By Edele Winnie
Ellen cursed and tried to start the school bus again. The morning was cold and it was starting to rain. The motor coughed and choked but did not catch. The last of the other school buses had just left the muddy lot. She pounded the steering wheel angrily while the rain began to drum on the roof.
All the grade school kids would be waiting in the storm. She had no way of contacting anyone at this point. Ellen considered giving up, but shook it off. She just wasn’t made that way. She was a fighter. She found herself staring at number 13, the bus at the back of the lot that was never used.
It had begun to pour. The dull grey sky dumped a slurry of rain onto the bus lot. With her coat over her head, Ellen hurried to the little building- they called it the key shack- where things were stored. The keys, all gone now, had labelled hooks. The hook labelled thirteen was empty. It had always been empty.
There was no phone in the shack and Ellen had forgotten her cell phone. She could drive somewhere, she thought, and phone her boss. By then all the kids would be wet and late for school. Thunder cracked overhead and startled her. The rain was pounding down and she did not want to rush out. There were cupboards in the shack and she began to look through them. She found the keys in the old table with the battered drawer. The key fob read thirteen. There were two keys, one was obviously for the ignition and the other appeared to be for a padlock. There was a raincoat by the door and Ellen pulled it on quickly. If she was going to get those kids to school on time she had to leave now. She opened the door and ventured out into the storm to number thirteen.
She did not look long because she was hurrying in the rain but the bus looked fine. The tires looked good and there was less rust than on her usual number 42 bus. The door was padlocked. Ellen fiddled with the keys and popped the lock off and climbed the steps. The bus did not smell like feet, or lunches, or little girl nail polish. It smelled a little musty. Outside the storm hammered on the bus roof, lighting punched the sky and thunder howled. Ellen was safe inside. Continue reading →
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 →
“Are you going to peek in the window again?” the little girl asked.
“Isn’t that cute?” Derek poked his wife awake. It was the middle of the night and they were in bed. “Josey’s talking in her sleep.” They could hear their three year old daughter babbling away in the next room.
“Mommy and Daddy are sleeping.” Josey said.
“That doesn’t sound like sleep talk.” Sabrina slid her nightgown on. Josey’s room was right beside and they kept the doors open.
“Mommy’s here!” Josey said when Sabrina appeared.
Sabrina kept a smile fixed to her face. Josey was not sleeping. She was wide awake. “Hi Sweetie. Who are you talking to?”
Josey laughed, and all of Sabrina’s tension evaporated. Josey was a sweet playful child and had probably been playing make believe.
“Talking to the man.” Josey said. “Funny man gives me candy.”
Sabrina tickled Josey under her chin and made her laugh. “Well I think your funny man is probably sleeping now, and so should you. See, its dark outside. That means sleep time.” She tucked her daughter under the covers. “Sleep now. Play when the sun comes out.”
Josey was such a good girl. She gave a big sigh and closed her eyes. Sabrina watched her for a moment and then began to tiptoe out of the room.
The baby monitor on the side of the crib crackled and a male voice said “Josey, is she gone?” Continue reading →
By Eddie D. Moore
Dale walked the city walls when he found it hard to sleep, and failure always left him up late into the night. The open air and the stars above usually helped settle his mind. Unfortunately, there were no stars on this night, and the thick fog felt oppressive. He heaved a sigh, deciding to return home and try to get a couple hours of rest. When he turned around he saw a small ball of light drifting on the wind. He stood watching it in wonder, until he heard one of the city guards approaching from behind.
“Good evening Dale. I see you have found one of our night visitors.”
Recognizing the voice of the man, Dale answered without taking his eyes off the light. “Hi Nairn, it is beautiful. What is it?”
Nairn stepped up beside Dale and shrugged. “I figure it is some type of firefly. Although, I have never saw one stay lit this long.”
The guard continued on his rounds leaving Dale to watch the ball of light. Dale grew excited as it drifted closer. Clasping both hands overhead, he caught the ball as it passed within his reach. He opened his hands a crack to see inside, and he shook his head when he saw nothing inside. He sighed, and said to himself softly, “I cannot even catch a bug.”
After the walk in the damp nighttime air, the smooth sheets and the warm covers felt wonderful. Within moments, his eyelids grew heavy, and he drifted off to peaceful dreams.
A beautiful woman stood before him, and when he looked at her, his heart burned with love and a longing he could not describe. She spoke with an alluring voice. “Oh Dale, I am so glad you have found me again.” Continue reading →
By Christian Laforet
Grant hammered the gas pedal. Thankfully, there wasn’t much traffic on the Trans-Canada Highway heading towards Manitoba. The broken yellow line stretched out in front of him like an endless snake—a beast with no head. Aware of the cell phone sitting on the passenger seat, every few seconds he would tap the screen with his finger. The time appeared in bold—7:46 p.m., EST. That was not set in stone though. Soon he would pass into the Central Standard Time Zone and the numbers on his phone would flip back exactly one hour.
The sweat, breaking out along his forehead for the last thirty minutes, felt cold and abrasive on his skin. He wiped it away with his sleeve, but knew it would come back.
Flying past a sign announcing the upcoming border, Grant reminisced again about what his Grandpa told him when he was a kid. 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 →
Ben Van Dongen
Gary rolled into the portal and fell to the ground, landing with a splat. “Ahhh! Damn that hurts! Tanya? Where are you? That crazy thing threw acid or something at me!” Composing himself, he became a ball again.
The ground was a piece of land, ten metres around, floating in the ether. The bare earth beneath it bowed out, like the bottom of a bowl, but at a sharper angle and uneven.
A large tree sat in the middle, stretching up to the empty nothingness, its roots dangling below the platform. Shrubs and tall grasses sprouted all around, making it look like the tree was dug out of a forest, taking the ground coverage with it.
Hundreds of other platforms floated in the void, stretching out into blackness. Each of them had a single tree, roots dangling below the convex bottom, nothing tethering them, nothing holding them up.
“Tanya? Did you hear me?” Gary formed a cube, a tall cylinder, and went back to a ball. “Tanya!” Continue reading →
By Ed Gagnon
Puerto Vallarta, Mexico
“Most of my treasured memories of travel
are recollections of sitting.”
– Robert Thomas Allen
I hadn’t been in Mexico a week but I quickly and easily became a regular at one particular local watering hole. A good pub is a melting pot, where all sorts of people come together in the name of imbibing, for their own reasons. If you watch and listen closely their particular lives are unveiled right in front of you.
Many homo-sapiens from the northern hemisphere, called snowbirds, migrate south for the winter to places like Puerto Vallarta, in Mexico. One of the local watering holes I grew attached to there was a place called, Sweeney’s. It’s in the heart of old town Vallarta, only a couple blocks from the beach.
In my case its location was perfect for a pit stop on the way home from the beach, after the sun had left me parched and in need of hydration. Daily, you could count on the same bar staff and regulars, usually planted in their particular seats.
Other than the cold beer and good food, there was really nothing special about Sweeney’s. It was on the second floor, above another restaurant, on the main drag in old Vallarta. It was easy to miss the stairway entrance if you didn’t know it was there or were too drunk to notice it. Continue reading →
By Edele Winnie
McKay came back the very next day. Hester was going out for breakfast, which today meant black coffee. There was a young man seated on a bench across from her building. He was wearing shiny black pants, a black shirt and black boots. His hair was dyed black. She could not see how tall he was because he was sitting.
“I took your advice,” he said to her as she passed. “Got some new clothes.”
He stood up then, painfully short McKay, all blacked out. It caught Hester by surprise and she almost said something but bit her tongue instead. They walked together in silence. Entered the coffee shop one after the other, sat at the counter on stools side by side. He ordered what she was having. The barista asked if they wanted separate bills. She said yes. He said no.
She turned to him. “Okay, let’s get through this. This isn’t going to work, you know? I don’t need a boyfriend. And I don’t want you.” Continue reading →
By Edele Winnie
“I will slash my legs!” McKay shouted. He held a pathetically small pocketknife above his jeans. “I will slash them wide open!”
Hester sighed. “Go for it.” She pulled out her much more substantial switchblade and threw it at him. “This’ll do more damage. Go for it.”
It had been a torturous three days. McKay had first appeared at an art exhibition opening put on by an ex-boyfriend of Hester’s. She had come of course, because several of the paintings were nudes of her, but also because she wanted to see who he was dating . She hung on the edges of the chatting drinking crowd; a tall thin scarecrow girl dressed in black with stringy dyed black hair and rather nice black boots with silver buckles. McKay approached her, dressed in jeans, like he wore now, and a green plaid shirt. But it wasn’t just his clothing that marked him as out of place- or his short stature- or the no-nonsense cut of his boring brown hair -he seemed to be bouncing off things like a demented ping pong ball. Continue reading →