2017 is almost over. This is the last post of the year and the Scribbler is pleased to have Ryan share one of his stories.
My name is
Ryan Madej and I began writing in my teens. Just this past summer I finished my
entitled The Threshold and the Key, the final volume in a novella/memoir cycle
that I’ve worked on for the
past 20 years. My style is in the experimental vein because I find that playing
with form in the
fragmented way that I do plays to how I think memory works. The short story I’m
submitting was originally
published in Infinity’s Kitchen no 6, that showcases works to an American
audience. It’s my pleasure
to show it to my fellow Canadians.
(A sample from the story - copyright held by the author.)
A kind of modest radiance trickled through my mind as I leave the
Archive on Friday,
only to be presented with a sickening taste of my last meal welling up
in my throat as I
stop to button up my coat. The streetlights are just coming on as the
fluorescence of twilight, always so vast and deeply meaningful to me in
way, begins fading and giving way to a quiet evening. Taking out my
cell-phone I notice a text glowing in red letters: Don't be late tonight by
any means. I miss you. I chuckle to myself, knowing that being late was our
way of seducing one another; or to put it another way: a direction in which
to fool one another with mirrors.
B: Barbiturates, Benjamin (Walter), Black Lights
The stage is set for another evening of transparent dreaming. That is
what this strange
arrangement has become when I sit down and think about it hard. We
didn't know each
other prior to hooking up...I mean, who does that anymore, right? But
that evening four
months ago when I opened my inbox on that dating site I knew I had found
interesting. Not special, mind you, but something interesting.
I could tell by the words
and phrases he used in describing himself he was not ordinary like a lot
of other men I
had met recently with their greasy charm, and on top of that, small
penises. He didn't give himself away; he remained hidden, or at least partially
seen when I threw tough questions at him. He didn't flinch in anyway.The more he looked at me—in a way that wasn't
bewitching, but hardly familiar—the more I felt like I had tapped into
something rarely observed. Call it a hunch or womanly intuition, but I unearthed
a diamond in his gaze and then I was his. He sat there across from me in that
black light lounge sipping his whiskey in an almost half-hearted way, and after
a time we said nothing more at all. I felt like there was no barrier anymore,
perhaps because he was a stranger with no knowledge of who or what I was, or
the inclinations and desires I kept only to myself. Through the course of our
first few hours together we found that we had a mutual appreciation for Walter
Benjamin; in particular his great, unfinished magnum opus The Arcades
Project. We talked of the flaneur and how wandering the streets of Paris
true intention but to wander had more appeal than doing a shit load of
he admitted he had done anyway when he was young. I had no choice but to
the same, maybe just to impress him, when really all I had ever done was
a lot barbiturates when I needed a vast amount of sleep.And yes, my sleep became more
interesting as well...
C: Calls in the middle of the night
I tend to take my time on these nights when we are supposed to meet,
of a necessity to prepare myself for the unknown pleasures that wait
else. Still, there are times when she has totally caught me off guard
and I would lie
awake in my empty bed wondering what would come next as I lay my head
to sleep, a heavy gust of wind rattling my window. It was during these
where my mind drifted over past memories of women with less charm, which
surprise me with a phone call just as the pain of remembrance served as a
bring on sleep. “Did I wake you?...sorry...I had a dream about you
and had to tell
you right away.” Without
protest I sat up to listen, relieved by the sound of her voice
that washed away those bad memories. I told her it was alright, I hadn’t
yet anyway. Lighting a fresh cigarette for my waiting mouth, she
breathlessly: “I was walking in the desert somewhere in Mexico. I
assumed this because
the only sign I saw outside a ramshackle
town I passed through had Spanish phrases.
No one inhabited the town, nor was there
any real sign of life. An entirely cloudless
day that would be appealing other than the
fact I was alone, watching a series of vultures off in the distance. This is
what probably propelled me to investigate. Anyway, once I got closer to where
the vultures flew, I could see what looked like a person lying on the ground.
Rushing over, the sun blazing in my eyes, I looked down to see that it was you
who lay bleeding on the verge of death, eyes closed and murmuring. I remember
placing my finger on your cracked lips and that is all." Strangely, I
wasn't at all taken aback by her dream, but rather intrigued by the thought of
a quiet yet agonizing death in the open desert. More often than not—the cherry
of the cigarette nearly burning my fingers as I spoke—I had many playfully
morbid fantasies just like the one she described. She stifled a laugh, then
apologized for waking me at such a late hour and assured me she would be
calling me again soon to meet. Ending the call, I sat in bed for a long time
ruminating over the scene she painted from her unconscious, somehow calm and
ready to find her in my own dreams with a smile on my face.
How should I put this? Really, there is no clear explanation to my
daggers a fascination I had forgotten over time—but I can say with a
certainty that once we came to know each other a little better through
the miasma of
the erotic exchange, a deep impulse to greet him with one in the future
came rushing to
the forefront of my thoughts. The idea almost made me come.
E: E=mc, Elephants
The streets are dead tonight. They become deader as the months pass and
the waning light of fall inevitably disappears, making the nights seem like endless
excursions into a
gradually cooling void called "winter". Lately, when I'm not
thinking of her, I watch old stock footage of atomic bomb tests on the
Internet, somehow drawn to the deep light
of splitting atoms.Maybe it's
more than that, though. Perhaps it has more to do with
ultimate endings, whether taken up by forces we cannot control or the
them whose intentions seem removed from death until they see, as
the price of knowledge. Bad thoughts to have on such a quiet night. I
used to lie on my
bed when I was a kid and imagine an elephant carrying me across the
plains, my head
held high, searching out a place to drink water coming down from the
I come to realize how far removed I am from innocent memories like
those, I tend to
laugh a lot more at what I've become...
F: Fathers, Fingers
A bottle of white wine chills in my fridge. Thick blue smoke circles my
restless for one reason and one reason alone: him. He always makes me
wait and what
inevitably happens is some sort of regression into how and why I've come
to this point
in time with such a strange man. Maybe he reminds me of my father—the
he is—but to imagine such a thing is
wasteful and tiresome, even though the more I've
come to notice the similarities between them. The dark hair, the intense
gaze, the silences, even the laugh seems so exact.How didn't I notice this before?Sometimes the sudden appearance of a new toy
makes one forget what it is they are playing with in the first place. But the
aspect of him that really surprised me was his fingers and how much
they reminded me of my father's touch. Those gentle fingers wiping away
even as the smell of whiskey and stale cigarettes wafted in my face, or
the other hand
caressed my leg. Glad he's gone. So very glad. I was right in saying
this was a waste of
Nothing she has said as of late has pushed me in the right direction. As
closer together a kind of fog has appeared between us obscuring the
other. She looks
at me curiously now, searching for that bad seed that she is certain
must exist. Her
gaze is close to the truth, that I will not deny, but I want more of
her. Every piece.
Every pore. Every strand of hair. Every eyelash. Trophies, gifts, call
them what you
like. Is it wrong to want all of someone? The air is so still and the
streets so quiet that
imagine nothing else but the two
of us, mimicking each others movements...
To be continued - The balance of the story will be posted January 1/2018
busier this time of the year than Santa Claus?
I doubt it
and yet he has taken the time to participate in a 4Q Interview for the
Scribbler again this year. In 2014 when we had Santa’s first interview we were
hoping to make this an annual event back then but the marketing arm of SC
Enterprises informed us that there are too many magazines, talk shows, blogs
and Christmas gatherings begging for his attention. They did note however, that
Mr. Clause was extremely pleased with the last interview (Santa's interview in 2014) and picked
The Scribbler for this year’s participation.
Santa for being our guest again. We are humbled that someone so famous would
consider the Scribbler for an interview. Due to the popularity of your previous
visit, there were many questions posed by our readers so we selected several we
felt were interesting.
talked about elves previously and there was mention of a retirement fund that
had been established for them. One of our readers posed the following question.
How old are elves when they retire and where do they go?
SC: Ho Ho
Ho, that’s a good question Allan. Although I often speak fondly of my many helpers,
no one has asked that before. Prior to the unionization of the elves (UEM&M
– Union of Elves, Mystics and Magicians) in 1975, an elf would work most of
their life if their health held out and always seemed happy doing so. It never
dawned on me that an elf would want leisure years in their old age, I mean they
never stop, they rarely get sick, they are always underfoot looking for
something to do. How was I to know when they never mentioned it to me?
started when Bobbly Longapple the 10th discovered marijuana. He was
one of our time-travelers that check up on children throughout the year and
while making a stop in Rexton one time to check on the wee ones in the village,
he warped into a birthday party for one of the Herbert boys. Something went
wrong with his Flow-Dominator and he appeared in the middle of the living room
bodily instead of invisible. Everyone freaked out but they all thought it was
‘pretty cool’ after the initial excitement settled. Bobbly was gone for several
days without anyone knowing his whereabouts. When he returned, all he talked
about was peace, love and happiness. He started talking of “spare time” and
when the union formed, mandatory retirement is when an elf reaches 200 years of
age.Most of them go to the Hippy Happy Home, a commune in
southwestern Peru. Not many return.
didn’t have a chance to discuss the reindeer last interview. What makes them so
fantastic? I mean, can they really fly or is it all a myth?
SC: Ho, now
they’re another thing like elves, very difficult to explain. But think back to
when we discussed our ability to manipulate time, they’re part of it. Our
reindeer are breed for lightness, sleek bodies with short tails. A Sami family
carefully selects the best females from our herds to breed with fertile stags
that bear the ancient strain of the original septet. The offspring bear the
same names, which will forever beDasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Comet, Cupid, Donner, Blitzen and of
course, Rudolph. Everyone knows Rudolph, don’t they? Ho Ho Ho. And before you
ask, no, his nose is not red but that song is a cute little diddy. Me and the
boys in the band, you remember from our last interview, Merle and Jaspar, we do
a jazzier version of it.
they are of age, the get hitched to the sleigh for the first time and a
transformation takes place that is so fantastic as to be almost unbelievable.
Sparks fly, lightning bolts shoot from the withers, vapors emanate from their
bodies and it’s a little scary but no harm is done. After a few moments, the
reindeer shakes its body like a dog shedding water until the magic is complete.
Then they can cloak themselves in invisibility, fly, easily dodge other flying
creatures, navigate in any type of weather and land anywhere. It’s quite a
marvelous transition and still amazes me each time it takes place.
reader that lives in Jamaica wants to know how you get in the houses that have
well not to give away too many secrets, you remember the pass key I mentioned
last interview, well the lock manufacturers, since the early 1800’s, have
always committed to the Universal Protocol of SC Enterprises that no door would
create a barrier to Santa and his gifts. Right up until the 1950’s most homes
in the northern climes would have a large chimney and I could easily get in and
out (I dislike those jokes about my large ass not fitting into the chimney by
the way) but when I visit homes in the warmer regions where chimneys don’t even
exist, I always need a way in. That’s where the universal agreement came into
effect that I could gain entry using a passkey that would open any door. It’s
never failed me yet.
I must admit
that there have been a few times when I should’ve left the door closed.For one example, the times when the kids are
at the grandparents or away visiting and the parents are left alone and give no
thought to keeping their sexual liaisons in the bedroom, know what I mean?
expect that could be embarrassing Santa. Please tell us about some of your
favorite things, like movie stars or food or clothing or whatever.
SC. Ho Ho
Ho. Gosh this’ll be fun. Well first off I have to say that there are three
ladies in Hollywood that I absolutely adore and make sure that I leave them
very special gifts when I visit their house. To be quite frank, I wish I had a
bit more time to snoop around their homes and see how they really live but that
would be impolite, wouldn’t it? They are Sandra Bullock, Kate Beckinsale and
Rachel McAdams, great actresses and very pleasing to look at. I like Ed Harris,
a terrific actor and that young Canadian, Ryan Goseling, he was especially good
in the new Blade Runner movie.
snack foods are Cheezees, Two-Bite Brownies and Hello Dolly Squares (got the
recipe for that one from one of the Chiasson girls in Moncton), I mean how else
do you think I got this fat. My favorite food is reindeer burgers (thank
goodness they can’t read) with plenty of mustard, pickles, hot peppers and
tomatoes on Missus Claus’ famous buns. A young girl named Carol left me a
butterscotch pie one year that was unforgettable. Other than that, I like
guinea pig when I visit Peru, hot tamales from Mexico, pastry from any Parisian
café, German strudel, Russian blini, Japanese sushi, anything Chinese and
Vito’s pizza when I can get it.
reading and most of the authors I enjoy have been on the Scribbler and are way
too many to name but I especially enjoy stories from a bunch of writers that
live in New Brunswick, I mean, there is so much talent, wow! Best thing to do
there is go online to the Writers Federation and check out their members.
I’m an avid
snowboarder and ride an old Burton Supermodel. I like long fast boards, none of
that short tricky stuff for me. You know that expression, “long boards truck,
short boards suck”, well I made that up.
For music I
love listening to Ella Fitzgerald, anything by Dave Brubeck and his sons (Chris
Brubeck is awesome on bass), Oscar Peterson on the piano, all the Beatle songs,
anything by Luther Chase and Supermoon Den. I know this will baffle a lot of
people but I don’t care much for that twangy country music although Shania
Twain and Garth Black deserve a listen occasionally. But JJ Cale will always be
my favorite musician and I leave a lot of his CDs for Christmas.
(photo credit - Luther Chase)
And of course, I love the kiddies, leaving them gifts and eating the cookies they leave for me. They are what Christmas is all about, family and fun and celebrating the birth of Christ.
what else to tell you about Allan but I’ve got to end this now. I’m being
fitted for another red suit because the last one I had made was in 1953 and
even though I only wear it once a year, it’s starting to fray around the edges
and I need some new threads. My tailor just arrived and I can see my Greeting
Elf removing his blindfold, so take care my friend and have a Merry Christmas.
once more Santa for this informative session. I always knew you were real.
And a special Thank You to you for visiting the Scribbler.
Please enter your name for a copy of Wall of War to be drawn January 31/2018. You will have the choice of a paperback or eBook, delivered anywhere in the world.
This is one of mine which I wrote several years ago. I am the owner of four boxes of memories and one day I was thinning out the contents and imagined someone doing it for the last time in their lives. That's how this story began.
A compilation of my short stories will be published in 2018 and the book will have the same title.
FOUR BOXES OF
(copyright held by author)
settled frumpily into his new chair. He drained his busy head of the day’s
events resting his foggy mane gently on the plush leather. He drew in a
huge breath through his nose, the aroma of the tanned hide rich and pleasing.He pulled the
handle on the chair side and a footrest responded like a storm trooper, lifting
his tired legs. On his lap, wrapped in several elastics were a cluster of
envelopes that he had kept for many years, nothing special really, the result
of a boyish hobby he started over 80 years ago. There wasn’t any room in one of
the boxes for it but he couldn’t let them go, it would be losing his own sense
of something unique, silly to anyone but him.
He shut his tired
and elderly eyes, once a deep brown, now faded of old age. His wrinkled face
was wide and square shaped by nature, cheap cigars and the rough seas that
blasted winds and water upon his being as he fished the Atlantic Ocean from the
time he was a boy alongside his father. Rough hands rested
on the arms of the chair, the fingers splayed.His husky torso was clad in his
favourite blue and white plaid shirt that stuck outside of a pair of dark blue
Dockers. He was wearing his Dora slippers his four year old granddaughter
insisted her Daddy buy for “Gampy”.
He opened his eyes
and they were about level with the two little girl explorers on his feet. Like
many times before when he laughed at them, he remembered the delight when he
wore them for the first time, tiny Gracie danced about overcome with little
girl glee, clapping her hands and making him dance in his new slippers, she had
a pair the same and he remembered the jolly fun. He laughed now with hearty
guffaws until his tummy hurt. He caught a couple of laughing tears with his
As his vision
cleared he looked around his new home. He had a large bedsitting room, his own
washroom, ample fine furniture, a few antiques from his own ancestors and a
closet full of good clothes. The walls were bare of course and bore a hellish
pink. He had told his son Eugene changing the color would be their first task
otherwise he wouldn’t live here. Before Eugene left earlier he assured his old
man that they would go shopping tomorrow.
“Don’t worry Dad,
we’ll go up to Livingston’s Hardware in the morning and find something with a
little less passion, something with some hair on its chest, to make sure people
don’t think you’re an old funny guywith
He smiled thinking
of his boy, wrinkles doubled around his eyes.It was a good thought, being safe and cared about. His brief interlude was
disrupted as he focused on the four boxes by the front door.
They were simple
Banker’s boxes, bought flat, resurrected at your office type. They stood in a
straight line in front of the closet, decked out with square brown lids. The
significant red numbers on the top of each, from 1 to 4, made them look like
toy blocks for an adult. In reality it held the most precious items, the
bullion of his life. The contents were the dearest of everything he owned. They
were his boxes of memories.
He groaned as he
pushed back the stick and brought the chair upright. He winced as he began to
rise; his left knee getting worse it seemed. His thought about his doctor who
kept offering, then insisting he get a new knee but Lloyd reminded him.
“I’ve had this
knee for 85 years young man. I don’t expect my journey to be much farther and I
think I’ll bring it along. You can have it when I’m gone.”
At this point in
his life he wasn’t too worried about becoming addicted to some drug. He was
planning on drifting through his last years; the hardest strain he wanted to
experience was the turning of the pages on his latest book, if the pills Dr.
Gallant prescribed made life a little more passive, he was all for them.
He rose from his
chair and the indented leather slowly filled out. Cautious short steps brought
him to the boxes. As he shuffled by #1 he glanced at it knowing his son would
take it tomorrow. It was full of legal stuff, last will, stocks bonds, bank
accounts, his finances. He stuck his tongue out at the boxl, grinned at
it with a bit of unkindness as he reminded himself he never had to touch
another check book or credit card for the balance of his days. He told Eugene
so long as he had a hundred dollar bill in his pocket he’d be as right as a
starling in its nest.
He stopped and
stooped over number two lifting the edge, testing its heft. He bent with both
knees as far as the pain would allow picking up the crate with as much of his
back as he could. The box probably weighed fifteen pounds but Lloyd would be
bragging to Eugene tomorrow how he lifted the fifty pounds with ease.He would swear it felt like fifty pounds.
He set the box on
the coffee table that Taffy, his daughter-in-law, had given him. She had made
it herself in her metal shop. The legs were twisted steel and
polished copper coils provided an ornate rhythm around the sides. The top was
beveled clear panels, all different sizes. Under each one were sepia toned
photos over a dark brown background. The photos were thematic and everyone was
in some stage of laughter, alone or in familial groups. It was a work of art,
As he stood before
the box he thought about Eugene when he had to tell him before they left his
old house that he would only have room for two boxes, so two couldn’t go. He
offered to store them at his house if they were important. They had been
standing by the door then, the boxes the last thing to take were at their feet.
With a pang of tenderness he remembered his son when the poor man delivered his
news. He had looked his father directly in the eye. Eugene’s were normally
bright and green, at that moment they were hurt and soft.He could tell his son was trying not to
blink, not to spill their liquid glaze. Lloyd spoke first to give his son
“What is it Son,
it can’t be that bad?”
“Oh Dad, you can
only bring two. I know how much they mean to you”
It bothered the
young man with more depth than Lloyd could muster. He reached over to his father
giving him a shy hug that embarrassed them both.
“I wish you’d come
and live with me, why do you insist on being alone?”
the warmth as he patted Eugene on the back and said with a serious voice.
“I love you Son
for your goodness but I want my privacy and I want you and your family to have
yours. There’s nothing worse in a house than a cranky old man. Besides you two
are too lovey-dovey for me, always cuddling and patting each other’s behind and
the cute names you call each other; I find it quite sickening really.”
The irony at the
end of his speech shifted the mood. Father and son soon broke into laughter and
the merriment accompanied them with the boxes. Lloyd had asked Eugene to bring
all four to his new pad, as he called it and he would cull out anything that
didn’t stir up any emotion from the past. He vowed to have it done this week.
With that last
thought he removed the cover chucking it on the couch, telling the room out
loud, “Now’s as good a time as any to toss away some of my past.”
He realized he
couldn’t stand much longer. The box was too high on the tables so he placed it
on the floor to his right and sat down. He dug out the first thing he found. He
knew it would be there, he made sure it was there on the top. It was a white
cardboard about a foot long and three inches wide. The edges were frayed like
an old friendly shirt collar, indicative of the many times it was handled.
Along the cardboard’s center a blue faded ribbon was glued forming a silky
embroidered spine. He held it in both hands, the long fingers reverent and
protective. He held it to his heart and it emitted a vision so pure and
sorrowing and sweetly joyful as could be possible. At that instant he knew with
all certitude that this was the only memento he truly cherished, he experienced
an intense awareness that the rest really didn’t matter. The memory the ribbon
provoked schlepped the old man away. He leaned back on the sofa and remembered
the day thirty years ago when Eugene came into his life.
He was fifty-five
years old. His parents had died recently, within a week of each other, old age
claiming one; old age compounded by loneliness took the other. He had been
approached by a neighbour to rent the old homestead to the man’s grandson. The
man explained that the youth was fatherless and troubled. He needed to be away
from the vices of the large city life. Lloyd was against the idea in the
beginning but when he met the lad he felt sorry for him, he was only nineteen
and his girlfriend was four months pregnant. He remembered laughing inside at
the young boy when he proudly exclaimed to Lloyd that he was going to be a
famous poet someday. They stayed for six months. With their rent two months
past due, he watched them sneak out in the middle of the night. He stood on the
deck of his darkened house and made out the silhouette of a furniture-laden half
ton pulling out of the driveway, its lights conspicuously out.
He was angry when
he remembered they had no furniture when they came. They were leaving and
stealing his rent money and his furniture also. The little buggers he thought.
He could see the clock in the kitchen, it was just past three. The tired old
farmhouse stood dark, even the outdoor lights had been extinguished. The night was dim with the moon being a faint
cuticle in the sky. Unorganized clouds sponged up the faint starlight even.
Amazingly an odd thing happened; he felt the skin tighten on his neck. He swore
he could see a faint aura over the house. It wasn’t lights of any kind but a
sense, a presence he felt.
He reacted as if his
parent’s place was on fire hurrying back to his kitchen to retrieve his
flashlight. He didn’t even bother to put
on his boots but ran across the field in his stocking feet, lamp in hand. The
field had just been mowed, stiff bristle poked through the fibres of his socks,
some cutting. He knew his feet were bleeding but sped up reaching the house
He gasped and
gulped trying to ease his breathing. He tried the front door as he drew large
breaths and it swung open with a disturbing yawn. He stepped into the hallway
and from the recesses of the darkness came the saddest, softest whimpers he had
little turds”, he said out loud thinking they had abandoned a puppy. His
booming voice had a startling effect, a weak tiny voice wailed from upstairs. He
had dizzied for a moment then as he realized they had left their baby. He
rushed upstairs cursing the selfish teenagers. The sobs grew louder, more
shrilling as he followed the sound coming from the far bedroom
The lonely pleas
suddenly stopped when he entered the chamber. Moving his light about the room he
soon found the source of the noise in the night. There was a heavy corrugated
box on the bed, the kind the grocery stores ship bananas in. He walked slowly
to the bed almost scared of what he might find. The box jiggled as he approached
with something moving about inside. He neared the red and white carton shining
his light into the box.The bright
startled the wee creature and it cried out in protest. Lloyd moved the light
from the baby but kept the child in the penumbra.
The baby quieted,
it didn’t look as if it could even see it was so small. There was a yellow and
white quilted blanket wrapped about its small frame. It pursed its tiny lips.
Its nose was red, smeared with moisture. Its eyes were the size of dimes and as
dark as his old cellar, jtwo innocent
pools. A wisp of brownish down covered the immature dome. The baby’s
heartbeat pulsed in the fontanel. Its
fists were like tiny pink walnuts that batted at the air. Around one thin wrist
was tied a blue ribbon.
neither moved but the baby knew someone was close, a mystery undefined. The
stillness was soon shattered as the tiny lungs proclaimed in the only language
it knew, “pick me up”. Lloyd set the flashlight on the bed and cradled the
small body in his arms. He cooed and chanted softly a lullaby he heard
many years before. The sobs soon ceased. The baby’s eyes stared into the nether
blinking back the sleep. It was almost as if it didn’t want to miss this moment
but weariness over came the child, the fragile lids grew lazy. Soon the baby was
sleeping, never stirring as Lloyd carried it to his house.Crossing the field late at night, a week old
baby asleep in his arms was the last of the memory before he dozed off, slumped
over on the couch.
Two hours later the
pain hit him in the chest. It was if someone struck him with a wide plank. It
burnt like a hundred fires and covered all his upper body. The room’s lights
were still on as Lloyd Minister gasped his final breaths, the cardboard and
ribbon crushed in his grip. His last thought as he lay there dying was his
son’s voice when he left that night.
“I love you Dad”.
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