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 Fiction: Finding Fault

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Finding Fault
Friday Fiction

It wasn’t your fault. You look at yourself in the mirror and see your tear-stained cheeks. Your red eyes look back out at you and you lose yourself in them, swimming desperately as their still ponds down you with tears.

“Stop hammering at the door,” you yell at him. “Stop hammering.”

Open the door,” he shouts, stammering in his rage. “Open this door.”

Thank God you locked it is what you think. Thank heavens you kept the key. And here it is in your hand, so it can’t fall down to floor and be hooked away, under the door, so that he can open the door and come at you again. He is shaking the door handle now, rattling it, shaking it like he said he’d shake you.

“I’ll shake you till your teeth rattle,” that’s what he said. And you know he meant it. You could see it in his eyes. You were just too quick for him. That’s all. Just too quick. He raised his walking stick to beat you and you slipped away, in a flash. Just like that. He was too slow to catch you. His one chance came in the kitchen. Once you were out of there, out of that trap, you were up the stairs, into your bedroom. You shut the door, slammed it shut, and turned the key in the lock. Then you relaxed for just a second and that was enough to set you crying. Thick, heavy tears ran down your cheeks. Sobs shook your chest and rattled your bones. You heard him clumping up the stairs, one foot at a time. Clump. Clump. Then he was at the door again. A big, bad wolf, huffing and puffing.

Open this door,” he shouted. “You wicked child.”

“I’m not wicked,” you said.

“Wicked,” he shouted. “Wicked. Just like your father. You should never have been born.”

You placed the bedroom chair against the door, just under the door handle. Then you wedged your father’s sandal under the door.

Earlier, down in the kitchen, you had taken the bread knife and started to cut the bread. But the knife was blunt. So you sharpened it, scraping it up and down against another knife blade, like you’d seen your dad doing. Trying to make it sharp. Then you started to cut the bread. And that’s when he appeared screaming at you.

“Put that knife down.”

“Why? You asked.

“Because I’m telling you to.”

“That’s not a very good reason,” you said.

“You cheeky girl. I’ll shake you till your teeth rattle.” That’s what he said. And then he raised his stick. Red in the face, he was going to hit you. He wanted to hit you with his stick. Only he couldn’t. You were too quick. You went left, then right, then ducked under his outstretched arm as he lost his balance. You ran into the corridor and up the stairs.  You hear him now puffing outside the locked door.

“Open this door now, you wicked child.”

You move away from the door and move to the window. No escape there. You’re on the second floor. No way down. Where’s dad, you wonder. Where’s my dad? He went out shopping. Said he’d be back soon. Where is he? You hear the old wolf as he keeps huffing and puffing, pounding at the door.

“You’ll never come to my house again,” he screams.

“I don’t want to, grampy,” you scream back. “I hate you.”

You wicked girl. You’re worse than your father, you wicked girl.”

Just then, you hear the front door open. The old wolf backs away from the door. You feel a release, a wave of comfort sweeps over you.

“Dad,” you shout. “Dad.”

“She’s wicked,” you hear your grampy say. “Wicked. You have to beat her. Chastise her. Drive the devil out from her soul.”

“What on earth are you on about?” your father asks. “What’s happening here? Look, go down to the kitchen and make a cup of tea. I’ll talk to the little one and try and make some sense out of this.”

Wicked. She’s never coming to my house again.”

Clump. Clump. You hear his footsteps fade away on the stairs.

“Has he gone?”

“Yes. You can come out now.”

You remove the sandal, you turn the key in the lock, you open the door, you jump into your father’s arms ….
“Daddy, daddy …”

“Now tell me what happened.”

It was all his fault,” you say. “Daddy, I didn’t do anything. It was all his fault. He tried to beat me with his stick. He told me he’d shake me till my teeth rattled. I was so frightened. It wasn’t my fault, dad. Honest. It wasn’t my fault.”

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.

Flower-power

 

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Flower-power
or
Why should the young kids have all the fun?

So it’s children’s day at the local supermarket. As I push my shopping cart through the door, I see the face-painter with a young girl sitting before her, getting her face painted. Behind the willing victim, several young children wait, shuffling their feet in expectation. I go out to the car park, unload my cart, and push it back to the supermarket.
As I park my cart, I see that the line-up has disappeared and the face-painter sits alone, cleaning her brushes. I walk up to her table and ask “How much?”
“It’s free,” she tells me. “It’s children’s day.”
“Will you paint my face?” I ask her.
“You’re not a child,” she looks at me in astonishment.
“No, I’m not,” I reply, “but I’m in my second childhood.”
I pull out the chair and sit down.
“I’ve got some photos on my phone, or I can try and paint whatever you would like. Would you like to see some pictures?”
“No, thanks. Just  look at me and paint what you think I would like.”
“What are your favorite colors?” she looks at me and smiles.
“I don’t have any favorite colors, but I always avoid green, yellow, and gold.”
“Oh, well, how about a nice flower?”
“Great!” I say.
One of the trolley boys who return the shopping carts in great convoys walked by.
“You need a mirror,” he says, “so people can see themselves.”
“Great idea, stay here, I’ll go and get one.”
“Don’t worry. I’ve got a mirror in the car. I’ll have a look when I get there. Meanwhile, it’s a surprise. I’ll put a photo up on my blog when I get home.”
“Promise?”
“I promise.”

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I gave her my blog address and I kept my promise. Unlike many people I know, I usually do.

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Commentary: with many thanks to Emily, the face-painter, who treated my second-childhood with humor and dignity. As I said to her at the time, ‘why should the young kids have all the fun?”

 

Doing This for Mom

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Doing This For Mom

“I have to go pee,” Cindy got off the long-distance bus when it pulled into the lay-by on the way to Heathrow Airport airport, broke away from her mother and her grandfather, and ran to the washroom.

“What’s up with her, Tiggy?”

“I don’t know, dad. She just wants to go pee, I guess.”

“You shouldn’t let her go in there alone. Go in with her. Go on. But wait, look what I’ve got for you,” he pulled a wad of fifty pound bills out of his pocket, licked his thumb, and slowly counted them. “Eighteen, nineteen, twenty. Here: one thousand pound. Cash.”

“That’s wonderful dad. You’re very generous, but I can’t take our money. Put it back in your pocket.”

“I know things aren’t going that well for you, now you’re on your own. Take the money.” He waved the cash at Tiggy, but she pushed his hand away.

“No dad. I can’t take your money. You need it more than we do. We’ll survive.”

“Not on your own, you won’t. Not without help. Here, take it.”

“Listen, dad: I’ve seen how you are living. Hand to mouth. Why don’t you sell the car? You know you can’t drive anymore. You’ll save on the insurance. Sell now, while it’s still working. Throw in a thousand pound sterling and you can have taxis galore for the next couple of years. You can shop when you want. You won’t have to rely on unreliable friends …” Tiggy watched a tear squeeze out of her father’s left eye and slide down his cheek. “Don’t cry, dad. You know I’m right.”

“I’m not crying,” he wiped his cheek with the back of his hand. “Some dust blew into my eye. Look, there’s Cindy. Take the money for Cindy. Please. And tell her to sit beside me on the bus.”

“I’ll ask her if she wants to sit beside you,” Tiggy hesitated. “But I won’t tell her. You can’t buy her affection with money, dad. It takes more than cash to rebuild a broken family. I thought you knew that.”

“Hold this,” Tiggy’s dad thrust the money at her. “I’ve got to go to the washroom. I don’t want to go in there carrying this,” leaning heavily on his stick, he limped towards Cindy as she emerged from the rest area, but she skipped quickly away and out of his reach

“Cindy,” Tiggy grasped her daughter’s arm. “When we get back on the bus, will you sit by your grandfather?”

“No,” Cindy’s face was grey, set in stone. Her nose was a hawk’s beak, fierce in her rejection.

“Why not?” Tiggy asked.

“Grampy doesn’t love me, he hates me,” Cindy ground her teeth. “He never wants me back in the house again. He told me so. That day he banged on my bedroom door. He hates me. And I hate him too,” Cindy’s chest heaved and her breath came faster. “He was always trying to open the bathroom door when I was in the shower, and he peeped at me through the keyhole …” Cindy gulped. “He was always rattling the bedroom door and trying to get in.”

“But Cindy, why did you never tell me about this?”

“I was frightened. He threatened to beat me. Then he said he’d give me money if I was good. Is that the money?” Cindy looked down at the dollars in Tiggys’ hand. “I don’t want it.  Give it back to him. Or throw it away.”

Tiggy strode towards her father hen he returned. “It’s blood money,” she said. “Cindy’s told me everything. You’re just laundering your soul.”

The driver tooted his horn and the passengers returned to the bus. Cindy got on first and took her seat by the window. Tiggy followed her and sat beside her. Tiggy’s father, hesitated, hauled himself in, then slumped by the window in the seat on the other side of the aisle. They all gazed out of their respective windows as the bus pulled away.

About half an hour later, Tiggy needed the washroom. She picked up her purse and headed to the back of the bus. As soon as she left, her father got up and lurched into the seat next to Cindy.

“Cindy,” he tapped her on the shoulder.

“Leave me alone,” she stared out of the widow.

“Cindy, you must listen to me. Cindy, your mother’s ill. She needs an operation.”

Cindy sat, a silent stone. Then: “An operation? How do you know?

“She told me.”

“She didn’t tell me.”

“She thought you were too young to know. Families don’t tell everything, you know. Look, take this money. Not for you, for her. Keep it a secret. Give it to her when you’re on the plane. It’ll help pay the fees. Take it now. While she’s gone. I won’t offer again.”

“You hurt me, grandpa.”

“You hurt me too.”

“You were always watching me.”

“I wanted to see you. I’ve only seen you twice in ten years. What did you expect me to do.”

“Be nice.”

“I did my best.”

“It wasn’t very good.”

“It’s the medicine. I get moods.”

“Is that what will happen to mom?”

“It might. But money for the operation will put everything right. Here,” he put the money in Cindy’s lap. “Sorry.”

“You should have said so before.”

“Can we be friends?”

“No. Now go.”

“Look after your mom,” The old man struggled to his feet and stumbled back to his seat.

When Tiggy returned from the washroom, she looked for her daughter and saw her on the other side of the aisle, next to her grandfather. They were both sitting upright, very stiff, not touching, staring straight ahead into the distance. Tears shone in Cindy’s eyes and a wad of bright new fifty-pound notes bills stuck out of the pocket of her jeans. Tiggy saw her daughter’s jaws clench and un-clench but she didn’t  hear the half-swallowed, mumbled words.

“I’m only doing this for mom.”

Commentary: An old story revived and revised. Let me know if you like it.

Writing Memories 4

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Writing Memories 4

Module 2.1 : Accidents

Like it or not, accidents happen at our age. We trip on the rug, slip on the ice, fall in the bath, so many little things can happen, none, hopefully, serious, but every one of them annoying. In my case, my beloved traveled to Ottawa to visit our family then and I stayed to look after the cat (and have my favorite chair vomited on by the monster). I played contact sports for years, no stitches. My beloved goes away and two or three days later, I slice myself up sharpening a kitchen knife. Everything is fodder for creation. Here’s the poem.

Triage
A stitch in time

1

Banality, stupidity, or just old age:
how did the knife slip from its intended path
and end up slicing through my finger? Blood

everywhere, oozing then pumping, flowing
freely, deep ugly, red, between fleshy
cliffs, the wound’s edges. Chaotic, shrill pain,

short, sharp shocks, cold water flowing, flushing
out the sudden gulley, cleansing, thinning
my life’s liquid. Little finger, left hand,

right down to bright bone. Instant recall, first
aid course. Sheet from paper towel, staunch, press
down, pressure, find gauze, bandages, scarlet

ink, my blood, not royal blue. Take bathroom
towel, run down corridor to garage,
leaving fresh blood spoor, the cat following,

sniffing, licking my blood fresh off the floor,
one hand clumsy on steering wheel, the other
held high as I drive to emergency, fast.

2

Three nurses attend me. The first completes
the triage, stops the bleeding, bandages
my hand, gauze pads press down, sends me to wait.

Second nurse inserts needles, kills the nerve,
cleans the wound, sews my little finger up.

Six stitches. A tubular dressing. Time
now for third nurse, anti-T-jab, checks me
for PTSD, smiles sadly, sends me home.

Commentary: The poem summarizes the instant well. I think the most horrible and outlandish thing of all was looking over my shoulder and seeing the cat following me, licking up the blood trail that I left spotted across the floor. I remember her squatting there, licking her lips: little horror. So, for Sunday’s session, I turned that moment into prose.

Triage [Pose 1]
A stitch in time

1

Banality, stupidity, or just old age: how did the knife slip from its intended path and end up slicing through my finger? Blood oozes, then squirts, then flowing freely, deep ugly, red, between fleshy cliffs, the wound’s edges. Chaotic, shrill pain, short, sharp shocks, cold water flowing, flushing out the sudden gulley, cleansing, thinning my life’s liquid. Little finger, left hand, right down to bright bone. Instant recall, first aid course. Sheet from paper towel, staunch, press down, pressure, find gauze, bandages, scarlet ink, my blood, not royal blue. Take bathroom towel, run down corridor to garage, leaving fresh blood spoor, the cat following, sniffing, licking my blood fresh off the floor, hand clumsy on steering wheel, horn tooting, driving to emergency, fast.

2

Three nurses attend me. So many questions. The first completes the triage, stops the bleeding, bandages my hand, gauze pads press down, sends me to wait. Second nurse inserts needles, kills the nerve, cleans the wound, sews my little pinky up to the sound of thread pulled through flesh, then knotted, and snipped. Six stitches. A tubular dressing. Time now for third nurse, anti-T-jab, checks me for PTSD, smiles sadly, sends me home.

Commentary: Nothing wrong with that. From poetry to prose poem. But is it lacking something, some bite, the feeling of panic, a sense of shock? Alas, it is missing so much. “Every attempt / is a wholly new start, and a different kind of failure / because one has only learnt to get the better of words / for the thing one no longer has to say, or the way in which / one is no longer disposed to say it.” And that is so true. What was true for me then, battered, bruised, bleeding, in shock, no longer comes through the words I left on the page. I wondered if I could warm them up a little. Here goes.

Triage [Prose 2]

A stitch in time
1
Banality, stupidity, or just old age: how did the knife slip from its intended path and end up slicing through my finger? Blood oozes, then squirts, then flows freely, ugly, red, between deep, fleshy cliffs, the wound’s edges. Chaotic, shrill pain, short, sharp shocks, cold water flowing, flushing out the sudden gulley, cleansing, thinning my life’s liquid. Little finger, left hand, right down to bright bone. Instant recall, first aid course. Sheet from paper towel, staunch, press down, pressure, find gauze, bandages, scarlet ink, my blood, not royal blue. Take bathroom towel, run down corridor to garage, leaving fresh blood spoor, the cat following, sniffing, licking my blood fresh off the floor, hand clumsy on steering wheel, horn tooting, driving to emergency, fast.
2
Three nurses attend me. So many questions. The first completes the triage, stops the bleeding, bandages my hand, gauze pads press down, sends me to wait. Second nurse inserts needle, kills the nerve, cleans the wound, sews my little pinky up to the sound of thread pulled through flesh, then knotted, and snipped. Six stitches. A tubular dressing. Time now for third nurse, anti-T-jab, asks me questions, gazes into my eyes, checks me for PTSD, smiles sadly, sends me home.

Commentary: Not much has changed yet now I seem to have lost the thrill, the shock, of that moment. I never even mentioned the feeling of achievement that warmed me when I got home, the knowledge that I had hurt myself and had got myself repaired without having to call my neighbors or emergency. I didn’t add that the first nurse tossed the blood-soaked kitchen towel into the garbage can and that she was unable to stop the bleeding. The second nurse managed that, after he injected me. He also gave me extra bandages in case the cut re-opened during the night. It didn’t. Looking back now, and remembering, I recall the hospital smells, the sense of the needle slipping into my flesh, the gradual loss of all feeling, the smell of the surgery, the scent of the anesthetic, the taste of the saliva in my  mouth. Revisiting the scene, so much later, I can begin to see all that I missed. As a result, Eliot’s words ring out truer than ever. Clearly, I will have to revisit this poem, this prose, this memory sketched into my life. This commentary, written on the spur of the moment, may help me do just that. Clearly I need to move from visual expression to visceral experience and taste and smell may just do that. Yes, I tasted my blood (so did the cat), and my saliva, and  I remember how the taste changed, oh so subtly, with each injection (there were three). I also remember the smells, all different of each of those rooms. Oh dear, so much work still to do.

Suggestions for the writing exercise included in each module:

Write a prose memoir, just reminiscing.

Use 1st, 2nd, or 3rd person narrative.

Choose 6-12 words from the reading and expand on them using associative fields.

Write from an image or a metaphor.

Journal style: automatic writing, but try to select the gems.

Letter style: write to a friend.

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Writing Memories 3

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Writing Memories 3

Module 1.2 Disasters:

Last Sunday, the first module was titled Triumphs and Disasters. I have separated them here. My first thought for Disasters came in the form of a poem.

Age of Spillage

Fingers turn to butter, permit cups to slip,
flying saucers to take off, to stall and crash,

their broken bodies resting in peace and pieces
on kitchen floor, waiting to be picked up and buried.

Worse: bottle tops screwed up tight refuse to open.
Plastic wrapping, flagrant in its defiance,

wages its guerrilla war against ageing,
uncoordinated arthritic fingers.

Tongue-twisters twist tongue and tones and speech,
filling mouths with glottal stops and threadbare words.

The rib cage is a cupboard barren and bare.
So many slips between palate, teeth, and lips.

So many precious things dropping to the floor.
I cannot always bend and pick them up,
not even with my new mechanical claw.

Commentary: Nothing wrong with this as a poem. It’s fun to experiment, though, and poetry takes up more space than prose. This is the prose poem, or prose passage, or flash fiction piece, take your pick.

Age of Spillage [Prose 1]

Fingers turn to butter, permit cups to slip, flying saucers to take off, to stall and crash, their broken bodies resting in peace and pieces on kitchen floor, waiting to be picked up and buried. Worse: bottle tops screwed up tight refuse to open. Plastic wrapping, flagrant in its defiance, wages its guerrilla war against ageing, uncoordinated arthritic fingers. Tongue-twisters twist tongue and tones and speech, filling mouths with glottal stops and threadbare words. The rib-cage is a cupboard barren and bare. So many slips between palate, teeth, and lips. So many precious things dropping to the floor. I cannot always pick them up, not even with my new mechanical claw.

Commentary: I liked this transcription. The changes came easily and are very few. A little expansion there and there, but not much. The challenge for me then became the desire to reach out from my private world to the world of the workshop. I felt that to do that, I needed to add some material, specifically I wanted to highlight and intensify some sensations.

Age of Spillage [Prose 2]

    Fingers turn to butter but taste of nicotine, garlic, and soap when I bite my nails. My fingers encourage cups to slip, flying saucers to take off, to run out of energy, stall and crash, their broken bodies resting in peace and pieces on kitchen floor, waiting to be picked up, one by one, and buried in the waste bin. Arthritic fingers grown clumsy now struggle with bottle tops and glass containers screwed up so tight they refuse to open, even when soaked under the hot tap. I stick those jars in door jambs, lid first, closing the door with one hand, and twisting the jar with the other. Sometimes jars slip and crash to the floor, often with a portion of the contents spilling out. I hate these onion style plastic wraps, gathering together in layer after layer of wrapping. Flagrant in their defiance, they wage a guerrilla war against these ageing, uncoordinated fingers. I am often forced to use a knife, but a knife can slip or twist so easily. Occasionally, blunt, it will not even penetrate indomitable, multi-folded Saran wrap. On the telephone, names and numbers turn into tongue-twisters that twist tongue, tone and words, filling my mouth with glottal stops and threadbare speech. At times like these, my rib-cage becomes a Mother Hubbard’s cupboard, barren and bare, empty of all feelings, save panic. I reverse my numbers, putting them the wrong way round, calling by mistake so many unknown people. So many slips between plate, teeth, and lips. Multiple precious items drop to the floor. I cannot always bend to pick them up, and I cannot easily grasp them, not even with my new mechanical flexi-claw.

Commentary: This is the version I read on Sunday. I quite liked it at the time, but I now find the telephone passages at the end to be intrusive. I may  well cut them out and concentrate on touch. I wanted the telephone ‘in’ to exemplify sound, but on second thoughts it should probably be a fresh piece on its own. I could easily incorporate sound, the crash of the jar, the splintering of breaking glass, and even smell, the rich scent of the jar’s contents, into the touch section.

“We have no time to stand and stare” but true art demands that we sit, stare, look, listen, think, re-think, write, re-write. Remember too that some results are delayed and that impatience is the worst enemy of art. Don’t transport your paintings while the pain is still wet and don’t pull your carrots up early to see if they are actually starting to grow.

Addendum: Participaction … don’t think about it, do it.

Fingers slip across the telephone key board, pressing the wrong numbers or punching them in in the wrong order. Strange voices reply from the other end. This morning a woman spoke to me in a language I didn’t understand, Then a man came on the line and yelled at me in broken English to “Go away! Go away! Leave alone!” I imagined him tearing the telephone from his wife and berating her for this call from a foreigner. Often, I am too clever for my own good. I think I recall the right number for a friend, but when  punch it in, I find I have reversed two of the figures. I hear other people doing that when they call me: “Sorry, I say. I think you have the wrong number.” “Is that 472 …?” they query. I say that it isn’t and they say sorry and end the call. Then they call me back immediately and get the same answer. I hate running through my list of callers to get to the name that I want to call. But that’s what I have to do most days now. At least I don’t run into so many wrong numbers. And as for answering the phone … well … I am tired of robot calls, especially around election time. I am fed up with telephone surveys. I am driven crazy by the little men, I assume from their voices that they are little, who call me in the middle of the night or wake me early in the morning to tell me that my computer needs repair. “Suh, suh, we have discovered a werry nasty wirus [sic, or should that be sick] on your computer. Give me your password and let me in to your computer and I will repair it instantly. ” I have had calls from the telly-phony tax men who tell me the RCMP are about to knock on my door and arrest me if I don’t immediately give them my VISA Card number, passwords, and send them, right now, the $7,200 I owe them in taxes. I have grown to loathe the harbor boat hooter that announces I have won a cruise from Florida to Mexico on a super cruise ship …. that is probably a rusty tug boat that will take me twice around the harbor, be declared un-seaworthy, and leave me stranded miles from anywhere and paying a fortune to get myself home … and all I have to do is … Click! I think it’s the marketing surveys that really get my goat though. I am no expert, but I have read up on surveys and designed some myself. What I love-hate about telephone surveys is the lack of real choice, the forced direction in which they push you, the pre-determined result on which the designers are fixated. I know it’s a waste of time, but I occasionally indulge: “On a scale of 1-5, where 5 is good and 1 is poor, how would you rate … ” I explain that the question and the ratings do not work, but they are adamant that I must answer from 1-5. Yes, they understand that it can’t really be done, but yes, it must be done, because that’s what they are paid to do. O tempora o mores … “O tempora o mores” is a Latin phrase that translates literally as Oh the times! Oh the customs! but more accurately as Oh what times! Oh what customs! or alternatively, Alas the times, and the manners (Wikipedia). Oh boy, what an enjoyable rant. “Enough, no more. It is not as sweet now as it was before.” (Shakespeare).

Commentary: And that is another way to create. You find the splitting point in an already written narrative and, realizing that you have two narratives, not one, you divide the passage, rewrite the offending portion, and come up with something equally original, slightly different, and, in this case, hopefully funny. I leave that to the reader to judge the effect of the humor. The writing technique, however, is well worth recognizing, studying, and pursuing. One further point: sometimes it is necessary to be cruel to be kind. Splitting the earlier piece (oh cruel world) leads to the creation of two quite neat pieces (oh happy days).

By all means use these pieces and ideas as a prompt for your own memory writing. If you do, remember the suggestions I made earlier (and copy below). And, above all, have fun.

Suggestions for the writing exercise included in each module:

Write a prose memoir, just reminiscing.

Use 1st, 2nd, or 3rd person narrative.

Choose 6-12 words from the reading and expand on them using associative fields.

Write from an image or a metaphor.

Journal style: automatic writing, but try to select the gems.

Letter style: write to a friend.

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