Breakdown

breakdown-1
freestocks.org photo

Frank Sinatra’s voice emanated from the cheap megaphone like a crackling squeal. The loudspeaker was ancient and mortifyingly heavy. Jim held it out the window of his newly repaired 1974 Ford Pinto, angling it towards the car’s speakers to pick up the music. He wore a borrowed tuxedo (probably a bad idea) and cheap cologne (definitely a bad idea), and inevitably, he found himself trying to figure out how the hell he’d gotten here.

It was the Pinto’s fault. Two days ago, the car started having fitful spasms on the way to Thunder Bay. The clanking started first, followed by a rhythmic, high-pitched vibration. And then, in a gas station parking lot, the Pinto heaved a last shuddering breath and died.

If there was one thing Jim hated, it was car troubles. They offered up the perfect opportunity to exert your manliness and illustrate your broad knowledge of how things work. Except that Jim didn’t have a clue about engines. Which is why he hated car problems.

But, he’d been lucky. If the car had to break down somewhere, his old home town was as good a place as any. Jim hadn’t been back since graduating high school. The town was a little faded, but the same.

Ned’s auto mechanic garage was still the only one in town. The rusted-out warehouse crouched beside an oil-stained parking lot hadn’t changed much, except now half of it had been transformed into a computer repair shop.

Ned examined the Pinto sagely. He was shorter and more whiskered than Jim remembered.

“Poor beast is overtired. I’ll have her ready in a couple hours. Good to see you, Jim.”

Jim nodded. “You too.”

And that’s when he saw her.

She was perched on a high stool, holding a flashlight and peering into the bowels of a dissected computer. Her ferociously red hair was bundled up under a snap back and she wore an oversized gray hoodie. She was chewing gum and humming loudly. Jim recognized the tune but he couldn’t identify it.

He sucked in his breath. “Meredith?”

She caught his eye for a millisecond and smiled warmly before giving him the finger. Her smile. He’d forgotten about her smile. Jim swallowed, suddenly finding it necessary to lean on the wall behind him for support. Had she recognized him? Jim couldn’t tell if the finger was merely her classic greeting, or a nod to their past relationship.

Ned grinned. “Yep. She rents the other half of the garage to use as her repair shop,” he explained. “She’s pretty damn good with technology. Makes a brisk business fixing up broken doodads.”

But Jim wasn’t really listening. He couldn’t tear his eyes away from her deft movements. He flattened his hair and straightened his polo shirt jerkily, as though his arms were being controlled by puppet strings.

In high school, Jim used to test his moves on other girls so he wouldn’t blow it with Meredith. It was like his friend Terry used to say, “Guys speak English, man. The trick is to figure out whatever the hell they speak.”

Jim still hadn’t figured that out. And when he’d finally worked up the courage to approach Meredith, he’d blown it anyway.

He felt propelled towards Meredith by some unseen force. But he didn’t realize he was actually moving until he bumped into an empty oil can that had leapt into his path.

Meredith jumped and swore.

“What?” she demanded, scowling.

“Uh…it’s Jim. We went to high school together.”

Meredith snorted. “Yeah. I know who you are.” She looked past him towards his dejected vehicle. “I never thought you’d be stupid enough to buy a Pinto.”

Her voice was throaty and melodious. The way she said ‘stupid’ made Jim want to hear her call him that again. Which was stupid, of course.

He took a deep breath. “Your hair – it’s red now. Looks good.”

“I’ve always had red hair.”

“Oh,” Jim said helplessly. “But isn’t it brighter now?”

“Nope.”

Jim decided it would be wise to escape back to the other end of the garage. All girls were scary, but Meredith downright terrified him. She was loud, opinionated and didn’t seem afraid of anything. Which was why, when Jim had asked her to prom all those years ago, he’d never dreamed of her saying yes. In fact, he had counted on her saying no.

When she said yes, the only thing that came into his head was that if he knocked her out, she might forget ever agreeing.

“Uh, Jim?”

It was, Ned squatting beside the Pinto looking bemused.

“This car is sprouting more problems every minute. You’d better book a room. This’ll take longer than I thought.”

Jim nodded distractedly. “Okay.”

He stared hard at Meredith’s back. He’d betrayed her, and it might be too late to fix that now.

A series of possibilities ran through his brain. He could break his laptop and get her to fix it. But he knew she would see right through him. It would be like asking her to check his math problems all over again.

“That’ll be a hundred bucks for the diagnosis, Jim.”

Her imaginary laughter filled the garage.

Jim ran a hand across his face. He saw Meredith’s mocking eyes everywhere. Her lithe, ever-restless movements, her unruly hair and her wild gray eyes made him want to touch her to make sure she was real. The way she pursed her lips when she chewed gum was mesmerizing.

No, Jim thought. He’d been given this chance – it was all or nothing. He’d tell Meredith he loved her. If she rejected him, he’d hightail it out of there and never come back.

For once, everything seemed to work in Jim’s favour. When he came back from booking his room, he discovered that ever the obstinate Pinto was on his side. Ned told him it would take at least two days to fix her – meaning he’d have time to execute his plans.

Jim borrowed Terry’s dad’s tuxedo, which was too big, and stole a Frank Sinatra CD from the library. He even tracked down his old gym teacher, who lent him a megaphone.

And that was how – when the Pinto was once again road-worthy – Jim ended up parked outside the window of Meredith’s make-shift repair shop, sweating and shaking like a leaf. He rolled down the window and spoke into the megaphone.

“This one’s for you, Meredith. Because I – love you.”

In his panic, Jim hit the alarm button partway through this last sentence. A horrendous, siren-like howl echoed down the street. With a yelp, Jim managed to shut it off, offering a squeaky apology into the megaphone before turning up the music and letting Sinatra take over.

Jim caught a movement in his rear-view mirror. Meredith was staring at him with an expression he dared not interpret.

When the last notes of “Let’s Fall in Love,” faded away, there was a terrifying silence. Slowly, Meredith moved towards the car window.

“That’s my favourite song,” she said.

“I know. I mean – I heard you humming it,” Jim stammered, extricating himself from the car.

“You asked me to prom and then never showed up.”

A statement. Was it a rhetorical statement? Wisely, Jim stayed silent.

“And then you turn up out of the blue years later. And…this?”

“I let you go once without telling you how I felt. I couldn’t do that twice.”

“You didn’t let me go. You threw away your chance,” Meredith snapped.

“I know. I – was terrified. I don’t think I would have asked you then if I thought you’d say yes.”

“That’s the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard.”

“Maybe, but it’s true. I’m sorry, Meredith.”

Meredith smiled a little – that smile that made it hard for Jim to breathe. She put a hand on his arm. “I can’t believe you bought a Pinto.”

“Well, you can thank her for getting me stuck here.”

Meredith smirked. “I don’t think the Pinto should get all the credit.”

Jim stared at her. “What do you mean?”

“You seriously never wondered why it took so long to get the stupid thing fixed?” Meredith let out a loud, rollicking laugh. “I was sure Ned would give me away.”

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The Escape

hot-air-balloon
Emre Ergen photo

 

Ky felt a slight tremor beneath his feet as the balloon climbed steeply. From the glass windows of the enclosed compartment he watched as the things he knew disappeared slowly from view. First Hampton, then Virginia, and finally America shrank away into nothing. Everything that used to seem huge had become merely bumps and blurs of geography.

Ky’s world was a small one – just a city, a crumbling neighbourhood and an apartment building with temperamental electricity. Now that world had vanished.

He bit his lip. He’d never even been outside Virginia before, much less on an airplane. Ky thought of his mother, somewhere beneath him, her neck hurting from standing so long staring into the sky. Her dreams were tied up with his now.

“He’s a smart kid,” Mr. Lewis, the man in charge of interns at NASA’s Langley Research Center had said. “Why don’t you give him a chance, Eli?”

That was two months ago. Now he was on a prototype air balloon heading into space with none other than Eli Rush. Even the guys on his block – the ones who made fun of his astronomy posters and bent for physics – had heard of the scientist. Ky didn’t know much about their mission, only that he was to man the balloon while Dr. Rush worked in his lab.

Ky dragged his gaze away from the window and wiped his sweating palms on his Captain America T-shirt. He was barely in his twenties, lanky, with rich dark skin and black hair tied in a short ponytail. His face was thin and alert – his eyes quick. He was used to fighting for what he wanted because up until now he’d never been handed anything.

“Well?”

Ky jumped. Eli Rush had entered the control room, watching him with indifferent eyes.

“Sir, thank you again. This is amazing –”

“I have no time for wasted words, Mr. Hamilton.” Dr. Rush moved to the control panel. His voice was slow, deliberate.

Ky ducked his head. “Yes sir. But –”

“Let me guess,” Rush interrupted. “You want to know exactly why we are here. What does Eli Rush have left to prove? Sure, no one’s made it past the earth’s exosphere in a balloon, but what would doing so achieve?”

Rush picked up that morning’s paper, dated April 6, 2065. Ky had brought it on board as a souvenir. “Famous scientist plans to launch lab in the stars,” Rush read the headline aloud mockingly. “Yes, I suppose that’s part of it. To conduct research in peace amidst the galaxies – who wouldn’t want that? But mostly I’m just tired of earth. I guess this is an escape.”

“Sir?”

“We’re going to be one step ahead of them, you and I.”

“Yes, but –” Ky hesitated. “How long will we be up there for?”

“What, already homesick?” there was a faint sneer in his voice. Dr. Rush turned away, glancing out the window. He was a narrowly-built man with greying hair and broad cheekbones that carved furrows in his face. Ky was physically taller, but Eli Rush’s impassive face and unruffled intelligence somehow dwarfed him.

Ky bit his lip, saying nothing as Rush took a shiny four-leaf clover sticker out of his pocket. He peeled off the back and stuck it on the control panel.

“For luck,” he said, in response to Ky’s unasked question. “Now make yourself comfortable.”

Rush disappeared inside his lab, leaving Ky alone in the control room with his thoughts. He surveyed the compartment, once again appreciating the attention to detail. It was compact and well-designed, with a built-in oxygen ventilation system.

Two of Rush’s inventions – a miniature atmospheric green house and an advanced mechanism that uses compressed hydrogen and oxygen to produce water – were installed in the storage space below.

The large, pressurized silver balloon above them had been checked and rechecked. As long as the interior density remained lower than the ambient density, they would rise.

Hours passed; Ky lost track of time. The balloon jerked violently and he lost his balance. Sliding forward he hit his elbow painfully against the wall. Eyes watering, he crawled towards the control panel. The balloon was careening dizzyingly; they were losing speed. And altitude.

Swallowing back the panic rising in his throat, Ky clutched at the wall, trying to find a hold. Another jolt knocked him down again. The turbulence made it hard to concentrate.

Just then, Dr. Rush stepped over him calmly, bracing himself against the control panel. His long fingers danced rapidly over the buttons and his lips moved silently as though he were carrying out a long-rehearsed manoeuvre.

Gradually the balloon levelled out. “A slight miscalculation,” Rush clarified. “We should leave the earth’s exosphere any moment. Buckle up, Mr. Hamilton.”

At first, nothing seemed to change. Then Ky stared, awestruck, as a lone sheet of paper rose off the control panel and floated around the room. They’d done it! He felt as though he were both motionless and flying simultaneously. Ky let out a hollow yell of triumph.

Rush remained silent. Both men watched as the earth curved below them – a perfect orb of blue and green. They were surrounded in endless nothingness. Ky strained to expand his view beyond the limiting rectangular strip of glass.

The closest he’d ever felt to this was seeing a dim version through the cheap telescope he and his mom built on the balcony of their rented apartment. But being here was another thing entirely. It was other-worldly.

Ky wanted to say something clever like those first astronauts who waxed eloquent as they saw their planet from space. But he just started babbling idiotically.

Rush stared out the window hungrily. “Beautiful as ever,” he muttered.

Space travel was not uncommon for the rich or famous, Ky remembered bitterly. “I always wanted to see this myself,” he said. “Pictures were never enough for me.”

On the control panel the gleaming four-leaf clover winked benevolently, perhaps signalling a better future. Ky imagined his mom somewhere on that blue planet, looking up at him through their telescope. He felt an ache somewhere deep inside. “This is for both of us,” he whispered.

Then he turned to Rush. “I’ve never had anything like this before. I’m not even very good at making friends.”

“We have something in common then,” Rush said sardonically.

“Why did you choose me, sir?”

The scientist studied him. “I could be generic and say it’s because you’re smart, or because you have guts. But really, I wanted someone who would appreciate being here – someone who needed to be here. That’s why I chose you.”

A tiny idea buzzed in Ky’s brain. “Is there something you’re not telling me, sir?”

Rush didn’t respond, and Ky cleared his throat. “Um sir, the contract I signed never specified the length of this mission.”

“Didn’t it?” Rush looked up a little sadly. “That’s unfortunate, Mr. Hamilton.” He caught the floating sheet of paper and handed it to Ky. “This may make things clearer,” he said.

The words blurred, and the only part Ky saw distinctly was the end date.

Unknown.

Rush smiled thinly. “Don’t worry, we have enough supplies on board to last us very, very long time.”

January third

Parking garage
Mike Wilson photo

He is late. I stare out the window, watching as rain trickles down the glass, making the city lights outside an indistinct blur. The restaurant is almost empty. Although I’ve lived in Oakland for close to a decade, I’d never heard of this Chinese diner until Chris suggested we meet here. But now it’s getting late. He’s not coming.

The server comes over, handing me my bill and a fortune cookie wrapped in cellophane. I pay for my spring rolls and leave. I wish it wasn’t raining; it always rains on January third. Pulling my jacket over my head, I dash across the street to the underground garage where I left my car. I have to use the stairwell because the elevator is broken. My cellphone rings.

“Amie. It’s me.” The reception isn’t good, and his voice sounds crackly.

“I waited for an hour – where the hell are you?” I feel a pang of guilt. I haven’t talked to my brother in eight years, and now I’m yelling at him.

“I’m sorry,” I say, exhaling slowly to steady my voice. “It’s just…”

“I know. I shouldn’t have picked today.” His voice sounds strange.

“Where are you?”

“In the parking garage.”

I peer around uneasily. The garage is small, with a low ceiling, flickering florescent lights and an $11-dollar flat rate. “Like the one across the street from the Chinese place?”

I hear gravel skittering across the pavement and turn quickly. The man coming towards me is no longer a meager eighteen-year-old kid with straggly blond facial hair. Now he’s over six-foot-five. And jacked.

But I am still angry at the pale-faced boy with the new uniform and crew cut who never said goodbye.

“What happened?”

He is shaking, and I can see beads of sweat on his forehead. “I find it easier in a place like this. All those bright lights – the people. My psychiatrist says it’s the adjustment – coming back from over there.”

“You have a psychiatrist?”

“There’s a lot of things you don’t know about me, little sister.”

“I’m not your little sister,” I snap. I am four years older.

Chris steps closer, towering over me. “No?”

“What do you want? You think you can disappear for so long and then just show up? On the anniversary of mom’s death?” My throat is so tight it’s hard to form the words. “I’ve lived through this day every year for eight years. Alone. And now you come back?”

“I wish I wrote to you when I was overseas,” Chris says. “Then maybe you’d understand what I’ve been through.” His voice is hard.

“I’m leaving.” I turn blindly away, not quite sure where my car is.

“I think you dropped something.” Chris holds a fortune cookie in his hand.

I shake my head. “It’s not mine.”

He tosses the cookie at me, and I catch it without thinking. “It might be bad luck not to open it,” he says.

I break the cookie, glancing impatiently at the paper in my hand. Your mom didn’t die alone.

What the…? I start trembling all over. Chris watches me, his eyes glittering in the darkness. I back away, my heart pounding in my ears.

I try not to be irrational, but I cannot help the rush of panic inside of me. Mom died in a skiing accident when Chris was seventeen. She’d gone over a drop and when he found her, it had been too late. At least…

It’s just a fortune cookie.

But in the bluish light, anything seems possible. Everything – the scared little boy who escaped to the army – it all suddenly seems different. There is a buzzing somewhere. I cannot tell if it is coming from the garage or from inside my head.

“You left without saying goodbye. You didn’t even go to mom’s funeral.”

That day tore us apart. My hand closes into a fist and I realize I’ve just crushed the cookie. I let the powdery crumbs fall on the asphalt.

“I just needed to get away from there,” Chris runs his hand over his eyes.

“You could have moved. I moved.”

“It wasn’t enough. Mom was everywhere – I could see her, feel her.”

“You were the only one with her when she died.”

He just looks at me.

“You weren’t too late, were you?”

Suddenly, I am yelling. Sobbing and shouting at the same time. “You were there! Why would you lied to me?”

“What are you accusing me of?” His voice is calm, so deadly calm.

I remember where I am. Alone in a parking garage with an estranged brother who could kill me with his bare hands. But I don’t care anymore. I cannot stand hating him forever.

“Why did you tell me you weren’t with her?”

“So it takes a fortune cookie for you to accept the truth.” Chris laughs bitterly.

I find it hard to breathe. How could he know?

“I tried to tell you before,” his voice cracks. “But you didn’t want to hear it back then. You said you wouldn’t forgive me if I was there when she died. So I just…said I wasn’t.”

“What happened?” My voice comes out cold and flat, even to my own ears.

“I was there with mom. I watched her die,” Chris says unevenly. “I even saw someone ski by above us, but I was so freaked out I didn’t call for help. I just froze. I didn’t know what to do. I –”

My whole body is shaking, desperate to know more. “Was she conscious?” My words sound like a moan. “Did she say anything?”

He is crying now, like a child. The words are sucked out of me, so I just stand there. I remember feeling numb for months after mom died. But I don’t remember shutting him out.

“Did you really try to tell me?”

“Yes.”

He sounds so broken I cannot help believing him, and I reach for the only tangible thing I can think of. “The fortune cookie – that was you?”

“I couldn’t lie anymore,” he says. “I just couldn’t.”

Turning pages

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Ilana Reimer photo

“What are you trying to tell me?” Emma demanded. “Don’t you get it? I’m finally happy now, and you’re not going to change that.”

Matt shook his head. “You don’t understand,” he said in a low voice.

Emma didn’t seem to hear him, and he began to feel desperate. The train rattled around a bend. There was only one more stop before he had to get off; they were running out of time.

Matt brushed the hair impatiently out of his eyes. “Can you come to my apartment tonight?”

It was stupid, and he knew it. He had been afraid of this. Afraid that she would come alive in his imagination and take over his thoughts. But there she was, perched on the edge of her seat, with her dark hair falling out of a messy braid. In the flickering light, he could just make out the pink streaks, and he smiled, liking how they looked. But Emma turned towards him, her narrow face sharp and accusing.

“I don’t even know where you live,” she whispered harshly. “I’ve known you for six months and you know everything about me, but I know nothing about you!”

Matt bit his lip. “Yeah. Not many people do.”

Continue reading “Turning pages”

The Folio Society

Folio Society

The morns are meeker than they were – 

The nuts are getting brown – 

The berry’s cheek is plumper – 

The Rose is out of town.

The Maple wears a gayer scarf – 

The field a scarlet gown – 

Lest I should be old fashioned

I’ll put a trinket on.

~ Emily Dickinson

Every day, countless books are designed and laid out. Someone slaps a photo on the cover, they’re printed, bound and stuck on a shelf.

But some books are lovingly type set and crafted by hands that value not only the words inside, but also the very art of making a book.

Today, for the very first time, I held in my hands a book published by the Folio Society. The Folio Society, founded in London in 1947, exists not merely to keep fine literature alive, but to print beautiful copies of these books that will be treasured for a lifetime and inherited by loved ones.

This particular book was given to me by my neighbour – who knows me well – for my twentieth birthday. Titled, Autumn: A Folio Anthology, the cover displays a gorgeous design of orange, purple and gold oak leaves. The book was bound in Italy, and it smells like sharp, clean paper.

My birthday just so happens to land in autumn, my favourite season. I love that even though fall returns each year with unvarying consistency, it still does not fail to draw forth passionate verses from the lords of prose, both past and present. This unceasing awe at a reoccurring thing is a gift I hope humanity never loses.

But unfortunately, I did not enter this world during the rich hues of September or the blue skies of October. I came during November, a month that looks more like the dejected preamble to winter. Thus, I don’t really associate my birthday with autumn.

And yet, this book felt like a magnificent reminder that I still share this season, and that I can boast in all its former flaming glory. In fact, now that the reality has faded outside my window, the book has even greater value, because it allows me to recreate a beauty that has disappeared.

More than that, the thought and care that went into its creation is a rare thing in our fast-paced, consumer-driven world. It is heartening to see people who still recognize the potential for beauty in everything – even when there seems to be no logic. You can buy an e-book for a fraction of the cost. But there is little sense of value in it. Yet when I unwrapped this book, I knew that it had already been cherished, long before it was ever opened.

Therein lies the precious element that defeats all logic.

~ Ilana Reimer

London fog

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Monet

“Without the fog London would not be a beautiful city. It is the fog that gives it it’s magnificent breadth. Those massive, regular blocks become grandiose within that mysterious cloak.” ~ Claude Monet

He is an artist and a poet all in one. Tonight I spent several hours in the National Art Gallery in Ottawa, and was struck by how these painters recognized beauty in the smallest things. More than that, they cared enough to sit, be still, and recreate these moments – immortalizing them forever with paint and canvas. Nowadays, we just snap a picture that gets lost in an album on our phone. Or maybe, if it’s good enough, it’ll go on Instagram.

Continue reading “London fog”

Snippets from a small town part 2

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Ilana Reimer photo

July 16, 1972

LOST CAT FOUND

Maureen, don’t expect me to defend your treatment of animals ever again! I am utterly astounded that the creature should belong to you, and outraged that you should have added yet another subject to the long list of incidents my husband will never forget.

–          Kari Fisher

WANTED AD: UPDATE

Receptionist position at Sandler’s & Co. Barristers has been filled. Candidate met all requirements, being a Harvard graduate, 26 years old, with Audrey Hepburn style and manners. Moreover, she speaks in monosyllables – something other applicants would have done well to imitate.

–          Norman Sandler, barrister

Continue reading “Snippets from a small town part 2”

Snippets from a small town

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Ilana Reimer photo

Brackleton is a town of 2,000 with an energetic newspaper, titled the Brackleton Herald. Each week it publishes a page with jobs wanted, notices, public complaints, invitations or anything in general that anybody in Brackleton wants to say about pretty well anything.

July 9, 1972 

LOST CAT

Found a mangy specimen lurking outside the garden shed yesterday morning. Looks like it was once a tabby. Jerry thinks it’s Maureen’s, but I said that no cat belonging to Maureen Kingsley could look so woebegone. If you own this animal, kindly call 822-776-0420 and retrieve your property.

–       Kari and Jerry Fisher

WANTED:

Receptionist wanted at Sandler’s & Co. Barristers. Educated girl between 25 and 35 with nice manners and style. Preferably with not too many opinions and the ability to keep her mouth shut.

–       Norman Sandler, barrister

REGARDING THE FUTURE OF OUR CHILDREN

I speak on behalf of many by bringing forth the sad state of the young people in this town. Yet again, I found smashed beer bottles in front of St. Stephen’s Church, and only last week, some half a dozen hooligans where seen crowded into what  appeared to be a stolen rickshaw; they were being pulled by several more troublemakers down the main street, hooting and hollering all the way. It is a disgrace, and something must be done! I am very much afraid that these rascals are going nowhere – fast.

–          Rosemary Wilks, president of the Brackleton Women’s Institute

Continue reading “Snippets from a small town”

The question mark of hope

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Ilana Reimer photo

Her

I was twenty-three. It was the start of a summer that bore no resemblance to what I had imagined.

My world has always been a beautiful place, and where reality fell short, my imagination never failed to step in, supplementing these disappointments with ingenious fantasies.

But these days my daydreams had faded, as though they were left too long in the wind and rain. They were threadbare.

I never thought, when I was little, that the edges of my world would be darkened like this.

Him

I’ve never been good at thinking much farther than each day, each week. If I looked too far ahead, my chest tightened and my head would start aching. It was better to focus on breathing; on living each day.

My mom left town when I was a kid. After that, I made a promise to myself that I would never walk away from someone I loved. But I did. It was one of those things I never could have predicted – and it ate away at my mind until I was afraid there would be nothing left.

Heartache isn’t all it’s cut out to be. It doesn’t turn you into a poet. Neither does poetry provide any solace. Heartache is like a nagging thought at the back of your mind – like a memory you can’t erase. Like a sentence left hanging that you wish you could finish.

Continue reading “The question mark of hope”

Just my cup of tea

chai tea

Pixelant via Flickr

The kettle whistles softly, but with growing urgency. I lift it off the burner and pour the boiling water into my mug, letting it saturate the tea bag. I watch as the fragrant spices begin to stain the liquid a rich red-brown.

I take a deep breath of cinnamon. The steamy warmth fills my nostrils and exudes a sensation of utter comfort. Wrapping my fingers around the red ceramic mug, I feel my heart-rate slow.

I could say this is a ritual, but it feels more like a relationship.

Continue reading “Just my cup of tea”

One night

It’s weird how one’s perspective changes with the passage of time. When I was six I thought it was cool to wear rain boots 24-7 and prance around the neighbourhood dressed in a toga made from a bed sheet. Needless to say, my opinion has changed since then. Back then I also regarded my older brother James with intense dislike, bordering on something more dangerous. To be sure, I still can’t make up my mind about him, and some days I still wish he was never born, but mostly I just love him in that half grudging, relentless way that sisters do.

Continue reading “One night”

Looking for roses

It had been raining all day. The city lights were reflected on the wet pavement, making it glisten crimson, yellow and blue. Kathryn stepped into the street, breathing in the scent of freshly fallen rain. It had been a long day and she was tired, but she could not help being struck by the shimmer that the rain had cast over everything. Stopping, she adjusted her bright green scarf and gazed upwards, past the lit skyscrapers into the velvety blackness above. Impatient pedestrians brushed past her on the narrow sidewalk, but Kathryn remained still. Cold droplets hit her cheeks, making them tingle, and somewhere out of sight she heard a street busker strike up his guitar. A surge of joy swept through Kathryn. For the first time in years, she felt truly alive. She shuddered, remembering her colourless existence just a few months ago. What had changed?

Continue reading “Looking for roses”

Would You Tell Him to Pull the Trigger?

Abortion is a tough issue that we so often avoid discussing. But how can we afford to stay silent when the lives of innocent children are at risk? Not to mention the devasting side-effects that abortion procedures have on the women who experience them. Most abortions are performed because of inconvenient or accidental pregnancies. However, a smaller percentage take place because of rape. But even in such terrible circumstances, is abortion acceptable?

A friend of mine wrote a powerful short story to help answer this difficult question. Please read and share. :)

http://tmblr.co/Zto9yo1860SIv

Precious Moments

little girl

“Daddy, Daddy, me help you! Pleeeease?” The tiny child tugs on her father’s arm, her blonde curls bouncing and her blue eyes wide and pleading.

He stops on his way to the tool shed and looks down at his daughter. Her excitement is infectious, and his heart melts, even though he knows his simple task will now take twice as long. It doesn’t matter. What matters is the look of sheer joy on her face as he nods.

“All right then, sweetheart, climb aboard and let’s find our tools.” He lifts her up on his shoulders and bears her away, squealing with delight.

The tool shed is cool and dark – a contrast to the glaring sun.

The little girl prances around, demanding, “We need this, Daddy? Do we need this?” for just about everything.

Finally, he disentangles himself and pulls out a heavy shovel.

“I carry that!” she offers, with ignorant confidence in her own ability. Jokingly, he lets her try to lift it.

“Here, why don’t you ride in the wheelbarrow, instead?” he suggests, laughing at her futile attempts.

In she clambers, chattering away self-importantly, honestly believing that “Daddy couldn’t get along without her.”

He pushes her around the house and tips her out onto the grass, tickling her and listening to her belly laugh.

“Stop, stop! We work to do,” she reminds him earnestly.

“Right you are. Now, where do you think we should dig the holes?”

She scrunches up her chubby face, pondering the question. “Right…here,” she decides, pointing to the ground beside her.

“Begonias survive best in shady places. So wouldn’t they be better near the house, were they will be protected from the sun?”

She pouts, “Fine…”

“Here, why don’t you help me step on the shovel?”

Together they push down into the soft earth. She rides the shovel, laughing as it disappears into the dirt.

“Again! Again!”

So they do it again and again, till the garden is full of holes, and both of them are tired and dirty.

“Me worked hard!” the mite announces with satisfaction as she toddles behind her father.

He does not contradict her, but smilingly hangs up the tools. As he locks the door she slips her tiny hand into his and asks,

“Tomorrow too?”

~ Ilana Reimer

A Second Chance

second chance

Stefan Lins via Flickr

Savannah Poitras fought her way across the jammed airport, trying to find the departure lounge. Finally, she dodged through the sea of blue wool suits, and sank down beside her mother.

Mrs. Poitras was sitting gingerly on the edge of a plastic airport seat. She looked rigidly calm, but she was applying and re-applying her lipstick clumsily. Picking up a dog-eared Canadian Art magazine, Savannah skimmed through it uneasily, and then tossed it back on the rack. She picked up another and repeated the process.

“Well, did they give any reasons for the delay?” her mother asked impatiently.

“No,” Savannah responded without enthusiasm. “They said the plane should be ready to board in about half an hour.”

Mrs. Poitras shut the pocket mirror she was using to touch up her dark mascara.

“What you said wasn’t true, you know,” she said slowly, looking directly at Savannah. “I don’t want to replace you; I just want to make our family complete again.”

Complete again? Their family had never been complete! Savannah closed her eyes, fighting the barrage of memories from the past few months. But they came flooding back with her mother’s words.

Continue reading “A Second Chance”

A Night in Ottawa

 

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Image credit: Mikey G. via funpoper.com

As Miriam stepped onto the street she was greeted by the familiar smell of rain. The air was warm and slightly humid, making her feel as though she were breathing through a thin layer of cotton. The rain had petered out into a light mist, which made everything appear softer somehow.

Ottawa at night was always a spectacular sight – with the glowing skyscrapers pointing up into the sky, and brilliant lights shining in all sorts of colours – red, green, orange and blue. The wet pavement acted like a mirror, reflecting the neon lights and making them look like an abstract painting. The cement was slippery, and Miriam skidded along the street, feeling ridiculously happy. Rain was romantic, whatever anybody said.

She took a deep breath and stopped to stare up at the infinite blackness above her. The sky had never seemed so very close before. For once she didn’t mind that all she could see of it was the narrow strip that was visible between the towering office buildings on either side. People brushed past her on the crowded sidewalk, damp and out of sorts. Nobody wanted to linger in that narrow side street. After all, it was Friday, and they were eager to be home. But Miriam was in no hurry. She was alive to the colours and the sounds of cars honking, and banjo music playing from a street busker on the corner. It was as though she were experiencing it all for the first time. And as a matter of fact, she was.

Ilana Reimer

The Poetry Book

  Old books     

      It was a sticky August day. The kind of day that made you feel as though the air was trying to suffocate you. But the slender young woman standing in the barn doorway paid no attention to the heat.

      Slowly, she stepped inside. The barn was shadowy and smelled like ancient dust and stale grain. In the corner there stood a cobwebby bookshelf crammed with yellowed volumes. Books were also stacked beside an old rocking chair that sat by the window. The scene made the young woman stand still; she smothered a sob and closed her eyes.

      “Hanna? Come in, sweetheart. I have something to show you.”

  “What is it, Grandad?” 10-year-old Hanna asked, her eyes bright with curiosity.
Her grandfather ran his finger along the spines of the books. His library was one of the special places that he and Hanna shared.
  “Ahh, here it is. Why don’t you sit on my lap? You know, your great grandfather bought me this book, 20th Century Poetry, when I went to university. Look, see the date on the front? September 26, 1962. Some of the most beautiful poems ever written are contained in these pages. I want you to have it because I know you will treasure it like I do.”
Hanna took the book reverently, and kissed his cheek. “I will take good care of it, Grandad!”
  “I know you will, dear heart.”

      Hanna opened her eyes, trying to hold back her tears as she stared at the empty rocking chair. She dug through her purse and pulled out the worn poetry book.

  “I used this all through college,” she said unsteadily. “But it belongs here, with the rest of your library.” Silently she placed the book on top of the stack beside the rocking chair.

  “Goodbye Grandad,” she whispered. “Thank you.”

 

~ Ilana Reimer