Free

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Free
Flash Fiction

            I am as free as my father was free. He was free to walk on his walker, as far as he could go down the street. Free to walk in the wind and the rain. Free to sit on his neighbor’s wall when his legs and back got tired. Free to sit there, although it was raining, until he had recovered his strength and energy. Free to get soaked so badly that he caught a cold. And the cold was free to turn into bronchitis and the bronchitis was free to turn into pneumonia and the pneumonia was free to perform its assassin’s work as it tried to kill him. But my father was still free and strong enough to call the doctor and the doctor was free enough to call at the house and visit my father and write him a prescription for an anti-biotic that would free his body from the pneumonia that was free to leave when its time was up and it felt ready to go. Pneumonia, the old man’s friend, they used to call it, sitting there, in my father’s lungs, muttering away to him, day after day, louder at night, and my father slowly getting stronger and the pneumonia growing weaker until one day it left and freed my father from his immediate ills. Then my father was free to get up or to stay in bed. Being a free man, he chose to stay in bed all day and to listen to the radio and to read a book and when he got bored with reading he just lay there and counted the lines on the wall “one, two, three…” and “one hundred and seventy five” he told me one day when I was free to visit him, “though I have lost count once or twice and have had to start again from the very beginning. And the sun gets up at 7:03, and strikes the third line at 7:53 … and goes around the wall 33 lines a minute; and leaves that third line from the right at a 3:15 …” And there he stayed, day after day. But he was free. And sometimes the home help came and sometimes she didn’t, for she too was as free as the birds in the garden. And sometimes she remembered to buy him some food and sometimes she didn’t. And she was free to come and go, free to remember or forget. And my father was free to mumble or complain or grumble, though he rarely did. And he was free to eat, so long as there was food in the house. But I went there I often saw that the cupboard was bare and my father had neither milk, nor eggs, nor bread nor cereal, nor tea nor butter. And all those people, those acquaintances, those friends, they too were as free as the sea-gulls in the sky. But to find the time to set my father free from the hunger and thirst he seemed predestined to freely suffer, they were never free enough for that, not even at Christmas.
Neither was I.

Friday is Fish …

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Friday is Fish

There was nobody at the fish stall. I stood and waited. Then another customer, a young lady, arrived. We stood and talked together.
“Is nobody serving?” she asked.
“Nope,” I said. “Ain’t seen nobody.”
“Maybe we should ask?”
“Ask away. Won’t do any good.”
“Excuse me, young man …” a store assistant rushed past, paying no attention. I stood there playing my invisible violin.
“Excuse me, miss, is anyone …” same result, store assistant vanished into the distance.
“What’s that, over there?” I pointed. The young girl turned to look, and as she did, I placed finger and thumb between my lips and let out a shrill, piercing whistle. The young lady turned to look at me, half smiling, half shocked.
“Was that you?” I asked her and she started to laugh.
Within seconds three store assistants, two men and a woman, came over at a canter.
“You two go,” the woman assistant said. “I can look after this.” She put on a pair of plastic gloves.
“Do you have any halibut cut?” I asked her. “Or do you have to slice the big one?” I pointed to the huge halibut that lay stone cold dead, trying to hide in the ice cubes. The assistant ignored me and turned to the young lady.
“Can I help you?” she asked.
“He’s first,” the young lady pointed at me and the assistant scowled as I repeated my question.
“There is some on the fish counter waiting to be cut. How much do you want?”
“About half a pound,” I answered. “Please.”
“About this thick?” She gestured with forefinger and thumb.
“Looks good.”
She walked behind the fish counter, picked up a knife and started to hack. It looked as though nothing was happening.
“This knife is dull,” she announced. “Excuse me I’ll just be a moment. I’ll go get another one,” she hurried off in the direction of the meat counter.
“A dull knife?” the young lady raised her right eyebrow and lowered her left one.
“Can’t say I’ve ever met an intelligent knife,” I smiled back.
The assistant came back a minute later brandishing an even larger knife. She again attacked the halibut, once more with no visible effect. She muttered something and rushed off again, returning with a large hammer. She held the knife in one hand and started banging downwards on the back of the blade with the hammer that she held in the other.
“Are you actually going to eat that?” The young lady looked worried.
“Not the bits she’s hitting with a hammer,” I said.
“I’m off. They must have some frozen fish somewhere. I’ll go find it.”
Five minutes, the assistant held up a halibut steak, bone in.
“I’ll take it,” I said. “Thank you so much. I’m sorry to have put you to all that trouble.”

When I arrived home my beloved met me at the door.
“Okay,” she said. “What happened?”
“I’ve brought you a lovely bit of halibut,” I said.
“That’s great. Now come in, dear and tell me all about it.”
So I did.

Elevator Pitch

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Elevator Pitch
Jean Chrétien

His enormous presence filled that tiny
space. His corkscrew smile, well-known tic,
semi-frozen face, that trick of wild speech

butchering language, misunderstood in
both English and French. “Bonjour,” he said. “Good
day.” I nodded, didn’t know what to say,

just shuffled my feet. I remember he
talked on the radio about our land,
how, in winter, with car stuck in snow,

we spin our wheels, forward and back, a bit
at a time until we emerge, content,
victorious. Time and the floors slipped by.

I thought of the elevator pitches
I had written for my films. Should I pitch
him about my latest film or should I

just keep quiet. The elevator stopped.
Jean Chrétien got out. “You’ll be back,” I
said. “Damn right,” he grinned, lop-sided.

Renaissance Hotel. Toronto. Nine-teen
eighty-five. Tongue-tied I had stood there.
Later I thought of all I might have said.

Russian Roulette

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Russian Roulette
(1789 & 1937 & 2019) 

trickster mind
bred in heaven’s
half-acre
gateway to counterpane
sleep-full forgetfulness

yesterday’s
visual banquet
bluebell primrose
clover and cowslip
gone all gone

cuckoo survives
emerges every hour
calls from cuckoo clock
skylarks lie buried
within vinyl grooves
no more to rise

lions tigers panthers
elephants rhinoceros
slipping off the ark
sliding into oblivion

soul’s dark night
empty the house
spun Noah’s wheel
no more bets
the stakes are set

space-ship earth
humanity’s house-boat
spins onward into what

wheel of fortune
onward she goes
where she’ll stop
nobody knows

Comment 1:
I am intrigued by the ideas in this poem. Sitting in the eye surgeon’s waiting room this morning, I watched a video on vanishing wild life. The result: I added some images to this poem and elaborated it a little bit more. There may be some twists to the cork-screw, some more spins of the gun’s roulette wheel. I am not sure that I am finished with this one yet.

Russian Roulette 2
(1789 & 1937 & 2019)

yesterday’s
visual banquet
bluebell primrose
clover and cowslip
gone all gone

cuckoo survives
emerges every hour
calls from cuckoo clock
skylarks lie buried
within vinyl grooves
no more to rise
unless the magician
waves his wand

who loads the gun
points the pistol
pulls the trigger
fires at lions tigers
elephants leopards
pushing them off the ark
sliding them into oblivion

soul’s dark night
land’s desolation
all covered by rising seas
Noah spins his steering wheel
les jeux sont faits
rien ne va plus

space-ship earth
humanity’s house-boat
spins onward into what
a roulette wheel of fortune
onward she goes
where she’ll stop
nobody knows

Comment 2:
Told you I hadn’t finished with it. Here’s the next version. Great to live in a bilingual province. What a pity that so many people do not speak both official languages. If you have read this far, let me know which version you prefer. I am going for the one below, the latest edition.

Rushing Roulette
(1789 & 1936-39 & 2019)

yesterday’s
visual banquet
bluebell primrose
clover and cowslip
gone all gone

cuckoo survives
emerges every hour
calls from cuckoo clock
skylarks lie buried
within vinyl grooves
no more to rise
unless the magician
waves his wand

who loads the gun
points the pistol
pulls the trigger
fires at lions tigers
elephants leopards
pushing them off the ark
sliding them into oblivion

soul’s dark night
land’s desolation
all covered by rising seas
Noah spins his wheel
steering space-ship earth
humanity’s house-boat
onward into who knows what
a roulette wheel of fortune
onward she goes
where she’ll stop
nobody knows

messieurs et mesdames
les jeux sont faits

rien ne va plus

.

 

Operation Merciless

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Operation Merciless
(1916 & 2019)

what can we
will we do
we raise our eyes
to silent skies
sing hymns and arias
who listens
nobody replies
we must do our duty
lambs to the slaughter
bleating as we march
our bleeding hearts
pleading for release
this earthly bondage
a bandage over eyes
decimated they tell us
one in ten of us
each must give a finger
a toe everyone must go
ten percent of everything
we own docked
a spaniel’s tail
a boxer’s ears
I cry out why
as I lie on the gurney
hoping to hell
I will not die

 

 

 

Grand Finale

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Grand Finale
(Moscow 1812
&
Moncton 2015)

survey the battlefield
muskets primed
three shots a minute
cities burning
hamlets and villages

world-viewed
through a monocle
stand to attention
be-whiskered faces
small narrow minds
wine glasses raised
gay colored uniforms
dazzling decorations
marvelous medals

balloons blooming
gaudy their globules
pins at the ready
no flash but a big bang

glorious martial music
tintinnabulations
church bells ringing
carillon and cannon
magnificent the music

written cryptic
recorded alive
heard played seen
in  memory’s mind’s eye
again and again