Thursday, May 03, 2007


This was the scene last weekend (April 28th, 2007) of fisherman trying to snag some perch. I was standing on the Atherley Narrows Bridge in Orillia Ontario. There is a Perch Festival in Orillia. I didn't know about it until today but I was amazed at the number of boats on the lake. It was an overcast, slightly foggy morning. By the time I returned to take these pics the fog had lifted but the day was really gray. I was amused by the bright slickers against the dreary water and sky.

Here is another pic from the same location but without the zoom.

Friday, February 09, 2007

Criminal Surrender

Life is too short. That’s what everyone always says. How many people really believe that though? I know I said it myself many times throughout my life, but now that I am nearer to the end, I do believe it. I believe it whole-heartedly. It is that firm belief that has placed me here, right now, in this predicament or adventure. I prefer to look at this as an adventure. If I didn’t, I would still be sitting in that chair by the window, sweating in the heat of that stuffy nursing home waiting for death.

This is not how I had pictured living my final days when I was young, full of piss and vinegar, indestructible and hardly able to harness my energy. Even then, I liked to live life on the edge. I was never the criminal type, but I enjoyed challenging convention.

The clink of the guards keys moving toward me interrupt my reverie. He stops at my cell. There is a look of pity in his eyes and his voice is almost soft when he speaks. Those two things are in direct contrast to his physical appearance; big bulky muscles fighting against the cotton fabric of his uniform, short blond hair, hacked off near the root, tips standing out in defiance at the sides of his head-the balance hidden by his hat, thick legs anchored by heavy, highly polished black boots.

“You have a visitor, Mr. Carmichael. Come this way please.”

“A visitor? I wasn’t expecting anyone. I don’t have many friends left or family, for that matter. You know that is the problem with living too long, young man, you end up alone, outliving everyone. It’s not that much fun.”

Again, I see that look as I pass him. It’s starting to make me angry. I don’t need sympathy from anyone.

I hear the clink of the cell door close. A sound that I am sure, I will become accustomed to, like the sound of the clicking wheel on the nurse’s trolley as it passed my room, on the nightly journey up and down the halls of the nursing home. In the beginning, I never thought I would get a night’s sleep from that sound, but soon enough it faded into the background, faintly audible.

I stop and wait for the guard to unlock the next set of barred doors. Not knowing exactly where we are heading, I feel a hesitation in my normally steady gait. I fear that it will be yet another symbol of my weakness to the steroid Hercules behind me and my irritation is mounting. I yearn to keep it under control. A snap, right now, here in this place would not be wise.

The final door opens and I walk into a small, grey coloured room with a simple wooden table in the middle. A middle-aged man, in bad need of a shave sits at one of the chairs, papers spread across the top of the table in a haphazard fashion and he hardly looks up as I walk in and take a seat across from him.

It takes what seems forever, for him to raise his head and look at me. I stare at him straight in the eye, willing him to do the same. He can’t, his eyes shift from the papers, to the door, to the floor, to the ceiling and all over the room, each time they meet mine, they quickly move as if my gaze is too strong to handle, searing.

I know he introduced himself and I heard lawyer, but I didn’t hear anything that he was saying because he is so nervous. It’s bordering on ridiculous. Where did he come from? How did he ever pass a bar exam? Maybe he has just returned to work after a lengthy illness and he is realizing he cannot do it.

“….as I said Mr. Carmichael, these charges are quite serious. It could mean that you may never see freedom again. I need to know everything that happened. It’s the only way I can hope to find a way to defend you. The evidence is very incriminating. They have you on video camera, your voice on a tape recording of a conversation with one of the other suspects, and they have a statement from one of the bank tellers who gave a very detailed description of you. I’m curious about one thing, Mr. Carmichael. Did you know what you were doing? Did you know that you were committing a serious federal offence by committing a bank robbery? If you realized all of that, why in heaven’s name did you use your own name?”

His eyes are on mine now and I can see the frustration in them as well as hear it in his voice. I almost feel sorry for him. I feel badly that because of my follies, he is now challenged with the task of getting me off. It is not going to be easy. He is frustrated because he cannot figure out my motive. He is probably thinking right now, “What would motivate a man at his age, 83 years, living a comfortable life in a safe, sterile environment, to rob a bank and risk ending up rotting in a cell?” He has his job cut out and for that, I am sorry.

I make no apology for living though. I do not have the time or the desire to tell him why. He will know himself one day. The past five years of excitement are worth, however many more years that I have to live, in what others may view as misery. Misery was my life before I met Donald. Because of Donald, I can honestly say that I have lived the life of a king. All that money, the trips, the food, the wine, it helped me forget about my loss for a while.

My dear Marjorie, god bless her soul, is probably angrier than a hornets nest. However, she must know the loneliness I have felt since her death. Surely, a love like ours does not end when one of the partners dies. I won’t believe that. I know she is waiting and soon enough I will join her.

“….as you can see Mr. Carmichael, it’s going to be very, very difficult to defend you and hope to get you off without having to serve any time. However, my hope is that the Judge will be sympathetic to your age, health and up until this string of bank robberies, an exemplary, clean record.”

“Thank you, Mister, uhmmm I’m sorry, I’ve forgotten your name.”

“Mr. Jones.”

“Yes, thank you for everything Mr. Jones. I appreciate you coming to see me and anything that you can do will be just fine.”

“I really don’t think you comprehend the seriousness of the situation Mr. Carmichael.”

“No? I don’t want to sound flippant Mr. Jones, but I do understand. I understand everything. The problem is that you do not understand. That is your job and your journey. Mine is over.”

Saturday, January 27, 2007

My First Kiss...

My first kiss was with little Bobby from across the street. He was five, the same age as me. We were also around the same height. Bobby had curly brown hair, was pudgy in a cuddly sort of way and very cute (or so I thought).

I tricked Bobby into that first kiss by talking him into participating in a new game of "pretend". My idea was to re-enact Snow White. I would pretend to be Snow White and he could pretend to be the Prince. We really didn't need the dwarves because they do not enhance the 'kiss' scene but Bobby didn't know that was the only part of Snow White that we were going to play and I did not tell him.

Since it was my idea, I got to be the director. Bobby had to do whatever he was told. He was very co-operative. Before play could begin we needed to find the perfect spot. We were playing outside the basement apartment that my family lived in on Brookside Dr in Toronto.

Bobby really didn't know what we were going to re-enact so he thought that we could commence just anywhere. I turned down his suggestions because I was looking for something that could double as Snow White's bed (coffin).

The ground was covered with snow and it was a beautiful sunny day. Bobby was standing in the middle of the driveway bugging me to make a snowman. Turning around and walking back towards the house, I suddenly could see exactly what I had been looking for. The window well was the perfect size and shape.

I jumped into it and laid down. Bobby was looking at me and asking what he was supposed to do.

I explained that I had just eaten a poisonous apple and that I was dead. He would come along and find me and because I was so beautiful, he would decide to give me a kiss.

Bobby hesitated but did agree to play along. When it came time to kiss me, he never even stooped to get close. I never felt his lips on mine. He just stood there telling me to stand up, that he had kissed me and it was over. He was anxious to play something different.

I refused. That was a ripoff. I wanted to feel his lips on mine. The kiss had to be real, otherwise what was the point in playing?

After a few moments of debate, Bobby finally agreed. He knelt down beside me and planted a big kiss right on my lips. I remember the excitement and fear that someone might have seen us.

Those lofty emotions were short lived. My father almost immediately, yelled out the door for Bobby to go home and for me to come inside. He would not relent even with my loudest protests.

Inside the apartment, my father wanted me to explain what we were doing outside. I started to make up something and he cut me off. Before I got through the first sentence of the second lie, he cut me off again and warned me that I would be punished for lying.

I can still feel my burning cheeks as I stood telling my father that Bobby and I had been playing Snow White and that he had kissed me.

With a straight face, my father told me that he knew that and turned to look at the window where the reenactment had taken place.

I burst into tears and ran to my room.

The next time I fooled Bobby into kissing me, I made sure that we were in the park behind my apartment and not within view of any of our windows.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Assignment Number 1

*The assignment instructions were to write about a significant event in your life and to try to evoke an emotional response from the reader. We were instructed to use all of our senses when writing e.g. smell, taste, hearing, seeing, feeling*

Through the shrieks and screams of the kids racing around the park, I could hear the distant clang of the town clock. Beads of sweat covered my forehead and I stopped to wipe it while I counted the rings. One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, it was already seven o’clock.

I’ll have to leave in half an hour or I won’t make it home by 8:00. I hope Jackie and Anne will come home too. They promised they would on the way over here. I don’t want to walk all the way by myself. Where are they?

Searching through the crowd, I finally found Jackie and Anne sitting in the Gazebo, the home-free zone with a couple of boys I did not know. They reluctantly came down the stairs to where I was standing to find out what I wanted.

“I have to get going soon, are you going to leave with me?”

“You’re leaving already? What time is it?”

“It’s just past 7:00 but I have to leave around 7:30.”

“I don’t want to go yet, do you Jackie?”

“No. My mom said I could stay out until 9:00.”

“Shelly just stay and go home when we do. You won’t get in trouble.”

“Yes I will. I will be grounded if I show up late one more time and how can I call home, there isn’t a pay phone around here. Besides, I’m not supposed to be over here. Dad thought I was going to your house, Anne.”

“Oh alright then, I’ll go with you, come and get me when you’re leaving.”

Anne raced off to join in the game of war. I stood where I was, watching, not wanting to lose track of time.

In retaliation for my friends deserting me at the last minute, I visualized their faces on any small pebbles or stones that lay in my path, before my foot propelled them high into the air.

I could smell a hint of winter in the air and my shoes made loud echoing noises as I stomped down the sidewalk toward home. Now I was sure to be late because I spent too much time trying to convince them to leave with me.

I picked up the pace as I mulled over our friendship. My sense of betrayal and abandonment left me distracted and oblivious to everything else. I had no idea how far I had walked.

Surprisingly, I was almost halfway home when I finally took notice of the darkening sky. Small stars twinkled against the indigo night sky directly above, while ahead in distance the sky was still a beautiful turquoise shade with streaks of red from the sinking sun. Dark silhouettes swooped wildly around the steeped pitch roof of the Presbyterian Church on the next corner.

It would take more than bats to scare me into the roadway tonight though. My emotions were running rampant and I was not in the mood for feeling like a wimp. I was twelve, not a child. I held my breath and almost broke out into a run as I skipped quickly past the dark shadows of the Church. A sense of relief and accomplishment filled me when I was past the danger zone, unharmed.

I turned to glance at the neon clock in the window of Charlie’s Variety. My timing was perfect; it was only 7:45 p.m. Fifteen more minutes and I would be home.

I can’t wait to tell Mom and Dad how Anne and Jackie wouldn’t come home with me because they said I had a baby’s curfew. Maybe then, they will let me stay out until 9:00, like all the other kids. It is so stupid to have to be home by 8:00pm. I am the only kid in Senior Public that has to be home at that time.

Oh, oh, there’s the haunted Gowan home. I’d better cross the street or maybe I should walk out in the middle of the road. It’s so dark and creepy here. All these trees and this tall hedge, anyone could sneak up and wait for you, you wouldn’t even know it. I have a creepy feeling that someone is going to jump out at me when I get to the driveway. I bet someone I know has seen me walking and they’ll try to scare me because all the kids talk about this place being haunted. Anne never walks on the sidewalk. We always cross the street. It’s not haunted, it’s a vacant house. I shouldn’t listen to all those silly, stupid stories from kids. What do they know?

Okay, I’m staying on the sidewalk. I’ll just walk straight. I won’t turn and look when I pass the opening in the hedge. There isn’t anyone there. Look straight ahead. Don’t look. Keep walking. Walk faster. Here it comes. The driveway is just ahead. I still have time to cross the street and nobody would know. No. I should be able to walk past this house without being afraid. Nobody would ever know I was afraid. I should cross the street. I have time. The driveway is getting closer. Cross now. No, I’m not crossing the street. Here it is. Do not turn your head. Don’t look. Do not look.

“ARGGGHHHHHH! WARREN YOU SCARED ME! What are you doing? Waaaait, who are, what are you doing? Who ARE YOU?! ”

Oh my God! What does he want. Why is this happening? I don’t believe this, why is he grabbing my arm…NO, YOU’RE NOT PULLING ME BEHIND THOSE BUSHES…STOP…RUN SHELLY, PUSH HIM AND RUN!!


Let go of me… oh my God. Where are all the people? Don’t they hear me screaming? Why isn’t anyone coming outside to see what is going on. I have to get away.


Stay away from me… Let me go…who are you? Why are you doing this? Get your hands off my neck!! Oh my god! What is he doing? What does he want? LET GO OF ME!! …oooooompf, ohhhhhh…he pushed me…oh no, NO, NOOOOOO… FIGHT Shelly! Don’t let him do anything to you. Don’t let him TOUCH you…


He’s coming down on top of you Shelly…do something, do anything, MOVE IT. This could be it…You’re going to die! Get HIM OFF OF YOU! NOW!

TAKE THAT! Holy shit I think I got him in the balls! Get up! Run away before he attacks again! Hurry, get up…RUN Shelly, RUN …Where is he?! Whaaat? He’s running away! He’s running away! He’s running away from me! Oh my god! I have to get out of here! Get out in the road! Scream…Keep screaming until someone comes out of their house! Oh my God, I was just attacked, oh my god…

Here comes a car…Flag it down, wave your arms…scream louder! You have to stop this car to be safe…he might still be there!

“Shelly?!? Is that you? What the hell happened to you? Shelly?! Get in the car, calm down, slow down Shelly, I can’t understand what you are saying!”

I couldn’t believe my eyes when the car stopped and Jim, my crush, rolled down his window. The look of concern in his eyes made me burst into tears and for what seemed like a very long time, I tried to get control of my vocal chords so that I could tell him what happened. Jim managed to decipher my broken speech through my sobs, by yelling out a barrage of questions, that I could answer by shaking my head no, or nodding yes. The minute that it became clear to Jim that I had been attacked, he jumped out of the car with instructions for me to stay put, quickly disappeared into the darkness in the same direction that my attacker had fled. I couldn’t stop shaking and crying. It seemed like hours before he returned.

“Did you find him?”

“No…he’s gone. There was nobody there. Are you sure he went that way?”

“Yes, but he was on a ten speed.”

“I’m going to take you home and then I’ll come back and drive around to see if I can find him.”

My father thanked Jim profusely for saving me. Jim denied doing anything and yelled for my father to call the Police as he jumped into his car to go back to the area of the attack in search of the creep.

The Police questioned me until late into the night about what he looked like, what he was wearing, what I was wearing, why I was walking alone, did I always dress like that when I was out, where had I been, who had I been with, on and on and on.

After the gruelling questioning, they insisted that I look at hundreds of mug shots to see if I recognized him. After awhile, all of the pictures began to look the same, they all blurred into one another with no one looking unique. His face that had been in my memory bank was gone. The only thing that I could see when I replayed the scene over in my mind was a faceless man. The faceless man, as I first saw him, standing behind the hedge, waiting. I could see the faceless man grabbing my arm and pulling me towards the dark yard behind the bushes. He was still faceless as he started to come down on top of me after he had thrown me to the ground. Even the shock on his face when I kicked him in the balls, was gone.

Thirty-three years later, I still have no idea what he looks like or who he was. I don’t know if I went to school with him, if he watched me throughout the years while I lived in that town, if I dated him, or worked with him, or ordered dinner from a restaurant from him.

I have had to come to terms with that, not knowing and I hate NOT knowing.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Right Write!

14/01/2007 11:35 AM

I received a call from the college, on the Thursday prior to my first class which was to begin on Tuesday January 9th. They had decided that three people did not warrant running Writing the Short Story.

My disappointment was evident and the person on the other end of the line quickly suggested another class that I might find interesting. The alternative, titled Creative Writing had eight people enrolled and would be run if a few more signed up. Without reading the description, I instructed her to transfer my enrolment to the other class.

My new writing class is on Thursday evenings. After hanging up the phone, I pulled out the college calendar to read the description:

Explore the technique, style and craft of major writing categories, including fiction, non-fiction and poetry. This introduction to the many genres of creative writing emphasizes personal creativity. Learn how to approach editors and market a manuscript. Take this opportunity to develop ideas and receive feedback from the instructor and other members of the class.

The description of Writing the Short Story is as follows:

Enter the gateway of great fiction through its most challenging form, the short story. Establish your writer’s voice and learn the discipline of developing plot, character, dialogue, scene construction and theme in under 5,000 words. Understand the Canadian market for short stories and how to leverage your short story craftsmanship for other literary forms.

I decided that this twist of fate might work out for the better. Instead of working on one type of writing, I will be opening myself up to other options that perhaps I had never considered.

Still I had a hard time on Thursday keeping my eyes open because of another restless sleep night (possibly from snoring) and I fleetingly considered missing the class. When my alarm had gone off in the morning, I had just fallen back into a deep sleep and I struggled to get dressed and make my way to work.

During the morning at work, I tried to re-energize myself by closing my eyes and leaning back in my chair during an hour-long telephone conference call. My boss kept calling out for me to wake up. I growled that if he hears snoring, then he can be worried, otherwise, I am awake.

I was at the west office that day, so it made no sense to go home first, as the class was a short 20 min drive from there. Well let me re-phrase that, it should have been a short 20 min drive. I forgot that it was a dark night and that I had not been to that campus in more than two years, so my idea of how far along the road it was, ended up being a little skewed.

After a few wrong rights and subsequent u-turns, I did finally find myself in the parking lot of the campus and with help from the volunteers, entered class 225.

My first impression of my new teacher was positive. She is an attractive woman (possibly close to my age) with a British accent! I was thrilled because I am in love with British accents and could listen to it for hours without ever becoming bored. I do not even care what is being said. It makes no difference, the only thing that matters is how it sounds and to my ear, that is wonderful.

My body snapped out of its sleepy state and my mind was suddenly alert. Her name is Rachael Preston. She hails from Yorkshire. I have subsequently learned from Google this morning that she moved to Canada when she was 16 and she has lived in many parts of the world as well as a couple of different provinces in Canada.

She has published two novels and is currently working on a third. The class opened with Rachael handing out five pages of course description and then telling us to turn to page three because she never reads the first two. On page three was the evaluation section for the course and Rachael gave us her version of the evaluation. It was quite different from the college description.

It turns out that we are in a “fiction writing” course. Other than the first assignment, we will not be writing non-fiction and from the sounds of things, I doubt that we will have to write any poetry. I am over the top with enthusiasm. I cannot wait until Thursday to go back.

Besides having a wonderful teacher, the class is relatively small with two older gentlemen, another woman around my age and six kids in their early twenties (or so they look). There was one person missing.

The woman that was around my age sat next to me and she is a hoot! I think I may have made a new friend.

Our introductory exercise was to answer several different questions: What do you do (for a living)? What do you like to read? Why do you write? What do you expect to get out of the course?

My answer to what do I like to read was Historical Fiction and I explained that I particularly enjoy sagas where the characters affect each other’s lives.

Near the end of the class, my teacher looked at me, winked and stated, by the way, I write Historical Fiction.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Wake up Lil’ Suzy, Wake Up!

“Just hold still while I finish plugging in your wires.”

I stared down at my green moccasins with the rabbit fur trim and wondered if the technician noticed how the colour seemed to clash with my flashy, new, pink pyjamas with the psychedelic design. My cheeks started to turn red thinking of how ridiculous I must look.

It was good that he could not see my embarrassment. He may have sensed it, but our eyes could not physically meet at this moment because he was behind me, which gave me the opportunity to pretend that I was not embarrassed and he could pretend that he did not know I was embarrassed. If our eyes had met, we would both know that I was embarrassed, then there would be no use in pretending, and he might get embarrassed because I was embarrassed. Hence, it would have been more embarrassing then it was.

Therefore, I pretended not to mind sitting in a chair with my clashing outfit and a complete stranger poking a stick through my long, thick hair, rubbing my scalp with a moistened tissue, smacking a glob of goop on that spot and then squishing an end of the electrode into the substance.

There were thirteen wires applied to my head, face, shoulders, legs and arms in this fashion. Next, he gathered up the other ends and connected them to a tiny black box that I held in my left hand for him.

“There all done. Are you ready to go to bed?”

I glanced at my wristwatch and said, “No. I think I’ll read for a little while yet.”

“Alright, but be careful. Don’t move around too much or you’ll become unplugged; I have you on a short leash. Oh yeah, one more thing, don’t fall asleep.”

I attempted to slide into bed as gracefully and carefully as I possibly could. However, when I sensed that I was about to fall on the floor with the wires exploding all over the place, I quickly flopped down on my back landing on an angle. I grabbed my magazine and attempted to look nonchalant as though I was quite comfortable.

If I was lucky, I would get tired quickly so that when it was time for lights out, I would fall asleep immediately and then this whole nightmare would be over. The words I was reading from the article were soon interspersed with my thoughts about how stupid I must look until I finally gave up. Nothing was sinking in and I was getting tired of reading the same lines repeatedly.

I could hear a small tapping of the computer keyboard on the other side of the wall behind my bed, so I knew he was near.

“Hello. I’m ready to go to sleep.”

“Ok. I’m going to connect the box to the computer and I will ask you to do some movements so that I can make sure it is connected properly. It shouldn’t take too long.”

I kicked off my green slippers and he covered me with the thin, slippery bedspread. The room was pleasantly cool. I like to sleep in a cold room and without any windows to open; it may have been a problem. I closed my eyes against the glaring fluorescent lights while I waited for the technician to complete the programming. I had already listened to him do it for the other two patients (both male) so I was ready for the instructions.

“Close your eyes and while keeping them closed, look to the left, now to the right, back to the left. Good. You can open your eyes. Now breathe through your nose. Hold your breath. Continue holding, now breathe through your nose again. Move your left leg from side to side, now move your right leg. Good. We are all done. Have a good sleep.”

He turned out the light and pulled the door shut. It was very dark and I was relieved. I wondered how long it would take me to drift off to sleep. I worried about unplugging the electrodes with my movement. Normally I toss and turn all night long. I tried to imagine how short the leash actually was and estimate if it was possibly long enough to allow me to roll all the way over onto my left side and then shift onto my stomach if I so desired (which I usually do). I decided it was probably too short and I should attempt to stay in the same position for as long as possible.

At home, I can be in a deep sleep within moments of hitting the pillow. I am certain that I never slept an hour during the whole night of the sleep study and I am wondering how much they learned studying my sleep when I never slept. I am most certain that I never snored during this restless night and that was the reason for being there in the first place.

I can hardly wait for my follow up appointment on the 23rd to find out.