It is a whirlwind in here

Cops In The Hall / Blood On The Door



I was watching the News on television. It was about 10:15 in the evening. It had been a tiring day and I was not too far from bed. A knock came to my door. An insistent knock.

I’m in an access-controlled building and assume a knock on the door is from someone living here. So I opened the door without hesitation. It was the fellow who lives in the apartment next. He was pointing at my door and he asked if I was all right. He was obviously agitated.

I looked at my door. There was a smear of blood on it. He then pointed at the floor. Drops of blood trickled to my door. Then he pointed to the outside entrance, on the other side of the locked door. There were gouts of blood on the carpet and smears of blood on the glass.

“You OK?”

I assured him none of the blood was mine. We looked along to the other end of the corridor. People in their night clothes were milling around. We went to join them.

An couple were standing in front of the open door to their apartment. I could hear shouting and thumping and what sounded like someone kicking the wall. It was not happening in their apartment, but from the one above them. They said they had heard this type of thing on any number of nights. Then a yell turned into a scream.

So, the police were called.

The commotion upstairs, with few lulls, continued on for the five minutes it took the police to arrive. One officer joined us, heard the noise and yelling, and decided to await another police car. This did not take long, and shortly they both went up. The noise subsided. I returned to my News.

A few minutes later there were more emergency lights outside on the street. An ambulance. Assuming haste was important, I went and opened the front door for them. They asked where the apartment was. I told them. As they passed the elevator they asked if it worked. I said that it did, but it was really quicker to take the stairs. One of the EMS responders said that they understood, but they needed to know if they could use the elevator if they had to take someone out on a stretcher. I assured them it worked.

Over the next half hour four additional police officers arrived. From a number of conversations, I learned there had been four people in the noisy apartment. Somehow one of them had sustained a bad hand or arm cut. That person was taken in the ambulance but I did not see this. A young man in T shirt and jeans was taken past my door in handcuffs. He complained that his boots were not tied. An officer obliged him by bending over to tie his laces.

I was interviewed by a burly police sergeant. I knew nothing of the occupants of the apartment, and did not known they had been causing noise for the previous weeks. However, I did realize I had heard a commotion in the Entrance before the News. There had been muffled voices, and the sound of the wall being thumped. Unusual but nothing to cause alarm. It appears that the wounded person had either been injured in the entrance way, or his friends had been trying to get him to go to a hospital but he refused. That is where the blood came from.

I was told two days later that the tenants of the apartment where the altercation occurred were evicted.

None of this made the News.


The Complete Walk / Shakespeare’s Globe

Source: The Complete Walk / Shakespeare’s Globe

Finalist In International ‘Flash Fiction’ Contest


I have been informed that I was a finalist in the IV Edition of the Flash Fiction Competition César Egido Serrano, Museum of Words in Toledo, Spain.

The contest was open in four languages, Spanish, Arabic, Hebrew and English. There was one runner up winner for three languages of a $2,000 prize, and a grand prize winner of $20,000. This year the grand prize winner was in English.

An international jury of twenty-four ambassadors selected 250 stories from among the 35,609 entries from 149 countries. These were then judged by a Jury, composed of 20 creative writing professors.

My story was among the 250 finalists.



(top image)



The Crow Whisperer And A Murder of Crows


I was walking along the harbour on this cool and grey day. As I started along the boardwalk that juts into the water, I saw an unexpected number of crows hopping on the wooden railing. Crows are not common along the busy part of the port, particularly in this number of about a dozen. Odder still was the fact they kept in the proximity of a short man walking slowly along.

The crows kept moving beside the man. They were even jumping over each other, keeping pace. I thought he was some sort of bird whisperer, for they came within a meter of him, showing just the barest caution. I wondered at it.


I got close enough to see what the man was doing. He was dropping peanuts along the top of the railing.I was unaware that crow like peanuts. And he was being surreptitious about his actions, either for the benefit of the crows or because he did not want people to see his actions. He dropped peanut after peanut on top of the railing as he kept walking. The crows fluttered and followed, picking a peanut apiece.

This kept on for five minutes as the man led the crows along the whole boardwalk. Each crow was meticulous with each peanut, downing it before hopping and fluttering forward.

The man came to the end of the railed part of the boardwalk and continued on his way. The crows kept following him, flying to the top of buildings, and even flag poles, as they kept an eye on him until he faded into the distance.




Christmas Is A Pagan Feast Upon Which Jesus Smiles

2014-DE-5835-limmat-V.'14 014                                                                                    ABL photo                                                                                                     

The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth,
and the smoke it encircled his head like a wreath.


Christmas is a fake that has taken root like the holly, and it survives tenaciously. It has become a goodies grab fest, and helps keep our commercial society stable. Perhaps reason enough to exist.

The wily Christians conquered the outnumbered Celts, and supplanted their winter festival with the birth of their God. The wily pagans live on in the numerous traditions the Christians stole, so perhaps it is a fair trade. And no doubt those wily pagans chuckle over their cups o’mead, noting that this celebration of reverence has become a surfeit of greed.

I have been no fan of Christmas for decades, but its mixed legacy encourages me not to abandon it. My Christian background enhances my enjoyment of the music and traditions. Most commercial intrusions can be muted or turned off. I do have some personal traditions I follow religiously.

I do not even rail against Santa Claus. I heard his sleigh bells one Christmas Eve, when I was four. I saw his sleigh runner tracks in the snow a couple of years later.

I have even been mistaken for Santa a couple of times. Once, in the line-up in a bank near Christmas, a two-year old pointed at me. Unfortunately, my presence terrified him, and he started to scream and cry. I was wise enough not to go Ho Ho Ho. Another time – but this happened in early fall – a family approached me as I walked in a park. A boy, who looked to be six or seven, stopped in his tracks, then ran back to his parents. “Santa Claus!”  He pointed. Happily he did not cry. They walked past me in silence.

Also, for decades, I lived close to a residence where one of the very first recitations of ‘Twas The Night Before Christmas happened. The author of that stirring piece, Clement Moore, who wrote it in 1822, sent a copy to his godfather, the Rev Johnathan O’Dell, of Fredericton New Brunswick. However, the poem was not published until 1837.

But, this year, I heed the whims of Christmas Present, who snicked me up the side of the head in a grocery store on the weekend. I went looking for milk, as the in-store sound system blared “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Clause”. When I took out my container of 2% partially skimmed milk, and looked at the best by date, it said December 24. Christmas Eve. Still magical after all these years.

I hummed along about Mommy and Santa and then purchased a personal Christmas treat, which I would normally get a week before the day. Italian Panettone Classico, a fruit cake chock-a-block full of raisins, candied orange peel, eggs and sourdough and (they tell me) natural flavour. I have already had a generous slice.

Why wait for Christmas?



Writing By The Numbers

gold-plated for me
I have spent the better part of the last four years writing and editing novels. And the better part of this past year just in the editing. One is historical and the other is a thriller. Both really demand that I keep within the rules of the world I have created/entered. Imagination is certainly needed, but I think of it as a prosaic creativity.

I had been planning, this week, to return to a more creative type of writing. More amorphous and not as controlled. More of whimsy if not exactly whimsical.

I already had a short story partially done. I was greatly surprised I had started it a year ago). I wished to use a new name for the character, and have the setting more vague and open. I was going to start it on Thursday, but was reminded that Thursdays have been “my day off” the past year.  I am superstitious enough to keep to a working formula. So, I left it until Friday, even though it was Friday 13th.

Not having looked at it for nearly a year, I was gobsmacked to find the first line is: Hermione Kafka embraces the number 13.”

Her name is now Alison Alexandra.
Her saga continues.



Remembrance Day / Armistice Day / Veterans Day

I went to Remembrance Day ceremonies today in Halifax, NS. At the main cenotaph, in The Grand Parade downtown. It is a huge place, nearly a half a city block long and wide. A towering flag-mast is near one end, as befits a sea-faring city.

The city bus, which would normally be nearly empty during a mid-morning holiday run, was nearly full. And part way along, a grouping of twenty uniformed military personnel got on. All Navy. Spit-and-polish. I noted their shoes. I approved.

I arrived nearly an hour before 11:00 o’clock, but there were already hundreds present. The Grand Parade was awash with people, so much so that they were asked to keep on the grass, so the parade itself could manoeuver when it arrived. There was a tent where actual World War Two veterans sat. It was chill and cloudy, but no rain nor snow arrived.

Pipes and drums and a military band made themselves known in the distance. A flag carrying, colour-party of veterans marched in,  followed by ranks of modern military and red-uniformed RCMP. Followed by veterans and cadets and children and organizations. In, and around, and back they marched, to finally face the cenotaph itself. Crisp orders. Boots solid on the stones. Music. Hundreds of spectators.

The ceremony follows a set routine, of course. Much is squeezed into the eleven minutes around the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month. A too-brief portion of God Save The Queen. Oh Canada. The Last Post. Booming artillery from high up Citadel Hill. A military helicopter clattering over us. The minute of silence. The chaplains with their words. And God’s.

There were two new (new to me, at any rate) events, and one occurrence that was impressive indeed.

Three flags – one of Canada and two smaller military – were lowered to half-staff during the ceremony. It was quite a distance to descend, and their wires screeched.

Six white doves were released. I doubt they were so-trained, but they flew into the distance and then came right back over the crowd before leaving.

And, the last note of the trumpet ended at the exact second the steeple bells began to chime its eleven times.

There is really no time to cheer during this sombre ceremony, but sometimes it is tempting so to do.


Franz Kafka And His Kafkaesque Life

Franz Kafka

Franz Kafka was born in 1883, so he would probably be dead had he lived.

I wonder what Kafka would think about the worldwide communication and information of today. He was a rigid fixture of the staid (he hated using the telephone). He also was a keen observer of the world around him (he wrote the first newspaper report about aeroplanes, and he invented the safety helmet). It was more this deep divide in his personality which caused him his problems, about which he so famously wrote.

He did not fit into his personal world, yet he fit into the real world perfectly. He was adored by his friends and by many ladies. He was respected at his work and rose to a position of power. His stories were published to acclaim in his lifetime.

Kafka lived a Kafkaesque life. He died a Kafkaesque death (he caught tuberculosis because he drank “pure” unpasteurised cow’s milk). He was rigid in his personal beliefs (until proved wrong), yet he was a beacon of compassion to others.

Kafka was always on a tightrope. He looked at things with such accuracy that his comments can seem bizarre. Supposedly his last words were:  “Kill me, or you are a murderer.” They were to  his doctor, as Kafka beseeches for an overdose of morphine.

I have written much about Kafka. This is a diary entry I had him write in my novel “Kafka In The Castle”:

03 July 1917

The anniversary of my birth. In honour of the day, I do not make it my last.


A Christian On The Bus With Nudes

Sometimes, when you read a novel, you come across a described incident you know just has to be true, because even the most inventive author could not make it up.

I will now describe an encounter I had on a five hour bus trip one weekend. It was a fairly full bus to begin with, and I assumed my tenure of being able to sit by myself would not last the whole time. In this I proved correct.

At a ten minutes stop, which allowed me to get off and stretch my legs, I returned to find a fellow in the seat beside me. Early twenties, I would guess, a tall, thin, white male with a head of blond dreadlocks. He was also dressed totally in white, and expressed surprise my seat was taken (though I had left my knapsack upon it).

Three minutes after the bus leaves, even before we are out of town and on the highway, he asks:

“Are you a Christian?”

This – generally – is not a positive ice-breaker.

I replied ‘more-or-less’, which set him aback. Asking me what I meant, I said that many people classing themselves as Christians do not follow the teachings of Christ as I understand them, so one man’s Christian can be another man’s Antichrist. He – surprisingly – agreed.

I confess to being rather monosyllabic in my responses to his religious-oriented questions, which he spread out over the next hour. He might have had an evangelical intent, but he was not insistent. He did, during his disjointed discourse, relate that he was an ‘art student’. He had some of his drawings in his backpack – might I want to see them? I demurred and he expressed no displeasure.

He did ask some other routine questions among his religious comments. Finding I was a writer he (of course) relayed a dream which would “…make a great story or book.” He planned to write it some day. He asked after my books. I expected some unwanted enthusiasm when I mentioned The Elephant Talks To God. However, after ascertaining they were ‘short stories’ and that the title was ‘To God’ and not ‘With God’ (which I now ponder might have been more accurate) he did not pursue the point, other than to find out if he could purchase the book. I assured him that he could, over the internet and on Kindle. He did not know what Kindle was.

While sitting beside me he had discussions (I interpreted) with God of his own. He did engage in heated (though muted) conversations with no one visibly present. Indeed, upon occasion, he seemed surprised at some of the comments he ‘heard’.

It was in the midst of this type of behaviour, and related to nothing I said, that he turned to me to relate this brief tale. A tale no author can make up.

He described how once he was staying with his girlfriend in Montreal. An apartment he bet he could still find if given the time. One afternoon, God instructed him to draw a picture of Christ upon a wall. The only pigment he had was his girlfriend’s nail polish. And, upon the wall (guided, you must accept, by God’s hand) he drew The Christ with the head of Alvin-the-Chipmunk. And wearing an Alvin-the-Chipmunk’s red tunic , which was often (he said) the colour of the clothes that medieval painters gave Christ.

About ten minutes before we came into the stop where we would part company, he started to engage two ladies across the aisle in conversation. He used much the same patter (though no Christian talk) that he had used with me. It turned out they were interested in seeing his drawings. He began to unroll a tight wad of papers (about the length of a roll of paper towels), ready to reach them across the aisle. I glanced. They were of nude women. Not poorly done, either.


Romance To Be Found On The Night Train



The night train goes between Halifax and Montreal, and Montreal and Halifax. You can’t get there from here in daylight . . . by train. The train chug chug chugs out of Halifax early afternoon, and out of Montreal early evening. The two pass somewhere in Quebec. Arrival in Montreal is early morning (breakfast time) and in Halifax early evening (supper time).

Although I’ve had some association with trains for decades (the father of a next-door childhood friend was even the conductor on a train) I came to my pleasure and interest in trains from my first trip to Europe. Both in Great Britain and the continent I had great times on the trains (much due to the scenery I had never seen). It was really after that first trip that I travelled with any seriousness by train in Canada. And, as I said, any travel from east to west must include the night train to Montreal.

I have been blessed in that I have never had to ‘sit up’ on this trip (though, these days, even that is not too bad). I’ve had berths (upper and lower) and compartments (these days – again – even with their own shower). And I love the dome cars, sitting for hours even after dark. It is a grand sensation travelling though the darkened forests, with often no more than moon light and stars. And the red and green signal lights of the track itself.

Back ‘in the day’ I even almost had a Night train romance. This was in the upper berths, where nothing more than a curtain flap and a zipper kept the sleepers private. One usually undressed while supine upon the mattress, sloughing off one’s outer clothes. On one particular journey to Montreal, in the dark of that Quebec landscape, across the narrow aisle was a beautiful teen-aged gal, not many years younger than myself. And she indicated ‘interest’, with smiles and giggles and some gentle teasing of undress. However, she travelled with her (I presume) parents, safely ensconced in the lower berths. And Daddy looked as if he a) would brook no nonsense and – more to the point – b) could take care of three of me.  The sweet lass keep appearing from behind her curtain with smiles and gestures, but finally realized that an athletic leap from my side to hers was neither safe nor wise. We arrived in Montreal as pure as we set out.



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