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“There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.” -Hemingway

The Cake Mistake

Some background on Bob: Bob is invisible, and he is my twin. He came out of a rather silly conversation between myself, my brother, and my grandma. My brother mentioned Bob, my twin, and I just kind of ran with it. Invisible Bob is a spy, so he is rarely home, but this adventure occurs in one of his rare visits.

—This report is confidential. Please do not reveal these details to the public.—

Invisible Bob and the Cake Mistake

It was a chilly Monday morning in January when Bob came home for a brief visit with his family. He had, in an unfortunate turn of events in rural Venezuela that involved twelve professional dancers, a very secret message, and a displeased chicken farmer, missed Christmas. He felt rather bad about it – and worse, he was due to fly back to Venezuela (there was some cleaning up to do) early in the morning on the thirteenth: mother’s birthday. So it was that he slipped in on the eleventh and announced his presence to me, his loving and visible sister, in the cruellest of ways; namely, by tapping me on the shoulder and cackling maniacally. This is his favourite way of letting me know he is home.

Of course, we exchanged pleasantries. I was very excited to see that he was home safely, or course, and I let him know how disappointed we had been not to have him at Christmas. Once we had been happily reunited, he told me his plan. “I figured I would be able to tell Mum ‘Happy Birthday’ and all that, even if it is a day or two early. And I could make the cake, if that’s alright?” Now, I am not a particularly good cake-maker, so I caved easily. The Incident happened while I was away.

In the afternoon, while Bob was making the chocolate cake, I decided to go for a walk. I would have stayed to converse with my beloved and often-absent twin, but Bob immerses himself fully in whatever task is before him. He would not so much as speak when he is trying to make the perfect birthday cake. I decided a walk would be more productive. When I got back, Bob had one layer left to attach to the cake, and the cake was a disaster.

“Bob!” I exclaimed, “What happened to the cake? I thought you could manage this!”

He laughed at me, but it was a nervous, preoccupied laugh. “Well, it’s actually kind of a funny story…” he began. “So, look, a few months ago, I blew up a cake shop in… well, I had better not say where – but I blew up a cake shop.” I must have looked disappointed because when he next spoke it was defensive. “It was a mafia front, okay? I made sure there was nobody inside first. Even the mafia members who were there escaped via secret tunnel. I had to chase them down to arrest them. But that isn’t the point. The point is the cake shop – there was one, and now there isn’t. You can see how people would be upset. Well, that may or may not have something to do with today.” I waited patiently for him to get to the point.

“So, I was just setting the second layer on top of the first, right? Yes. You left the door unlocked, which I mean is fine because I was here and all, but turned out worse than we really expected. The enemy just waltzed right in while I was looking at the cake. I was only slightly concerned for my own safety, in fact, I was going to go right along with them, only I wanted to finish the cake. I told her that, I said ‘look, I’m not sure why you’re here, but can you just let me finish this cake for my mother? Then I’ll come right along.’ Fortunately, or unfortunately, depending on how you look at it, they weren’t here for me. My comment about the cake seemed to infuriate them.

‘Cake!’ they exclaimed, ‘what makes you think you deserve cake, after all you’ve done!’

I said ‘look, I won’t even get to eat this cake. Why don’t you just hold on and we can talk about this.’ That attempt was unsuccessful. They pulled a nano-bomb from their belt and started the detonation countdown, which fortunately was at four minutes and fifty-five seconds. Then, they threw the bomb into the cake.” Here, Bob paused, probably to breathe. I waited. “As I said, the countdown started at about 4:55, which was plenty of time. The enemy agent left immediately, probably because, should that bomb have gone off, the entire house would be flattened. Rather importantly, I would be dead, and there is a matter of national importance that absolutely requires my presence in Tibet in two weeks. There is no getting out of it. Imagine, a bomb in a cake causing Canada to be at war! Of course I immediately fished the bomb out of the cake – hence the mess on this side here – and took the appropriate measures to disarm and dispose of it.”

“That is a rather elaborate tale,” said I. Bob said nothing for a moment, and I had no cues as to what he was thinking. He continued to spread icing on the side of the cake. “Not that I don’t believe you,” I went on after a while. “It just all seems rather far-fetched.”

“That cake,” Bob said with certainty, “Is a national hero. Imagine what would have happened if the cake hadn’t been there to distract my enemy: it would have been a shootout instead of an averted explosion. I would have died.”

I nodded very seriously in response. “A hero indeed. But is it still edible?”

“Absolutely,” Bob confirmed. “Perfectly safe. My hands were clean and everything. The only thing wrong with it is that is a bit misshapen.” he sighed. “I only hope Mum likes it.”

I felt around a bit, then patted his shoulder reassuringly. “I’m sure she will like it just fine when I tell her what happened.” I assured him.

“Yes,” he sighed. “That’s my neck,” he said next.

“Right,” said I, removing my hand, realizing that he must be bent over to finish the icing, “Sorry.”

“Anyhow, the cake is about done now. It’s, um… it’s as good as it’s going to get, I think.” We both contemplated the cake for a moment. Then, Bob sighed. “Just put my name on the card, alright?”

 
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Posted by on January 14, 2016 in From My Pen, Short Stories

 

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Okay

tell me the lies I love

She falls off the swings when she’s eight and while she cries her father holds her and says “hey, you’re good, you’re fine. Everything will be okay. Tell me what hurts, baby. It’s okay. You’ll be alright.” But they go to the hospital and her arm is in a cast for weeks and she thinks that that’s not quite okay.

Her first boyfriend dumps her in front of her friends when she’s fifteen. Her mother rubs her back when she tells her about it and murmurs “it’s all okay, girlie, you’ll find someone. It just takes time, you’ll see. It’ll be okay,” But her friends start to drift and his friends are rude to her, and she doesn’t feel like she’s okay.

She refuses to call home for the third time this week because it isn’t an emergency, But she has this feeling that something is going to go wrong. Her best friend makes her tea while she frets and points out “there’s nothing to worry about. I’m sure everyone at home is fine, just relax. It’s okay, nothing is wrong,” But then her mother calls her and her grandmother is dying and she’s pretty sure this is not okay.

The economy isn’t that great right now and she knows, just knows that cutbacks are coming and she hasn’t been working long enough to keep her job. Her husband holds her while she worries and reassures her “hey it’s okay. You’re great there, love, I’m sure you won’t lose your job. But even if you do, we’ll figure something out. It’s all okay, just watch.” But she does lose her job, and he barely hangs on to his, and they have to put off buying a house, and how will they support the baby and how is this okay?

She cries a bit as she helps her son pack for university. Will he eat? Will he study? Will he find friends? Her boy grins at her and says “hey Mom, I’ll be fine, you know that, right? I promise to eat my vegetables and study and whatever. And I’ll see you at Christmas, okay?” But the house seems so empty without him and he doesn’t call as often as she would like, and she is almost but not quite okay.

Her husband starts having memory trouble, so she takes him in for a medical evaluation. She sits with her head in her hands as she listens to the diagnosis and thinks of what he would say if he knew how she was feeling right now. “Whatever it is, it could be worse. We’ll get through it together, promise. It’ll all be okay.” But the Alzheimer’s progresses and he doesn’t remember her anymore and he can hardly do anything for himself and she knows they aren’t okay.

She’s lying in a hospital bed and it’s hard to breathe, hard to think. Her son and his family are in the room with her, her little boy all grown now and holding her hand gently. It’s her daughter-in-law who whispers to her, choking back tears “We’ll be okay, Mom. We’ll see you soon. We love you. It’s okay.” But as she uses her breath to whisper her love back, she wishes she had enough to tell them that it’s okay not to be okay.

 

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Father Says

It’s very warm out today. It’s too warm to go out and play, and Jilly and I don’t want to anyways because when we go outside the dust blows in our faces and it feels like we’re choking. Father says the land is breaking up, because there hasn’t been any rain out here. I don’t like it.

I want to go home. Back home the land isn’t breaking up. Father says we can’t go back, though, because of the Mayor. When we left, Father told us why. Father is very good to us. He tells us everything, even when other people’s fathers say we’re too small to know, because he says we need to be strong and we can’t be strong if we’re too little to know things. He told us what happened.

He said when he was little, he had a younger brother called Yarrow. Kind of like me and Jilly, he said, only Jilly and I are friends, and he wasn’t friends with Yarrow. He said Yarrow was kind of mean, and he was really mean to a girl named Lacey and that girl was the Mayor’s sister. The Mayor didn’t really like Yarrow because he was so mean to his sister, and even one time he hurt her really bad, but he couldn’t do anything about it because Yarrow was lots bigger. Only now, the Mayor is the Mayor, and he has lots of power, so he wanted to get back at Yarrow for hurting his sister. Father said that when the Mayor started being Mayor, he had the Agency pick up Yarrow and they sent him away too. Father calls it exile, and he says there are rules, like when they send someone away from the city, they have to give them enough food and other things so that they can make it to an oasis or a village.

Only Father says we’re not supposed to be in exile. He says that the Mayor sent us away because Yarrow was Father’s little brother, except Father never did anything to the Mayor’s sister or to the Mayor or even to anyone. Father didn’t say the last part but I know it’s true because Father is the nicest person ever and also because I heard people in the city saying how he was a good man and had never done anything bad. Even Miss Annabelle at the corner shop said we shouldn’t be exiled and she doesn’t like anyone. Father never even talked to his brother once they grew up. He says it was because he was ashamed to be connected to him. I don’t really understand that part, but it’s not important. What’s important is that we didn’t even do anything, but we were exiled anyways. When Father told us, I said that’s not fair and he said I was right. Then he told me a big word that means that it’s not fair. He said our exile is an ‘injustice’.

So there. I asked why we couldn’t go back, if it was an injustice, and Father said it’s because the Mayor wouldn’t let us. But he said that it doesn’t matter. He told us we couldn’t change other people, even if they weren’t fair. Father always says that we can only control ourselves. He told us about the Samuel Mason Family, and how they were exiled a long time ago before I was even born, but after Father was grown up. He said it was also an injustice, but that they got really mad at the city and didn’t want to leave. Of course, the Agency picked them up and left them outside the gates. He says they had all the things we did, but that instead of looking for a new home, they just set up outside the city and stayed there. I asked why they did that and he smiled like he does when I ask smart questions. Then he told me. He said that Samuel Mason was a very little man and that he worried a lot about what people said about him. I asked why it mattered that he was little and he said he didn’t mean little like me, like short. He said he meant little in spirit. Then he said anyways, he was really worried about what people said about him, so he stayed right outside the gates to show people that it was an injustice, because he didn’t want people to think of him as an exile. After a long time, they ran out of food and things because they wouldn’t take any help from the caravans. Father told us how even one time he went with some friends to try and help them and they brought more food and other important things because they had run out. But even when it was his friends trying to help him, he didn’t want to take anything. Father says Samuel Mason tried to hit him and his friends and yelled and made them go away. I don’t know why he did that, because if I was Samuel Mason and someone tried to help me I would let them -especially if Jilly was with me because I need to keep Jilly safe too. I thought maybe he would need to keep his family safe, but Father says Samuel Mason never thought about that. Anyways, eventually, the rest of the family left with a caravan because they couldn’t live out there and Samuel Mason died.

Father says we are not going to be like the Samuel Mason Family. He says that’s because we know who we are. He told me and Jilly that we were going to leave instead of arguing because we knew the truth. He says if we know that we didn’t do anything wrong, then it doesn’t matter what everyone else says. He says that’s why we’re moving on and finding a new home. Inside of me, Father says, I’ve got a little picture of myself. He asked me what that picture looked like and I told him. Pretty much it just looks like me. I am not very tall, but I am strong for a little person. I have blonde hair and blue eyes and freckles, and I like to smile a lot even when the land is breaking up. Father said that’s a good picture. He says it shows that I have lots of self-respect -Father says respect is when you have good manners with someone-  because I think I’m strong. He says knowing that we’re strong is what lets us move on ‘independently of other’s encouragements’. I didn’t know what that meant so he said it meant ‘without other people telling us we can do it’. But he also said that’s what let us take help from the caravan that came by, because it’s not weakness, it’s just that we need to because of the injustice that happened to us.

I don’t really like it out here. I don’t like that the land is breaking up and that it’s too dusty and warm to play outside of the wagon with Jilly. I think it’s alright, though. I don’t think it matters that there was an injustice. I’m strong, and so are Jilly and Father, and we’re all together. That’s all that matters.

 

 

I wrote “Father Says’ for a school essay in Grade Twelve. It’s become one of my favourite stories to read out loud because of the childish voice. The narrator isn’t very defined, on purpose. I put this at the end so I can tell you: in my head they’re a boy, seven or eight years old. Did you read it as a boy or a girl? How old are they?

 
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Posted by on May 8, 2015 in From My Pen, Short Stories

 

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Imagination’s Lament

Imagination’s Lament

An old poem of mine. I put it into a collection of poems for my family and friends a couple years ago, and my good friend Tori drew a gorgeous picture for it, which I love and enjoy showing off.

You were here again today,

In my world, so far away

From yours.

So far away, yet so near

To everything that you hold dear.

Not me…

It’s hard to see the sky some days.

Without you it’s the gloomy grey

Of clouds.

Remember how we used to be?

We played and laughed, so carefree

And young.

Now you grow old, leave me behind

For you have someone else you’ll find

Somewhere.

I’m nothing but a fleeting fancy,

A pastime for when you grew antsy

Before.

I always wished that I was more –

But you just went and closed the door

On me.

You’re leaving now, you think forever

But this time I think I know better

Than you.

You’ll be back again someday

Here in this world so far away

With me.

 
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Posted by on May 8, 2015 in From My Pen, Poems

 

And Then You Dance

I wrote this last September, thinking about different occasions that call for dancing. One morning in Mdumbi I read it out loud, accompanied by Nathan R, a pastor who was visiting our outtatown site. It was an experience that will never be replicated, and I’m very grateful I got that opportunity.

Today is good.

You’re sitting with a picture book

teddy in your lap –

this is the life.

And it comes to you slowly,

filters into your mind;

you stand up and catch your balance,

and then you dance:

You spin and you giggle,

you jump and you twist,

you headbang and air-drum,

and at the end all-fall-down

with laughter and smiles.

 

Today is good.

You’re walking, just wandering,

sun on your face –

feeling alive.

And it sneaks up just quiet,

you find yourself humming;

you throw your head back and arms out

and then you dance:

You spin and you giggle,

you jump and you twist,

you headbang and air-drum,

and slowly spin to a stop.

This is beauty and joy.

 

Today is good.

Vows are being solemnly said,

happy tears in your eyes –

the start of a new life.

And it’s just there, but not sudden,

you stop talking to listen;

you reach out hands to be held

and then you dance:

You spin and you giggle

you jump and you twist

you headbang and air-drum,

and after one song, the next,

and long-lasting joy.

 

Today is good.

You’re just doing dishes,

soap-suds on your hands –

this is life.

And it’s been on all evening,

but this song is different;

you shake your hand dry

and then you dance:

You spin and you giggle,

you jump and you twist,

you headbang and air-drum,

and then, back to dishes,

just a break in routine.

 

Today is pretty good.

You’re just driving home,

ache in your heart –

but you’re still alive.

And it hits you like a freight train,

that song that is theirs

you have to pull over and climb out

and then you dance:

You spin and you giggle,

you jump and you twist,

you headbang and air-drum,

and crumple to the ground

with bittersweet tears.

 

That Day will be Good.

You’ll finally be Home,

Love will surround you –

You’ll be truly alive.

And it will be sudden

yet not unexpected,

you’ll bask in His presence

and then you will dance:

You’ll sing and you’ll giggle,

you’ll jump and you’ll twist,

you’ll headbang and air-drum,

and when you can’t dance you’ll sing:

and this Forever.

 

 
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Posted by on May 8, 2015 in From My Pen, Poems

 

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Like a Shadow

no one has noticed I’ve slipped away from the party

I much prefer it out here. It’s quieter, more peaceful, there’s no pressure to be someone I’m not. I can take off my shoes – they’re uncomfortable anyways. I sit on the edge of the patio and turn my back to the house, looking instead into the dark night. Tilting my head up, I stare at the stars and try to tune out the noise from inside. I relax and let go of the feeling of being surrounded all the time.

I prefer the sounds of the crickets and of the occasional car going by to the blaring music and raucous laughter inside. It’s just too loud for me in there. I prefer being alone with my thoughts to having to make conversation. People always ask about the life I should have but don’t actually, and I don’t like trying to explain that I’m okay the way I am. Not that I feel inadequate. I don’t. I like my life, but I don’t like defending it. People never understand.

I much prefer being alone out here to wandering from one conversation to another, never speaking. I could join in, of course, but I rarely find a topic I feel I can speak authoritatively on. It’s easier just to listen, or to slip away and think about the really important things. I’m too serious, and nobody really cares to hear about those kinds of things. I like it out here better.

I much prefer the cover of darkness to the glare of light inside, to the knowledge that people are looking at me, if not for me. There’s not much too look at. I’m plain in comparison to the others here. I don’t bother with the makeup or the elaborate hair. I don’t want to spend more money on something I won’t be comfortable wearing. My dress is in fashion and I’m clean and neat – I’m not here to make a statement. People just notice I have nothing to say and move on quickly.

I much prefer it out here, or at least that’s what I tell myself. I’m choosing to be alone – I’m sure I could talk with a few of the guests if I wanted to. I’m choosing to think – I’m sure they would welcome my input in a few of the conversations I overheard coming out here. I’m choosing to leave – I’m sure people have noticed and just understand that I want some time to myself. The noise from inside is suddenly louder, and I hear a familiar voice nearby – someone has opened the door and stepped outside. I know them. Have they come looking for me? They never realise that I prefer – oh. Never mind, they’re just getting more drinks. I think I’m visible from there, but they don’t say anything. The noise swells again, then is muted as the door shuts once more. Good.

I much prefer it out here.

 

 

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Still Life in Greyscale

you burst like a grainy image through the heart of my memory

Sometimes she looks around her and thinks of him. She looks at her husband, at her sons and grandsons, and thanks God that they are here around her. Her children and grandchildren will remember their fathers in bright, brilliant colour. The colours of summer on the prairies: sky the bluest of blues, yellow canola, the warm, dark brown of his eyes that her boys had inherited, that always looked at their children with love. The colours of his dress shirts and patterns on his ties. They will remember him in the red of a Santa costume at Christmas. They will remember their fathers in motion: playing football at picnics, throwing them in the air and catching them securely. They will remember him teaching them to dance, to barbeque, to do push-ups properly. They will remember their fathers with sound: his laughter, his gentle scolding, the way he greeted people at their door or at the church. They will remember his terrible singing and the way he told them stories. She is thankful that they will remember their fathers alive.

She thinks of her father and thinks that he must have been a colourful man, at one time. Her mother used to tell her stories of all kinds, but she never knows what to do with them. Her father doesn’t have colour, motion, or sound. Because her father is just a picture, a photograph in black and white of a handsome man in uniform.

She doesn’t remember her father in colour. She knows about his bottle-green eyes, and his black hair and moustache, and that he lived on the same colourful prairie as she now does. She knows the uniform he wore was the dull khaki of a World War Two soldier. She knows that the picture of him that hangs on her wall was taken outside, and that there were purple flowers behind him. But in her mind he is a colourless man in front of a grey house on a cloudy day. He is hard to see.

She doesn’t remember her father in motion. She’s heard about the dancing, and that he played hockey and liked to take her mother ice-skating. She’s been told that he held her and rocked her, that his arms would always open wide to get hugs from his nieces and nephews. The closest she can get to imagining his movement is the jerky dancing in black and white films, or the scrambling action scenes in war clips, things she knows he once did. In her mind he stands ramrod straight, smiling a bit but not ever shifting. He is firm and tall and strong, a good soldier and a statue.

She doesn’t remember her father with sound. She knows he used to sing a bit: he sang love songs to her mother and lullabies to her. She knows his voice was loud and light, that you could hear it over everyone else’s at parties. She knows he loved to laugh. But in her mind he is silent. She doesn’t know his voice.

But despite all this, when she looks at her husband and her children and grandchildren, she remembers him. She remembers being a little girl, sitting under his picture and telling him things, the exciting things and the sad ones. She remember his presence in her life, not as himself but as other people’s memories of him and the stories they told. He is there for her growing up in the form of ‘your father would have said’ and ‘your father would be proud’. When her family and friends ask about her father, she tells them that he was a brave man who went to war, that he was a friendly man who brought joy to others, that he was a kind and good man. That much she sees when she looks at his picture, the smile playing on his lips even as he gets ready to leave, going unknowingly to his death. That much, she knows from the stories. Even though her father is a photograph in black and white of a man in uniform, her memory of him is of love.

 

 

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