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Entries in fiction (7)


Double Double 


"Careful, it's hot."

I took the coffee from her outstretched arm. I peeled back the plastic tab then laced my exposed fingers around the warm red cardboard cup. It felt comforting in my chilled hands.

"Thanks. I'll get the next one." Steam rose in a wavy line in front of my face. I took a sip, gratefully discovering Hailey had ordered me a double-double. I wanted the calories and sugar boost. I tried to remember if I'd eaten anything today. I suspected not but I wasn't certain.

We'd been sitting on Spring Garden Road all morning, with nothing but a few quarters in my open guitar case to show for it. We'd fallen into a lull, not making eye contact or attempting to speak to the passersby. That always had poor results. We needed to look worth helping, not hopeless.

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Seeking Halifax's Best Writerly Cafés

"Writing, at its best, is a lonely life," said Ernest Hemmingway.

But must it be so? I despair writing at home day after day. It makes me feel isolated, sad and thus blocked. Thankfully the portability of my laptop and many local Wi-Fi-enabled cafés make it possible for me to get out and write amongst the energy of other people.

Last week was my university's reading week, so with no teaching obligations I made a plan to visit a different Halifax café each day where I would drink delicious beverages and chip away at a fiction manuscript I started in January.

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Finding Mona Lisa (a short story collaboration)

On Facebook yesterday I complained about being trapped in a creative dry spell. A few friends commiserated; it seems that post holidays it is hard for many people to ramp back up into productivity. Thankfully a friend suggested we work on a story together, collaborating line-by-line to see what might result. She wrote the first sentence. Someone added another sentence. I chimed in with a third. As the day progressed, others had input. The yarn went in unexpected and fascinating directions. By the end of the day we'd written a story—together. I polished it slightly, set it in Paris, and assigned characterization, but the bulk of what is below is the collective effort of my dear friends who pulled me out of a funk today, and reminded me that story-telling doesn't necessarily have to be lonely—it can also be both fun and therapeutic. If you have any tricks for overcoming writers' block, please do share them.


Fiinding Mona Lisa

At the corner table a petite woman had her nose in a book. It was a short book, and a long nose. She cast her eyes downward and aimed to be completely inconspicuous. She only barely raised her head—and even then did so with nonchalance—when a boulder crashed through the window, spraying her and the other patrons with shards of glass. Her pain au chocolate would now be inedible and she'd only had one tiny nibble.

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Outbreak: a short story

This is a work of historical fiction. The main character, Dr. John Slayter, was Health Officer for the Port of Halifax in 1866 when called upon to treat cholera-infected patients on a ship in the Halifax Harbour. The details concerning dates, his family life, interactions (with Charles Tupper, among others), treatment protocols, etc. are drawn from historical records. The characters of George, and Maggie and Seamus Murphy are imagined.

*            *            *

Dip, splash. Dip, splash.

Waves gently lapped against the boat.  The motion made me sleepy. Sitting in the bow, I followed the oars’ creaking trail through the water and up into the brisk morning air. Water droplets hopped over the black harbour and spread circular ripples in their wake. Pulling my focus closer I gazed up one oar over the shackle to George's bulging bicep and across his broad back.

I nodded off for a split second. When I snapped my head back up and opened my eyes, George turned toward me.

"This seems about as good a spot as any. What do you think, Doc Slayter?"

George had rowed far past Thrum Cap, the southernmost tip of McNab's Island, but I could still make out the distant speck of a girl watching us from the rocky shore.

"Little further George, please."

I sat opposite the crude pine coffin roped across the stern, protruding over the water. I wished it were a hallucination but I knew otherwise.

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Like a moth to light, The Virgin Cure drew me in

Like the large bar of dark chocolate I intended to mete out a piece at a time but instead polished off in two days, I planned to read Ami McKay's new book, The Virgin Cure, slowly. Despite my best efforts, I finished it within a week and am left awed and yet still hungry. I hope blogging and talking about it with fellow readers bring me the satiety I seek.

The Virgin Cure is the Dickensian-style story of Moth, a 12-year old girl living on Manhattan's rat-ridden Chrystie Street in 1874. To say Moth's is a hard scrabble life is an understatement. Abandoned by Moth's father, Moth's mother supports the family as a psychic, but she shows a shocking lack of foresight for one who purports to see the future. Deciding Moth is old enough to start supporting her, she kicks Moth out of their home, into a situation even more rife with abuse than the one Moth is leaving.

Moth is merchandise, bought and sold several times in the story.

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