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Monday, 21 May 2018

Dead Dog on Morningside

 "Dead Dog on Morningside is now fully available in both print and ebook forms. It’s a little bit like The Sopranos, except Canadian and Irish and with an actual ending. Support local artists and read a damn good book by ordering here: " ~ mike battista

Semi-retired from the violent life of a paramilitary commander during The Troubles, Danno Graham has fled from Northern Ireland to Canada with his young family. His new role is to play host to those in the organisation who need to slip away for a wee while to avoid the heat. Now Danno enjoys the best of both worlds: the peaceful living of Scarborough, Ontario, and the satisfaction of still aiding the cause back in Belfast.

Then Farley Duff arrives on the Grahams' doorstep.

Danno’s teenage daughter, Arlene, is immediately smitten with their brash and charming new houseguest. But Farley's been hiding a dark side—a most disturbing truth that puts all of Danno’s peaceful new neighbourhood in great danger.

With the code of his people on one side and his new life in Canada on the other, Danno must decide how to set things right—with Farley, with his family, with his neighbours, and with himself. By the time Farley’s gone, no one in the Graham home will ever be the same.

From cal chayce, author of Victor of Circumstance and All the Fine Hungers, comes a riveting new tale of crime and punishment that explores the depths of a killer's conscience.

 Also by chayce

chayce books are published by Forest City Pulp

Current FCP authors also include...

Monday, 6 November 2017

The 2nd Thirteen

Friday, January 1, 2000

WELL I SEE THE COMPUTERS DIDN’T DESTROY the world last night so life must go on, I guess. In celebration of this second chance graciously allowed us by our binary overlords I’ve decided I’m going to keep a journal. It’s not a diary, and it’s not “gay” like my stepdad says. Ray thinks anything that isn’t over-the-top macho is gay.  Mom sort of gets mad at him for that I think, but what could she do about it? My sister Amy tells him off though. She’s the only one in the family who isn’t mean to me. For a sister, Amy’s pretty fantastic.

So my English teacher Mr. Dinsmore says keeping a daily journal is an awesome thing to do. Says he’s kept one since he was a kid in the seventies or eighties and looking back on your thoughts when you’re old is really fun. And Mr. Dinsmore’s wife has the biggest boobs I’ve ever seen so he’s pretty cool and not gay at all. Whoever gets the hottest girl is obviously the coolest guy and if you want a good looking girl too then you damn well better pay attention to how the cool guys get them.
Anyway it’s the very first day of a new year and a new decade. People said it was a new century and millennium too but math says that’s not until next year and I trust math more than people. Still, I figured it was the perfect time to start my journal that I’ll be faithfully maintaining every single day until I grow up and get a sexy wife with big boobs like Mrs. Dinsmore.

Tuesday, September 6, 2000

I guess I’m a little behind on my entries.
I just started the eighth grade today and we all have to keep a journal for English class, even the boys, so I remembered I had this one that I had started before and figured I could use it. I don’t know what to write in the stupid thing. It’s hard to write stuff when you’re told you have to. My dog died so I guess I could write about that. She was thirteen, same as me, and I had her all my life. My sister Amy cried. So did I. Ray says we need a new dog right away but no dog could ever replace Daisy.
I have to write 150 words a day which sure seems like a lot when you have nothing to say but I guess I’m done for now. Wait, hang on... okay, now I am.

Wednesday, September 7, 2000

My mom and Ray were fighting last night about getting a new dog. My mom says no and Ray says yes, so we’re getting one. Mom’s mad and Ray’s all excited. I don’t know why. It’s not like he cared about Daisy and he won’t care about this one either.

What to write about? We’re going to be learning about Shakespeare in this class. I’m not looking forward to that. I hate the way they talk. It doesn’t even make sense. Why can’t we read books by people who didn’t die a million years ago? People who speak English properly. Like, it is English class! The book is a play and it’s called “As You Like It”. So far, guess what? I don’t like it! I like math way better. Everything has an answer there. None of this “interpreting” stuff. Who knows who’s right? English teachers just make shit up.

Monday, September 12, 2000

Well damn, I missed a few days. Mr. Jordan says as long as I have the right word count by the end of the week he won’t deduct marks, which is cool but I really don’t feel like writing that much.
Anyway, surprise surprise, we got a new dog on the weekend! She’s pretty awesome actually. She crapped on the dining room floor as soon as we brought her home but she hasn’t done it since. She learns really fast. I wanted to call her Scamper because she looks like a scamp and my mom liked that but Ray wanted to call her Blaze because he says “Blaze is a bad-ass name,” so it’s Blaze.

Mr. Jordan was going on about that Shakespeare book today and part of it sounded pretty neat. At least it got me thinking about math. He (Shakespeare) says in the book that Man has seven stages in life and he goes on to list them. I wrote them down, kind of, and it almost works that you can divide each stage into thirteen years: seven thirteen-year stages.

So I realized that since dogs live for about thirteen years (Daisy did anyway), a guy can have seven dogs in his life – one for each of the seven stages. Cool, huh? I had Daisy for my first thirteen years, when I was mewling and puking and all that and now I’ve got Blaze for the second thirteen. Unless she gets hits by a bus or something but we can’t consider all the variables like that. When Blaze dies of old age it’ll be 2013 and I’ll turn twenty-six that year. I’ll be finished my whining schoolboy phase and be checking out my mistress’s eyebrow, whatever the hell that’s all about.
Whoa, that was like two full journal entries! I’ll be caught up in no time.

Sunday, March 31, 2013

And that was the final entry.

I couldn’t remember anything I’d said when I was a kid and started writing this journal except that you get a dog for each phase of your life. For some reason, that always stuck in the back of my mind and when a few weeks ago Blaze died, right on schedule at age thirteen, it brought it all back and compelled me to search for this old book, which I finally found in a musty suitcase in my mother’s attic.

I was hoping I’d written something more profound -- some prescient gems about what awaited me down the road during “the second thirteen”, but whatever. At least good ol’ Blaze featured prominently as she was there with me throughout the second phase. Well, the bulk of it anyway. The “ignorance is bliss” years I guess.

I’m sure the remaining stages, however many I’m fortunate enough to enjoy or unfortunate enough to endure, will each have their own summits and valleys, bright avenues and dark alleys but this second stage is unique in that it’s the only one in which your age doubles from the start to the end: I’m now thirteen plus thirteen. I am two dogs old.

If it wasn’t apparent by the sudden mysterious demise of the journal entries, I didn’t really excel in school. I didn’t have the discipline and anyone who attempted to supply me with some was met with furious resistance. Guys in my family had never gone to school much and I wasn’t about to be the first and get razzed about it by my stepdad and his asshole brothers and all them. Beer and weed and girls, in any order, were far more alluring, easier to obtain, and a much less conspicuous path for me to take.

Despite having turned my back on most conventions by the age of sixteen, Blaze, who was an energetic and playful three year old by then, had really become my buddy. She always wanted to go everywhere with me but back then I rarely let her. That is, until I learned her value as a “chick magnet”. That’s the term Brian used. He was Amy’s boyfriend and considered a real catch by all her girlfriends, but they also said he should have been unhooked and thrown back after he stopped struggling.

Amy was twenty-one then and didn’t appreciate anyone’s advice about what she should do or who she should do it with. She got stuck on Brian, which was awesome for me since his network of cool now encompassed me, however peripherally at first.

Brian told me a lot about dogs and I listened eagerly. I was finally getting an education worth receiving. He explained how it was all in the tone of voice and in the eyes. He showed me how to get Blaze to do all sorts of wicked tricks, to do whatever I said without ever having to raise my voice. Without ever making verbal threats. With just the tone of voice, and with the eyes, total control could be obtained. He told me how even though they appear to want independence, to run free, unencumbered by rules or restraints of any kind, they really yearn to be controlled. Deep down, they beg to be told where their boundaries are and there’s nothing that makes them happier than when they find them and when they’ve managed to please their master. That’s when you throw them a bone, Brian explained, but not every time or they’ll come to expect it. It’s important they never know if their good behaviour will result in a treat or not. You got to keep them in suspense. They just need to know one will be coming eventually as long as they remain obedient and never stray.

Confidence leads to better technique, Brian assured me, and better technique leads to greater confidence. There were definitely many false starts but I gradually began to see results with Blaze. Brian seemed to have been right about so many things. I urged him to become a professional dog trainer but he scoffed at the idea. He said it really had nothing to do with dogs. I puzzled over that for a short while but let it go as Blaze returned with a Frisbee and set it at my feet. I praised her for it, but not overly.

It might’ve been a year later when I was considered a bit of a miracle worker with dogs myself. I’d been careful to follow Brian’s advice every step of the way and the effort paid off. Brian had told me that once I became that good and I could take Blaze everywhere with me, the chicks would start crawling all over me, as he put it. He said girls just love guys with dogs because it says that they’re nurturing, responsible, and family-oriented. Even if the chicks don’t know they want those things, their hormones know it. I told him I’m not any of those things but he assured me it didn’t matter. The appearance was all that counted. Image is everything, he said.

He seemed right, of course, as he usually did. With Blaze along, I had no problem attracting the girls. Girls I’d never met and would’ve considered out of my league would come up to me smiling, pet Blaze, and start asking me questions about her, and then about me. The problem was I had no idea how to respond. I’d stutter and say something stupid then ramble on trying to explain myself until I’d finally manage to chase them away.

I figured since Brian was so great at teaching me how to train Blaze then maybe he could start giving me some lessons on how to not scare girls away. He laughed and told me I didn’t need any lessons -- that I already knew everything I needed to know. I told him I definitely did not know because I was terrible at talking to girls.

Don’t you get it, man? Brian smiled. Bitches are all the same.          
Listen, I readily admit I’m not proud of how I acted for the next few years, but I did get laid a lot. It was in the confidence and the technique. It was in the tone of voice and the eyes. It was making them eager to please. It was throwing them the odd bone.

It was control.


I was twenty when I met Sheila at a party. Wasted as we both were, we managed the mating dance admirably. Smoothly swaying to the music we were producing on the fly, we allowed our melody to write itself. And when it came to the chorus neither of us missed a beat despite the hidden skips of our own hearts. Sue me for being sappy but that’s how it was.

But it wasn’t the usual. I suspected immediately there was something I wanted from Sheila, more than the typical conquest and abrupt parting. My suspicions played out and I soon found myself recklessly in love with her. She admitted feeling the same for me but that wasn’t strange at all. There was nothing odd about her behaviour toward me, as girls often adorned me with their undying love; only my own behaviour was out of character. And despite my feelings, or perhaps because of them, I sought mental superiority hard and fast. It was all I knew and the girl never had a chance.

I would like to throw a curve in here – to relate how Sheila was immune to my well-practiced techniques, impervious to my gaze and voice, but if anything she was easier to ensnare than many of them had been. She was very eager to be mastered. The only difference between her and the rest, besides the fact she was the first girl I ever truly loved, was that Blaze, curiously, had no time for her. Only after I would command her to allow Sheila to pet her, would she oblige, and only then, grudgingly. I knew this hurt Sheila’s feelings and I worked with Blaze to help her overcome whatever her problem might be. I suspect the major bone of contention was Sheila taking a permanent place in my bed when she moved in with me – the spot that had always belonged to Blaze.

Sometimes I would’ve actually enjoyed having Sheila come out and party with me on weekends, especially after she moved in with me. But if Brian and my family had taught me anything it was that a woman needs to stay at home and avoid risking any unrespectable behaviour, and to be there waiting to get me safely to bed when I eventually wander in drunk. And she was. Always. I loved her deeply for that and she loved to be loved for it.

Brian married Amy in ’08 and Sheila and I took the leap the following year when I just turned twenty-two. She’d hinted that she always wanted a fairy tale wedding but that would’ve meant having to put up with her family and all that shit. I could see no reason to let my wedding be ruined by that bunch of weirdo feminists and pussies. I was so grateful Sheila had rebelled against her upbringing. We ended up going to a Justice of the Peace at City Hall and just getting it over with. No hassle, no family, no charade. True love isn’t proved by pomp and ceremony; the proof is in actions.

We moved a few towns away in order to dissuade her parents from visiting so often and that worked pretty well. Once or twice a month we’d go to Brian and Amy’s for drinks and a barbecue or they’d come to our place, but the visits became more infrequent over time and the bonds began to fade. Christmas visits remained a must though, and a blast was usually had but I’d started feeling a little uneasy about some things. I wasn’t really sure what at the time.

It bothered me, for one thing, when Amy and Sheila would joke about how they knew Brian and I loved them by how strict we were - how they’d know we didn’t care about them any longer if we stopped keeping them on a short leash. The three of them would laugh about that and I guess I would too but it didn’t feel quite right, not after a while.

I started to feel like the whole short leash scenario... I don’t know, maybe it’s cute imagery for some couples but it felt wrong somehow – although not wrong enough to make me change my ways. How would I, even if I wanted to? These were the only ways I knew. I loved Sheila to death. Surely that commitment made up for any old fashioned tendencies – especially if she liked me being that way.

On the bright side, Blaze was finally starting to warm up to Sheila. The first time Blaze had lain at her feet Sheila was nearly in tears. That was the beginning of a beautiful relationship. I was happy for her too.

Sheila asked me one time why I was opting to visit Amy and Brian less frequently. She wondered if I was becoming disillusioned with my favourite big sister, but that wasn’t it. I realized then that I was becoming disillusioned with Brian. He was no longer the cool older guy that I’d once idolized. He was still the same as always but it seemed like I eased past him at some indiscernible point in some intangible way and now he was trying too hard to impress me, to regain what I think he too felt was slipping, and he mostly just came across as lame.

Amy had invited us over for a barbecue two summers ago and, since we hadn’t been there since the winter, I decided what the hell. I called to confirm and Amy answered the phone. Her voice was a little muffled and she sounded shaky. I told her we’d be there for the afternoon and started into the obligatory small talk when I thought I heard her starting to sob a little. I asked what was wrong. She was reluctant at first but with a little pressing she was soon gushing out the whole incident from the night before.

Brian had come home drunk after last call expecting his dinner. When there was none to be found he woke Amy up and asked her why she hadn’t made any. She was groggy and told him she thought he’d be too tired to eat so she didn’t want to waste food. He called her a few derogatory names and ordered her to get up and cook some supper.

She thinks she may have expressed annoyance, possibly rolled her eyes or something, and Brian had become infuriated beyond all reason. Amy said you could tell his pride had been hurt at the bar because he always picked a fight with her when he got home after being outwitted or outboxed by a drunken acquaintance. She knew that was the worst time to give him a reason to get upset but she’d been too tired to be cautious. He’d grabbed her by the hair and yanked her out of the bed and onto the floor.

Amy surprised herself then, she said, in that the worse he got -- the more he abused her, verbally and physically -- the more angry and stubborn she herself became and steadfastly refused to comply with his orders. Brian had been incredulous at the lack of respect and got on top of her and started choking her. She’d tried to fight him off but his rage was far greater than her ability to defend herself. His grip had tightened as his eyes bulged and his face turned purple and contorted. She had been sure she was going to die, she said.

As I pictured him with his hands around my sister’s throat I clenched the phone so hard it left deep impressions in my skin. As calmly as I could manage, I asked Amy how she’d gotten out of it. She didn’t know but she suspected the moment she felt she was dying he felt it too and that scared him and sobered him a little. Just enough. He released her, called her a lazy cunt and went to make himself something to eat. She’d lain there trembling for a good while, she said, before quietly getting herself back in to bed, feigning sleep when he crawled in beside her some time later.

Sheila knew something was very wrong by the way I was speaking with Amy. She began to massage my tightening shoulders. Blaze manoeuvred her muzzle into my free hand, for my benefit, not her own, until I relented and began stroking her.

At first all I could think of doing was rushing down to Brian’s work and smashing his face in, in front of his co-workers and continuing to do so until he was nothing but an unrecognizable mess. I soon realized that wouldn’t be the wisest course of action, even if I could be sure I wouldn’t come out of the tussle second best.

I told Amy she needed to leave him. She said she couldn’t. I was expecting that response but it still hit me hard to hear the words. I told her it would happen again - that she knew it would - and the next time she might not live through it. She said she understood but she couldn’t leave him. She didn’t know how.

I’d pleaded with her that day, to no avail. I became distraught and didn’t know what to do. I felt completely helpless to save my sister’s life. I called an abused women’s hotline and I was crying when I tried to explain the situation to the lady who answered. I don’t know how often men call those lines but she didn’t seem too surprised so I took that as a good sign.

It didn’t take long before I was disappointed though. There was nothing she could do for me. I don’t even know what I had been hoping for when I called. It was just desperation, grasping at straws. The lady told me as sympathetically as she could that unless my sister decided to leave on her own, then there was nothing they could do to help her.

Exasperated, I asked how could someone ever leave their controlling abuser without the abuser’s permission?

Yeah, that’s the thing, she said.

That’s the thing.

I was still shaking when I hung up the phone, so enraged, feeling so god damned useless. It then struck me that there was something I could do, if not for Amy, at least in honour of her, and for Sheila. I resolved at that moment that I would never again lord over the woman I loved. It would be a whole new game; I would do everything in my power to make sure my wife had the strength of mind to leave me if she ever felt she wanted to. If you love something set it free and all that, right? An entire dismantling of the relationship’s structure would have to be undertaken and rebuilt on equal footing from the ground up. It was daunting but I was determined, and I never wavered.

I wasn’t great at keeping up with half the housework but I tried. I was better at sharing decisions than I realized I could be though. I began including her, asking her opinion on all matters that concerned us both rather than just taking charge and doing what I thought was best. I started complimenting her on her choices, her views, her taste, and her accomplishments - everything from which mutual funds to invest in, to which television show to watch.

I realized her lack of confidence was something I had preyed on -- a weakness I had exploited and used for my own selfish purposes – to feel superior. To be superior. In control. Brian, the ultimate cool guy who I modeled myself after, now appeared for what he really was: a tiny little insecure man who needed to manipulate women to feel better about himself. And me: I had been his pathetic little mirror image.

My plan worked. Sheila’s confidence grew by the week it seemed. Her voice became stronger, she held her head higher, she advanced at work by leaps and bounds, going from a part-time cashier to a manager in under a year. It was a remarkable transformation to behold and she made me so proud to be her husband. And somehow Blaze became her best friend during that metamorphosis; I was becoming second choice for Blaze’s affections. I can’t say I wasn’t a little jealous but more than anything I found it a fascinating development.

In retrospect, I find ironic folly in my plan, in that I failed to inform Sheila of its implementation and objective. I don’t know, I guess I thought telling her would somehow undermine the effort. So as always, I had decided on my own what would be best for both of us. That oversight was possibly my biggest mistake.

She left me in the fall.

It was obvious that I didn’t love her any more, she said. Since I wouldn’t refuse to let her go out drinking with friends from work, that made it clear to her that I no longer cared about her. When I didn’t ask where she was, what she was doing until four in the morning, that was because I must have wanted her to find a boyfriend. So she found one. She found one who was jealous of me, her husband, and who wanted to know if and when she was intimate with me and ordered her to leave me. He treated her like a dog and she obeyed. She felt secure with him. He controlled her completely and she felt loved again.

I had come home from work to find her closet cleaned out of her essentials and favourites. Our dual bank account was cleaned out too. After all, her boyfriend was between positions at the moment and they were going to need any advantage they could get.

She took Blaze too and that was the final straw. I drove around to the shabby house where Sheila was holed up with her new master and demanded she give me back my dog. Through a ripped screen door she insisted she hadn’t taken Blaze; the dog had jumped in the car and wouldn’t get out. I called bullshit on that and she opened the door wide.

Call her, Sheila said. I did and Blaze came to stand by her side, just inside the threshold. Sheila held her hands in the air to prove she wasn’t holding the dog back. I whistled. Blaze cocked her head in that cute way she had but didn’t move. I called her, I patted my leg, I whistled again. I raised my shaky voice and she stood firm.

A voice from inside the house – a man’s voice, calm, confident, and in control, called her name and Blaze wagged her tail, turned, and disappeared down the hall and out of sight.

Sheila closed the door and followed.


She called me last Thursday to tell me Blaze had died. The vet had wanted to know her age and Sheila couldn’t remember. Thirteen, I told her, and that’s when that Shakespeare stuff came back to me and sent me searching for this old journal.

The Daisy stage had seemed so carefree in comparison. But as tumultuous as the Blaze years turned out to be, I wouldn’t give up the lessons learned for anything. I didn’t get a dog to replace Blaze when she and Sheila left me; it didn’t seem right then. But I’m twenty-six now and ready for phase three. At least I think I might be, but who knows what hurdles will spring up between now and when I’m thirty-nine?

I don’t know if I’ll find that bubble reputation that Shakespeare mentioned, but the dog pound is my first stop tomorrow and, together, me and my new pup will go looking for it.

Monday, 31 July 2017

The World Would Be So Much Better Without Their Kind

I’m telling this older guy I’m sharing a smoke with that I turned fourteen yesterday, and he says I should go home. I don’t answer, though. I could explain why I can't do that but, really, does it matter? When the cigarette is finished we have nothing left in common and I move on.

It’s early April in 1981 and dusk is approaching. There’s a light drizzle falling; it’s seeping into my jean jacket at the shoulders. Even though the rain is light, my hair is already drenched from being out in it too long. I wish I had that CHUM ball cap back, the one somebody scooped from me while I dozed in a vestibule last night. I hope they needed it.

I’m guessing the temp is just about a click over zero. Drizzle turns to sleet and pushes down now, focused, intent, rather than just lazily dropping. I can tell by the look of the clouds rolling back in that this is just a tease of what’s to come. Maybe they’re not rolling so much as skulking. My ripped Adidas are already soaked through due to the puddles left by the first phase of the storm earlier on. I can still feel some of my toes but not all. The smallest ones are always the first to go.

I keep walking because standing still would be dumb and dangerous. Yet I know there’s nowhere to go; the cops know all the dry and slightly warmer places where kids like me like to hang when we want a little relief from the elements. They say it’s their job to ensure no congregating occurs there. That’s the word they use when they’re shooing us along, like we’re a congregation. Devout members of Our Lady of the Frozen Digits with a cult-like enthusiasm for misery. They say when we gather that we’re not only an offensive sight to decent society, but our congregations serve only to foster mischief among miscreants like me. They’re probably right. They know I’m bad. Everybody knows it. They can’t all be wrong so I believe them.

And I keep walking. To nowhere. It’s dinnertime in Old South London. I don’t think I’ve eaten since the day before yesterday so I try not to think on that. Sometimes I get lucky and get away with a Snickers or a pack of luncheon meat from Becker’s or wherever, but usually the only thing easy enough to steal is cigarettes from the handy counter displays.

So I smoke. It occupies my mouth when there’s no food. In a weird way, they’re my only comfort. All that I can rely on. They're pretty much my only true family, as they never turn their back on me or push me away. They’re a bit of an appetite suppressant, too, but mostly they’re something I can hold on to. I’m coming to depend on them a great deal and nicotine is about the least of the reasons why. I’ve heard they can make you die sooner, like that’s some sort of deterrent. And anyway, I like the smokescreen they create. A barrier so no one can ever get too close. Getting like that only sets you up for eventual rejection. Why would anyone subject themselves to that willingly? Fucking idiots.

I walk on. This part of Cathcart Street has a lot of large trees and the branches are sprouting buds. They’re still small, but the sheer number of them creates a bit of a canopy and if that helps to keep a little rain off me then at least that’s something. I’m not sure what the buds think of sleet. Does it help them burst out and flourish, or shrink into themselves and cower, hoping for a better day to come? They probably don’t know themselves what to do, which way to turn. But thanks to all the branches, the rain’s no longer dripping from my ear lobes, which is great because I can feel them burning. I think it’s funny the way the freezing always starts with burning. The saviour of my congregation has a wicked sense of humour.

I can’t help but look into the houses as I intrude on the quaint neighbourhood. Many of the front windows are lit up like huge television screens as I pass them, each telling a story in twenty-four frames-per-second all the way down the road. Each shows a different contented family, warm and dry, laughing, sitting down for dinner like it’s no big deal. Each screen is set to a different channel, all are fine-tuned and their clarity is impressive.

None of the characters ever breaks the fourth wall. To them it doesn’t exist, and that’s where I am: outside looking in. They’re oblivious to people like me—that we share the same theatre, just from different sides of the curtain. I’m merely an audience peering in from the dark. I could try to be the laugh track but no one would hear me. I’m a ghost. Or maybe just a stat if that’s a different thing.

A while later when I’m on Briscoe, it’s full dark and even colder. As I'd figured, the rain is coming down a lot harder now, mixed with ice pellets. My jacket is a month ahead of season and now soaked full-through, so I think I’m better off with the pellets than the straight-up rain because they mostly just bounce off instead of burrowing through the denim and into my skin, and deeper. I guess that makes me lucky. I know it’s the worst plan to stop walking but my legs need a break and there’s nowhere dry to sit. There’s a house party in progress on one of the screens. It must be Friday or Saturday. My aching legs convince me to stop and just take in the show for a few moments.

Everyone is pleased with themselves and each other, their animated hands and bodies expressing their joy at just being there, together. One woman reminds me of my mom a little. I miss my mom. And they’re all socializing, near the glowing fireplace with drinks in hand and randomly grabbing whatever-they-are off the platters as they talk and flirt and ingest the snacks’ sustenance practically without even realizing it. Many are just set down half-eaten and forgotten. I feel sorry for those ones even while I crave the opportunity to devour them.

I’ve been watching this show too long. I can feel my knees starting to seize so I push my legs back into motion. On to the next channel, and the next. I end up in a commercial area down on Wharncliffe maybe an hour later. I stop to light a smoke under the awning of a department store that has these fancy twenty-six-inch console televisions in the display window. I don’t even know why I pick up a rock and throw it through the huge plate glass but I guess that’s what bad guys do. No reason. Random, meaningless destruction from some asshole kid out for kicks. And anyway, running helps warm my toes a little as I hear the wail of approaching sirens.

Sunday, 30 October 2016

The Cat

One night when Melody Bannock was five years old, she awakened from a deep sleep, cold, with a bitter post-winter chill creeping in through the broken bedroom window. Her big brother, Paul, had broken it while batting rocks outside with a slab of wood. That had been before Melody could even remember, but that was how the story went. Her daddy had said it had to stay that way but Melody heard someone say broken windows could be fixed. She didn’t see how; it sounded like magic to her and magic wasn’t real, and anyway, she believed what her daddy told her.

She couldn’t really remember the window, and her mommy said it made for nice sleeping in the summer when the breeze comes through the hole where it used to be. She was looking forward to that. Summer came after Spring, she knew, and it was springtime now, so summer would be the next thing. She was really excited about summer; she almost couldn’t take the anticipation. She got too excited about things. She knew that because everybody always said so. They said she was too hyper, too curious, and too impetuous. She didn’t know what most of those things were; all she knew was that she was scared a lot. Of everything, all the time.

And now, she was scared of her dad waking up in the next bedroom, and smelling what she had done: she had peed the bed again, and peeing the bed was wrong. It was what only babies did and she wasn’t a baby, and she knew she would be punished for being such a bad and stupid girl.

She was freezing from the waist down as the dampness of her body intensified the coldness of the room. She reached blindly for the blanket to cover her legs. It wasn’t there. Then she remembered her parents had taken it for the night. They didn't have a bedroom door so they always took her blanket to cover themselves whenever they wanted to play their kissy giggling grown-up game in private.

But there was a dirty sheet, at least, crumpled at the bottom of her mattress. She knew that would help a bit, and she hoped maybe it might cover up the smell too, so then her daddy would never know and then he wouldn’t hit her tomorrow, at least not for that. Then she nearly cried when she remembered the sheet was outside hanging on the line, after being washed because she had peed the bed last night too.

Frustrated, she sat up, and tried to focus in the dark. Of all the things that she was afraid of, the dark was the worst of them all. Because anything can happen in the dark. When she closed her eyes in the daytime, sometimes she saw hideous monsters floating there, reaching toward her, smiling and snarling, wanting to eat her. But she could open her eyes and they would all be gone. In the dark though, in the dead of the night, when she opened her eyes they were still there, laughing at her for trying to will them away. There was no way to turn them into nothingness. For Melody, nighttime was a very bad time.

Sitting there, freezing, listening to her daddy snore in the next room under her nice warm blanket, she became more alert, and knew she had to get the sheet. Outside, at night. She had never gone out at night by herself, not when everybody was sleeping. She wished Paul was there; he wasn’t always nice to her, but Melody knew he would protect her if he could. But he was always staying out with his friends lately, drinking beer and getting weird, doing just what her daddy did all the time. She sometimes wondered why Paul was starting to act just like Daddy when he said so many times that he hated the way Daddy was. So many things in the world seemed strange to Melody.

Then she considered waking her mommy, but that couldn’t be done without waking Daddy too and Mommy always just did what Daddy wanted her to. And she always felt like her mommy didn’t really care a lot about her anyway. She didn’t know why that was.

Melody was out of options. She was alone in this situation, and thought maybe she should just go back to sleep. Maybe getting Daddy mad in the morning wouldn’t be as bad as going outside in the dark. That thought began to seem like the better plan until she shivered again, and knew she couldn’t sleep while she was so cold.

She looked warily at the front door.

Slowly, she rose and began creeping toward it, hoping the squeaky floorboards didn’t rouse her father. Why was the floor so loud at night? she wondered. She made her way to the door, being careful not to bump into anything or step on any empty beer cans or whatever was in her path. She kept expecting a monster to jump out at her from the shadows and she whimpered at the thought as she found the door knob and began to turn it. It seemed to take forever for it to go far enough to open, but it finally did. It made a loud click and her daddy suddenly stopped snoring. She froze. She held her breath and waited, too terrified to do anything else. Then he made an ugly sound in his throat and the snoring started again. She exhaled and relaxed, but just a little, as she opened the door and peered into the vast and silent night.

There was nothing there.

She couldn’t see their nearest neighbour’s house, or the fence, or – or anything. She left the door open and began creeping along the side of the small home, terrified that someone, some thing, might grab her. She walked on, her bare feet felt the dew on the grass, and she wondered why it was wet even though it hadn’t rained. She didn’t understand, but she liked the sensation. It felt nice. It felt real, unlike the rest of this expedition. She tried to concentrate on that, instead of scary monsters, as she rounded the side of the house where the clothesline was.

The grass was taller there, even though it hadn’t had much time to grow yet, and she felt the blades of grass tickling her ankles. She could have giggled if she wasn’t so scared, and then a different feeling: she couldn’t describe it at first, but then the pain announced itself. Melody squealed and quickly moved her foot but the shard of aluminum embed in her heel stayed put.

She sat down hard on the damp lawn and grabbed her foot. She didn’t know what was stuck in her heel but it hurt, and it was making her bleed. She began crying and summoned the courage to pull it out. She threw it away but her foot was bleeding more now. She cried harder, louder, and rubbed her eyes, not realizing her hand was covered in blood. It stung, and she tried to shake away the blood that was now obscuring her vision, but without much success.

She tried to stand up; it hurt to put pressure on her bleeding foot but she limped on, toward where she imagined the clothesline to be. Then she saw the vague outline of the white sheet, rippling gently on the line. She was so excited to see it, she almost forgot about her bleeding foot as she hurried toward it.

It was then she saw the eyes, gleaming in the dark.

They were green, like little twinkling sparks, beside where she thought the shed probably was. The eyes might have even seemed pretty, if she hadn’t heard the deep, guttural growl that emanating from the same place, there in the darkness.


The bobcat had been hunting in the bush, just behind the Bannock family’s shed, when he smelled the blood. Curious, and hungry, he ventured forth, out of his protective bush, and hunched beside the shed. He wasn’t prepared, yet, to go into open territory, not until he was more confident.

Then he spotted his prey. It was much larger than some of the creatures he feasted on, almost daunting in its mass. But he’d fought and won against bigger prey than this, too. He watched the child rise and start heading generally toward him. He scanned the yard, neither seeing nor smelling any other of the creature’s herd. There was nothing that might impede his mission. The smell of its blood excited him. It was injured, and may be less able to defend itself as a result.

He slowly, cautiously rose and began creeping forward into the open, toward the creature, never taking his eyes from her.


Melody couldn’t tell for sure, but she thought maybe whatever owned those green eyes was moving closer to her. It felt crazy to her to run closer to it, but that’s what she found herself doing, as best she could with a bleeding foot, because she had to get that sheet.

It surprised the creature when she did so, and it sprang into action.

Melody snatched the sheet from the line and fled back the way she had come. Her eyes having adjusted to the darkness a little better now, she could see the shape of the house. She crumpled the sheet as she ran so she wouldn’t trip over it, and made a frantic sprint to the corner of the house.

The animal snarled, filling her with dread, as she heard it gaining on her. It moved so fast! She ran quicker than she had ever ran before. She thought maybe if she could round the corner, the creature might shoot right past, and she could be at the front and in the door before it could turn and catch her.

She was wrong.

By the time she reached the corner of the house, it was nearly upon her. She turned to run for the door, but the cat rounded the corner agilely, barely slowing its stride as it did so, and scratched at her heels when she still had some yards to go. She screamed, almost not even caring if it woke her Daddy—and then actually hoping it would. As mad as he would be at her, he would still save her. Wouldn’t he? She couldn’t be sure but she thought so.

She fell, and the bobcat was on her. She whimpered, calling for her mommy, in a reserved voice, still uncertain as to the wisdom of that. The cat pinned her to the ground and flipped her over so she was on her back. She found herself looking dead into its eyes. It was inches from her face; those eyes, green slits that glowed with intensity. She felt its hot, putrid breath on her face, and its saliva that dripped from its mouth onto her cheek. There was no doubt: she had been right about the dark. There were monsters in its depths, and they were intent on eating her.

Her mother never stirred. Melody began crying louder and louder, until she finally threw caution to the wind and began screaming for both her parents to rescue her from the beast. Still, neither of them moved but the bobcat looked to her as if it were getting madder. And hungrier.

Her parents had argued earlier while drinking, and then made up while drinking more. It had been a particularly nasty fight. Mommy will have raccoon eyes again, Melody had thought, so their making-up session went on very late, and now neither of them could be roused by the terrified squeals of their daughter in peril.

Melody realized she was as good as alone in the world. No one would be saving her from the beast. No one could. She would get eaten, or she would fight and maybe survive. She didn’t know where the strength came from amid the paralyzing fear, but she decided to fight.

She reached wildly and found an object, and grasped it tight. It was the wire coat hanger she had discarded earlier that day. The one she had bent out relatively straight and used to impale bread onto, for the fire pit out back. She called for her parents one last time to come and save her.


Her daddy’s snoring wavered a little, then found its rhythm again as he drifted back down to the depths of his drunken slumber. Melody gasped as the cat flared its nostrils and narrowed its eyes. If it noticed her hand moving, it didn’t react to it, instead keeping its eyes locked to hers. Melody intuitively maintained eye contact with the creature so it would focus on hers instead of turning to bite her hand.

She inched the hanger closer.

The cat growled, deep in its belly. Melody suddenly swung around with the hanger in her tiny fist. The wildcat pawed her shoulder, but didn’t manage to stop her arm’s momentum. It bit her then, sinking its fangs deep into her thin forearm, and she screamed, but refused to let go of her weapon. She cried out, and it tried to bite her mouth. It opened its own mouth wide as it launched. It snarled at her again, and Melody turned her head away as she shoved the hanger deep into the creature’s eye socket.

The bobcat slunk back, uttered a horrific, menacing sound and dug its claws into Melody’s thighs. It tore through her tiny legs like paper, and tried to reach higher; it wanted her throat. It began clawing its way back up her body, gouging her belly, her chest, her shoulders... Melody had never been so terrified, and in so much pain, but she refused to let up. She didn’t care how scary the monster was. She wanted to win. Maybe this is what impetuous meant. She knew as long as she held the hanger and wouldn’t let the creature get rid of it, that she had a chance of getting through this nightmare. The only thing that could save her, she thought, was herself, and her impetuous.

She pulled the hanger out of the cat’s eye then, and blood squirted from its socket. The eye drooped, and blood oozed down its face onto Melody’s hair, her face, and neck. She wished she could aim, but couldn’t manage; the creature’s blood had sprayed into her eyes. She shut them tight and stabbed blindly at its body as it continued to screech and claw at her. She opened her left eye a little despite the sting of the bobcat’s blood in it, and saw the creature’s gaping mouth heading toward her neck. No! Melody screamed and jabbed the hanger far down into its mouth. She felt it stick into the back of the cat’s throat. It gurgled and spasmed and its one good eye opened wide in terror. Melody felt its claws contracting and she struggled to kick it off her body. She couldn’t have done it all by herself, but the cat obliged, turned and raced haphazardly from the property, away toward the dirt road and was swallowed again by the very darkness from whence it came.

Melody sat up, trembling, crying in pain, relieved to be alive... but dismayed. She wished she had killed it. She was angry now; she wished she had pulled the life from the monster, crushed it, so it could never come back and hurt her again. That would warn all the monsters to stay away too. But she had failed, so she knew there would be more.

She quietly made her way back into the house, limped to her mattress, and sat down. She stared blankly into the dark. The child was in shock. She held up her hands and looked at them curiously, as best she could in the dim room. Blood dripped from her hands onto her legs and mattress. She wasn’t sure if it was the cat’s blood or her own. She didn’t feel it was important to know which. Her legs stung really badly. She looked down at them, exposed from mid-thigh. They were red, swollen, and gouged from the cat’s claws. She stopped crying, and vowed she would be sure to kill the next one dead. She would kill all the monsters.

Wednesday, 26 October 2016

Books and beer on tap as Chaucer's adds library