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Terroir can be Terrifying

The Bordeaux region of France, noted for its beauty, is home to a wide variety of wine production. Producing the most wine of any region in France, Bordeaux boasts some of the most fanatical devotees of the concept called Terroir. Terroir for the uninitiated is when a wine producer takes the environment of her vineyard into consideration as a factor in the quality and flavour of her wines. The concept is applicable in the production of food and many top quality restaurants take pride in and promote the source of the raw materials that go into their award winning dishes.

In the case of Bordeaux you start with the soil, which is a mix of gravel, sandy stone and clay. The best vineyards are located on well-drained gravel soils along the Gironde river. The most fanatical vintners in Bordeaux will produce unblended vintages from specific sites on their vineyard. The top of the hill, the north facing vineyard, the south facing vineyard, the steep hillside and so on. Each of these areas will have different amounts of sun and different drainage and often slightly different soil types which will yield different flavours. That knowledge coupled with the judicious choice of the grape varietal will yield wine of consistently superior quality.

Does it make you a wine snob if you take ‘Terroir’ too far? Once upon a time I was perusing the wine choices in the humidor at the back of the Newfoundland Liquor Commission in Stavengar NL and was astounded to see wine priced at $4900.00 CND which translates to roughly $4000.00 USD.

I have to confess to some stereotyping of Newfoundland which is considered to be a have-not province in relation to Canada as a whole. I would have expected prices like these in Toronto which is the most populous city, playing host to multitude of towering skyscrapers on Bay Street and is the center of business and finance in Canada.

But if I thought $4900.00 CND was pricey, I did have some options because there was a bottle lying beside the first one for $4300.00 and if that price would choke a crow, I could have some wine for $1800.00 or $900.00 or $300.00 or even a measly $180.00.

I don’t want to give the wrong impression. This store had wine at every price point. I am writing specifically about a special reserve section in the back.

Truth be told, I am generally a ‘show me your drinkable ten dollar wine’ kind of a guy. Prices of $40 and $50 a bottle frighten me. When I lived in Italy, I took advantage of the neighbourhood wine stores. These stores have only a few types of bottled wine. Mostly they dispense wine from a tank. When the wine is ready it is delivered by a flatbed truck. A truck loaded with wooden barrels of wine strapped to the deck.

A hose is run from a barrel on the truck into a tank in the back of the store. A man sits up on the truck with a hand pump and pumps the wine into the store. If you are walking by, you have to mind your step as you pass over the hose. When the new wine is in, you go around your neighbourhood sampling wine. When you find the store that has the wine you like, you grab whatever clean empty container you have on hand. A coke bottle will do, you take it and go and get your table wine. Tasty and inexpensive.

Fred Franzia agrees with me, with forty thousand acres under cultivation and crushing three hundred and fifty thousand tons of grapes a year his company The Bronco Winery is the fourth largest in the US of A. Franzia is famous for selling wine under the name of the Charles F. Shaw winery at a very reasonable $1.99. This particular wine is sold exclusively at Trader Joes and became affectionately know as Two Buck Chuck’ by its devotees and ‘Two Buck Upchuck’ by its detractors. If anybody decries Two Buck Chuck as plonk consider this.

At the 28th Annual International Eastern Wine Competition, a $1.99 bottle of California Wine, the 2002 Charles Shaw Shiraz, aka ‘Two Buck Chuck’ beat out 2,300 wines to win a prestigious double gold medal.

Bronco went on to sell 800 million bottles of Two Buck Chuck before the price was raised due to increased costs associated with bottling and transportation. Mr. Franzia believes that no wine should cost more than ten bucks a bottle. A marked contrast to the $4000.00 USD bottle of wine found at the Newfoundland Liquor Commission in Stavengar Newfoundland.

Stavengar NL a suburb of Newfoundland’s capitol St. John’s lies directly under the flight path between Europe and North America. Nearby Gander, NL used to be the refuelling spot for all of the Air traffic between Europe and North America.

The Chief Sommelier of the Newfoundland Liquor Commission has taken the trouble to locate specialty vintages of wine from different regions of France. Vintages totalling as few as 100 bottles each are imported to Newfoundland. The wine is stored at the NLLC in Stavengar only a stones throw from the Airport. It is only a matter of time before the Literati and Glitterati of North America and Europe go online looking for their special wine. Surprise surprise. It seems like a stunt the Joker would pull. Ha Ha Ha. (Evil laugh)

To get your wine you make a quick stop at the St. John’s airport. No trouble if you have access to a private jet. You can imagine a conversation like this. “Honey, while we are on the way to Cannes for the festival, we have to stop in St. John’s to pick up my special wine.” For the rest of us it’s more like: “Honey would you pick up a bottle on your way home from work”

Little David

“Oy,” he said, to no one in particular. “Oy” he said again and his little grandson tugged at his sleeve.


“Yes little David.”

“Papa can we get an ice cream like last time.”

“Yes little David,” said his grandfather, “Give a smell to the sea to the breeze.”

David stopped and scrunched up his face in concentration and closed his eyes.

“I can smell the whales Papa, I can smell the whales.”

“Shush little one,” said his Grandfather.

No sooner did the shush leave the grandfather’s mouth when a huge whale breached in the distance, a second, then a third and David kept his eyes closed and the whales did their dance.

“I can hear them Papa”

Little David’s grandfather stood stock still his mouth agape, he looked down at his grandson and reached out his hand and smoothed the young boy’s hair and quietly said.

“If you open your eyes you can see them dancing.”

“No Papa if I open my eyes they will go away.”

“That is silly,” said his grandfather.

Little David opened his eyes and the sea was empty of whales, just wind and little whitecaps as if nothing had happened. Grandpa looking out at the sea turned his head quickly to look at his grandson blinking his beautiful blue green eyes. Little David closed his eyes and again he said,

“I can smell the whales Papa,”

again, first one great whale breached and then another, then two together and a fourth.

Grandpa took little David’s hand and they walked to the kiosk along the boardwalk and purchased a small soft dip cone for little David and for himself a newspaper of roasties. He was suddenly overcome by a nagging feeling of loss. He had lived a good man’s life; he had done everything according to the book. He went to synagogue on the Sabbath and always lit the correct number of candles and always kissed his wife good night and always kissed her in the morning. Seeing the whales just now had brought back memories of graduate school when he had been offered an opportunity to go to the Amazon and study Killer Bees and that night when he arrived home his wife had announced that they were pregnant with little David’s mother. He had come in and doffed his coat and hat and he took his wife in his arms and with his bravest smile had given her a good long kiss and he was happy and he never mentioned the Amazon. Instead he went to the cupboard and got out the bottle of wine that they were saving for a special occasion and they had a toast. He hadn’t thought about that for a good long time and he looked down at little David who was happily licking his ice cream cone, which was dripping onto his shirt and he felt a tear slowly rolling down his cheek.

The Admiral’s Boy

Zelda’s Tinsel

Bugger, bugger damn thought Zelda as she slowly unfolded each strand of tinsel from the box where she stored it, each strand that she carefully placed on the tree for maximum effect. Most of her friends thought she was crazy gathering up the tinsel after Christmas each year for reuse. Carefully plucking one strand at a time from the tree and folding it up and stowing it away in the special box that her Uncle Bartholomew had made for this exact purpose. He understood her compulsion, of all her family, perhaps the only one.

Her children would roll their eyes and murmur no thanks, then run away when Zelda announced that it was time to either put the tinsel on or take it off. Even her dog Kit Kat who normally was always underfoot would put a paw over one eye and slink away. This tinsel business took a fair amount of time, so before Zelda started this special chore, she put out extra food and water for the dog and cat and always made sure that she had a roast and potatoes in the oven and salad in the fridge.

Strand by strand, oh the heat, she thought as she started at the top of the tree standing on a ladder, she was feeling a bit torpid, was that the word? She’d been reading one of Graham Greene’s spy novels set in the Caribbean. Really, she thought the English shouldn’t go where it is sunny, all they do is get burnt bright red and complain about the natives. Did one become torpid or was the climate torpid. She would have to look at a dictionary. Imagine her children’s surprise when she hauls that puppy out.

Her children lived pretty much completely online, she hardly saw them anymore and even when they were in the same room, they barely lifted their eyes from their screens. She didn’t mind too much as they took less tending, but something was missing. Back in the day in the rooming house that her Grandma ran, filled with strangers, you got your room and board and everyone ate together. Family style meals, when all the food was served on platters and placed in the center of the table and everyone helped themselves. She remembered her Grandma would sometimes smack her wrist with a wooden spoon saying watch your ‘boarding house reach’ when Zelda reached across the person sitting next to her. While she smarted from the the smacking spoon, Grandma would carefully explain where the term came from.

Zelda was about a few inches down the tree when she started feeling faint and thought she would come down for a nice glass of Lemonade. Lemons were on sale at the Super Duper Mart in town, apparently the manager Dave Johnson had made a mistake on his order form putting a zero after the one beside case lots of lemons and one case was already going to be a lot of lemons for the Super Duper Mart in Dunstable Township. Zelda got the lemon-aide out of the fridge and held the pitcher up to her nose and took a deep inhale and the smell of lemon brought the lemon song to mind … oh shit, how did it go, something like … oh yes … “lemon tree very pretty and the lemon flower is sweet but the fruit of the poor lemon …”

She sang the song under her breath as she poured a glass of juice and took a drink thinking of her old high school friend Raymond Pickering and his jaunty Bow Ties. Raymond loved the lemon tree song and would sing it at school walking down the hall between classes. With twin quirks of the lemon song on repeat and his very large collection of bow ties that he had made himself, he sometimes got a fair amount of teasing. His mother taught him to sew pretty early on. She admonished him, saying that he would have to do something with himself. All the neighbours thought that it was pretty young really. Too young to start learning to sew. Raymond being only seven at the time. But who really knows anyways and he took to it quite well.

Zelda slurped up the last of her Lemon-aide and got ready to get back up the ladder. She looked at her tree, her pride and joy. Nothing else really measured up. Her work at the Dunstable County chapter of the Beelzebub society while very fulfilling in and of itself definitely played second fiddle to the tinsel. Her husband Norman had gone silent a few too many years back and stayed that way, she suggested he go off and find himself but he wouldn’t leave his lazy-boy. At the end of the day she didn’t mind really, his only conversational gambit had been the price of stocks and bonds. Which Zelda had no interest in really. Her children had slipped out of reach riding waves of zero’s and one’s into unknown universes. Zelda preferred the here and now.

Her therapist was on the fence about wether Zelda’s penchant for making Christmas into a one month plus holiday, with her compulsive attention to the detail regarding the tinsel, was actually helping or hindering. It started quite innocently during a session after Zelda had finished crying over being abandoned by her family, her therapist had encouraged her to find a hobby that she could claim as her own. Zelda had come back a few months later, with her voice all bubbly and her eyes shining, gushing over her new found love of Christmas tree tinsel application and removal. Zelda couldn’t contain herself and continued to gush that tinsel was helping her to discover Buddhism and a few other of humankind’s more esoteric spiritual arts. Zelda’s therapist frowned thinking that she might have inadvertently created a monster.

Zelda’s therapist decided that she would make hay while the sun shone and began documenting her patient’s progress in a series of articles that created quite a stir in the psychology community. If you can’t beat them join them the therapist thought. She crossed her fingers that her suggestion would in the end prove to have had a salubrious effect. Zelda began blogging her quirk and that led to the fifteen minutes of fame that Warhol had spoken about. When you tin foil the walls of a Manhattan warehouse and make six hour films of people sleeping. When you’re an artist you make whatever it is that you want. Do you care if people like it? You might, but if you already have cash and don’t care if you sell your work like Mr. Warhol, you have the luxury to not give a rat.

The funny thing for Zelda, the side effect that no one was expecting, was that her children found her on the internet. I mean she was right there all the time, right there in the living room folding and unfolding tinsel one minute, then the next. Martha Stewart was gushing over the care Zelda was taking with Christmas. It’s not all about the gifts she was saying.  The internet fell in love and people were swooning over her, so much so that she got maximum traction that year. Her kids rediscovered their mother and came round to find out if they could lend a hand. Maybe the little shits just wanted a spot in the sun. You can never be too cynical.

The Admiral’s Boy

Three reasons why Gollum is the ‘Hero’ of the Lord of the Rings!

I just finished rereading ‘The Hobbit’ and ‘The Lord of the Rings’.

What a wild ride.

Turns out Gollum could be the ‘hero’ of the story. Think about it.

1) He never wavers in his ‘commitment’ to his goal and is willing to die for it. [Reacquiring the ring which was taken from him by Bilbo Baggins in ‘The Hobbit’]

2) He leads the hobbits Frodo and Sam all the way into Mordor [The dark lord Sauron’s stronghold] Gollum takes them around the back way, away from Sauron’s watchful eyes. The path that the hobbits would not have found on their own.

At the very end of the journey. The power of the ring is too much for Frodo. Frodo falters and ultimately fails in his task at the top of the Mountain of Doom at the lip of the cauldron of fire. Frodo puts the ring on and declares he won’t give it up, which finally turns the great evil eye of Sauron towards the ring. Cue: The winged dark riders [The Nazgûl] who are going to come along and mess some shit up.

3) Gollum leaps up and bites the ring off of Frodo taking Frodo’s finger along with it and then losing his balance, falls with the ring into the fiery pit.

Saving Middle Earth in the process.

The only alternative would have been Sam Gamgee pushing Frodo along with the ring into the fire in order to rid Middle Earth of the ring. If Sam could have figured out where he was, because with the ring on Frodo was invisible.

Could Sam have done it?

“But for him Sam, I could not have destroyed the ring” Frodo Baggins, Lord of the Rings

The Admiral’s Boy

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