A sudden spell of dizziness passed through me, almost throwing me to one knee on the cobbled shore at pond side as I hurled the rock. A flash, as though standing on the precipice of a storm cloud, passed before my eyes, rendering me blind in the interim. The overwhelming light turned to a blur, my vision slowly returning to me, becoming clearer.
The light of day had turned to an eerie shade despite a cloudless sky. A fine mist had formed, cooling the mid-day air. The reason for the formation of this haze unexplained.
Having regained by bearings, the world paused around me – holding its breath. The rock I had whipped to skip across the pond, perched in stillness, suspended just above the water. The ripples, spawned by the stone’s touch, now but a frozen ring wallowing in a murky pool.
I looked up to see, me, standing on the water. But there was something different about, him, like looking into a stained mirror. His eyes weren’t my own. The way he looked at me, a frigid, lifeless gaze, glaring through me as though I didn’t exist.
He was motionless and without expression, like a statue, appearing not even to be breathing. His image unreflected in the still water and without shadow in what little sunlight shone. Was I imagining this? It couldn’t have been a dream, knowing for sure that I was at the pond just a short walk from my house. I usually came here to clear my mind.
The shore upon which I was standing flooded over, quickly overtaken by water within seconds. The rock I had thrown, now gone. Momentarily losing my balance, I flung my arms to catch myself, only to realize that I hadn’t been affected by the sudden rush, quickly retaining my footing. I half-expected to be treading water, but not a drop had touched me. Beneath my feet – solid ground, at least that’s what it felt like. I too was now standing atop water.
“What is this place?” I asked, addressing my other self. Hopelessly trying to keep my nerves from rattling – desperation beginning to creep in.
My doppelganger retained his silence. He raised an arm, as though under the influence of puppet strings, pointing a crooked zombie-like finger past me. The first sign of life from him, but that only served to elevate my anxiety.
I found it hard to swallow. Hesitant at first, I turned to see what was behind me. Water had taken over the landscape, at least for what I could see – like being adrift at sea in thick fog with no land in sight.
The temperature dipped, turning the water to ice. Not dressed for the weather, I folded my arms in a futile attempt to keep warm, wearing only short sleeves and athletic pants.
The haze began to lift, unveiling a structure nearby. It too was sitting atop the ice. It was a cabin, like one that would be used for ice fishing. It had seen better days. Its construction was decaying. Most of the boards were blackened as if scorched or had been set to flame. Some of the wood had loosened from the supports, partially fallen – held up on a corner by a single nail.
As the image cleared, there was a degree of familiarity with the structure. My grandfather had taken me to such a cabin when I was a small boy. I could make out an etching of a fish above the doorway – a dead giveaway. This cabin indeed belonged to my grandfather. He carved that image.
I turned back to see that my other self was no longer there.
“Check your line son,” said a familiar voice, “see if you have a bite.”
Now shivering, my focus was back on the cabin. There, stood a figure cloaked in shadow waving his arm, motioning me toward him.
“Come before he gets away.”
The wind picked up, blowing snow all around me. However, my view of the cabin remained unimpaired.
“Come on. You’ll be warmer inside.”
A sense of confusion came over me, but I was not in a position to object to the invitation. The voice calling to me was similar to that of grandfather, but he had been gone for several years now. I fought through the blizzard, making my way to the cabin.
With my arms nearly frozen, I reached for the door which was partially propped open. It creaked loudly as I opened it the rest of the way. I shuffled inside as fast as my cold limbs would take me. The door shut on its own just as I stepped in.
A fire blazed in the centre, my body warming almost instantaneously – the heat nearly becoming too much in fact. I looked about, not seeing anybody else in here with me. Next to the fire, a water filled hole had been drilled, the auger lying next to it. There was a line in the water affixed to the end of a bent branch. It began to bend even further, waving back and forth.
“Quickly. He’s going to get away,” said grandfather’s voice, which could be heard coming from all around me.
I reached out to grab the line. I started pulling it up slowly, gradually quickening the pace.
I was bringing up the line as fast as I could. It seemed to take forever. Finally, the fish emerged from the water, flapping about.
A flash of light overcame me again, knocking me on my rear-end. My vision hadn’t been impaired this time around though.
I found myself seated on a boulder before the pond. The weather was clear – sunny. To my surprise, I was still holding the fish. It was no longer squirming. I was back. From where, I could not say.
I glanced about my surroundings. Everything was as it should be. There wasn’t a soul in sight, but the town was visible down the path from whence I originally came.
Where did this fish come from? It didn’t come out of this pond. There had never been any since I’ve lived here. The lake which I fished with my grandfather was some ways off. The fish was a rainbow trout, the kind we used to catch.
I looked back out towards the pond. And there, on the edge of the water, was a bent branch pinched between two boulders for support, and fishing line tied to the end – cast out into the pond. That wasn’t there before. There isn’t any fish here.
The line tightened. The branch bent even further – dancing about. There was no wind.
Was Never Ours
A love gone astray
The passion we should have shared
But you don't know me
Rhythm of Rain
On a clear night
all drops trail upon
The moon tucked
into cloud’s berth,
heavenly tears are
cleansing the earth.
Drops of holiness
here and there,
upon the floor
the Heaven’s glare
Its lovely rhythm
plays a tune,
a sound so sincere
til tomorrow’s afternoon
My front porch is withering,
my dwelling of dire mending,
please come in,
I am but a man
as I live and breathe.
Well mannered and educated,
working for a living,
rising to the scent of fresh brew,
I won’t lament,
simply content with what little I gain.
Emotions I portray,
procrastinate to delay,
not knowing my own mind,
most often doing nothing.
I bore easily.
So come to me sweet child,
let me hold you so close,
in the caring arms of your good father.
She was bread of true love,
gleaning my grandest of traits,
though unsure as to revere
or debase at such personality,
for I was but a boon
to my own folks.
I am proud of your successes,
stern in your debacles
I’m always filled with love
and joy at having you
in my life.
Now ingress upon my walkway,
avow your admittance into Heaven,
for I am God,
emancipator to mankind,
the scribe to the bible,
polestar of religion
in all its forms.
I have many names.
The universe is my creation,
reality my conception,
I am master over all things.
The storms cast my abhor,
sun and sky emote jocundity,
presence of cloud simply contentment,
Nature herself my confidant.
It was May 1993. Chris often thought back to one particular day during the evening – a school night nonetheless – down at his grandparents after supper time. For whatever reason, this day stood out in memory. It was the perfect day weather-wise and he was also given permission to do something that would usually be denied.
He was going through a trying period in his life at this time. His parents were in the midst of a separation. He had also just recently lost his grandfather on his mother’s side. And his mother was not the most understanding parent coming from a strict catholic background in Ireland. Little did he know, the next year, 1994, would be one of the most difficult of his adolescent life leading into his teens.
Chris had his arms crossed, rested atop the rusty-red painted fence marking the edge of the yard behind the house. Below was a gradual embankment – a blending of dirt and clay and staggered boulders of varying sizes that dropped to one of the lower fields about ten feet down. His eyes were fixated over the tree line that bordered the far field at edge of the property to the mountain in the distance. The sun had been perfectly perched atop the peak’s tip as though it were a balancing point. He couldn’t get this view from his house. The bushes were too close and trees too high to even see the mountain.
“Hey Chris, what are you doing?” It was Leanne, his cousin, inquiring from the edge of the porch. As kids they were always told not to get too close to the edge of the deck as it didn’t have any rails to keep them from falling.
“Nothing,” he said. He wasn’t about to admit to her that he was admiring the scenery. It wasn’t in his character – at least the side that he portrayed onto others.
She started down the stairs. As she was coming down, Sugar, one of several cats belonging to their grandparents, bolted from her hibernation spot under the stairs. Her crisp white fur standing on ends as she flashed across the yard and vanished somewhere to the front of the house. Both kids chuckled at the sight of her scurrying.
“Have you actually been able to pet Sugar?” Chris asked.
“Nah,” said Leanne, “she just runs every time I get close.”
“Yeah, me too. She likes to hide down by the freezers. I can see her eyes glow when I get down there, but then she runs when I go into the room.”
She walked up to the fence beside him. “I get to stay the night here tonight,” she bragged.
Chris’s eyes widened. “Really? Even when there’s school tomorrow?”
“Yup. Grandma is going to drive me in the morning.”
The feeling of being left out overcame Chris. After all, they were the same age, separated only by two months, and in the same sixth grade class. “I wonder if my mom would let me stay the night?”
“Why don’t you ask? I get to stay out in the camper.”
Chris perked at the idea. It would be just like camping in a way and there was more than enough room for the both of them.
Overcome by excitement, Chris dashed for the porch, catching himself as he almost lost his footing on the first step. “Mom,” he cried, “would I be able to stay the night here?” He had barely opened the screen door by the time he asked the question.
“No,” were the first words out of her month, unsurprisingly. “It’s a school night.”
“But Leanne is staying. She even gets to sleep in the camper.”
Luckily grandma was there as he popped the question. She shrugged before giving her input. “I’ll take him to school tomorrow.”
Chris’s eyes widened, bringing about a smile across his face from ear to ear. Surely that would be enough to convince his mom.
She held her breath momentarily before releasing a submissive sigh. “Okay. I’ll bring you back a change of clothes,” she stated, “but remember that it’s a school night so you’re not staying up late.”
“Thanks mom. Thanks grandma,” he answered ecstatically. He turned back to the yard to see Leanne returning his excitement. It was indeed a rarity that he was able to do such a thing when there was school the next day. It was a small gesture, perhaps one that didn’t matter to many of the kids he knew his age, but he considered this a major feat.
“So what are we going to do tonight?” Leanne questioned.
On a careful note, Chris took it slower down the stairs this time despite his exuberance. “We should go over to the camper,” he recommended.
In agreement, they both raced to what would serve as their bunkhouse for the night. Leanne was quicker than Chris and ascended the camper steps first. Upon opening the door, a waft filled their nostrils – a mild synthesis of campfire smoke and stove top coffee – a common scent during regular camp outings.
“I’ll take the top bed,” blurted Leanne.
Chris nodded in approval. He preferred the bunk over the table anyhow. It got too hot on the top for his liking and the roof was too low, often hitting his head on it.
“I can’t wait until my mom leaves. We’ll be able to get some ice cream and take some cookies in here with us.”
“Yeah. I like staying with grandma,” she said. “This will be fun.”
The New Modern
The human condition – how do we analyze it? Can we acknowledge that a test of humanity has been put to us for the first time in the modern era? We’ve seen some of the worst the human race has to offer from selfish esteem, profit mongering, and greed, to many of our best qualities – a helping hand, mass moral support, and sharing. We are hardly a race united, but infants opening our eyes to new horizons, new opportunities, and new dangers. This is a first for us all.
The drawbridge has descended, the walls have come down, and the doors have burst open. The murky haze that had shrouded the earth has been lifted, the thorn bushes cut, and cobbled paths rebuilt as we venture forward into a new world never having been discovered by current generations.
I can hear birdsong on the gangly branches scratching against my outer walls. Life returns to the twig upon which the small feathered poet is perched. It sings a song of healing. I’ve never realized it, nor paid much attention to the beauty of their music until now. Lush green blooms and blossoms on this Lenten as the tune is sung.
Curfews have been curtailed and chains unshackled. Along the entire block, the neighbours set foot out their front porches, not yawning or tired on a Monday morning, but bright eyed and full of smiles. The air is fresh once more. Its scent more vibrant and pure in the dawning breeze. Everyone waves to one-another and invites are extended to try a savvy fresh blend of coffee. RSVP – immediately, but BYOHS – bring your own hand sanitizer, and leave your footwear on the mat outside.
The Mini Mall is no longer minimal, but bustling with activity. I saw that gentleman walking down the main drag with a mask on just the other day. It appears as though he’s shed it and reinvigorated his confidence among the public.
My favourite hairdresser is once again open for business. Upon walking in, I’m not surprised to see a no-touch cleansing dispenser. Taped to it is a note to clients requiring it be used upon entry – no exceptions. It’s good to see these ladies back. Each of them wearing different coloured dispensable gloves. They’re happy to be working, but caution is the first order.
A major acquisition deal has just been concluded by my employer – a major corporation. It’s been hard work, but finally they’ve been able to put together the final pieces of the offer in person rather than through conference calls to faceless chatter from a residence. Handshakes and pat-on-the-backs for everyone... perhaps the Japanese formality would succeed here, at least in its minority – a smile and a nod will do nicely.
Lunch has been brought in to celebrate – individually wrapped for everybody. Those wanting a doughnut afterwards may do so. Be sure to read the label on each individual box in making your selection to ensure you get the flavour you want.
Ensure you wash up. Use the dispenser when you come in and leave. Cleanliness and sanitizing has become the norm. Our lives, our economies, our interactions with others has changed and measures placed as to not repeat that which ill-fell so many and cost the lives of good people.
Never shall this be forgotten, and as people, we should learn this lesson well.