The Two Bill’s – Part 1 of 4

Edmond Gagnon

Westward Ho

Cathryn’s big question was, “How do I pack for a whole month?” She was faced with the dilemma of how to get her clothes, shoes, and toiletries into one small suitcase, that fit into the trunk portion of our Harley Davidson motorcycle. I had laid out a plan to ride all the way to Vancouver, and back, within a month…or so.

“You only need to pack for five to seven days,” I offered, “We can do our laundry along the way when we stop for more than a day.” I broke the trip into segments, staying in a few different places for more than one night at a time, so we could take a rest from the bike, and not have to be on it every day of the trip.

We met with our friends Greg and Brenda, to discuss the first leg of the trip. They changed their final destination, deciding to only ride as far as Milwaukee with us. It didn’t matter, we were going on with or without them. Figuring traffic would be lighter, and a hotel in downtown Milwaukee cheaper, we left at 9am on Sunday, July 3rd.

The border traffic was light, but they didn’t have the Nexus lane open and we had to wait with all the other peasants. We jumped on Interstate 94, and headed west to get out of the city, with a plan to take the back roads as far as we could. I got carried away, and hit Michigan Avenue (US 12) around Dearborn. It was definitely the scenic route, all the traffic lights allowed us plenty of time to look around.

The road opened up after Ypsilanti. It was a beauty day with lots of sun and a big blue sky. We stopped for an early lunch in Cement City, where Brenda had a chicken quesadilla that could have fed all of us. I really wanted to help, but I was trying to adhere to my low carb diet for as long as I could. I didn’t even have a beer. Continue reading

Dead Bus

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

REVELATION

Lori Lorimer

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 thoughtwell 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

Man in the House

Edele Winnie

“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

Marked for Death

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

Hole in the Wall: The Fifth Monday Three – Part Two

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

Coco

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

Hole in the Wall: Fifth Monday Three – Part One

Edele Winnie

The man in the long coat shuddered and his left arm fell off. The breeze was toying with his long black hair, pulling it off his head and whirling it away. His other arm detached and hit the ground with a dull thud.

“The hole in the wall,” he said. His teeth were drooling out of his mouth, and falling away. His nose slid off and his eyeballs rolled out and splatted to the ground. “Hole in the wall,” his bloody mouth said and then his legs crumpled and what was left of his body thumped to the ground.

His clothing seemed to unravel and the flesh began to slide off of the torso, leaving shiny white bones. The blood and flesh withered and vanished as the bones settled and then began to crumble. In just a few moments, all trace of him was gone.

Carol was rooted to the ground. At first she’d been afraid, then horrified, and now disbelieving. She took a few tentative steps towards the spot where the body had vanished. When ferns started sprouting before her eyes, she backed away, her thin legs shaking. She stumbled and had to grab on to a nearby wall to remain standing. Somehow she managed to find her way back to the bank. She tried telling Jocelyn, a fellow teller and her friend, but Jocelyn just laughed and accused Carol of drinking on her lunch.

 

The rest of the day played out like a parody of normal life. Customers came and went; the clock charted the extremely slow voyage of the afternoon. The people lined up to do their banking didn’t seem real. Carol felt they were robots, or paid actors. When it was finally time to go home she stood at the bus stop and shivered even though the breeze was warm. The same breeze that had torn away the man’s black hair. Continue reading

Enough Rope

By Edele Winnie

She chose the belt carefully. She did not want leather, but rope, narrow rope. He was a thin man, so that helped. Classy rope belts were difficult to find.

He was an odd sort. Tallish, skinny, messy brown hair and glasses. A passionate marine biologist who had never learned how to swim. He’d been fascinated by computers as a youth, and that had led to his development of the computerized shark tracking system as an adult. His work as a biologist was respected but he was still, at heart, a computer geek who spent more time behind the screen than in the water.

She was on the wrong side of forty, married, dyed blonde hair with dark eyebrows. She wore heels every day. She was renowned for her work on the great white shark. It was she who had published the data revealing that there were no large males, only female great whites. Sharks were her passion too, but her moods ran in both warm and cold currents.

It was inevitable that they should meet; there were only so many biologists specializing in great white sharks. It was at the Worthington Marine Aquarium, which held both displays and serious scientific inquiry. Continue reading

The Fifth Monday – Hard On’s Curse Conclusion

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