Charlie Fish (@FishCharlie) Tweeted: In Mennonite Manitoba, hard-up teenager Diedrich Deutsch is getting bullied at school, and tries his hand at basketball. Read Mitchell Toews at https://t.co/dO9tFIbTVq https://t.co/Sgx6bczYGX https://twitter.com/FishCharlie/status/1309550748854878209?s=20
My stories—and everyone else’s—spring from life. Life lived, life observed, life imagined. Life reconstructed.
A vital part of each story—and each life—is place and time. Truths from one era or one location or one moment in a given journey alter and define the future.
Driven by my own curiosity, here is a roll-call of Place, Time, and basic protagonist context from my stories:
i — “Encountered on the Shore” A university student makes an unsettling discovery in downtown Winnipeg, in the fall of 1973.
ii — “A Vile Insinuation” During the summer following, the main character from “Encountered on the Shore” considers fate and blessings at a baseball tournament in Vita, Manitoba, near the US border.
iii — “Without Reason” Now retired, the MC from “Encountered” and “Vile”, is diagnosed with cancer and he considers his plight and that of others like him. Set in his small Mennonite prairie hometown, current day.
i — “Zero to Sixty” A retired man is attacked, near Christmas in Chilliwack, BC, current day.
ii — “The Margin of the River” and the audio except, “Wide Winter River” The MC from “Zero to Sixty” considers what happened the day before and sees first hand the inequity and sorrow that is built into life. All life.
“The Rothmans Job” An odd couple set out on a dubious nighttime caper during a fierce winter blizzard in Winnipeg, during the 1970s.
“South of Oromocto Depths” A teenage boy gets into a foolish skirmish with his father on the Victoria Day long weekend in 1971 New Brunswick.
“Nothing to Lose” A former hockey player looks back on his life and his regrets in rural Manitoba during the dusty heat of summer, in the Sixties.
“Heavy Artillery” A young baseball fan in 1962 becomes embroiled in adult suspicion and prejudice in a small prairie town — predominantly Mennonite. (The imaginary, recurrent town of “Hartplatz, Manitoba”.)
“A Fisherman’s Story” In 1970, on the Mexican Pacific coast, an elderly woman and her young daughter are dealt an unfair hand. (P.S. — the prequel and the sequel to this story appear in the trilogy “The Bottom of the Sky”. See link below.)
“Winter Eve in Walker Creek Park” A trio of females on a wintery night in St. Catherines, Ontario, near Christmastime, current day.
“Breezy and the Six-Pack Sneaker” A rainy, beery night in Hartplatz in the Sixties is the scene for a tangled yarn of deception.
“The Fifty Dollar Sewing Machine” A straight-laced Mennonite husband and wife take on danger in a dark Winnipeg alley in 1934. (Rerun on Literally Stories, Feb 17.)
“Frozen Tag” A man encounters a strange reprise from his past (at the Minneapolis Athletic Club in 1980) in the Chilliwack Leisure Centre, current day.
“The Business of Saving Souls” A youth pastor in the fictitious city of Tribune, in the northern US Midwest meets challenges in the sanctuary of a gleaming megachurch, current day.
“The Preacher and His Wife” Palace intrigue, Harplatz style, throws a family into an untoward uproar in the 1960s.
“I am Otter” A shunned congregant discusses culture, power, and enfranchisement with a stranger near a lake in Manitoba, current day.
“The Beefeater and the Donnybrook” A mild-mannered Halifax, NS tourist is mistaken and mistook in drizzly London, current day.
“The Log Boom” Poignant points of view — a father, son, and grandfather in the Lower Mainland of BC, current day.
“The Peacemongers” War, bullies and knuckle justice from the perspective of a boy in Hartplatz, circa 1965.
“Fairchild, McGowan and the Detective” Recalling employment, both the good and the bad in Hartplatz and Winnipeg, 1970-80.
“Graperoo” A piece of Graperoo bubblegum experiences the four seasons in rural Manitoba in the Sixties.
“So Are They All” It’s September 1961 and a young boy receives an education in loyalty and courage in his grandmother’s country raspberry patch.
“The Seven Songs” A middle-aged Canadian man meets a local contemporary at a resort in Mexico, current day.
“Fall From Grace” A boy gets stuck in a fraught adventure and learns about his father through it in the heat of a prairie summer in Hartplatz, 1963.
“Away Game” A 50-something man meets with an older family member at the side of a dreamy, summery lake in Manitoba’s boreal forest, current day.
“In the Dim Light Beyond the Fence” The reader travels back into Canadian small-town hardball with the MC, reliving a fateful doubleheader from the Fifties.
“The Doeling” A brother and sister’s lives entwine from an east coast Canadian city to Belize and back. The Sixties to current day, various seasons.
“City Lights” A small-town “up-and-comer” gets in over his head in Toronto, current day.
“Groota Pieter” Spring softball in small-town Mennonite Manitoba is described, from the Sixties to current day.
“Sweet Caporal at Dawn” On a moody Manitoba morning near a spring lake, a youngster and an older confederate fish for pickerel during the mid-Seventies.
“The Bottom of the Sky” A trilogy that follows a “pinche” cabin-boy and the ship’s captain on a fishing charter boat from 1955 Acapulco to the future in a fishing village in the Seventies. (P.S. – If you’re inclined, give this story a read and tell me if you think it could be adapted into a screenplay. I see it in flickering snatches of film in my head and just wonder if that occurs to anyone else. If you’re a screenwriter or in film, I’d love an opinion — tough love included. —mjt)
“Shade Tree Haven” An adult remembers more than he cares to as he thinks back to summers at a favourite swimming pool in the early 1960s.
“The Narrowing” A sensitive boy and his straight-ahead grandfather go through a harrowing experience in the Manitoba wilds, current day. An important secondary character in Abbotsford, BC is part of the story.
“The Phage Match” In a surreal radio broadcast from somewhere in Canada, current day, the evils of drug addiction are the backdrop for some strange characters.
“Died Rich” A high school freshman in a frigid southern Manitoba winter in 1961 struggles to endure.
“Concealment” A fledgling Manitoba business traveller gets more than he expects on a springtime trip to the Atlanta Zoo in the 1980s.
“Mulholland & Hardbar” (Novel WIP) A troubled youth experiences the four seasons in the Canadian Shield: love, friendship, deceit, and violence. 1972.
Drama: From the Greek, “to do” or “to act”
A group of artists gathers for a meal. They each bring two dishes, one edible and the other inspirational.
The first of them lifts the lid on a steaming Dutch oven full of exotic stir-fry. She is small, with fine features and possessing a direct, flowing gaze that makes each one at the table feel a personal connection to her before she even says a word.
“Each mouthful is different, an adventure, a departure from the last, an experience defined by its variety,” she says, flourishing the lid with eloquence. “And yet, they each come from a similar culinary tradition and are all prepared by the same chef, in one communal pot. Each ingredient is spiced with varying amounts of identical additives: conflict, joy, desire, personality, sorrow and more. Much more.”
After plates are loaded and the group tucks in, a thin man with a sparse beard stands.
“My friends,” he begins, “I’ve brought wine. It’s meant to complement and heighten the enjoyment of the meal, but if you give it a chance, I hope that you can find in its complexity a fulfillment that stands alone. Savour it for what it contains, however well-hidden and blended the constituents are and enjoy the way each lends itself to the plenary, just as each wave adds its own shape to the shore.”
Glasses chime and there is a moment of satisfaction expressed by the table as collective stillness while the wine’s secrets are shared.
Without introduction, a brassy fanfare sounds followed by the swirl of parting curtains that separate the dining room from the house. A brawny, serious figure enters. With long, powerful strides this latest presenter commands the room’s immediate attention and is followed by a troupe of brightly costumed servers. Perfectly conceived and composed plated entrees are set before the diners.
“Each is a masterpiece—with a beginning, a middle and an ending—that is delivered not only by taste but by the presentation, artistry, and the interaction between each delicacy. The arrangement of every morsel a work of art of its own!” Music swirls and fills the room from some unseen orchestra and those assembled take their seats, voices hushed, attention rapt.
In a dark corner, unnoticed, a furtive, wide-eyed rat keeps an unblinking watch with keen lamps that blinter like wee distant winter stars.
“How? Where did they learn these arts? How do I join them? Won’t I be crushed by their greatness?”
In sensuous forepaws, a shred of cabbage is braided and interwoven with a trifle of cheese so thin it is opaque. The grey rat weaves with busy concentration. Clawed fingers fret, the fragile conception set on a single sparkling sequin dropped without care or worry from the bedazzlement above, so far above.
“I’ll offer this portion from my pantry. Perhaps, someone will like it…”