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Going Up And Down In Montréal

 

fountain-titled-female

(Place Ville Marie)

At one time I shared a whole house with four other people. Two were in the process of becoming lawyers. I noted that most of their stories did not contain much whimsy. The following is a story one of the fellows told us. I, of course, make up the dialogue but, though fiction, it is based on his facts.

*********************

“I don’t mean to stare – I apologise. I’m not in the habit of doing this, but you remind me of someone. That has to sound like a line – the look on your face. But I’m not after ….

“Have you ever been in the train station at Place Ville Marie in Montréal? The escalators that come up by the Queen Elizabeth Hotel.  I had a lot of travel to get to work when I lived in Montréal, and made train and bus connection.

“No, thanks. I don’t want another.

“One morning – a Thursday – as I was going up the escalator, I saw a girl coming down from the street. She had short red hair – that’s the main reason I’ve been staring – and a green skirt with a white blouse. Coming down that escalator, with that wide space between us. She was looking at me the way I was looking at her – interest and excitement and whatever potential that leads to. We stared into each others eyes as we came level, and craned to look back as we passed.

“I guess I’ll have another of the same, after all.

“That was stupid enough. I should have jumped that barrier, or at least gone down after her. But I had a job, and was young, and things like that just don’t happen.

“Next morning, even though I was looking for her, and hoping so much, I couldn’t have been more shocked by a ghost when I saw that red hair. She had that same look – of shock.

“God, to be so unsure of what to do, and stupid to the ways of the world, and even to have that stabbing thought that it can happen again tomorrow. We stared and stared, you could almost feel electricity between us. At the top I waited as long as I dared, hoping she would come up. I had to get my bus, and just jumped it as it was pulling away.

“That was a Friday. I sweated through the weekend, full of grand plans about telling her to wait, or to come up to me, or yelling my phone number. She wasn’t there, of course, on Monday or any other day. I looked the rest of the summer, then it was back to university.

“I mean, to be given one chance like that and waste it. But two. I’ve never forgotten, even now with a wife and kids, I wonder what might have been. It can make my hands shake, seeing someone like you, and with too much drink in me.”

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Summer Heat And Lost Love In Montréal

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A story told to me which I have (it must be admitted) embellished.

“I don’t mean to stare – I apologize. I’m not in the habit of doing this, but you remind me of someone. That has to sound like a line – the look on your face. But I’m not after ….

 

“Have you ever been in the train station at Place Ville Marie in Montreal? The escalators that come up by the Queen Elizabeth Hotel.  I had a lot of travel to get to work when I lived in Montreal, and made train and bus connection.

 

“No, thanks. I don’t want another.

 

“One morning – a Thursday – as I was going up the escalator, I saw a girl coming down from the street. She had short red hair – that’s the main reason I’ve been staring – and a green skirt with a white blouse. Coming down that escalator, with that wide space between us. She was looking at me the way I was looking at her – interest and excitement and whatever potential that leads to. We stared into each others eyes as we came level, and craned to look back as we passed.

 

“I guess I’ll have another of the same, after all.

 

“That was stupid enough. I should have jumped that barrier, or at least gone down after her. But I had a job, and was young, and things like that just don’t happen.

 

“Next morning, even though I was looking for her, and hoping so much, I couldn’t have been more shocked by a ghost when I saw that red hair. She had that same look – of shock.

 

“God, to be so unsure of what to do, and stupid to the ways of the world, and even to have that stabbing thought that it can happen again tomorrow. We stared and stared, you could almost feel electricity between us. At the top I waited as long as I dared, hoping she would come up. I had to get my bus. I just jumped it as it was pulling away.

 

“That was a Friday. I sweated through the weekend, full of grand plans about telling her to wait, or to come up to me, or yelling my phone number. She wasn’t there, of course – on Monday or any other day. I looked the rest of the summer, then it was back to university.

 

“I mean, to be given one chance like that and waste it. But two. I’ve never forgotten, even now with a wife and kids, I wonder what might have been. It can make my hands shake, seeing someone like you, and with too much drink in me.”

Kafka And Friday the Thirteenth (13th)

viernes-131

In my novel, Kafka In The Castle, I fill in the missing entries of his actual diaries.  There are many days to fill, as he either did not write during these days, or he destroyed the record.

I do give him a brief recognition of Friday 13th. In reality, the Swiss Girl haunted him (pleasantly) all his life.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

13 April 1917

I almost wrote down the year as 1913. That was the year I met the Swiss girl. And I remember her joking about Friday the thirteenth, and how we had missed it by just a day. She was superstitious – Christians seem to be. I wonder what precautions she is taking today. It will be three years and seven months since I saw her. Yet some of the things we did could have happened last week. I think that memory must be made of rubber.  You can sometimes pull it toward yourself – and sometimes it snaps away like a shot. Causing as much pain.

History, Poetry And Religion In A Cathedral For Evensong

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[Bishop John Medley (John Fredericton)]
Yesterday a writing colleague, Robert Hawkes, launched his poetry book about a Nineteenth Century Anglican Bishop, John Medley. An intriguing aspect of the launch was that it occurred during an Evensong service, in the very cathedral  where Medley had been bishop.

I am so sorry to have missed the event, not just for the book launch, but because it was a part of Evensong.  My interest in this service is explained in the following blog, that I posted last year, around the time of Remembrance Day.

~~~~~~~~~~
An evening church service is a favourite of mine – even as a child. However, it has fallen out of favour and is no longer regularly offered.

Trusty Google helped me find one last Sunday. Not only an Evensong, but a Choral Evensong. And not only choral, but it was dedicated as a Remembrance Evensong. I was coming in, out of the cold, in style.

It was held in St. George’s Church – also know as the Round Church for its shape. www.roundchurch.ca

I had been in the church as a tourist, but not for years. A 5pm service in November got me there at dusk. It is a large church, complete with upper balconies. It is close in proximity to the Halifax naval yard, and I wondered if there would be some military presence. As it was, an officer in uniform read a lesson, while a military chaplain gave the sermon.

Not having been to an Evensong for decades, I don’t know if it was a large or small congregation. My guess is there were thirty or so people present, plus 10 in the choir, plus 2 ministers, 1 verger and the organist/choir director.

I would say that Evensong is a modified Morning service, perhaps more fitting for the time of day. In addition to a choral choir singing selections on their own, there were hymns that are favourites of mine. “Oh God, Our Help In Ages Past”  “Abide With Me” and three (3) stanzas of “God Save The Queen”. How close to heaven can one monarchist get?

As an added surprise (which would have made my father ecstatic) it was a High Church Anglican church, and even had incense. Perhaps that explained the choral choir.

At the end, after the procession had left, the large and booming organ belted out a selection by César Franck – Pièce Héroïque“. Members of the choir returned and sat in pews to listen.

When it was completed and people started to leave, I had a tiny ageist and sexist lapse. Two little, white-haired ladies got out of their pew to leave. Walking slowly before me, they talked of the music. I thought they were going to complain about the (admittedly) lengthy organ recital.

“Oh, that music,” said one.

“Yes,” said the other, nodding.

“It’s one of my favourite pieces.”

“I know what you mean.”

Reality & Imagination – It Looked Familiar

9615874-an-aged-statue-of-an-angel-holding-a-harp-stock-photo-wings

THE REALITY: (from REALITY)

While away on a trip I had cause to walk the grounds of a Catholic college. I did this often as it was a large and peaceful place to wander. There were some paths, some gardens, some benches, wide playing fields and even a stroll beside a river. A peaceful retreat from the city (though I enjoyed the city).

I did meet one ancient priest telling his beads (there was a ‘retirement’ residence also present) who gave me a jovial ‘good day’. He was walking the paths through the trees (as was I) and eventually settled on a bench (as  I did not). I kept through the trees, which were really planted in individual copses. enjoying refuge from the sun. The trees seemed to be all pines, with full and tightly packed branches. As I went through one such group of firs I looked between the trees. There was a statue on the other side, so I circled and went up to it. As I approached I was overcome with the oddest feeling of familiarity, though I knew I could never had been there before. It also did not have any of the attendant feelings of deja vu.

And then.

And then I realized what it was. It was a scene I had created for my two ‘Satan’ novels, where a central character has the statue of an angel within a copse of firs in his back yard. Where he had a ghostly encounter of a dearly loved but harshly departed friend. My novel has an angel statue and reality had the Virgin Mary. But, still . . .

I’ve written of many real places which I have visited, but none took me so aback as this.

 

THE ART: (from THERE HAS BEEN A SIGHTING)

Mr. S. unexpectedly takes her arm, and begins to lead her along a winding, flagstone path. She has never seen such large pieces of the stone, and they glisten as if polished.
The path skirts a small stand of black spruce before it continues to the river. He stops her at the mouth of a gravel walkway leading through the trees.
“Let’s pop in here.”
“Your little acre of the Black Forest?”
“Hardly an acre.”
“Precision.” Breeze laughs. “Whatever would my father think of you?”
“Does any father think well of any man when his daughter is concerned?”
“Probably not.”
“No,” agrees Mr. S. “So not to worry.”
“He would think even less of someone leading his daughter down the garden path,” observes Breeze.
“That would be before he saw what I am about to show you.”
Mr. S. holds her arm tightly, and guides her onto the gravel walk. It leads directly to the base of a tree, then makes an abrupt curve between the largest of the spruce.
One of the boughs is so low Breeze ducks her head. She has the sensation of being in the midst of a forest, for the heavy branches obscure the surroundings.
“If I may be permitted a moment of drama.”
Mr. S. covers her eyes and speaks softly.
“Will you turn to your right, and take a few steps?”
Even though he had asked, Breeze is startled as he gently eases her forward, and she feels a slight urge to resist him. Her steps are more cautious than the gravel walkway demands, and the press of his body is noticeable. She counts her footsteps under her breath. She is surprised when they stop at half a dozen, and he quickly removes his hand.
“She’s beautiful.” Breeze stares, open-mouthed.
“Yes.” Mr. S. is pleased. “I think so, too.”
“An angel in the woods.”
“The angel of peace.” Mr. S. walks her around the statue. “Not at all bad for a knockoff.” He pauses behind the wings.
“A knockoff?”
“A reproduction.” He puts his foot on the pedestal, and leans forward. “I don’t really know how old it is. Certainly last century – possibly before.” He points to the blue folds. “I’ve had the paint cleaned and touched up. Is it too garish?”
“It … it stands out.” Breeze hunts for a word. “Let’s call it vibrant.”
“They said it was probably close to the original colour.” Mr. S. walks around the statue and again halts beside Breeze. “Since she stands in so much shade, it’s for the best she stands with lots of colour.”
“Do you believe in angels?”
“I’ve just had a night-long fight with Satan. I have to believe in angels.”
“Does she have a name?” Breeze leans forward to inspect the angel’s outstretched hand.
“I’ve never given her one.”
“That’s one of your suspicious half answers.” Breeze grins.
“When Mother Ursula spoke to her, she called her `Pet’.”
“Pet?”
“`How are we today, Pet?’ `You got a soaking last night,
Pet’.” Mr. S. glances at the statue’s face. “That sort of thing.”
“Oh.” Breeze also decides to look at the angel’s face. “It’s not what you’d call a Christian name.”
“Ursula would get a laugh out of that.” Mr. S. smiles slightly. “And so would the angel.” He turns toward Breeze. “And so do I.” He takes her hand. “Which is probably your intent, so I won’t again slip into the past tense when talking about Ursula.”
“She’s not dead yet.”
“Her living will gives the machines seventy-two hours.” Mr. S. looks at the angel. “I suspect it’s a wry Christian reference.”
“So if she rises on the third day, we won’t be surprised.”
“You have more optimism than even the Sisters.” He glances at her. “And they tend the machines.”
“Machines have their place.”
“Yes.” Mr. S. releases her hand. “But so does death.”

DE

(image) http://bigpreviews.123rf.com/images/bwf211/bwf2111105/bwf211110500086/9615874-An-aged-statue-of-an-angel-holding-a-harp–Stock-Photo-wings.jpg

A Door To Open / A Guest To Greet

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The first claw was so faint upon the door he barely raised an eye from the page. It could have been the wind – it sounded almost like the wind. Wind at other time,s and in other places, might blow such a sound – but not this night. As his thoughts returned to what lay before him, the tiny scrabble, hesitant at floor level, moved slightly to the right, aligning itself more closely to the doorknob.

 ****

The noise skittered up the wood, almost a metallic sound. His head swivelled toward the door.  The first thought he had was for the paint. Then he could sense, by the sound alone, the movement was groping in the dark, that it was unsure of where it was. He closed the book on his lap, still keeping his place with a finger. His eyes remained fixed on the door. He thought he saw the light of his lamp glint off something through the keyhole.

  ****

The doorknob twitched, a slight movement counterclockwise.  Then a brief turn clockwise. He let the book slide down the side of his chair as he put his hand into a pocket. He felt the key between his fingers. He held it tightly. There was more fumbling with the knob, muffled sounds as if a grip was hard to get. The knob turned once more, and then the pressure on the outside was released. He could hear shuffling against the wood. Then he saw, through the keyhole, light reflecting off a muddy iris.

  ****

He stared back through the keyhole, only to see the eye blink and move slowly away. He started to rise from his chair, but was stopped by a thump near the floor, as if a clumsy foot had bumped the wood by mistake. He realised that all the sounds he heard seemed fuddled and uncoordinated. The doorknob was once again twisted, but the motion seemed to lack an ability to grasp. He was wondering whether to turn out the lamp, when a hesitant, hollow knock came upon the door.

(image) http://thumbs.dreamstime.com/z/blue-door-keyhole-27445.jpg

DE

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.

DE

(image) http://i.telegraph.co.uk/multimedia/archive/02054/number-13_2054848c.jpg

Deep Fog And Deeper Foghorns

Last night I stood on a high hill, overlooking the broad Bedford Basin.

Bedford Basin is a wide body of water connected to Halifax harbour by The Narrows. Halifax harbour in turn leads to the ocean. As I watched the further hills of Bedford Basin, fog was rolling from inland and spreading across the water. As I looked toward The Narrows, fog was streaming from the harbour to fill the entrance of Bedford Basin. There was a lot of fog.

This morning, the meteorologists say that Halifax is in a “deep fog”, a term I have not heard officially used. They are correct. I can not see across the harbour, though I can see houses across the street.

I like fog. I like foghorns. I enjoy seeing a wall of fog roll in from the ocean. I enjoy watching the water, the land, the ships, the houses, all become obscured. I anticipate becoming obscured myself. Now you see me, now you don’t.

I also enjoy foghorns. They have been sounding from the harbour this morning. They can startle, yet they are evocative. They are historical. The Queen Mary 2 was in Halifax last week. There were celebrations for the 175th Anniversary of the Cunard Line. The grand ship sounded its grand horns a number of times as it left. I was, if I may say, blown away.

One time I was on the Atlantic coast and saw a thick wall of fog out to sea. From my distance, it seemed to be staying put. The description of it being a wall is almost literal. On my side, blue sky and sunshine. On the other, white obscurity. As I walked along the shore I kept looking at the fog. It did not change or lift.

Then, one time I looked, I could tell something was different. The image was thicker. There was some additional colour. In the course of a long minute I realized that a huge ship was coming out of the fog. Spectral and slow. A container ship piled high. Its bow glistening in the sun. A three- masted schooner would not have been more impressive. Or spooky.

DE

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