Winning Words – Fiction

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“WRITE AWAY” Promises to Break Writer’s Blockade by Wally Keller

Writer’s blockade may soon become a thing of the ASCII-age if the promise of a new drug proves true.

A group of poemaceutical performance poets are collaborating with multiple units of verse from the Creative Intelligence Anarchy to develop a new ambrosia to re-verse the scourge that has, at one time or another, stricken great writers and poets throughout the ages.

Writer’s blockade strikes all languages regardless whether it’s left-to-right in Europe, right-to-left in Persia, top-to-bottom in China or every which way in Klingon.

Poetician42, of the Emerginista Poets Co-operative, is the lead researcher of the project. “This discovery could result in a global swarming of textual activity unprecedented in human history.” he told an impress conference in the Great Hall of the House of Uncommons.

“Test results have been 99.99% effective. Negative side effects to the central inspiration system are non-textistent. Everything complies with the prime policy of poetry proliferation. It does not interfere with any of the entheogens that are recommended as a staple in the diets of spiritually accomplished poets.”

Poetician1 of the Peoples Republic of Poetry, textplained that the final tests will be conducted with select units of verse from the poetariet over the next year. “If the results are the same as on previous test subjects, it will be made available as an over-the-counter drug in the Imagine Nation’s apoethecaries as early as next year.”

Ethical questions were raised at the impress conference concerning the use of the initial test subjects; all were foreigners to the Peoples Republic of Poetry. The test subjects were all permanent residents of Bland Land.
“The leading gulp frictioneers were willing subjects,” replied Poetician1. “As you know, they produce nothing of significance, so what harm would have been done to literature if anything went awry.”

“Bland Land is overpopulated with mediocrity,” declared the Secretary of State of Mind of the Peoples Republic of Poetry. “It’s no loss to poeterity. Bland Land is the source of the Mediocrity Virus; it is the leading cause of boredom. As we all know, countless numbers of people die of boredom every year.”

Poetician42 explained that writer’s block also afflicted pulp fictioneers. “The challenge was quantity of output, not quality of output. That was our focus. If the drug worked on them, then it follows that it would be beneficial for Poetry.”

Poetician1 added, “It is preferable that negative side effects afflict the mediocre, rather than the highly tuned sensibilities of the Creative Class of the Imagine Nation, notably the poetariet of the Peoples Republic of Poetry.”

“Only one clinic was set up in Bland Land. If anyone there suffered from writer’s block, they had to come to the clinic and ingest the drug on the premises. Once approved for production, the drug will not be texported, nor will any non-resident of Poetry be permitted to possess it. There is more than enough mediocrity in the world without this drug textpediting more. We put Poetry first.”

Poetician42 explained that the drug consists of a textract from Aspirin gently modified to produce fantasalicylic acid, which is combined with equal portions of poetassium bicarbonate and luvpoetion #9, #12 and #23skidu. “There is a textensive blending process that I will not reveal. Suffice to say, I am at liberty not to say.”

For the next year the drug will be available by prescription only to registered members of the Warsaw Writers Bloc, a volunteer group dedicated to commiseration therapy.

It is currently poetent pending. The Creative Intelligence Anarchy is expected to be the sole manufacturer and the Federal Bureau of Inspiration the sole distributor of the drug under the brand name; WRITE AWAY.

Nailed by Susan Statham
I saw the danger on the driveway as the dog pulled me toward the path and would have removed it but Max is strong and on such a beautiful morning, we were both keen for a walk. By the time we returned, my husband was standing by his car ready to go to the office and after a quick kiss good-bye, I went to the kitchen, poured a fresh cup of coffee and carried it to my studio. I was working on the layout for a new brochure when the phone rang.

“Honey, I’ve had an accident.”

“Are you okay?” No response. “Brad are you there?” Damn cell phones. My return call went straight to his voice mail and it was a long fifteen minutes before he called again.

“Sorry sweetheart, the battery died on the cell. I’m using my office phone.

“What happened? Are you okay?”

“Yeah, fine. One of the front tires blew as I turned into the lot and the car careened into the ditch. I called Steve. He’ll tow it to the shop but at the end of the day I don’t know how I’m going to get home.”

We love rural living but there was no one in Brad’s office who came out this way. “Remember that party at the Clark’s, we met a woman, Delilah I think her name was. She lived out this way and I’m sure she said she worked in your building – an insurance company, I think.”

“Stacalm, yeah I remember. What was her last name?”

“I don’t know, but how many women named Delilah could be working there?”

“You’re right. I’ll call you back.”

Luckily, Delilah could bring him home and pick him up the following morning. I thought that was convenient and went back to my computer.

For the next week, Delilah picked Brad up at 7:30 and returned him at 6:30, which meant he couldn’t work late and we could have dinner together at a reasonable hour. Brad thought the damage to the car was minimal but the airbag deployed, making it more expensive to fix than the car was worth. Unable to run errands on the weekend, I made arrangements with my neighbour to take me grocery shopping. Delilah offered but I felt she was doing enough helping Brad.

When we got the insurance money, Brad couldn’t decide what to buy. I suggested that when he found a car, he and Delilah could take turns driving to work so I could run errands through the week, giving us more time together on the weekends. It was another month before he found one––a standard shift but he promised to teach me how to drive it.
His first night with the new car, he didn’t get home until after seven. Apparently, ‘Dee’ was late getting back from a client. Three days later, it was after eight. A colleague was sick and that meant extra work. Dee didn’t mind waiting. Then it was close to nine when an accident stopped traffic and they had to find an alternate route and finally a spell of bad weather prevented him from coming home at all.

By spring, Brad was spending Saturday’s digging a garden for ‘Dee’. I felt B. was spending too much time with D. and I told him so. Apparently I was selfish, our marriage should be more ‘flexible’ and I should understand that he and Delilah shared a love of gardening. It didn’t take long to discover that wasn’t the only thing they loved sharing.
I’m good with a shovel. Now they can spend all their time in the garden. If the police ask, I’ll tell them it happened because I forgot to pick up a nail.

Nickel a Line by Michael Croucher

With my fingers crossed in my jacket pockets, I stood at the counter of the Runnymede Bowl. “The lanes should be busy tonight, Nate. Any chance of me setting some lines? I could use the money.”

He looked at me through grubby glasses that hadn’t been cleaned in the two months since I’d last seen him. A cloud of smoke drifted over the counter. Nate tapped his cigarette into a tin ashtray that sat on a thick pad of score sheets. He’d won the ashtray at the CNE Midway. It had the shape of a naked woman on her back, her ample boobs poking up through loose heaps of ash. He stared at me as he rested a soggy-ended, hand-rolled in the cleavage.

“Never thought I’d see you back here, Bobby. You’ve been gone a while.”

I nodded, but kept my mouth shut. I’d started caddying at the Lambton Golf Club about nine weeks back. I liked being outdoors. Besides, with the per-round caddy pay, selling lost balls that I’d recovered on my own time, and getting decent tips from well-heeled golfers, I was making better money there than I was at the bowling alley.

Now, it was late fall and turning cold.The number of rounds I picked up each week had really dropped. And since Dad had been laid off, I needed to contribute more to the household budget. My spending money was in short supply and the gas tank in my beater of a car was almost empty. So here I was, trying to earn some cash on a league night.

Nate threaded fresh laces into a pair of men’s number tens. “I could probably use you tonight. Five-pin leagues are going strong. You’re faster than any of the kids I’ve got here now…So, I’ll give you another shot.” A piece of tobacco flew off his tongue. “Still a nickel a line, though. Whoever said that I’m paying more is full of shit.”

He pointed a nicotine stained finger at me. “No screwing around. You get one five-minute piss break, but only if a relief kid is available…So, don’t pull any of that twenty-minute bullshit.“You mess up and I’ll take your name off the roster for good.” He squinted towards a group of bowlers who’d just picked up their league scoresheets. “The West End Industrial League has half a dozen lanes … Go down to three and four. Teams from Viceroy and Canada Packers are there… Look sharp, Bobby, those assholes will keep you jumping.”

Nate and I had never really hit it off. We’d had a few shouting matches. The last and loudest was after he’d fudged my line counts on another league night. I was glad he was giving me the alleys now, but I knew he’d have me on a tight leash. “No sweat, Nate.”

I was in my perch just before the first ball cracked in. It sent all five pins on lane four flying. One of them just missed my shin. I wasn’t tucked into the leg shield yet. I jumped into the pit and grabbed the pins, three in my left and two in my right. I tapped my foot on the lever, set the pins on their mounts, and sent the ball back before buddy boy had finished his fist pumps. No problem. I was as fast as ever.

Four frames in. I was relaxed, into the rhythm, swinging between my lanes like I’d never left. The pins were set quickly after every frame. I was keeping the hot shots happy.

The snack bar at the Runnymede Bowl was a bit of a hangout. I took a glance to see who was around. Only a few people at the counter. Nobody that I knew except for a few pin boys having a dog and a cola before they got their lanes. Then, I checked around the empty lanes at the far end. In the seats behind lanes fourteen and fifteen, I saw two familiar faces. Son of a bitch. That’s Pam…with… Is that who I think it is? Yeah, it is. Well… there’s no damned way this is happening.

I’d just left her an hour ago at Castle Burgers. I hadn’t told her I was coming here. I hadn’t planned on it until I passed by and remembered my empty pockets. What the hell is she doing with Roonie? Jesus, he’s all over her. Really coming on.

I’d seen Roonie doing his thing two weeks before, at the Palais Royale. Slow dancing with Gail Jennings, pressing his business against her as they danced. Really grinding it.

Now that slugs with Pam. He put his arm around Pam and steered her towards the front doors.

Shit. They’re leaving. I yelled over the clatter of pins and rumble of balls. “Break on three and four.”

No response. I yelled again. Eventually, my buddy, Jim Barrett, waved at me and headed over from the arcade area. I flew by him on the median between lanes, and ran towards the door and the stairs down to Bloor Street.

Nate saw me go by the desk and tried to cut me off. He didn’t make it, and yelled down the stairs at my back. “Bobby, where the Hell are you going? The can’s up here for Christ’s sake. You just fucking got here.”

I ignored him.

“No more damned lines for you. Ever. And don’t try up at Junction Bowl. I’m letting them know what an asshole you are.”

I headed west on Bloor, towards the Trocadero. It was dance night. My mind was racing. I couldn’t stand the thought of Roonie dancing like that with Pam. My fists started to clench. I was going to stop this. And quick.

There’s no way, Roonie… Not with her, you piece of crap… Not with my little sister.

Grand Skating by Lynn C. Bilton

February 1934

Jessie tightened her laces and carefully tied a double bow. She deeply inhaled the night air. Air so cold her nostrils briefly froze together. Gosh, it was bitter! Once they were on the move, she would warm up.

“Shake a leg over there. We’re ready to shove off!” Tommy called.

The full moon was incredibly bright and the entire landscape was lit up like daytime. Good thing too, as they needed to watch carefully every step of this adventure.

“Now this is important. We are going to skate with our arms linked. Tom, you and I are on the outside and the two girls will be in the middle. And yes, there is a reason. Even though the river is frozen solid, there are still air holes. You’ve heard about them and they are deadly. If you happen to catch a skate blade on the edge of an air pocket, you won’t go in because we are all linked together.”

“And who wants to wear a Chicago Overcoat?!”

“What are you talking about?”

“A Chicago Overcoat. A coffin! It’s some of the new lingo I heard in Hamilton the other day.”

Jessie shook her head and laughed. The four friends had met up that night at the mouth of Big Creek. Jessie and Tommy lived on neighbouring farms on Baptist Church Road. The other two friends were also from Onondaga and their plan was to skate down the Grand River to the dam in Caledonia.

Her heart was racing and she took a slow, deep breath. The four linked arms securely and made their way mid river.

“OK, is everyone ready? Here we go!

With one strong, smooth stroke to the right and then to the left, they fell quickly into motion as one unit. In no time the quartet was sailing down the ice. Time seemed to stand still as they flew past familiar landmarks.

“You know I heard it’s so cold this year, Lake Ontario has frozen over!”

“I suppose you heard that in Hamilton too!”

“As a matter of fact, I did. And it is a fact. I read it in the Hamilton Spectator.”

They all chuckled and continued skating on in silence, simply enjoying the voyage. A piercing train whistle in the dead calm broke the silence. With the sudden burst of noise, the four tightened their joined arms.

“Gosh, that scared me! With the clear night, it sounds like we’re right beside that train.”

“We are almost to the dam and you can see the railway bridge. Let’s take a break over on the bank until the train goes by.”

They sat on a large fallen tree to catch their breath. Skate laces were tightened and hats pulled down over cold ears.

“That didn’t take long! How far did we just skate Tommy?”

“It would be just over three miles but we made great time!”

Jessie shivered. The scent of lingering wood smoke on her scarf made her think how cozy it would be back in their farmhouse kitchen.

“Let’s head back. It’s too cold to sit still for any longer.”

Once again they linked arms. Stroke. Stroke. Their concentration and determination powered the unit. Their breath hung in the air and trailed behind them as they swept up the ice. It was thrilling and exciting and daring.
“Do you think anyone has ever done this before?”

“I doubt it. Conditions have never been this perfect in the past. If only our families could see us now!”

But they won’t even hear about it, remember? Our pact was not to tell anyone. I would be in big trouble if my parents found out!”

“You’re right. But what a sight we must be. The full moon, the frozen Grand and the four of us. We must be a picture!”

The skaters’ silhouette was picture perfect but seen by no one that cold winter night. Jessie smiled to herself and privately pondered if she would ever tell anyone about that magical evening in the winter of 1934.

– There is documentation indicating the winter of 1934 was one of the coldest on record. Lake Ontario did freeze over. It was a rare occurrence.
– Jessie Atkinson and Tommy Howden grew up on farms on Baptist Church Road in Onondaga Township. They remained friends their entire lives.
– Jessie Atkinson was my mother and she did share the story of that enchanting evening!