Racetrack’s a funny place. People says they come here for entertainment, but there ain’t nothing they take more serious. It’s the gambling. They see themselves hitting the big one and taking it all home in a big bag. Course, that never happens, but it seems some always had that idea. Mind, there’s a few can come here and just spend a few dollars and leave, and it don’t bite them. But others, well, they get hooked the first time they’re here. I think it’s got something to do with the horses. Maybe they think they’re not really gambling cause it’s live animals.
I been here near forty year, ever since about 1955. Started out as a groom, then got a lucky break to start as a sulky driver in the races. Even got to travel around the state for a while. But then I got hurt in a bad pile-up and the boss offered me this job. I’m sort of a security guard now. It’s okay, but I sure do miss the horses. I’m not so close to them no more.
I remember this one young feller, back about thirty year ago. His daddy knew somebody and got him into the barns as a groom. That’s the starting point, where you learn everything. He wanted to be a driver and could have made it, too. He had a good touch with horses and was showing some real promise on the practice track. But then I start seeing him in the stands, and at the window, and I thought—well there goes another one. He’d caught the gambling bug. There’s a certain look they get in their eye when that happens, a kind of intense focus when they watch the horses or read the program. There’s despair when they lose, but it ain’t long before they’re looking at the next race. Continue reading
By Edele Winne
Coco was a small yappy black and white Shi-tzu dog with a talent for sniffing out those about to die. She had proven it eight times on dead end Mercy Street where mostly seniors lived, by camping out on the front porches of those about to expire.
As you can imagine the Mercy street residents were uncomfortable around little Coco. Coco’s mistress, 89 year old Annabelle Coumbs, pshawed the whole business and refused to discuss it. But everyone else did. As the older residents passed away with Coco standing guard new younger people moved into the freshly vacant houses. Mercy Street became an interesting mix of older and newer, seasoned and fresh, those about to die and those with long lives still ahead.
Muriel Robert was thirty one. Because she was thirty one, she did not think about her health. She considered herself unremarkable: short and thin with bobbed mousey brown hair. She had smoked for six years in her teens but that was years ago. At first she was pleased to find the charming Coco camped out on her porch, and then perturbed as she remembered the death vigil stories. She petted Coco, who was most appreciative, and then went back into the house determined to ignore the death watch.
Maybe the dog just stopped here for a rest? Maybe it was chasing a squirrel? Muriel chewed at her nails. It’s nonsense. Coincidence. Coco wanders everywhere and people only notice when someone passes away. Besides, I’m thirty one!
Muriel gave the dog a worried look and a pat on the head as she left for her evening shift at the hospital. As a nurse she was no stranger to people dying, she’d hardened herself to it. But now everything was different- she was looking at the possibility of her own death. Was it going to be a car accident? A sudden heart attack? A crazed shooter at the hospitable or maybe even an earthquake? She was too busy thinking such things and didn’t stop at the red light. A dark blue pickup smashed into her passenger side and started her car spinning up onto the sidewalk. Continue reading
By Ben Van Dongen
Chad struggled to wake up. His dream, something about a hot Quebecois redhead with a Charles Bronson moustache, kept tugging him back to sleep. Yawning, his jaw cracked, and water slipped into his open mouth. The half of his face he wasn’t sleeping on was wet and cold. The sensation, along with a burning desire to take a piss, roused him.
Burning. The word repeated in his head. Burning. It was distasteful, making him frown and fidget. Burn. He smelled smoke, or char. Burner. The word made him sneer.
“Ah!” He jumped up, running in a circle, kicking up snow, screaming and clutching his bottom.
The grumbled, deep voice of the snoozing demon joined the yells. “Shut the fuck up Hard-On, I’m still fucking sleeping.” The words, accompanied by small fires, caught dry branches and grass in the patch on the ground, melted by the demons heat.
“My asshole is on fire! My asshole, it burns!” Continue reading
By Edele Winnie
Sheila’s dead aunt had made a pile of tin cans in Sheila’s kitchen. The horrible shrunken head had respawned there and then rolled out smiling its sickly yellow gray smile.
“Wassup?” The head said. “I’m thirsty.”
Auntie turned to Sheila. “Do you have any Lime drinks?”
‘Something lime. He likes limes.”
“Not lemons.” The head shrieked. “I hate lemons!”
“No.” Sheila stammered. “No limes, sorry.”
Auntie turned and walked to the front door and went out. Apparently to get something lime.
“I think I’m losing my mind.” Sheila grumbled.
“Better than losing your body.” The head said and then cackled delightedly.
“Wait.” The head ordered when Sheila began to walk out of the kitchen. “I can make you live forever.”
“I’d like that.” She answered, and forced herself to look at the thing. It was shrivelled and brown but its eyes were bright and alive and staring back at her. She went over to her big flour bin- a plastic container only a third full of flour at the moment. She snapped off the lid and dumped the flour into the garbage can.
“Wassup?” the head said. Continue reading
By Edele Winnie
Sheila found the shrunken head after her aunt passed away. The poor old woman had been a miserable crank pot. Even though Sheila was young, she had done her best to make Auntie comfortable in these last months, but the shrivelled old woman had only been angry and full of complaints. Her habits were extremely odd- she hoarded empty tin cans and set out hundreds and hundreds of unbaited but ready to snap mouse traps. As far as Sheila could tell there were no mice in the house.
When it was announced from the hospital that Auntie had passed, Sheila got to work. She’d bundled her short dark hair under a kerchief and rolled up her sleeves.
There had to be thousands of empty tin cans in the house and Auntie had removed all the labels. Sheila loaded them into boxes and dragged them outside. She didn’t know if the recycle truck would take so many. It would probably require more than one truck.
At first the cans had seemed fairly new- still shiny. But deeper into the piles and stacks the empty cans were rusted and discoloured. At the very centre the cans were blackened with mould or age or something. In the centre of the blackest cans she found the head. Continue reading
By Edele Winnie
“You’re going to have contact.” Marge swirled her pale hands over the crystal ball one more time. “Tomorrow.” She looked up at Loretta. “Halloween.”
Loretta’s legs began to quiver and she swallowed hard. “Thank you Marge.”
Marge smiled. She was not some artful gypsy but rather the stretch and strength exercise class instructor for the senior’s home where they both lived.
I’m going to have contact. Lortetta could not stop thinking about it at dinner that night, about her beloved husband Leroy, dead twenty-two years now. How she’d missed him. She’d been in a strange state of late- feeling isolated and alone, even though she’d lived in the senior’s home for the past seven years. She was no longer connecting with the others, staying in her room more, listening to sad music and remembering. The nurses had decided it was depression and added a little something to her daily barrel of drugs but it hadn’t changed anything. So Marge and the cane gang had decided to take matters into their own hands and cheer Loretta up. Continue reading
By Edele Winnie
The long flight to Quebec City was torturous. Cardinal Molson, nearly eighty years old and fortified by a glass of angel semen in water, was a constant attraction on the aircraft. Women hovered around him like flies on dead meat. Three of the male flight attendants offered to give him a tour of the private areas of the aircraft- or maybe it was their private areas in the aircraft? It required a lot of forgiving, but Molson was up to it. It also helped distract him from his travelling companion. They were flying first class so Mr. T was already over-filled on complimentary beer and little packages of crackers. He was sweating profusely- the skanky smell of beer cold filtered through a human body with a bushy layer of greasy black body hair. The cardinal was named Molson but Mr. T was Molson inside and out. He was so drunk he was eating the crackers without taking the plastic wrappers off.
When he heard the commotion near the back of the plane the cardinal suspected the flight attendants were scrapping over him. Angel semen seemed to be some kind of crazy aphrodisiac. But this time he was wrong.
“In the name of Allah!” a bearded man shouted. “American Imperialists and crusaders will pay the price!” He had some kind of button thing in his hand, with his thumb poised ready to press.
People were screaming and swooning. Cardinal Molson heard some praying to a Christian God and that snapped him out of his reverie. He raised his right hand- he wasn’t sure why at the time- and a bolt of white light came out and zoomed towards the bomber. And then the light was gone and so was the man. People blinked and rubbed at their eyes. The trouble maker had vanished. Cardinal Molson wiped the tingly palm of his hand on his black pant leg. Angel semen indeed.
Far below a man with a beard hit the metal roof of a snowy barn and slid off, bones smashed after a freefall from thirteen thousand feet. Fourteen year old farm girl Ashley Bloomfield looked up just in time to be crushed by the falling pulverized body, killing her instantly. One virgin, anyway. Continue reading
Ben Van Dongen
The elevator doors opened onto a dim city street. Streetlights were on to compensate for the deep shadows and setting sun, which was almost gone over the horizon. Groups and couples walked down the sidewalks or hailed cabs. Thomas took a moment to look for a cab without a group of people standing around it, trying to make their claim, but they were all taken, leaving dozens of people waiting. He turn and ran, dodging pedestrians and excusing himself.
At the first intersection, he went right then darted across the street through a gap in the traffic. Horns honked at him, but he ducked left into an alley, leaving them behind.
Coming out at another street, he followed it to the next intersection, ran left through traffic again
Thomas ran along the street, next to parked cars, but he was tiring and slowed. Plodding down the sidewalk as quickly as he could, he ran into a woman who walked out of a store without looking. Continue reading
Ben Van Dongen
The office was quiet. It was usually quiet, but after his first case, Thomas could feel it. He sat at his desk, thinking over the events at the school, looking for what he did wrong. Letting his target get away was eating at him, but not as much as Diaz not caring.
A knock at his inner office door made him jump. He saw the shadow of Rachel in the window before she walked in.
“I brought you a cup of coffee.” Rachel walked over to the desk and gingerly put down a brimming mug.
“Do I look that pathetic?”
She put her hands on her hips. “I just trying to do something nice.”
Thomas rubbed his chin. “Sorry. It’s that phone call. I can’t shake it.” He picked up the mug and sipped. “The only thing I can come up with is Diaz knew more than he was telling me.”
“Don’t tell me you’re shocked by that?”
He waved her off. “No. They’re a big company, bound to protect their interests. But if they already knew, why did they need me?” Continue reading
By Ben Van Dongen
The door closed behind the fleeing woman and Thomas slammed into it in pursuit. He lunged forward, running right into the back of the waiting officer, pushing him. The tall man turned on Thomas, red faced and furious. He tried to get hold of Thomas, but momentum was against him. Thomas spun, ducking the reaching arms, and sprinted in the direction the guard had been looking.
At the next junction, he paused, listening for the principal’s clacking footsteps. Hearing the sound, Thomas ran after it, further into the building, back towards the records room. He had to force the smile from his face as he ran.
The woman was fast and far enough ahead that he hadn’t caught a glimpse of her. He was determined though, and manage to follow the footsteps echoing down the empty hallways. He heard the click and slam of a door closing and traced it to a stairwell. He pulled open the door and chased the principal up the stairs. Continue reading