Sunday, September 26, 2010

Thanks, But I'll Sleep When I'm Dead

A gorgeous small European town. Fantastic Gothic cathedrals of old sepia stone. The nuns ask me where I'd like to sleep. I can have any room the village has to offer. I don't want a room though. I want my bed placed on the pillar in the middle of the square. I want to sleep perched high, overlooking the town.

Yes my dear.

Permission is granted, yet there is no way to carry my bed so high and balance it on this sky-brushing monolith.

I can carry it myself.

I strap the double mattress to myself and slowly, laboriously climb the pillar. When I get my bed to the top of the pillar I balance it carefully and lie down to sleep. I'm overwhelmed by the grandeur below and around me. To my left is the village's grand cathedral. The most stunning feature of which is a glorious clock protected by a stone man and a stone woman. They're spectacular. Though their faces are contorted with gargoyle-like expressions of joy.

Yes. Of course. Their expressions are exaggerated so that anyone looking up from below can see the divine love carved into their features.

I sleep the sleep of the dead and wake renewed.

It's time for sleep again. Now though, I'm terrified. What if the bed falls? What if I fall? How can I be so terrorized now when just last night I slept so soundly and fearlessly? I'm too close to the edge. Is the bed teetering? I need to move to the middle. Slowly, achingly slowly, I inch my way to the middle. Am I in the middle now? or too close to the other edge? I'm shaking and frozen with fear. I know I need to get down. But how? How do I get down safely knowing I have to bring my bed as well. Can I drop the bed without hurting anyone below? What am I going to do?

Then Bart and Bronwyn are with me. They're calm. I'm not. I move to the end of the bed and begin to lift the mattress. The base shifts and folds in on itself. By some miracle, I don't fall and the frame and mattress thunk back into place. I turn around.

Where's Bronwyn? Where's Bronwyn??!!!

I look over the edge and she's falling. Spiralling foot first down through what now is ancient wooden scaffolding. Her hands are clasped behind her back and she's looking up at me, only at me, crying. Bart leans over the edge of the bed and starts taking pictures.

What are you doing??!!

It's the last picture we'll have of her.

She hits the ground. I hear her head go thunk. My heart is shattered and I'm screaming. She opens her eyes and slaps her wide spread arms on the ground.

I wake up.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Define: Love

Here's the assignment: Write a 200-word essay defining love. No word can be more than one syllable. No sentence can be more than 10 words (contractions are considered one word). And no, absolutely no, cliches.


Love is plain. Love is good. Love is kind. Love is it, right? This is love? Love can fill the void? Do I feel love, or is it hate? Is this red, pink, rose, heart? Or black, broke, bleak, gray? Love's so great, it fills me up. Love's so sweet. Just like a cup, I spill over with your love. Oh crap! No! Wait! You're a creep. You stink, you suck. You treat me bad. You take my stuff. You drive my car. You use the gas. Do you fill that up?! No, you Shit, you don't. What??!! What did you say? You love me still? Oh, my sweet, I hate you too. Love, hate, love, hate. The same old song, the same old dance. Love, hate, hate, love. It doesn't fit me like a glove. It fits more like a fat yarn mitt. With lumps and frays and holes and damp. Yet still I wear it in the chill. Hate, love, love, hate, love, hate, love, hate. I want so bad to hope. I pray that love will win but then I know. My rose, pink, bleak, heart knows that all is one. Love, hate, love, hate, love, love, hate, lov'ate, lov'ate, lov'ate...........

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Identity Crisis

Denteen had a favorite pastime: she loved looking back. She loved reliving, rehashing, reexamining, and replaying her life. Over and over, Denteen would watch videos, listen to tapes, read journals, scour photos, and pour over scrap books. She kept alphabetized, numbered, and dated plastic containers under her King-sized bed to hold her precious mementos.

Every now and again (then, again and again) Denteen would lie on her stomach on the linoleum floor, close her eyes and hold her breath, then she'd reach under her bed. She'd shiver in anticipation. Which container would she get? Her early years? Spent lumping from one dinky town to another with her rootless parents? Her teen years? Spent humping one dinky town boy or another.

How she'd giggle and guffaw at her antics. How she'd weep and whither at her heartbreaks.

It took 14 months to scan, transpose, and upload it all to her blog, "Chew on This" and of her 873 individual posts she received just one comment, from her cousin Wilbur, on the second from last post, entitled, "Denteen: A Complete Summary of My Fabulous Life"--

Wil.I.ever said...
"Hey, Denteen. What's new?"

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Deep Shit

"Why?" pondered Louisa.

"Why, when it rains, does it pour?"

"Why, when you're standing in shit, is it knee-deep?"

"Why? Why, dammit, just when you thought, do you have to stop and think?"

Unfortunately, stopping and thinking was Louisa's plight.

In grade two, she'd stopped, one sunny September day, on the playground, at recess, to think about whether she really had to pee. She peed her pants.

In grade four, she'd stopped, one stupifyingly frigid day in November, on the way home from church, to think about whether she'd actually confessed all her sins to Father Burns. She froze the small toe on her left foot.

In grade six, she stopped, one cool March evening, during the gift opening at her cousin Elinor's birthday party, to think about whether Elinor would really appreciate the anatomically correct clay figure of her cousin she'd painstakingly sculpted. She got 7 stitches above her right eyebrow, after Elinor threw the statue at her head.

In university, she stopped, one windy July day, in the park, at bat, playing softball, to think about whether she should have worn underwear beneath her skirt. Or possibly, that she should have worn shorts. And underwear. She struck out and lost the game. But worse, was forever dubbed Dimples.

Then, the day. The day that Louisa stopped to think, to ponder. To wonder about raining, and standing in shit, and stopping to think. The day was neither warm, nor cold, nor breezy, nor bright and Louisa was merely walking (not pacing, or strolling, or strutting, or skipping) across a street when she stopped. To think. About thinking.

Louisa was hit by a bus. The number 10.

She stopped thinking, which frankly, was a relief.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Life's Complicated

"Life is complicated, Diane."

"It's like one of those puzzle rings, isn't it Kathy? You know, where if you take if off, and it comes apart, it takes, well, like, forever to fit back together. And sometimes, you even have to take it back to the jewelry kiosk where you bought it and get them to put it back together before you can wear it again. I did that once. With the ring my brother bought me for my birthday two years ago."

"What? What did you do with the ring your brother bought you? Your brother bought you a ring? Which brother?"

"Yeah. He got it for me for my birthday two years ago. I took the ring off one day, and took it apart, to see if it was so hard to put back together. I worked on it for four days, trying to get it back together. I got so mad I nearly threw it out, 'til I remembered it was a present. So I took it to the jewelry kiosk at the mall and I stood there watching the guy put it back together. It looked so easy, and he had a nipple ring. I could see it through his t-shirt. He just sat there on his stool with his head bent under the big umbrella of his stand, and he did it. He put it back together. 'Course I asked him to show me how, but someone came up to buy something so he couldn't. I just kinda stood there for a minute, looking at the put-back-together ring. When I was leaving, the guy tapped my arm and said, "You see where it starts? That's the same place it ends. That's all there is to it."  So life's like that. Isn't it Kathy?"

"Just a sec. Diane. This is important. I wanna make sure I understand. He had a nipple ring?"

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Poor Kid

We have a new administrative assistant, or as Cruella likes to call her, "Dummy." 

Poor kid. 

New to the city. New to the job. New to daily verbal abuse. Cruella made her cry yesterday. Nothin' funny about that.

My protective streak is coming out, and God knows, that doesn't happen very often.

I feel my Bruce Lee come-and-get-it-finger twitching.

Monday, May 5, 2008

How to Run a Business

Above is an actual email exchange, although the names have been changed to protect the innocent, yes even the dog, though whether she's innocent is in question--oh, Seabreeze, where's Eddie Greenspan when you need him? 

You thought I was making all this up, didn't you?

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Another Quiet Day as a Sex Worker

"Where's my catalog! Lead Designer!! How can I go to the book fair in Italy without my catalog!! This makes me so mad! Why doesn't anyone listen to me!! I told you I need that catalog. I'm flying in three days and I want the catalog finished. Jesus! What do you do all day? Why isn't it done!! Why?!!" 

"Well Cruella it was done. You made changes and we're working on them."

"Oh, shut up! What changes? What the hell are you talking about? I want my catalog done, and I'm not taking something that looks unprofessional. You better get it finished! How can I take something that looks cheap and unprofessional? This is what buyers see!! JESUS, what's wrong with you?"

"Yes, Cruella. You'll have the catalog. We'll get it done. We'll print it in-house to save time."

"Fine, Lead Designer. FINE!!! But I swear, it better look good. No it better look better than good. And you can print it here, but you better send it out to get cut and bound! I'm not taking something that looks cheap!! I'm NOT!! When you do it here it looks unprofessional!!! I"M NOT taking something unprofessional!! When you do it by hand it looks so cheap. It looks UNPROFESSIONAL!! IT LOOKS CHEAP AND UNPROFESSIONAL!! THIS IS IMPORTANT!!!!! THIS IS AN IMPORTANT EVENT!!! YOU'D BETTER SEND IT OUT TO GET CUT AND BOUND!!! 

I believe I broke the golden rule after that comment: it is generally accepted in professional situations that you're not suppose to laugh so hard at your employer that coffee comes out your nose. Unfortunately for me, I singed my septum and learned a valuable lesson--never, no, never laugh, guffaw, snicker, goggle, or respond in any way to a Cruellaism--she doesn't like it. The same iron-clad restrictions does not extend to your co-workers however, thank God.

Later that day, Lead Designer, in a fit of competence, was working like a Trojan (the warrior, not the condom, though that would be fitting as well) on the catalog. Completely absorbed in his work, he was unaware, or uncaring that his perpetual almond crunching was getting on his assistant's last nerve.

Young Female Designer finally turns to him, in a fit of agitation, and says, "What are you doing? Where are you putting all those nuts? In your nut-sack?"

Tell me please, what are the odds that a person performs a complete and thorough caffeine sinus cleanse twice in one day? 

Just another quiet day at the office. Oh, how I wish you could be here. It's too good to be true.

Yee Haw

You gotta put yer hat on Boy. 
You, you, wanna be in the band, ye gotta put yer hat on.

Welcome to Calgary. Now run. Run like the wind. 

Friday, April 25, 2008

It's a long life to be longing

And so time marches on. Ponderously. Keep a stiff upper lip, little soldier. Don't disintegrate, dissolve, or disappear. There's too much to live for. But, as Hawksley pointed out, it's a long life to be longing. 

So, my friends, what news? What spins the wheels and makes any of this worth the back-pedaling? 

In a word. 


But you don't come here for this drivel. No. Nor for incomplete sentences. You come for harrowing tales of small office politics. The antics of the antiquated and colloquial big-city small-minded. So get to it, you bellow. What, what, what is happening since Grunty and her poop? Well. Rest easy and be still, dearies, here follows your next installment:

Toast Trouble

The office in which I work is small. No larger than a reasonably good sized apartment. And as is the wont of the modern Mussolini (read, employer), is a completely open space, punctuated with the mini cloth walls of the cubicle. A sad little maze for sad little people offering so little privacy that scratching your privates is completely out of the question--don't even try to pick your nose. Total humiliation. 

Every sense is assaulted. I see, hear, and smell all my fellow hell-dwellers. So try to imagine, if you can, what would happen, in this tight, wide-open space, if someone, anyone really, burnt their toast. Every day. 

Cruella comes in, most days, around 10 a.m. She flies in, tottering at high speed, on heels, that in some countries could be considered lethal weapons. After parceling out disingenuous, dangerously terrifying grins to the minions, and occasionally stopping at a lucky peons desk to ask some stickily personal question, of which she listens to roughly half the answer, before walking quickly, but mincingly away, she makes for the kitchen. The routine looks something like this:

"Lead Designer! Who took the coffee? There's no coffee! How do I make coffee!
How do I use this thing?!" 

You're keeping in mind this is every day, right? Every day. 

I'll save you the grotesque agony of listening to the exchange. In fact, many times, and with growing frequency, I, who most days am as patient as Job (that is a total fabrication, but suspend disbelief for the sake of the story, please) can no longer bear listening to the, "Five big spoonfuls, yes, five. Big spoons...." so I get up and make the coffee myself. 

I imagine you're imagining me walking into the kitchen and smiling benevolently at Cruella and telling her I'll take care of it, not to worry her empty little head. But no. Alas that is not what happens. As Lead Designer is calling out instructions, with no attention to what coffee-making activities are actually going on, Cruella has left the kitchen and clicked off somewhere else. But not before depositing her bread for breakfast in the toaster. 

Now we're all adults here, even the floor-soiling dog, so one would be lulled in to the belief that we can manage our own toast. After all, I am being paid a scandalously poor wage to edit the books that educate young minds, not babysit (and yes, I see the sad irony there!) So we all put on our headphones and avert our eyes. 

However, one day, my cube-mate (whom I haven't introduced to you, as he has wisely fled elsewhere) came flying out of his chair, shouting "Jesus!" As his chair rolls wildly across the floor, he runs to the kitchen. All eyes are on him. But only briefly. As we stop what we're doing and follow his nicely formed form dashing to the kitchen, our eyes are drawn to the billowing black, BLACK, smoke roiling across the ceiling.

It's only when I see the thick cloud of smoke that my olfactory senses are alerted. Burnt toast. No. Not burnt. Charred beyond recognition toast. What toast would look and smell like in the cafeteria in Hell. 

Well, Tink calls, "Cruella! You burnt your toast, tee, hee, hee." Cruella comes hustling around the corner, marches straight up to Lead Designer, puts her balled up fists where her hips would be if she had any, and screeches, "Lead Designer! My toast is burnt!! My toast is burnt! Why is my toast burnt?! Why weren't you watching it?!! Lead Designer!!!!!" Then she pivots, perilously, on her spike and storms away. 

That would be enough for one day, yes? But as we sit there, coughing, sputtering, grasping for our inhalers, and marveling at the copious, remarkable amount of smoke one piece of toast could possibly create, Young Female Designer comments, "Hey, don't we have smoke detectors?" 

In a word. No. 

No smoke detectors. No sprinkler system. Just a tinderbox of an office, a warehouse full of books, a group of hapless people, a dog, and a diabolically insane toast singe-er.  

If I don't get out of here alive, I'm leaving you my pencil collection. Protect them, and love them like I have.

Friday, April 11, 2008


In the immortal words of Z--YAOWCH!!!!

Don't let anybody, and I mean any body, tell you that tattoos don't hurt. There I sat, grimacing in blinding pain, with Shawn Hedley dragging a needle filled with ink over the top of my foot, when Carrie asks, "So Shawn, where is the most painful place to get a tattoo?"

You get 2 guesses?

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

New Tattoo

So nothing deeply moving, shockingly salacious, or overwhelmingly melancholy to report. Something better. A new tattoo. Tomorrow at 10:00 a.m., I am going to be a living canvas!
I am, in the words of the great poet, Barney,  'super-dee-duper' excited.

For those who don't know, or even more broadly, for those who care, I've had a tattoo for 22 years. 

(Flash back sequence) It's a warm September day. I've only recently returned from Europe. My mom, her paramour, myself, and my brother, are sitting in the beautifully landscaped backyard, sipping something tasty. I am pontificating on Europe, and in particular, Parisians. I remark how they love to smoke, wear cowboy boots, and get tattoos. As the discussion heats up, as it always does in my family, I make the flippant statement that I'd get a tattoo. Keith, the said paramour a la mother, say, "No you wouldn't."

Well, I'll spare you the yes-I-would-no-you-wouldn't conversation. I do what I am so often inclined to do when challenged--exactly what I want to do, or exactly the opposite of what someone else wants me to do. In this case, I go in the house, grab the yellow pages, and start phoning tattoo parlours. Well, it being the 80's (and tattoos being rather more counter-culture than not) the only place I could find open was a biker place on 97 Street in Edmonton (think ghetto). 

I make an immediate appointment. Well, being a rather anti-establishment bunch, my mom and older brother decide to come along and tag themselves as well.

To make a long story even longer, we got our tattoos, went home, and gloated. Now I've never regretted it. But what I loved 20 years ago has grown a little old (but then so have I, I suppose). So I am having it covered. I've been talking about it for years, but it wasn't until recently, when I mentioned it to a beautiful and talented  artist friend (I don't want to name names, but her initials are Carrie) offered to come up with some ideas. 

She hit the tattoo on the head!  So here it is (incidentally it is not fully coloured yet, but spectacular none the less): 

Friday, April 4, 2008

Terror, Innuendo, and Body Functions

Be still my friends, and listen to a tale so hair raising it will give you split ends.

I work in an office. To most eyes, there's nothing unusual about it. Nothing that would freeze your blood in your veins, or cause you to pack clean underpants in your brief case every morning. Just any office. A small office. 10 people typing, filing, writing, editing, designing. But in this office lurks a cast of characters even Ricky Gervais couldn't dream up. 

The owner: a small, wisp of a woman with dyed black hair and a voice the tone and pitch of a cat in heat running around the office on sky high-heels screaming obscenities at the minions, "Are you fucking stupid? A baby could do that?!!" I call her Cruella.

The lead designer: a tall, deep voiced, lazy-eyed book designer who is the constant brunt of the owner's screeching wrath, and who regularly makes wide, graphic, and detailed sexual statements without realizing what he's saying, "Hey Young Female Assistant, I have a big sausage. Do you want some?" Let's call Lead Designer, Lead Designer.

The manager: a 35 year old married woman with no children who holidays every year for two weeks with her 35 year old childless husband in Disneyland. Add to this a chronic habit of lying, exaggeration, and wearing a Tinkerbell hoodie to the office, and you begin to draw her likeness, "My husband is strong. He's really strong. He's stronger than anyone I know. He's the strongest man in the world." 
And, "I have a mortal fear of sharks. I'm terrified of them. I'm so scared of sharks I have to shower with my eyes closed." Affectionately crowned, Tink.

Long suffering minion #1: a 40 year old, unmarried, child-free, unattached, in fact, never-attached, miserable lump of womanhood. She is so threatened that someone wants her job, or that she's going to be replaced, that she won't talk to anyone in the office unless she can bark orders at them, (save the accountant, to whom she only speaks in baby-talk). All other communications consist of grunts: "Good morning LSM #1., how was your weekend?" She replies, with out raising her eyes from her work, "Uuggghh." She is also a claustrophobic. I have dubbed her, Grunty.

Long suffering minion #2: Our expeditor. So cowed that his duties include filling and shipping orders, and picking up dog shit. Did I neglect to mention that Cruella brings in her big golden lab to work every day? LSM #2's job includes the dog. He walks it, feeds it, waters it, and cleans up after it. In fact, when the said decrepit, ancient dog shit on the floor one day--in the office, you understand--and a kind hearted employee picked it up, Cruella lost her mind and started screaming, "Who cleaned it up??!! WHO CLEANED IT UP???!!!!! Why? Why did you do that? Is that your job? IS IT???!!! That's LSM #2's job!!!" Obviously, he'll be called Roger.

Young Female Assistant: an attractive, intelligent 25 year old who's so shy she nearly melts in to the walls. She is the devoted acolyte of Lead Designer, and does all the dirty work (close cropping fluffy kitties 5 days a week), while being coached, by said Lead Designer, on how to dress and the right way of meeting men. And finally, you'll recognize young female designer by the pseudonym, Young Female Designer.

Cast of characters intact, now the real story begins. I can't, for your own safety, reveal all the face-melting anecdotes at once, but I will, from time to time, parcel them out at what I feel meets toxic safety levels. 

That said, here it the tale of Toilet Trouble.

8:30 a.m. I arrive at work, chipper, whistling a happy tune, and looking especially good, thankyouverymuch. It has been a delightful week.  Cruella and Tink are away on business. The office is quiet and laughter sometimes punctuates the air. Our days of cowering in fear of being given some mad tongue-lashing because Cruella burnt her toast (more to come on that story, so sit tight), or being cornered in the kitchen and regaled with stories of how awesome the High School Musical production number was at Disneyland last year, were over for the week. But fate had other plans for me and the office. As I walked through the door, Lead Designer, Grunty, and Roger are running around looking horrified. A unique scent permeates the air. It takes only moments for me to isolate this particular smell. Shit. No, not shit, this smells bad, but shit. Literal shit.  

Grunty, who's done her level best to be in before every one else this week (more than likely to act as class monitor while the teacher is away) had to relieve herself. She entered one of our two bathrooms, which are like the typical household bathrooms, no stalls, just a room with a toilet and a sink, and had a great big poop. Well she did what any right thinking pooper does, she flushed. On this particular morning though, the flush backfired. The toilet and all its contents gushed on to the floor. Grunty came flying out screaming, "It's flooding, it's flooding!" As she came out the open door, so did everything else.

Roger, use now to being poop-picker, waded into the bathroom and wedged something under the float in the tank to stop the excessive, every growing poo river. My coffee and Tim Bits weren't looking quiet as appealing to me any more. With deep shame, and an apparent fear of her own feces, Grunty retreated to her desk, on the other side of the office, and left the extensive clean up to Roger. It wasn't pretty. I will spare the gory details. Suffice to say, yuck-poo!

Well, good ole Roge spent the better part of an hour mopping, cleaning, wiping, and sanitizing, while Lead Designer laughed and Grunty cowered. But where was I in all this? Well, being the big-hearted, generous girl my mother raised, I did the right thing. I sat at my desk and thoughtfully shouted encouragement to Roger and his mop.

And the moral of the story is: work from home.   

Ooohhhh. How He-Manly.

A poster I created as marketing materials for a local Calgary band.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Softboiled Hard Case: The First Installment of the Scarlett Redman Series

My brief case smelled like old shoes. To be precise, my brief case smelled like old, wet shoes just pulled off of a chronic drunk who'd passed out in a drainage ditch, foot first. 

I'd discovered the smell shortly after I'd arrived to the closet I called my office. I say shortly, because first I had to check my voice mail. None. Then I had to check my email. None. Well two, but not having a penis, I regarded the promise of porn star penis enlargement to be junk mail. Finally, the post. Big fat nada. Not even a bill I could ignore. I was reduced to performing the only professional gesture I had left. I opened my brief case. 

That's when I was assaulted with the smell. The entire contents of my brief case showed a three-day old peanut butter sandwich, an 81/2x14 yellow legal pad containing only doodles, some of them not to bad, if I do say do myself, and the aforementioned old, wet shoes. It was when the smell started burning the hairs in my nose that I was jolted back in to the moment, and thus reminded of my damp socks. 

If I neglected to mention that my feet were damp--which might lead some with quicker intellects to draw certain conclusions--it was merely because I was trying to cope with the myriad of olfactory sensations with which I was being accosted. The omission has absolutely nothing to do with attempting to hide the fact that the old, wet shoes, and their lively odor which were only recently removed from the ditch, had been peeled off my own soaking feet. It had been a hard week. 

It had been a hard week, and it didn't look like it was getting any better. Those were good shoes.

I shut my brief case, to contain the smell, peeled off my socks, which had stained my wet-wrinkled feet navy blue, and headed for the bath. As previously mentioned, my office was a closet. There aren't many times when this pays off, but today, on this morning, having my office in a actual closet in my small, but perfectly adequate house, was just about the best thing in my life. With no mail, no calls, and no sign of any work, any time, I thought a bath, a handful of aspirin, and a quiet chance to ruminate on my apparent failure in Tailing a Suspect 101, were in order. 

As I stood in the increasingly steamy bathroom, my favorite room in the house, and gratefully undressed, my wallet fell out of my coat pocket and hit the tile. As I bent to pick it up, I realized it was empty of the two 20's it contained. Worse though, well, certainly more damaging to my fragile sense of self, was the glorious bandito mustache that had been drawn, in what appeared to be permanent marker, on the photo of my brand new, shiny, freshly minted private investigators license. Scarlett Redman. Private, and public, dick.  

 This private eye schtick was going to be harder than I thought.