Creative Wednesday – Collateral Damage

I’m really excited to have this short story in the beautiful Moria Literary Magazine, which is the National Literary Magazine of Woodbury University . It’s a quirky little piece called “Collateral Damage” and it’s about revenge gone wrong. Or has it…? 

If you’d like to, you can read it here.

Also, thank you so much to everyone who went to Spillwords and voted for me for Publication of the Month. You’re the best!

Personal Achievements

I’ve accomplished quite a bit this week despite being locked down. No, I didn’t win a damned Oscar, but I’m pretty sure if there WAS one for Best Use Of Hosiery By A Middle-Aged Woman, I would definitely be a contender.

1) Learning New Skills

Last week, I had to finish my Performance Plan which, if you’ve never done one, is where you have to tell someone at the start of the year what you’re planning to do, and then at the end of the year, you tell them what you did, and you hope the two things match well enough that your boss says, “Shantay, you stay.” And while my real boss is very cool, wouldn’t it be amazing if my boss was actually a big, fabulous drag queen who also said, “No tea, no shade! You’re serving up Performance Plan realness—now sissy that walk!”

Anyway, I was putting the finishing touches on my Performance Plan, looking at the ‘courses taken’ section to make sure I’d completed the mandatory accessibility and hazardous materials training (and here’s a long detour: The only hazardous material in my workplace might potentially be the photocopier ink cartridge, and we are under strict instructions to NEVER touch the photocopiers in our office even if they jam, because we are NOT QUALIFIED to unjam a photocopier, even though I spent most of my tenure as an International Languages Principal doing EXACTLY THAT and every Saturday, I was invariably called at least three times to the photocopy room by a distressed staff member who was an excellent teacher of Vietnamese or whatnot, but who couldn’t read English well enough to understand what the digital display on the photocopier was telling them to do, and had managed to completely f*ck up a very expensive machine that it was now MY JOB to repair. So I AM QUALIFIED, FRANK. But I digress. Back to the topic at hand.) and I discovered that there was a section I hadn’t notice before called “Personal Achievements”. Ooh, I thought to myself, now this is exciting. Because the day before, I had made a face mask, and it wasn’t half bad, even if Ken refused to wear it:

Me: Look! I made you a face mask!
Ken: Is that one of your socks?
Me: It may or may not be. See—it goes on like this.
Ken: Is it clean?
Me: Of course I’m pretty sure it’s clean! You can wear it when you go grocery shopping.
Ken: That’s OK. I’ll just stay away from people.

And I was sad, because saving Ken’s life would have been a really good Personal Achievement. But then I went to the tab and opened it, and it was a series of courses that you could take, and some of them were AMAZING. The first thing that caught my eye was ‘Chainsaw Operators Certification” and that would be so handy since we have this chestnut tree on our property that is essentially dead but Ken refuses to cut down because it “still gets a few leaves every year” as more and more of the branches fall off. I could just picture myself wearing a cute flannel shirt tied at the waist, booty shorts, and workboots, firing up that bad boy and yelling whatever it is that lumberjacks yell LIKE A BOSS, as the tree explodes in an orgy of fireworks, and reading this back, I think it’s very apparent that I have no idea what being a lumberjack is really like. But I’m OK.

Then something strange caught my eye. CHEMICAL IMMOBILIZATION OF WILDLIFE. What the hell is this?! So I clicked on it to read the description, which said, “Learn how to chemically immobilize nuisance wildlife” which shone no further light on how, and more importantly WHY one would want to do this, and all I could picture was forests full of animals standing completely still like weird fluffy statues, and I DIDN’T LIKE IT AT ALL.

So I comforted myself by considering taking the Harvard Manage Mentor courses, specifically “Difficult Interactions”, “Persuading Others”, and “Time Management” because Ken is so damn stubborn, but I think I might already have those skills:

Me: Put the sock mask on.
Ken: No.
Me: You’re being difficult. Put the damn mask on or I won’t make homemade pizza for dinner. You have 5 seconds.
Ken (sighs): OK.

See? I dealt with a difficult interaction using persuasion and time management.

There was also the Joint Health and Safety Committee, which I’m assuming has something to do with the legalization of marijuana, Pleasure Craft Operators Card (which I might need now that Ken and I have kayaks), Snow Mobile Operator, and Search Warrant Training. Almost every course you could take sounded completely badass, and all I need is my boss’s approval. Hopefully, she says, “Okurrrr!”

2) A while ago, I was complaining that I couldn’t change my wifi name to something more fun, but I DID figure out how to do this on my computer screensaver:

I’m pretty pleased with myself for being able to capture this moment, since it swirls around really fast, kind of like my brain.

3) Last week, our neighbour across the street moved out, and new neighbours moved in. They seemed like regular people with regular furniture, but later in the afternoon, Ken came downstairs:

Ken: I think the new neighbours have a really big dog, but it’s just standing in the middle of their lawn not moving.
Me: Maybe it’s been chemically immobilized.
Ken: Seriously, come and see.

So we looked out the window and realized that in the middle of our new neighbours’ lawn, they had placed a giant, plastic wolf statue. It wasn’t by their front door, or in the middle of a flower bed where you’d EXPECT to see a lawn ornament. It was just standing there staring at our house. And it had these really weird, bright blue eyes. I couldn’t stop thinking about it, and later on, I went out for a few groceries and took a surreptitious picture of it from my driveway. I was intending to sneak back at some point and get a close-up of its eyes, but when we got up the next morning, IT WAS GONE. I’m already having trouble sleeping because I hurt my shoulder, and the only way to be comfortable is to let my arm dangle straight down off the mattress, but I CAN’T DO THAT BECAUSE OF THE DEMONS THAT MAY OR MAY NOT LIVE UNDER THE BED. And now, I have to worry about waking up in the middle of the night to find a giant, plastic wolf scratching at my door. So I did what any normal person would do—I made Ken put on the sock and go to the store to get the new neighbours a gift basket. At least one of my personal achievements came in handy this week.

(I just got nominated for Publication of the Month at Spillwords Press for a flash piece I posted a few weeks ago called “Resurrection”. If you’d like to vote for me, you might have to register but it’s free, there’s no obligation for anything further, and if you do, I’ll write a story with your name in it. Also, they’re a terrific and very responsive publication to submit to in case you’re looking for somewhere—anyway, here’s the link: Vote

Creative Wednesday – Keeping Faith

This is a piece I wrote a few months ago. It’s deeply personal, but I’d like to share it with all of you. For a little context, if you’ve followed me for a long time, you’ll have noticed that the name of my child has been changed in all my posts to Kate, my wonderful daughter, who told me she was fine with me sharing it:

Keeping Faith

I stopped believing in a higher power
A few years ago
But sometimes I wonder if I’m wrong
Driving down a dark road
There’s something coming with flashing lights
I pull over for ten seconds but
It’s only a tow truck and
I’m mad
In a hurry
Then I wonder if there was a reason
Like a deer up ahead that I just missed by those ten seconds
And I think about the deal I made with somebody’s god,
A long time ago
That if I could finally have a baby
I would love it forever no matter what
And when my beautiful boy came to me
Crying, saying
I’m in the wrong body
I’m really a girl
I didn’t think about the deal
Or anybody’s god
I just answered I will love you forever
No matter what
Then up ahead I see a doe and her fawn crossing the road
About ten seconds away
Enough time to slow down and remember
It takes two to make a bargain.

Voyage of Discovery

Well, it’s been another exciting week here in the house. Last week, I spoke of being like Magellan, and once again, I’ve been on a voyage of discovery:

1) I discover a solution

After 15 years of having a small sitting room, which is a misnomer in that it only seats three, and which is completely useless since anyone who visits us always comes in pairs, I looked around it on Tuesday and said to Ken, “You know, if we turn the loveseat so it’s perpendicular to the fireplace instead of facing it, sell that big-ass armchair no one ever sits in, buy a smaller chair, and move that wing chair over here, we could seat 4 people in this room.” Ken turned to me with the long-suffering look of a man who has suffered too long from impromptu furniture rearranging schemes. “Sure,” he said, “but all the stores are closed. Oh well. Maybe in a month.”

“But wait,” I said, and his long-suffering look turned into one of resignation, the resigned look of a man who knows that his wife has been perusing the local Buy and Sell sites. “I just saw the perfect chair on Facebook Marketplace. We can sell ours and buy THAT one.”

And that’s exactly what we did. The whole scheme was accomplished using social distancing, of course, which meant that the old couple who bought our big-ass chair refused any help as they staggered down the 100-foot long walkway to the sidewalk carrying it, and loaded it into their SUV. It was snowing and I felt awful, but they waved off any offer of assistance and then e-transferred me once it was safely stowed. Then Ken and I drove to a neighbouring town where the newest member of the family room awaited us on a porch.

“It’s beautiful,” I whispered.

“It’s heavy,” Ken answered.

Nevertheless, we/Ken got it loaded up, drove it home, and it now resides in our sitting room, filling me with the kind of joy you only feel when you’ve been locked inside your house for weeks. The new (pre-owned) chair is the one on the left. I don’t know about you, but I have no issue buying furniture second-hand—in fact, we got the loveseat in the picture from the Habitat For Humanity Restore Store for 80 bucks, and Ken and I made the coffee table out of an old pallet we found. 

2) I discover an impossible task

When I was a child, I suffered from a nasty skin condition called dyshidrosis that only affected my hands. The causes of dyshidrosis are still not-well-known today, but for some reason, 50 years ago, dermatologists thought that the oil in orange peel was one of the triggers and as a result, I wasn’t allowed to touch oranges. I’ve talked about my obsession with orange things before, but the one thing I never mentioned was my undying adoration for canned mandarin oranges, you know, the ones that come in the syrup. I long ago realized that orange peel wasn’t really a problem, so usually at work, I have a bag of mandarins in my office so I can have one with lunch every day and avoid scurvy. But then I was at the grocery store a couple of weeks ago and I realized that you can still get the canned ones, only they aren’t in cans anymore—they’re in these plastic cups with peel-off lids. I was super-excited, and at lunch the next day, I took one out of the cupboard and started to peel off the lid, which resulted in mandarin orange syrup squirting out all over me. “I’ll have to be more careful tomorrow,” I thought to myself, undaunted.

Tomorrow came, and again, despite my care, the syrup shot out. I’d learned my lesson and had it pointed away from me, so it ended up all over the floor, much to the delight of Titus.

Me: What the f*ck?!
Ken: You’re squeezing it. Don’t squeeze the cup when you peel off the lid.
Titus: You should totally squeeze the cup when you peel off the lid. This is yummy.
Me: I’m not squeezing it! And stop licking the floor!

The last part was for Titus, not Ken, just in case you’re worried that the furniture rearranging had finally sent him over the edge. Anyway, it doesn’t matter. There is no possible way to open a Del Monte Mandarin Orange Cup without having the f*cking juice jet out of it. But it’s still delicious.

3) I discover something new to worry about…

…because I don’t have enough things to worry about already. Anyway, I’ve been spending a LOT of time in online virtual meetings, on-camera most of the day, which is fine because I only have to look fancy from the waist up. From the waist down (no, I’m NOT naked!) I’m wearing pajama pants, fuzzy socks, and slippers. So I’m like a modern-day mullet: business up top and Netflix down below. Time has currently become a noun for both Ken and me:

Me: I’ve got a 9 o’clock.
Ken: Me too. Then I have a 1 o’clock.
Me: I’ve got an 11 o’clock, and then maybe a 2.

But on Wednesday, my 3 o’clock was cancelled, which gave me a chance to grab a snack. I had my phone in my pocket and I was on the way to the kitchen when the doorbell and the phone simultaneously rang. My reaction to this sudden ominous turn of events was to yell, “What the absolute f*ck is going on here?!?!!” as I went to answer the door at the same time as I put the phone to my ear. There was a man backing away from the door who called out, “It’s just your Staples order” as I heard people talking and laughing through the phone. I smiled and waved at the man, then took the phone away from my ear and realized to my horror that I was on a VIDEO CALL and that instead of seeing my face, everyone had a great close-up shot of the INSIDE OF MY EAR. And now, on top of everything else, I have to worry about whether or not the insides of my ears are clean, which I would hope they ARE, but how the hell would I know?! So in consolation, I opened my snack, wiped the mandarin juice off my pajama pants, and sat in my new chair.

As a postscript, I’m happy to tell you that my publisher has finally made both my novels available as Kobo e-books, which is great news because for the last two weeks, The Dome has been showing as “Currently Unavailable” on Amazon.ca and has disappeared completely from Amazon.com since somehow the title has been changed to “Dome” and the search link is broken. The word count for both Kobo e-books is completely wrong and less than half the actual words I wrote, unless a) Canadian words convert differently to American, like kilometres and miles or b) over half the words are actually missing, which will make it a real treat for readers to try and follow the plot. Here are the links in case anyone is interested:

The Dome: https://www.kobo.com/ca/en/ebook/the-dome-11
Smile: https://www.kobo.com/ca/en/ebook/smile-57

Creative Wednesday – Dryad

I know it’s late but it’s still technically Wednesday and I’m kind of excited about this. A couple of weeks ago, I posted a poem here for Creative Wednesday. I’d never done that before, being kind of a closet poet and not very confident about my skill in that area. Your response was so wonderful and supportive that I thought, Why not? So I submitted a couple of pieces, and the wonderful people at Mineral Lit Mag accepted one of them. It’s called ‘Dryad’ and you can read it here.

I couldn’t have done it without all of you. You’re better than Chardonnay. But since you’re not at my house, I’m drinking the Chardonnay.

Why Fi?

This whole social distancing thing may or may not be making me a little punchy. A few days ago, I set out to buy groceries, and prior to the last few weeks, I had never “set out” like I was f*cking Magellan looking for (she googles “Magellan” to find out what the hell he was looking for) SPICES, although I DID need some turmeric. Something that used to be so easy and pleasurable has become quite the ordeal, especially in Canadian False Spring, which is to say that it’s technically Spring according to the calendar, but according to everything else, it’s still Fool’s Winter, which is when you are a FOOL and don’t dress for the actual weather. And that was me, standing there shivering and wearing vinyl gloves instead of mittens, lining up to get into the grocery store like it was a goddamned roller coaster—in other words, a very long wait, but without the reward of 60 seconds of exhilaration—unless bacon is on sale.

Anyway, I was fine in the store, and got everything I wanted, despite the media hysteria about how we’re all going to be starving and poop-assed. But on the way home, I drove through the same small town that I usually drive though and as I got to the section where the speed limit lowers, the warning light at the side of the road began to flash my speed as I started to slow down. It was a 50 km/hour zone, and for my American friends, I have no idea if that’s like a gazillion miles per hour or (she googles “How many miles per hour is 50 kilometres?”) THIRTY-ONE POINT ZERO SEVEN. And the damn light kept flashing red, even though I was going 54, as if I was Baby Driver or whatnot, and I yelled, “I’m doing my BEST, you passive-aggressive piece of SH*T!! F*ck you!” and I gave the flashing light the finger.

Now, I don’t really believe that an inanimate, solar-powered traffic light can actually be passive-aggressive. I mean, it’s not like it’s a husband who, when you chide him for taking his SECOND nap of the day, later posts an article on Facebook about how great naps are and how people should have at least two every day and no one should criticize them for doing it.  No, it’s not like that at all. And it’s not like it’s a wife who, upon discovering that her husband has spent the afternoon secretly watching a movie that they both wanted to see when he was supposed to be outside gardening, says “Oh, I see. That’s fine. I’m glad to know that the next time I want to watch something that we were both interested in, I don’t have to let you know. No problem.” Noooo, it’s not like that at all.

But my point, and I DO have one, is that people give their wifi extremely strange names. This point may seem to be a complete divergence from what you have just been reading about, but bear with me. As you know, I’m working from home. Last week, I had to change the password on my work computer and when I did, my whole system locked up. I was on the verge of a breakdown, having lost access to just about anything, and I’d been on the phone with one of our lovely secret agency IT guys for over an hour. We were trying to reconnect my VPN and he suggested using my phone as a personal hotspot. “Open your wifi and see if you can find it in there,” he suggested. My phone is known as “Suzanne’s Iphone” which seems pretty human and normal, but then a bunch of other wifis came up and I was like “WTF? You’re allowed to NAME your wifi?!” We have a central router in our house and then three boosters, but they are all just identified by numbers like 560 or 770 (those are fake numbers just in case my neighbours are reading this). But when the list came up, there were things on there like “2BoyzIntheBigCity” and “JaysPad” and I thought for a minute that my life had become a hip-hop video. Who ARE these people? I live in a very small town, and I haven’t seen any funky fresh folks around lately, but those wifi names suggest otherwise. I was intensely curious about this:

Me: Is there anybody in our neighbourhood named Jay? There’s a wifi on here that says “Jayspad”.
Ken: I don’t think so. What’s the name of that new guy across the street? Maybe it’s him.
Me: He doesn’t look like a Jay. I doubt that he has a nice pad.
Ken: What?
Me: You know, like a bachelor pad. My Jay has a funky fresh pad. I’ll bet his living room is all decked out in animal prints and he has a sheepskin rug and a wetbar and those swirling disco lights—
Ken: Ipad. Jay has an IPAD.
Me:
Ken: IPAD.
Me: Stupid Jay.

And then I was sad, because if I’d known I could give my wifi a personalized moniker, it would be known as Player One, OBVIOUSLY. Apparently I could change it if I wanted to but (she googles “How do you change your wifi’s name?”) it’s way too complicated. As for 2BoyzIntheBigCity, I’m fairly convinced right now that it’s the two teenaged brothers across the street being ironic, which I admire them for, almost as much as I admire whoever named their wifi “Nachowifi”. Can I use your wifi? No, because it’s Nachowifi. Passive aggressive, am I right? Yeah, it’s a tenuous link back to the beginning. Fight me.

Creative Wednesdays – Resurrection

It’s Creative Wednesday! If you have a moment and you’d like something short to read, one of my flash fiction pieces is currently featured on Spillwords Press. It’s called “Resurrection” and you can read it by clicking here. If you like it, maybe you could give it some stars. Thanks!