Chocolate

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The aftermath of dinner service covered every available flat surface. Saute pans had been stacked up on one side of the range top. Smoke from the broiler billowed and twisted under the harsh fluorescent hood lights, the temperature maxed to burn off bits of meat and fat.

Sam piled up empty containers and food stained utensils to move them to the dish pit. On the way back he slipped on the red clay tile floor where a bowl of soup had been dropped and not cleaned up properly. Sam stretched an arm out, looking for purchase, but only managed to bump the faucet on the bain-marie as he crashed down to his knees.

He stood with a groan, pushed the faucet back, then swore to himself. Chef was warming chocolate for the dessert course. The bowl was now half full with water. Sam swore to himself again. It was ruined. He wiped his hands on his apron, then ran to the back storage room to find more.

 

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Photo by Michael Browning on Unsplash

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This started as a prompt from a writing group that I attend put on by the Alexandra Writers’ Centre Society. We were asked to write down ten things about chocolate. I did, but also had a scene come to mind from my previous life as a chef, so I used it to write this piece. Another aspect to the prompt was a scene building map, this is something I’m going to go into more later, but I can see how it helped bring this to life and I’ve added it to my writers toolbox.

Now to some not so good news. I hate breaking promises, but unfortunately I will have to today. The plan was to have my new website ready to launch this week, but it’s just not there yet. For the sake of what I have going on in my life at the moment, like finishing William for the CBC Short Story Prize, developing the first of a series of three books we’re launching in the spring, and that I am likely starting a new job next week, I am pushing the launch back to November 1, 2019. This is a big deal for me, and I want to do it right. I’ll also be relaunching my social media presence, or maybe just having more of a focus on it, and I’ll have details on a new collection of short stories that you can get for free in December. So, long story short, the freight train isn’t really slowing down, the journey takes a little longer to complete sometimes than you think.

Speaking of social media, in case you didn’t know, you can find me on Twitter and Instagram. Maybe see you there?

 

William

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William rocked forward in his seat as the horse’s footfalls slowed and the streetcar came to a stop. He lowered himself down to the dirt road and waited. When the streetcar pulled away, he shuffled across Yonge Street and headed east along Upper Gerrard.

With the noise and confusion far behind him, William slowed his pace. He focused on the rows of narrow brick houses. Some had their curtains drawn, others let in what dreary daylight was available. One had the window glass on the main level pushed open, letting the smell of cooking vegetables waft down the street.

William left the sidewalk and limped up to one of the brown painted doors. He leaned a hand against the frame and looked to the window beside. An old woman sat in a plain chair with a pressed wood back. She worked two knitting needles in slow and precise movements. William faced forward and lifted a key from his pocket. He set it in the lock, turned it, and pushed the door open.

He stopped in the doorway of the parlour and removed his hat. His landlady set her knitting on her lap and looked up over the frames of her glasses.

“Good afternoon, Mr. Doyle.”

“Good afternoon, Mrs. Summerhayes.”

“I trust your journey was successful?”

“Yes, Ma’am.”

“Your leg acting up again?”

“Yes, Ma’am.”

Mrs. Summerhayes pursed her lips and returned to her task. William turned, reached out for the banister, and eased himself down the stairs to his room.

 

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Image by Verone Solilo

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William was my response piece from this years Voice & Vision collaboration. 15 artists and 15 writers are paired together and tasked to create something unique based on each other’s work. You can learn more about my contribution and a lot of other amazing artists and writers here.

I was very fortunate to be paired with Verone Solilo this year, when I saw her piece, Victorian Row, I fell in love instantly. You can see more of Verone’s work here, I look forward to seeing Victorian Row hanging on my wall very soon.

I had more to share with William’s story, so I’m developing a larger piece to submit to this year’s CBC Short Story Prize. Keep your fingers crossed for me.

Life has been busy this week, and on top of it I’ve got a bit of a cold slowing me down. That means all the exciting news I have for you gets pushed back another week. Only one more week though, I promise. Stay tuned!

 

A Very Short Story About a Fence Post

Another day and the sun rises, like it has countless times before. A spider crawls out from the crack that runs to my top. It strings a thread down to the highest line of rusty barbed wire reaching out in line with the ditch. Soon a perfect web glistens in the sun, awaiting something that looks like breakfast.

The cows are out early. I notice the fat one eyeing me up. It ambles over, its mouth grinding back and forth with a stray blade of grass sticking out one side and drool cascading down the other. I look for any sign of intelligence in its wide, dark, eyes, but once again find nothing. I think it’s going to pass me by, but I’m wrong. It turns and¾Oh no, not the ass end.

I’m nearly ripped from the ground as it pushes a massive thigh back and forth across me. On the field side I’ve lost most of the dried lichen that took years to build up, and I’m becoming smooth and irregular in shape. The others say it’s not a problem, but I hear them snicker when they think I’m not paying attention.

Stupid cow. I can’t wait until she’s taken off in the big long trailer like the rest of them. Then I can get some peace and quiet, for a few months at least.

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At a recent writing session, we were asked to write for 10 minutes about an inanimate object. This isn’t something I normally enjoy, mostly because I don’t think I do it well, but then the image of the cow rubbing up against a screaming fence post came to mind and here we are.

In case you missed it, I have a big announcement coming soon. Very, very soon. Websites and newsletters and books, oh my! Stay tuned.

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Photo by Gabriel Jimenez on Unsplash

The Most Important Things

The most important things are the hardest things to say. That would be why I’m sitting here staring at my hands while you talk about your day. I nod and try to smile. I even ask a question or two to keep things moving, but it’s for no other reason.

I’m trying to work up the courage to tell you any one of the things that should have been mentioned long before. That I want you to take your sunglasses off so I can see your eyes, or that you have a drop of ketchup on the end of your nose.

What I really want to say is that I’m confused and scared. I feel the need to remind you that I love you and I don’t want you to move four hours away. That maybe we can find a way to make it all work out, here, together. We could, I know it, if only you felt the same way that I do.

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This story came from a quote by Stephen King that I was given as a writing prompt recently. You can see the full version here. To be honest, the quote is something that has been with me for a lot of years, I’ve had it written down in one form or another since I was a lot younger than I am now. It resonates, I suppose you could say.

I hope you’re not too depressed now, because I want you to be excited about something that I will have ready to show the world in a few weeks time. I’m building a brand new website. Writing My Way Out of Here has served me well, but it’s time for the next step. I have some new features planned, and some exclusive content if you’re willing to sign up for my monthly newsletter. I’ve also been working hard on writing, and have a few new books scheduled for the new year. By a few, I mean four, and I’m nervous and excited and maybe a little terrified. Here comes the freight train! That’s me by the way…

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Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash

99 Words #32 – Strawberries and Mint

I swipe the sliver of tomato across the grains of salt and pepper on the plate and then pop it in my mouth. I lift up the glass but there’s only a drop of sweet liquid left under the crushed strawberry and browning mint leaf. It’s not worth the sip so I set it back down.

I sit back and interlace my fingers over my satiated belly. The sun is deep orange as it prepares to say goodnight. Off in the distance birds are chittering and singing. I close my eyes and smile, grateful for one last perfect day.

 

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Photo by Hassan Maayiz on Unsplash

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This was written in response to the May 30, 2019 flash fiction prompt from Charli Mills at the Carrot Ranch: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that includes strawberries and mint. You can learn more here – May 30, 20119 Flash Fiction Prompt

Rumours

They say I punched a nun. And so what if I did? You think I would have done it if she didn’t deserve it? Bein’ all snotty and tellin’ everyone what to do all the time. I’m not even Catholic for Christ’s sake!

Sure, even on a good day I got problems with authority, but this one, well, she rubbed me the wrong way. Scoldin’ me like a child because I swear once in a while. Not my fault that Harv and his friends are a bunch of assholes, always makin’ fun of my limp and such. She never said a thing to those guys, did she? Naw, of course not. Everyone loves to pick on old Charlie. Cursed for the ages I am.

So last week this nun comes right up to me and says, Charlie, she called me by my first name right? No idea how she knows my name, that’s the thing that really got me goin’. She says, Charlie, now I warned ya about takin’ the Lord’s name in vain. I’d just spent the previous two hours listenin’ to Harv and Eugene and Pete, right bunch of sphincters those three, listenin’ to them call me ‘Limpy’ and tell me I smell funny and I’m ugly and that I’ll never get no girlfriend. I’d had quite enough for one day, and then the bloody nun come on all holier’n thou. So I gets right up in ‘er face and says, jumpin Jesus on a bicycle, woman! I never met the guy and likely never will so what’s the God damned problem? Well, she turns all red and starts waggin’ her finger at me and the trio of dirty bum holes behind me’r laughin’ and carryin’ on. I couldn’t take no more so I went into a rage as blind as my old Uncle Lester. I spun to give the chief poop shooter, good old Harvey-boy, a little love tap, right? Problem was he was laughin’ so hard he was bent over and I spun right around. My closed fist connected with the screechin’ nun and then down she goes! Yeah, yeah, I know I didn’t mean to do it, but who’s goin’ to believe old bow-legged, crooked tooth Charlie? Nobody, that’s who, rumour or not.

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Photo by Jonathan Sharp on Unsplash

The Demon

I turned the light on and pointed it toward the painting on the wall. The brush strokes grew and flowed and shrank. The demon opened its eyes.

“My task is complete. Set me free.”

“No,” I said. “I’m quite enjoying our arrangement.”

“We had a deal,” the demon said.

“A deal that is no more a thing than the words spoken to seal it. If our positions were reversed I doubt you would think twice about doing the same.”

The demon bared his needle-like teeth. “When I escape this prison know that the tasks I have been performing for you will be a kindness compared to your fate.”

I shrugged. “We’ll deal with that when the time comes. Until then, I have something I need you to take care of.”

 

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Art by Kaleigh Kanary

99 Words #30 – Dedication

Langdon sat staring at his hands. He scratched at the dry skin on his knuckles. “I did what needed to be done. It wasn’t easy, but I found a way.”

“That’s something to be proud of, isn’t it?” Emma said.

Langdon shrugged. “I gave my word. Not much more to it.”

“I think it says a lot about your character, the fact that you dedicated years of your life to the cause.”

Langdon’s lips went thin and he looked up to Emma. “Maybe it does say a lot. What it doesn’t say is whether it was worth the cost.”

 

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This was written in response to the May 2, 2019 flash fiction prompt from Charli Mills at the Carrot Ranch: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about sisu. It’s a Finnish concept of enduring strength, the ability to consistently overcome. You can learn more here – May 2, 20119 Flash Fiction Prompt

Sight – The Problem With the World Today: Part 2

“Are you sure this is a good idea?”

“I wouldn’t have suggested it if I thought it was a bad one.”

Kade crossed his arms and turned to look around the small room. The walls were dingy and bare. He was sitting in a large chair in the middle. It had adjustable arms and lots of chrome. Kade thought it used to be a barber’s chair, but it had been a long time since he’d seen one.

Saffi patted his shoulder and went to sit on the worn vinyl chair in the corner behind him. She leaned back and tucked a stray wisp of auburn hair behind her ear.

Someone knocked on the door. Kade looked up but didn’t have time to respond. The door opened, and a man entered the room. He had slicked back hair and a short, trimmed beard. His complexion was pale but he had a glow in his cheeks. One hand was in the pocket of his grey smock. He smiled at Kade. “Good morning. Are we ready?”

Kade couldn’t place the accent. He thought it might have been South African. “I guess so.”

“You have the…” The man tapped at the back of his neck, just below the base of his skull.”

Kade nodded.

“Wonderful.” The man walked past Kade and nodded to Saffi. He opened the doors of a beat up metal cabinet to her right. He pulled out a jumble of nylon straps and shiny metal. The device attached to the straps looked like the dregs of a computer repair bin that someone had assembled into art. The man took a plastic capsule from his pocket. It was about the size of a large vitamin. He pried a cap off near one corner of the device and screwed the capsule into it.

The man stood in front of Kade, smiled even wider, and held the apparatus up. Kade’s eyebrows pinched together. The man’s smile faltered.

Saffi leaned forward. “Take your hat off, genius.”

“Oh.” Kade reached up and lifted the wide brim hat from his head. He ran the other hand over the stubble of his receding hairline.

The man’s eyes darted to Saffi, and then back to Kade. “Hold still, now.” The man stretched out the nylon straps and arranged the contraption over Kade’s head. He straightened, and then tightened two of the buckles. An open metal frame with a soft plastic ring on the inside sat over Kade’s left eye. The man adjusted the position and cinched it down so it was tight against his face.

“Good. Okay, this part may be a little uncomfortable.”

When the man said uncomfortable, it was drawn out in an unusual way. Maybe not South African, Kade thought.

The man pressed a button on the frame and a soft glow lit up the inside. “You can see the blue dot?” he said.

“Yes,” Kade said.

“Good.” The man stood to one side. “Focus on the dot please. Eyes wide. And… three, two…”

A pulse of air hit Kade’s eye and he blinked hard. The man flipped open the buckles and pulled the apparatus from his head. He unscrewed the capsule and put it back in his pocket. He replaced the cap, and then set the apparatus back in the cabinet.

The man picked up a square handheld mirror with a tarnished metal frame and small box with a number of lights and dials and a small tube screen on the front from a table beside the cabinet. He handed Kade the mirror and then held the box close to his face and started pressing buttons.

Kade looked to Saffi. She motioned toward the mirror. The glass was pitted and had a crack along the top. Kade held it up to his face, then brought it closer. On the bottom of his iris was a dot. It looked like little more than a deviation of pigment. He closed his eyes, and then opened them. The dot was still there. Kade looked up to the man in the smock.

The man was smiling again. He was holding the control box up at shoulder height with the opposite hand poised to press a button. “Ready?”

Kade drew in a breath and exhaled slow. “Yeah.”

The man nodded and then pressed down.

For Kade, the room lit up. Words scrolled across the bottom of his field of vision, but he didn’t understand a single one. He could see heat signatures. He could see through the wall into the next room. Kade blinked. “Turn it off.”

The man pressed down again. “Good? Yes?”

Kade scowled.

“You will need to… make adjustments to the settings, to your liking. The instructions have been sent to you.”

Kade looked to Saffi. She had her hands interlaced over the back of her head and her legs were stretched out and crossed in front of her. She was smiling like someone who had just won the lottery.

Kade looked back to the man in the smock. “Am I done?”

The man shook his head yes.

Kade tilted his head toward Saffi. “Can we go home now?”

“We need to make a stop first.” Saffi said.

Kade lowered his head. “Damn it.”

Saffi stood and walked to the door. “Come on champ, we need to go see a man that owes me money.”

 

 

99 Words #28 – A Sign

She puts her arm out in front of me. “Wait.”

“What’s wrong?”

She’s looking up to the sky. A magpie is flying toward the east.

“It’s a,” she snaps her fingers three times, “what’s the word?”

I shake my head and shrug.

“An omen, or… a sign!”

She lowers her head and pauses. “Look.”

At first I’m not sure what she’s pointing at. Across the clearing I see a break in the trees. Snow has been shaken from the lower branches but the ground is smooth.

She grabs my jacket at the elbow and pulls. “We should turn back.”

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This was written in response to the February 7, 2019 flash fiction prompt from Charli Mills at the Carrot Ranch. You can learn more here –

February 7: Flash Fiction Challenge

 

Photo by Jongsun Lee on Unsplash

 

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This and That but Mostly the Other is a collection of moments, from the briefest glimpse to those more complex. It’s about introductions and endings. It is a reminder of what was, and a glimpse of things to come. Available in print-on-demand and e-book February 2019.

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