So Are They All

I WROTE A SHORT STORY CALLED “So Are They All”. It is one of a collection of over fifty that I have created, many of them about the fictitious Mennonite village of Hartplatz. This story concerns acts of honour, violence, justice and redemption. I took cues from Julius Caesar where some of the same timeless themes may be found.

The story was entered in the Write on the Lake fiction contest held by the Lake Winnipeg Writers’ Group where it won second place and was published in their semi-annual journal, Voices. On Sunday, Nov 20, I attended the launch of Vol 16 Number 2 and read an excerpt from the story.

This is the twentieth consecutive publication of the Voices literary journal, so, as Leamington Dave would say, “this ain’t no disco”.

The President, Jeanne Gougeon; the editor, Maurice Guimond and the large turnout were all welcoming and I could feel them willing me to do well as I began my oration. I am no stranger to public speaking like this but, damn, I still hate it. I have died many a coward’s death the night before these kinds of events. One of my unfortunate involuntary affectations – brought on by nerves I suspect – is sniffing. (Yes, like Donald Trump in the US debates.)  It’s as if my family-size nose, and its enthusiastic contribution to the nasal quality of my voice, becomes moistened by all the reverberation. An annoying drip results and the mic picks up each snuffling snort.

Snot issues aside, it went well, except that Jan – my wife and stalwart (but not a braggart) corner woman – was nowhere to be found! Her bright red jacket was not in the audience as I looked up during my reading. I searched for her reassuring nod and smile – but she was AWOL.

Turns out she was in the audience, just not this particular audience. McNally Robinson was holding two events that cold November Sunday on the frozen tundra of Grant Park Shopping Centre: the LWWG launch of Voices (2 PM, south reading room) and the launch of best selling author Romeo Dallaire, retired general and former senator, who was there to present “Waiting for 1st Light” a much anticipated memoir. (3 PM, north reading room.)

Although his and mine are both stories about noble intent, conflict, honour and the consequences therein, author/general (ret)/senator R. Dallaire’s talk was the more strongly attended. The place was BLOCKED! Jan and I had been separated when we entered the bookstore (potty break). When Jan saw the (north) lectern and noticed the available seating was filling up fast she grabbed a seat and saved one for me.

Alas, at about this same time I was just south of her accepting my humble accolades and sniffling my way through an excerpt of my story. With my phone turned off, I was oblivious to Jan; pinned down on the nearby Dallaire beachhead and requesting reinforcements.

Here friends, countrymen and countrywomen is the excerpt I read:

Hence :

Second only to the Hedy Lamarr beauty of Em Gerbrandt was the beguiling feminine charm of the Gidget-like Ms. Froese, our teacher. Of course, Ms. did not exist then, only Misses and she was one. Around five feet tall, bobbed blonde hair, saddle shoes, cashmere sweaters and rocket bras. I am sure I had no distinct thought then of the part of her anatomy contained therein, only that it was soft and pleasing when she leaned over to help you with a problem and she happened to make fuzzy impact with your head or shoulder.
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Miss Froese was sweet-natured and young and I remember the utter sadness I felt when, later that same school year, on November 22, she ran crying from the room after telling us that school would be cancelled for the day because of what had happened in a place called Dallas, Texas.
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The next day we returned to school and added, “America the Beautiful” right after our normal singing of “God Save the Queen”. A big box of Kleenex sat on her desk and was empty before science that afternoon. Baseball and the Kennedys were things about the United States that our well-traveled neighbour, Mr. Vogel, had made certain that I appreciated so I felt a special kinship with Miss Froese that desperate day in November.
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Lenny’s dental reckoning was months before the events of Dealey Plaza, but I already had a crush on Miss Froese by then. I was happy to clean chalk brushes after school, run to ask the janitor to open sticky classroom windows on hot afternoons, or agree to appear in the class play. If she had a need, I agreed. So, it was not surprising that when she asked where Lenny was on the second day of his absence, I raised my hand, eager to share with Miss Froese the solemn news. Though under oath to keep this quiet, how could it harm to tell HER? She was, like me, only concerned with Lenny’s well-being.
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“Yes, Mattheus?” she asked, seeing my upraised hand. “Do you know why Leonard is not here again today?”
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“Yes, ma’am. He is at the dentist. His teeth are all black from too much candy and he is getting them fixed. He is brave and he probably won’t even cry,” I reported in detail.
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That day was Friday. On Saturday afternoon, as I collected interesting rocks from the driveway between Grandma’s house and the back of the bakery, Lenny pedalled up to me. He let his bicycle fall clattering as he jumped off.
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“Zehen!” he shouted, through a clenched jaw still tender from the dentist.
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“Hi, Lenny,” I said, standing, “How are your teeth?”
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“Why don’t you ask Eleanor?” he said, scoffing, “or Ruby, or the Kehler twins or…”
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Wait,” I yelled, putting my hand up to stop his rushing words

*SNIP*

The Voices book is only $12 CAD and can be had here *or at McNally Robinson in Winnipeg. Besides finding out how Lenny and Matt sign the Barkman Avenue Peace Accord, you may also read a lot of other terrific prose and poetry. The Adult Fiction~First Place story, “The Rocking Horse Keeper” is a moving tale, with mythic aboriginal overtones and a lightness that makes it, well…rock!

*$34 CAD, for TWO copies of Voices (Vol 16, No. 2 and 3), including shipping and handling.

allfornow – m

~~~
#NovemberNotes – Nov 22

 

Copyright Mitchell Toews ©2016

Chicken Fingers, Fritos and Frankensteins

NEXT TO A LAKE ON A SUNNY DAY IN NOVEMBER, I just want to say, with reverence, that writing short stories is hard as hell.

Do tell – or whine on – you might say. I will, but only the former – I promise. Plus, there is the opportunity to learn about the fascinating world of pencil grooves and ink wells.

It is non-fiction to say that there are many people writing fiction. They comprise a lot of young writers and a teeming, grey pool of boomers, unshackled from their jobs. With the barriers to entry not seemingly insurmountable, there are a lot of contestants in the race. Especially now that self-publishing has made so many Frankenstein monsters — and some beautiful strangers.

Nonetheless, a large pool of skilled writers are active. So many stories are wonderful – the kind that make you want another one right away. Like chicken fingers.

To even out the score, there are literally thousands of places where a writer may submit a story, both print and online. That is a good thing for aspiring writers, but the competitiveness of the literary journal segment makes those publishers exceedingly tough on new voices. The vast majority of lit journals make it their business to deliver new authors to the scene, but they must be, and are, ruthlessly diligent in finding the best of the new writers.

There are a lot of journals, but so many are new that the available financial income – not abundant in the first place – is spread thin. As a result, there are a lot of dedicated volunteers, working late and dusting Frito crumbs off their keyboards as they toil on the slush pile. Sometimes, response times can be too long and, well, I’m not getting any younger. 

In addition, the aging white man narrative is one that is not at the top of editors’ short lists these days. My stories have to soar because they are not supported by a mandate or precondition. Women, LGBTQ, People of Colour, Feminists, People with Disabilities and many other cohorts have specific themes – or whole journals – available to spotlight their particular segment. This offers them an enhanced opportunity to be seen. To be discovered.

Now before you push back and say, “here we go,” hear this: I have no qualms with that approach. It is, in many cases, overdue and given the need to bring in fresh, first-person experience, necessary. A single mom, working two jobs and supporting three kids does not have the time to write. Offering her a forum with an inherent fast-track makes sense.

So it’s just a fact and I deal with it. Besides, if I tough it out, without any fast-tracks, I could benefit as a writer by being borne solely by the popularity of my stories; by the quality of my writing. I can’t forget that.

So too, is it of value that most editors are younger than me. That may create obstacles because of dissociation – they might not know what my references mean (see the “Featured Image” above). But once again, it forces me to write better. If I am lazy and rely on an old, fuzzy-edged meme to support my point, I will fail with an editor who does not intuitively understand the embedded inference.

My objective must be to give readers experiences like this:

“Crystal clear details of a world that I do not know. A journey to another place.”

And the little town slept.

I will battle on. I’m not exceptionally patient and wish I was more so – that would help. I tend to press a little and maybe get a little too self-promotional. It is part of the old white guy songbook – when your life occasionally feels like the last few bars of Stairway to Heaven (pardon any dissociation) you tend to want to get shit done.

allfornow – m

See LINKS to the scribblings of mine that made it past the Frito crumbs of the slush pile, HERE.

 

Copyright Mitchell Toews ©2016

November Palette at 50° N

November Notes – Day 7

The sun has risen. It is a blob of dirty yellow pigment, smeared by a giant Van Gogh thumb, obscured by the low grey cloud bank to the east. As a result, the early light is only that which is reflected by the clear blue dome above. This morning light is strangely weak with no shadows and no glare. Nature appears soft – a watercolour on cottony cold-pressed paper.

A chickadee and a squirrel natter at each other like old men in a cafe. Only half-interested; they have had this argument before.

It is fully Fall now, despite the unseasonable warmth. Greys and rocky taupes dominate the register. Yellow poplar leaves, the Romans of just two weeks ago, lie in ruin, piled into hollows and crevices. Their bright yellows and matchstick oranges are gone, rotting wetly into silent umbers, ochres and noble browns.

Only the brave tamaracks stand at attention, brandishing their saffron flag to the last.

Green is not going without a fight. The conifer needles and hardy understory plants still ply their verdant trade, lighting sections of the boreal with a lively glow. The massive rocks of the Shield are no longer hidden and they unfurl their attire: deep green mosses and the bizarre chartreuse of the indestructible lichens.

The raucous ferns, so green and flowing in the summer are now dark and rusted, flooding the forest floor in a leafy dulce de leche.

The pale jaune clair of the reeds rises up out of the lake water. Their faint hue belies their hard nature – they will stand, rustling as if in secret conversation, unhurt by the ice through the iron of winter.

In the ditches beside the black asphalt road, the woods have applied a splash of winter make-up. It is the deep maroon of the willow whips that stand in profusion, naked of leaves, darkly crimson and waving seductively in the breeze off the nearby open water.

Mourners at a graveside, the silver birch stand vigilant and in brilliant white contrast to the forest around them that pulls a dusky blanket over its shoulders and prepares for slumber.

#

For #NovemberNotes: November 7 – “Yellow” by Coldplay (Or it could be Nov 22 – “Free Fallin'” by John Mayer.) https://thesarahdoughty.wordpress.com/tag/novembernotes/

Copyright Mitchell Toews ©2016

The Business of Saving Souls

11.8.16 – Here is an excerpt from a new satirical piece I am working on, “The Business of Saving Souls”. I previously had it posted here in full to gather some feedback from ‘early readers’. Once I have collected all of their notes, I’m gonna shine’er up and submit for consideration to a literary journal!

Let me know if you would like to enlist as an ‘early reader’ for this story. I’ll send you a full draft — just put a note in the comment section below. And, thanks!

My complete collection of published stories, with links to the online pieces, is here: Publications 

#

11.26.16 – OK, I have received some wonderful edit notes and I am shutting the story down for early readers. (That was that unease you sensed in the force just a few minutes ago.) Thanks to early readers and editors!

Here, below, is the new intro excerpt. I hope to submit this to a few literary journals in the next little while. The rewrite is around 3,200 words.

 

The Business of Saving Souls

By Mitchell Toews

THE SMALL HYUNDAI COUPE circled the church parking lot slowly. The car’s driver peered anxiously to ensure there were no homeless people around the dumpster or congregated near the large hot air outlets on the rear of the building.

Pastor Penn Benner hated to see homeless people on the property.

“We pay to support four separate homeless shelters here in Tribune and I’ll be damned if I have them people piling up on our spotless yard. This is The Lord’s home and I aim to keep it neat and tidy,” he had said covertly to Jason on more than one occasion.

Jason found it pleasurable to hear Benner say, “I’ll be damned,” and he felt guilty for it. Benner was, after all, the Head Pastor of the Southern North Tribune Church of Christian Fellowship and was also his boss.

“We’re in the business of saving souls not picking up old blankets and all the other crip-crap they leave behind,” Penn Benner would say in the empty church as Jason Halpnuscht listened. The words would echo in the immense chamber, bouncing off the acres of white drywall, the glimmery pot lights and the inlaid glass diamonds that formed a sixty foot cross in the ceiling, stretching from nave to second balcony.

“God loves them, but they are messy. You are the Youth Pastor, Halpnuscht, why don’t you organize the youth into an outreach group for when they – the homeless – congregate on the yard? Have the church youth interact with them. There should be a paucity of homeless on our property.”

Jason Halpnuscht hated Penn Benner’s Word of the Day desk calendar.

Halpnuscht patrolled the yard with particular care today. It was Senior Council day — the second Saturday of each month, the SNTCCF’s senior group met to review church business. The meeting consisted of Jason; Head Pastor Benner; the Chairman of the Senior Deacon Council, Ronald Himmelstrup; and the church Secretary, Jedidiah Davidson. If there were issues concerning specific church functions that were managed by one of the three Associate Pastors (APs), or their assistants (the Sub-Associate Pastors) then they would also be required to attend.

Jason often wondered about his presence at these meetings. Interested and eager to contribute though he was, he was seldom called upon to participate. Furthermore, when issues became controversial, he was routinely asked to leave. “Give us the room please, Jason,” Benner would say. The Pastor started using this expression after he heard it on an episode of “24”.

As he made the last of his inspection rounds, Jason noticed a few pansies, growing yellow and purple in the weak November sun. The flowers were huddled in a sheltered spot near the clothing drop off bins.

“They neither labor nor spin,” he said quietly to the Hyundai’s Camel interior with Burl Oak accents.

#

As he unlocked the council chamber and began to make sure all was in readiness for the meeting, Jason thought back to his patrol of the yard.

If there had been homeless people there, so what? Some churches – even some businesses – take a more direct approach and set up small structures or distribute clothes and blankets. Sending them to the downtown homeless shelters seemed a little cold. Did Jesus point to the nearest Long John Silver’s and yell, “All you can eat, maximum two sides…it’s on me, multitudes!”

*SNIP*

allfornow – m

Copyright Mitchell Toews ©2016

That Guy

It used to be, when I was a teenager and we drank too much because that was the sole objective, we had this funny thing we’d say in the morning. We would comment, of a too bright morning, “One of these days I’m gonna catch that guy.”

Chorus: “Which guy?”

“That guy who sneaks into my room and shits in my mouth right before I wake up!”

Sorry – low-life that I am – I still think that is funny.

But now, I have graduated. Now I can deliver a new punch line:

“That guy who sneaks in and messes up all my sentences right before I press send!”

allfornow – m

 

Hartplatz Sitings

The fictional Mennonite community of Hartplatz, Man., has been seen in print and on the wing at several locations on the WWW.

Tell-tales include red wing blackbirds, killdeers, grackles, budgies and pelicans…icing sugar…the smell of an old baseball glove when you hold it right up to your face…the sound a bible makes when it is dropped – for emphasis – on a large wooden desk…followed perhaps by the sound of Grandma shouting at the TV while watching All-Star Wrestling.

Hey, we all have our guilty pleasures.

Here is a spotter’s guide:

CommuterLit.com has run three of Mitch’s short fictions: “Encountered on the Shore”, “A Vile Insinuation”, and “Without Reason”. Two more of his stories, “Nothing to Lose” and “Heavy Artillery” (Oct 30) appear on Fiction on the Web (UK) and, “A Fisherman’s Story”, was published in Rhubarb Magazine Issue 39 (Available at better book stores – like Sam’s Place, 159 Henderson Hwy – or ORDER  COPIES HERE.)
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Literally Stories (UK) published Mitch’s twisted yarn, “Breezy and the Six-Pack Sneaker” as well as his nostalgic walk down a dangerous alley in 1932 Winnipeg, “The Fifty Dollar Sewing Machine”, and the contemporary tale, “Frozen Tag”(Oct 27).
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“And So Are They All” won second place in the Fiction category in the 2016 “Write on the Lake” writing contest and will be published in the Lake Winnipeg Writers’ Group’s semi-annual journal, Voices, Volume 16, No. 2. Mitch will present the story at the Voices launch at McNally Robinson book sellers in Winnipeg, on November 20 at 2 PM. Voices will be available online HERE and at McNally Robinson after November 20.

THANKS to the editors and publications who have run my stories so far. I am grateful and always nervous when a story goes, “out there”! I wouldn’t want this to get around, but the truth is, I just make this stuff up!

Let’s keep that last bit between us and the mergansers out in the bay.

allfornow – m

P.S. – Click here to think of springtime.

P.P.S. – If you caught the PUN in the title, you’re better than me. I put it there by accident and then realized it and thought, “sitings, that’s pretty good,” and left it in. Ahhh, the creative process, it’s a sacred trust.

 

Copyright Mitchell Toews ©2016

The Three-Fingered Man

I AM NOT EQUIPPED to fully understand the why of it, but I do have an active mind – for good or bad – and I know that I can personally attest to it.

It, is, in this case, the power of certain childhood memories. I hear a meadowlark and I am instantly transported to the roof of the plywood fort I built in my backyard in Steinbach, Manitoba. It was surely MY backyard, not my parents’, by the way. Somehow, a meadowlark’s syncopated song is permanently bonded to a memory of a particular summer morning. I can always smell the leftover red house paint I used.

Likewise, when I smell a leather baseball or hockey glove, I am suddenly on Creek Road, where I am walking home from hockey and it is a million below zero, and Orion is out and I forgot my toque in the dressing room and my ears are freezing. Literally freezing – turning hard, people.

An ear woody.

If someone starts talking about Sunday School, it won’t be long before I take a look at my arm. I’ll explain that one. I remember going to Sunday School to please my grandma. It was important to her and we agreed, aided by some fast Grandma-speak and abetted by fresh biscuits and jelly, that it was important to me too. I look at my arm because of what happened on one particular summer Sunday, when I had other places to be, like my fort, but I had gone to Sunday School to please Grandma.

In our Sunday School class that day, my Aunt – who also went to that church – had dropped me off with a new teacher. He was a butcher in real life and somewhere along the line, I supposed, he had not paid attention and his pinky finger had gone onto the pile of cold cuts. I can’t recall whether he actually was the victim of an overactive rotary slicer or my over-achieving imagination. He was missing his little finger and he worked in a grocery store; those are the incontrovertible facts and there had to be some reason why that pinky was not with him.

At some point that day – I was about nine – I misbehaved. Another incontrovertible fact. The teacher, let’s call him Pinky, to protect the innocent, was annoyed and escorted me roughly out into the hallway. God’s hallway. But Pinky was a little over exuberant in his accompaniment of me to the hall and he had a pretty good grab on my skinny arm, bare as it was in my Sunday short-sleeved summer shirt. So…when I looked down at my arm where he had grabbed me, I saw the imprints of his grasp — just like one of those CSI programs on TV now, except I was not a cadaver. The imprint on my arm showed three fingers and a thumb. No pinky.

I looked at the unusual evidence on my arm and I did the inevitable – I snickered. He stood stooped over me, giving me some kind of lecture and when I laughed, looking at the weird, three-fingered tattoo that was now slowly fading from my bicep, he too laughed. Just a bit.

Now, the short story writer in me – back then I was more of a comic book reader than a writer (one may have begat the other, come to think of it) – would probably have prefered him to have back-handed me, or to have carried some dark grudge that resurfaced later in life. Something portentous and profound. But nope. He just giggled. I laughed some more, he wagged his finger (one of the attached ones) and we went back into the Sunday School classroom to learn. We could have learned about saw safety. We could have learned to see the humour in things. But I think we chose instead to learn about how God drowned (almost) the entire human race or some other inspiring bible story about hungry whales or bearded, bathrobe-clad, unemployed dudes padding around the desert in sandals eating desert fish and drinking desert wine.

allfornow,
Mitch

P.S. – Please be on the lookout for my story, “Heavy Artillery” which will be published @ FICTION ON THE WEB tomorrow, October 30, 2016. No digits were lopped off in the making of this story. 

1961-025a-heavy-art

@fishcharlie, #fictionontheweb, #pinky, #shortstories,#amwriting, #canlit, #writerslife #desertwine

 

Copyright Mitchell Toews ©2016

 

 

 

Tafelberg

Last week, I included Chapter 1 of my W-I-P sci-fi thriller novella, “Tafelberg”.

Here is a chunk of Chapter 2 (1,151 words):                                                                                                

 

Excerpt Two from: Tafelberg

By Mitchell Toews

Chapter 2 – The Landing

 

The thing that brought us here in the first place was the combination of bad timing and proximity. When our Dash-8 lost an engine en route from Costa Rica we landed at the nearest possible airport – Hato in Curacao. We were fortunate, we thought, as our second engine sputtered and died ominously just after landing when the plane turned to taxi back to the terminal building.

As we walked across the silent, windswept tarmac in the setting sun, Willem and Jan came roaring across the runway, each in a matching, gleaming new Mercedes G-Class SUV with miniature Curacao flags snapping urgently on the front fenders. Their horns honked incessantly, like a presidential procession, as they sped towards us.

Our pilot and co-pilot were still in the plane – trying to determine the cause for the normally reliable Dash-8’s sudden drop out of the sky. They were about a 3/4 of a mile back from us.

Willem screeched up to us, shouting incoherently at us in Dutch and then German, then pidgin Papiamentu – demanding that we get in the lorries immediately. Jan, seeing the maple leaf t-shirts some of us wore, had called to us in English and French and we understood.

When we left Costa Rica, we knew that there had been some kind of disaster on Curacao, but for the most part, we had only seen stories about a multitude of US warships and UN troops surrounding massive tent camps that had been set up to quarantine evacuees on Aruba and Bonaire. It had furthermore become an international political incident when Dutch Navy vessels were not permitted entrance to Venezuelan ports, during the crisis. The whole situation was highly secretive and we only knew that the airport was closed – but we could not go anywhere else, so we had landed despite our misgivings and several terrifying full-burner fly-bys by US Navy fighter jets.

With the sun setting, we all shouted questions at Willem as he leaped out of one of the Mercedes and began grabbing us and pushing us inside, throwing our luggage aside. “Hou je bek dicht! Kijk uit je doppen, kakkerlak! Kakkerlak!”

We argued, some of the boys running to retrieve their bags. “No, no, no! Just get in! Vee having to go, NOW! The bugs are coming soon.” he screamed. He was unshaven and his eyes were bloodshot and his lips blistered. The boys looked to me and the other coach, Eddy.

“What about the pilots?” Eddy said, to me, and to Jan and Willem, who were tossing boxes out of the vehicles, to make room.

“Where?” Willem implored. Eddy pointed back to the Dash-8. Willem looked, then stared at his watch. “No time, no time,” he shouted. “Jan! U zeg!”

His friend, Jan, stared at the mangrove trees – strangely bare and brown – that fringed the runway. “Geen tijd! No time, guys, we gotta go now or we won’t make it back up da hill! No room either. They be OK in the airplane for night – let’s go tell’em!”

With that, Willem resumed physically pushing us into the trucks, urging us to throw out any cargo that prevented us from getting in. We left everything on the runway and filled the trucks to absolute capacity. “Windows shutting! Tight!” Willem yelled, then jumped in and floored the SUV, heading for the airplane where the two pilots were now walking swiftly towards us in the dying light.

“Hoe laat, hoe laat?” he shouted into a ship-to-shore handheld walkie-talkie. Jan’s voice came back, urgently, “Zeven!”

“Accchhh, shit!” Willem growled, slamming his hand on the dash. “Seven o’clock, seven o’clock!”

Then we saw it. As we rushed forward towards the plane, we saw some debris and dust come up from the mangrove forest near the two men. We could see the pilots, looking over their shoulders at the noise of it and then saw them pick up their pace, running earnestly with their arms pumping. They had reason to be afraid, even though the bugs were slower than them; they had outflanked the men and had a good interception angle on them.

Willem made sick, guttural sounds; they may have been words, I was not sure. I heard Jan honking his horn – a single long blast as he accelerated slightly, nosing ahead of us. I glanced at the speedometer, we were doing 140 KMPH. Just when we began to be able to see the men’s faces – sheer terror – Willem slammed on the brakes. The tires shrieked and we could smell the melting rubber in the cab. As he braked and we slid across the hot pavement, the host of giant beetles engulfed the running men. The two, their white shirts standing out in contrast, disappeared as in a wave, not 150 yards in front of us. The line of insects now piled up, pulsating and churning furiously on top of the point at which the men had been swallowed by the swarm.

We stared in disbelief. Then, all of us in our SUV saw at the same instant that Jan’s vehicle had kept going and was braking hard now, all four wheels locked and the big SUV slaloming from side to side as though the runway had been lathered with foam. It punched into the front edge of the quaking pile of bugs but they appeared unconcerned; if anything, mildly repulsed by the hot engine.

We held our breath and Jan blew the horn again. Then, miraculously and as if out of a dream, the Costa Rican co-pilot, Leonardo, stood up at the edge of the ghastly spectacle, a dozen or more of the huge bugs clinging to him. He shook himself violently, almost falling, and then stumbled like a zombie towards Jan’s Mercedes. The passenger window opened and our trainer, Teresa, reached out and pulled Leonardo’s head and shoulders into the truck. As she did so, Tyrus, one of our setters – an Olynyk from Winnipeg – leaned out from the rear window and began pulling and batting the squirming roaches off of Leonardo.

As all of this happened, Jan reversed the powerful vehicle, speeding back away from the throng that now moved hesitantly forward. Seeing this, Willem gunned our vehicle and drove directly into the gap between Jan and the wave of bugs. Ours was like a car speeding along the edge of the high-water mark on Long Beach on Vancouver Island, sending a plume of water – in this case, crushed giant cockroaches – spraying out from the tires.

We cheered as one when we saw Tyrus and Teresa clear the last of the bloody roaches from the co-pilot and he was hauled inside of the automobile. Our SUV followed, charging across the eerily empty runway in the gloaming light, leaving the bugs behind us.

“Which way?” squawked the radio as Jan called Willem, who knew the roads better.

<SNIP>

 

Copyright Mitchell Toews ©2016

 

“We’re All Just Here to Fart Around”

Living at the lake and trying to write every day has the combined unintended consequence of making quite a few things seem preposterous.

I mean, really. My existence here is a bit strange in relation to the things we all typically accept as being important. Yesterday I watched a beaver take ten minutes to drag a branch through a culvert under the highway to its lodge in the ditch. It was so absorbed in what it was doing that it did not notice me or maybe just chose to ignore me. I stood close enough to hear it panting. Yes, beavers pant. Why wouldn’t they? In fact, I am almost sure I heard it say, “Holy shit!” when it was finally finished tugging that branch through the tunnel.

So, yes, that experience put things in perspective and suddenly the most recent Trumpism, where he hits a woman with a rolled-up newspaper and yells, “See! It just makes a loud noise but doesn’t REALLY hurt them…”  well, it doesn’t seem any less bizarre but it does increase my relative admiration for beavers.

Anyway, I am determined to have a  good week. Yesterday I transplanted some White Spruce ( Picea Glauca, Manitoba’s Provincial tree) from the neighbour’s yard into ours. At the neighbour’s request — I ain’t no tree pirate. Today I will pretend to be a finishing carpenter and do some baseboards and casing.

On Thursday, a story of mine runs in Literally Stories, a UK-based online short story site. It is my third story on this site so far and I am excited to see the response. I chewed 500 words out of it and made some other major changes and I am quite heavily invested in it! Like my buddy the beaver, I am convinced it is all worth the struggle.

On Friday, I may go and rig up a little pulley system in that blasted culvert.

#

Please see my stories on Literally Stories, 

The Fifty Dollar Sewing Machine

and

Breezy and the Six-Pack Sneaker

and look out for Frozen Tag on Thursday, on the @LiterallyStories website. 

 

Copyright Mitchell Toews ©2016

Commute…Commune…Convive

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

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

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

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

Sharp.

There. Back on terra firma. Phew.

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

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

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

 

Copyright Mitchell Toews ©2016