Check this out!
In this video, I’m reading from my short story The Descent which is in the anthology Nothing Without Us. Click play and enjoy!
I had no idea that this video was even taken. What a lovely surprise! Now you can get a taste of the story and watch as I read an except from The Descent.
You can get your copy of Nothing Without Us here:
I’m thrilled to announce that my story titled Finder Keepers will be appearing in the anthology Thin Places. It will come out in ebook format later this year with a paperback to follow.
It will be published by the incredible Broken Keys Publishing and I couldn’t be happier. I’m thrilled with my story and can’t wait for you all to read it. The anthology features stories and a poem from some of the most amazing writers that Ottawa has to offer.
Stay tuned for more news!
The bonnet wouldn’t stay on Mr. Saucy Staniel’s head. She reached under his chin and tried retying the knot. He squirmed in her grasp. “No, no poppet, you must look pretty today, pretty.” She stroked the cats head soothingly. His eyes glared at her angrily from beneath the brim of the bonnet.
“Who’s my pretty boy? Who’s mommy’s pretty boy?” She gave the cat a noisy kiss and almost yelped when another cat clawed her ankle. She looked down at the other cat, a large tabby named Buttonhole Heimlich Johnson. “Bastard,” she said. “That was my last good pair of pantyhose.” She sighed. “What am I going to do if I have a gentleman caller?”
Pausing for a second, Britta reflected that it had been years since she had taken in a gentleman caller, decades even. Ever since her poor Hector Catchthe Flagg had been killed by a truck carrying haemorrhoid donuts, she hadn’t really talked to anyone.
Oh, she talked to people of course. She took her morning and afternoon walks, followed by a number of her furry feline companions. Every town had to have a crazy cat lady, and why shouldn’t she be the one for Kilkades Dare? Besides, she thought. People like her added character to a city. Or at least this is what she told herself.
She was preparing for a morning walk and had placed Saucy Staniel into the baby carrier and belted him in. You had to belt the cats in, otherwise, they tried to get out and ruined the image. I mean, you couldn’t walk down the street walking a baby pram with nothing in it could you? It ruined the image.
Checking to make sure that her coat and hat were in order, she stepped over a large body of cats that blocked her path. She was about to open the door when someone knocked on it. Odd, she thought, I don’t get any visitors. Damn place smells too much like cat pee.
Giving her hair one final check in the hallway mirror, Britta opened the door. Standing there was a little girl and she was holding a cat. The girl looked up at her with dark, moody eyes. The girl had dark hair and dark eyes that regarded her with interest.
She held up the cat. “I think this is one of yours.” The girl said. Her voice was authoritative and Britta wondered if she was one of the rich girls from the Hill.
Britta’s heart warmed, despite the girl’s odd manner. “Oh, Ms. Tuppence a Bag!” She reached out and gathered the cat to her bosom. Oh, thank you, child. She must have wandered off. Would you like to come in for a drink of thanks?”
The girl looked as if she were on the verge of saying no, but then nodded. “I am Hasenpfeffer Finklestein.” The girl said.
“Oh, I taught your mother in school.” Britta said. “She was such a bright young girl. But that was years ago.” She said.
She led the way into her living room and watched as Hasenpfeffer make her way through a sea of cats that moved and meowed on the floor. Sitting down on the couch, she was immediately set upon by four or five large cats. They were all jostling for a position on her lap.
“Oh, look!” Britta said. “They like you! Isn’t that lovely?”
One of the cats, a feisty tom named Rollie Pollie Tattler Dollie, was showing Hasenpfeffer his bum and was trying to bring it closer to her face. “Lovely is not the word I would use to describe the present situation.” The girl said.
Britta laughed and went to the kitchen to make tea. Britta wondered briefly whether children drank tea; she didn’t know. She had never had any of her own. Oh well, it would have to do. She moved through a small body of cats back to the living room and placed the tray on the table.
Pouring out tea into two china cups, Britta handed one to the small little girl. “Here you are dear.” She said.
The girl took the tea cup and took a sip, giving the older woman a smile. “So why do you have so many cats?”
Britta sighed. She was always asked this question, but she had never answered it. She wondered if the girl would understand her reasoning. Taking a sip of her tea to fortify herself, Britta sighed and then spoke. “Well, my husband died several years ago, you see.”
The girl nodded. “Go on.”
“Well at first, I got a cat so that I would have someone to love. But it wasn’t enough. I mean, I loved Hector so much; so very much. I had so much love to give. And when Hector was alive, he had so much love to give me too. I used to call it boundless, limitless love.”
She wiped a tear away from her eye and took another fortifying sip her of tea. “So I got another cat, hoping that loving two of them and having them love me back would help, but it still wasn’t enough. I didn’t feel I was getting enough love back, so I got more cats, hoping that each of their love for me would make me feel loved like when Hector was alive.”
She paused here; she had told a few people this and they had looked at her strangely or usually backed away from her. Hasenpfeffer regarded her with sharp eyes. “I suppose you think that’s rather stupid.” Britta said. “The delusions of an old lady.”
Hasenpfeffer said nothing for a moment but then surprised her by reaching out and taking one of her hands. “Love is never stupid.” Hasenpfeffer said.
Touched, Britta put her hand on top of Hasenpfeffer’s and felt better than she had in a very long time.
The moment was ruined by a particularly loud howl. Looking over to the source of the noise, Britta was astounded to see Saucy Stanley still belted into the baby pram.
“Oh, mommy’s poor baby!” She said.
Each of us is like Rapunzel in her tower.
We look down at the world around us
and we wonder what brought us to this.
Though we let our hair down,
in hopes that someone would grab hold,
no one does and we are left alone.
As I come down from my tower,
I walk in a world that used to be
filled with a multitude of other people
but is now filled only with empty space and silence.
I see people in the distance and I wave,
happy to see others at long last,
but there are magnets within us
that we cannot see and we are pushed apart,
the distance growing between us.
We wave at each other,
almost as if we have forgotten
what the company of others feels like.
The panic is a constant companion
and I can feel it within me
almost as if it was a bird.
I can feel its wings flapping
as it tries to take flight,
yet there is nowhere to go but further inside of me.
I wonder if the bird will eventually
find its way out and fly from my mouth
into the very air that I have grown to fear.
I picture myself watching as the bird
flies away and, for a moment,
wish that it would let me ride on its wings.
I push the panic and the fear down,
trying to summon the light
that I know is within me.
It will vanquish the fear and the panic
that have become such strange bedfellows.
They’ve grown stronger with every passing day,
as we are kept inside our homes with the television
feeding us a diet of even more panic
and even more worry.
The uncertainty is almost a physical presence
and with each day there are new blooms along my skin.
When I do see other people,
coming down from their towers in the air,
their skin is covered in the same blooms,
coloured with the same hues
of uncertainty, worry and fear.
However, if this is a war that we are in,
we should be in it together.
We should not be apart in our towers,
away from the sight of other people.
Just because we are separate,
does not mean we are alone.
Even so, I have such difficulty summoning
the light that we will need to beat this.
I think of the last time I hugged my mother,
or the last time I was able to hold a friend’s hand
while I offered them comfort in a moment of sorrow.
I will think of the laughter that I shared with others,
the simple act of sitting close to one another.
It has only been a week, but it may as well have been a year.
Yet with every day, I yearn to be kinder despite my fear.
I know that in this way I will grow the light within me.
The light will grow brighter with every act
of positivity, kindness and generosity.
The only way to prevent the spread of the virus
is to remain far apart from each other,
the windows of our towers lighting up the dark
so that the sky looks like it is filled with stars.
We will shine brightly into the night that seeks to separate us
so that others who may be lost in the dark will see our light
and they will know that we are not
Gus had always loved music.
It had a way of taking you away. With the right music, it could transport you somewhere and you didn’t even need to be high to enjoy the buzz. The right music thundered through you. It didn’t matter what the music was, it had the power to take you away.
He would miss it, when it was gone.
Gus’s assistant, on the other hand, would give a bull elephant a fucking migrane. Today, she was wearing a scarf wrapped around her head as if she were a fucking princess. She wore lose fitting pants and her shoes, god help him, had bells on them.
“What’s you’re fucking problem?” He said. “Who comes to work dressed like that?”
She laughed and looked at him, her dark eyes flashing brightly. “What, you don’t like my I Dream of Genie outfit?”
“Is that who you’re supposed to be?” Now that he stood back and took her in, he saw that she had the costume down pat. Even her hair had been styled the right way, all curling and bouncing. “Why the fuck would you come to work like that today?”
Valhalla Tardyhardy huffed at Gus. “Don’t you know what today is master?” She asked in a perfect falsetto. “They release the first season on DVD today, it’s the neatest thing. It’s all been digitally restored and remastered.” She sighed. “It’s going to be totally killer.” She jumped up and down a little and bells on her costume jingled. “I’m going to a convention after work.”
Gus sighed. “But what about last week? When you came in dressed up like some kind of what you m’callit?”
“What, I was Kaylee from Firefly. There was this whole fan convention, it was awesome.” She blinked up at him, seventeen years of innocence and brightness that seemed to throb inside the darkness of his shop. “I met this guy who was dressed up like Edward from Twilight? He tried to suck my blood.” She snorted. “I told him to go fuck himself and that I like my men a bit more manly, you know?” She sighed. “It was awesome.”
Gus wondered if it was possible to die from impatience. He could picture his death certificate now: Death From Needless Stupid Chatter. “You say that about everything.” He said.
“That’s cus everything I do is awesome.” She blinked at him. “Duh.”
“I can’t believe you just said that.” Gus stalked away from her.
“You know, for a guy who runs a music store, you’re pretty fucking uptight.”
“What the fuck do you know?” Gus snapped.
“So who pissed in your cornflakes this morning?” Valhalla came out from behind the counter and regarded him. “Cus you’re in a real pisser of a mood this morning. What the fuck is bothering you?”
Valhalla snapped her gum at him. “Gus honey, you’re a terrible liar. Don’t piss on my leg and tell me its raining. What the fuck is wrong with you?”
Gus turned away from her. He walked back behind the counter and through the beaded curtain. The office lay beyond it and Valhalla knew that it was there that Gus kept his treasures. She was normally not allowed in the room, but she didn’t care. Gus sighed when she came traipsing in. “What?”
“You mind tell me why you have sand in your vagina?” Valhalla said. “Cus I don’t have all day for your bullshit.”
“I’m your boss.” Gus said.
“Then act like it? What’s bothering you?”
The silence stretched between them, quiet but full with unspoken words. When Gus spoke, it was as if it was the air pulling them from his lips. “They say I’m losing my hearing.” He said. “That I need hearing aids.”
Val knew immediately what was wrong. To someone like Gus, to someone to whom music was their life, their passion; well, that would be a fate worse than deaf. The same for a person who could not read, who was prevented from painting, who could not write.
She went to him and sat down beside him in the other desk chair he kept there. “It’ll be okay.” She said.
“Why do you say that?” Gus said. “I’m going to go deaf.”
“Then I’ll just have to learn sign language I guess.” Valhalla said.
“What do you mean?” Gus asked “Why would you learn sign language if I’m going deaf? Why would you do something so fucking stupid?”
Valhalla clacked her gum at him. “Duh. So I can sign the lyrics to you when the music is playing.” She said. “That way you’ll know the words, and you’ll still hear the music in here.”
Reaching forward, Valhalla patted his chest where his heart beat in a steady rhythm.
“Duh.” She said.