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Short Stories

In the early days of MS

I started writing short stories for make-work

projects and something positive to do.

Many got reworked into bigger projects

but here are a few of the originals.

I have plenty and am still lifted up by them.

I'll change them around from time to time.

You may recognize some.

Have a chuckle on me.

Book Two Excerpt One   553 words   Nov 2021

Short Story Audio CD's

Some heartwarming
and humorous stories. 
Heres a sampler now.
The Velvateen Rabbit Goes to Mexico
The Velvateen Rabbit goes to Mexico
00:00 / 05:58

Eleven days shot by like a pellet. Roz worked hard at living one day at a time without worrying. She practiced Deputy-walking with both the scooter and walker. She hated to admit even to herself her ability to take care of him was getting difficult but was glad she had a jump on some alternatives.

There were others worries too. Over loading Cara… Falling…. Devastating test results… Money issues…. Wheelchair…. minced meals…. Depends. All which could easily lead to a runaway train. She got overwhelmed if she thought about it too long so she tried not to. Tried.

“He’s ready for you,” the receptionist at the neurologist’s office said holding the door open. 

 

Roz climbed up on the table legs dangling down. He started the examination right away and asked her to stick her legs straight out.

“Don’t let me push down.” He exerted pressure, a hand on each shin. 

“Gravity wins,” Roz said referring to the lame side not being able to lift it 10 degrees above dangle never mind parallel to the table. The good side pointed straight ahead and could hold a ten-pound weight.

“Now arms. Don’t let me push down.” The weak side was like butter. Becel.

“Hmmm.”

“Keep those muscles stretched as much as possible. It will help keep them strong as long as possible.”

“You mean Popeye’s spinach won’t work this time?” Roz said dryly.

“Ok, how about touching your nose,” Roz missed four out of five times with the bad hand.  

“At least I got my face,” she said weakly. 

“That’s enough for today.”

The doctor moved over behind his desk and was seriously looking over the form.

“Well… hmmm….err … let’s see….” He trailed off in concentration.

Roz knew he was stalling. Probably waiting for the right words. 

“Can I have at least until the end of the month?” 

He solemnly nodded.

 

Roz told her roommate that night at dinner.

“I failed,” she said to Cara. “They want my driver’s license back.”

“Aww, Roz…”

“The doctor couldn’t fill out the paperwork,” Roz sighed. “I knew it was coming. I have until the end of the month.” 

“What are you going to do?”

“Walk,” Roz said looking at her four-wheeled walker.

“How are you going to manage?” she said.

“I can’t blame the doctor. I can’t blame myself. I can’t blame God. So…”

“So…?”

“So, I can’t think about it too long or I get mad. And depressed.”

“But you can’t bury it either.”

“You’re right. I wish I could.” Roz burst into tears. 

That night in bed she painted pictures of life without a car. Her sixteen-year driving career gone. Taking her beloved dog to the parks and paths they knew so well. Deputy will go nuts without his car rides and off leash parks. Teaching him to trot beside the scooter will be hard on his leg. Roz’s gears were grinding. She forced her mind to settle on some previous wins, things she never thought she’d survive. A walker. Disability pension. Losing her Mom. Her Dad. Daniel. Yet she surpassed them all. But those thoughts didn’t last long. Her mind would snap back like a rubber band. A scooter for groceries and a library card for ID. Life was over before it began.

The Cougars got together when all four schedules allowed which wasn’t very often. They seemed to meet in different combinations of two-sies more often. Jasmine was quiet after her dad passed away but seemed to doing well. It was the first time she was over to take Roz for their familiar neighbourhood walk. 

     “Even though he wasn’t part of my life, there’s a hole. It comes in waves. You never know when it’s is going to hit, how big or what will trigger it.” Jasmine said with her hands in her pockets. “I’m realizing every choice we make has long term, sometimes even life, consequences. Ones you make when you don’t even realize we’re making them.” 

     “You’re feeling bad for not staying in touch?” Roz asked rolling beside her.

     “Not so much that, but scared of doing it again. Without even realizing the impact. I put in for more hours downtown so I wouldn’t worry about it.” Jasmine was involved with a street organization that put bag lunches together to help address the high overdose rate just announced.

     “You can’t go wrong with that,” Roz said.

     “But even that can get overwhelming,” she said. “Street drugs are running rampant. We need something to add to each bag as a little personal touch -- to show genuine affection. To show them we really care. I think it would mean a lot.”

     “The personal touch matters. I can speak from personal experience,” Roz said. “When you brought me veggies from your garden, or drove me around looking at places, or helped me downsize by making umpteen trips to the dump with your husband, you entered in my world. You cried with me in the car, you came right into my appointments,” Roz said.

    “I’m not the only one. Others helped too.”

     “You’re right, the Cuthberts’ took me in when I had nowhere to go. They treated me like a worthwhile friend not a charity case. They listened to my daily challenges without overriding me, or bombarding me with fixes. Every morsel of those personal touches mattered. They boosted my broken self,” she told her friend with her hair in two lovely French braids today. 

     “We do what we can in our own ways,” Jas said.

     “Ava, even with glazed eyes,” the girls glanced at one another and smiled, “does pro-bono work. Cara is in nursing, you’re downtown,” Roz said.

     “We’re not in it for ourselves,” Jas said. 

      “Not everyone gets that. There’s something profound about walking beside hurting people. Not to fix, cure or rescue but to let them know they are not forgotten. Adding a personal touch to bag lunches is doing exactly the same thing,” Roz said.

      “But how do you reach that void in street people who don’t feel the least bit valued? That feel totally abandoned?’ she said. “I should know,” she laughed weakly.

     “All people are worthy of love. We’re all one people. But until the human race figures that out, nothing will make sense. I don’t know what we can add in a lunch bag to convey that, but we have to keep trying,” Roz said. She stopped to blow her nose. “This dovetails into what my morning reading was about.”

     “What did it say?” Jasmine asked 

     “The author was talking about the time he joined a nuclear arms protest forty years ago. A peaceful protest. He was talking about different seasons, when there’s a time to wait and a time to act.”

     “Easier said than done. How does anybody know when it’s the right time?”

     “This guy was expressing his ideas that when we do what would rather not do, we ourselves are the ones that change. When we reach out in concern to others, we can better see the prejudice in our own hearts. And that is the first step in our transformation. God needs a change of heart in the protest-ees along with those they’re protesting against - to build solidarity. To build one people. God will do the work, but He needs our willingness, our co-operation, our openness. And that, he said, will be the basis for a solid reconciliation for One People. But too often we don’t or can't see the prejudices in ourselves.” 

     The two girlfriends looped around and got back to Jasmine’s car. They never did come up with that special something for the bag lunches but their walk left Roz contemplating much and her heart filled to the brim. 

     She hugged her friend goodbye, parked her scooter in the underground and walked her walker through the main doors of The Del Mar, by the big wooden sign outside: Del Mar Assisted Living.  As she passed by the kitchen with its savory aromas the words ‘assisted living’ vibrated between her ears. Isn’t that what He’s been doing all along? Assisting us to give worth to the disadvantaged? Creating equality and unity where there is none. Aren’t we all moving in that direction? Jasmine with her bag lunches. Cara with nursing, Ava with pro-bono lawyering. Her here. They're stimulating each other to create a better world in their own respective ways. 

     Gosh, some people enrich your soul by just being themselves and all they stand for. Roz was so thankful for Jas and Ava and Cara. For being such dear friends and sharing her walk. Maybe their lives weren’t so different after all?

 

She got in her apartment and the rest of the afternoon flew by. Roz was inspired to co-create. She drew a cartoon for her six-year-old pen pal, an activity rec programming set up. The last letter said her family was going camping. She thought it’d be fun to send a camping cartoon. She answered a few emails, made a few calls and the day was gone.

     And Roz knew when she lay her head down that night, she’d be tired not from being bummed out because her body didn’t work right but from the joy of taking action in building a future she believed in.

Book Two Excerpt Two   985 words   Nov 2021

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2005  The Branding Iron          746 words

I met him in a writer’s group. A young senior who had a fetish with branding irons. Anyone that knew Fred knew that odd quirk about him so it was no surprise when he excitedly emailed the masses that his very own branding iron had finally arrived Special Delivery a couple days before. 

Now Fred was a man’s man. Aged well into his 70’s, raised on ranch in the plains of northern Alberta, he was professionally trained as a disc jockey in Toronto by the none-other Lorne Greene himself in his renowned School of Broadcasting. Fred had the most glorious deep distinct voice that suited that line of work and served him well for some fifty-plus years.

Anyhow, this branding iron arrived and I got the announcement. I quickly replied I would love to see it. Being a city girl born and raised in Vancouver, and thirty-five years his junior, I couldn’t quite connect his happy dots with this animal torture stick. However, I loved Fred and his creative flair. And if he was thrilled then there must be something to it.

We made arrangements to meet at the local ABC Restaurant for an early dinner. “My treat”, I said, “I clipped a two-for-one coupon from this week’s paper”.  He said he’d bring his new treasure and show it off there. “Maybe have ‘em brand your own steak,” I chuckled making for happier anticipation.

It was 4 o’clock and we met at the Wait-To-Be-Seated sign. It was steady for a Wednesday. There was a couple ahead of us. A very senior couple. For some reason the elderly favored the place. Perhaps it was the small portions, or inexpensive prices, or even the paper placemats with Christian virtues written on them. Who knows, but we were seated in the booth beside this old couple.

Fred stashed his awkward package under the table and we put our two for one coupon on the table. We were both anxious and rushed to order our food and get our coffees so he could Show & Tell. He pulled out the black rod with a twisted knot at the end and proceeded to explain the ins and outs of branding and personalizing ranch possessions. I took it from him and carefully examined it. Sure enough ‘F – T’ the real thing. I had never seen a real branding iron – much less in an ABC restaurant.

Now the very senior lady at the booth beside us was dumbfounded and her jaw dropped to the floor. As Fred prattled on in that exuberant booming DJ voice of his, this lady couldn’t take her eyes off us. I continued to examine the piece and ask brisk questions. I tested a few mock burns (a little for her sake I must admit) and happily played with it. She was riveted. Mother certainly didn’t teach her the ‘Don’t stare’ rule.

Fred’s back was to her and couldn’t see her reactions. I casually commented a couple of times but it was too awkward for him to turn around to look so he missed it. As was the lady’s spouse, a very elderly gentleman, who had his back to us. So the men were oblivious to the silent side story transpiring between the women. The husband happily munched his dinner unaware of his wife’s total absorption as Fred prattled on. 

 

Our meals came, the waitress took our two for one coupon, and we put the iron away. Things settled down, the neighbor lady picked up her jaw and conversation resumed to normal, both at their table and ours.

Once done, we passed on dessert but had one last look at his treasure. It was a marvel. The visit itself was great because of Fred’s enthusiasm. That's what really made the day and made it very entertaining. For the neighbors and us. The husband had paid and was whistling a catchy tune as he helped his wife get her coat on. We weren’t far behind. The waitress came to collect our money and we noted she forgot to take the two for one coupon off.

 

She paused and turned white. 

We all looked in unison at the old couple.

A Sharp Spoon    194 Words     Sept 2014

An early attempt at writing a scene: A Sharp Spoon

Mom and I were in the kitchen. She at the table, me by the sink.

“While you’re up will you get me a sharp spoon please”, she asked with all sincerity.

“I didn’t know we had sharp spoons”, I answered bordering smartass with student. Mom

caught the humor but replied seriously.

         “Yeah this cantaloupe isn’t quite ripe. There’s one pointy spoon in the drawer. That one please.”

Examining all the teaspoons in the drawer was a first for me. Barely looking up from her newspaper,

a broadsheet spread across the kitchen table, she exchanged eating instruments.

“Yeah that’s the one.” 

Hoovering close by, I broadly grinned waiting for her to dig in. Holding the bowl steady with the one hand, she easily wedged out a giant chunk of orange melon eyes not moving from the page.

Mom must’ve sensed me watching her and managed a smirk before she opened extra, extra wide.

 

We both giggled.

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The Mo's Mobile   2014    1493 words 

“Oh pleeeeze God, not another winter on my bicycle”, I blurted out loud with hands clasped and knuckles white. I knew it wasn’t right to pray for things but this day I made an exception.

Prior to my bicycle days, I cruised through life in a propane converted hatchback my Uncle Al helped me buy. It was a decent car, kind of sporty, and a bit of a pick-me-up for just having come through a serious lengthy illness. Together with a new lovely flat, I felt I was getting my life back. Until I rear ended someone on the Alex Fraser bridge. Not only did I loose my safe drivers discount but was slapped with a whopping 20% surcharge, or $2,200 a year, for emphasis. I was 31 years old. I had no choice but to give up driving. Hence three years on my bike. Which included three winters. I suppose one can be considered lucky to be able to do a winter on a bicycle at all, but that's not exactly how it felt some days.

But it wasn't all bad. I covered many miles exploring the lower Mainland that I never would’ve done in a car. There were pockets of Greater Vancouver I thoroughly enjoyed: tugs on the river, sailboats in the bay, brambles along the border, migrations at the bird sanctuary, water at the watershed.  From shady downtown streets to wide open gravel roads, under bridges and over passes. From the grocery store to the college campus. I felt proud of myself for maintaining a satisfying life without a car. Making lemonade out of lemons. I didn't particularily enjoy riding in the winter– the wind, the rain, the wet - but it did teach me the fact that driving was indeed a privilege not a right.

By the time my fourth October rolled around, I was done. I covered 80 k a week to and from work all summer and did not want to pedal through another winter. 

 

Two weeks after my plea to God, I got a call from my dear old Aunt Jennie.

“Well, I'm getting rid of the old car,” she said. “I asked David if he wanted it and he said no, then I offered it to Heidi and she said no, so you're my third and final offer or else its going to the wrecker’s.”  Wow…

Having grown up with Aunt Jennie, I knew her family well. They took care of things. Including the car. They bought it brand new, a mid size 4 door box suitable for a family of 5 – a family that was now grown and long gone. It was probably their second car in life. I’m guessing the first one lasted 20 years as well. Although it was no screaming heck to look at, a Chevy Malibu Classic four-door sedan, basic beige inside and out, that looked like old ghost-style cop car. I’m sure that’s why David and Heidi refused it. But I knew it would be sound. So with a gusty “Thank you,” that was the beginning of The Mo’s Mobile. 

I had to customize it. Naming it was a good start. It reminded me of my first car way back. I had fun picking off the ½” chrome -r-c-h across the hood, going from Monarch to Mona. But something about the word Oldsmobile across the trunk of that car struck a happier chord. I always thought to order a couple more letters to rejig it to ‘Mo’s Mobile’ but never did get to it. The name always stuck with me though. So with that in mind, I ordered two decals in 4” black vinyl letters using a character font, and proudly christened the Chev’s hind quarters The Mo’s Mobile. Already it was feeling like mine.

Trinkets hanging from the rearview mirror came and went. Tropical freshies, Mardi Gras beads, and a crystal prism to name a few. My personal favorite was, as my cousin Blair called it, the “obstruction”, a giant strawberry sponge the size of a softball with no real function. It was just a big, and colorful. Which was just what the non-color background needed. My version of a spongy dice.

 

After a couple of months, the ceiling fabric began to sag. Another month went by and it began to rub your head like a balloon to stick. Being from a family of runts, it didn’t really bother me all that much but it really irritated my passengers. Which I found hilarious so didn’t rush to replace it. Plus it was an ugly job to do because there was a layer of foam insulation underneath the loose fabric that was disintegrating and sprinkled down like black gun powder. I knew it would be a mission to get rid completely, so kept putting it off. But the day finally came. 

I got the idea to go to the Superfluity Thrift Store for inspiration. I was thinking old curtain or something. But the most perfect 1970s bedspread with dark brown, tan, and pumpkin colored geometric shapes leapt out. My eyes lit up and it was sold. The lady took my two dollars and I happily skipped out of the store. 

On a bright morning, I layed out all the supplies for surgery. Glue, paint brush, scissors, exacto blade, drop sheet, rags. The old lining lifted out easily but the crumbling insulation snowed down coating everything in black baking soda. But I persevered looking at the funky bedspread on the doorstep. Getting it up against gravity wasn't exactly a fun job either. I smeared bottles of LePages glue on bare metal, then cut fabric to fit. It was a good exercise in body contortions. But the job got done and it looked terrific. 

Other bits of spunk and flair got added along the way and The Mo’s Mobile turned out to be one of the best cars I ever had – aestically and mechanically. I grew to love its basic beige. My aunt and I marvelled it hid the dirt so well you could go months without washing it and never know it. 

**

Six months after I got the car, my mother was diagnosed with cancer. The number of trips that car made to Campbell River and back is impressive. The number of ferry line ups, sailings and missed ferries is staggering. How often I’d stretch out across the bench seat gazing at the strawberry from the bottom up, or absently studying those 1970’s geometric shapes. How many times I threw my bike in the truck, and an overnight bag in the backseat.

As my mother continued to decline, the trips back and forth became more and more frequent. Sometimes with her and sometimes not. I remember one particular occasion when Mom and I were speedily racing down island to get to catch a ferry when we got pulled over. 

The cop got to the car and I rolled down the window waiting for instructions. In a louder than necessary tone, Mom made no bones expressing her concern about missing the ferry. The cop was either deaf or gracious as he asked for my drivers license and registration.

We scrambled for them, mom still muttering in disgust as I tried to hush her. 

He walked back to the cruiser and took seemingly hours to return.

Leaning back in the window, he noticed the ceiling. 

“Is this your car?” His comment quieted mom.

“Yeah” I said slightly smirking back. 

He really looked at and then nodded. 

“Nice.” 

After a further long pause, he told us to slow down, and have a good night. Mom and I let out our breath. We were thankful for the interior decorating gods and they did slow us down, enough to catch the next ferry. 

That whole year the The Mo’s Mobile purred like a cougar cat and never failed once. Mom passed in June and we had a full-scale celebration of life in Burnaby on a Friday. And the timing belt on the car went on Saturday. 

 

I guess we all were a little tired.

 

***

 

PS. That rear ender on the Alex Frazer and those three winters on my bike did something. Weather had become so insignificant compared to what was really important. 

Mom had exactly one year from diagnosis to passing and in the last weeks when homecare came to relieve me, I’d go for a bike ride. 

Rain or shine. Living completely in the moment, the breeze rushing through my hair and fluttering in my heart. Being so drenched with life itself, the weather couldn’t touch me.