Greta the Wonder Dog

Dogs barked in the distance, Oswald smiled thinking of his dog growing up, it had been quite a few years since he left home. He missed his old dog Greta. His dad always joked about her, calling her Greta the Wonder Dog. She was pretty normal in most respects although she did some pretty dumb things sometimes, like if she got into the food bag by accident. Well if we made the mistake of leaving it unsecured. She wouldn’t stop eating and twice we had to take her to the vets and get her stomach pumped.

So she wasn’t smart about her food, but one time there was a fire in the house. Our cat Stumpy chewed a lamp cord and the cord shorted and started a smolder in the rug. A smolder isn’t when there is a flamey fire, but instead you get a lot of smoke. We might have asphyxiated in our sleep if Greta hadn’t gotten all in a lather and started barking to beat the band. My father likes to tell the story and he always says “she was barking to beat the band”. Loud is what that means, loudly. I was startled out of my sleep, kind of pissed at first, because I was in the middle of what I am still pretty sure was my first really hot dream and in my dream I had a naked pretty woman in my bed.

I am not certain that would have been the best way to go really. Maybe for the eighteenth century romanticists. I am sure some of the nineteenth century romanticists might have been down with that too. Dying by asphyxiation during the height of your first sex dream! But Greta spoiled all that! She didn’t know. I remember all of us standing out in the cold, patting Greta who just grinned her shit eating grin and wagged her tail. I don’t know if she had any idea what she’d done. Instinct perhaps. I mean why did she care? Was it the food? I have often wondered what exactly is the man dog connection, person dog connection. Why do they give a shit? Cat’s are so blasé for the most part, they can take you or leave you, but dogs they are another story, they huff and they chuff, and they wag their tails, go right nuts really. Which was what Greta was doing outside the house with our family all assembled, watching the firemen do what they do. She went from one to the other of us, wagging her tail and barking to beat the band.

Oswald smiled at the memory, half wishing Greta was with him on this trip. He had just rounded a bend and Mount Everest was in sight. He had always wanted to hike the road into base camp. Well he had once upon a time dreamed about climbing to the top, but had gotten a bit long in the tooth for that. He had settled for the next best thing which was to go and be with the mountain and try to get some of that wonder that the explorers had written about, that Oswald had read about in those books, all those many years ago, when he had lived with ‘Greta the Wonder Dog’

The Admiral’s Boy

Flotsam and Jetsam

My untied shoelaces tripped me up yesterday.

And to save myself I jumped up, over and down,

Down the stairs, landing on my feet.

My good old feet, sturdy things that last and last.

Lasted ‘til now I guess, let me count the years and make a little cake to mark

This affection that I have with these stubby chunks,

These scurvy chumps of flesh, with all these tiny bones inside.

Moving me around this town and a few others besides.

How do they hold me up?

I don’t think lilies would be the flower that I would want to have at the party for my feet.

And something simple for food.

How about frankfurters? My feet would skip to the ball park in anticipation of a Frankfurter.

Ballpark franks are the best.

Marshmallows are nice too but only if they are roasted.

So I will have to have a little bonfire out back.

I am allergic to wood smoke but refuse to eat marshmallows unless they are roasted over a wood fire.

Hamlet’s famous line ‘to be or not to be’ kind of predates existentialism, I am pretty sure,

Although the whole of human endeavour is a kind of experiment isn’t it?

To explain it or disprove it.

Don’t you think?

When you look at the universe you feel small.

If you even do, consider the universe, at all.

I feel small.

Small as dust.

Only so much flotsam and jetsam, washed up on a beach somewhere,

A speck really smaller than the most conceivably small thing.

I know that there is smaller shit than me, but that is not the point.

Truth rarely makes good poetry.

About the shoelace and the jump.

I did land on my feet. But,

A few day later I came up lame and had to be put down.

They shoot horses don’t they?

The Admiral’s Boy

An Unusual Bouquet

I wake up alone again, and again, and again. I try to bring some company to bed. More likely to get company to stay in bed. I’ve been married several times. I have a boyfriend, we are happy, but he won’t sleep with me. I don’t blame anyone really. I don’t. I fart a lot. I don’t mind the smell of my own farts. In fact truth to tell I quite like them. I know that sounds a bit perverted possibly, maybe a lot perverted, but that’s how it is. And I know it gets a bit worse under the cover’s, a pressure can build up and cause any amount of olefactorial distress, even injury. One of my ex’s was lighting a cigarette after our sumptin’ sumptin’ and her eyebrows got singed by the flare up. The covers were sent flying and I wondered why my ass felt cold.

Mitzy went and got the fly swatter and started laying into me. I guess she had had all she could stand. I jumped out of bed and started running around the house with my dingle hangin’ out. She found me hiding behind the couch in the family room and she swatted me until she collapsed on me in a fit of laughter and we ended up having probably the best sex ever.

Too bad we broke up a little while later. Ahhh.

My current lover Simon never farts, well, I never hear them or smell them and he swears up and down that he never farts on the sly. I find that hard to believe, I just don’t think that it is humanly possible to not fart. There is shit involved after all and the digestion process is, well, complicated! Lots of chemicals involved and some of that has to be gas. Gas is a chemical. So the fart-less. The non-farting. The fart-challenged shall we say. There has to be a pressure build up issue. Simon is a bit short tempered and I have been wondering if that could have something to do with it. I’ve never broached the subject.

I personally revel in a good well-made, well-focused fart. A fart well emitted. Well trumpeted. I feel them developing right after my meal. I have done some study and discovered some foods that alone or in combination are superlative at producing the right amount of gas, with the correct aroma. The fart and its bouquet, not tart, not sugary, something like ambrosia, the aromatic equivalent to prune juice. Which is ironic when you think that prune juice really works for me. Prune juice and cabbage, actually sauerkraut which is a kind of pickled cabbage. Prune juice/Sauerkraut and hot red chillies, oh my, it gives me goose bumps just thinking about it.

Simon made it clear after he had heard the story of Mitzy getting singed, that he would be sleeping in his own bed in a separate room and I was to make sure to let loose as much fart as possible before he would consent to have sex.

Only once, is the answer. You see, I knew what you were going to ask next. I knew that you were going to ask; if I had ever farted during sex?

The Admiral’s Boy

Franky the Reverend

Franky the Reverend

It was tipsy eve again and Franklin wanted to shout so loud. Shout to all the rooftops, and back alleys and to all the alley cats … Well!! What did you think? That this was some kind of Edelweiss in the Swiss alps?

No! Franklin was drunk again. He staggered a step or two into a dark corner of the alley up against the dumpster and the cold brick wall. He leaned his check into the brick, which felt good on his bruise.

He took great care to unzip himself and work himself loose from his under garments. Two days ago he hadn’t been careful and his bottle, the sacred bottle of wine went tumbling and shattered, regrettably, on the pavement and he had wanted to shout then, in fear and rage.

Instead he spent the night on a cold slab of steel in the county jail shakin’ with the tremors.

Tonight he was careful, pretty careful, reasonably careful, as careful as a drunk man could be. His dick rasped over his zipper and he cursed out loud about that but he was happy that he had been careful enough that he didn’t drop the sacred bottle.

You are laughing by now and I laugh too, thinking back on the time I was known as the Reverend

… I was Franky the Reverend and people came up to me all the time for the benediction.

“Give us a sign Franky,” “Give us the blessing,” “How about a swig,”

I grew up Catholic and I remembered a bit of the Latin and so I’d say a few words at someone and they’d take a swig —No, it wasn’t sanitary, but that was hardly a concern in those days. I’d say a few words in Latin and they’d get this look in their eyes.

I don’t know how to describe it really, kind of like they’d seen something, something special, felt something, attained for a brief moment, a kind of grace, a peace. I was happy I could help people. I like that, didn’t know what I was doing really but once and awhile it worked.

I remember one time these two guys were going at it … fightin’!! A little bit of a crowd had gathered and some blood was starting to fly. I came up beside this melee and called out ‘boys’. Maybe too quiet the first time, because after I shouted -‘BOYS’ they both stopped and I started in on the Latin and they got quiet, then I offered up the wine and they each took a swig.

Seemed to work a miracle and they went off, arms around each other’s shoulders, back into the bar.

After Franklin got his dick passed his zipper, and made sure his sacred bottle of wine was safe, the next thing he had to worry about was peeing on his shoes.

Aside from dropping his sacred bottle. Aside from his coattails getting swept into the stream by the wind. Aside from the flashlight of the officers patrolling the alley. Aside from tomorrow’s hangover and his mom giving him shit for not amounting to anything other than a back alley reverend which Franklin thought was a bit mean spirited.

But to be fair to his mum, he realized that she hadn’t seen the faces of his parishioners after a benediction.

How was she to know.

The Admiral’s Boy

The Card Trick

Johnny shuffled the deck of cards once, twice … thrice. He had a nervous habit, nervous habits I should say and if he didn’t shuffle cards, flip coins in his fingers or whittle some bit of wood, maybe a chunk of old pallet or something, any little bit of a busy thing, he would start scratching. The last time he took to scratching, he had ended up in the hospital, most of the skin on his right arm a bloody pulp. His mother screamed at him to get a job and clean up his life. He had to have her ejected from his room. She had great lungs, even whilst in the grip of big Boris the orderly, who grabbed her around the middle, lifted her up in the air and physically hauled her away. No mean feat as Momma carried a few extra. Even then she wouldn’t shut up. He had to hand it to her, when she had her mind on something, she just couldn’t be stopped. His father sat watching and didn’t make a move. He simply sat in the little uncomfortable chair that they give you for visitors and held his hat in his hands. Too old school to wear a hat inside, he always doffed his cap, in this case his very best black velvet fedora, which he only brought out on special occasions. After the ‘Sturm und Drang’ of his mother’s exit, Johnny’s pops smiled and said.

Show me one of your card tricks Johnny. Johnny smiled back at his dad,

Aw pops you’ve already seen them all.

No, show me a trick, and then explain how you do it. Johnny’s dad took a fresh deck of cards out of his pocket and handed them over to his son. Johnny proceeded to rip off the cellophane and crack the deck, shuffle the cards and then did a trick for his dad. His dad smiled the biggest smile Johnny had ever seen; he was getting the biggest kick out of this.

Ok now show me how. So he did. Johnny went through the trick step by step, shuffling the deck, giving it to his dad to cut, getting his dad to pick the card and then walking his dad through the trick, showing the path of the card as it went through a shuffle and a cut and ended up on top to be turned over and revealed as the originally chosen card. Johnny was expecting his dad to be disappointed, just as Dorothy and her companions were when, after that crazy journey and all the expectation, little Toto sniffs behind the curtain and the great and powerful Oz is revealed to be just a regular guy. But that didn’t happen. His smile only got bigger. They both turned their heads at the sound of kerfuffle down the hall and then looked back at each other. Johnny’s father shrugged his shoulders and got up and straightened his clothes and put on his hat. He pinched his son’s toe through the blanket and gave him a wink.

Well son I had better tend to your mother. That was the last time Johnny saw him. He got hit by a truck at a crosswalk and died instantly the next day.

Johnny coughed a deep rattling cough and peered inside the dumpster looking for food, his hands going a mile a minute, shuffling the deck of cards. He got up onto a stack of pallets and was just about ready to jump over the edge when a high-pitched voice softly called out to him.

Hey mister do you know any tricks; I see that you have a deck of cards in your hands. Johnny stopped in mid-step; he had his leg halfway over the edge of the dumpster and getting it down meant hopping on one foot until he could get his leg back over. As he was in the middle of the necessary gyrations, he was confronted by what he at first took to be an apparition. Tight bright red curls of hair on a little girl with a face so white it appeared translucent. Immaculately dressed in a gorgeous green dress complete with appliqué dancers in pink tutus and white ballet shoes topped by a purple faux fur collar. She was holding a leash connected to a dog twice her size. Diminutive as she seemed this still meant that the dog was enormous, a giant beast of a thing with thick long pure black hair. This creature looked more like a black lion than a dog, Johnny was certain that this was the largest dog that he had ever seen. They were backlit by the afternoon sun and so had this quality of gossamer, of shimmer, the girl’s hair shining like a head full of fire. She spoke.

My name is Glenda and this is my dog Beppo, I named him after one of the unknown Marx brothers don’t you know. I was still twirling and hopping unsteadily on my platform of pallets. Finally I landed and blinked my eyes twice then I rubbed them for good measure, but Glenda and Beppo did not disappear, as was sometimes the case these days during what I will someday hopefully, laughingly call my ‘Alley Period’. Certainly somewhat cubist, based on my impressions fragmented through the kaleidoscopic filter of my current mixture of self-medications. Nope, Glenda didn’t budge and neither did Beppo and the two certainly looked like they meant business. I looked at them and they looked at me and there we stood for a while like three statues, One, seemingly on fire. I started a card trick. I shuffled the deck then offered the deck to Glenda who took a card and showed it to Beppo. I would swear he nodded but … well! I took their card back into the deck and did my shenanigans with the requisite patter. I shuffled, cut, fanned and even slapped the deck for good measure. I told stories of a glorious past complete with navigators in goggles and equatorial crossings. I was really putting on a show this time. I was on fire. I glanced at Glenda who had a delighted smile on her face and Beppo who appeared completely unmoved. At the end I removed their card from the deck and then keeping the card in my hand and handing the deck over to Glenda, I turned my back to them in order to present the card with a flourish. I made some trumpet noises and turned around with the card facing out and they were gone. I looked all around me you know in that way where you almost get tripped up spinning around. I hadn’t heard a sound. Quiet as a couple of cats they were. The deck of cards was in a splatter on the ground.

The shot: We start with a close up of Johnny holding out the two of hearts. We catch the look of surprise on his face and then the camera slowly rises and takes in the area around the dumpster and the alley and then the neighbourhood and nothing, no trace of the red haired girl and her large lion-like black dog. Back to Johnny whose eyes catch a little glint. He puts out his hand and captures two shiny red curls floating in the sunlight. Cut.

Julien’s Special Day

Julien’s Special Day

Juice was pouring out of the juicing machine and flowing across the counter. Quite a bit of juice actually. The curious mix of Avocado, Raspberry and Kale splashing onto the face of Julien who lay on the floor. The door to the kitchen was ajar. He’d been meaning to do renovations and remove the doorway, open things up a bit. Now he was lying on his back on the floor and he wouldn’t be worrying about the renovations any more.

He lived alone in this little house at 27 Court St. in the cities west end. The end that embraced the sun as it found its weary way to sleep. Pretty working-class this end, in a bit of a lull waiting for the wrecking balls of the Gentrifiers. At the moment they were all busy to the south and east. Julien was an early adopter. He worked as a middle manager keeping track of the efforts of a small and dedicated crew who sorted and distributed the mail, such as it was these days what with all the e-mailing, texting and tweeting.

The juice continued to spill out of a bullet hole in the juicer. Some of it was mixing with the blood leaking from Julien’s head creating interesting textures on the grey slate floor in the kitchen. A book of philosophy was open on the kitchen table beside the plate carefully laid out with egg, toast and bacon. The silverware placed ever so precisely like sentinels on guard. En Garde the famous cry before attacking in Rapiers. But the silver couldn’t help Julien on this day. This special day, the day when he was due to get a pay rise and a commendation for many consecutive days without a sick day at the company where he so carefully tracked and counted the dwindling influx of mail.

He usually phoned his mother most mornings. She was getting on in years but still kept her own apartment, not far away, a little further west. She wouldn’t get a call today, but having received one yesterday this wouldn’t be out of the ordinary, it would take at least one more full day before Julien’s mother would start to wonder and would phone Julien’s sister who also lived nearby. There were others whom she would phone and they would phone still many more. The discovery of Julien’s death would wait.

The traffic was going by his house in a rumble and a blur and looking across the street from the park, his house stood quiet and sedate, just as peaceful as all the other houses along the street. A street filled with beautiful leafy trees dark green from all the June rain. Julien had gotten a bit bored with fiction and had begun to dig out his old philosophy books and this particular one by Nietzsche had really caught his eye. He was enthralled by the idea of the Über Mensch. Julien felt that he shared some kind of affinity with Nietzsche. Julien had been very ill growing up and as a consequence had been tended by his mother and sister. Julien’s father had spurned him during this time in favour of his two older and healthier brothers.

Nietzsche had been sickly though much of his adult life and was tended by his sister. There are some who believe that Nietzsche and his sister had some kind of untoward intimacy for each other. Julien’s illness riddled childhood had stunted his growth and he ended up quite diminutive. His intelligence was not affected however and he did quite well in school. Excelling in the most esoteric disciplines such as philosophy. When he got out of university he had been recruited by CSIS and had spent time overseas as a spy. Julien would always shrug off such talk of the cloak and dagger, spies and the like, he would demur and turn the topic to something else. However his resume did have several gaps in it, filled with vague references to import and export of goods unknown.

Julien had participated in a particularly dirty bit of business in the nineties. His subject had died while in custody and had to be buried late at night down an old lane, but not before he had given over the detailed directions to a cache of gold hidden in the hills of a unnamed southern country. Julien personally took care of the burial but not before extracting the subjects gold teeth. Well the dead gentleman wasn’t going to need them where he was going was he? Julien’s mission had concluded successfully, having located and collected the gold. Julien couldn’t help it that some of the cache had gone astray. Who was keeping accounts? The agency had gotten more than enough, he reckoned.

He had temporarily ‘borrowed’ a truck during the escapade. What he didn’t realize was he had been seen at one point and someone made a vow of revenge. Finally after some other jobs, some very close calls in Northern Africa, guns drawn and muzzle flashes in the night, in alleys intermittently obscured by moody steam, he decided to pack it in.

Not however before one last job, unsanctioned by the agency. He had begun his planning well in advance, as this was going to be a solo effort. He felt too vulnerable involving anyone else. Even his regular partners would be left in the dark on this one. But ones adversaries can have the longest memories and revenge can take its own sweet time catching up to one such as he. It often comes out of the blue when you least expect it. Some bright sunny day while getting ready for work, a gold-toothed Berber might roll up on you soft and silent like.

Howard Beye 2014

The car you get to drive: The last ‘fuck you’.

I was watching a bit of playoff football on the weekend. My team won their game and are going on to the Super Bowl … Huzzah!! While I was watching the game a commercial came on for the Lexus and the tag line was drive a Lexus ‘while you still can’.

I thought to myself … ‘while I still can’ … what the fuck are they talking about?

Oh right! Self driving cars are coming. I have been thinking a lot lately about this relentless pursuit of the self driving car.

What is an automobile manufacturer selling, if not the exhilarating, I’m in control feeling of freedom when driving a car? The I can do whatever I want, go wherever I want, whenever I want, essentially the ‘fuck you’ of driving a car.

Freedom of the individual, in the land of plenty, the land of milk and honey, what the boys and girls go to fight and die for. Where do you find it?

The reality is that you have to negotiate or submit at every turn. You bow to your parents, teenage rebellion notwithstanding. In school you have teachers and a principal. In the military, sir yes sir, sir permission to speak sir. In sports, at work, where does it end.

Finally you leave home, you graduate, you get discharged or what have you and you find yourself sitting on the couch in front of the TV. Honey what do you want to watch tonight? I don’t know what do you want to watch? The dance goes on.

Freedom it’s a wonderful idea. Does it truly exist?

There are images of freedom. Time was you had your cowboys. They travelled the land and worked where and when the felt like it. They were cool! Before that you had your pilgrims. ‘Fuck you’ we’re out of here and we’ll pray how we want.

I am speaking about the United States or course. The country that takes the ‘fuck you’ to new levels everyday.

In the Americas we have Columbus to thank for getting the ball rolling. Don’t be fooled by Columbus Day and all the celebration. Columbus and his boys were bitches. Look it up.

The Spanish got the report back from old CC and were like, that sounds like some fun and sent over Pizarro. Turns out it didn’t take too much, a couple of cannons and a healthy disrespect for the gunpowder budget and the Aztecs, Mayans and Inca’s folded quietly, they didn’t want to leak any fluids. That’s how the bad boys get you, by threatening to make your body leak. The Spanish weren’t playing patty cake. Count the number of countries where Spanish is the official language.

The French got busy in Africa for a while. Twenty nine African countries speak french as the official language.

How about the British. At its zenith, the sun never set on the British Empire. The Commonwealth league of Nations is an international community made up of the former British Colonies. Fifty Three Countries. You have have some serious ‘fuck you’ to invade and conquer fifty three different countries and hold them hostage at the same time.

The Commonwealth. Some overseer dude looking at the gold and diamonds comin’ out of the ground all dirty and be like, “that’s some common wealth don’t be worrying about that, keep digging until you find the shiny stuff, we can share that”.

Scientists got a lot of ‘fuck you’ on the go mostly because the majority of folks don’t know what they are talking about most of the time. The lab coat girls and boys are like, in your face, Nanoseconds (very small units of time) and most people have a blank look.

Freedom is really a kind of dance isn’t it? A dance between the desires of the individual and the needs of the society and culture within which we live.

So what kind of game does the little guy have, the everyday joe, Larry lunch box. Defeating nations in your dreams.

All you have at the end of the day, really, is your car. You get in after a shitty day at work, after a fight with your mister or missus. You can fire up a cigarette, put the tunes on and crank the volume up to eleven. You put your hands on the wheel and if nowhere else, for a brief moment in time you are the master of your own destiny.

In your self driving car, you really are just another brick in the wall.

Basket Weaving : Not as simple as it sounds!

Basket Weaving

6 Minute Read

My dad is a retired professor of Greek and Latin and has a pretty high opinion of himself and his profession. Certainly he has read a lot of books.

Growing up my siblings and I were surrounded by books. Bookcases lined the walls of our home and when we went to our dads office, you guessed it, more bookcases.

So yeah a pretty scholarly kind of guy. He also was quite presumptuous of the callings less scholarly. He would disparage one or another survey course as being equivalent to ‘basket weaving’.

As I grew up I took on his prejudices and thought basket weaving was pretty simplistic.

One day I rebelled against my father, of course.

It could have gone a couple of different ways. He was in the liberal arts. I could have gone for the sciences. Ha Ha f-you “Nanoseconds” (really short amounts of time) or explored the crafts like “basket weaving” which is what I did.

I went to a summer camp in the country that focused on art and craft and gardening and cooking. Crazy place. A large barn to do art and crafts in. Gardens to tend, bread to bake, chickens to feed and a cow to milk. Fields that grew hay and a woods where the cabins were.

The campers designed and built their own cabins. Plastic for windows, screening for ventilation and canvas for walls for privacy. Very simple, very beautiful. It was summertime so we didn’t need heat.

‘Simple beauty,’ isn’t that what the Buddhists are always talking about.

The biggest thing that I learned from The Farm and Sea summer camp was to follow my curiosity.

I came back to the farm to visit and ended up marrying the owner’s daughter and went on to a ten year career in pottery, two summers beekeeping, did a stint as a blacksmith and a machinist and I designed and built a beautiful 3500 sq/ft house.

And much more.

The tie in with basket weaving goes like this.

I was listening to a news report of a Korean Airlines jet crashing on the island of Guam in 1997.

Guam is located right out there in the Pacific Ocean. East of the Philippines, North of Papau New Guinea and South of Japan.

Surprisingly people do survive airplane crashes from time to time. In this case 26 people out of a total of 254. I thought about how the fuselage or tube that holds all the people or cargo is constructed.

I wondered if the fuselage didn’t break apart would more people survive a crash?

I had seen some videos and read some books about aircraft fuselage construction.

Essentially sheets of material put together with rivets along the edges, kind if like staples. Each point of connection is a stress point. Multiple connection points = Multiple stress points, that can let go and the whole sheet tears off.

I started to wonder if it would be possible to weave the fuselage, some kind of narrow strips of fabric made of some space age material, of course, like carbon fibre.

Something light and strong.

Strips of fabric that you could weave around the skeleton structure in the manner of the Maypole Dancers. The fabric strips going over and under and pulled tight until the fuselage is woven from front to back.

The skeleton or frame could be made out of hexagonal pieces cast in a geodesic Buckminster Fuller style, that snap together, making it light weight and strong and allowing room for wires and other infrastructure.

And if the fibres went the full length of the plane like that, would the fuselage take impact better and be less likely to break up.

If the fuselage held together better, would there be fewer deaths and injuries?

They weave bridges in the Andes.

Basket Weaving.

Not as simple as it sounds.