Get this widget

Saturday, 25 June 2016

Divide and Conquer

Divide and Conquer


Remote Northern Switzerland – Autumn, 1837

Saffron’s body was still good and firm even though she’d been a fortnight dead. The weather had preserved her well, so although the old horse wouldn’t be pulling the carriage another yard, she was still pulling her weight by providing sustenance for the desperate party – who prayed her meat might outlast the storm.

The mid-October gale had caught them off guard; it howled through the already-treacherous Jura mountain passage, evening the landscape under a uniform cotton shroud and leaving the trail indistinguishable from its surrounding countryside. The terrain wiped flat — save where huge, swirling drifts rose and formed impassable barricades — it was all but impossible for the hapless group to continue navigating their way to the crossing point on the Rhine, still some thirty miles on.

The ferocious winds had tossed their carriage like a children’s toy, had flipped it effortlessly and weakened its frame upon landing it again. Their essential provisions having flown off and away, were scattered widely and then buried under a foot or more of fresh snow in the outlying fields. And during the long nights, wild beasts, better equipped for the task of scavenging there, made off with whatever edibles they could find. By the time the blizzard relented three days later, leaving frigid temperatures in its wake, there was precious little left for the family to eat, and old Saffron, having had enough, had simply laid down, died, and froze.

But Leopold Wyler was no grand butcher, so what might have been generous choice cuts, enough for a score of days, had been recklessly discarded with the actual waste during the butchering process. Unbeknownst to Leopold, of course, was that had that meat been saved, countless girls’ lives might also have been saved over many ensuing years; such is the way of fate.

Leopold’s young wife, Angelica, along with their unborn child, had been relegated to passenger status within the carriage while he, his sister Rebekka, and her husband Julius Frey, filled in for the late Saffron and slowly forced the carriage along the trail, through the heavy snow. Finding the trail ahead had become as arduous a task as traversing it now, as slipping off the edge could be detrimental to the carriage’s chassis; it having been compromised during the storm, and patchworked back together into a precarious state of functionality.

And then Julius was at the left rear, pushing and puffing, when the carriage slid into a rut and tilted wildly toward him. He stumbled and slipped into the rut himself, his foot being crushed before he had time and balance enough to pull it back. He cursed his maker as he realized he was pinned. Inside, Angelica had fallen across the seat and hit her elbow hard against a furious Fantôme, Rebekka’s cat, as the carriage had jolted and come to a sudden stop. She awkwardly pulled herself upright, and sighed heavily. Her baby kicked, as if it too were frustrated with this latest annoyance.
Angelica had enough of being coddled. “Stay,” she told Fantôme, who gazed back at her defiantly. She unlatched the carriage door and kicked it open. Fantôme dove out the door and nearly disappeared in the snow. She looked around, and then back at the door, as if having immediately regretted her escape. Rebekka immediately came to the cat’s rescue, rescuing her from the snow, and glancing hard at Angelica. 

Angelica paid her no mind. She looked around, assessing the situation as she climbed down. She slammed the door when she felt ground underfoot, hiked high her skirts, and made her way to the carriage’s rear center. Rebekka returned the grateful feline to the relative comfort and safety of the cab before following her sister-in-law.

“Pull...” Angelica began as Rebekka took up position beside her. “One, two, three, and... push!” Angelica’s shrill voice cut through the crisp air. She repeated the command several times, creating momentum in the carriage’s movement as her husband and in-laws abided on cue. And on the third push! the carriage escaped its hold and freed a relieved Julius from its grip. 

“Hurrah!” said Leopold, from his position near the front. Rebekka and Julius joined the chorus but a piercing crack! cut short their ovation.

Leopold stumbled when the axle snapped and the carriage lurched. Again, it had come to an abrupt stop but determination and physics would not save the beleaguered party this time. They stood in silence for a moment, each of them shivering and feeling the full weight of this newest defeat. But none would call it that; it was as if admitting the reality would somehow allow them to succumb to it. Leopold moved to hug his wife. Angelica squeezed his hand in response. She peered through the now lightly-falling snow at the errantly-sloping landscape that had been their domain for the better part of a week. She scanned the immediate area: down along the bottom of a nearby dale the remains of a small forest, having burned down some years before, jutted up at awkward angles from the otherwise flat basin, like lost and disoriented soldiers in the aftermath of a fierce and pointless battle. 

“There,” Angelica said thoughtfully. She pointed, and the ragged family obligingly followed to where her shivering finger directed their gaze. “Do you think a new axle could perhaps be found down there? The newer growth will be too soft, of course, and the old, mostly bent and brittle but there may be one good old piece that’s long and solid enough for our needs, no?”

“Perhaps something,” Julius agreed, nodding. “Shall we go see what’s down there in the morning, Leopold?” He looked to his brother-in-law, but Leopold was already on his way, axe in hand, trudging through the snow. Julius limped after him, soon being led through a makeshift path the width of Leopold’s body, as the snow became deeper the further they travelled toward the skeletons of the old forest.

Rebekka moved to stand closer to Angelica and they watched their men for a short time until their backs were swallowed by the dark. “Back in the cab for you, young madam,” Rebekka said. “There’s nothing else we can do at the moment, except pray.”

Angelica nodded her tacit agreement, silently noting that a great deal of prayer had only managed to deliver them to their current predicament. But she climbed back in as instructed and attempted to soothe her child by gently rubbing her stomach and humming a lullaby she half-remembered from her youth. Having apparently forgiven her, Fantôme nestled up to her leg. The poor thing could use more meat on her bones, Angelica thought.

She unknowingly began dozing, dreaming of her family’s new life across the border, away from the strict rules governing Jews in their native Switzerland. She was preparing lunch on their farm; it was a modest one, but it was theirs.  Her child played carefree on the floor beside her, occasionally yanking at her skirt, babbling and giggling. They had decided to call the child Freddy, if a boy, otherwise, Frederica. In the dream, it was a little girl.

It was warm in her dream, and Leopold was there, walking back to the small home for a midday meal after working up a sweat, turning soil for the turnip and cabbage seeds to be soon planted. He was handsome and brawny, his muscles glistening in the bright sun. He waved and she pretended not to see him. He called her name and chased some fat chickens out of his path, off the lane that meandered up to the quaint farmhouse. Angelica looked around, in every direction save the right one, pretending to search for the source of the voice. She shielded her eyes from the sun and scanned the breadth of the property: there was no one at the eastern end where the sturdy new barn reached into the sky.

“Angelica!” he called. Again, she focused her attention the wrong way and tried not to smile. This time to the western orchard, where red apples hung temptingly from the trees there, approaching their peak ripeness…

“Angelica! Oh my god, Angelica!” 

It was Rebekka. Angelica stirred, quickly regained her bearings, and snapped the curtain back to look through the crudely-cut window at the stark grey sky of the present.

“What’s wrong, Rebekka?” she asked, weary dread rippling her words.

Rebekka pointed to where the men had gone. Angelica couldn’t get a proper view from her vantage point and hurriedly exited the cab. She tried to focus in the dark and saw Julius running and stumbling and waving, making his way up the hill toward them. He was severely agitated. He yelled something but neither woman could make out the words. There was no sign of Leopold, and Angelica’s heart sank. She felt nauseated. 

“W-where’s Leo though?” she vaguely heard herself ask Rebekka, but she knew the question was pointless; Rebekka couldn’t know. When Julius got near enough that they could see the stark severity of his eyes, they finally understood the words he had been yelling: wolves. Wolves, he was yelling, and Leopold.

Angelica started running down into the forest valley, circumventing Julius but he grabbed her and stopped her from progressing. She beat at his chest, screaming for her husband, but Julius held her firmly, silently weeping at her shoulder. Rebekka joined them and the three huddled there for a considerable time until the madness had subsided from Angelica’s eyes and the tears finally came.


They had fled from Angelica’s home of Endingen, in north central Switzerland some five weeks prior. Leopold had been raised in nearby Lengnau and spent the days labouring on a farm there alongside Angelica’s father, Samuel Bollag. A reserved soul by nature, Samuel had disliked his boisterous fieldmate, and that was incentive enough for the man’s daughter to take a romantic interest in the lad. Once she did, she had been surprised to find she was very fond of him and, after a long while, worked up the courage to tell her father so.

“Bah,” Samuel had said. “Don’t be foolish, girl.”

“He’s clever, Father, and funny, too,” Angelica had said in Leopold’s defence.

“Funny and clever? If you mean cocky, then, yes, I agree. But cocky doesn’t put soup in the belly, my dear,” Samuel said, as if explaining to a child. “Sweat does. Keeping quiet, with your mind on your work, that’s what builds a home and a secure family.”

“He’s ambitious too,” she offered, and immediately knew that was about the worst thing she could have said.

“Ah, ambitious, is he? The most dangerous of all traits.” Samuel smiled without humour, his eyes remaining hard. “Ambition will get a Jew’s throat cut quicker than anything else, except, perhaps, being funny and clever.”

“What should he do, then, Father? Accept his fate, and that of his future children, and that’s that? We’re forbidden from nearly every kind of decent, honest work! What can we do? Sow the seeds for Protestants and Catholics to reap? Trade tattered rags for nearly nothing on the pitiless streets? Where can we live, Father? Tell me! Here, and in Lengnau, and nowhere else? What life is that, Father? Forbidden to live in all but two towns in all of the cursed land!”

“It is a life, yes. As opposed to a death,” Samuel said. “I’m glad you’ve finally come to your senses and realized that.”

“Play with my words if you wish but Leopold has dreams, and I do too. Together we can work toward the change our people need and deserve. We deserve it, Father!”

“Of course we deserve it!” Samuel slammed his calloused palm on the table and Angelica tensed. “But deserve and expect are not the same, Angelica. Deserve and receive are even greater strangers. That’s a difference you stupid young people need to learn before you get hurt, and get others hurt along with you!” he roared. And when he saw his daughter’s tears of frustration commence, he calmed considerably and made to comfort her. “That’s what this is about, my child. I’m so afraid that Leopold’s high and mighty ideals will deliver you to a life of misery, or to no life at all. Don’t you understand that? His kind… his kind,” he shook his head sadly, “they never persevere.” Samuel reached across the table and took her trembling hand in his. “I have seen their fates, my dear. The dismal fates of a dozen Leopolds, maybe a hundred of them.” He patted her hand. He got up, blew out the candle, and left her alone at the table. From the other room he added, “There’s no shame in a hard day’s labour, Angelica. He just needs to get used to it. His childish fantasies will subside with time. They do for all of us.”

On a logical level, she knew her father made sense. But someone had to make the change, she thought. Why not Leopold? She knew her stance would not waver, and neither would her father’s, but peace would have to be made, somehow. 


Samuel had been mortified on that late afternoon when Leopold had come to dinner and announced his intentions toward Angelica. He decided then that Leopold was an evil, treacherous rat who had tricked his naive child into romance. This was a notion that his wife Alina, scoffed at, and one that Angelica found highly offensive. She refused to speak to her father for days until he apologized and accepted Leopold into the family, however grudgingly. 

Contrary to the common mores of the local Christians, Jewish women had never acted subservient to their men and had never allowed themselves to be treated as lesser people simply due to their sex. Wiser Jewish men, for their part, knew they daren’t even try.
Leopold, then, was welcomed as Samuel’s son-in-law. Because Samuel knew he had no choice.


He never did come to view the situation quite as his daughter and her husband did, or agree that leaving the country was the best thing for her, but Samuel knew that he must accept it. Sombrely, he had helped them load the carriage on that late-September morning when they departed and, as a show of love and support, offered them his trusty horse, Saffron, in trade for the thinner and weaker one Leopold had planned on using for the journey. “If you are to make it,” Samuel had assured them, “it will be with the help of able ol’ Saffron.”


Angelica looked blankly at the greying horsemeat in her lap and forced herself to take another bite. As long as it still hadn’t turned, she needed to consume its nourishment for the sake of her child, whether she wished to eat it or not. Mechanically, she chewed and tried to find the will to carry on.
It had been three days since Leopold’s death. She took turns, along with Julius and Rebekka, guarding the carriage with an old shotgun; the onslaught of wolf packs had become a very real threat with the aroma of meat roasting over the fire. Night and day, the small troupe kept vigil but the wild animals never returned. Julius eventually got the axle replaced and they set off once again, slower than ever, one man short, and with a rapidly declining source of food. On the seventh day, the last sad remains of Saffron were divided up, cooked over a small fire, and dished out. And then it was Fantôme’s turn, but she only lasted a day.

After four more days as the hunger became unbearable, Julius forced himself on a foraging expedition early in the day and not returning until dusk, acting sheepish and peculiar when he did. He had with him, wrapped in his jacket, a piece of meat he said he found jutting out of the snow, just beyond that old forest where the new axle was found. 

“It’s the thigh of an elk,” he said, “It was quite a stroke a luck to come across it.” He avoided the women’s gazes and cooked it behind the carriage in lee of the bitter northerly winds. The smell was glorious to the ravished threesome as it began to sizzle. Fearing the scent would attract predators, they remained on guard as they salivated and impatiently waited for it to be thoroughly cooked. Julius scraped off the first piece for Angelica, who took it reluctantly but then gorged herself on it, chewing and swallowing faster as the taste became more palatable. She thought she could feel her child being satiated as her own hunger subsided for the first time in days. 

Was elk the best he could come up with? she thought. It wasn’t nearly the right shape for elk, nor an appropriate length.

How had the wolves managed to leave an entire thigh behind? she wondered, but she couldn’t ask. To ask would be to break the communal lie. She closed her eyes and tried to think of elk meat as she chewed the bit of flesh she had just torn from the bone with her teeth. Still, despite Julius’s crude fabrication, she was grateful to him for allowing her – for allowing all of them – to pretend it was something other than Leopold’s leg they were dining on; it helped to make it just a little more tolerable.

But it wasn’t a full two days later when the hunger had returned worse than ever – and there would be no more Leopold legs to feast on. On the sixth day thereafter, without a scrap to eat since, the three sat in the cab in silence. Julius and Rebekka huddled together on one side, Angelica spread out on the other. She appeared to be asleep, but remained very much alert.

Because she had heard the whispers in the night, and she was hearing them again now.

She couldn’t make them out, yet knew exactly what they meant. Despite their misgivings, her travelling companions were planning to kill her and eat her; it was the only logical conclusion they could come to. Someone had to be eaten for the others to have a chance at survival. Rebekka and Julius never slept at the same time anymore. One of them always remained awake. Why? Was it to ensure she couldn’t get them before they got her? Angelica toyed with the idea that hunger might be making her paranoid, but she soon discarded the notion; her mind was all too clear. The body of a woman, with child, could feasibly supply enough energy to help the couple make it to the Rhine, at least if there was to be a mild break in the weather. It was two against one, Angelica thought. Or, perhaps, against one and a half.

She feared sleep but she was so desperately tired. If not today, then tomorrow it will happen. It will be soon when they kill me in my sleep and begin feeding on me and my baby. Angelica’s mind raced. She pitied herself and her insane predicament. How can I save my child? She hadn’t the strength to fight off the two of them, she was sure of it, not even if she wasn’t weak and nearly eight months pregnant. That was out of the question. She would have to somehow outsmart them. And fast. Emperor Napoleon, who was sympathetic to the Jews, she recalled, had often outwitted stronger, more powerful enemies – and enemies were what her in-laws now were, she had to admit. Adversaries in a life and death struggle. What would Napoleon do? she asked herself.
The answer came to her almost immediately: divide and conquer.


The whispers stopped when Angelica opened her eyes — stopped too abruptly, it seemed to her. Rebekka and Julius both smiled meekly at her. She smiled back. 

“I’m going out to melt some snow for water,” she said. “Unless there’s some to drink in here?” she asked, knowing that there wasn’t, since no one had left the cab during her supposed nap.
“Sorry, I should have gotten some for you,” Julius offered. “Let me get it now.”

“No, no, it’s fine. I need the air. It’s a little milder this day, no?” she said. The Freys uttered vague agreements. Angelica hobbled out, closed the door behind her, and filled a tin pitcher halfway up with fresh snow from beside the trail. “Oh, perhaps you could start the fire for me, Julius?” she called. Moments later, he was out there with her, struggling to ignite a flame without much in the way of kindling. He muttered something unintelligible but it didn’t matter; she replied with a loud giggle, one sounding flirtatious, she hoped, to Rebekka from inside the carriage. Julius gave Angelica a quizzical look, laughed awkwardly in return, and went back to concentrating on the fire. “I’ll just go back in, away from the wind, until it’s going well, alright?” she said, hoping Rebekka had heard Julius’s laughter as well as her own. He nodded, but she didn’t notice, as she had already climbed back inside.

“The baby okay?” Rebekka asked.

”I think so. It seems a little better than yesterday even,” Angelica lied.

“That’s surprising, but certainly a good thing.”

“Yes, it may have been Julius’s comfort during the night. You’re so lucky to have him, Rebekka. He’s truly a wonderful man.”

“Comfort?” asked Rebekka.

“Yes, and body heat. I loved how he rubbed my belly and... well, elsewhere... to help keep me warm and comfortable. I was truly relaxed for the first time in days. It made quite the difference.”

“Oh, I…” Rebekka tried. “I wasn’t aware he did that.” 

“Yes, he said it was important to protect the child. He does love children so much, doesn’t he? It’s a shame you’ve never been able to give him a child yourself. So sad, for both of you.”
Rebekka had no reply.

Angelica had been aware that, even this far along in her pregnancy, Rebekka felt inferior to her, as a woman — as a sexual being. She knew Rebekka was a little jealous of her, her looks, her manner, and especially of her unborn child. It was something that never would have been an issue under regular circumstances, but something Angelica felt she may be able to leverage now, during this desperate time. It was cruel, and devious, and the only thing she could think of that might help her live throughout the night.


She played the charade out subtly for the rest of the daylight hours, feeling the tension building between the couple, with poor Julius oblivious to the cause of his wife’s consternation. Angelica forced herself to stay awake despite crippling hunger that begged for a reprieve through at least a short spell of unconsciousness, until just past dusk when she finally allowed herself to lie down. Rebekka now believed, Angelica was certain, that Julius was planning on killing her, so he could survive with Angelica and help her raise her baby.

Then it was Rebekka’s turn to force away sleep. Angelica had no idea if she could outlast her. She had her doubts, but the survival of her child was a powerful incentive. She felt like squealing with delight when, finally, she heard Rebekka lightly snoring. She waited an agonizing ten minutes more before motioning to Julius to come over to her side of the cab. Seemingly bewildered, he yawned and obeyed. She whispered to him that she was cold and asked if he could he rub her belly for a few moments. The notion of touching her seemed to rattle him a little, and Angelica suppressed a sly smile. But he reluctantly obliged; he couldn’t say no to her, and when his hand was particularly low on her stomach, Angelica coughed loudly and laughed, arousing Rebekka on the opposite seat. 
Rebekka immediately assessed the situation, noting that her husband had his arm around Angelica instead of her, and his other hand had been suspiciously out of sight and doing god knows what down there before he quickly removed it, looking guilty. Rebekka screamed with rage and rummaged through her possessions quickly, finding the handle of the cast-iron frying pan, and swinging it wildly into the side of her husband’s head. Julius had tried to speak just before the impact shut him up and rendered him unconscious, leaving slouched against the side of the cab.

Angelica didn’t miss a beat. The moment the pan struck Julius, she pulled the butcher knife from her left coat pocket and reached across, burying it deep in Rebekka’s belly, and then yanking it up tight to the woman’s sternum. Rebekka gasped, her eyes widened in disbelief, and she instinctively used both hands to try to hold her guts in place. Her effort was admirable for a short time, until she fell over on the seat, with her dead eyes staring uncomprehendingly toward Angelica, and her innards escaping down the seat and creating a mound on the cab floor. 

Julius began to regain his senses. He moaned and held his forehead where the pan had struck. He groaned, and moved to push Angelica aside when he saw his wife was in some sort of medical distress. But he wasn’t quick enough, not having the comprehension and clarity of the situation as Angelica had. She acted fast while she had the upper hand, quickly pulling the knife from Rebekka’s midsection and swinging it over and backhanded across Julius’s throat. That attempt merely grazed him, so she tried again, deeper, more determinedly, more accurately, and with more success. The dullish knife gouged, more than cut, his throat and Julius slouched once more, but remained upright as the blood poured from him, and Angelica watched his life drain with it. She tried to get away from him, but weak, tired, and frantic, it took her a few almost-comical manoeuvres with her large belly before she managed to get released from his grip, and outside into the brisk evening air.

She leaned against the carriage trying to catch her breath, to breathe the fresh air deeply, and then she bent over and tried to be sick. But nothing came. She dry heaved for a long time, worrying how her child was faring with the physical and emotional distress on their systems. But then the nervous convulsions thankfully subsided. Angelica stared up, emotionless, into the night sky.


The only dry matches had been in Julius’s pocket. Soaked in blood, she allowed them to dry for two days before attempting to use one. During that time she had cleaned out the cab and cut the meat from the bodies of her in-laws as best she could. Starving, she was desperate to get the fire started and to get some protein into her for her child’s wellbeing. When she finally tried, she found the matches useless. Despite desperate hunger, she waited another day until she was quite certain the matches were as dry as they could get. She even tried to delicately scrape some of the dried blood from the sulphur tips of a few of them, but that failed too. Something about the blood, she surmised, had made the matches ineffective, so they could not ignite. 

There would be no cooking of the meat.

Over the next few days Angelica tried several times to eat some of her in-laws’ raw remains that she had managed to keep from freezing. Each time, she vomited violently immediately thereafter, rendering the attempts futile – and the meat wasted. She kept trying, however, and once in a while tried another match until they were all so torn and scraped up that they wouldn’t have been able to ignite in the most pristine of environments. Eventually, she had to admit it was pointless, and she broke down sobbing. She could feel the essence of her child waning.


A week later, feverish, half-crazed, she looked wild-eyed to the vague distance, screamed to it, and smashed the skull of Rebekka—the part of the body she had first discarded as useless. The bloated purple face cracked and Angelica turned that side down into the snow so she wouldn’t have to look into its cold, accusing eyes. Then she broke away the thick bone and cupped out the woman’s brain. It was cold, of course, but remained just soft enough to eat, thanks to its cranial insulation. Without hesitation, she took a deep bite into the front of the left hemisphere. 

And it was good. Palatable, at least. She could almost feel her child’s gratitude with every bite.
As the weather finally cleared and the snow began to melt, Angelica felt stronger, rejuvenated, and she decided she was now healthy enough to head out on foot. There wasn’t much of Rebekka’s brain left, but Julius’s head was in her sack, and that gave her comfort as she headed east with the brilliant morning sun splashing her face with glorious warmth.

Wednesday, 15 June 2016

Best Cinematic Dream I've Had In Some Time

Wow, great dream! There was only one man who could coax the greatest suspension bridge repairman (me) out of retirement for one last great job that was too important to be left to anyone else – and that man was the affable Jim Reyno.

But he was no ordinary suspension bridge owner, so siree, he was the owner of the tallest and most magnificent suspension bridge anywhere (I forget where) and we drank lots of shockingly expensive old scotch that he had (I forget the price but it was a really impressive number) to celebrate the occasion and Jesus, was it tasty.

Now you have to understand, ol’ Jim was the P.T. Barnum of suspension bridge owners and he wasn’t going to let this momentous occasion slip by without trying to capitalize some and make it even momentouser so, unbeknownst to me, he brought in his old pal Kady O'Malley as a surprise for me because he knew I loved her work and was always maybe a wee bit smitten with her. And so she shows up, all feisty and all like Kate Hepburn in Woman of The Year and immediately got into this rapid–fire madcap argument with Jim full of uproariously witty and well–timed retorts back and forth, which may have been in black and white, and it was wonderful to watch as I drank more scotch than anyone should drink before going to repair a suspension bridge.

I interrupted them and was cognizant of the fact that I had awkwardly ruined a classic scene and said I would only do it, though, if my old partner, Luke or Owen Wilson, the blonde one, was right there alongside me like it used to be in the old days. Turns out Luke or Owen was in Mexico or somewhere partying with a small harem of quite attractive Latina women and when he got on the phone he had sunscreen on his nose (I know this because I was an omniscient suspension bridge repairman.)

Well, Luke or Owen was happy to hear from me but he hemmed and hawed at the prospect in between fits of squirmy giggles as he was tickled all over by the aforementioned pretty girls. I think that helped break his resolve not to return to work and then he was immediately there in the next scene with me and Jim and Kady and we all had a good laugh together as we drank more scotch that Jim was starting to calculate the cost of now.

So when Burt Reynolds showed up then for a delightful cameo and we noticed Springsteen’s Cadillac Ranch was playing as the soundtrack over the scene, we all roared with laughter at the coincidence because it mentions Burt Reynolds in the song! Now that I think about it logically, the sound guys probably picked it because he was there but that didn’t occur to any of us at the time, not even Burt Reynolds, who had on his big cowboy hat and was chewing gum and grinning. Kady emitted a slight little snort during the laughing segment and we all thought that was even funnier, even Kady herself, because she's a good sport.

Long story short, me and the Wilson climbed up the suspension cables while some majestic river swirled and raged perilously below us (it was the Rio I’m thinking now) and we did our job and went back to celebrate with Jim and Kady. Burt was gone, probably because it would've lessened the effect of the cameo if he'd been in two different scenes, and then we all had a real good time even though Edgar Winter didn’t start singing, so maybe those sound guys don’t know everything after all.

Tuesday, 3 March 2015

Updated Reviews

Selected Praise

During those moments that I feel inadequate as a writer, I like to glance over these reviews of my work. They're nearly all written by strangers, which makes their words feel more sincere. You can't trust family and friends when they compliment you; they nearly always ask you to help them move something heavy immediately after.

 "Brimming with well-observed critiques of modern life, Victor of Circumstance has some laugh-out-loud moments and satire reminiscent of John Kennedy Toole."
~Mark A. Rayner, author of The Fridgularity
Eerie, sad, dark, liberating, redemptive, all of it. Great story! There are so many good things going on with this one that I have to try to put them into a succinct fashion.
Man, I got chills.
This piece of art is absolutely phenomenal. Good. Freakin'. Job!

Well done. (And you've just acquired a new fan!)
Great piece
I really loved the intensity that just exploded off the page
The story is real and the subject matter is so relevant it's terrifying.
I enjoyed this short story very much!
You really nailed this one.
A wonderful job. You get all A's from me. I have always enjoyed your stories. I look forward to the next one.
You did an amazing job capturing a very difficult topic.
wonderfully written.
Wow! Bravo!
...but one, like this one, comes along with the deep underlining theme of atonement and love and forgiveness that warms the heart and brings an awe of the author's talent.
I can’t begin to explain the many different levels of excellence I find in this piece.
This story had me bawling! I don’t like to cry but I loved this story. You did a great job in building sympathy for the main character and in slowly revealing his story.
Great job!!
The story has some truly heart rending scenes. The author very effectively, and at the right time, reveals to the readers what is driving the main character
Wow. This is one of the best stories on here! There are so many important aspects of life described and you are drawn in to an amazing, realistic journey. I highly recommend this story and hope the author continues to write.
This is a beautiful story. Beautiful, despite its horrors.
You  clearly have the gift of observing and drawing on real life to write compelling stories with a very strong hand.
Very Powerful
I was strongly affected by this story. There were parts that brought tears to my eyes; parts that broke my heart; and parts that disturbed me. Good job!
What a terrible, utterly realistic tale.
The way you described things was painfully real. You did an excellent job capturing the hatred and the fear and the helpless feelings that surround that type of situation.
let me say this about the story; it is superb
truly a marvelous, gritty story, a well-described, sometimes harrowing, sometimes funny, but always engaging story.
Wow. This was a very, very good short story.
I enjoy dark, alternative, and unique stories, so this was a good read for me.
Great Storytelling - It comes through loud and clear that you're a gifted storyteller. I've reviewed literally hundreds of works and yours was one of only a handful where I turned the page, not because it was assigned to me, but because I was genuinely engrossed.
I consider this a first class effort.
This is a well written gritty dramatic piece
Emotionally charged and well contrasted story
the message in this story is beautiful. I think you really are a talented writer.
This was a long short story, but I enjoyed every minute of it, well thought
out, and structured just so sweetly. a good story, very well told.
This is a well written, fast paced read. The story that was told is a real tear jerker. The situation was real and the telling was real.
I got comfortable with my special reading glasses a cup of tea and my comforter, and anticipated a great treat as the writer’s reputation preceded him.
This was an excellent character study. The subtle, emerging portraits were especially well-written. Very good writing!
Thank you for the opportunity to read this fine piece. The writing flowed easily and the word choice was quite pleasing.
What a wonderful,wonderful slice of life. You've captured a mood and a moment here that is both moving and recognizable to anyone who has ever been in a difficult relationship. This is a very nice piece of work.
stands out with the best I've read.  I find so well written that I'd like to strangle the author out of sheer jealousy!
What a lovely and touching story. You did a wonderful job capturing the initial loneliness and hurt. I empathized with your character, there were times I even felt his pain. Your imagery was beautiful.
Terrific. The setting is fantastic and worked well in this story.
thoughtfully beautiful - I did truly enjoy this short story. It was beautifully descriptive, not only in actually describing things, but for the level of how the reader can feel this man's pain, pride, sense of accomplishment and regret.
A really lovely story - The story kept me reading the whole way though
very well done. Bravo!
A nicely constructed, thought provoking, very enjoyable read.

A pleasure to read a piece that shows an apprecation for words, sentences, paragraphs and grammar. Beautifully done, thanks for a clear, bright, shining picture.
Well, the end brought a tear to my eye, so it must be good! Very good read :)
A fine effort at existentialist literature.
What a touching story! The structure was superb as well. Great job!
Good job - this story rocks. I love the word choices and how they are used.
There is no dull moment. Starting from paragraph one you know this is going to be good. You keep going and it keeps getting better. I totally ate this story up. Thank you for the great story.
a neatly told story, quite impressive indeed
Exceptional. There is something special about this short that certainly struck a chord with me. I’m sure there are others who will be touched by it. Your writing is punchy, colorful, and creative. The visuals are striking and carry a double meaning that’s apparent on first reading. Truly an enjoyable read.
This story had such a great feel to it. The reader experiences a real empathy with the writer. well written clear and evocative. Well done thoroughly enjoyed it.

Wednesday, 21 January 2015



       Charlie y la Compesina Incauta 

          a love story between the proletariat and the master



          a man struggles to survive, plagued by overwhelming guilt 



          at which point in a person's life is the correct time to judge their being?


        The Second Thirteen

          finding your moral code without positives role models

             - published 2013 in "13: The Anthology", Project 13 Press 



          when you can't reach conclusions, they must reach you 


        In A Yellow El Camino

          coming of age the hard way 


        Living The Life of Riley

          a boy's admiration of his father knows no bounds

             - to be published 2015, "Saints & Sinners", Project 13 Press


        Revolting Subjects

          how long can a kingdom's subjects take injustice before they revolt? 


         Ann-Margret-Private Dick

            the origins of cal chayce



       Victor of Circumstance

          - to be published 2015, Forest City Pulp

Wednesday, 8 October 2014

Crunch Time For The Liberal Atheist

One more reason in an ever-increasing list of  reasons why I'm finding myself less and less liberal all the time (which does not mean more conservative - I don't know wtf it means) is the back and forth the past couple of weeks between the by-the-book liberals and the atheists regarding Islamist fundamentalism. Liberals argue that criticism of Islamic ideology is racist. Atheists say when the liberal value of tolerance extends to tolerating intolerants, it has rendered itself useless. So atheists now find themselves, quite awkwardly, arm-in-arm with conservative anti-Muslim racists and this, understandably, confuses their frequent bedfellows, the liberals.

Despite the animosity, frustrated confusion, and fall into chaos by liberal-atheists, it's a fascinating split, intellectually, regardless of your stance on the issue. Christian conservatives are likely watching the whole spectacle with glee, eating popcorn out of their cowboy hats or whatever they do.

In the not too distant past, I was a fairly devout liberal (and if you think that has anything to do with political parties, just stop reading now and be on your way) and, though always wary of group-think, would naturally be more easily swayed by those with whom I tend to agree on most issues. Whenever that frightening paradox of tolerating the intolerants reared its ugly head, I would, probably, like any faithful servant, avoid it as best I could until it went away again.

But I've finally had to look at it directly, thanks to ISIS quite dramatically forcing the argument to centre stage under the brightest of spotlights, and Canada, yesterday, announcing that we're going to war - again. I'm certainly not on-side with the conservatives who always fear the unknown, and see everything with a simplistic 'us vs them' mentality, and who are only too happy to send our young troops off to die for any reason at all - especially since there's nothing like war to excite their base and provide them with much-needed leverage in the upcoming federal election. But I can't bring myself to hold hands with the liberals either, and join in the chorus of espousing the virtues of loving everyone equally despite the psychotic acts some might perform under the banner of their religion.

The end of the article I'm linking to below provides the solution: sensible Muslims need to rise up and take control of their religion from the nutters, but that won't happen overnight, if ever. The nutters in this case are NOT equivalent to the fringe extremist Christians like Westboro; they are embedded deep and far and wide within the mainstream culture. Westboro-types couldn't recruit a decent-sized theatre troupe never mind a global army; ISIS can. So - and even though I'm aware they're a convenient new boogeyman with which Western powers can scare the shit out of their citizens - I'm on-board with the atheists who say "Fuck 'em. No more tolerance for you cocksuckers".

Though, mind you, liberal-me *still* doesn't like the idea of sending young women and men to die over this shit - and I hate the idea of responding to the provocations of ISIS by doing exactly what they want us to do. If I'm at the bar and some idiot keeps pushing me and wants to fight, I'm liable to give him what he wants, but, just maybe, it'd be more prudent for a national government to act differently than a stupid, drunken Irishman.

You may notice that I've basically said, "I don't know what the fuck we should do" so it's probably a good thing I'm not a leader of any sort. But I do know that liberals need to think a little deeper than they have been, and force themselves to confront the conundrum. Relying on blind ideology in the face of difficult questions, no matter where you fall on the spectrum, is a waste of what might be a half-decent mind, one that could otherwise, feasibly, help us arrive at clever solutions.

But yes, I know most will refuse to admit to themselves that the tough questions even exist. It's much easier that way. 

Back to your popcorn, conservatives. Nothing to see here.

Sam Harris: Can Liberalism Be Saved From Itself?