even close—and who without anything more than average insight utters the obvious, uninfluenced by the need to fall in line.

I am that fool. I cannot be sanctioned because I live a life within, but apart.

A believer may say to me, with force and indignation, that because I am nothing but a Mennonite imposter—a secular Mennonite—that I cannot and do not speak for Mennonites.

And yet,

  • My G-G-GF was Delegate Toews, born in Fischau and sent with 11 brooda to find a new home.
  • My G-GF and G-GM Toews, John and Sarah—late of the Kleine Gemeinde—were shunned from the Holdeman camp—shoed away like a pair of impertinent crows picking at a roadside deer carcass before the eagles had their fill. John and Sarah took umbrage at their unfair ouster and sued the church. The lowly corvids sued the uppity raptors. That must have sent tail-feathers fluttering!

Interesting bonafides, wouldn’t you agree? Plus I grew up in Steinbach Bakery—the floury bullseye of Manitoba’s cultural Mennonite dartboard. Add to that my uncommonly good and well-loved community treasure GrandMother Toews, despite her German Baptist (non-Menno) baptismal certificate. Also, my full-fledged adult-dunked Menno wife and one dunked daughter. (So our little family is 50-50: two wet and two dry. )

http___www.hendersonnebraska.com_wp-content_uploads_2012_04_zwieback

And now, at the end of this trail of breadcrumbs, I find myself standing in the court—not at the bench John and Sarah Toews stood before at the turn of the last century, but the aforementioned King’s court.

Sure enough, the king is naked. In fact, he’s got a boil on his butt the size and texture of an overfilled jambuster and a belly that must be schmaundtfat cuz jelly don’t shake like that!

The dude is, as we used to say, nuck bak-ed!

You say, “I am allowed to do anything”—but not everything is good for you. And even though “I am allowed to do anything,” I must not become a slave to anything. I Corinthians 6:12 (NLT)

So, hear me when I say that I may be uniquely qualified to see it all—including the ignoble and the insincere and the hypocritical—with eagle eyes and a crow’s discernment. I am a slave to none. And with familiarity and empathy and kinship and knowledge of the waymarkers and the places to stumble and those places too, where Mennonites soar.

~

And if I’m a little bit annoying and more didactic than you’re prepared to accept from a everyday guy, an former class-clown, an ex-jock with a plentiful supply of demons and not near enough angels, well… too bad, because no one gave me this job, I just damn well took it.

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

Spinning Tops

I spin tales, mostly full of yarn. The following optimistic—if not quite upbeat—pieces are two of my top tjriesele; that is, they are not bad, maybe, sorta, kinda… I’m less than indifferent about them… etc.
1.) “DIED RICH”

This is the heartfelt tale of a neophyte basketball player—slash—jung Reiba ☠️and it was selected for the May 2019 Issue #27 edition of the American literary magazine Fabula Argentea. Find it HERE.

Editor Rick Taubold: “We don’t single out any pieces in an issue as being better than the others, but you might find it interesting to read and compare “Died Rich” and “Whence We Came, Whither We Go” because they both explore a similar theme, yet they are very different stories with different outcomes.”

fabula argentea.png

WHY WE CHOSE TO PUBLISH “Died Rich”:

The title alone is compelling, even if it totally misleads the reader about the story’s content. After the first couple of paragraphs, the reader is hooked on the character and anxiously wondering where the story is headed. One mark of a great story is that opening hook and promise, and with his opening author Mitchell Toews promises a good story and does not disappoint with his different take on how to handle a bully, even if… (spoiler removed)

One thing we loved about this piece was Dr. Rempel’s story about the borderline cases in Hell. At the time, this seems like… (spoiler removed)

☠️ A jung Reiba is a boy pirate, according to the author’s less-than-perfect Plautdietsch.

2.) “IFS AND BUTTERS”

Another in the continuing saga of life in Hartplatz, Manitoba in the Fifties and Sixties. The Vogels make an interesting cameo here and Pete Vogel is a repeat character familiar to readers of other stories from this Mennonite Twilight Zone. The exciting new lit mag, TurnPike from Ball State University is running the story. Read it HERE!

~~~

Aug 8 Addendum: Another recent story in quite a different setting, and far up the heat registehr in all respects is “Concealment” on the excellent lit journal, Me First Magazine. https://wp.me/pawMQk-2w

“OUT OF THIS WORLD”

I’m equal parts thrilled and honoured to be included in Leslee Goodman’s anthology of The MOON Magazine 2013-2019. As a contributor (“Peacemongers” June 2017) I find myself sharing the lunar night with a wide variety of heavenly minds and rising stars.

OUT OF THIS WORLD back MOON
The back cover of OUT OF THIS WORLD

Jessica Lake, Manitoba—Local author Mitchell Toews has a short story featured in the new anthology, Out of This World: The Best Short Stories from The MOON. His story, “Peacemongers,” tells of young boys wrestling with issues of non-violence, conscientious objection, and how to stand up to a bully in Hartplatz, Manitoba, against the backdrop of the Cuban missile crisis. The story is one of 23 works included in this anthology from The MOON magazine, a monthly journal of personal and universal reflections. (Full Press Release linked below.) “Peacemongers” is one of eight “Making Peace” selections in the book.

Curious and ready for a great summer read? Both Kindle and softcover versions of the anthology are available on Amazon at a great price! Take a brief exit from this world and its circular rancour, breaking news, rising water and record temperatures and find 23 new worlds to explore!

Preview a sampling of OUT OF THIS WORLD here: http://a.co/hL673Qd

Booksellers—US & Canada Retailers, Christian Retailers, International Retailers: https://www.ingramcontent.com/retailers/contact

Public and K-12 Libraries— https://www.ingramcontent.com/libraries

Press Release—Local author Mitch Toews featured in Out of This World anthology

Kits mitch zoom
Contributor Mitchell Toews of Jessica Lake, Manitoba

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Invisible people | Addressing homelessness

The theme for the July 2019 issue of The MOON Magazine is Invisible People. It’s a multi-faceted look at homelessness. “If your brother becomes impoverished and his hand falters beside you, you shall strengthen him, whether he is a stranger or a native, so that he can live with you.” – Leviticus 25:35