In the used bookstore at lunch escaping my work computer loaded with musts and shoulds, I am conscious how I stick out among the jean clad students cramming and the time-served retirees relaxing. Students slouch over tables their coffee mugs steaming industriously. Two older-than-me women hold down the wing chairs in the window, displaying leisure. One holds a pink highlighter uncapped and clamped between her index finger and thumb, cocked and ready to mark the noteworthy on the page in front of her. Her cup is not steaming. She sips anyway. Continue reading
On the phone my cousin asked me “What are you reading?” and I was stunned into momentary silence because this isn’t a question I’m often asked. Knowing his reading is as vast as the prairies I was afraid to answer “short stories” for the only form less appealing to the reading world is poetry.
“Truth is like poetry and most people fucking hate poetry.” – from The Big Short
I’m also reading poetry but I didn’t tell him that. Continue reading
They have been at a great feast of languages, and stolen the scraps.
from Love’s Labour’s Lost – Shakespeare
Advice I am ignoring: Read widely.
According to literary pundits, reading widely will make me a better writer. However, if you work full time and have a few kids to raise, and take seriously the other pundit proclamation that to be a good writer you must write – a lot – what’s a body to do? Continue reading
I’m having an affair with a poet. It started in the library – of course – over lunchtime. I was hungry and in a hurry and planned to get in and out as fast as possible. Never go to the library on an empty stomach. Continue reading
Summers brought activity in the house to a boil. University aged children – offspring of family friends – came to work on the docks or in the fish packing plant run by my father. They lived with us and were looked out for by my mother who also cared for me, my sister, two brothers and my dad. Mom and my sister made lunches for all, assembling three or four thick sandwiches for each young man, enough to last the whole day. Continue reading
I was half cocked that day in August when the light lost its ascendancy. Do you know the day I mean? It happens around the same time as cicadas begin buzzing and throbbing and crickets creak like a thousand wooden rocking chairs on shady wooden porches. I never anticipate what day it will happen. It just happens. Continue reading
It was already hot as I walked the dog at 9:30 this morning along one of our customary routes on a wooded path that follows a creek. Not Bermuda-in-July hot, but hot enough that the little beast began to pant by the time we reached the end of the front walkway. Hot enough that the birds had already taken shelter deep in the musty interior of cedar hedges. Hot enough that I grew a sweat moustache. But not Bermuda-in-July hot.
Our destination was a loop around a small duck pond, perhaps a distance of ½ a kilometre (about 1/3 of a mile for the non-metric ). In that short distance I could have filled a kitchen sized garbage bag with pop cans and bottles, Styrofoam fast food containers, take-out coffee cups, cigarette butts and empty packages, plastic grocery bags, and water bottles, a pink cardigan, a toddler’s sandal, a bathing suit, a baseball hat, and a bicycle tire inner tube. Continue reading
I was in a hurry. Canada Post threatened strike action so I sent the story to you – with a witty cover letter – by courier without addressing you by name. Afterwards, dear editor, I bought your magazine in the local bookstore and there was your name on the right hand side of page five, at the top of the sidebar. But why, oh why, dear editor, couldn’t I find it on the magazine’s website?
Canada Post didn’t strike, but now my story sits on your desk in limbo, dear editor. I feel for the poor posties – the whole bread and roses thing – I get it. Everyone wants “…a sharing of life’s glories.” They’re about to become obsolete those door-to-door donkeys with their hip bruising cross-body saddle bags. And what about the inside postal workers – do they even exist anymore? Maybe it’s just a bunch of robotic arms sifting through the small pile of postcards and bills and ad mail, clawed metal fingers passing them by an electronic eye, scanning the postal codes.
But I was in a rush and your website, beautifully garlanded with admirable writers who no doubt know you personally, did not include your name or the names of any of your staff. I bet a robot would have passed you by knowing there was no point in sending it in without your name. I, however, am only human.
Is it too late to ask for my story back? I’ll send you the self-addressed stamped envelope. I’d rather not wait the requisite three to six months for the rejection and, more importantly, I’d rather not waste your time. I wonder, though, is there an artificial intelligence (AI) coming soon to do the job of editor?
I read that an AI program co-produced a novella that made it through the first round of a literary competition. Believable characters were written by a robot, the kind of characters that get under your big toenail like that dot of dirt in the corner that won’t come out. I bet the robot scoured the World Wide Web for contest judge names before sending in its entry, dear editor. So smart.
We are being chased, dear editor, our feet seemingly anchored with lead shot. Behind us runs a shiny silver being, clearly articulated joints pumping, lubricated limbs silently keeping pace, and soon I fear it will pass us both with its flawlessly arced narrative. (When did story become narrative and when did climax become arc and would an AI writer even quibble about this?) AI has no need for bread and roses, does it? Just a drop of WD40 and a speed-of-light microchip with the brains of Margaret Atwood and Albert Einstein and Alan Turing.
Dear editor, I’m embarrassed. A self-addressed stamped envelope is enclosed. Please return my story and let’s forget this happened.
Coffee in hand, I surveyed our tiny garden from the back deck, in the shade of the burgeoning cherry tree. I didn’t expect a call to battle. Continue reading
It’s the little things. Like a bike ride along a riverside path and seeing a swan glide in the river, inhaling clover scented air, and watching purple cow vetch – which unlike the name, is really pretty – tussle with lanky milkweed as I pedal by. Continue reading