Tuesday, 12 February 2013

Excerpt from "Freewheeler"

This is a segment of my manuscript "Freewheeler'" . This is the first time I have shown this to the world outside of family. My wife has read this part, but other than that it has been my eyes only. I hope you enjoy and please feel free to comment on how it could be improved or if you like it as is or whatever. I am nervous about bringing it to be seen by everyone.

It is the story of a young man who is not liking where his life ahs taken him. Living in Saginaw, Michigan he works in a transmission factory for his wealthy best freind. This excerpt has our protagonist, Simon, robbing a liquor store and hitch hiking to Pittsburgh to be with his girlfriend. He has plans of heading to New York and making it big as a musician.

On Wednesday morning Simon was having trouble sleeping. He went for a walk. At three in the morning the roads of Saginaw were quiet. Dead. The streets rolled up and it seemed everyone was asleep. He turned onto State Street. A car drove by and Simon turned up his collar to the cold and the damp. His shoulders were raised up to his ears in an attempt to stay warm. He did not really know why he was out walking at such an hour, but he was. He thought he should turn around and go home but something kept pushing him to walk. He passed shop displays and store windows with “help wanted” signs leaning in them. In the distance he saw a light coming onto the street. It was the liquor store that he had gone in a few times as an under aged teenager trying to get alcohol. Every once in a while the attendant would give it to him but sometimes he would refuse.

“Simon,” the man behind the counter would say, “When you are old enough I will buy you a drink, but not a day sooner.”

He stood outside the liquor store, the neon lights that split through the cold night air gave off an electric hum the disturbed the silence of the cold wet street. The buzzing went into Simon's head that gnawed at his brain. He opened the door and entered the store. The man behind the counter looked up from a paper back novel, he turned the volume knob down on a radio that rested on a wooden stool next to the cash register.  It was not the usual man in the store. Simon felt relieved that it was not Jeff; he still walked around the store to get his nerves up. Simon walked to the back of the store. He made it look like he was looking for something, he picked up a bottle while still looking at the front of the store. He glanced down at it and saw that it was a bottle of vodka. The clear liquid quietly splashed in the clear bottle. Quickly, he put it down and rushed up to the front counter.

With his hand in his coat pocket he held it up past the counter top to resemble a gun. “open your cash and give me your money!” He shouted.

The man almost fell off his chair as he stood up. “What?” he was discombobulated by the shock of being disturbed.

“Give me your money jerk, or I'll shoot!” He felt like he was in a stupid movie written by a desperate script writer from Tulsa. Simon did not want to hurt anybody, hell he did not even want to rob the store but here he was robbing a liquor store.

To his amazement he heard the cash draw open and there was a bunch of money on the counter. “Take it and get out before I call the cops.” The man behind the counter said. Simon wondered if he had read the same stupid script.

He reached out with his free hand and put the money into his pocket. He backed out of the store and ran down the street towards his house. He ran past dark sleeping houses and quiet cars parked for the night. Simon thought running at this hour was more suspicious than walking. This hour there must be a curfew but there were no cars on the road. He turned the corner and started running again. His house was close and as he ran up the walk, lights of a car turned onto the street. With the door closed behind him he peeked through the curtain onto the road. The car drove by and slowed down to go around the bend and went into the dark of the night. Simon sank down on to the floor and sighed holding his head in his hands.

”I've gotta get out of here.” He said to himself. Standing up and turning to walk up the stairs he decided to go visit his girlfriend and from there he would see where the world takes him. |He packed up some clothes in a small duffel bag, strapped his guitar to his back and headed out to the main road once again.

At this hour he figured there would not be many drivers on the road heading south so he just started walking. The quiet was refreshing to his ears. Normally, during the day he had the drone of all the machines running in his ears. It took several hours of resting to get the ringing out of his ears. Watching the evening news with Walter Cronkite drowned out the pitch until it faded away completely. But early in the morning he was thankful that the ringing wasn't an issue. He turned his collar up to the cold and damp when his eyes were flashed by the lights of on coming traffic. Trucks coming up to the factories to get the parts to take them back down to Flint and Detroit. That would be his best bet for a ride all the way down. From there he would have to be patient to get a ride to Pittsburgh and to Kathy.

A truck soon stopped and and Simon climbed in. “Where you headed?” The man behind the wheel asked.

“Down to Pittsburgh.” Simon answered as he turned around to put his guitar and duffel bag in the compartment behind the seats. “But for now I'll take anywhere south of here.”

“I'm heading to Detroit. The GM factory there. We'll be there by mid morning so you just sit back and relax and let Ole' Stanley do the drivin'”. The driver said. He was in his forties, Simon thought. He wore a baseball cap, a flannel shirt and permanent stubble on his chin. Simon enjoyed the silence that followed. Then after twenty minutes he fell asleep.

The blaring noise of the truck woke Simon up with a start. Stanley was yelling obscenities at the construction and traffic that was ahead of him. “I knew it was coming but I didn't know there would be so many idiots on the highway.” He grabbed his CB and contacted truckers up ahead. He asked them how long the traffic was stuck for and if the alternates were any better. “Morning Sunshine. Sleep well?” He asked.

“Yeah, guess I did.” Simon answered. “Where are we?”

“We're just outside Flint. Do you know Flint, Kid?” Stanley asked.

“Yeah, Kinda.”

“Well, we are just about near Springfield. If we can get past the construction. These early morning workers are a pain. If they weren't on the road I could sail through this.” He grumbled.

“Aren't you an early morning worker?” Simon asked.

“Yeah, kid your right. But I'm bigger than they are.” Having said that he pulled on the cord that let out a loud honk.

Simon and Stanley made there way through the traffic and the streets of Detroit towards Warren where the transmissions were needed at the General Motors plant on Mound Street. Simon thought that he should get off earlier so that he could get someone heading further south to Toledo or somewhere but Stanley said he might find someone, another trucker, heading down that way. He called ahead and sure enough there was a trucker taking a bunch of new cars to a sales floor in Toledo.

Simon thought that getting to see Kathy would be quicker than expected. At the plant Simon waited outside the gates for the other hauler to come out. It turned four o'clock and he still waited. He needed to eat and go to the toilet but was afraid of missing his ride to Toledo. He was also getting stiff and cold waiting around. Simon decided to walk down Mound Street towards Detroit. Hitching as he went. He passed Eight Mile east and then Seven Mile east he knew he must be heading in the right direction but night was coming in and it did not look like the type of area that you wanted to be out after dark in. At Davidson he saw signs posted of highway 75 so he followed until he reached the highway that would be a more direct route to Toledo.

He got picked up a group of young men about his age and they put his bag and guitar in the trunk and headed to the Lincoln Park area in the south side of Detroit. As he got out and thanked them for the ride they sped off with his guitar and bag still in the back of the car. Simon could hear the laughter of the boys as they drove off. Simon chased after them but the car was just too fast for his feet. “This might take longer than I thought.” Simon said to himself. He still had the money in his pocket and so he started walking again. He followed a road that led him to a youth center. He felt he might be too old for it but thought that it would be a good place to stay for the night or they might be able to direct him to a cheap place. He was in luck, the superintendent of the center was at the front door cleaning up for the night.

“Excuse me, Sir? Is there a place available in the centre for the night? I have been coming all the way from Saginaw and I am getting tired.” Simon said.

“Why sure there is, son.” The large black man said. He was greying around the temples and wore glasses that slipped on his nose. “ We always welcome people here. It don't matter if youse black or white, yeller or even green from Mars, if there is a bed then youse can stay.”

Simon gave a small laugh at the accent he wasn't used to it but the man seemed friendly enough.

“Can you pay or do you need to do chores around to help out out.” The man said as he walked behind the counter and switched on a light.

“Um,” Simon stuttered. “I think I will need to do some chores. I had my bag and guitar stolen from me so I don't have much left on me.”

“I thought youse were travellin' light for a hitcher. I was expectin' at least a duffel bag. Sorry ta hear that son.”

A Selection of Haikus

a pillow is a very last resort
at something list'ning

I asked myself once
if a man walks in his sleep
who is there to guide him?

Clouds cover the moon.
The only face I have known
that never laughs back.

Snow gathers round her feet
like the powder
clings to her nostrils

Looking up, the stars
sparkle a glimmer of hope.
Can we be alone?

Moons subtle shadows
cast on a bed  of white snow
wrinkeled by footprints

Crows land on uour face
leaving tracks that you cannot erase;
you age gracefully

Monday, 29 October 2012

A Strange Day in July

A Strange Day In July

Once a month, on a Sunday, the third Sunday, the Wilson family would go on a picnic. They loved going for picnics as a family, it was a time to be outdoors and run and play. It was a time for Mr. And Mrs. Wilson to rest on the blanket and listen out for the children as they chased each other on the grass or climbed a tree. They had there special place down by the lake. Even though lots of people used it as a picnic area the Wilson's thought of it as their own.

On the third Sunday in June the family went on their picnic. Maggie & Ben, both twelve years old and both twins went to go for a walk on the shore of a lake with their father, while mother set the picnic out on the blanket doing her best to keep the ants at bay. Down on the shore their father would teach Ben and Maggie how to skip rocks. He would look for the best rock. “It has to be smooth, son. It also has to be flat.” Once he found a good one he held it in his hand, “this is how you hold is Maggie” He said. But Maggie was off a little down the beach looking for shells. He went on to show Ben how to throw. He bent down and pulled his arm back and snapped it forward; released the rock and watched it skip across the lake.

Ben Counted, “one, two, three, four. . .” the rock did a series of quick skips that his dad said never really counted. “Four! That's awesome!” He bent down and found one and started practising. His father walked over to him and ruffled his hair.

Keep practising son, and keep your eye out on Maggie.”

Sure thing, dad.” Ben said as he skipped a small smooth stone over the water surface. “Maggie, get over here!” He shouted. His father gave a chuckle and walked up the small hill to help his wife finish defending the picnic from ants.

Maggie walked back up the shore and looked at rocks beside Ben, “is this one good?” She asked.

Ben kept practising and Maggie kept searching. She would walk into the water and let the cool clear water caress her toes. It was re3freshing and the round rocks gave way to smooth sand at the bottom of the lake only a few feet out from the shoreline.

Ben was getting the hang of it, he was making them skip three times and feeling rather proud of himself when his mother cried out, “Supper is ready!”

Come on guys, time to eat!” Their dad shouted.

YAY” cheered Maggie and splashed out of the water wetting her brother. Ben tried to skip another rock but had to cover himself from the splash of his sister.

After eating salads, sandwiches and watermelon Ben and his dad went down to throw stones into the water while Maggie and her mom cleaned up and watched the sun go down on another lovely day.

Once they were done they called to the boys to come up, “it's time to go now guys!” she shouted.
Just one more dad, please,” Ben whined
There’s always next time son”
Oh come on, I was so close!” cried out Ben.

The ride home was quiet. All the fresh air wore the twins out and Mr. and Mrs. Wilson talked quietly about the weeks ahead and other things that really didn't matter in the whole scheme of things. Mr. Wilson held wis wife's hand and drove with the other.

Another month flew by. School finished and summer started. The twins spent their days with their grandparents house and the evenings tucked nicely into their beds. Each day Mr. And Mrs. Wilson would go to work and then come home have dinner with their children and then curl up together on the sofa watching the television.

Then, on the third Sunday in July the Wilson family went out for another picnic. When they arrived Ben and Maggie ran out of the vehicle and ran to the shore and picked up rocks.

Watch out kids, don’t leave my sight, play where I can see you!” shouted Mom.

Ok Mom!” replied the twins.

Hey Dad, come here and skip rocks.” said Ben.

I will as soon you and Maggie come here and help your mother and me unpack things,” replied his Dad.

They ran back to their parents and unpacked the things quickly. All the picnic stuff was out on the grass just the other side of the wooden barricade between the parking lot and the grass.

Okay Dad, all done!” said Ben as he had a big smile on his face.

How about now we take it over to the picnic area under that tree,” their dad said as he picked up the hamper and some blankets.

After everything was in place Ben said, “now can we go?” His dad said okay as he was pulled by the hand down to the beach. They picked up smooth flat rocks, then started skipping them on the water. Once again the boys were so into the rock skipping that they did not notice Maggie wandering off around the lake. Maggie was off searching for seashells.

Dad, where’s Maggie? She was here awhile go and now she’s gone. Should we go look for her?” Asked Ben.

Hmm, you’re right Ben. I don’t see her nearby either; she probably went to go see your mother. Let’s go check on her.” answered dad.

Ben and his father both went back to check on Maggie, but there was no sign of her there.

Dad, I’m worried. What if she lost her way?” said Ben in a shaky voice. He noticed dark clouds approaching.

Come on, we’ll go look for her,” replied dad. They walked down to the beach where the waves started getting bigger, more fierce. “Maggie!” their dad shouted.

As Maggie wondered off in her own world, she noticed she was gone for awhile. She decided to turn around and head back to the picnic area. On her way back, she looked up and saw big dark clouds approaching. She looked down at the water and noticed a giant sparkly seashell. She gazed at it in amazement. She bent down, and reached for it. As soon as Maggie grabbed the seashell, she fell in the water. She struggled while trying to grab a branch; she then managed to grab the branch before she could get washed off by the strong waves.

Dad! Help me!” cried out Maggie.

Ben and his dad heard screams and ran towards the sounds, they both saw Maggie. Dad ran towards her and tried reaching out for her.

You’ll be okay, Maggie, grab my hand!” shouted their father.

But before she could grab his hand, Maggie lost her grip. Before she disappeared in the waves, dad jumped in the water and grabbed Maggie and started to swim back to the shore against the waves and the wind.

Mom!” shouted Ben. “Come quick!” He did not want to leave the side of the lake in fear of loosing sight of his dad and sister.

Ben’s mother heard shouting and screaming. She ran as fast as she could and saw dad having a hard time trying to push Maggie back onto the rock because of the strong waves splashing against them. She and Ben both reached out to them, they grabbed Maggie. But, as soon as they tried to reach husband and father, a large wave came in and splashed against the rocks and then pulled him in with the strong undercurrent. The waves crashed and the wind howled as the three on the rocks held each other tight.

Dad!” screamed Ben as he tried to go into the water, but his mom held him tight.

They ran back to the car and Mrs. Wilson called the police, who created a search and rescue mission. They went on searching for him for three days. Friends of the family volunteered, family came in from the south to help search for him. On the fourth day Mr. Wilson's body was found bloated and partially nibbled from fish in a small river the feeds into the lake on the south side. His skin was the colour of seaweed and had the texture of a swamp frog. Down at the morgue Mrs. Wilson had to identify the body and when she did she held onto the cold metal slab her husband laid on and dropped to the floor.

After the funeral, the Wilson family did not go for another picnic.

Several years went by and many third Sundays came went and the idea of picnicing at the lake did not enter their minds. It was too hard for them still.

One day in July Ben and Maggie were sitting at the kitchen table while their mom was making lunch. Ben was looking at Maggie, Maggie looked back. His eyes squinted at her and he looked at his mother.

Mom?” said Ben

Yes, Ben?” replied mom

It’s been awhile since dad died,” he paused, there was a silence. He continued after swallowing some air. “I was thinking we could for go a picnic on his anniversary. Instead of going to the graveyard. What do you think?” asked Ben

Sure, this Sunday will do” replied Mom.

No mom, on the third Sunday, remember?”

Days flew by. A Sunday went by. Then another week. No one talked about the picnic or the lake. No one needed to.

On the third Sunday Ben and Maggie helped their mom make sandwiches and a potato salad. They packed up the hamper and Ben went up into the linen closet and pulled down the old picnic blanket. He was glad that his mom did not throw it away like she at first wanted to all those years ago after her husbands death. They piled into the car and drove to the lake. As they arrived, they had a hard time trying to hold their tears back. They stayed in the car in silence for a long time. Then ben said, “I'll help unload.”

Me too,” Maggie responded. They opened the backdoor and walked to the trunk. Once they unpacked and brought the blanket and hamper over to the tree they Ben went off by himself and walked along the shore. He heard stomping behind him; he looked back and saw Maggie running towards him. They both started talking about memories they had with their father. While talking about their dad, it triggered Ben, and his anger took over him.

Enough! Dad’s dead, suck it up” said Ben to Maggie.

Maggie knew Ben was angry and blamed her for their fathers’ death. Maggie picked up a rock and skipped it.

There was silence except for the sound of solid on liquid.

Dad loved us Ben, you can’t be angry at me for dad’s death for the rest of your life,” said Maggie.

Ben looked at Maggie as she had tears in her eyes. He gave his sister a long hug, and then he picked up 3 rocks. He and his sister started skipping rocks.

Supper Time!” yelled mom.

Okay Mom, we’re coming” replied Maggie.

As Ben looked at his palm, he saw the last stone. He threw it with all his might. It skipped and Ben started counting, “one two three four five . . .” he counted to seven. He saw it do that thing that his dad said didn't count and then there was just ripples. Then he saw something strange The stone he just threw, the third stone; the third stone came skipping back.

Ben and Maggie both stared at the rock as it skipped back on the water and landed at Ben’s feet.

They both stared at each other in surprise, and looked up toward the lake and saw their Dad standing on the water; he waved and smiled at his children. Then he turned and started to walk toward the sun and disappeared. Ben and Maggie both were crying tears of joy. They ran towards Mom and told her what happened. She hugged Ben and Maggie, said a prayer, and then ate supper in silence. Ben looked at the lake. Maggie sat next to her mom and they enjoyed the picnic.

next month I think we should come again,” said Ben.

I think you're right,” his mom replied. She leaned over and ruffled his hair. “I think we will.”

Wednesday, 24 October 2012

Capt. Tory

Captain Tory

“Is there really a ghost ship in the harbour, Grandpa?” Asked Little Finn
“Yes lad, there is. But only by special light can it be seen.” The old man said through his dark beard. “I don't know if I'll be tellin' the likes of you. I think you're a bit too young to be told stories like the one of Captain Tory.” He ruffled his grandson's curly red hair and gave a chuckle that sounded like he had a belly like a bowl full of jelly. It was almost in spite of himself.

Finn sat silent thinking hard what sort of special light his Grandpa could mean. The moon when it was full? Or a blue moon, or maybe it’s the sun at noon day? Finn gave up guessing in his mind and asked, “What special light is that, Grandpa?”
Finn looked up to his Grandpa's eyes to see if he could find an answer. His Grandpa looked away and Finn knew he had given it away. He followed the gaze to an old lantern on the fireplace mantle. “Grandpa, is that the special light?” He pointed to the lantern.
“You are a clever lad aren't you.”
“Can we go see? Tonight, can we go?” Finn sat up with excitement. It was already past his bedtime but he knew how to play his grandpa.
“Whoa, slow down lad. Slow down. There is another light that must be on in order to see the ship of Captain Tory,” said his Grandpa and then left a pause so his grandson could sit in silence to figure out the other part of the mystery.
After a few minutes of silence Finn's Grandpa began to speak again:
“Along time ago a ship came into the harbour on a damp foggy night. My grandfather, your great great grandfather was keeper of the lighthouse that still stands at the edge of the peer down at the harbour's entrance. He didn't live there; it wasn't that kind of light house. He lived here in this house like me.” Finn's eyes were fixed on his grandpa's eyes so as not to miss a single word. He shifted slightly in his grandpa's lap and then his grandpa continued:
“On that foggy night my grandfather did not know of any vessels coming into the harbour. He usually had a list of boats coming and going so that he could warn ships as needed. So, this particular night, this extra foggy night no warnings of the cursed schooner were known. He was down at the local pub having a pint with his mates when Gladys, my grandmother, came running in. The fog rolled into the pub as she opened the door and she yelled to Stanley, 'Come quickly a ship in coming in fast and the lighthouse is not on!' Stanley jumped to his feet and followed Gladys out the door and down the cobble road. He pulled his collar up to keep out the cold and the damp. He ran past his house to the harbour and swung open the door to the lighthouse. He lit a lantern that rested on a nail by the front door. With the lantern lit he ran up the stairs to light the candles inside the large convex mirror. There were twenty in all and he hoped he could get them all in time.
“He looked out the window into the night but could not see anything but a cold, dark grey. He heard shouts coming from the fog and he heard splashes. Stanley could only imagine what was going on the deck of the ship. He realized that he did not have time to light all the candles so he ran out onto the surrounding deck that encircled the room atop the lighthouse. He swung the lantern three times and then the schooner appeared. It was too late. The boat rammed into the wall at almost full speed. It smashed into pieces and sank into the harbour. Two of the crew survived. They were the splashes that Stanley had heard in the fog. The others were shot in the head by Captain Tory for disobeying orders. That is what the two surviving seamen said.
The ship sank down deep into the harbour along with Captain Tory and the remaining the sailors. The two surviving seamen were taken to the hospital and treated for some crazy disease picked up in the dark parts of this world; a disease that cursed many on the schooner, including the captain. He had ordered his men to ram the town and to attack anyone who tried to stop them. That is when the survivors jumped ship and when captain Tory fired two shots. Stanley said he only heard two shots in his testimony.

Anyways the decision by the town council then was to not raise the ship and leave the bodies of Captain Tory and the other crew down in the harbour in fear of spreading the feared disease. And it has remained there ever since.”
Finn was so excited he could not contain himself. “How does the lantern work? Did the disease contaminate the water? Did people go crazy and start eating each other?” Finn's active imagination worked overtime to try and fill in the holes in his Grandpa's story.
“Over the years people have tried to go down and filled the wreckage but those that come back say that it is not there. Others who have gone down have not come back. But I have told enough ghost stories for one night. It's time to put you to bed.”
Finn did not budge off of his Grandpa's lap. “What about the lantern,” he asked? “How does it work?”
“It has powers to bring people and things from the other side. It is a very powerful talisman that allows people and objects to travel from our world into other worlds.” Finn's Grandpa said quietly. “Stanley did not fully understand its power when he had possession of it. But my father did. I don't know how he found out, maybe it was by accident but he knew. He showed me too.” He paused, waiting for the response.

“So how does it work?”
“Come get your shoes on. I'll show you.”
Still in his pajamas Finn walked beside his grandpa holding his hand. It was worn by the years and felt like used sandpaper, soft and rough at the same time. The fog was rolling in off the east river and the lights from the streetlights were blurred making the boys vision somewhat blurred. He imagined all sorts of creatures hiding in the shadows of the old streets as he walked to short distance to the harbour. His grandpa was the ceremonial keeper of the lighthouse that stood on the wall of the horbour for four generations. A new one was constructed in the nineteen sixties that housed computers and electric lights. The old once was left abandoned and Finn's grandpa was out of a job for several years until someone thought that the heritage of the town was important. He was given the honour back in nineteen seventy five and has lit the old light house up on special occasions ever since.
Finn looked over to his grandpa's other hand and saw the lantern swinging forward and backward, forward and backward in time with the foot falls. He was nervous and excited and scared all at the same time: nervous that it would not work and his grandpa’s story was just that a story; excited that it would work and that he would see a real ghost ship and scared as well for the same reason.
The end of the street opened onto another street that followed the harbour. There was a wrought iron railing separating the solid ground of the road and the cold water of the harbour. They came to a stop at the railing. Finn let go of his grandpa's hand and put them both on his hips. He looked out over the harbour and onto the city beyond. The lights from the buildings shone like tiny stars trapped in hundreds of small boxes. The universe contained. The fog had lifted a little and even the bridge that connected the two sides of the city could be seen. Its lights reflected in the dark mysteries of the harbour. Finn could see his breath as he let out a long sigh, he did not realize that he had been holding it in.
His Grandpa lifted up the lantern and opened a small glass door and lit the candle that was housed inside. He closed the door and locked the latch. It illuminated the wrinkled face of his grandpa and his eyes sparkled like the lights trapped in the boxes of the town.
He swung his lantern three times and slowly the schooner appeared, just as a light came on in the little boy's eyes.

Prologue for Wendigo Over Cobalt (working title)

Logging in the bush of Northern Ontario with nothing but his thoughts, Frank became acutely aware that someone or something was following him.
The noise of his chainsaw drowned out the shriek that came on the wind but when he stopped logging, he fought back the urge to turn around and look. He started up his chainsaw and began cutting the fallen tree into smaller, more manageable sizes. The shriek came again and raised the hairs on his arms and a cold chill forced goose bumps all over his body. He stopped cutting again. He waited, looking straight ahead into the bush not wanting to turn around because he was too scared. A slight breeze went through him; he pulled up his metaphorical socks and he decided to count to three. When he did turn around he was somewhat disappointed; he saw nothing but the slight movement of brush, the branches high on top of the birch trees and the movement of the leaves on the ground: he wondered if it was just the breeze or maybe a small animal. Or maybe was something else.
His days are long in the bush starting at sunrise and ending just before dusk. The short walk back to his cabin was filled with imagined conversations with friends and family that he felt were with him. As he turns to answer them and see a friendly face again, the feeling of being alone came over him. Yet he felt that something was following him and it did not want to be seen or heard at this time; he knew, however, that at some point he would meet up with whatever it was.
Frank closes the cabin door and bolts it shut. The intense stench of raw, rotting flesh envelops him and he vomits violently. He cries, curling himself up in the fetal position on the braided rug in front of the dark, empty fireplace. He rocks himself into a state of calm that engulfs the cabin room and Frank feels somewhat at peace for the first time in days. Get yourself together Bud, he says to himself. He has been by himself for long stretches before, starting when he was a teenager. He did logging trips in the bush for his father many times and now he does it for his family. Two months in the bush with no one around but your thoughts can get to some but not to Frank he was a tough guy in town. Talks of bar fights at the Fraser Hotel and all the scuffles on the ice rink even in hockey practice still cause the young kids in town to cross the road when he walks down the street. But now he is older with a family he doesn't get into drunken brawls much anymore. But frank was still tough, until today. Today he felt scared.
The wind whispers around the cabin and brings Frank back to reality. Getting up from the floor, he stretches reaching high into the air exposing his stomach from under his red plaid shirt, the one his wife picked out for Father's Day this past June. Frank hears his wife calling him to come outside and be with her. He ignores her calls and prepares himself some tomato soup. He decides to use the Coleman stove instead of the pot belly that stands inside the fireplace. It would create too much heat for the middle of August and the Coleman is instant. The soup is soon heated and he pours some into a bowl and sits at the table in front of the window. Looking out he sees shadows again. Not just long shadows of dusk but darker more sinister shadows; the kind that devour you in your dreams. He turns away and sips at his tomato soup. The winds around the cabin call his name again; he jumps up and runs to the door, opens it up and runs to the sound of his wife. She is not there; she is safely resting at home in Cobalt after putting their son to bed. Frank is so convinced that his wife is calling him that he calls out to her, "What do you want! Where are you?" The voice hides behind the birch trees of the forest and under the rocks of the great Canadian Shield. Frank hears a small chuckle as the winds pass away behind the cabin..
Again he convinces himself it is only the wind and quickly walks back to the open door of his cabin. Inside, he sits in a chair, leaving his tomato soup on the small table allowing the flies to try some soup, and feels that someone has entered the cabin before he got back. The cabin is small only twelve feet square so he sees no one, but he feels a presence. Frank decides to shake off his silly campfire story thoughts and nods off to sleep in the chair tossing and turning restlessly, trapped in his small prison; holding his gun.
The sun creeps in through the dusty curtains waking Frank up with aches and craps. The sun is shines onto the tomato soup that is still sitting on the table with two dead flies caught in its viscosity. Frank has no appetite and his mouth tastes like muddy blood. Instead of eating he splashes water on his face and rinses his mouth out and spits into the sink. Picking up his rifle that lay on the floor next to the chair he heads out the door and starts toward the logging area. He thought that he might regret it later, not eating but what the hell, if he kept busy maybe he won't go so crazy like yesterday. Frank walks listening to whispers that are indistinguishable, he hears invisible feet walking several paces behind him, just to the side and out of the corner of his eye. He thinks he sees something; a dark shadow, a large creature, a cold heartless soul. He turns to look and instinctively he fires off two rounds that slice through the silent air, they rip into the white bark of a birch tree. Shifting his stance, he hears shuffling in the fallen leaves to the right of him; he reloads and fires off two more rounds into the still morning air. Partridge fly up out of the small bushes that dot the forest floor. He fires at them and misses. He pulls the trigger again; nothing but desperate clicks slowly fall out and disappear into the dead leaves of the bush floor.
Looking all around him, Frank hears nothing; not even the sound of the wind or the flapping of birds on the wing, the moose running frantically through the bush after hearing the sounds of several gunshots out of season. Frank hears nothing. It is too quiet. He throws down his gun and runs; he runs to his logging site. To the left of him, without looking, he sees shadows; when he turns his head to see what it is, he sees nothing, still he runs. He runs past the logging site, he is sobbing now; he is desperately running until his strength runs out.
As he looks again to his right from the slightest corner of his eye he sees the dark cold shadow again; his face hitting a tree first and then his back hitting the ground. He sees the tops of the tall trees swaying in the breeze, the rustling of dry leaves around him and the bloody stubby toes of a dark shadowy creature dripping icy rotting gobs of spit onto Frank's sweaty plaid shirt.
It is the small, sighing whispers of the wind that wakes Frank up. He is exhausted, alone, alive and very hungry. His sense of smell seems to be altered, more acutely aware of his surroundings. The rich dark soil has a stench of rotting trees, leaves and small carcasses of wild animals. The air rolling around the trees permeates his nostrils filling his sinuses with decay and rotting flesh. Looking at the insipid blue sky between the pale green leaves of the birch trees Frank thought it was only a few hours since he saw the bizarre creature. He sits up, his head throbs and he leans over and he dry heaves; after several attempts dark red mucus comes up out of his stomach. Uncontrollably, the muscles in his midsection tighten and he pukes up more gobs of the tar. Horrified and in between convulsions he sobs and screams into the wind. The wind howls back.

Monday, 15 October 2012

The Seven Chairs

The Seven Chairs

Alphonso Mazzai made furniture. Not just any furniture: he made magic furniture. Alphonso lived in a small village north of Florence in Italy. The name of it is not important, neither is how Alphonso acquired his magic. That is a different story altogether. What this tale concerns itself with is the story of the seven chairs.

Alphonso spent several days selecting the wood for the chairs. He looked specifically at the grains of the wood. To many knots and he passed them by, too close together and he also walked past. The grains of the wood had to be just perfect for the magic he wanted to perform. While selecting the wood for his chairs he stayed at a small in by the market square where he sells his furniture. The owners knew him and gave him a special rate. He liked staying in Florence but he knew that he needed to get back to his village as well . The next day he selected several pieces of timber and placed them on his donkeys back and started the walk back to his workshop.

The next several days Alphonso spent carving and planing the wood. Shaping the seat area just right for a perfect fit of the buttocks. He carved joints into the wood. And glued pieces together. \he made wooden nails that he set in place on the joints to make them stronger. Once all seven chairs were created he stood back and admired them. He brushed the wood shavings and dust from his clothes and walked out the workshop closed the door and did not return to the chairs for another three days. The chairs sat in silence for those days. The wood had to get used to being manipulated into the strange shape that it had become. Last year the wood was standing strong and tall in a grove in the north west part of Italy. Since that time it had been chopped down stripped of its skin and sliced into straight flat pieces of timber. It sat like that until Alphonso came and manipulated and cut it up even more into the shape of seven chairs. To allow the wood to get used to this before moving on Alphonso let his furniture sit and get used to being furniture for three days.

On the day of reentering the workshop Alphonso had cleansed himself and new the chairs were being cleansed as well. The sanding process would take several more days to complete. Firs, each of the seven chairs would get a course sanding. This got rid of any of the rough imperfections. The marks left by the tools that Alphonso used to create the details of the chair. The markings on the legs and spindles left by being turned on the lathe. The second sanding was with a finer and smoother paper. This created a soft touch to the chair. This sanding also cleaned up the details and made the edges of the leaf work stand crisp and sharp. The last sanding was the gentle yet firm pressure applied with the touch of Alphonso's own hands. His hands were aged and wrinkled and callused. His hands would run all over the wood this final step he did with all his furniture. It was the start of the magic.

After each sanding Alphonso would blow of the sawdust that had accumulated on the piece of furniture. He would blow gently and occasionally small drops of spit would fly out of his mouth and landing on the wood causing it to change colour from the pale yellow cream colour to a dark yellow tone. While he was sanding the third time the blows to rid the chairs of the sawdust was also laced with incantations. Strange cabalic words from ancient manuscripts and dead civilizations. With all the sawdust removed from the chairs and the first set of chants on the chairs, Alphonso cleaned up the shop. When he was satisfied the all the dust had gone form the workshop Alphonso closed up the door and for three days he did not enter. The moon rose over the open filed that was behind his house. In three days time the moon would be full and he could begin to varnish the chairs. But for now he rested, tomorrow he would be in the fields working on his barley crop.

Each day for seven days Alphonso added layer after layer of varnish. Seven days for seven chairs. Each chairs received a coat and a prayer form the ancient language sealing the words into the grains and the wood and the varnish. At the end of each day he would close up the shop like a tomb. Making sure no particle of dust or fly or spider would be able to enter and blemish the coat of the day. On the seventh day the seven chairs received their final coat and their whisper of magic. Then, once again as he did on the previous days he sealed up the shop. This time, however, he sealed it up for seven days. This was so the prayers and chantings and incantations could sink deep into the wood, deep into the grains of each chair.

This time was spent by Alphonso working in his fields or fixing the jobs around the house that he always seemed to neglect; the squeaky door, the loose floor board in the bedroom, the lower half of the kitchen door. All these items kept his mind and his hands occupied and allowed the chairs to settle into themselves without his thoughts getting in the way. One one occasion he walked past the workshop and looked into the window. The seven chairs stood in a row looking proud and majestic. The sun that entered through the window showed a stream of dust that floated around the room like the stars in the universe. Alphonso looked at them in disgust and wished them away. He closed his eyes and said several words under his breath. Upon opening his eyes and looking back in the room the dust had disappeared and the air was clean again. The remaining days at noon he came to the window and performed the prayer and cleared the room of any dust that might cause imperfections in the finish on the chairs. On the seventh day he rested.

Early the next morning Alphonso rose from bed and by lamplight he went to the barn first and woke up his donkey and brought him over to the workshop. He opened the door and walked inside. The small of the varnish filled his nostrils and he breathed deeply. He looked at his chairs and decided that they were ready to be taken to market. One at a time he placed the seven chairs on his donkey's back. Soft fabric was placed between the chairs so they would not rub together. A single piece of cord wrapped around and through the legs and backs of each chair carefully so that they would not fall off during the journey to Florence to be sold in the market square where Alphonso had a stall.

The journey, at first was slow but as the sun moved slowly above the hills the ruts and rocks that Alphonso knew so well in the round became more clear to his sight and he did not have to rely wholly on instinct. He stopped and rested at a stone bridge that crossed a stream. Alphonso took a drink from it and so did his donkey. He sat on the wall of the bridge and rubbed his feet before continuing on his journey.

Once he arrived to the city he had a short distance through narrow streets and a small alley way to the market. His stall was near the hotel that he stayed at while collecting the wood. The market had around fifty stalls in total. Here, someone could buy anything from spices and fruits, to rugs, fabrics and other items for the house to hand carved magical chairs. Alphonso quickly set up his small space. The seven chairs were not the only items he had to sell. Inside a small room behind his stall were other items that did not sell from previous days. A small table, bowls stools and some wooden spoons all needed arranging to make them sellable. The chairs were set up back to back in a rectangle of six, while the last of the chairs was placed at the end also facing out. It reminded Alphonso of his childhood games where his Ompa would play the fiddle while his friends brothers and sister would walk around chairs and when the fiddle stopped each child had to find a seat. The other items he placed around the display of chairs.

Alphonso took his position under the canopy he set up above the door that led to the small room. He looked inside and once again thought that he could make a small cot for the space and save some money instead of going to the inn every time he came to Florence. He pulled out a small stool and sat down and waited.

Slow;y customers came into the market. They passed Alphonso without even looking but he knew that they did not come to the market for furniture but for spices and meats to see them through the day. The bread stall was always busy as well in the morning. By noon Alphonso would have a customer, so he waited patiently.

A couple wandered out f the hotel, arm in arm and laughing with each other. Obviously in love, thought Alphonso. They were french and newlyweds. The young lady sat on the chair closest to her and beckoned her new husband to also sit. He did. They said they would be nice in the dining room where they now have mismatched chairs. Alphonso let them talk without interruption. In the end they concluded they did not know how to get them back to France and walked away. That's alright, thought Alphonso, he did not want them to have any of the chairs anyways.

The first chair to sell was to a women who needed it for her son's writing desk. “this is the perfect size,” she said to Alphonso. “And the wood is beautiful. You are quite the craftsman, Senior.” Alphonso replied, “Thank you.” and he smiled to himself. “I am sure your son will write many great and important things from sitting at his desk with this chair and you for support. I cn tell you love your son very, very much.” This chair will work well for her and her son, he thought. She gave him the money and she walked away with a chair. Both Alphonso and the woman were happy and satisfied.

Chairs number two and three were sold to man who was replacing his chairs from his bistro table that stood on his small kitchen balcony. He commented about the design being a perfect match for his table.

“My wife and I will sit on these chairs and share morning coffee and conversations in the morning and we shall sit and enjoy wine and secrets in the evening.” The man said as he took out payment for the chairs.

“And you shall grow old together with these chairs.” Said Alphonso. So, chairs two and three made the journey from Florence to Rome.

Alphonso rearranged the chairs into a straight row and went back under the canopy. A tourist came and bought the spoons. Alphonso wrapped them in paper advising the lady to rinse them first with spring water on the full. “That is in three days time.” He added. The lady looked strangely at him and agreed. She walked away looking at other items in the market and occasionally over her shoulder back at Alphonso.

The fourth chair was sold and now sits in the front hallway of a brownstone house near Washington Square in New York City. “If my children are going to sit and be punished, they will be sitting on quality handcrafted furniture. Only the best.” Said the American. Alphonso accepted the extra money from the American and also took the address in New York where to ship it to. He tied the address to the chair and placed it in the small room. He promised that it would arrive safely to his home. The American thanked him again and gave him some extra money on top of what was already given.

“Thank you.” Alphonso said. “This will make your child's punishment more bearable for them and will make them think about disobeying again.” He added. They shook hands because that is what Americans do. Shake hands when a deal has been made.

Alphonso sat under the shade of the canopy protecting him from the afternoon sun. It was time to close up for the afternoon and have a siesta. The sun is too much for people to shop or work so for two hours a day the city of Florence closes and reopens when the air is cooler and the sun further in the west. He stretched as he got up from his stool and went to collect his wears. He started with the chairs. Taking two of them he walked them over to the small room and placed them inside. He turned to collect the other chair but a priest from France was inspecting it. He went to the small table and placed it inside.

Alphonso walked back out into the sunlight and even he began to notice the finish and the grain of the chair. He was proud of these pieces.

“I'll take it,” the priest said. Alphonso did not ask any questions or make any response. He just knew this was the right thing to do. That is how the fifth one ended up in France.

The priest departed with the chair slung over his shoulder resting on his back. He took it to the station and put it in holding until he had finished his tour. He made sure that it had special care on the train. It had a secire spot in the luggage hold. In Paris the priest and the chair transferred to another train which took them to the cathedral in Lyons.

Upon entering the cathedral the priest crossed himself with the holy water and bent down and said a small prayer. He then proceeded to the confession boxes on the far side of the nave. It was a perfect time to make the switch because he knew the booths were not open to public confession at this hour. Opening the door to the side where the parishioners confessed he took out the old tattered chair and replaced it with the one that Alphonso had handcrafted. He looked at the old chair;it appeared tired and sad and full of sin. Weighed down from all the burdened souls that it held while they were asking their God for forgiveness. It needed to rest. The wicker was tattered and and falling apart with the weight of the souls trying to seek forgiveness week after week, month after month. Some came once a year and confessed all their sins and shortcomings. Others came every week seeking repentance for the same sin committed over and over again. They would cross themselves and take out the rosary and pray to Mary for forgiveness. It made them feel good inside until the temptation came again they succumbed to it and then they were drawn into the confession box again seeking for the same forgiveness. The chair needed the rest. The priest picked it up and walked to the back of the cathedral and placed it in a dark room waiting to be placed in the garbage. The old chair was relieved of its duty.

Days passed and parishioners entered the box and left. Some commented on the new chair while other said their piece and quickly moved to the pews to get the prayers finished so they could go home to their dinners.

Sister Mary Bernadette, a new sister to the convent entered into the box on an evening after the locals had all gone home. The cathedral stood silent. She sat on the chair, closed the door and pulled the heavy velvet curtain open ready to confess to the priest. She crossed herself and quietly, meekly she spoke, “Forgive me father for I have sinned.”

“What is it, sister, tell me and I will help,” the father replied.

Sister Mary Bernadette sat silently and began to quiver. Her emotions took over and she cried. The father sat waiting on the other side of the screen. These outbursts were not too common but they did happen and the priest usually just waited them out.

“Shhh, child.” the father said. “Try and calm yourself down. Take deep breaths and relax. When your ready.” He leaned back on his chair and waited.

The young nun took a deep breath, wiped her eyes dry and discreetly wiped her nose with a white cotton handkerchief she pulled from the sleeve of her blue cardigan. She folded it neatly and placed back in its hiding place. She took another deep breath and placed her hands on her lap and began to pour out her soul. The pain that weighed down her heart was lifted with every word, every syllable. The father listened; the angels recorded and the chair that Mary Bernadette sat on soaked in all that she uttered. The incantations that Alphonso placed in the chair began to stir within the grains of the wood. Mary changed her confessions to prayers. The priest on the other side of the wicker wall repeated, “yes child.” and I see.” Oblivious to the real outpouring that was occurring.

The chair began to rise. The nun noticed her levitated state stopped praying and gave a gasp. She wanted to step off but she felt frozen to the chair. A voice from deep within her spoke to her soul.

It said, “Be still.” It was not a loud voice nor a harsh voice. Instead it was a still comforting voice. A small voice. It spoke again, “Be still and know that I am. This day you have cried unto me like no other woman has ever cried unto me before. Thy sins are forgiven thee.” Mary Bernadette listened with her heart fully open and her mind ready and willing to take in all that the voice was offering. “This day I will show you many things. You must tell all those who have ears to hear and hearts to understand. Those that are willing to listen let them listen.”

Mary Bernadette sat still with her hands still resting on her lap. The chair rose slightly again and Mary lowered her head in fear of hitting it. The door opened and the chair along with the nun still seated on it left the confession box. She rose up into the heights of the cathedral. The clerestory windows went by casting sparkling jewels on her as she floated by them down the length of the nave. She was at peace and felt love and warmth surround her.

Those people that saw the floating nun that day spoke of it where ever they went. In the shops and bars along the streets and in the markets. The cardinals in Rome eventually came to investigate. They spoke with Mary Bernadette who answered with a soft spoken tongue. They spoke to the priest who heard the confession but did not see anything until after the incident. He was no help to the cardinals. They spoke to the witnesses who were praying in the cathedral that day and the two deacons who stood watching as the miracle took place.

“She stopped at the cross section and a mist came and encircled her.” Said one.

“I think it was more like a cloud, deacon Denis, “ said the other. Deacon Denis looked at his partner and shook his head.

The light from the rose window grew brighter and brighter. It changed colours from the reds and greens and yellows and blue that normally shine through to a clear bright white.” He continued.

“It blinded me,” Deacon John said. “I had to turn my head and block my eyes.”

“And then she was gone. Just like that.” He snapped his fingers.

Father John said, “poof,” and spread his fingers wide and moved them away from his face.

“Then, about ten minutes later, we found her again in the confession box, sitting on the chair.”

“We didn't know where she was for ten minutes. We searched but could not find her. But how do you start looking for someone who vanishes from fifty, sixty feet above you. She went into thin air. Poof” Deacon John added.

Mary Bernadette never spoke openly about the experience. Those that sought her out and asked her earnestly received answers. She did not go into the confession box again. Some say it was because she feared to sit in the chair again while others say the Mary Bernadette became perfected that day. A saint living among us.

Alphonso eventually sold the remaining two other chairs. They went to a man and his wifeliving in Florence.