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.

IMG_0306 (2)





Liberty and Justice quit

Tired as the huddled masses she used to welcome, old lady Liberty suddenly realized the colossal irony of her gender. Like her sister, Justice. Continue reading

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.

Lady liar

Turning over rocks in the tidal pool, she watched an army of baby crabs scatter, their stiletto claws clattering for cover, like the lie she told Harry this morning. In the moment, (lord, how she hated that expression) it was audacious but now her swashbuckling bravado sagged.

CrabPicking up a dainty crab, she watched its crooked legs jousting with the air, pincers mouthing, and then snapping shut. Dropping him, she watched him bounce and scuttle away, his shell shielding him from the blow.

The tide rose. Time to talk to Harry and silence the cacophonous din of guilt rattling like a hermit crab in her head.