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Awards Eligibility – Stories 2019

Last year, I started writing fiction – specifically, short stories that I’ve kept, in various forms and fragments, on my computer but until recently never had the courage to finish, let alone send out for publication.

For this and other reasons, 2019 has been a year of hard knocks. My skin stings from the red hot burn of the rejection letters heaped up in my archives folder. But I’ve learned a lot with a lot more to go. And that’s…strangely reassuring.

I love sci-fi, fantasy and speculative fiction and tend towards that in my writing.


Here are my awards eligible short stories for 2019:

Good Books All – in Astral Waters Review, Issue 2. Available online.

Monstrous Attractions – in Augur Magazine, 2.3. Available online (samples of longer pieces available for free on the website).


I also published a non-fantasy/non-speculative fiction piece earlier in the year:

Flesh, Not Blood – in RicePaper Magazine. Read online.


Finally, in the coming days I will be adding a new section on the blog to keep a running tab on my publications and where to find them. Hopefully, I will be able to add to the list as time goes by.

Here’s to all good things (rejections and all) for 2020!




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Stranger Encounters

They happen.

At times and in turns unsolicited, unprovoked, utterly unreal.


1. Flower Market, New Delhi

Random Man: “You there! You are at the flower market and you can’t smile?”


2. Dog Park, High Park, Toronto

Dogwalker [runs up to me and Lou]: “Look at him! Him? He’s beautiful. Lovely bone structure. You’re lucky to have him. Congratulations!”


3. Coffee Time, Kitchener

Woman Steps Through Front Door: “Dang, dang! Y’all got none of them there cheese cussiants, do ya?”


4. Beaches, Toronto

City Garbage Worker [jumps off side of moving truck ]: “Hey! [points to truck driver] He’s Filipino!”


5. Ben Thanh Market, Ho Chi Minh City

Vendor [referring to Stephen]: “He has such a gentle face!”


6. Beaches, Toronto

Random Man [points to Lou]: “Heinz 57! Heinz 57!”


7. Downtown Kitchener

Random Man [blocks my path, bows]: “Ni hao, ni hao, ni hao!”


8. Calgary, Alberta

Random Man [yelling from driver’s side of parked pick up truck as Stephen and I walk down the street]: “Got him walking on the outside of the sidewalk! Good man you got there!”





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Big Blue Kazoo

My brother recently (as in a week and a half ago) decided to quit smoking and is vaping to ease the transition. His vape pen looks like a big blue kazoo.

Kazoo (noun): a small, simple musical instrument consisting of a hollow pipe with a hole in it, over which is a thin covering that vibrates and produces a buzzing sound when the player sings or hums into the pipe.


Simple toy, assorted history:

– As the story goes, the kazoo in its North American form was the brainchild of one Alabama Vest, a black man from Macon, Georgia. To bring his idea to fruition, Vest eventually teamed up with German-American watchmaker, Thaddeus Von Clegg, though the circumstances of their meeting remain murky. At the 1852 Georgia State Fair, Vest’s “down south submarine” was purportedly introduced to the world.

– The first documented invention of what we now call the “kazoo” appears in 1883 via a patent application undertaken by American inventor Warren Herbert Frost.

– However, mass production of the kazoo did not occur until 1916, and is said to have come about after a traveling salesman, Emil Sorg, happened upon the down south submarine at the 1852 State Fair. Or so the story goes.

– And from here on, Vest and Von Clegg disappear from the narrative. No documentation of their collaboration has yet surfaced. It’s not certain if Vest attended the fair alone, or if he had partnered up with Von Clegg for the event. It is unclear whether Von Clegg only helped to create the prototype for Vest’s invention, or whether the two worked together to come up with the first ever “kazoo.” It’s difficult to say what that first kazoo even looked like.

– There is no proof that Vest and Sorg ever met, least of all at the 1852 State Fair.

– “Alabama Vest” and “Thaddeus Von Clegg” may or may not have ever existed at all. There is only no proof that they didn’t exist.

Which leaves us with our kazoo lore. And “down south submarine.”


So, then: my brother recently (as in a week and a half ago) decided to quit smoking and is vaping to ease the transition. His vape pen looks like a big blue down south submarine, which is about as descriptive as I feel like being on this particular item.


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Office Potluck

I think, perhaps, that the person who organized the lunchtime office potluck (and any and all office potlucks) must be a person morbidly and masochistically obsessed with the absolute bare minimum of the human endeavour. The love of cold, over-spiced food must reduce that person to fits of writhing ecstasy.

The sight of self-professed and self-possessed office foodies coming out to strut in the miraculous daylight that streams into the building in thin, wavering streams. That. That must drive that person screamingly, lovingly mad.

Not to mention the tight courteous smiles as bosses and underlings feast together on paper plates and with napkins that Hazel from HR forgot to bring but oh you know what never mind we can just use this roll of toilet paper someone found under the sink in the kitchenette.

The edges are stained a nasty antifreeze blue, but it’s probably fine.
The confusion around the table is immediate: two currents of hungry workers begin circling the food. One shuffles clockwise; the other shambles counterclockwise.

Hierarchies emerge. Turf is claimed. Elbows come out.

“Hey. Line starts over there,” says Brody, who arrived after me, pointing with an immaculate white hand to the other end of the table, the counterclockwise moving current. His plate is half full of something lumpy and beige, I don’t know what.

And I think:

I want a burrito from across the street. I want leftovers from dinner. I want to be away from that limp three-bean salad staring at me in the face.

And I think:

I work with someone named Brody.

There is a Brody that works here and everyone is cool with that.

Three bean-salad.
 Featured image
There was no getting out of this: the lack of seats, the picked-over coleslaw. There is no “I” in “team” like there is “meat” which I don’t think will keep well in the stale heat of the boardroom.

People “ooo” and “ahh”. The head of the company has kale between his teeth, the guys from the mapping department huddle by the door, blocking my escape. Someone scream laughs as club soda spills on the floor.

I look mournfully at the fried baked cheese pan someone had brought in from the cold backseat of her car. I imagine her swaddling it in the kitchen rags that now litter the floor under the table.

I imagine its bubbling surface in a 400-degree oven and her face pressed firmly against it in impatient agitation.

No one would think to bring in fried baked cheese!

And I know:

It will sit in my stomach as it now sits on the table.

Like a brick.

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Vesuvius Redux

I was told the pipes in the basement had been painted crimson so that people would see them and wouldn’t bash their heads on them. Not that that had been a particular problem for me, at my height. But I had seen others do it enough – Chris, for example, forgetting himself and clunking his forehead something wicked, his long curly hair flying all directions as he grabbed his skull in shock and pain – to learn to respect the pipes. Now faded to a dull reddish-brown, they hang low and unnoticed and full of spiders, silverfish and centipedes.

A veritable ecosystem.

Occasionally, the bugs fall down onto the boxes below, their tap-tap-tapping sounding like raindrops. Hundreds of them: boxes and boxes waiting to be processed, waiting in that cold, dank basement.

Occasionally, a smell of rotten eggs and sulfur, of funk and regret and defeat will seep from the pipes, filling the corridors right outside our workspace, invading our nostrils, assaulting the senses. We’ve complained, nobody listened.

It’s an old, old building. What can you do?

Make the best of it. Lemons and lemonade.

Polish that turd.

But it was the pipe below. It was the pipe below, embedded in the concrete floor beneath our feet, which proved truly dangerous. That neglected pipe, that ancient artifact and all that backed up sewage, all that compacted shit and human garbage, striving for release. It was only a matter of time.

Then the hallways began to echo.

The women did it.

I know who supposedly and positively said it. His booming voice, affected, operatic, bouncing off the thin walls that, miraculously, still held the building together. Nothing I can prove. It’s just a rumour.

But the echo reverberated, repeated itself as it moved form floor to floor, from mouth to ear to ear.

The pipe, four-inches wide and running the great length of the floor of the basement, had been clogged, the echo said, absolutely glutted, the echo repeated, with tampons and female sanitary napkins as the landlord himself had apparently and absolutely shrieked back down the hallways and corridors of the building.

Never mind the age of the building, ancient by anyone’s standards, never mind that the building’s sewage system remains connected to still others all over the city block, never mind the 500 feet of bloated toilet paper the plumbers found down there, after the fact, never mind the daily, repeated abuse of the downstairs bathroom by those with booming voices and those searching a reprieve from heavy lunches and fatty office snacks. Never mind.

The women did it.

The adult women, obviously, who need now and again to be told by more rational minds not to flush their tampons and female sanitary napkins down the toilet, down the drain, to refrain from jamming up the pipes with their vile, bloody woman mess. There is a lot of wagging of fingers at this, a lot of nodding and some grunting.

There is to be a meeting, I’m hearing from the walls, sometime next week. Ladies only, to discuss our lady problem.

Ladies. Ladies, ladies, ladies. It will dribble down to us from a stern face, it will wash over us like a red tide of admonishment. There will be no meeting, we’re hearing, for or with the men.

Ladies only.

Obviously then, no wonder. All that shit. No wonder the pipe exploded, no wonder it erupted with such force as to put Vesuvius to shame, lifting the metal drain in the centre of the boiler room clean out of its socket, making it land haphazardly beside the gaping, emptied out maw of the pipe. Something truly to marvel at.

MIGHTY POOSUVIUS! Spurting forth from deep down below, destroying that severe atmospheric tension in its reeking cataclysmic fury! MIGHTY POOSUVIUS! Trembling beneath the surface, bringing with it terrible liberation from all notion and pretence of civilization. All that shit.

A veritable metaphor, an absolute reality.

Oh, though. Did you hear? I should tell you maybe that I didn’t see any tampons in the white and brown and black maelstrom that ravaged the basement that fateful day, when I was down there, after the fact. Just wads and wads of toilet paper and sopping gobs of human feces. That real metaphor caked to the floor, splattered some on those echoing walls.

OK. OK, OK, OK. So that’s not entirely true.

I saw one tampon, still in its applicator, planted there like the spotless knife at a crime scene. A smokeless gun. One among the mounds and mounds of distended, utterly ruined toilet paper. And poo.

There are, of course, rumours of how and why and if that would be there.

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The latest theories of dinosaur evolution may be pushing the limits of the boundaries of our understanding of dinosaurs as we know it, but they are ruining my childhood.

I know, I KNOW, a lot of people are lamenting that the Progress of Things are ruining their childhoods, but I’m not talking about space movies or muppets, glossed over for the sake box office bucks.

I’m talking about science itself doing the job this time.

SCIENCE, motherfucker!

According to paleontologists, some dinosaurs most likely evolved into birds or were on their way to that because of SCIENCE, or whatever, while others had “protofeathers” for insulation, or something.  It’s EVOLUTION (“things change…because”).


But, wait, no.


Okay.  So, remember Jurassic Park?  Remember how scared and thrilled you were as you sat, entranced, as the Velociraptors outsmarted that vaguely Australian guy (“clever girl”), terrorized those Spielbergian brats, and threw down with the Almighty T-Rex?

Wasn’t that AWESOME?

Dinosaur Dick Says:

He really doesn't.

There’s one in every humanity.

Jurassic Park was a great movie that helped bring our dreams of dinosaurs to life.  It helped make real those drawings you made and plastered all over your room; those plastic T-Rex and Triceratops toys you “fought” over and over in your front lawn; that entire library of books filled with pictures of TERRIBLE (as in “FEARFULLY GREAT”) LIZARDS that you kept under your bed.

And it still paled in comparison to what we were able to imagine before the advent of CGI.

Yeah, yeah, yeah!!!

Oh HELL yeah.

But it looks like that’s all, retroactively, over.

Because, according to the people who study the bones of beasts so old the bones are stones, there are dinosaurs out there that were always and have always been covered – in part or in whole – with feathers.


Feathers aren’t TERRIBLE.

Feathers aren’t awesome.

Feathers are hollow.

Feathers are lame.

Feathers, on dinosaurs, are pretty much interchangeable with the following, on dinosaurs:


And purple, no less.

I lived in a house made of this once. It was as great as that sounds.


Just add sauce.

Not to hard, not too soft, firmly disappointing.


The only good use I've ever been able to attribute to olives, ever.

The pimento is the best part of a bad situation.

The situation with these new-fangled dinos is a lot like that of watching the generation of kids who grew up after you, who only know Michael Jackson not for his music.

You and Yours.

The King of ???

Them and Theirs.

See what I’m getting at?  They are getting in trade something that resides on the wrong side of incredible.

It’s awry.

"Get me Alan Grant!"

The Before the After.

The After the Before

Our only hope:  Birds, go back!

Do it now.

Save us from ourselves!!!



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