Charred letter fragments wafted into the tree canopy. Good riddance.

Vee smeared the ash residue on her hips while waiting for the outdoor shower to warm. She stepped in as a cloudburst spattered the wood deck. Cool rain mingled with scalding water. Never good at finding a happy medium, the truth was the torture of contrasts made her feel alive. Like ash on pale skin. Wrong and right.

Was this right – “You will love again the stranger who was yourself”? Could this sparkling stranger beaded with water be her? Maybe?

The shower erased the ash smudges.

Cattle and wind shushed through purple loosestrife and between clouds the sun winked at her. Cows’ lowing harmonized with grasses stroking their hides as they ambled to the adjacent field. She stretched out on the deck, sky-scoured, tuned in to their hymn.

“Hi. Nice to meet you, stranger.”


Written in response to a prompt from dVerse to use a line from a Derek Walcott poem called Love after Love. The line is “You will love again the stranger who was yourself.”

Wash That …Right out of My Hair

Bluesy opened the car door and peered inside, reaching to button my blouse, his cold fingers accidentally touching the already well-chilled skin above my sternum. I could have, indeed should have, batted him away but I was exhausted and just wanted him gone.

He fumbled with a pretty opalescent button as small as a sequin, and as thin, muttering “Lord almighty,” as he attempted to insert it into an equally small opening. The button edge weaseled into a minuscule fissure on the tip of his thumb. I closed my eyes pleased my blouse inflicted the pain I couldn’t. I held the image of it stuck in his thumb, hovering above my chest, blood rising warm from its travels from his heart, releasing a drop on the surface of my skin, where it sat, unable to go further. Maybe survival was possible if I just sat still until he left.

His hair dropped over my forehead and I smelled the factory of his body and his gut-recycled dinner, his mouth a smokestack and me an olfactory mistake. He’d smelled harmless fun – I think it was my shampoo. Herbal Essences would be happy when I wrote and told them I’d used their Passion Flower and Rice Milk product, a welcoming scent boosted by my pulse. The next thing I knew the likes of Bluesy had invited himself over for a steaming cup of tea and a few episodes of Breaking Bad , and before Jesse and Walt had finished cooking their first batch of meth I was flat on my back wondering how many kernels I could count in my popcorn ceiling before he’d leave. I cursed my mucous membranes, my lack of control, Bluesy’s intrusion.

We lasted 28 days. Thank God it wasn’t a leap year.

“It’s minus 30 out there, February, can you give me a lift home?”

Yes, my name is February. My parents thought it a romantic moniker, it being the month of my conception, an ovulatory cycle of snow bound cuddles and cozy fires – but I hated it. It is a bottomless well of cold, a dory adrift in the North Atlantic without an oar or a rudder or a bailing bucket. Here I was, February in February, like a frozen daiquiri on an Antarctic cruise, half dressed in my car trying to get rid of Bluesy.

He finished the job. I sniffed, sucked in the snot that drained from my nose and caught a whiff of Tide Clean.

“God, I love February,” he said as he kissed me goodbye.

I examined his work. He’d married the button to the wrong hole and my blouse was askew but it was over. Bluesy was gone, my heart buttoned up, safe for another year. No doubt he’d be back again to continue his work. On my way home, I stopped by WalMart to pick up some new shampoo and went with “Colour Me Happy”.




The Dog Shakes

Nearly three years ago I wrote a flash fiction story about a dog with “issues” and sent it around to a few journals. It was rejected many times. Then in June this year I attended a small press trade show in an Ottawa community centre and found Common Deer Press.  Their submission guidelines for the Short Tail section of their website said this,

We tend to prefer work that might be literary if it weren’t so genre….

and I thought “Hmm. Maybe Nelson would like to live here.”

Without further ado, here it is – The Dog Shakes

edited by Emily Stewart. Thank you, Common Deer Press for giving Nelson a home.

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Kip Hofias

Between lovers a little confession is a dangerous thing. – Helen Rowland

“What kind of name is Kip Hofias,” Harry asked Vee, handing her the envelope noting the return address in Vancouver.

“A magician’s name.”

Vee held the letter at arm’s length pinched between her white knuckled thumb and index finger.

“I used to love his magic.” Continue reading


I don’t want to be front and centre, Harry. You know how I feel.

Vee, your kenspeckle head is famous.

No one in Kootmacs knew Vee before the scalp fire except Harry. Infamous Vee, Lady Mexican Hairless, she thought. Bald as an egg.


The hunt started. The grounds of Twist of Fate were a cat’s cradle of yarn threaded from trees to fence posts, scribbled through the bars of the fence, down the hill to the llama pen and back again. Wool rainbows hung from branches. Continue reading

Seytan Robb – Hooker

After the logging accident Seytan Robb was stuck. He had been a “hooker”, an irony cousin Vero would eventually note in the obituary and snigger about with Harry in private moments. His medical marijuana cost him the small inheritance from his fucking useless old man. In six hazy months, he’d burned through every nickel. When the smoke cleared, he looked around the llama farm, the extensive gardens now over run with unmarketable weeds, and at his shriveled right arm and leg and panicked.  Continue reading

Harry Bittercress-Cryptozoologist

Lady Smock turned Harry Bittercress into a cryptozoologist. Her love for him was like Nessie or that strange creature in Canada – Ogopogo. In the years since the Tulia business, there was anecdotal evidence that love still existed. Once in a while there would be a passionate flare-up and they’d make love like teenagers but Harry suspected this was an activity like  eating chocolate after Lent. Delicious but, having discovered she managed just fine for 40 days, she could get by without it.

Harry blamed himself. It was he who strayed. But there were reasons. After her brother Bertram inherited the manor and they were forced to live in the gatehouse, Lady Smock became a zestless lemon. Tulia, on the other hand, was a richly scented lemon blossom and she – he grinned even now to think of it – chased him!

The gatehouse was a damnably old, drafty shithole. The 19th century plumbing with the 18th century water pressure succumbed to the intestinal challenges of Lady Smock’s lentil mousse every time. Unfortunately, lentils had become a dietary mainstay since the ejection from the manor. Money was as tight as Her Smockness’ love.

Exiting the main door of the gatehouse was a life or death proposition. The door opened into the archway entrance to the estate. Harry wore steel toe boots to protect himself from Bertram’s reckless friends motoring at top speed through the arch.

The windows needed replacing, too. One was boarded over from the stone throwing episode. Lady Smock refused to acknowledge it. Harry wondered if that was a sign of her love. Was she pretending it never happened? The rest of the windows wooden frames were warped and didn’t close properly. You could feel the breeze coming through the cracks.

The evening it happened, there was a glowing fog wrapped around everything, beading the night, blinding him. Harry was writing a note to Lady Smock saying “I’ll be late, darling. Going to see William for a pint at the Dog and Whistle in Ware. Back at closing.” Shreds of fog winkled through the inadequate windows and gathered around the paper like a spectre. Consumed with guilt, Harry took this as a sign that tonight was not a good night to visit fragrant Tulia at the Rock and Rose Inn. He called and cancelled.

Tulia didn’t take no for an answer. She never did. She didn’t really love Harry, just his Billy-goat approach to sex. And his constant flattery. “You make me so happy. You’re so beautiful. You smell like lemon blossoms. You’re a wonderful cook. You have the most beautiful vagina I’ve ever seen.” (She begged him to say “cunt” but he couldn’t. She found this laughable.)

The best part was the affair gave her prestige. This was, after-all, Lady Smock’s personal gigolo she was fucking. If only she could tell someone.

It was as they were pressed together in an embrace that penetrated the fog like a moonbow, that a stone shattered the brittle glass and smacked Harry on the temple. He woke up to a harridan shrieking at Tulia and dragging her by her violet bra, her breasts and the rest of her spilling out the door where one of Bertram’s friends nearly ran her down. (When the driver saw the violet, lace clad damsel in distress, he picked her up, but that’s another story.)

The next day, Her Smockness purchased a thick sirloin at the butcher’s for Harry’s black eye, which Harry the optimistic cryptozoologist took as a sign of love. She then stopped in at the chemist for some sticking plasters and antibiotic ointment for the cut on his temple. By the end of the shopping trip Tulia’s dream had come true. The whole town knew.

After they soothed Harry’s eye, they fried the steak and shared it. The plumbing was relieved of its duty and that night they had chocolate for dessert. Harry decided there are worse things than cryptozoology.