I’m at Subway watching a guy order seven subs, each particularly different, and I figure one for each day of the week and I hear him say he will eat one in the car and looks at me like he knows this has taken 20 minutes and I am hungry, yet I like the oddness of the situation perhaps just for when I write this now. He leaves and I ask if he’s a regular, “no, never seen him before”, the sub-maker seems proud to have accommodated the 7 sub-man and he wipes his brow like a fist place winner.
I travel on impulse. At one short notice, I headed for the holy city of Ujjain. Great distance away. To meet monks at Kumbh Mela. I met one on the bank of river Shipra. He’d no longing for or attachment to anything. There’s nothing on him, dress or money. Yet he never went hungry.
“Life’s set in auto mode”, he said. “You’ve no role in running this vital force. Except being aware. When you learn how to keep track of your breath, the existence reveals itself to you. Never be a victim of dashed expectations. If something’s to come, it’ll.”
In 2060, deep in Australia’s Galilee Basin, dark elves have travelled to Australia for food. Years of labour under the ground stains their skins black.
Throughout the Uprising, light elves live in hollow trees undetected. They travel underground to watch an old video on a Telling Vision. During an episode of Question Time, an Australian politician spruiks the benign natures of both coal and gas.
Two years later, mega-fires begin. By 2030, homo sapiens have become extinct from lack of food.
The Big Warming erased human life and most of the earth’s trees from its surface.
Anyone for an elfie?
Our ball, third and goal on the three-yard line.
Four seconds left.
Germaine barks signals for the play, “Jump-Fake-Run.”
We line up with tight-end Bob Krause and me as wide-receiver to the right.
With the hike we juke our one-and-one coverage, turn and jump high as if to catch the quick play-action pass faked by our quarterback.
The defense falls for it and tackles us before our feet hit the turf.
With both defenders on the ground and the safety confused,
Germaine follows the fullback past us and into the end zone.
Final score: 13-12.
The best play ever!
She was the last chosen for any sporting team, had been since grade one when they had first taken stock of her chubby body and wobbly legs. Athletic she was not.
Even in secondary school her lack of prowess had followed her. It was as if she wore "L" for loser, pasted on her forehead.
Tired of being overlooked, she enrolled in various pursuits and practiced hard. Now when teams were chosen, she was either first pick, or the team leader.
Debating, spelling, science.. who needed fast legs when you were quick witted with an exceptional mind.
I feel sorry for my friends. All cooped up. Not me. I love to travel, and I'm not about to let a virus keep me from seeing the world.
Last spring, when everyone else was scrambling for masks, I was gazing at the Great Pyramids.
Last summer, when everyone else was picking up curbside, I was checking out the tortelli in Tuscany.
Last fall, when everyone else was hunkering down for the holidays, I was touring New England.
This winter, when everyone else was looking for shots, I was deep sea diving in the Bahamas.
I love the Travel Channel.
Agatha invited a friend out to tea.
She ordered an orange fig scone, jam, black tea, clotted cream. While waiting, she perused the writing she brought.
“What do you fancy?” she asked upon her guest’s arrival.
They delved into the day’s gossip.
“Murder at Stonygates?” asked Jane, picking caraway seeds off her plate.
“Place run by resident juvenile delinquents,” stated Agatha. “Lewis, a suspect?”
Next rendezvous, she’d invite Hercule for chamomile tisane. To learn of his pursuits after travelling the Orient Express.
Teatime over. Agatha left with ‘They did it with Mirrors’ in the making, at her side.
Homeless and starving my stomach growls at the smell of roasting beef. I resent the queue of meat tragics heaping fried onions onto sizzling steaks and sausages, folded into slices of buttered bread, condiments on the side.
A woman sways unsteadily over to the barbecue, grabs the mustard, Semillon Blanc in one hand, slice of bread in the other. She collides with the meat tray. It hits the ground.
Dirt covered steak and sausages sit on top of the garbage bin, lid askew. I’m not proud and my mouth drools, tail wagging, as I tuck into the best meal ever.
After school we’d gather in the street. The curbs established the sidelines. The telephone poles marked the goal lines. It didn’t bother us to play among parked cars and low hanging tree limbs. We devised trick plays. We’d hand the football to a running back crossing behind the quarterback, he’d lateral back, then the quarterback would pass it to a receiver running a fly route. The ball would soar higher than the powerlines, spiraling and arcing, pinpointing his hands. We cheered as he ran past the telephone pole. Touchdown. Then we’d shout the play-by-play, pretending we were our NFL idols.
As kids, it was books that took us away. No holidays, just libraries. Words were worlds where you could walk for free.
Growing older, we raced to escape the prison we lived in.
I hit the open road. You chose a different route.
Stayed in your room. Started using. Disappeared so deep inside your mind, it became impossible to find you.
Travelling taught me something. Circle the Earth and you’ll end up where you started. Climb the highest peak, you’ve got to come down.
It’s time you headed home. I’m here. Waiting.
And I’d love to see you once again.
The skin was smooth, bunched and misshapen around the knuckles. She stroked it, up and down from wrist to fingertips, waiting. She heard him take his last breath, a deep rattle that disgorged the spirit. A silvery mist floated upward from his torso, sprinkling light as it spread and faded. He had moved on. She gave his hand a last squeeze and headed to the door. She pulled off both sets of gloves, ripped the paper gown off and spread her wings quickly and quietly.
“Jane, another one. Let’s go!”
It was time to move on to the next soul.
The girl named Fred didn’t start life handicapped by her name. She started life in France with a French name for girls that sounded like a boy’s name but wasn’t spelled the same. Then Frédérique’s mother packed her daughter and the dog in the Citroën 2CV and left the man who did not want her to work because a woman’s place was not under her husband’s thumb.
The girl’s ambitious mother became the first in a series of firsts in professional achievements. Frédérique was a burden so, for her eighteenth birthday, she was sent to America, where she became Fred.
The spirit of wanderlust was beckoning me. Today, however, my journey took me only through my garden. At the base of the mango tree bloomed petite, delicate yellow orchids. My eyes paused to admire the Bird of Paradise flowers a short distance away. Refusing to be ignored were the vibrant red and pink ginger flowers wafting in the gentle breeze.
As the drizzle became rain, I took shelter. Later nature displayed a colorful rainbow with flickers of the lowering sun casting sparkles on the turquoise ocean. It was then I discovered, "there's no place like home."
The Oreos were delightful.
That night, when I saw eyes peering from a rock crevice near the campfire, I wondered if my desert visitor might like one. I placed it nearby. Seconds later, a scurrying mouse dragged it away.
More eyes began peering from the crevice. Only one pair kept returning for cookies. I hoped they were sharing.
The next morning, I awakened in my sleeping bag to warm furry lumps around my neck and toes.
“Hey guys, time to get up.” I rolled gently.
My numerous sleeping companions departed amicably, disappearing into the rocks.
I left them the Oreos.
A chocolate pudding is what I am.
Homemade, not frozen and heat up. I am stuffed with red berries and passion fruit, bleeding when you cut my heart out, but I am here for your desire.
My shawl comes from bitter chocolate, and a few dark cocoa nuts are embroidered within my flesh.
Beside me lays the cream, whipped and fluffy, ready to be spread. A scrumptious scandal is what I am.
Grab the knife.
Get back, you said. And don’t move.
I watch the golden, furry, humming mass of stinging things teem from the hive, fly up and settle in the birch tree. Last of all a large, dark shape crawls out, the virgin queen. You lift her carefully, carrying her over to the new hive. Within minutes the air fills with wings, as the swarm relocates to its new home.
They whirr over my head, and I want to scream, but I’m more afraid of getting something wrong.
From the old hive you pull out block after block of glistening sweetness.
‘I’d like a pie. Steak and kidney, with mash and peas and carrots and extra gravy. Then I’d like ice cream, lots of ice cream: chocolate chip, rum and raisin, vanilla, raspberry ripple and cherries. Piles of cherries. Please.’ He looked at the warder smiling.
‘It’s not as if I’m on a diet is it? No fear of indigestion for me. So, after that I’ll need some cheese and crackers, grapes obviously, and maybe a few Belgian chocolates.’
‘OK’ said the warder.’
The condemned man lay back on the bed in his cell and contemplated his last meal, then oblivion.
As I close my eyes, fighting insomnia, I feel the train picking up speed, thundering through the night. The strange woman smiles at me from across the seat, her doe-like eyes twinkling. Her glossy locks dance in the breeze. I had thought she would have died after jumping off the speeding train, for whatever reason, slipping through my restraining hand. Just as the train enters a tunnel, I try to hold her. She dissipates slowly, leaving her seat empty as the train emerges into the moonlight. The lingering fragrance of her perfume is the only proof of her recent presence.
On the second day of the road trip, Paul and Glen, Paul’s husband, passed by the small town where Paul had lived as a teenager.
A flood of bad memories of the town hit Paul. There were the boys who’d somehow known he was gay long before Paul did. Their bullying felt like it was yesterday, not thirty years before. He also remembered the endless backstabbing gossip at the coffee shop.
He now idly wondered if the town looked the same. But he had no desire to visit it and find out.
Jenna was skating on the famous Ottawa Rideau Canal, thirteen kilometres of frozen delight. Figure skaters twirled and swirled. Turbo-charged hockey players zoomed by her. Jenna glided cautiously, a tourist soaking up the playful atmosphere.
Suddenly, her skate pick caught the ice, throwing her down hard. Her right knee zinged with pain. A hero braked sharply and held out his arms.
"You need a beaver tail."
Confused, Jenna gratefully grabbed his hands and hung on to his arm as he guided her to a snack shack. He ordered drinks and delectable deep-fried cinnamon doughnuts, shaped like beaver tails. Perfect fix.
Beg. Sit. Speak. Fetch. Good Grief, can my master say anything but one-word commands to me? I’m a dog, not an idiot. On the other hand, my master may be one. He never exercises, just lies sprawled on the couch, constantly eating Cheetos/Doritos/Tostitos endlessly and watching tv like a zombie. And he’s judged the smartest animal (of course, other humans created the list). Sometimes I screw with him, just to make him get his lazy bulk up and come open the kitchen door so I can go outside to pee (and I have already peed in his bedroom!).
I get asked to tattoo everything. Cartoons. Names. Sports. Some people want food.
The first time someone asked for a doughnut, I thought they were teasing. The sixth? Maybe a fraternity, and it was some kinda joke. The ninth time, I was glad I’d practised my hundreds-and-thousands.
I hung doughnut flash. Marie brought in replicas, for the window display.
I tattooed a few hundred doughnuts. Then, overnight, the craze was done. People wanted Chinese characters they didn’t know the meaning of, or ‘mother’ written in script. Marie left, taking the fake bakes with her. No more doughnuts. Cupcakes were in.
She showed him the way, alright. From around the world, satisfying his palate, rainbow-on-a-plate cuisine, all alphabetically, like her spices.
Apple pie, burgers, curry, fries, pizza, pasta, sausage, sushi, tuna, wine, zucchini, and back again. Transported him with her meals-in-a minute, mouthfuls of magnificence, trips spent down memory lane over their months of marriage.
Way to the heart is through the stomach. And to the brain via the gut, right?
He resisted conflict, she embraced it. All that glutinous stodge needed unblocking like a drain. Frankly, there were more connections between those countries than ever his stomach, brain or heart.
The pain came in the bathroom. She'd been expecting it, but not just then. Let me be clean, be respectable.
Desperately, she reached for paper and did her best, pain racking up all the time as she stretched. Not here, please, not here, she thought.
Gasping, she pushed herself up by pressing down on the flush button and rearranged her clothes as well as she could. Then it was all about staggering through to the sitting room by steadying herself against walls. Give me strength this last time, please.
She made it into her favourite chair and closed her eyes.