Sunday, 21 October 2018

Visual Artist & Photographer Sylvie Mazerolle

A Dream Come True!

Stunning photos! A happy smile. Sylvie is always a pleasure to have as a guest on the Scribbler. One of Moncton's outstanding photographers, she returns for a 4Q Interview. 

Fresh from a successful showing of her newest collection of photos at the Trinity Galleries in Saint John, New Brunswick, she shares the highlights of her exhibition.

This Sylvie's third visit to the Scribbler. In June/2017 she tells us about the beginning of her photo journey. Go here!  The second visit was with her partner Jason Hamilton - Author. Go here!                                     

Take a few minutes and sign up for her newsletter by going here.

4Q : You have a new collection that just came out this fall. Tell us more about “Mermaids Tears”.

SM: I was doing research for a project I had in mind about getting older and the aging process. I was researching stuff like the passage of time and things that age well such as fine wine & cheese when I stumbled upon this poem titled: “I Want to Age Like Sea Glass” by Bernadette Noll and instantly every line in the poem inspired an image in my minds eye. I knew I had to pursue it. I was on the hunt for locations, model and wardrobe. When I first started I was having a hard time finding models over 40 that were willing to get in front of the lens, but once I had them read the poem and explained that it was meant to empower well cultivated women, the word got out and women were getting in touch with me wanting to be a part of it
The project soon took a life of its own and became much bigger and more important than I could have ever imagined. It took me all summer to produce and I’m very proud of it.

4Q: Was this your first Gallery exhibit?
SM: Yes this was my first official gallery exhibit. Beth at Trinity Galleries in Saint John, New Brunswick fell in love with the series the minute she saw it. It’s a very powerful emotional series. We’ve all been tossed around and thrown off kilter by life crashing waves at one point or another. On opening night people would walk up to the exhibit and one would resonate with them in one way or another to the point of tears. It was such a powerful emotional night in the best way possible. I really hoping to bring this exhibit to a bigger audience.

4Q: Where do you get inspiration when you need it most?

SM: A few things helps me find ideas and inspiration. Music has to be my first. Especially when I am in post production. I have a specific play list that helps me get into a creative flow. It’s like meditation for me. I forget about everything else except the image that it right in front of me and the emotions the music bring forth. I can get lost for hours.
I also get a lot of idea’s while cleaning my house. Clutter free home is a clutter free mind. But once I start creating, it all falls to the way side. My house can be a disaster once I’m in creative mode. *LOL* 

4Q: If anyone is interested in purchasing your art, where can they find it?
SM: My current series of “Mermaids Tears” can be found at Trinity Galleries in Saint John exclusively at the moment.
For any other works you can contact me directly via my web site or Facebook messenger.

Thank you for being our guest this week Sylvie. Wishing you continued success.

Both Sylvie and I would love to hear from you. Please leave a comment below.

Sunday, 14 October 2018

The Miramichi Reader with James Fisher

Our guest this week is James Fisher of Miramichi, New Brunswick. 

Those of us that know James, know how much he loves to read. He also enjoys sharing his thoughts about the books he reads (both fiction and non-fiction) and is the owner of the splendid review website – The Miramichi Reader.

Visit his website here.

He is kind enough to participate in a 4Q Interview.

I was born in Kingston Ontario. After finishing high school there and loafing around at various jobs, I met the woman who is now my wife (of 31 years) who encouraged me to get a career. So I did. I am a Medical Radiation Technologist as well as an MRI Technologist. After living and working in Toronto for about twenty years we chose to move to the east coast to Miramichi where I work at the Miramichi Regional Hospital.

4Q: How did the Miramichi Reader begin James.

JF: It began at the lunch table at work one day, almost four years ago now. A fellow technologist and one of our radiologists were at the table and since we are all "friends" on Goodreads, it was suggested that I start a book review blog since they enjoyed reading the short reviews I would post at Goodreads. This was all the encouragement I needed since I had recently closed down my Microsoft Windows support blog I ran for many years. Windows had become more and more user-friendly over the years and I had no interest in the ins and outs of an operting system any longer. I always enjoyed reading book reviews and I thought that would be a great job: reading and writing about books! I have tried to focus on Atlantic Canadian authors and publishers, but I have strayed into Quebec (there's some great English-language translations of contemporary Quebec French novels coming out now) and Ontario.

4Q: On your website you’ve created The Very Best Book Awards. How did this come about and tell us briefly about this years winners.

JF: Initially, I created them as a tongue-in-cheek take-off on certain national book awards, which - while important to the industry - rarely, if ever acknowledge books from small press publishers or even self-published authors. There's no big-budget publicity department to get their books out into the wild, so to speak. I felt I could do my part for these authors and publishers by instituting my own little award.
This year's winners were fortunate: I actually had a little gift for them! A small Miramichi business that makes soap and candles generously supplied the award in the form of a small book with a bar of "Miramichi Sunrise" inside.
As for this year's winners, I had to narrow it down to three categories: Best Fiction, Best Non-Fiction and Best New Book (Fiction or Non-fiction). There were also "Notable Achievement" winners, one in each category.
The three main winners were: Catherine Graham for her novel (her first): Quarry, Melanie Grondin for Best First Book for her book on the life of stained glass artist Guido Nincheri, and Lorri Nielsen Glenn for her memoir Following the River (Best Non-Fiction).

4Q: Please share a childhood anecdote or memory.

JF: I suppose my best book-related memories are of my parents' instilling the love of reading in me. They would always be going to the library to get a book to read, but they only ever read in bed. Dad was for westerns, Mom for mysteries. I've always read, from Kindergarten on. In the public school I attended, they would take us to the library once a month, on a Friday, to hear the librarian read a story. The library, although just a small branch one, was a magical place.

4Q: How does The Miramichi Reader decide which books to review? Can you be contacted by authors to have their book reviewed?

JF: Sometimes I pick the books, other times the publishers will send books they want me to review. I have sought out small publishers and contacted them. They are always eager to have their books reviewed, I have found. The same with authors who contact me (via my Contact page). While I may not accept fiction books from time to time (due to a large TBR stack) I do encourage authors to at least contact me, even if I cannot get to their books in a timely manner. 

4Q: Any last thoughts you want to share?

JF: I am so thankful for the all the wonderful authors, publicists and publishers I have met over The Miramichi Reader's brief existence. They have been generous with their books, their time and their social media support. It makes it all worthwhile to hear an author or a small press publisher tell you how much they appreciate my reviews. It has also been encouraging to have some of my reviews quoted in print form, too.

As well as the website URL above, you can find James at these links;

Thank you James for being our guest this week.

The Miramichi Reader’s review of Wall of War -

Saturday, 6 October 2018

Excerpt from The Alexanders - The First Decade.

As many of you know, my work in progress involves Dominic Alexander and begins in Scotland in 1911. Due to unfortunate circumstances Dominic has had to move in with his Uncle Duff and is a stranger in his new surroundings.

The following excerpt is taken from 1912 and tells how he becomes friends with a poor Russian boy who is also friendless.

(copyright is held by the author)

Being in the cooler northern region of Great Britain, Scotland is one of the windiest countries in the world with higher than normal amounts of rainfall. Winter usually brings copious amounts of snow in the Highlands with lesser accumulation in the lower regions. The days are much shorter. This twenty-third of February, a Thursday and the last day of Dominic’s work week is clear, a cool breeze chills from the southeast as he walks along Langlands Road. Bluish shadows from a gibbous moon accompanies him home. Pulling his parka tighter about his face, he hurries his step knowing Uncle likes to eat at six o’clock and he guesses it must be a half hour later than that. He’s usually home by then now that the days are not as long but he and Tubs had to finish replacing the door in Danny Meek’s bungalow in Ibrox.
He’s tired, his shoulders are slouched. One gloved hand carries his still stiff tool belt. A well-used hammer Tubs gave him hangs from one of the side loops and bumps against his leg. The repetitive slap in the only noise except for the distant clanging of the Fairfield Shipyards which go all night. The other holds the front of his coat tight at the neck. A well-used canvas lunch bag is slung over one shoulder. He was up at 6 this morning and helping Duff in his shop. The security men that pick up the repairs come every Thursday at noon delivering the jewellery to be fixed and pick up the completed jobs. Dominic spent the morning polishing chains that Duff had repaired. There was a silver one he really liked and hoped to own one day. While thinking of how much he needs to put aside when he turns onto Drive Road that will take him by Elder Park, he encounters three boys roughly his age.
Two of them are pushing and shoving a smaller boy that is doing his best to hold his own pushing and shoving when he can. The larger of the aggressors gets in close enough to grab the smaller one by his jacket collar and shove him against the wrought iron fence that surrounds the park. His companion steps closer and hits the smaller boy in the stomach. When the injured youngster falls to the ground Dominic is close enough to hear them. They don’t know he is near. Not liking what he sees, the fallen boy much smaller, he sets his tool belt down gently and creeps closer.
We told you before Pestov, you stay in the Gorbals. You Russian scum need to stay in the tenements where you belong. We don’t want you ‘Pests” around…”
Tall boy is interrupted by a blow to his left ear that causes him to stagger and cartwheel his arms before careening into his helper knocking them both down, the bigger one on top. Dominic steps up to them, his gloved fists in the fighter’s pose his father taught him, taught all his boys. His left foot back for balance, both feet on their toes.
Try someone your own size ya bullies.”
Dominic is a scary figure, only his silhouette is visible to the downed ruffians, the partial moon shines over his left shoulder exposing his upraised defensive fists. The downed boy is surprised by the aggressive act of the stranger and sits up trying to catch his breath and watch. The two on the roadway are scrambling backwards. The bolder one shouts while rubbing his ear.
What’s it to you…and ya shouldn’t sneak up on people.”
They’re standing now and maybe street tough but they’re leery of this stranger who is not an adult. They strike their own poses, the shorter one a step behind and bobbing his head back and forth from Dominic and his companion not sure what to do.
Ya shouldn’t be picking on people smaller than you and you’re obviously not brave enough to do it on your own, takes two of yas.”
Dominic starts to bob lightly like a trained boxer.
Step up now you cowards and let’s finish this…or bugger off!”
Tall boy and Uncertain give each other a glance before deciding that buggering off is probably the best option, turn and scamper away behind one of the apartment buildings on the other side of the street. Dominic relaxes and turns to face a bedraggled figure sitting with legs flat, holding his stomach and taking short breaths. The head is uncapped and hanging down. Even in the low light, Dominic can see the jacket is light and tattered. Gathering his tool belt he wonders at the boy’s silence.
Ya could at least say thank you.”
The voice is deep for someone so young and heavily accented from a foreign language.
I didn’t need any help.”
That’s not what I saw.”
No response. He reaches down with his free hand.
C’mon, I’ll give you a hand up.”
Hesitant at first, the younger fellow offers an uncovered hand, small and delicate like a girl’s. Dominic is startled by the uncovered limb. Grasping the hand, Dominic helps him to stand.
Don’t you have any mitts?”
Tucking his hands in his jacket side pockets belies the next statement.
No, I don’t, but I don’t need any.”
Stepping back Dominic tries to see his face but the low light only casts shadows. He can see that it is wide, lots of stray hair. The chin is up. He stands at least five or six inches taller.
So, what was that all about? And do you really live in Gorbals?”
They just think that all Russians are like the Ivanov gang and all we want to do is steal everything. And yes I do live in the Gorbals and I do live in a tenement before you ask.”
Dominic heard about the squalid buildings that housed immigrants in crowded quarters, often four to five in one or two rooms, lured by work in the yards. Always a shortage of homes drove the rents upward. Sanitation is a problem. Many do not eat properly. He didn’t believe it at first. He knew his family was poor but they always had a roof that didn’t leak, clean beds and food.
What are you doing here? And at night?”
I…I just need to get away from all that noise and dirty smells and…”
Dominic senses discouragement in the voice, a lower tone. The pitch changes, bolder.
It’s not your business. I should be going, my brothers will be home later and I need to be there.”
Without any further comment, he sets off towards the other side of the park. Dominic can see the figure shaking from the cold and stares at his gloves. He has an older pair at home, not as new but just as warm. Removing his gloves, he chases after the boy.
Here, take these.”
Surprised by the command, the boy stops and faces Dominic, seeing the gloves in the outstretched hand. He is affected by the offer.
You’d give me your gloves?”
Well it’s two or three miles to Gorbals and I have another pair.”
He can’t say no. He can hardly grasp the gloves properly from chilled fingers. He stares at Dominic while twisting them on.
Why are you doing this? You don’t know me.”
Not so long ago I didn’t always have mitts either and I know what it is like. Now I’m working and can buy my own.”
There’s a moment of silence. Dominic puts his own hands in his coat pocket.
What’s your name?”
It comes out in Russian, eeVAHN. Not I-van like Scots call him.
Ivan Pestov and what’s yours?”
Dominic Alexander, but most people call me Dom. You can if you like.”
Why would I like, I’ll probably never see you again. I doubt you hang around the Gorbals and I’m not welcome here.”
Sure ya are, ya can come home and have a bite with me and Uncle if ya like?”
Dominic is worried about his spontaneous suggestion not sure how Duff will react to an uninvited guest but he needn’t be. Surprised by the stranger’s generosity, Ivan waves him off and starts towards the Gorbals.
Thanks for the gloves and for getting those jerks off my back.”
Watching until the retreating figure is in darkness, Dominic hitches his lunch bag straighter on his shoulder and heads home wondering what the surprise is that Duff said would be there.

Thanks you for visiting today. I'm excited that my novel is nearing completion, I've been working on it since January, 2016 and I expect to be finished by the end of this year. Then comes the revisions, beta reading, editing, cover design and finally - a book. More info to follow as the journey of The Alexanders - The First Decade comes to and end - and a beginning!

Watch the coming weeks for new guests on the Scribbler.

James Fisher - The Miramichi Reader.

Andy Gill - artist.

Wednesday, 3 October 2018

Two Boys and Some Smoke - Part Two.

Hey there!

Welcome back for Part two of my short story.

We know the boys are heading to the river with some tobacco. Should be fun to see what happens!

If you missed part one click here.

(copyright is held by the author)

Two Boys and Some Smoke
Part Two.
Leaving his chum no choice, he scrambles up the side wall and starts towards the forest. Reluctantly Chops stows the wagon behind the dense growth of small trees to follow his friend. The boys enter the woods at a tall and aged spruce that was planted sixty years ago marking the division of property between the Warren brothers. Every fifty feet there is another one the same age for the three hundred feet it takes to get to the river. A narrow path weaves through the giant trees, made by the many feet. Boys, a few girls, sweethearts, men and women that came to fish, they all follow the same route. John Jr is ahead by about four strides in a boyish gait, not yet a full run. Beans’ shorter legs make keeping up a tough job.
“Hey hang on, don’t run so fast.”
“No you run faster Phil.”
“Why do I have to keep telling you, don’t call me Phil”
John Jr comes to a boyish halt halfway to the water, sliding his rubbery soles along the dark earth. He faces his friend with arms akimbo. His eyes are even darker in the shade of the woods and Beans can see he’s serious as he catches up. He’s breathing heavy from the exertion and questions his friend’s stony stare.
“Tell me what’s so bad about Phil?”
Beans reddens a little from the cruel jibes he remembers his schoolmates making of his name when he started school. He hated his name, not that any of the other three he had were any better. Many times in his young life he was disappointed to have been called him Chadwell Horatio Orville Phileas Sangster. They called him Philly when he was very little. Then Phil; until the meanies at school started using it as a verb. While randomly doodling his initials one evening he noted they spelled CHOPS. He said it out loud a few times, liking the hardness of the P with the complimentary S. That was it; he would only answer to Chops. Everybody thought it was neat.
His voice is bashful, quiet, just above a whisper. “Well you remember the jokes!”
John Jr makes a dismissive waving motion in the air with one hand while he pushes his dark hair off his forehead with the other.
“So what? That was a long time ago. Nobody cares any more. And besides we’re bigger now, we’re tougher, right? And I think Chadwell is a neat-o name, just Chad is even better. Sounds like a movie star’s name.”

Chops eyes widen at ‘movie star’. A huge grin scrunches up his freckles, he’s totally attentive as John Jr continues.
“Use that, no more Phil. Problem solved. I mean who wants to be named after a piece of meat all their life. It’s worse than going to the john.”
John Jr starts to chuckle at his jibe. Chops becomes serious as he thinks of the pork chops his family ate last night. His oldest sister had cooked them and they were burnt. Even though they were a bit dry they tasted not too bad. The name doesn’t hold the same appeal anymore as he considers this. He stares at John Jr with pursed lips and scrunched brow before finally nodding his head.
“Okay, I’ll give it a go if you promise to give anybody a knock if they tease me.”
“Even Mary Jane Baker?”
Chad is left speechless at the reversal of his joke, not quick enough to think of a good retort. John Jr doesn’t wait for an answer but turns to begin running to the river, his laughter following him there. Chad is about to get mad when a vision of the pretty young girl floats through his pre-teen head. He usually thinks of her laughing when he does but lately he has been focusing on the budding of her slim chest. He blushes again at his own innocence and shakes the idea away. Tearing off at a full trot he forgets Mary Jane as he sees John Jr. zig to the left at the last tree before the river edge.
The water is high with the winter run off, only a foot below the bank. It’s not wide, maybe fifteen feet. It rushes towards a larger river five miles away. Bubbles froth around debris that lies just below the surface. Dead branches poke their dark fingers through the twirling ribbon of racing water. Chad can hear it over a hundred feet away. The sound reminds him of the wind blowing in the leaves. As he gets closer the symphonic gurgling of the wavelets gets louder. He stops and scouts under the branches of the last old spruce and he can see John Jr seated on a dead log that fronts the water about ten feet away. Scuff marks are at the foot of the log where people have sat and fished for many years.  John Jr’s big brother, Dave, always said he wished the gnarly old log could talk. The boy’s never understood what he meant and he never explained his comment but they would catch on soon enough.
John Jr is propped on the wooden seat, his feet about six inches off the ground and he’s a tall boy. Chad has to scrabble up the huge bole using the stubs of broken limbs for footholds. His toes dangle another three inches higher.  Sitting closely he watches John Jr unfold the hankie. A forbidden fascination pricks his senses and he feels the goose bumps on his neck but he can’t stop smiling. He’s thinking how manly his neighbour Mark looks when he has a smoke. He’s in college and the girls all follow him around.
“We’ll be just like grownups.”
John Jr is straightening out the four edges upon his lap, the brown shreds flattening out on the surface. He looks at Chad.
“Ya think?”
“Well, maybe not to grownups, I ain’t going to tell any but maybe to the girls.”
John Jr can’t believe what he just heard. He tosses his hair back with an upward nod.
‘So it’s okay now to talk about the girls”
“I don’t wanna talk about them just maybe let them know somehow that we’re smokers.”
John Jr likes that.
“Yeah we’ll tell Ruthie, they’re friends.”
Concentrating on the task at hand John Jr pulls out a crinkled collection of small white papers. He tugged several from his brother’s pack and jammed them in his pocket.  While he is trying to unfold the tissues and loosen one free Chad says, “You know how to roll a cigarette?”
“No but I saw Dave do it, it doesn’t look so hard. Watch.”
John Jr finally gets one paper free from the group and passes the extras to his pal. He holds the glued edge facing him and sets in on the hankie edge. Pinching the weed between his fingers, he piles it on so that you can only see the white corners under the mound. They both stare at it for a minute, there doesn’t look anything round about it. Chad finally says, “Now what?”
John Jr nudges his friend who is sitting too close to his right arm. “Gimme some room and hang on a sec, I’m trying to remember what comes next, how do you pick this mess up?” Chad shrugs and says nothing. John Jr remembers Dave making a U with the long flat edges. Grasping the edges and bringing them together proves to work quite well. It’s rolling one under the other that requires a little skill. John Jr fumbles with the paper trying to roll it back and forth like he saw his brother do until he eventually tears it and spills all the tobacco on his dungarees. Chad has been quiet watching the procedure. Now young Sangster may be a slow learner with his numbers and the alphabet but he has an acute understanding of what John Jr is trying to do. “Let me try.”
On the hankie spread upon his pal’s lap, he flattens out another paper, the strip of yellowish glue on the top. Two generous pinches of curly cut leaf cover the paper once more.  Fumbling with the edges, the excess tobacco spilling out, he gets the paper into a respectable U shape and starts to roll it in his stubby fingers. Most of the stringy mass is in the center and when he tucks the edges in, the handmade cigarette is fat in the middle and pointy on the edges. John Jr is all smiles at his friend’s skill.
“Wow, that’s pretty good Chops…Chad, I mean. You gotta lick the yellow edge to make it stick together. Unroll it a little bit.”
Chad just nods, fully concentrating on the task. Slowly unfurling the wrinkled paper he exposes the glued edge. He frowns before he sticks his tongue out. Saliva moistens the glue. A quick roll back and he proudly passes his buddy the finished product. Pleased with himself, his feet are rocking back and forth like a dog wagging his tail, the heels knocking on the dead log. He beams at John Jr who has the cigarette clamped between his lips as he fumbles in his shirt pocket for a match. The cigarette dangles and bobs up and down as John Jr mumbles.
“Do I look more grown up?”
“Oh yeah, you look like you should be in Grade 9 or 10.”
Chad only nods as he watches John Jr takes a wooden match out of his pocket. The red head is perfectly round and fills with fire as he runs it over the toothed zipper of his dungarees.  As the flame flares John Jr sticks the end of the cigarette in while he takes a huge puff. While doing so he remembers the deep breaths that Dave would take when he smoked.  Removing the burning torch from his lips he inhales a mouthful of smoke that is half paper and half tobacco. John Jr’s lungs are as virgin as the rushing water before them and they don’t react pleasantly to the harsh and foreign substance. John Jr spews smoke and spit as he begins to deeply cough. The cigarette flies from his hand, the match flips into the air. Both land in dried leaves and twigs that make the finest tinder. John Jr losses his balance and with flailing arms rolls backward from the tree they are on, still coughing. Hanky, tobacco and crinkled papers are flung in the air. Chad is struck by one of the flailing arms and tumbles over the log as well, landing on his side. John Jr is beside him curled in a fetal position hacking and spitting.
Chad sits up to help his friend, dried leaves stuck to his shirt and in his hair. Tugging at John Jr, they come to rest with their backs against the log. A few minutes later John Jr finally stops coughing and looks at his friend. Snot runs from his nose, tears have trailed down his cheeks, his eyes look confused, his throat stings and he doesn’t want to cry in front of his friend. Chad doesn’t say anything, instead hands John Jr. the dusty rag from his back pocket. John Jr gratefully takes the cloth and starts to wipe his nose when Chad comments.
“I don’t think I want to start smoking, not if I have to do that too.”
They can’t help it, they’re boys and start to chuckle and soon they’re rolling on the ground again laughing when suddenly John Jr sits up, the laughter dies. “I smell smoke.”
The wooded area they are in is mostly alder bushes along the river edge and some slim open grassy strips like they are on. The grass is long, stringy and dry as birch bark.  The match has started a small fire, the cigarette ten feet away is working on another one. The smoke swirls straight up turning grey as it cools, a slight breeze carries it over the fallen log. By the time the boys realize something is burning, the fire is spreading and already three feet long.
The boys stand quickly looking towards the water. The smoke shifts shape at eye level and dances in the air. The two are mesmerized by fear as they stare down at the flames. It looks larger than what it is as the flames lick the tall stalks of dead grass. The flame seems to leap off the ends of the burnt threads as they jump from one clump of grass to another.  John Jr is the first to react from the realization that they are in a lot of trouble. Scrambling over the log he yells out.
“C’mon Chops, we gotta put it out.”
Chad is broken from his initial fear to follow his buddy. They hustle over to start stamping their feet on the flames. The grass strip is twenty feet long and two to three feet wide before it tangles into the alders where more fuel lies in the shape of dried yellow and orange leaves. The puffs of sparks and bits of flame disturbed by their sneakers only spreads the fire. The smoke blooms thicker and engulfs the boys. They have to back away, terrified of the burning grasses. The two are coughing when from behind them comes a barreling voice filled with anger.
“What are you hooligans up to here?”
Old man Hamm was strolling to the river to fish. Although the water is high, he is usually one of the first to cast his worms into the chilly water. He was coming upon the last tall spruce when he smelt the smoke soon to see it as stray wisps floated by the opening in the trees. Leaving his fishing rod on the path he rushed forward to find the two boys near the grass fire coughing. They jumped at his deep voice turning to face him with both relief and guilt etched into their youthful faces. John Jr blurts out an apology.
“We didn’t meant to start a fire Mr. Hamm, it’s…it’s my fault. Please help us.”
“Get out of the way then boys, let me at it.”

Purvis Hamm has already eyed where the fire is going. The end away from him will stop at the worn path where the trail continues down river. This end could be trouble so he stamps his boots on the grass near them. His Kodiaks are a size twelve and crush the fire beneath their large soles. He soon has the flames under control and watches the other end die out. The river bank for about twelve feet is blackened ash, some of the grass or thicker stems still smouldering.  Hamm turns towards the boys standing off behind him, his chunky arms upon his hips. The two that stand before him, one of the Sangsters and the Williams kid are about the saddest sight he’s seen for a while. He’s ready to give them a blast when he stares at them with a scowl and puffed cheeks.  But he can see that they’re cowed. Their knees are both shaking. He remembers when he was about their age and started a fire in the school yard one spring. He softens inside but doesn’t let on.
“What happened? And no fibbing.”
John Jr has spied the hankie on the ground close to where he is standing. He bends to pick it up. Tiny shards of tobacco still cling to the rough fibers.
“We were smoking.”
This causes Hamm to grin, such pups being so adventurous.
“Well, did you like it? Was it worth burning the forest over?”
The boys shake their head vigorously with nothing to say, they’re studying the ground at their feet. Both red in the face with shame. Chad thinks of his father’s thin branch in the wood shed and asks in a whispers.
“Are you gonna tell our folks?”
“I’m not sure yet.”
Hamm studies them for a moment, wanting them to know they did wrong. The heads are down. He wants to laugh at what he knows they must be feeling, he was a boy too once. He thinks the fire scared them enough.
“You boys should wait until you’re older before you start smoking. You could have caused a lot of damage today and I expect you both know that.” He rubs his jowls as the chins of both boys fall deeper on their chests. “I’ll tell you what I’m going to do. The heap of drying wood behind my house needs to be piled by the shed. Make sure it gets done before the end of next month and I’ll keep mum on what you two were up to.”
Both young heads pop up in unbelief. They can’t contain their relief. Chad is jumping from one foot to the other and John Jr is shaking his head up and down. They both speak out at once. “Thank you Mr. Hamm.”
“Okay get out of here you two and no more fires.”
The boys take off running. They run all the way to the gravel pit, Chad not far behind this time. They’re panting and puffing when they reach the wagon.  Both realizing how close they came to burning down the forest, they are deep in thought as they head home. Chad pulls the wagon as a matter of habit. The wheels squeak in the silence, the dust balls puff at their feet, the flames grow larger in their thinking of what might have happened if old man Hamm hadn’t of come along.
Chad Sangster started smoking when he was eighteen, the day after he joined the army. John Williams Jr never had a cigarette again for the rest of his life.
The End.
Thank you for visiting the Scribbler. I hope you enjoyed this story. It will be published in an upcoming collection of short stories called Boxes of Memories due for publication in late 2018. Watch for it here.
Please leave a comment below.