Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Fiction #60

New fiction! Issue #60
Submissions now open for #61!

Special thanks to all who have been submitting. Enjoy.

Fiction #60: Lynda Curnoe

The Addition                                                                                       

We are often motivated by love but sometimes we are motivated by love of light.

"It needs some fixing up," said Shirley. She stood on the sidewalk in front of the house, frowning. She was a person who didn't like making decisions quickly. But, Don, her husband, seemed very keen.

"Yes", agreed Don who was smiling, his cheeks ruddy in the cold air. "But it has good bones. And look how big it is."

"What will we do with all the room?" Shirley had grown up in a London bungalow, where there was just the right amount of room, with nothing extra.

"Don't worry; we'll fill it up just fine."

The neighbourhood was called Parkdale, named for a local park. It was the remains of a town on the outskirts of Toronto, which had lost its way. Once, below Parkdale’s grassy hill, beside Lake Ontario, there was an amusement park called Sunnyside, filled with summertime delights and laughter. There were lit up fairground rides, hotdog stands, clean water beaches and boardwalks, a destination, a place of fun. Parkdale still overlooked the lake, but now no one enjoyed looking at the traffic or hearing the noise of expressways and trains below.

After years of saving, Shirley and her husband, Don, were about to make an offer to purchase the semi shown to them by their realtor. It wasn't exactly their dream home but it was a solid house they could afford, in an area they liked.

This house was only 20 feet wide but it had three floors. On the first floor were a living room, dining room and eat-in kitchen, as the realtors liked to put it. On the second floor were three small bedrooms and a bathroom, likely originally a fourth bedroom converted to a bathroom when the early twentieth century house got indoor plumbing. On the third floor were two larger bedrooms and a second bathroom.

Most of Parkdale had been built in the days when people had large families. Then it was a thriving lakeside community. But with the building of Lakeshore Boulevard and the Gardiner expressway, many of the bigger houses had been demolished or made into rooming houses. Now the area was making a comeback and house prices were rising.

*          

The Sinclairs had three children, a boy aged 11 and twin girls, aged 9 who took over the third floor bedrooms, the largest one at the front for the girls who preferred to sleep together in the same room. Don and Shirley took the largest second floor bedroom for their own. The second largest bedroom on the second floor was to be Don’s office, for he worked at home and the smallest at the end of the hall at the back became a TV room. Don and Shirley did not like having a TV in their living room.

Even before they moved in, one of the first improvements Shirley imagined would be adding an addition on the back--a solarium, a sun-filled room where she could have plants, an easy chair and look out over the garden in winter.

"We could put a big room on the back of the house, Don, with space for a main floor washroom. Wouldn’t that be a really good idea, especially for guests?"

"There you go again. Always getting ahead of yourself. We barely have enough income to pay the mortgage and do some fixing up and painting. You thought the house was too big at first."

"No it’s not too big. It’s just that being a semi there’s no light anywhere. And there’s that big tree at the front."

"But that’s one of the things you said you liked about the house."

"I do, but we bought it in the spring and I couldn’t know how much shade there would be in summer."

"We’re lucky. Look how cool it is. We don’t even have to put in air conditioning. We couldn’t afford it anyway."

*          

It took several months to adjust to the problems and delights of the house. Shirley was bothered by all the stairs because she had a bad knee from a bike accident some years ago. She asked the children to set up a routine of cleaning their own rooms on Saturday mornings before they started anything else. That became house cleaning time with Shirley doing the bulk of the work vacuuming and cleaning the two lower floors. Don was trusted with grocery shopping, something he was glad to do since he was the family’s chief cook. As a freelance commercial real estate appraiser, he put in regular hours at his desk and saw clients in the living room, or sat at the dining room table with them. Both rooms were kept free of family clutter to accommodate Don’s work needs.

Shirley was a reference librarian who took advantage of the library’s flex time to work late, because she liked time to herself in the mornings. Don worked 9 to 5 setting strict time limits on his day. After work he changed into running gear and headed out to run 5 k all around the streets of Parkdale. Sometimes he cycled along the Martin Goodman Trail east to Harbourfront or west to the edge of Mississauga. By 6:30 he had showered and started dinner. The rule was that the children had to do their homework right after school, before they were allowed to watch TV. Shirley would set the table and make a salad or dessert after returning from work.

There was little time or money for the couple to undertake major renovations. Don had all the money under control, something which continually distressed Shirley who liked to live a little more spontaneously. With a girlfriend, the spring after they moved in, she spend a week at a resort in Cuba. Don was not pleased with the expense.

"But I don’t have any discretionary money of my own in your budget," Shirley said. "Every single penny is accounted for."

This became an all-out argument that went on for several days. Don was forced to take Shirley’s position seriously.

"What we’ll do is allot personal money for each of us." He suggested. "I’ll take our spending money, now a lump sum for the family, and divide it into five. And I’ll also take vacation money and divide that into five as well. I had my doubts about dividing the vacation money because we usually go together, but, since you decided to go on your own, you changed the rules. The children’s vacation and personal money stays together as always, although, obviously, they will receive less than we do. I’ve decided to visit my brother in Ottawa for a week in the spring. We’re going hunting together. So that money will come out of my vacation money."

At Shirley’s insistence, they further decided to separate their money by opening personal bank accounts and having budgeted amounts transferred from their main account, used to pay household bills, every month. Don began his with the cost of Shirley’s Cuban vacation, to make it even. Shirley’s account began with zero. Well, she thought, I’ll just have to curb spending on clothes for a while. Just a couple new tops for the spring. Although Don worked at home, he still needed appropriate office attire to meet clients. Even so, he hardly ever spent anything while Shirley had to hold herself back. The budget had effectively stopped their nagging financial arguments.

Still, Shirley dreamed about the addition on the back of the house, visualizing how she could take her Sunday morning coffee out there, lounging on a comfortable chair with her feet up, reading in the sun all through the winter. She created several designs and layouts on drafting paper and continued looking at home decorating magazines.

Their main floor front room was so dark, small and formal, with a large fireplace dominating one wall, and always kept so tidy that Shirley was uncomfortable there, preferring to spend her spare time in front of the TV or in her bedroom reading by the bay window.                            

Occasionally she would mention her project to Don who would sigh and trot out computer print-outs of their latest budget figures, which showed they were just barely covering mortgage and house expenses. Because Don had included a maintenance line in the budget, they were able to replace an ailing kitchen stove and install a new floor in the children’s bathroom, improvements that needed to be done.

Don was an astute manager, careful while she was sometimes frivolous. Shirley had to give him credit for that. Because he spent so little personal money he was able to keep buying photography equipment and maintain a darkroom in the basement, not just a hobby for him, as he had had some of his photographs exhibited in a gallery downtown. Nothing sold, but he was happy. And of course his files were loaded with pictures of the children.

*

But one November morning in her 48th year and the 8th year of living in their Parkdale semi, Shirley realized she was bored with Don. There was no zest in their sex life. In fact, they hardly bothered anymore, except for an occasional giggly coupling after a party, when both of them had had a bit too much to drink. Shirley had begun having an occasional lunch with an old friend from university who had said hello to her in the library, thrilled to see her again. Gordon had never married, and lived the life of a bachelor in a nearby loft, newly converted into condos from a large former carpet factory. He took Shirley there one afternoon after lunch on her day off. She was dazzled by the look of the place.

"There’s so much light." she exclaimed. "My house is so dark. Don seems to like it that way. In fact he spends a large part of the evening in his darkroom in the basement."

"I have to have light, "said Gordon.

The loft was huge, a 1500 square foot space with large windows overlooking railroad tracks that swept down from the West and ended up at Union Station. Gordon owned the whole South end of the top floor which provided views of East, West and South, all the way to Lake Ontario.

"I chose this one because of the windows and the tracks. I love to hear the sounds of trains. There are no other close buildings. And look at the view of the city. I get the sun all day long."

Gordon had an expensive telescope set in the window where he was able to star gaze and, if he wanted, people gaze. Although he had focused his lens on some apartment buildings a few times, he thought this an unethical activity and had largely stopped.

"There’s not much to see," he said, "a couple sitting down to dinner, people reading, doing exercises, kids fighting over a TV program, the usual kind of domestic stuff. I’ve never seen a sexy woman taking off her clothes and getting into the tub or a couple making love on a balcony. I’ve heard those things happen but I’ve never seen it. The whole thing is a bit voyeuristic, it seems to me."

Shirley and Gordon went to bed in Gordon’s king size bed that afternoon, something she was hoping would happen.

The light from Gordon’s windows had penetrated Shirley’s being. She thought she could not face her dark living room and bedroom again. When she returned home she told Don she had been out shopping but had not bought anything.

"You know I don’t have much money left in my personal account," she complained when Don asked why she hadn’t bought anything.

"Well maybe if you were a little more careful with your money. You’re always shopping."

"The mortgage was paid off this year. What are you doing with the extra money?"

"It’s all going into savings and the kids’ university funds. You know that’s going to take a while and we’ll need quite a bit of money to get them through."

"What about my addition?"

"Oh Shirley, not that again. You know we can’t afford it. It’ll cost about $50,000 to do it right."

"But I’ve been wanting it ever since we moved in. My wishes have to be considered too."

"Listen, you know I’m self employed. I don’t have access to a pension as you do. And even when you begin to receive yours it won’t be enough for us to live on. We need about $200,000 dollars to live comfortably when we are retired."

"How much do we have now?"

"About $25,000."

"How on earth did you manage to save all that while we were paying off the mortgage?"

"You can look at the budget anytime you want. You know I kept a little aside for investments and I’ve done rather well with them."

Shirley was plagued with guilt in the weeks following her liaison with Gordon. When he next came into the library she said she wouldn’t see him anymore. But after about 6 months she agreed to meet him in a Roncesvalles coffee shop, late on a Wednesday afternoon. After sitting down, she began to weep.

"I can’t stand it anymore. I’m in love with you and I don’t know what to do about it."

"Come back to my place. I need to see you"

"I can’t."

"Just call Don and tell him you’re going to the movies with some friends from work."

Back in Gordon’s bed Shirley said she would like to leave Don and move in with him.

“Are you sure?” asked Gordon.

"But I don’t know when." Shirley said. "I have to look after the children first."

Shirley maintained her marriage to Don in the Parkdale semi for another two years, all the while conducting a clandestine affair with Gordon in his loft. The afternoon of her mid-week day off, when Don thought she was out shopping, was reserved for Gordon who left work at noon, picking up wine and take out Indian food or dim sum before they spent the afternoon making love in the sunlight.

*

Shirley was about to turn 50. Don had planned a big surprise party for her, inviting all their friends and relatives. John came home from university in Guelph and the girls, who still lived at home while attending U of T and George Brown College, helped with the secret preparations. Shirley was delighted on entering the house and finding it filled with people. But also horrified, because there was Gordon standing in the centre of the living room. He gave her a peck on the cheek and wished her happy birthday.

"Why are you here?" she whispered.

"Don got my number from your phone book and invited me. I’ve seen him around and he knows we went to university together. Besides, I wanted to see what would happen."

The party was a great success, filled with librarian friends, old school friends, even public school friends from London, Shirley’s home town. Her father was there, along with her aunts and even some first cousins. Don and the girls had covered the dining room table with food. There were streamers hanging from the ceiling and balloons everywhere.

Don led Shirley to a small table at the back of the dining room where a set of plans were laid out.

"Look," he said, pointing to the drawings.

It was a plan of a large windowed semi-circular addition.

"This is my present to you, darling" said Don kissing her on the cheek. "We’re starting work next week."

Shirley died at that moment. Don was grinning broadly, clearly delighted with what he had done. Gordon was standing in a corner of the room looking over at her. She knew that in the following week she must show some courage. She didn’t know if she had it in her.

 *

Lynda Curnoe enjoys writing short stories and poetry and anything else that appeals to her. She lives in Toronto.

Fiction #60: rob mclennan

Baby Names

                                                                                                ashless
                               are the voices                            we have become
                                
                                                                  Cole Swensen, Gravesend

1.

Baby Iphigenia, shortened to If, and sometimes Iffy. She was named for the leader of the Greek forces at Troy, daughter of Agamemnon and Clytemnestra, who threw her body down to save and solve her father’s follies. Less known than vain Helen, hers was not the face to launch a thousand ships, but the sacrifice that prevented further bloodshed. If only.

Names so often shortened; culled to their perfect, familiar forms.

From the time she a toddler, she held a certainty that ignited calm in those around her, unable to discern a single break or a crack. What not even water could unfold.

By her late twenties. Punctual, she knew her marriage over when she arrived late and later for appointments with her husband. She knew he had done nothing wrong, but they’d drifted further apart, inch by restless inch. She didn’t even know she was unhappy until it came crashing in, a single phrase from his lips, three glasses of another Okanagan red into waiting, again.

“Apparently it’s ‘If, not when,’” he added. There.


2.

Call me Ishmael, he said.

But that was not his name, and in the end, was not what we called him.


3.

Georgie girl. Pregnant so very young, she named her baby daughter for the just-released Lynn Redgrave feature and the child grew to hate the association, opting instead for the full Georgina. She preferred, as she explained, a name with weight, something you could hold in your hand like a stone or a brick, not one you’d fear might float away. Her birth certificate was equally infected, “Georgie.”

Her mother thought the name sweet; Georgina associated it too closely with the awkward, overweight film character. She’d had enough trouble of her own. She preferred the association with old King George, Georgian, as was she. The period post-Edwardian, rapt in King and Country, despite their home in the colonies. She flecked her hair with homemade fascinators. She scoured shops for antique, hand-sewn lace.

The thread of the theme song, “Hey, there,” outlined her childhood. Against her will it had imprinted deep upon her, from preschool lullaby her mother sang to schoolyard taunt. When required, she learned early to punch, to throw, to knock down.

When she was twenty-three years old, she took the matter to the courts, and had her name legally altered—Georgina—and spent the following decade guilting her mother for the burden. The issue might have been resolved, but the injury would never fade.


4.

Since the turn of the century, new parents have worked through a sequence of names that those a decade or more before knew only as “old lady names”: Agnes, Myrtle, Charlotte, Laird, Ellen, Della. Names of women born a rough-century before, even earlier. With a gap of time, the old names renew, reemerge. Quite literally, reborn.

In the 1980s, the gust of soap-opera Ashley and Kendra replaced the old standards of Catherine, a Jane or a Jennifer. No family, it seemed, was immune. Names that return and replace any previous. Five girls in a grade school class with the same first name. Add or subtract their birth year times three, and the name is no less prevalent, yet entirely different.

Susan. Emma. Beatrice.


5.

Charles, as his father. Stephen, named for no-one. Identical twins, connected by a ten second pause. As one felt rudderless to his brother’s birthright, the other, held against his sibling’s implied freedoms. Theirs was a complicated relationship, a complicated fate, if one might believe in such things. And yet, so simple.

Ten seconds between, and perhaps it never made a difference. Perhaps the differences were entirely artificial, constructed. A seed they carved and planted, into the divisions they became.


6.

So often, names help shape and announce identity, chosen as arbitrary as one might imagine.

The way my dairy farmer father named the new calves, each year assigned a letter, alphabetical, to keep track of their age.

Alice, Arlette, Annie each a year older than Bertha, Beth, Bonnie.

In the file cabinet he kept in the milkhouse, paperwork on every arrival, every animal he owned. A paperback of baby names.


7.

Adopted at ten months of age, my new parents changed my birth name into something that was meant to be entirely my own, if not theirs. The choice was under their discretion. Because of this, I have been me for most but not all of my life, uncertain how, or if, the shift has shaped me. Perhaps, as Shakespeare wrote, a rose by any other.


*

Born in Ottawa, Canada’s glorious capital city, rob mclennan currently lives in Ottawa. The author of nearly thirty trade books of poetry, fiction and non-fiction, he won the John Newlove Poetry Award in 2010, the Council for the Arts in Ottawa Mid-Career Award in 2014, and was longlisted for the CBC Poetry Prize in 2012. His most recent titles include notes and dispatches: essays (Insomniac press, 2014), The Uncertainty Principle: stories, (Chaudiere Books, 2014) and the poetry collection If suppose we are a fragment (BuschekBooks, 2014). An editor and publisher, he runs above/ground press, Chaudiere Books, The Garneau Review (ottawater.com/garneaureview), seventeen seconds: a journal of poetry and poetics (ottawater.com/seventeenseconds), Touch the Donkey (touchthedonkey.blogspot.com) and the Ottawa poetry pdf annual ottawater (ottawater.com). He spent the 2007-8 academic year in Edmonton as writer-in-residence at the University of Alberta, and regularly posts reviews, essays, interviews and other notices at robmclennan.blogspot.com

photo credit: Christine McNair

Fiction #60: Al Cool

When the Truth Won’t Do

I needed a Zen moment. Eating supper in the company of fifty other loggers in the noisy cook shack at Juskatla, the brassy din echoing off the stainless steel and Formica fixtures breached my toleration limits. I planned my escape for right after I cleaned off the mountain of food on my plate. I could stay in my trailer at Tlell and return early the next morning for work. Just wanting out, I passed on taking a shower so I was still in my logging gear. I’d toss my caulk boots in my car before leaving camp.

Soon, I was speeding my rust-bucket into ‘town’. I joined the after-supper exodus in my ’75 Parisienne, careening around blind, slippery hairpin corners, barely keeping up with the other guys on the road. Most were heading to the bar in town, and that bar was only fifteen miles of Queen Charlotte Island mainline corduroy away. Choking back dust, fishtailing around teeth-rattling potholes, surviving windshield-eating gravel spraying all around the car, I successfully dodged aloof black bears and the maniacal drivers heading into camp for night shift - also driving at break-neck speeds. The goal was cold draft beer poured into frosted mugs in the Port Clements pub.

However, tonight, I was keen for Coho fishing. Getting a hook in the water and enjoying the peace and solace on the riverbank meant I could ward off the logger blues creeping in on me again. The lead cars of the convoy turned left into the pub parking lot. After dropping off two riders, I scored a quick six-pack at the store, and then lit off for Tlell. Bouncing along the heaving, dangerously rutted highway punched through twelve miles of scrubby Spruce swamp, the sun was bright, the colors vibrant and the beer cold. Slowing down, crossing the timbers of the Tlell river bridge, I saw the dark water flowing upriver, inland. Perfect. The Coho will be pushing in with the tide. Tourists fish downriver; I want no part of that. I’ll head to my trailer then fish right there. Alone. Solitude is relaxing. It is my Zen thing.

I blew past the Sanderson Ranch, making the right turn at Wiggin’s Road, then right again at Annie’s place, circling around the perennially green pastures of the Sanderson’s ‘stump farm’. With nary a glance, I passed Chris’s trailers near the end of the road. He wouldn’t want his hermitage invaded. I shot up the curving grade of my sandy driveway. Everything looks just the same as when I left it. No need to hesitate. I had already decided to approach the river from across the top of my property, choosing this route so no one could possibly see me. One person in Nature alone, undistracted, hears and sees more. On the best days, the experience evolves beyond sentience; entering Nature’s gift, her ‘tonic of wildness’ cleanses the spirit. Two or more people fishing can turn competitive: conversations degrade to splitting costs, where to fish, when to leave or move. Too often, the experience becomes shabby and escapist.

Tonight, with the river to myself, I could immerse into the manna that can be the magic of this archipelago. I live just above the intimate, Cottonwood-lined green glen at the end of the road, where the mysterious river bends dramatically, passing through and beyond green pastures, narrowing into a shaded, tree-lined slot. Many hours I spent here with Chris, my fishing mentor and the only fishing partner I could tolerate. It was Chris who, in order to ‘control’ access to the river and without my knowledge, persistently pestered my landlord until, for respite alone, he offered the property to me as a rental. From my trailer atop this sandy knoll, I would slip out to enjoy this treasure, fishing the rising tides each season for the past three years. As payback for securing the rental for me, Chris placed me under threats of excommunication if I “ever spoke of this spot”. Entering this conspiracy to protect the ‘spot’ overlooked a few facts: it is public property at the end of a public road leading to the river, attendees park then walk through what amounted to a public parking lot, passing by a well-used fire ring and tenting area along a short, well-worn trail. Chris was different that way – all his fishing secrets were sacrosanct, as were his many distracting idiosyncrasies. With the ferocity of a hungry grizzly digging after a marmot, the more privacy Chris sought out, the more determined became the usually inaccurate gossip about him.

Before descending to the river, listening for sounds of people, I laced up my caulks again. Nothing. Just my own breathing, the familiar eagle family screeching at each other, ravens harassing the eagles, the off-shore wind through the giant Spruce lining the far bank despite Monk’s best efforts to log them off. Having decided to try the new run, I would have to fish from Monk’s logging slash. It felt fitting in some way, a gesture of respect, hopeful perhaps, for some aspect of recovery after the destruction beaten down upon Nature by industry. I knew of people who bathed at this area, but I was not one of them. I never immersed myself in this water. This is not a sparkling northern river – its dark flow does not invite as other waters might.

Sure, it was Monk’s property. But he purposely left logs and up-ended stumps behind after tearing up the well-worn river trail to discourage anyone from trying the river that crossed through this scarred corner of his land. Struggling through the slash, cursing Monk, I eventually acquired a tentative perch on the bank. I stood beside a leafless, grey, Spruce sapling, knocked over during the logging. Leaning far out over the river at the top end of the pool, the tips of a few stripped limbs actually in the water, it presented a minimal hazard to my line and only if I was careless.

I cast to the far bank, downriver, letting my lure’s action work with the slow tidal push inland as I reeled in line. Bits of green seaweed floated past, upriver. Interior ranges and expansive collection swamps feed the Tlell. Draining the center of Graham Island, it is a slow, small river, rich in fish. Cedar roots leeching into the water produce a decidedly reddish hue, making it difficult to place the next step when wading anywhere but the shallowest of gravel bars. Successful upriver anglers tune to feel and vibration because the Tlell is a river of snags and monstrous blow-downs, which discourage the meat-fishing set, who tend to roost and carouse only where easy access abounds.

Suddenly, my rod jerked violently, pulled almost from my hands. I released line from my Silex reel, precariously managing the speed of the release, the torque of the pull and the angle of the rod, trying not to lose this fish. The silver Northern Coho leapt clear of the water, splashing down in a great writhing contortion, taking off on another spectacular surface run. Fear not, you will be released, my friend, but in the meantime, let’s see what you’ve got for me. And what a magnificent effort! It took several more ferocious runs downriver, testing my line and skill. I could just hold it. Finally, it changed direction and then, anti-climatically, my line snarled into the limbs of the sapling leaning over the river. Damn you, Monk! The rod instantly changed from a dynamic, carbon-fiber connection to an ineffectual pole. The line from the reel to the limbs remained limp as I watched the Coho jump several more times mid-river, my hook in its mouth, like it was mocking me.

I had to free the fish. Maybe it would free itself, maybe not. I could not leave it to chance that it might die tethered like that. I turned around to scan the slash behind me, then the bank upriver and down. No one. Good. How could I let the fish entangle itself in the one snag in the river? The wild Coho jumped again, this time upriver, my hook still in its mouth. I could imagine how angry it must be. If I could free the line from the limbs, it would still have a chance to spawn.

I put my rod down, quickly unlaced my caulk boots, kicked them off, peeled my socks and dropped my fallers’ pants, grey-wool Stanfields and thermal T-shirt. Standing only in my white underwear, swarms of black flies, mosquitoes and no-see-ums attacked me immediately, eating me alive. I would have to be quick. I took a step off the bank, expecting it to be knee deep, but crashed full into the tepid river up to my chin. I cursed, feeling the gentle persuasion pushing my feet across the slimy bottom gravel. I let go of the line, reaching up for the leaning sapling. As I worked hand-over-hand along the tree out toward my line, the sapling bent nearer the surface, the weak but stubborn current soon divesting me of my remaining stitch of clothing. Fully aware of the irony of this effort to free a fish in the ‘Charlottes, where fish are as abundant as raindrops, I thought, There’s not much Zen being caught hanging stark naked over the middle of the river. Still, I felt obligated to influence the outcome of this situation.

Hanging there, I worked fast, unable to snap the iron-tough limbs, making it doubly difficult to untangle the line. The Coho had stopped rising while I continued what was becoming an arduous struggle fulfilling my duty to my self-imposed ‘community service’. All the while, the infuriating flies chewed at any part of my exposed body. Finally, I dropped my freed line into the water, watching it sink away from the limbs. I repeated my gymnastics back to the bank, scrabbling onto shore. I dressed hurriedly; thankful there were no witnesses.

Reeling in the line that once hooked a now, long-gone, wild Northern Coho, it suddenly stopped. Is it? Could it be? No. The line is just snagged on the bottom. I pulled steadily on the line. It stretched. I pulled more, it stretched again, and then I felt a small amount of give. Maybe… I worked the line, the lure and the resistance until I retrieved my catch to the bank. I was trying to land a giant, waterlogged Sitka Spruce limb. Damn you twice, Monk! I have no idea why the line, the rod, or my temper didn’t snap while I was pulling it in, but here I was anyway. The hook disappeared deep into the fibrous wood. I dropped the rod several times trying to grab the limb. But each time I hauled it close, the limb sank out of reach toward the murky bottom before I could grab hold. Eventually, it occurred to me I could utilize the toppled sapling. I reeled my catch in again, managing to wind loops of line around a broken limb. Now I had the line anchored. I made a desperate lunge, grabbing for my prize, flopping with the broken end in my arms backwards into the slash, gasping for air. I hauled the rest of the limb onto the shore. It was a twenty-foot beauty, a real Tlell trophy. I’d enjoyed enough Zen and angling for one evening.

Retelling this story, rarely am I afforded the benefit of the doubt as to the veracity of the details. I have come to accept it that a pack of entertaining lies will satisfy and compete with any well-told truth. So, for the listener who has not shared my experience, I adjust the details, dimensioning the limb, which can still be found laying on the bank today, to just over ten feet long.

*

Alfred Cool has written 6 novels comprising his BC Series. Since 2010, he has won awards in short story contests, has published e-fiction, and is published in three Canadian anthologies. He attended Simon Fraser University to pursue English as his major. After logging, Al enjoyed a lengthy career as a computer systems analyst and taught privately and as a college instructor. He is a member of the Vancouver chapter of the Canadian Authors Association and the BC Federation of Writers. He writes extensively and intimately about his travels on the coast of British Columbia.