Monday, May 30, 2011

Red, White & Blue

This is my son, Angus.
This is the photo I'm saving for his wedding day.
I took it last weekend on our camping trip to Balsam Lake. It was Canada's first long weekend of precious summer and I share it with you now because it's the States' first long weekend of summer and I thought Gus' colour scheme seemed appropriate. Red berries, white whipped cream, blue hair.
I didn't want to let him get it dyed blue. I tried every reason I could think of to talk him out of it.
1. You have beautiful blonde hair; why do you want to screw it up?
2. People will tease you.
3. Old ladies have blue hair. Next thing you know you'll be schlepping about in knee-highs and support hose.
Finally I realized it's just hair. It'll grow back. And since I radically changed the colour of my own hair, I can't really talk.
Gus has had peacock-coloured hair for a month or so now and I'm actually getting used to it.
I think my concern about the hair wasn't anything to do with hair. I worry about who he is hanging out with. I wonder if the rebellious hair colour means he's rebellious in other parts of his life: is he experimenting with drugs? Is he smoking? Is he drinking? These are the things that really freak me out. He's only 14 and I see so many young people who have ruined their lives with oxycontin and drunk driving. And I sure hope he never gets anyone pregnant or quits school.
His hormones are kicking in and he seems angry a lot. He fights with his brother all the time – it just drives me up the wall. He lies to us with a straight face about unimportant things – all I can do is hope he's telling us the truth about the important things. I remember being like this. Man, I wouldn't go back to being a teenager for anything. It was probably the worst time of my life. So much rides on getting through this trying time unscathed. All I can do is try to show him the way, pick my battles and keep the lines of communication open.
Some days, though, I find it overwhelming; depressing.
It sure makes me appreciate what my own parents went through.

By the way, everybody's been complaining about Blogger lately, and I'm no exception. I have found, however, that the problems disappear if I switch Browsers. For example, I usually use Safari but last week when Blogger took a big dump and then sort of recovered, my Safari left me stranded. I couldn't comment on other people's blogs, I couldn't post to my own.
The first fix I tried was updating all the software on my computer. Then I switched to Firefox. As a result, I can comment on any Blogger site and post to my own without problems.
I'm not saying that justifies Blogger's screw-ups because I'm just as pissy as everybody else, but it does help.

I've been working on a summer publication at work these last two weeks and our theme has been summer music. As a result this song has been running a loop in my head. It speaks to me of golden summer days and, hey, it's about hair!

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

An Apple for my Teacher: Oprah

Excuse the tears. 
I had to write this while it was fresh, while the raggedy paths on my face were still wet.
Oprah, I'll miss you.
You looked fine in your pink dress tonight. And your hair was fantastic. Lord knows, you've had yourself some wicked hairstyles in the past 25 years but tonight it was beautiful, all bouncy loose curls brushing against your pink cheeks. You looked slender and regal, composed and wise. How did you get so wise?
I haven't been your biggest fan. I can't lay claim to that, but I have been a fan. We've grown up together, after all. You've been like my slightly older sister, the smart one, who I haven't always paid attention to, but should have. Every once in a while you'd grab my ear and I'd lean forward on the edge of the chesterfield and my eyes would well up and I would get you, get you right here in my pounding heart. After 25 years, you'd think I would have learned all your lessons. Tonight, though, watching your final show, it was like I was hearing them for the first time.
Follow your calling, you said. 
You are responsible for your own life, your own happiness, you said. 
You are worthy, you said. This is what struck me the hardest. It was like you slapped me upside the head with it. You are worthy. Everyone, you said, is missing the same thing in their lives. Everyone. You. Me. Our parents. Our children. We all want validation. We all want to be heard. It was like I heard this for the first time. "I am worthy." I bawled like a baby. Then and there I decided to make sure the people in my life know they matter to me. Angus, Sam, Dave and Mom, my sister and my brother, all my family, all my friends: you are worthy. You matter. You are every bit as important in this world as everyone else and more so, to me. Sometimes it may seem that I don't hear you, that I'm not listening, but I hear you where it counts, in my heart, and I know I need to tell you this all the time, especially you, Angus and Sam, especially you, because in your growing years, in your hours of fear and uncertainty, I know you need to hear that you are valuable, that you are important, that you are loved. No matter how many times I holler at you, know that I never, ever stop believing in you or loving you.
Funny, Oprah, that you always wanted to be a teacher. Funny that it took 25 years for your lessons to sink in – I never said I was the brightest kid in the classroom. I just want to say thanks for being my favourite teacher because, really, you are. I want you to know that tonight I do feel worthy, that writing in any form is my calling and I will accept that, even though I have never accepted it before. I have always sought confirmation; I wanted to feel my writing was worthy. But now it's all so clear. It is worthy. I'm worthy. I really am.
This apple's for you, Mizz Oprah, looking all pretty and pink.
This apple, and this post, is for you.
This apple, by the way, is called a Pink Lady.
I know you said there are no coincidences, Oprah,
but I didn't know what type of apple this was and, in fact,
never even heard of the Pink Apple, until I googled "apple."
And this came up.

Monday, May 23, 2011


I like sewing.
I'm terrible at it and I can't thread a sewing machine to save my life, although I do like the word bobbin.
Hand sewing, though, is a fish of a different feather.
Just now I sewed up some buttons on a button-down shirt that wants to be unbuttoned more than buttoned down or up, and that's fine in certain situations but not when you're at work, or at the market – anywhere showing off your gallbladder scar isn't your first priority.
I got Grandma's sewing basket out of the closet and found some inconspicuous grey thread. The price tag was still on the spool: 29 cents. You pretty much can't buy anything for 29 cents anymore. I think even 29 cents would cost more than 29 cents.
Dave had to help me thread the needle. I tried cutting the end, licking it, all my limited tricks. The worst my eyes get the harder this job is. Finally I pouted enough that Dave got the job done for me.
Then I sewed.
An immense satisfaction soaked through my fingers and into my bones. The feeling of getting a job done; of fulfilling a task that was put off. There is nothing better.
In my house, sewing is always something put off until there is absolutely nothing else to do.
But today I am exhausted after unpacking from our long weekend camping trip. I am tired to the core, but the laundry is folded, the dishes are done and there are fresh sheets on the bed, waiting for me with scented comfortable softness.
And so, with rain pouring down outside and the leaves unfurling almost before my eyes; the air ripe with budding blossoms and the cat curled up asleep in the window sill, I sew.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Lost on the Rock

I took this photo in Newfoundland last fall. Click for a bigger view.

Path End wasn’t really the end. Main Street went north and it went south and Lacy Parsons wasn’t sure which direction to go.
She dallied, debating. 
The back of her legs stuck to the plastic seats of the rented Honda Fit. She raised them and listened to the sucking sound they made as a layer of skin got left behind. It was bloody hot in the parking lot of the Bell Island ferry service, where she’d just been dumped like a shipment of fresh fish. She had wanted a flight from New York to St. John’s but couldn’t get one. Her best alternative was to Bell Island on a commuter flight. She’d never been there before; couldn’t even fathom there was a necessity for a commuter flight to the godforsaken place.
At least she got there. And she got a car, such as it was. No air conditioning. No automatic. Just a kiddy-car with cherry-cola coloured paint.
She thought that maybe she should unstick herself from the car and go into the office; see if they sold maps, or maybe just ask for directions. She didn’t, though because she was from here, just been away for a long time, and if you were from here, you’d be thought foolish for buying a map.
Nothing ventured, she thought, putting the Japanese go-kart into drive and making a right because right was north and St. John’s was north and that’s where her parents lived, in a wartime bungalow on Topsail Road.
Lacy hadn’t been home since she went away for college. Nine years ago, that was, with a whole lot of bends in the road between now and then. She’d quit school, left the country, toured Europe with a backpack and a boy, gotten pregnant, gotten an abortion, found a career, found a life, found out her dad was dying and, Lacy, could you please come home and say good-bye?
Something flashed in the rear-view mirror. Lacy looked behind her and saw a silver SUV, a Jeep Compass. The sun was reflecting off the distinctive chrome grille. She flicked down the mirror and drove around Path End Cove, keeping to the right at the Y intersection, following the water, following her gut.
The flash caught her attention again. She looked in the driver’s mirror and was startled at how close the Jeep was. Sure, things were closer than they appeared, but this was really close. She frowned. Stupid tailgater. 
Lefevres Road went by. Jorgensons Road. Fir Tree Road. Lacy wondered where the fir trees were. There weren’t many on the Rock. Not like the giants in the Adirondacks of New York State. Like everything else in Newfoundland, the black spruce were huddled against the wind, clinging to the lichen, humped and stunted.
A slow driver ahead, some old guy in a hat, and Lacy flipped her rearview mirror back into position to see if it was safe to pass him. The road was clear. She wondered briefly where the Jeep had gone.
There wasn’t much to see as she headed north. Here and there moose standing like dark sentries to the muddy swamps; glimpses of freighters on the ocean horizon; small pastel houses with rusty pick-up trucks in the driveways.
Bulls Cove. Gripe Cove Pond. Bolands Pond. Long Pond. The place names flew by, the sun made its way down the sky and Lacy noticed the Jeep following her in the distance. 
But no, it wasn’t there. The road behind was empty.
A sideroad to Mortier Arm and there was the Jeep, waiting at the intersection.
Of course it wasn’t that Jeep. Just another silver Compass, dark tinted windows, and how many could there be here? 
She blew past it, wondering, waiting to see which direction the Jeep would take. But it didn’t move. Just sat at the intersection, becoming a dot in the distance as Lacy moved ahead towards Mortier.
She was going to stop in the village for gas but as she was about to pull in to the mom ‘n pop gas bar, she saw a silver Jeep Compass at the pumps. 
Lacy swung the car back out onto the highway, gravel crunching, tires squealing. Her heart hammered in her chest.
What the hell, she thought, and put her foot down hard on the accelerator, hoping to put some distance between herself and the Compass as it fueled up.
It couldn’t be the same vehicle.
There was only one road along here. It couldn’t have gotten ahead.
Lacy also realized that there couldn’t be that many people in this small area with the same vehicle. No way. 
She wondered if she was losing it.
When she got to Fox Cove there were plenty of little sideroads. Each one had a silver Jeep Compass, stopped at every intersection. She couldn’t see any drivers because of the window tints; she felt like they were big empty eyes, watching her.
As she got closer to Conways Pond and the sun disappeared she saw there was another silver Jeep following her. 
Alone in a strange place in the dark, with weird things happening, Lacy was acutely aware how vulnerable she was. She thought, I’ll stop at the next town. I’ll get a room. I’ll call my parents. I’ll buy a map, just let me get home safe.
Please, she thought.
Just past Herring Cove, the road ended at an abandoned fishing village. A few dark buildings lined the shore, but there were no lights other than the moonlight, washing the barren landscape with midnight blue. 
Over the hill came headlights.
The vehicle stopped. The engine died. The headlights dimmed.
The moonlight reflected off the Jeep’s silvery grille.
It winked at her in a gust of breezy salt.
Suddenly and strangely calm, Lacy got out of her car and walked toward it, her gauzy short summer skirt catching the ocean breeze, her long hair blowing in her eyes, her face set.
A Maritime song played lightly on the wind, the fiddle keening with high, bitter notes, the sadness of it misting off the windows of the abandoned buildings.
Lacy walked.
It waited, the silver shadow, the answer, the key, the end. 
"Dad?" she said.

I wrote this late at night an hour before the deadline for the Lost on the Rock contest hosted by Laurita Miller and Alan W. Davidson. Not surprisingly, it didn't fare well in the contest but I feel a little sorry for it and, with a little tweaking, I present it here for its moment in the fog.
Congratulations to all the winners – I look forward to seeing your stories.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Ka-Ching, ka-Ching

G.P. isn't the glass half empty sort...
here, she's got a glass full of girl.

I'M NOT A big-time book reviewer; I just know what I like. So if you’re looking for a breakdown and analysis of G.P. Ching’s The Soulkeepers, you just ain’t getting it here.
I did study English and Advanced English and Literature-Out-The-Wazoo-101 about a million years ago but I was young, then, and willing to speculate on sentence structure and now I’m just a weezly old curmudgeon who reads what she wants to read and screw the rest.
(Cue cackling laughter.) Dad-gummit, this is a good book.
I bought the thing for two reasons: I like the way G.P. Ching writes her Friday Flash stories over there on her blog, So, Write. She has a way around the keyboard, does G.P. The other reason is she was touting The Soulkeepers as a YA novel (that’s Young Adult for those not in the know) so I bought a Kindle copy for my sons who are 10 and 14 and may not always conduct themselves as young adults but still, technically, fit directly into that category.

I’m always trying to draw their attention away from video games towards reading and sometimes it’s a struggle. The good news is, Sam, my 10-year-old, dove into The Soulkeepers straight away. His nose was buried in it. And that’s no wonder, really. Unlike most YA novels whose main characters are girls, the star of this book is a teenaged boy, Jacob Lau, who starts out dead.
Yup, dead. 
Deader than a proverbial doornail. The first line is, “Death lived up to Jacob’s expectations.”
Whoa! Talk about your magnificent opening lines! G,P.’s writerly skills grab you by the shorts with this sentence and shake you and say, “You better hang on for this ride because it’s gonna be a lulu.”
Of course he gets resuscitated, and that’s a good thing because he’s a feisty character and a nice guy, plus he’s high on the cute scale so you don’t honestly want to see him dead for an entire novel.
No, dead wouldn’t be good for long, not when you have to search for your missing mother, who may or may not have secret ninja-like fighting abilities; not when you have a job with an otherworldly neighbour who grows plants that smell like corpses; definitely not when you have bullies willing to pound you out; or when the hottest girl in school is chasing you around even though you have a fabulous girlfriend; or when the battle between Good and Evil will be won or lost depending on you. 
By the way, I fell in love with Malini Gupta, Jacob's girlfriend. She is an exotic flower in a small, whitebread town, but she’s no wallflower. She holds her own with the best of them and, as Jacob meets and falls head over heels with her, so too does the reader. There’s a romantic scene about halfway through that literally brings tears to my eyes, so beautifully is it written.
My son, Sam, who still doesn’t think much of romance, was a little icked out on this point, but that’s because he’s at the bottom of the YA age range. (And thank gawd that he still finds girls icky, for now. Let him take his time with 10; he’ll be 50 soon enough.)

Thinking about the sequel, due for release this fall.

At some point Sam put the book down for a minute and I scooped it up. I wanted to see for myself what had him so interested.
Well, that was it. Sam never got it back. Those pesky Soulkeepers stole my readerly soul and towed me right through to the end. Breathlessly I skimmed through the pages, desperate to know what happened next. As I was driving home from work, or doing the dishes, my thoughts wandered to The Soulkeepers. I don’t actually have a lot of time for reading these days, but I found myself picking up the Kindle at every opportunity. Finally, I stayed up way too late the other night, flying through to the exciting conclusion. Then, being sad that it was over.
See, that’s the sign of a great book – when you can’t wait to get to the end and then you’re sad once you get there.
From what I’ve heard, G.P.’s book is selling like hotcakes and she’s gaining an impressive following of young people enamoured of Jacob and his adventures. She’s already talking about a sequel and I can easily see The Soulkeepers becoming as successful a franchise as the Harry Potter books.
What I love about this book is she doesn’t talk down to young people. Her writing is vintage G.P. – stylish yet clean; the kind of writing that lets you forget you’re in a book, so lost are you in the story. There are also some heavy duty issues lying underneath the plot line – racism and religion are touched on without heavy-handedness. The religious aspects have the same exploratory wonderment that The DaVinci Code has. In fact, I’d even go so far as comparing The Soulkeepers to Dan Brown’s book. Loved both.
You don’t need a kid as an excuse to buy G.P.’s book. Especially when it’s on sale over at Amazon for only 99 cents. (Which is ridiculous – this novel should definitely be higher priced.) But if you do need a kid, well, I’ll rent you mine. He’s not so great at doing dishes, or making his bed, but he is huggable and adorable and perfectly suited for motherly admiration.

Buy it. Read it. Love it.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

The Ants Go Squishy One By One

OK, I can put up with the odd ant running across the floor but when they're crawling across my arm as I'm writing, or climbing my ankle when I'm washing dishes, it's CLOBBERIN' TIME.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

My First Animated Video

Yes, I am the Francis Ford Coppola of the online animation crowd.
Thanks to my son, Sam, who is way more media savvy than moi, I wrote my first Go Animate script yesterday. I thought it was pretty cool until I heard it back.... funny, the computer voices don't read stuff properly and some of the words are completely garbled.
Still, this was big fun and I'm going to try again. 
If you want to make your own video, go here. %40%23%23%26 Talk by catherinegwendolynne

Like it? Create your own at It's free and fun!

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Kiosk Revisited

After our disastrous four-day spring fishing trip on Algonquin's Lake Kioskokwi two weekends ago we decided to try again.
We had no kids, we had no plans and we had a decent weather forecast so we headed north, packing nothing but our fishing stuff, a tent and our dog. This time out the weather was a heckuva lot better – we actually came home with sunburns! And, wonders of wonders, we caught fish! Of course, we released them so they can go off to make babies that we can catch in the future.
Click on the photos to make them bigger and purtier.

Misty peeks out of the tent flap.

Our first fish and I caught it! Dave gets up close and personal with this nifty little lake trout.

Dave caught two nice sized whitefish. This photo will be on the cover of the 2011 Fishing Guide, coming out next week in the Huntsville Forester and the Almaguin News. Dave is SUCH a Cover Guy.

The rapids where the Amable du Fond River tumbles into Lake Kioskokwi.

Talk about bumps on a log.

Tree Club Moss, on the right, looks like tiny evergreen trees. The greenery on the left may be Common Hair Cap Moss, but I'm not sure. I do know it's pretty. I took this photo at a vacant campsite in a mixed forest.

The view from the outhouse.

Dave builds a fire for our shore lunch of toasted havarti and black forest ham sandwiches.

This is how I want to spend every day of my life.

I love this photo. The clouds are gorgeous. Click on the photo to see what I mean.

We snuck up a tiny creek to check out the fishing.

No fish, but I did look fabulous in my periwinkle Pro Bass rain gear.

Then we rode the wild wake back to calmer waters. Woo HOO!

Dave landed a chunky smallmouth bass that went right back into the water after this pix. Bass are out of season until the beginning of July.

Clams are always in season and a year doesn't go by that I don't snag one and haul it in.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Ode to Lost Dryer Sheets

I lost my dryer sheets in the Wal-mart parking lot.
At least, I think they’re there. Alone on the cold dark asphalt. Ghastly orange under the sodium street lamps. Cryin’ for their mama.
I’m sorry, dryer sheets. I really wanted you here with me. You were the reason I made a detour on the way home from my writers’ group, even though I was tired and my eyes were all baggy, like bags; you know, with bags. Not big bags, but carry-on luggage bags. 
I don’t normally shop at 9:45 on a weeknight but that’s how badly I wanted you.
My clothes have been so clingy lately. Needy. I felt I couldn’t breathe. I had to do something and you were there, in the soap department, calling my name.
“Hey you! Ya, you, the one with the static cling.”
So it wasn’t exactly my name. 
Nevertheless, I felt your pull. 
Ignoring the vows I made to the environment to hang my laundry on the clothesline, breaking every rule that was good and just, I rushed (OK, so I waddled) into the big blue behemoth and slid a cold hard debit card on the counter to buy my wicked wares.
And here’s the thing about Wally World. There’s a reason folks call it the Hundred Dollar Store. You don’t just come out of there with dryer sheets; you come out with a cart full of crap. I mean, really, did I need Post’s new cereal or was it just all alluring in its ancient grains box in the centre aisle? 
At least Scrawl-Mart isn’t as expensive as Costco. We call that the Three Hundred Dollar Store.
I noticed, when I was pushing my shopping cart through the parking lot, that one of the bags was slipping through the cracks of the top section of the cart – you know, the place you stick your offspring when they’re still at the sippy-cup stage. Don’t try to stick your 14-year-old in the cart. Believe me, I’ve tried.
Unconcerned, I stuffed the bag back in the cart.
See? That’s where I made my Big Mistake.
If I had of been more conscientious, I might have noticed you falling on the ground. Trust me, the same thing has happened with my kid. Luckily everything is fine with him now except that he talks funny and his hair is blue.
But I didn’t notice.
You probably fell out then and there, and then watched, with a Mountain Valley Fresh Scented tear in your eye, as I callously drove away. Who knows, maybe I even backed over you first.
I hate to admit this, but I didn’t even notice you were missing until the next morning when I went to put a load of laundry in the dryer. (Yes, I know, I’m evil. I hope David Suzuki isn’t reading this.)
I searched the house. I searched the vehicle. I looked around the yard outside.
Pain clouded my heart as I realized you were probably sitting in the Wal-mart parking lot, flattened, covered in dew. Or, worse, you were picked up by some hardened buxom beauty with bleached blonde hair and a cig hanging out of her lips, stretchy polyester pants and a moustache. Oh, wait, that’s me, sans the buxom and the smokes.
It’s like we were never meant to be, dryer sheets. 
I hope we can still be friends. 
I guess I’m not ready for a relationship after all.  
No, there’s nobody else. It’s just me, a clothesline and a basket full of wet underwear.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

1000 Awesome Things - truly awesome!

Just discovered a truly fabulous website I have to share with you.
1000 Awesome Things is the most fun you can have online and I think I must be the only person on the planet not to have heard about it.
Thank goodness for my morning news addiction, Canada AM, which did an interview with blogger Neil Pasricha on the occasion of his book launch for The Book of (Even More) Awesome. This "instant bestseller" follows close on the heels of The Book of Awesome.
This Neil guy is on a roll. He started the blog in 2008 because his life was in the toilet and he wanted to find a way to be happy about life. The tiny blog has had more than 40 million hits and boasts 14,732 regular readers through Feedburner. That's just crazy!
So what is it that makes 100 Awesome Things so... awesome?
The Vancouver Sun wrote, "Sunny without being saccharine, it's a countdown of life's little joys that reads like a snappy Jerry Seinfeld monologue by way of Maria Von Trapp."
Every day Neil writes about the little things in life that make people happy.

Like #254: Finding an chocolate egg way after Easter. 
"While mindlessly dragging your hand between the couch cushions, sweeping the backyard patio stones, or searching for extra batteries in the junk drawer a tiny foiled egg suddenly appears like a sugary gift from the heavens.
"And when you score that surprise chocolate dropping just remember there can be absolutely no stopping before quick-peeling and quick-popping that chocolate straight into your mouth. Time of day, hunger level, age of chocolate — none of this matters. Frankly, if you’re stuffed on breakfast pancakes and the chocolate is powdery white and tastes like foil from two Easters ago… that is victory.
"Yes, finding a chocolate egg way after Easter is an eyes-wide moment of taste-based wonder.
"Finding a chocolate egg way after Easter is
Like #256: When the bass kicks in.
"When the bass kicks inthe song kicks up to a whole new part of its game. Your head starts grooving, your arms start moving, and everything inside youjust wants to dance.
Like #994: Waiters and waitresses who bring free refills without asking.

"On the whole, we’re pretty nasty to waiters and waitresses. We complain they’re wasting our time if the food takes too long to come, we complain they’re trying to rush us out if the food comes too early. We warn about allergies, make special requests, ask for more bread, and talk openly about their tip while they’re busing the table next to us. We’re kings barking orders from the booth and they’re sweating peasants in aprons and pieces of flairwith dirty J-cloths hanging out their back pocket.
"Waiters and waitresses have to put up with us and paste wide, toothy grins across their faces, besides. They split bills, sop up spills, and slip and slide across slick kitchen floors for us.
"Despite this all-odds-against-them setup, there are a few gems out there, a few rare, bright gems, who deliver perfect waiter or waitressessness. Perfection here is defined solely as bringing free refills to the table without us even asking. Because nothing beats ice-filled towers of cola arriving unannounced at our table, just as we’re finishing up our spinach and artichoke dip for a perfectly timed palate cleanse before the big entrée. The only things that come close are ice-filled towers of cola arriving unannounced right after the entrée and ice-filled towers of cola arriving unannounced with the check and handful of mints.
"…Three hours later, when you lay bloated on the coach, your entire meal swimming in the carbonated sea that is your digestive system, I know your eyelids will droop heavily and your posture will slide, but I also know you’ll give a thin, subtle smile, and a slow, sure thumbs-up sign when anyone asks “How was dinner?”

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Banks Rattle Me

Like Stephen Leacock, banks rattle me.
The other day we got home from work and Dave said, "The bank in Huntsville called. They want you to call them back."
Dread stopped me in my tracks. I had been in a good mood. Now there was lead in my socks.
"What did they want?" I asked. Lightly.
"I dunno," said Dave. "They just want you to call. Why? Is something wrong? Is there something I should know?"
That's when I lost it. I ran into the bedroom and flung myself on the bed. Visions of my previous marriage and catching hell from my ex over money issues flooded my racing brain.
"I'm not talking about it," I said. Muffled. From underneath a pillow.
"How much have you got on your Visa?" asked Dave.
"Not. Talking. About. It." I said.
"You just paid that off," he said, pissed. "How's your overdraft?"
I didn't answer, just buried myself deeper in the blankets.
He sighed and walked away. If I had of looked I know his face would be red and his head would be shaking. But I didn't. I just lay there and fretted. 
Was it my Visa card? Was it my overdraft? Had my car loan bounced? What could be so important that the bank was calling me? And not just a telemarketer, but a real person, from my real bank, with a real name. Carol Something.
I sat up. Threw back the covers. Marched out to the phone.
I knew I wouldn't get any sleep tonight unless I found out what Carol wanted. Even though it was well after 5 o'clock, I called her back. Sure enough, the bank was closed but I heard her cheery voice say her cheery last name so I decided to find her.
To the computer I went, a-googling like a detective after a red herring.
She had a common last name but I didn't know how it was spelled. After about 45 minutes of searching, I found a number that could potentially be hers. I stared at it for a moment, considering. How crazy was it to phone a stranger at her home and say, "Are you Carol from the bank?"
That's what I did.
Carol said, "Yes. Who's this?"
I told her. "You called me today and left a message to call and I've been freaking out ever since I got home from work, wondering what kind of trouble I'm in. I'm sorry to call you at home but I need to know if I'm in trouble or I won't sleep."
Carol said, "Trouble? You're not in trouble. Every once in a while we just like to sit down with our clients and see how everything is going, financially. See if there's anything we can do to help or if there's any questions you might have about investing."
Vastly relieved, I asked, "So I'm not in trouble?"
Carol laughed a bit. "No! Why would you think that?"
Because I have not had an illustrious financial career.
Because usually the only time banks call me is to yell at me.
And because I'm a lot like Stephen Leacock.
Banks rattle me.
On that note, I present one of my favourite literary classics, "My Financial Career," as well as the National Film Board cartoon based on the story. This is some fine writing and some equally fine animation. Take a few minutes, pour yourself a cup of coffee and see why this story has stayed with me ever since I first set eyes on it in public school.

My Financial Career
Stephen Leacock
Literary Lapses, 1910

When I go into a bank I get rattled. The clerks rattle me; the wickets rattle me; the sight of the money rattles me; everything rattles me. The moment I cross the threshold of a bank and attempt to transact business there, I become an irresponsible idiot. I knew this beforehand, but my salary had been raised to fifty dollars a month and I felt that the bank was the only place for it.

So I shambled in and looked timidly round at the clerks. I had an idea that a person about to open an account must needs consult the manager. I went up to a wicket marked "Accountant." The accountant was a tall, cool devil. The very sight of him rattled me. My voice was sepulchral.

"Can I see the manager?" I said, and added solemnly, "alone." I don't know why I said "alone."

"Certainly," said the accountant, and fetched him.

The manager was a grave, calm man. I held my fifty-six dollars clutched in a crumpled ball in my pocket.

"Are you the manager?" I said. God knows I didn't doubt it.

"Yes," he said.

"Can I see you," I asked, "alone?" I didn't want to say "alone" again, but without it the thing seemed self-evident.

The manager looked at me in some alarm. He felt that I had an awful secret to reveal.

"Come in here," he said, and led the way to a private room. He turned the key in the lock.

"We are safe from interruption here," he said; "sit down."

We both sat down and looked at each other. I found no voice to speak.

"You are one of Pinkerton's men, I presume," he said.

He had gathered from my mysterious manner that I was a detective. I knew what he was thinking, and it made me worse.

"No, not from Pinkerton's," I said, seeming to imply that I came from a rival agency.

"To tell the truth," I went on, as if I had been prompted to lie about it, "I am not a detective at all. I have come to open an account. I intend to keep all my money in this bank."

The manager looked relieved but still serious; he concluded now that I was a son of Baron Rothschild or a young Gould.

"A large account, I suppose," he said.

"Fairly large," I whispered. "I propose to deposit fifty-six dollars now and fifty dollars a month regularly."

The manager got up and opened the door. He called to the accountant.

"Mr. Montgomery," he said unkindly loud, "this gentleman is opening an account, he will deposit fifty-six dollars. Good morning."

I rose.

A big iron door stood open at the side of the room.

"Good morning," I said, and stepped into the safe.

"Come out," said the manager coldly, and showed me the other way.

I went up to the accountant's wicket and poked the ball of money at him with a quick convulsive movement as if I were doing a conjuring trick.

My face was ghastly pale.

"Here," I said, "deposit it." The tone of the words seemed to mean, "Let us do this painful thing while the fit is on us."

He took the money and gave it to another clerk.

He made me write the sum on a slip and sign my name in a book. I no longer knew what I was doing. The bank swam before my eyes.

"Is it deposited?" I asked in a hollow, vibrating voice.

"It is," said the accountant.

"Then I want to draw a cheque."

My idea was to draw out six dollars of it for present use. Someone gave me a chequebook through a wicket and someone else began telling me how to write it out. The people in the bank had the impression that I was an invalid millionaire. I wrote something on the cheque and thrust it in at the clerk. He looked at it.

"What! are you drawing it all out again?" he asked in surprise. Then I realized that I had written fifty-six instead of six. I was too far gone to reason now. I had a feeling that it was impossible to explain the thing. All the clerks had stopped writing to look at me.

Reckless with misery, I made a plunge.

"Yes, the whole thing."

"You withdraw your money from the bank?"

"Every cent of it."

"Are you not going to deposit any more?" said the clerk, astonished.


An idiot hope struck me that they might think something had insulted me while I was writing the cheque and that I had changed my mind. I made a wretched attempt to look like a man with a fearfully quick temper.

The clerk prepared to pay the money.

"How will you have it?" he said.


"How will you have it?"

"Oh" -- I caught his meaning and answered without even trying to think -- "in fifties."

He gave me a fifty-dollar bill.

"And the six?" he asked dryly.

"In sixes," I said.

He gave it me and I rushed out.

As the big door swung behind me I caught the echo of a roar of laughter that went up to the ceiling of the bank. Since then I bank no more. I keep my money in cash in my trousers pocket and my savings in silver dollars in a sock.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Call Me Lucky

I've been, uh, disgustingly lucky lately.
My mailbox runneth over with good things.
The latest is a package from The Umbrella Lady, Kathy, over at Quilts Seam Just Right. You can see all the goodies in the photo: that is a hand-quilted "mugrug" and a coffee cozy, done by Kathy herself; a Tim Horton's gift card; and two pairs of stained glass earrings made by Manitoba artist Jeannine Elder. One pair was supposed to go to second prize winner Barb (Bad Tempered Zombie) but, "Barb asked me to give you her earrings because her holes grew in! Lucky you!"
See? Told you I was lucky.
I didn't know that zombies had holes grow in. Good to know, you know, in case I ever become one.
The quilted mugrug, which is far too pretty to ever set a coffee cup on (I think I'll frame it), has "Cabin Fever 2011" stitched on it. Why? Because Kathy was the host of the Cabin Fever 2011 Short Story Competition. Which, ahem, I, ahem, won. If you're inclined to read my short-short take on the cabin fever theme, check it out here.
Other prize winners included Barb, of course. You can read her poem here. And the lovely and talented Laurita Miller of Newfoundland. You can read her story here.
I wore the blue earrings to work today and, I must say, they looked particularly jaunty. I had many compliments on them.
Thank you very much, Kathy! I love all of it! Big hugs to you in Manitoba.

That's not all, though.
In the last couple of months I have won a book from Michael Solender. Topograph is a collection of literary fiction, nonfiction and poetry from 31 contemporary authors, including my friend Michael who wrote a fascinating dissection of his own relationship with faith and religion. I haven't read the entire book yet, I confess, only because I've been so busy. But as soon as it arrived I tore into it to read Michael's essay and it was fantastic! If you'd like to read more of Michael, he blogs daily at The Not.

A while back I won a contest over at From the Inside ... Out, better known as Kathrynville. Need a laugh? Go see what Kathryn's up to. She's full of angst and humour and crazy conversations and I love her so. I either got lucky or she felt sorry for me because she sent me a Google mousepad which I use every single day at work. Last I saw, she was angsting over gas prices and her new job. Please, go give this woman a hug, would ya?

The puckish and lovely and talented Corinne O'Flynn, a writer of young adult fiction and a woman who has impeccable taste in cookies, picked me as one of the winners in her bloggy giveaway. As well as a book called The Replacement by Brenna Yovanoff, Corinne sent me a box of Girl Guide Cookies – Samoas! They don't make Samoas Girl Guide Cookies in Canada. We only get thin mints and the traditional brown and whites. So, even though it's highly illegal to send food over the border, Corinne smuggled me some Samoas. Those pesky border dogs must have had snotty noses because they didn't slow down the order one bit.
The book, sad to say, is still sitting waiting to be read. But the cookies were devoured mostly in the parking lot outside the post office. I had to eat them quick before the border cops nabbed me. You can't catch me now, coppers!
Corinne blogs here and you really should check her out.
You, too, might get cookies.

By the way, I FINALLY went to the post office today and mailed off all the prizes for my Guess The Damned Door Contest. Harry Sanderford, PJ Kaiser, Laura Eno, Jon Strother and Umbrella Lady Kathy will have cool things in their own mailboxes as soon as Snail Mail sees fit to get it there.
Don't hold your breath, people. I was cheap and paid for the least expensive postage option AND IT WAS STILL CRAZY EXPENSIVE. Gak!
It makes me appreciate all the people who have sent me stuff.
As for the prizes? I'm pretty sure they'll be travelling on the backs of mules.