A Poem: From Unchecked Fear

Fear takes root in the mind and sprouts
Flourishing in an ignorant brain
Rational thought twists to form doubts
Misconstrued as existential pain

From thought to fist quick as lightning
Righteous pretense fills the heart with hate
Hot rage, foul acts, blind fighting
Momentum toward a failing state

An aftermath plagued with regret
For what was once innocent is gone
Violence creates a monstrous debt
Can’t repay a loss forever long

Photo by xpsi from FreeImages

Short Story: An Eye Opening Affair

Trevor stepped into the upstairs hall and walked toward the bathroom. He heard whispers and muffled laughter from one of the bedrooms. Intrigued, he peered around the corner and the talking instantly stopped. All three of his daughters turned to look at him. Their faces vacant and unmoving. Their stares blank. The classic look of children caught in the act. Before them, laid out upon the floor, was a pile of lipstick and nail polish containers in a myriad of colours. “What are you guys doing?”

“Playing,” the eldest said.

“With nail polish?” He frowned. The girls just nodded. “Did you ask your mother?” The middle daughter nodded once, which appeared as if she had a violent spasm. He watched as his youngest put a hand on the middle daughter’s knee. They passed a glance between them and the middle one turned back to him.

“We asked.” She smiled.

Trevor noted something different about their faces: their eyes had long lashes. “Did you guys put on fake lashes?”

“No,” they replied in a unified, yet monotone-like fashion.

“What’s your favourite colour, daddy?” The youngest asked. Sweeping her palm out to draw his attention to the beauty products.

“The aqua-green of course,” Trevor replied, aware of the abrupt change of conversation. The youngest was prone to such tactics when talk verged on potential punishment.

“Do you want us to put it on your finger nails?” The youngest asked.

“No thank you. Just don’t spill any. That stuff is awfully hard to clean from the carpet. Remember?” They said nothing. “And for god’s sake open a window when you use the nail polish. It stinks.”

“Ok daddy,” the eldest said.

Trevor gave them a thumbs up. “Good chat, ladies.” As soon as he stepped further down the hall the laughter and whispering resumed as if he’d never interrupted them. He shrugged, that was a father’s plight, especially with daughters: to be outside the sibling clique of sisters with their secret knowledge and secret jokes.

That evening as they sat around the dinner table, regaling each other about their day he noticed each daughter wore glossy lipstick and matching nail polish. A veritable kaleidoscope of colour and sparkles.

Trevor shook his head after he noticed their eye lashes. They seemed longer than before, more luxurious. They fluttered when the girls blinked. He glanced at his wife and she giggled. He regarded the youngest for a brief time and turned to look at his plate. Movement. He shot a glance back at her face. He was certain her eyelashes moved apart from her blinking. He watched her with keen attention. Nothing seemed out of the ordinary.

As the evening wore on he wondered what else his daughters might be purchasing: concealer, eye-liner, and god forbid, perfume. What was happening to his daughters? Right before his very eyes they seemed to be changing. Growing. Maturing. But at what cost? Literally, at what damn cost? Trips to the local beauty store increased in frequency. The phrase, “I’m going on a beauty run,” echoed more and more throughout the halls. While he didn’t see the bottom line on the receipts he did note they were increasing in length and frequency.

His old standby line about saving money for Disney World had less and less impact. He walked to his shared bedroom and noticed one of the daughters’ bedroom lights was on. Of course no one was in the room. They had a habit of leaving lights on throughout the entire house. If they had to go from point A to point B every light in between would be turned, and left, on. “So much for Mickey Mouse.”

Trevor flipped the switch. In an instant he flipped it back on. In the middle of the floor was a single lipstick tube. It was open and covered with something. He bent down and realized the lipstick was covered with fake eyelashes. He sighed and shook his head. Standing up he wondered if he should clean it or just leave it. Movement made him dart a glance back at the lipstick. He was sure something moved. He rubbed his eyes. “It’s just the long hours at work.” Trevor turned the light off and left the room. He stepped down the stairs and found the three daughters standing still, watching him as he descended. “I think it’s time for bed.”

“Yes, father,” the daughters replied in unison.

“Father? Aren’t we formal,” he said. He watched them bound up the stairs without a single sound. How odd, he thought. Normally they stomped up the stairs like stampeding rhinos, shaking the ceiling lights as they went.

The next morning he awoke to find his daughters standing beside his bed. “What’s wrong?” Moments passed before the youngest answered.

“We were just watching you sleep.” They backed out of the room and left. He looked at his wife to see if she was awake. He shook her. “Your daughters are acting creepy again.”

“What?” She said as she turned to face him. He startled. She had long eyelashes as well.

“Did you put fake eyelashes for bed?”

“No.” She frowned and rubbed her eyes. “Weird.” She looked at herself in the mirror. “Though they do look fantastic.”

With an abruptness that caught his wife off guard he jumped out of bed and raced to where the daughters were. “What are you guys playing at?”

“What do you mean?” The eldest asked.

“Did you put fake eye-lashes on your mother?”

“What?” The middle daughter asked. She shook her head, frowned and pursed her lips: all signs of some kind of cover-up.

“You heard me.”

The youngest stepped forward and revealed something in the palm of her hand. “These are for you.” In her little hand were two fake eyelashes. They were not still. They writhed and flipped and as she moved her hand closer to him they became frantic and unstable. “Put them on, father.”

“No,” Trevor said, backing away. The youngest moved closer and closer. The two older girls followed right behind her. He felt his heart pumping and fear made his eyes wide. “What are those?”

“They are for you,” the youngest said sweetly.

Trevor backed away and found his wife blocked his retreat. Now he was surrounded, ganged up on, and his daughters each had an ungodly vacant stare. “What are you doing?”

“You will see,” the youngest said. “They only want to help us.”

“They’re… You’re aliens!”

“Father they are symbiotic. They make us fabulous and we in turn feed them,” the eldest said.

“Feed them?” Trevor shrieked. “What? Our brains?”

The youngest pulled her head back and frowned. “No silly, nail polish and lipstick. What’s this brains stuff?”

“You watch too many zombie movies, daddy,” the middle daughter said.

“Now, close your eyes. This won’t hurt a bit.”

Photo by chic-desig from FreeImages

The Interplay Between Goals and Motivations

We all have goals. They are as diverse as we humans are: that’s a good thing. Our goals may be to graduate from university, get a job, move to a new city or any other desire. And similarly, our motivations for achieving our goals are just as diverse. Comparing and contrasting the goal with the motivation will lead to some incredible personal insights into one’s desires and expectations.

Sometimes goals and motivations can be the exact same thing. The more basic the motivation the more likely the goal will match. Take hunger for an example. The goal and the motivation align perfectly. The goal is to eat and the motivation is to fill your empty stomach. When goals and motivations match one can then focus on the means, or solution, to achieve the goal. Though knowing what the solution is just the first step. One has to put forth effort on the solution. For me, knowing that the solution for the long grass in my lawn is to mow it, doesn’t take the place of actually mowing it. (Note: I hate yardwork).

Sometimes goals and motivations differ in slight ways. They still align, but are not perfect matches. These are harder to understand and harder to solve. An example could be the goal of a clean house. Yet, the underlying motivation is to have a tidy home free of clutter and disorganization. Just cleaning the house will not achieve tidiness. Recognizing that fact requires more thought and care toward the solution.

Sometimes goals and motivations don’t align well at all. These situations represent the most complex of problems for they require considerable abstract thinking and painstaking thought to solve. Sometimes we don’t understand the interplay between what we do and why we do it. It requires introspection.

To further complicate things sometimes there are surface motivations and then there are deeper, underlying, motivations. Deciphering these different layers of our desires takes effort. Effort we avoid because we’re tired or sad or feeling stress or have to household chores. In the modern world, at least for most of the time pre-COVID19, we didn’t have time to reflect on ourselves. With many nations having lock-down directives perhaps now is a perfect time to contemplate on what you want and, more importantly, on why you want it.

My goal is to be a published author, to earn an income from my writing. It’s as good a goal as any. My underlying motivation for writing is something I realized only recently. It’s not to be famous. Not to be rich beyond imagination. Not to be respected. Though I do want these things to varying degree. My ultimate motivation is to leave behind something tangible for my children. Something, that long after I’m gone, they can look at and nod, “My father wrote this.” Not just look at it, but like it. Perhaps, even cherish it. Though that is for them to ultimately decide.

It’s hard to quantify this deeper motivation. It’s love. It’s hope. It’s legacy. It’s a want to be remembered. It’s a need. It’s me.
It’s want any parent would want, I think: to be cherished and remembered by his/her children with love. I want to achieve that, in part, with the words I leave behind.

Goals are the what. Motivation is the why. Effort is the how. Knowing what each variable is, is important. I’ve come up with an equation that sums up my thoughts: (Goal + Motivation) x Effort = Success. Now what this equation shows, at least to me, is that when the goal and motivation are joined together it’s easier to apply effort to them equally to achieve your success, whatever you’ve defined success to be.

Writing that equation is easy. Thinking about each step, forging a path from left to right, understanding each stop along the way, is hard. I think it’s worth exploring. For me, even if I don’t become famous, don’t become a respected author among the masses, don’t become rich, at least I’ll have my writings for my children to read. In the end, that reward is priceless.

Photo by Mischa van Lieshout from FreeImages

Flash Poetry Vol. 1

A series of poetry first written on my Twitter account.

The Flower

The flower bloomed in the dirt of the battlefield

Despite the death and carnage its growth would not yield

While desolation surrounded it completely

Its fragile white petals swayed ever so sweetly

Earth

We’re spinning on a blue marble tumbling through space.

It’s not much to look at but it’s our little place.

Everyone who’s ever lived calls this planet home.

We best work together or we’ll reap what we’ve sown.

Pandemic

This is irony we’re seeing

A disease that harms our breathing

Forces us inside, too fearing

While the air outside is clearing

Power of Nature

Nature’s organized

To rules we’ve not discovered

Today we adapt

Photo by Djordje Komljenovic from FreeImages

Short Story: His War Her War

His War

I killed another man today. Unlike the others this time I had to use a knife. Close. Dirty and bloody. In the name of King and Country. Bombs exploded over us. Mustard gas swirled around us. And in this desperate gasp for life I was barely victorious.

I stood firm in this little patch of crimson mud. Now I lay, exhausted and numb. My chest heaves and I suck air past a gas mask hastily worn. Through the goggles I look over at the body of the mighty Hun. The German. He will ever be a boy in my mind. He could be a cousin, a friend, in some other lifetime.

I slump onto my back. The sound of distant machine gun fire fills the air. The screams of the dying with their begging makes me clutch my ears. I hear, but don’t want to listen. I look, but don’t want to see. I would rather not care.

Where has my humanity gone? Is it hidden under the layers of grime? Under the guts that now adorn my uniform? Bathing will not wash away my memories. My actions. My torment.

Would anyone back home recognize me? Would my wife know me?

These questions plague my mind as another round of artillery fills my head. It’s so loud I can’t think. Finally, the shelling stops. There is a moment of near silence as the last blasts echo away, like souls leaving the bodies of the dead.

I no longer fear death. I do not look upon it with dread. A fatalism has taken the place of fevered adventure. I am merely a servant to my officers; indentured. They blow their whistles and we rise to die. Through no man’s land we walk, cut down in wave after wave. No stopping. No helping. Leave our comrades where they lie. I have been here a year and know the drill. Take that trench, climb that hill.

In the summer the flies swarm. In the heat the dead bloat. The living fight until our sanity is ripped and torn. In the fall the rain comes. Filling our trenches with water. Many of the dying could be saved, but they submerge under the wet earth to suffocate and disappear forever. The list of the missing grows ever longer. I ignore it. It is not something to ponder.

What have I become? Will my wife want me?

The winter brings a kind of solitude, though not kind at all. We huddle to keep warm. No longer can we smell the decay of our dead. But no longer can we feel our feet. Our hands. Our noses and ears. Gangrene is seen everywhere. And in between the battles there’s only preparing for the next dread. In the spring green life should reveal itself. But in the desolate hell of endless grey earth there is only red.

The year to me feels like an eternity. Long bouts of boredom. Our chief task to keep the rats off our faces while we sleep. A year? Have I really been here that long? I hate my mask. I hate the poison. The sky darkens as I lay. The coming dusk brings a lull in the fighting. How long have I been here? Time is slow, my thoughts fast. How many feet did we win? How many lives for a few acres? A great multitude, on all sides, have been sent to their maker.

I laugh. It is all so pointless. There is no end of trenches. There’s always the next trench. The next bunker. We shed blood for blood shed. I try to move, but my legs won’t work. I tug and pull. They are stuck fast to the trench bed.

Will my wife wait for me?

Shouts of all clear sound and I yank off my mask. My face free to the air. For a moment I feel human; feel the cool air on my cheeks. I almost weep. My eyes wander to the sky as the stars appear and for a moment, a brief time, I forget why I’m here. I’m so tired. I only need but a little sleep.

Her War

The birds wake me with their peaceful song. For a meagre moment I think all is well. Reality hits, the country is still at war. I rise from a half empty bed. It’s been this way for so long.

Anxious fear again grips me as I start my day. A silent tempest. The children will awake soon and clamour for breakfast. They’re young and have long since stopped asking why daddy went away. The days blend into each other. It’s hard to keep track. Yet each day the children now ask when will daddy be back?

I can’t answer their question, especially when there’s no end in sight. Each day telegrams arrive in town with the worst news. This spreads more fear and sadness, like a human blight. The yellow messages drench our country in the bluest of hues.

Mrs. Campbell lost three sons. Each, like all the other men, thought they’d be home by Christmas. They all died early in the war. Each notice came by mail. I hate the mailman. Hate that he is here and my husband not. I pray the man never comes to my front door.

I cannot stand here and think of what may happen for there’s too much work to be done. The local branch of the Canadian Patriotic Fund needs volunteers to collect donations. More money means more bullets and more fighting. Between looking after the chores, the children, and volunteering I’m always on the run.

I never thought I’d see my daughter sewing bandages for the medical corps. Or my sons, as young as they are, looking after the cattle. They are kept busy, and I’m glad of it. I do not let them see the newspapers which carry word of every battle.

I try to protect them from the reality of a world gone mad. But, they are smart and notice the sacrifices we make. Like repairing old clothes long gone out of fad.

I look at them and wonder will they know their father? Will he know them? I thank god we are here and not across the Atlantic. My husband always wanted to visit France, but not like this. It’s all too frantic.

Mr. Rodgers has returned, missing an arm. But, something else is missing in him, too. His wife says he drinks and yells as he works on the farm. Mr. Carrington wears a mask over half his face. Whispers of his maiming follow him everywhere. Yet he speaks not and walks with a quiet grace.

There is not one soul untouched, unblemished by the fighting. We’re all in this together we’re told. Be bold. But, the propaganda is thick. And many of us women, wives to those fighting, think it some trick. So many of us have lost someone. When will this war be done?

I wonder if my husband will recognize the town when he does return. Will he have the same feelings for me? Will he still yearn? It is an endless circle of thought, which gets me nowhere with nothing new to learn.

At last, late at night, I crawl back into bed. Another day done. The tears come. Though not as many as the day my husband left. For I am bone tired. I am weary. My strength is gone. I feel bereft.

I do not let the children see how numb I’ve become. As I drift off to sleep I recall word that there is another big battle. Some place called the Somme.

Photo by Chris Eyles from FreeImages

Wallis and Willard 4: Realty Gone Awry

Lemieux drove down Main St., admiring the vibrant downtown of Parford. She proceeded to her home on the outskirts of town. It was a small bungalow with a crawl space underneath rather than a basement. Her face turned into a snarl as she saw a for sale sign plunged into her front rock garden. She pulled into the driveway and stepped out, clenching her fists. She heard voices coming from the backyard. She silently cursed and strode around the building. “Not again.”

“Oh, Robert. This is perfect,” a woman said. She clutched at her husband’s arm as if at any moment he’d flee to Mexico under an assumed name, live with a Mexican woman who’d feed him until he got fat, never to be seen or heard from again. Robert said nothing, but moved as if being trapped by years of marriage inertia made walking difficult. “Oh, and you wouldn’t have to mow the lawn. It’s all a rock garden.”

“Excuse me,” Lemieux said as she came up to the couple. They were older, in their late sixties. “What are you doing here?”

“We’ve come to make a bid on this home, aren’t we Robert?” Robert said nothing. “Say, you’re the realtor.”

“No, I’m the owner and this home is not for sale,” Lemieux answered.

“But we saw the ad on social medias. Everything on the social medias is true, I read that on the social medias. Anyway, the ad had your face and said you’d be willing to bend over to take a good deal,” the woman said. “Didn’t it Robert?” Robert made no movement to suggest he even heard her. “Robert remembers, too,” she continued.

“You’ve been duped, as I’m sure has happened many times before. Now leave,” Lemieux suggested, her tone becoming more stern.

“No,” the woman said and wagged a finger. “I called you and spoke with you on the phone,” the woman said. “I put you on speaker so Robert could hear you as well. You said you were ready and willing to get… What was the word Robert?” Robert said nothing, just stared vacantly at the wall. “Oh yes; pounded. Pounded for a good deal.”

“I am going to give you two minutes to waddle your knee braced legs off my property before I call the police,” Lemieux said.

“But…”

“Now!”

The couple slowly left the property, took five minutes to get into their Buick with the woman glaring at Lemieux the whole time. It was a passive aggressive onslaught of stern-lipped wonderment. “We drove here all day!”

“You can drive away all day then.” Lemieux shook her head as they pulled away. She stepped up to her front door. It was open a crack. Her shoulders slumped. Lemieux stepped inside and heard more voices.

“Darling this is perfect.”

“Sweet fuck, what the hell are you doing in my home?” Lemieux said as she accosted another couple. “How did you get into my home? You’ve broken into my home!”

“We called and your salesperson said to come, get the key in the flower pot on the right side of the porch and saunter around, try the toilet and cook a meal. All to make sure we like the home. So Harry and I did,” the woman said.

“Yeah, I like the way you can look out the window while you go to the bathroom,” Harry added. He turned sheepish. “I’m afraid I couldn’t find your plunger.”

“He likes his pickled herring,” the wife said.

“I don’t care what you like,” Lemieux yelled, suddenly aware of an odour wafting from the bathroom. “This house is not for sale. Get the hell out!”

“It’s not like we had sex on your counter,” the woman said. “Like your ad directed us to.”

“Yeah,” Harry chimed in. “I mean, we tried, but she couldn’t climb onto the counter, and even if she could there was no step ladder I could use being as I’m short.” Harry scrunched his reddening face at his poor phrasing and quickly added. “I mean not very tall. Your counter is too high. I was referring to my height… Only my height.”

“Oh darling you’re not short,” the wife said in a kind-hearted motherly way, which made Lemieux so uncomfortable she gagged. The woman whispered again, “you’re not short.” The wife playfully nudged her husband with her hips. A crack from one of her joints sounded and she laughed. “Anyway, after all that struggle we just had a nap in your bed. I like your comforter by the way. Does it come with the house?”

“Get. The. Hell. Out!” Lemieux yelled. The couple almost jumped in fright. They stared at her. “Do I have to get my shotgun filled with rock salt to prove to you that you need to leave now?” They left, but not without muttering how disappointed they were with the showing.

Enraged, Lemieux went to her computer and searched for home sales in Parford. It didn’t take her long to find her fake listing. The picture of her used was one where, classic to media, she was captured in a mid-pursing of her mouth expression. Her face almost looked green and a sheen of sweat covered her forehead. It was the least flattering picture of her possible. She looked at the background, trying to recall when that photo would have been taken. Then she remembered. It was when she exited the city hall bathroom after eating a bad tray of supposedly fresh sushi. It was before the vote to close down the county to chain stores. “Fucking Jesus wept.” She also remembered Councillor O’Shea had treated her to the meal. “Bastard tried to avoid a vote.”

Lemieux turned her attention back to the computer and read the ad. ‘Do you wish for a low maintenance home? 1 storey? No lawn to mow? I’ll take a deal, any deal, to satisfy my selling hunger. Come on in, try it out. The key is under the second flower pot on the front porch. Call 800-Get-Sold now to book an appointment. Or just show up and test any piece of furniture you want in any way.’

She wondered what she should do? Lemieux stood up and paced back and forth. She realized she needed to find out who made the ad. It was someone local, had to be, for they would have had to be to know where the spare key to her front door was hidden. “But,” she paused. “Who?” Councillor O’Shea? Jamison? Wallis? That angry farmer who’s turkey farm the county shut down last year?

The shut down was called for after a farm visitor was attacked by a mentally deranged turkey and, as a result, started suffering from PTSD. Through investigation by the county sherif it was later discovered that the farmer was breeding a particularly aggressive type of turkey, creating attack turkeys for farm security. They had larger claws and more neck skin than normal turkeys. He called them Velociturkeys.

Lemieux shook her head. “No one in town really knows anything about placing social media ads. We’re a backward little armpit full of mindless bacteria. Just the way I like it.” She snapped her fingers and a devious smile spread across her face. “Hello Willard?” she said into her phone.

“Hey,” Willard said. “You have some time?”

“Yes, but first I need a favour, though,” Lemieux said.

“Is this a Squid Hoe Dough thing?” Willard asked. His breathing getting deeper and heavier.

“You do something for me and I do something for you,” Lemieux said. “I need you to make a phone call for me when you get here.”

“That’s a cinch,” Willard said and hung up before she could finish explaining her need. In no time at all Willard crashed through the front door like some kind of sex starved bull. “I’m here woman.”

“Jesus Christ, Willard,” Lemieux said. “That’s the second door this month.” She felt herself being swept off her feet by Willard’s powerful arms. “You have to call a number for me.”

“Right now?”

“Yes.” She screamed as Willard flung her to the bed. She pointed to the phone number on the screen. “Dial that number.” He did.

“Hello,” Willard said into his cell. He covered his phone and whispered to Lemieux. “Sounds like you. Ah, yes I am interested in the home. When can I visit it?” Willard nodded and then a smile broadened his lips. “Really? With pleasure.”

“Well?” Lemieux asked in an insistent whisper.

Willard covered his phone and whispered back, “You said, well, the woman on the phone said that I should bring my partner here and test out the bed as it would be part of the sale,” Willard said with a lurid look in his eyes.

“Ask her if she’ll be here?”

Willard’s eyes almost popped out of his skull and his mouth dropped. His stunned face stared at Lemieux for a moment. He looked like he’d just received the best news ever. “Ah,” he said into the phone, his voice thick. “Will you be here to show us the… bedroom?” A pause. “Really? You’re that desperate to sell this house.”

“Where is her office?” Lemieux said, pressing her finger into his chest.

“Where’s your office located?” Suddenly, Willard’s whole body deflated and he sat down on the bed. “Ok. Thanks.” He hung up and looked at Lemieux. “She said her office is here. In your home.”

“You know what that means?” Lemieux said.

“That we’re not going to have a threesome tonight,” Willard flopped back onto the bed and stared up at the ceiling.

“That someone is very good at covering their tracks,” Lemieux advised.

“Why are you smiling?” Willard asked.

“Because, we just eliminated a suspect. It can’t be Councillor Jamison. He’s too stupid to be able to come up with a plan like this. He’s far more direct, in a blundering, imbecilic way.” She looked at Willard and a seductive smile spread across her face.

One thing Willard was keen about, picking up signals of sex. “Can we play hot-dog man?” He asked. Lemieux nodded. Willard gleefully started to disrobe. “You burning incense?” Willard asked, sniffing the air. Within moments the mood was as dead as the pickled herrings Harry had eaten.

The Previous Chapter of Wallis and Willard.

Photo by Aaron Murphy from FreeImages