Posted in Mini-Fiction

The Missing Eyephone

“The victim tried to write something as he was dying,” she said.

“And how do you figure that?” I asked.

“The scratch marks. I see an “A” and a “B”. He must have realized there was blood under his nails.”

“So you think that he was writing the alphabet?”

The victim was a teacher. It could make sense. I covertly consulted my watch. Unlike my younger associates, I do not carry a cell phone. The superintendent ordered one for me. An eyephone, or maybe an earphone. I don’t know. We have no enforced retirement, thank God. Not that I wouldn’t want it, if I could afford it, but Mabel invested our retirement savings with her brother, who is currently on an island in the Pacific with said savings. As a result, I had to come out of retirement last year, and here I am, age eighty-one, supervising homicide cases again.

“No, that’s not what I think,” she said with exaggerated patience and rolling her eyes at the constable. She was sharp in every way. Sharp eyed, sharp nosed, sharp nostrils, pencil shaped, pencil browed. You can be assured that she has an eyephone and an earphone and every other electronic device that can be ordered from the tech division.

I suspect that she’s had my phone—the one that’s wired to the wall in my office—bugged. Do they still call it that? Surely there is something more clever than the bug that resided in the American ambassador’s office in Russia 70 years ago. It worked well, though. It was the discovery of that bug that made me want to be a spy. With my facility for languages I was a shoe-in. Unfortunately I didn’t have the stomach for murder. I flunked out of spy school, and they recommended I try the police force. A man disgusted by murder would make a good cop, they said. They were facaetious, but it was true. I am a good cop. “What do you think?” I asked.

“A name. Or initials. The A, B being sequential is coincidence.”

“You’re reading too much into it,” I said. “It looks to me like he was trying to hold onto the wall. That’s what I would do if I was shot and dying. I wouldn’t be thinking of leaving messages. Have you ever been shot?”

“No,” she said reluctantly. Presumably she looked forward to being shot. Sharply.

“I have. And you don’t think about leaving messages. You experience pain, shock, and disbelief, and your only thought is putting things back to the way they were. Staying upright, or shoving your guts back in. Personally I have not had my guts fall out, but I can attest to that being the case as I have observed other people’s guts falling out on more than one occasion.”

Did I mention that between being a spy and a police officer, I was a soldier? That is also not an occupation I would advise for someone who dislikes killing. However I did get a medal, which Mabel prizes. She even purchased a display case for it, and can’t understand how I could misplace the medal. It’s gold. If we are ever that broke, I can assure you that I would be able to place the medal in two shakes of a lamb’s tail. I have seen lamb’s tails shaking, and not just on a plate, but in the field. That was when I was a spy student. My friendship with the shepherdess I was supposed to be spying on was the result of my flunking my field assignment, not because of our relationship, that was encouraged, but because I refused to terminate it in the manner specified. If I hadn’t been a student, but a sworn in spy, I would have been disposed of in the manner that I refused to complete. “Have you checked his pockets?” I asked.

She—Detective Bradford, Anastasia Bradfrod—turned to the Constable. “Did you?”

He brought out the evidence bag. Both of them looked askance as I reached in with my bare hands. “This isn’t CSI,” I said. “You won’t find the murderer’s prints in your database. That’s what you call it, right?”

I was pulling their legs. Even fifty years ago, we had databases. They were on paper. I like paper.

Posted in Mini-Fiction

Mary Martha’s Letter

Hi Ellie, good to get your email. It’s been ages! I’m so glad to hear all your good news. The promotion sounds fantastic, and Guy must really adore you to take you on an around the world trip in a private jet for your honeymoon. I so sympathize with your troubles renovating. I could barely cope with renovating my kitchen, never mind turning a 2500 sq ft house into a 5500 sq ft house. The log cabin at the end of the property for your art work sounds fantastic, especially the large windows to look out on your private woods.

There isn’t so much to say at my end. I’m still married to Xavier and he is still a devout Catholic like his mother with whom he is so close. They go to church so often that I’ve suggested that he might want to book a room there. LOL. Our children are all healthy Thank God, with the usual sniffles and illnesses. Right now they’re all down with the measles. It’s not that I’m against innoculation, but I think I slipped up in the schedule or else they’re in the 5% that the shots don’t work for. So all six are crammed into the one small room. Thank God I had the measles as a child or I don’t know how we would cope since number 7 and 8 are on the way. I’ve got plenty of energy, I just don’t dare sneeze because the old bladder ain’t what she used to be.

The other day in Loblaws, which is under renovation, some dust got up my nose and I sneezed and, well, you just have to imagine the water fall that ensued. The chubby lady who works the customer service counter came running over, thinking my water had broken, I’m that big and only 6 months now, but when she realized what it was, she skidded to a stop, not knowing what to do. I suggested a mop, and waddled away, no groceries purchased.

I think that I keep Loblaws afloat all on my own, or rather on my own with the help of my family. The older three are teenagers now, and I can’t keep the fridge filled fast enough. But I can’t complain since so many families I know have real problems with their children, and mine are all healthy. I Thank God every day for my blessings.

Oh, in my congratulations, I forgot to say how thrilled I am to hear about your two children. Full scholarships to Harvard and MIT! That’s quite the accomplishment. And the presidential award, well, who would have known that when we were back in high school and I was tutoring you in math. It must be your first husband’s gene’s, may he rest in peace. I am sure that he inspired your children with his heroism, and they fully live up to the legacy he left.

My oldest is applying for a mechanics apprenticeship. He’s always loved tinkering, and he is eager to be out working. He doesn’t get it from Xavier, who can’t lift a hammer, but from his grandfather. Xavier sings beautifully and is in the choir. He is very busy, when he’s not in church or at work, with the local amateur theatre. I’d better go as he volunteered me to sew the costumes. I’m just not busy enough! LOL.

Ever glad to hear from you!

Your friend,
Mary Martha.

Posted in Mini-Fiction

The Nurse’s Story

I had hoped, when I was in the hospital, that my mother would tell me the things I’d always wanted to know, like why she got married at 16 instead of waiting until she was 21. She had promised she would tell me one day, when I got married, then when I married someone she liked, then when I had my first child, then—well, you get the idea. She never did. And I thought that, sitting by her side, with the machines whirring, and the quiet of the night in ICU, that she would say all the things I’d wanted to know. But when she was awake, she was gasping for breath and muttering about the pain in her legs, and when she slept, I was grateful that she was out of pain. The nurse, competent, cheerful, a Jungian archetype of Nurse, adjusted settings and injected medication. Her name tag said “Trish.”

“When she came in she was talking about the stars,” Trish said. “She said, ‘The stars are so beautiful. I have a big bedroom.”

“She was talking about her room at the rehab facility,” I said. “It’s brand new. The rooms are all huge.”

“No, I don’t think so. She said it was a bedroom in the stars and her bed was so comfortable.”

That didn’t sound like my mother. The bed would be lumpy, or too hard, or too soft—that would be something she’d say. “Mmm,” I murmured noncommittaly.

“I lost my mother twenty years ago,” Trish said. “You never forget it. But I still talk to her, and I think she talks back. When the sparrow comes to my window, that’s her.”

“Toronto has a lot of sparrows,” I couldn’t help but say.

She smiled. The Jungian nurse is wise? I wondered. I’d have to look it up when I got home. “Yes,” she said. “But they don’t all have blue beaks. Blue was my mother’s favourite colour. Generally, what I say, when my mother taps at my window, is Fuck you. Don’t think you can get my forgiveness now. It’s too late. You should have talked to me when you were alive.”

“You didn’t get along?” I ask, curious. My mother is out of it again. I can’t do anything for her but sit and hold her hand, which is dry, arthritic, incapable of smacking me one.

“Oh, we got along just fine until I got married.”

“She didn’t like your husband?”

“No, my wife. She didn’t like my wife.”

“I’m sorry,” I said.

Trish shrugged. “She wouldn’t have liked any wife of her son’s. I always was a Mama’s boy.”

“You don’t look like one,” I couldn’t help but say.

“Thanks!” Trish laughed. “I was a pretty boy. Probably better looking than I am as a woman.”

“You look very efficient,” I say.

“Damned with faint praise.”

“And your wife?”

“She left me. And then a year ago she came out. The irony.”

“Yes,” I said. “Did you always know?”

“That she was a lesbian? I had no idea. Never mind, I know what you’re asking. I did and I didn’t. If I’d been born a girl, I’d have been a tomboy. It wasn’t like I wanted to play house or play with dolls. They’re boring toys. I destroyed my sister’s dolls. Not on purpose you know, but having them act out parts in my game about the Gulag, and then forgetting them in the frozen wasteland. I was very interested in Russia. In a previous life, I’m sure that I was Russian. I loved War and Peace. I think the first sign, to me, was the books I loved. That one, and Anna Karenina even more. I didn’t know any boys who liked the same books. I pretended to be interested in worms, fascinated by them. I wasn’t afraid of worms, you understand. I wasn’t squeamish.”

“No, you wouldn’t be,” I said, “not if you were interested in nursing.”

“I wasn’t then, but I didn’t mind blood or worms. I just wasn’t interested in the things my friends were. I didn’t really want to play with girls, either. Or at least not their games. For a long time I thought I was neither.”

“What changed your mind?”

“I wanted to be a nun.”

“Not a priest.”

“That’s right.”

Posted in Mini-Fiction

If Wires Could Talk

I don’t see why all this fuss is necessary, the holes in the walls, the drilling. The drilling! Nobody thinks about the pain this is causing. All day long drill and pull, drill and pull, cutting plaster, putting holes in my home. The only benefit is the light coming through the plate glass, the beams of sun shining on me.

Copper can only be properly appreciated in sunlight. Gold—who cares about gold! It’s soft and ornamental, but of what use is it? Copper is beautiful and its uses are beyond count. That made me nervous when I was young. Thieves love to steal copper. But that is not my anxiety now.

I am watching the giant hands approaching my home, tearing out wires to the left and wires to the right. What is wrong with them? Don’t they appreciate our steadfast work, our hum day and night? The burn and tickle of electricity has been my life, our lives, what will happen to me if they tear me out? Sold, even melted and re-formed into who knows what.

There are two pairs of hands, one smaller, and the voice that accompanies those hands is higher, I can just about hear the words. The other voice, with the hairy big hands, is too deep for me to understand. But what they say won’t change what they do, and I can well anticipate the tearing from the roots, the cutting of the branch, that is likely to be my fate. There are people on the other side of my home, in the cavernous vacancy. I don’t know how they can bear the expanse of space. No pipes. No plaster. No snug companions intertwined and connecting, hearing the bubble of water so close.

They just pulled out Aluminum. The smaller handed one said he’s burned at the tip. Of course he’s burned, he has done his service, and this is his reward. Discarded. As if he is ugly. I admit he’s not as handsome as Copper, but even so he shines, he carries, he does his work. He can’t even cry out as they take him away. Without electricity, we can’t communicate at all. We are dry, we are flat, we are dark. They may as well take me now.

What’s this? Something else is being threaded through the wall. I can’t see what it is at all, shrouded in some kind of white stuff. The big hands are threading it through, the smaller hands reaching for me. I am pulled, I am yanked, I am cut from my home, and tossed, as if I am nothing, onto the pile. Aluminum and Copper, together as we die.