Saturday, 30 December 2017

Guest Author Ryan Madej of Western Canada.

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 fourth book 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.

Night Index
(A sample from the story - copyright held by the author.)

A:  Archive

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 light blue

fluorescence of twilight, always so vast and deeply meaningful to me in some obscure

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 something

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 with no

true intention but to wander had more appeal than doing a shit load of drugs, which

he admitted he had done anyway when he was young. I had no choice but to admit

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, more out

of a necessity to prepare myself for the unknown pleasures that wait than anything

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 down

to sleep, a heavy gust of wind rattling my window. It was during these reflections

where my mind drifted over past memories of women with less charm, which she would

surprise me with a phone call just as the pain of remembrance served as a narcotic to

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 fallen asleep

yet anyway. Lighting a fresh cigarette for my waiting mouth, she continued almost

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.

D: Daggers


How should I put this? Really, there is no clear explanation to my fascination with

daggers a fascination I had forgotten over time—but I can say with a degree of

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 people behind

them whose intentions seem removed from death until they see, as Oppenheimer did,

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 mountains. When

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 head. I'm

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 bastard that

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 my tears,

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


G: Gifts


Nothing she has said as of late has pushed me in the right direction. As we've come

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


Saturday, 23 December 2017

4Q Interview with the World's Most Famous Man - Santa Claus

Is anybody 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.


Thank you 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. 

4Q: We 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?

It all 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.


4Q: We 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 be  Dasher, 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.

Anyway, once 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.


4Q: One reader that lives in Jamaica wants to know how you get in the houses that have no chimneys.

SC: Yes, 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?

4Q: Yes, I 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.

My favorite 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 cafĂ©, German strudel, Russian blini, Japanese sushi, anything Chinese and Vito’s pizza when I can get it.

I love 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.
Not sure 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.

Thank you 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.

Saturday, 16 December 2017

Four Boxes of Memories by Allan Hudson

What's your favorite story?

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.

(copyright held by author)

Lloyd Minister 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 forefinger.

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 guy  with pink walls.”

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, of love.

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 respite.

“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?”

Lloyd remembered 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 breathless.

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 ever heard.

“The uncaring 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
beam 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.

Nothing stirred, 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”.
The End
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