Category Archives: Prose

Story bits, prose snips, and anything else that feels more like prose than poetry

Little Miss Kitty, first day home

Sorting through the digital boxes in the virtual attic of an old & cluttered computer may not have the same smells and dust-covered memorabilia to trigger memories the way a real attic has, but it can unleash unexpected floods of emotion all the same.

The following is a transcript of the journal entry I wrote on the very first day we brought Miss Kitty home (click on the link for the full version).

I can’t say why it’s so much easier to write (and ultimately, share) something like this than it is to give the same tribute to the human family members and friends that we’ve lost. Maybe it’s because it’s uncomplicated – no strings or baggage attached, no thorny complications. Maybe it’s because we don’t have to share her with other people, who have their own ideas of who she was, and what she meant to them. She was our girl, plain and simple – and we’ll miss her forever.

MKF – Day One (Original Journal Entry, Full Version)

– T.H.

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Dropped by the store of the same name today, and it got me thinking….

The idea of a benevolent stranger is a compelling one – all the more so for how rare it is these days. The perception of strangers in this media-hyped era of terrorists and school shooters, disappearing kids, abused elders, and the powerful wantonly abusing said power with no attempt at subterfuge, is of someone to be wary of, to keep at a distance – an unknown quantity, capable of anything, at any time. The erroneous assumption that if someone looks and sounds like me they’re safe, while the “other” is something to be feared, makes things far worse. Because as any sane person knows, there’s zero connection between skin colour, language, accent, number of tattoos or place of birth that dictates how a person will act in any given moment.

We are all galaxies and worlds and universes on the inside, the uncountable parts comprising a whole unique in all of time and space. Opaque, to all we’ve not yet met. Which is why universal connectors like art, music, and stories are not frivolous, pointless exercises, but absolutely vital to our understanding of ourselves, and our ability to connect to that idea of “otherness” – not as a frightening, potentially deadly antagonist, but as a benevolent stranger. Something to approach with a due amount of reasonable caution, perhaps, but with mind and heart open to the idea that, at their core, each stranger is more like us than they are unlike us.

We are all human beings on the one and only habitable planet in a solar system much larger than any of us can really grasp, in an unimaginably vast galaxy, with lots and lots of empty space in between. There is only so much room on this crowded Earth, and we can only push each other so far away.

So play a tune, paint a picture, put on a cheesy low-budget community play, teach someone something new, give something away for free – even if it’s just a smile. It might just help tip the balance to bringing us back together again.

– T.H.

(Written Mon. Jan. 26, 2015, at Black Honey on Hunter St.)

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The dark has come, riding the chill, rain-spattered winds of November, leaving wet leaves clinging to the soles of our shoes, and spawning intense cravings for hot chocolate and home-made soup. What better time to huddle in front of the warm glow of the monitor and let the flow of words take you into another world.  A sunnier one, perhaps, somewhere far south of here.  Or, in my case, somewhere even darker, and much, much scarier.  I’ve given myself a couple of November challenges, one of which is to write every day (or close thereto). This evening I braved the damp and the (okay actually relatively mild) breezes (which nonetheless kept trying to turn my umbrella inside out) to write at my favourite cafe.  Here are a few random sentences from the last few days of editing that fit oddly well together, despite being from two different chapters:

The trees were moving. A deep, undulating ripple, travelling toward them at a speed normally reserved for supersonic aircraft.

At least two things were certain. The storm had come, there was no doubt about that. And Bryn was going to be more than a mite displeased when he informed her that he intended to keep his word.

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“Are they still shouting at each other?”

Caitlin glanced back, and shrugged. “Well, she hasn’t thrown him overboard yet. What in god’s name is Troy doing?”

“Whatever it is, something this big, I don’t imagine there’s much damage he can do.”

“Even if it involves matches?”

“Ow!” Feid put his hand to his cheek, and the world came back into focus. He was sitting on the wooden deck, legs splayed, Caitlin half-kneeling in front of him.

“Sorry.” She eased back, and sat down next to him, cross-legged. “It always works in the movies, and you looked like you were about to go critical.”

“The Prof was telling the truth, ” Caitlin said. “Seems he’s only mad north by north-west. When the wind is southerly, he knows a rebel from a bounty hunter.”

“Think a horse crossed with a whale, and a temperamental one at that, ” the Professor piped up, at his elbow.

Feid looked down, and saw that the small man was grinning from ear to ear, eyes squinted almost shut, nose into the still air.

“Fine day, fine day. Too bad it wants to kill us.”

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“You’re one of them, aren’t you? From… up there. What are you doing here? Walking the dirt amongst the likes of us?”

The stranger frowned, and brought his arms around again to hug his chest, as if trying to stay warm, though the day was warm enough already. “Why do you say that?”

“Your eyes, ” the woodcutter said. “Like two bits of sky. Not like we have now, neither. The part of the sky that’s well beyond the clouds – where the dark creeps in, and the stars reach out.”

The stranger smiled, a weak, pale smile, but there seemed to be real amusement in it. “And they said there were no poets down here.”

The woodcutter grunted. “There ain’t. I won’t ask your name – and I won’t give you mine – but I’ll leave my axe by the wall there, so long as you don’t go blazing up again. I got work to do, and falling asleep ain’t on my agenda just now.”

The stranger nodded. “Fair enough.”

“Right then.” The woodcutter brushed his hands together, to loose the last of the sawdust from his palms. “Feel up to a cuppa tea?”

(10:40 p.m., 16, 748 words / Words written today: 3, 430)

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“Do excuse the rude people, ” the Professor crooned to the fish, holding it close enough that his beard whiskers brushed against its scales. “They are but cogs and pawns and the whistling wind, and know not what they do.” He kissed the fish’s snout – drawing a hiss of disgust from Jil and an exclamation of “Dude! That is just nasty!” from Troy – and purred, “There my lovely, wake and sing for us, there’s a good girl.”

Caitlin’s sight was temporarily obscured as both Feid and Troy threw themselves in front of her, arms held wide, feet planted as firmly as they could manage, given that the wooden planks were still vibrating, as if announcing an oncoming train. In the heat of the moment, Caitlin couldn’t decide whether to be amused, or profoundly annoyed.

“What if it comes from behind us?” she yelled, as another thunder-roll shook the walls.

What remained of the ceiling lay in pieces around them, slabs of drywall jutting at odd angles amidst clouds of settling white dust and broken roof timbers. The Professor sat in the middle of a pile of rubble with a stunned look on his face, still holding one delicate, intact teacup. It steamed faintly.

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Before she could fly down the steps, a vice closed on her arm, tight as a blood pressure cuff, but hot, and hard, and sharp, like metal pulled from the fire while it was still dreaming of becoming a knife.

“Oh, shut up, it’ll heal. In approximately…” Jil held up her own arm, which was completely devoid of a watch, “…now.”

“If we’re not really standing on a mountain in the snow, why are my feet cold?”

“You should know, you’re the psychology expert.”

“I’m only third year. We haven’t covered trans-dimensional astral travel yet.”

“Hunter, ” the Professor said, pointing to Jil, “…gatherer.” Pointing to each of them in turn. “She collects people. For a fee. Someone wants you. Oh, yes.” He grinned suddenly, a surprisingly bright, white, even smile. Odd – Caitlin would not have thought a badger would have such perfect teeth.

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Mitch lifted a hand to gingerly probe his temples, which were pounding so hard he thought he might be on the verge of having a stroke.  The name in his mind, the one that seemed to belong to him, felt strange, alien, like a tag some zoo-keeper had arbitrarily hung around his neck.  None of the avalanche of images that had flooded into him seemed any more real than a movie flashing on a screen.

“What did you do to me?”

“It’s more what I did through you, ” Eve said.  “I had to reach someone, and it meant breaking down a few doors along the way.  I wouldn’t have done it if I’d had any other choice, believe me.”

Mitch was filled with so many questions, that picking one seemed to take a great effort.  He finally settled on, “What the hell are we doing here?”

Eve tucked the filthy scrap of cloth into her jacket pocket, and rocked back on her heels.  “I haven’t quite worked that out yet.  What I do know is, that I was stupid enough to drag my cousin into all this, and if anything’s happened to him…  He’s just a kid, and he’s out there somewhere.  I don’t know if they’ve taken him, or what they might have done if they did.  All I know is, I have to find him, and get him back home in one piece, or my mom and Francine are going to kill me.  And I wouldn’t blame them.  Oh, and by the way…”  Her head lifted, and her body went very still.  Then she slowly reached down, and picked up the long metal pipe.  “I think there’s something else down here with us.”

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Aidan suspected that the stranger didn’t smile like that normally, might even be surprised if he caught a glimpse of himself in the mirror.  The man looked oddly… happy.  Not lost or harried, but happy.  Aidan almost wished he hadn’t said anything, found himself thinking that things would have been better if they had never come here at all.  He felt somehow that it was his fault – their fault, his and Eve’s.  Why couldn’t they leave the man the way he was?  It would be kinder, wouldn’t it?  He might stay like this forever, or he might gradually fade away, but maybe that’s what heaven was.  Maybe the man was dead, and this was his ghost, or his soul, or spirit, or something like that, and this is where he belonged.

“I hate to be the one to tell you this…” Eve began.

The man looked away, the smile slipping, the contentment hardening into something that happiness had no part in.

“You’re going to say you’re sorry again, aren’t you.”

[Final total at the end of the day: 50, 280 words for November]

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Then there was the problem of the watch.  It had been given to her on her sixteenth birthday, one week before she had left.  It was a modern watch, designed to look like an antique, with a brushed gold band and stylized Roman numerals on an ivory face.  The problem was not that it had stopped, but rather that it had simply ceased telling the time.  She knew it was working, because she could hear it when she held it up to her ear, a steady, reassuring tick-tick-tick, like a tiny metal heartbeat.  It would have been more reassuring if the hands were moving.  Sometimes she thought they had, but when she checked again, she saw that the time had not changed.  It was always 11:59.  She had, for some time now, been making a list of all the things she would willingly give up if it would only tick over to twelve o’clock.

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