Tuesday, July 25, 2006

A Rare Lucid Moment

This is what happened. It was Wednesday night, and I was in the middle of typing a decent paragraph - in the middle of a word, actually - when, wouldn’t you know it, the phone rang.

I knew the paragraph would never be a world beater anyway - it barely made sense, even to me. But understand that I’d just begun writing after first cleaning out my keyboard, dusting off the desk, straightening up the six sacred books on its shelf, and finally, putting in just the right background music. Sure, all of that (purposely) took the better part of two hours. No, I wasn’t going to lose my train of thought. Yes, I can multitask with the best of them - but so what? It’s one thing to waste my own time. It’s another for someone else to do it, by God, and especially after all I went through to put off writing for as long as I had. This better be important, that was what I was thinking; the house better be on fire.

Speaking of fires, I’ve never been in a house fire before, nor any kind of fire at all (and hopefully never will be). But I had been in a flood several years ago, and that was bad enough. Ah, mother nature at her finest...and my worst - I remember it like it was yesterday, mostly because that’s the closest I’ve ever come to losing my sanity. We lived in the country back then, and the morning that Manitoba turned into a scene right out of the movie Water World - the flood of ’97 - I walked downstairs at dawn, still half asleep with a mug of coffee in my hand, and stopped on the second-to-last step to watch a plastic toy float past me. Yes - float. Of course, my mind couldn’t quite wrap around that one, so I just stood there in my t-shirt and underwear, holding my mug in my hands and watching the toy, thinking: No, that isn’t a floating toy, in much the same way one witnesses a car accident and their mind refuses to accept it. But it was a toy, and it was floating. And when those two things finally registered, I dropped my coffee mug…which didn’t break, but instead joined the floating toy in an absurd game of Ring-Around-The-Family-Room. It was around the time when I started rooting for the mug that things finally started sinking in. Mainly, that I was standing in water - the same water that the room’s electrical cords were immersed. Thank goodness the power had been knocked out or my dead, floating body might have given the mug and toy a run for their money. That was when I finally thought to move the sump pump aside and, perhaps, bail the water out of the hole and into the washing machine. Now in my own defence (and under any other circumstances), that would have been a really good idea. However, the electricity was still out (thank God, or, like I said before, I would have been part of the mini armada which was by then navigating their way around my coffee table) and pounding on the washing machine didn‘t seem to be working. About the only other option left to me was to carry the water up the stairs and outside via two ten-gallon pails that just happened to be in the laundry room. So that’s exactly what I did…and the first indication that the storm was still raging came to me the moment I stepped outside. Even so, I knew I could do this - I could single-handedly save the basement and it’s contents. I could be a hero. I could do it all by myself. Besides, I won’t need to do it for long, I figured, because surely the hydro knows about the power outage and were already hard at work to fix it. By six o’clock that night I’d been reduced to a crying, soaked, cold, smelly, exhausted, shaking mess. But I was still bailing! Sure, my arms felt like rubber by then. Sure, I was only moving out of habit by then. Sure, I was struggling to carrying the two ten-gallon pails up the stairs and out into the driving rain while dying of dehydration by then. Sure, the toy and the mug were going around the room for the millionth time by then. But in the other race - the Me verses The Flood race - we were about even. And then it happened. There was a little candle, you see, and it was lit, and I’m pretty sure it was around that time that my mind started to go because all I remember is looking at it and wanting more than anything to knock it over. More, I could literally see myself knocking it over; and I remember thinking that all would take would be a little bump, a little nudge, and the problem would be solved - I could just walk away. I don’t know how long I looked at the little flame. What I do know is that it had been long enough for me to make a mental checklist of all the important things I’d have to remove from the house before the “accident.” But no, I couldn’t do that (could I?). So I went back to bailing again…until I happened to look up in time to see the hydro truck passing the house. The trouble was, it didn’t stop. Decency be damned; before I knew it I running down a gravel road in the dark, in a storm, with my hair plastered to my face, crying and waving and screaming, with nothing on but a soaking wet t-shirt and undies. For some reason, it took them a while to stop. Afterward, I put the candle away, glad that I hadn’t bumped it.

It turned out that the phone call was from a quasi friend of mine, another writer, who was finally going to take me up on one of those mysteries of life that rarely, if ever, come to fruition - the dreaded “Let’s have coffee sometime” comment, which is always followed by the obligatory smile and nod that in layman’s terms means: “As if.” Yet, there he was.

I know just what you’re thinking, ladies. Don’t think it hadn’t crossed my mind as well. I mean, a male that actually phoned? Even though he’s only a friend, that could upset the delicate balance in the universe, couldn’t it? The end of everything as we know it, perhaps…and I’d be held responsible. Oh the pressure. Oh the guilt. Chicken Little, you were right! The sky really is falling!

“How’s Sunday morning at ten sound?” he asked. “Tim Horton’s?”

“Sounds great,” I answered.

After I hung up, I had this insane notion to look out the window, just to see if everything was still where it should be. It was, but I was pretty sure he had tempted fate just enough to be stripped of his “Male” card and cast out among the shunned of this world.

Skipping ahead to Sunday…

I was twenty minutes late, and he was sitting in the curb beside his car and looking bored when I pulled up. After apologies and no problem fibs, we made our way inside, ordered, found a table away from everyone else and proceeded to brainstorm stories. Actually, he told me about his latest project while I mulled it over…until the end that is. The ending surprised me because it was predictable, cliché and boring as hell. In other words, it was not his usual at all and likely why he had broken the cardinal no-call rule.

“So, what do you think?” he asked, putting me on the spot.

Unfortunately, all I could think of was: If I only had a candle…

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Dead Like Me

Sometimes I wonder what my purpose is. I don't mean my purpose on this blog. I mean here. Not everyone is destined to change the world, and not everyone wants to.

Take me, for instance. I wake up at the same time every day, drink the same amount of coffee, do the same straightening up, get ready in the same way, drive down the same road to the same place, do the same job, and at the end of the day look at the same sites. About the only things up for grabs are what I’ll make for supper and how much (or not) I’ll write.

Watching one of my favourite show last night - a dark comedy called Dead Like Me - got me thinking about a lot of things. Mostly about this purpose thing…you know…that I’m just more or less taking up space and killing time until…


I guess that all depends on what you believe in...or don’t believe in.

Some believe that there will be nothing after the end - just a sort of “lights out“ deal where dead is dead and that’s about it. On the other hand, some believe in heaven and wonderful…well, everything. It’ll be like going home, they say. That we are put on this earth to learn whatever it is we need to learn and then we go back. Well, if we do go home, doesn’t that mean we’ve already been there and left? That living is like taking a vacation to spend with your family and loved ones - kind of like a summer holiday of sorts? And if that’s true - if life is a vacation and death is the real job - what then? Do we just go back to work?

Who knows?

Not me. And I’m not going to worry about it either. About the only thing worrying every got anyone was bad nerves and maybe an ulcer. Besides, you could be minding your own business and get run over by a bus, or choke on a piece of cheese, or a piano falls on you.

The show brought up another topic as well: last thoughts, which should not be confused with last words. Last thoughts and last words can be the same thing, or they can be two entirely different things altogether. For instance, take a drowning man. Even though his last words might be “glub, glub,” I’ll bet his last thoughts are: --


Depending on how someone goes, I think the majority of last thoughts are likely

(shoulda woulda coulda Why didn’t I… I wish I had…)

regret. Everyone has regrets. I know I do, and they likely have something to do with my mother. But anyway…

I think one of the saddest things is to someday look back on our lives and say: “I should have...” Why do we do that to ourselves? I mean, sure there are things we can’t control. But for the things we can, maybe we should. Even if we fail, it still beats looking back later and regretting that we didn’t try.

As for me, I still don’t know what my purpose is, or even what will happen in the end (no one knows that with absolute certainty, though we can hope like crazy). But I do know my regrets, and I can try to change a few of them so at least my last thoughts won’t be: I should have…

Yep - I‘ll get right on that.

Maybe tomorrow…

Wednesday, July 05, 2006


You may have noticed that I’ve removed the last post here. Just to assure you, it is not about a change of heart - oh no, not at all. Rather, it is about a change of venue.

After much deliberation, I’ve decided to keep my thoughts and my works separate (if that is at all possible). So today I created what I call The Quill - a name which means (in my mind, at least) a space to share some short stories, if you want them. The Quill has not been created as a short-term project (or as one very dear friend mentioned today, a way to not write); it is there for the long haul and, more specifically, as incentive to me to produce more works.

I think it’s just what I need.

I hope you will like The Quill, Dear Reader. I suspect you won’t like it as well as you would a blog that warehouses a novel, because (like I’ve mentioned earlier) a short story is more like a flirtation than a relationship - a different animal altogether. But they can be sweet, and can provide a little entertainment or get you through a boring plane ride, lunch hour, or your children’s nap time. By the way, you will find a link to The Quill under My Must Reads.

Okay - commercial’s over.
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