Saturday, 30 May 2009

The Camp

Saul's tear-stained face turned insolently toward his older sister. "I'm not going, and that's that!" he screamed. "I wanna stay right here with Ponta an' nobody's gonna make me go anywhere!" He hugged the squirming puppy possessively.

Melina gave an exasperated gasp and turned away. Slamming the boy's bedroom door, she stamped heavily down the spiral staircase, frowning angrily. "I can't talk him into anything! He refuses to listen!" She plopped down on the kitchen stool in front of her oatmeal. She absently dug a hole into the middle of the steaming mound of cereal and poured milk into it.

Her mother stopped loading the utensil-cleaning unit and gave Melina a tired look. "Refusing won't do him any good. He's going to that camp. I'm just too ill these days to have that tiresome boy constantly trying my patience." She glanced at the computerized wall clock and gasped, "It's ten hours already! The bus goes by in an hour. Have you got his bag packed yet?"

Melina shrugged. "It's packed, but how are we going to get him on the bus?"

A hum was heard above. "Your father is home," was all mother said.

Dad barely managed to deposit a kicking and screaming son on the waiting hoverbus that was to transport he and his young companions to camp. The children's Summer Camp was a new one, situate
d in Geneva. The efficient robots which ran the institution insured good organization and even tempers. Many parents who had little time to control their troublesome charges seized the opportunity to relieve themselves of unwanted responsibilities. This was the first busload.

Saul sat sideways in his seat, hugging his knees and staring out of the window. The hoverbus stilled its hum and floated gently onto the landing circle. The other children chatted in anticipation and fumb
led about gathering their belongings. Saul, alone, remained silent.

His manner was unusually calm for that of an eight-year-old. He was the last to leave the hoverbus, shrinking from the extended synthetic hand of the plastic camp counsellor as it attempted a greeting.

Saul furtively glanced about
him. The fountain at the mouth of the river spurted a 120 metre stream of water into the air. Mountains loomed darkly around the lake.

The children boarded an old-fashioned tour boat that was to take them to the campsite. The children thought it to be a novelty to surge on the waves instead of skimming metres over the water. The engines throbbed noisily and the young children were fascinated by the surge and swell of the waves.

The disembarkation was swift and efficient. The robots quickly herded the children toward their respective cabins, giving them the hour for the evening meal.

Saul was hungry. Due to his frustration and anger during the day, he had refused to eat. After dumping his belongings on his narrow bed, he wandered toward the kitchen in order to inhale the supper scents.

Curiosity overcame the boy as he spotted two of the robots conversing near the dining hall. He edged within hearing distance, hidden behind the protective bulk of the hoverbus.

The animated faces were turned toward each other, feigning human conversation. "The subjects will be boarded before their alleged evening meal to be taken to Xonyn Ship. They will then be transported to Ca
ntab in the Wen Star planet belt. They will be sufficiently prepared, enroute, for the pysiology dissections in the Cantab laboratories. The camp staff will take its leave at the same time so as to avoid procecution."

Saul was not too young to understand the exchange. His eyes widened in disbelief. Then came a deep, crushing fear. To run back to the cabin in order to warn the others would only mean death. Time was too short. His own need for survival prevented from crying out and running back.

All he wanted to do was hide. The chatter and laughter of the children became louder as they were led to the dining area and the hoverbus.

Saul backed away from the bus. The riverbank w
as close, so he crawled behind some bushes. He almost slid on the muddy slope ito the rushing waters, but he snatched at a stubby branch.

The tinny voices were still heard. "Children, we have a surprise for you," the counsellor cheerfully announced. "We are going for a ride and we'll have our meal on the real inter-cosmic ship!"

The boys and girls squealed with delight.

"If you will board the bus, we'll be on our way." The ecstatic children tripped onto the waiting bus, laughing and talking.

Saul felt a very unchildlike desolation as the bus began to hum. He felt terribly disappointed in everything, everyone. Mos
t of the parents would probably never miss their troublesome charges, assuming that the children were taking up permanent residence at that convenient camp.

Saul didn't realize the cause of his feeling of total loss. He merely crouched behind the foliage, sobbing in desperation as the hoverbus rose into the air and skimmed over the grass toward the mountains.

On board, the children sang.

While enjoying Dumptser Madness today, I came across a Ziploc bag in the farthest (furthest?) corner beneath the bar. Inside, I found Cassandra, a magazine published by my classmates at Huron Heights Secondary School the year after I completed Grade 13. Yes, folks, we had Grade 13 back then, a college prep grade.

I had totally forgotten about this little zine. It was supposed to be speculative, with stories depicting the future - the year 2000. It also contains comics. We wrote the stories in 1978. A student supplied pen and ink illustrations and the Practice Office typed it up for us.

I'm pretty sure The Camp was my first attempt at serious writing. It's riddled with passive sentences and stiff prose, but I think the story had something.
I had fun reading it.

Now I'm gonna Google the other authors to see if they're still writing.

(Sorry about the font colours. Blogger won't let me make them white for easier reading.)

Monday, 25 May 2009

One person's trash is... well, another person's trash.

We come from two long lines of pack rats. Add that to the fact that we can't say no when someone offers us anything for free, and we have a house filled to the rafters with junk.

Don't get me wrong, I like our house. The decor is, shall we say, eclectic. Mismatched hand-me-down furniture and Ikea wall units sit beside antiques and African wall sculptures. We just can't use the whole place because we have too much stuff.

Guest room? Fuggetaboudit. It's filled with furniture and toys we haven't got rid of. My husband's den walls are lined with computer parts and manuals from operating systems that haven't existed for twenty years. The area behind the bar is jammed with boxes of the kids' old drawings and my grade school homework.

The dining room hutch is stuffed with pink china, crystal and silver that no one seems to want. Believe me, I tried to sell it. Not even a nibble.

My husband's dad sold the cottage, then downsized a few years before he passed away. We were commissioned to clean out the condo and cottage and to take anything that wouldn't fit in his newer, smaller residence. Both residences were jammed with amazing artifacts connected to his handyman/stonemason days - tools, nails, glue, picture frame parts, a homemade table saw... baking supplies, kitchen gadgets,

He also had a collection of stuff he bought from Reader's Digest mail order and infomercials. We actually own a Veg-O-Matic. I still use it. Really. It works. Makes great fries.

We had also purchased my parents' house, along with the interesting articles that hadn't been hauled away. Somewhere under the stairs sits a stereo console my dad made in his ambitious carpenter days. I'd love to put it back in the dining room to use as a sideboard, but there isn't room. If I can possibly reach it, perhaps some other family will give it a home.

I think there's a floor model television under there, too, from the seventies. I wonder what I can get for it on EBay?

The only way we can get to the interesting stuff is to throw out all the useless stuff that accumulated over the past 25-35 years since the Cormier family first occupied the Bayview Estate. And the only way to get the crap out of the house is to hire a Dumpster.

It's coming on Wednesday. The whole family is so excited, it seems like Christmas. My son graciously volunteered to don a Haz Mat suit, work gloves and goggles to wade through the Danger Room. Everyone has a Danger Room. It's the gigantor version of the Junk Drawer. Who knows what treasures we'll find in there, once we get past the old mattresses and bags of donated clothing?

We plan to divide the booty in the same manner as those reality shows. We'll have the Keep pile, the Sell pile and the Icky pile. The Icky pile will go into the Dumpster and we'll have a yard sale with the Sell pile.

After The Purge, we'll finally be able to invite people over without closing off the crowded, cluttered rooms! I'll have a back yard again! The shed won't be a haven for squirrels and chipmunks! I can sit on my porch without tripping over old Easter baskets! The broken rubble that once resembled a picnic table will be swept away so I can have a patio again!

Maybe I'll even find that long-lost Maurice "Rocket" Richard autograph I heard about.

Two more sleeps. Count 'em.

Picture: It's not really in my house - that's the Chandelier Pile in the basement of a local Antique Mall.

Sunday, 17 May 2009

Confessions of a Not So Shopaholic

I met and married my husband in T.O. during the eighties. It was a fun time -- Toronto was full of music, bright colours, big hair and innocence. We took long walks along Harbourfront, rode the streetcar to the Fox Theatre at The Beaches to watch vintage cinema, and listened to great Jazz in the Soho district on Queen St. West.

After a few years we grew weary of increasing noise, pollution and violence. Grafitti slashed across brick walls, people started avoiding eye contact. Faces on buses and streetcars reflected our mood - weary and disappointed. The edges of our vision of Toronto took on a tattered, stained look. When we blew our noses at the end of the day and black stuff came out, we figured it was time to migrate north.

We moved to Newmarket, the town in which I had spent my teen years. We had kids, I took a job at the local paper, and everything's fine. People still nod and say good morning to each other here. I still see old classmates. We have a great mall, a super hospital and a Home Depot. Who could ask for more?

My daughter and I headed to Toronto yesterday for a bit of girl time and shopping in honour of her twentieth birthday (next week) and my (gulp) fiftieth (next next week). After all, it's still a nice place to visit. Toronto still holds a bit of Oz-like magic for my daughter.

She especially likes the gigorzmic Indigo Bookstore at the Eaton Centre. I found a copy of Whiskey Sour by J.A. Konrath. He's a Facebook buddy -- yanno, a friend of a friend of a friend -- and I was curious about his Jack Daniels series. I couldn't find the book in Newmarket so it was a nice surprise. I also spent way too much on a funky file holder.

We slipped into Williams-Sonoma to check out the spices. Men in trendy glasses and headsets flitted about the place, straightening rows of saucepans. I admired a red butter crock, the perfect size for keeping a quarter pound of butter on the kitchen counter, but balked when I saw the price - $45. No thanks.

At The Pottery Barn, more men in trendy glasses and headsets folded towels.

As we walked past a camera shop, a patron accidentally knocked over a picture frame, sending it crashing face down on the floor. An employee looked at the mess, knelt on one knee and spread his arms out, wailing, "Why? Why?" I figured he was really an actor and the camera store was just his day gig.

Newmarket doesn't have a Disney Store and Beth really, really wanted a stuffed Bolt. Because of her Animation aspirations, she loves to browse the store but I find it a little surreal, like Wal-Mart at Christmastime, or the underground society in A Boy and His Dog.

We had lunch at Mr. Greenjeans and the waiter seated us in a little alcove with a bistro table and two stuffed leather chairs. When we sank into the chairs, the table was up to our chins. We managed to eat anyway.

Two girls occupied the table opposite, and one of them described in her best skater girl accent, "You know, that iPod thingy has this little ruler in it with a bubble, you know? Like, it helps to see if your shelf is level, you know? I want one of those."

Somehow I doubt she'd need that application.

We stepped outside between downpours to get some air, and I noticed how much Dundas and Yonge had changed. Flashing Jumbotron screens and neon lights were everywhere, much like the pictures I'd seen of Times Square. If I stayed too long, I'd surely suffer from sensory overload.

An older man sat on the sidewalk, playing an Erhu - a Chinese violin with two strings. The plaintive sounds of the instrument wove its way thinly around sirens, bleeping crosswalk signals and roaring motorcycles.

We crossed the intersection diagonally, a first for me. I was amazed the pedestrians didn't tangle up and fall down in a mess when the human streams met at the middle, but we managed to get to the other side. We entered a newer building and Beth found a little shop that held her favourite Nintendo toys.

Back at the Eaton Centre, we encountered a man we'd seen on previous visits. We speculated about his occupation. He wore the same pale yellow suit and little straw fedora. He held a bejeweled cane in his hands. I snuck a shot of him from behind a display.

I tried on a few shirts, but the results depressed me. It seemed all the clothes were made for skinny women with miniscule boobies positioned near their chins. After two sweaty sessions in tiny cubicles, I gave up trying to find something that fit me.

In the end, I came home with two sore feet, a file folder, a book, a $10 necklace, and a DVD of Snatch.

Not bad, huh?

Picture 1: A shot I took on Queen St. East in the Eighties
Picture 2: Eaton Centre
Picture 3: Trinity Square
Picture 4: Disney Store
Picture 5: The Man in Yellow

Thursday, 7 May 2009

In Search of Giants

I don't consider myself a giant by any means (ignore my midriff) but Aerin Bender-Stone interviewed me on her literary blog. Here's the link. I love her blog banner!

Wednesday, 6 May 2009

Ketchup is a food group, right?

My son is currently participating in the 30 Hour Famine through his school. The money raised will go toward the victims of the recent earthquake in Italy. His participation will count toward his Community Service hours, a requirement so he can graduate high school.

To make his sacrifice easier to swallow (heh), we decided to have fish & chips for dinner tonight, something he absolutely abhors. I guess I'm doing my part in some twisted way.

I wonder how many teens use this time to reflect on their diet and how much junk they put into their bodies? He's not allowed his favourite diet soda, which experts claim depletes calcium in growing bones. He had tried regular juice and pop, but balked at the sugar content. What is a bored teenager to do? Water? Yuck.

He lives on Pizza Pops and toaster waffles, then grudgingly eats whatever healthy dinner I try to prepare. I think there are tomatoes in Pizza Pops, and I at least supply whole wheat waffles.

I don't give him a hard time. He walks a fair distance from school, and after a pudgy tweenhood, he has turned into a slim, tallish, good looking fella. All this in spite of his sedentary lifestyle in front of video games and umpteen viewings of 30 Rock and SNL.

As I tucked into my oven-baked, battered fish filets and fries, I noticed (belatedly) that I hadn't cooked any veggies with our meal. Maybe I should have opted for salmon, slivered red peppers and brown rice instead. My son hates that stuff.

I could promise that next time I'll provide healthier choices for my family, but that may not be the option in the near future. Next week, my hours at work will change. I'll be starting later, and coming home waaaaayyy after dinner hour. My family will adapt or perish.

I am also volunteering for a four day work week to help our newspaper cut costs. It's supposed to be in effect through 2009, and I can opt out if things get financially dicey. I hope to use this time to (a) write more and finish the Damn Yearbook, and (b) walk to work at least twice a week.

In other news, I am thrilled that my dear blogging friend Cindy Pon is receiving favourable reviews for The Silver Phoenix. I've been shamelessly trying to win her book, but if I fail I can get my hubby to buy it for my birthday.

Also, Stephen Parrish got himself a book deal. Midnight Ink accepted his novel, Adamant Stone. I'm so happy for him, and glad he'll blog again as a result!