Reality check

On the drive to work Thursday darling husband said “I’m going to get a hold of a grade 9 calculus text book.”


“I think I can master it at last.” This he based on his Tuesday experience supply teaching a math class at his old high school. Note: His subject area before retirement was English.

“Wow. Good for you. I’ll stick to trying to master life.”

“I think calculus is probably easier.”

“Smart calculation,” I thought.


Spring run-off – Rideau River, Ottawa, ON



A good line


The New Quarterly contained a story with a line that made me hurl the magazine across the living room. However it also had a short story I didn’t see on first pass because it was on the page facing the cursed line. The cursed line said this: “Old-woman smell infiltrated the house, perfume and powder.” Who are these snotty scentless people who write so disparagingly of their elders? Never mind. The editors redeemed themselves as I shall explain. Continue reading

Praise the laud


Apropos of nothing

Susanne Fletcher is a yellow-toothed, grey-haired old woman whose ancestors include a bald-headed bullshitter, an apple pie scented soothsayer, an itinerant ukulele teacher and a lips-sucked-in recriminator. She holds degrees buried in wrinkle canyons carved around her mouth and eyes. When not napping or showering to minimize old lady smell or reading grocery store fliers and clipping coupons, she reads literary journal contributor pages and writes mocking bios that exceed the 50 word limit.

Now its your turn. What would your 50 word (more or less) bio say?


Suzy-Q doughnuts of  Ottawa –  Top left – The Roughrider; Top right – Carrot cake doughnut; bottom – chocolate truffle doughnut.

Stripper Girl

How to handle uncertain information when digging in the family archives.

BREVITY's Nonfiction Blog

A guest post from Melissa Ballard:

Family history. Why would anyone waste their time with it?

In the summer of 1993, I agreed to do just a bit of ancestral research, at the request of my great-uncle. I was quickly lured into the mysteries of century-old handwriting, sepia-toned photographs, and the personal details in local newspapers from the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

I began to write essays about my ancestors, who were much more interesting than I’d thought. My publication record for these pieces is scant, but I persist. At first, I had to go to libraries or historical societies and do battle with microfilm machines. Now I can do most of my research online, from my home office.

So when the newspaper database I use added two decades of issues from Muncie, Indiana, I set aside some time to search. I already knew a line of my…

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Chocolate quinoa cake

The first piece of chocolate quinoa cake I ate was at a fancy restaurant where main course portions were the size of Canada’s largest coins – loonies and toonies. Lunch arrived prettily set on a silent white plate with scribbles of coulis of some sort. You know the stuff – pureed parsnip essence or a reduction of Brussels sprout hearts and maybe a shake of smoked paprika. Way off on the northern hemisphere of the plate a single perfect candied walnut emerged from its shell, like a sailor adrift in the arctic ocean, considering his options as the icy sea begins to crush his vessel. Because food tells a story and the chef wants you to listen to what the food has to say. That kind of place. Continue reading


Related image

When I shared my impressions of childhood living with an alcoholic father with a friend – memories of a five year old – he said that my memories predated a cognitive understanding of my father’s behaviour.  I bristled. It was as though my memories were irrelevant because I lacked dates, context, and the cognitive ability to connect the dots.

Did you do “dot to dot” puzzles as a child? I remember doing them as far back as kindergarten. Teachers used them as a way to teach numbers. The easiest ones were from 1-10 and the resulting pictures were simple. There were no details in the final image, just a big shape, like a ball, or an outline of a cat’s head or a house. But its spare lines still told everything you needed to know. The same way kids know when something is off kilter without understanding why. Continue reading