Tag Archives: fiction

Two Debbies – Fiction

Reid Dickie

The two Debbies are sisters-in-law. They each married one of the Wilcox brothers. During their teens and early twenties, the Wilcox boys, Randy and Earl, were strong-willed and wild, in love with fast cars, hard liquor and tonight’s girl. That all changed when, in the same month but unbeknownst to each other, both brothers met, fell in love with and proposed marriage to a Debbie.

It was a double wedding. The four honeymooned together, or as Randy called it, “hornymooned.” Both Debbies recognized in these rough men the potential to be faithful husbands, special fathers and solid providers. They just needed a little tweaking. The Debbies are nothing if not great tweakers.

That’s how the two Debbies came to be sisters-in-law.

Both Debbies are nurses, one in the emergency room, and the other on the pediatrics ward of the same big-city hospital. They’ve seen everything. They are compassionate caring women, devoted to their patients and to their jobs. Why else, but for sheer love of the craft, would people work twelve hour shifts doing stressful work? They both became consciously aware, on the day they graduated from different nursing schools twelve years earlier, that this was a perfect fit; they were born to do this work. It is their dream job. And they just did it, while raising two children each, tweaking husbands and having fun.

That was the large lesson both Debbies learned from their mothers – have fun! It proved to be good advice under many circumstances, especially when dealing with unruly husbands or patients. Knock them off balance with a little fun. Why not? Life is short, as both Debbies see everyday.

That’s how the two Debbies came to be best friends.

Fun relieves stress. Having a best friend does, too. They arranged their schedules so, once a week, they have the same day off. Today they are both grocery shopping at Careway, the big supermarket chain, each with an empty cart and a long grocery list, neither looking forward to the chore.

They survey the large well-stocked colourful produce section and give the handsome produce man – his nametag says Luther – a good long ogle. Just loud enough so Luther can hear them, the two Debbies agree they’d like to see him wearing just the apron. They both smile at Luther before he goes on his break. Too bad. He was getting cuter by the minute. They decide to leave some hints for Luther when he returns from his break.

Debbie takes a long English cucumber, pairs it with two nice round melons and some parsley, and sets the phallic tableau on a bed of yellow beans. Debbie gets two eggplants and sets them on either side of a long yellow squash with bean sprouts tucked around each side. Debbie sets several little yellow and red hot peppers between red cherry tomatoes, tucking a set in among the arugula, another atop the oranges and another in among the grapes. Debbie takes two bananas and places them in a vaginal shape surrounded by broccoli. In a few minutes they left a dozen little suggestive tableaux, some obvious, others surprises to come across while browsing.

By the time Luther returns from his break the two Debbies are just walking away from produce, their carts carry their choices. It takes Luther several minutes to figure out what happened.

The manager of the Careway is indignant with the two Debbies as he confronts them on the floor of the store. They admit to having some fun while shopping but don’t own up to the dastardly produce porn. They let the manager fume and fuss over this, which he does! Profusely. They knock him off balance when their good natures suddenly turn sour as they accuse him of unprofessionalism and, without proof, placing blame where it doesn’t belong. The two Debbies get a couple of swift verbal kicks at the manager before they knock him off balance again by returning to sweetness and frivolity. This draw a bit of a crowd as the increasingly red-faced manager realizes he’s lost control of the situation.

“We’re the Shenanigan Sisters, I’m Sheena, she’s Treena, and our quite large husbands, Buck and Tuck, are around here somewhere,” informs Debbie.

Exasperated by these women who seem to be one step ahead of him all the time and, worst of all, don’t respect his position in the store, he has no option. He informs both Debbies they are no longer welcome in his Careway and invite them to leave immediately. Their response is laughter, so sudden and sincere that the store manager’s face turns impossibly redder with embarrassment. Other customers join in the glee.

The two Debbies abandon their half-full shopping carts, take down the name of the store manager, “so we can send you a Christmas card,” Debbie says, and, along with several other customers who sympathize with their situation, leave the Careway holding their sides from laughter, never to return.

By then Luther has discovered most of their creations.

Later that afternoon a pair of blue-haired ladies will get a chuckle out of their discovery tucked away in a manger of romaine.

That’s how the two Debbies came to be outlaws.

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Filed under Fiction, Friendship, Humour, Old Souls, Soul Building

Shoal Lake August 19, 1889

Reid Dickie

Shirtless, Rainer Slate stumbled through the open front door of Batter’s Apothecary in Shoal Lake, fell face down onto the oiled wooden floor and passed out. Borden Batter paused at his mortar and pestle, peered over his round glasses and surveyed the prone lout.

“Glynnis!” he shouted. “Someone’s here to see you!”

Glynnis knew exactly who her visitor was by the tone in Batter’s voice. With sweat trickling into her eyes from a mid August heatwave and a swollen lip she’d bit minutes earlier throbbing angrily, Glynnis paused, listened and slumped her shoulders in resignation.

“Idiot,” she groaned to herself.

She felt only slight relief at getting away from the stubborn nut press that was supposed to extract oil from almonds for salves and unguents but fought her every turn. Glynnis split the heavy brocade curtain, peered into the store and saw her half-naked unconscious husband.

“Idiot,” she said stepping around him. She bent and turned him over; a small trickle of blood ran from his lip.

“Rainer. Rainer!” She shook the unconscious man, his big head lolled back and forth on his broad shoulders, tongue slavering his chin.

“Rainer!” she shouted. There was a flicker on Rainer’s face, a sliver of consciousness passed through him. She shook him again. Blood from his lip spattered on his bare chest.

“Wake up!”

Borden Batter stood over the sorry pair, pudgy hands on his hips protecting his kidneys from the sad tableau he saw below him.

“Rather like a large drunk puppy, wun’tcha say, Glynnis? I can smell the hooch from here. The Portuguese have a saying…”

She cut him off. “No more sayings Borden! You’re not helping. Rainer! Rainer!” Her voice become more frantic, her cut lip turned purple.

Rainer’s eyes flickered open ever so briefly then their brown richness disappeared again into stupor.

“Idiot.”

She let his head drop heavily on the floor. It landed hard with a loud thud.

The knock seemed to bring Rainer around.

“What’s burning?” he asked, sniffing the air, becoming more alert with each whiff. “Smells like wood smoke. You smell it too?” He was trying to get to his feet.

Glynnis and Borden both sniffed but smelled nothing, no smoke.

Rainer slumped back down onto his side. “The fire is making me warm and sleepy,” he said. He started to curl into a fetal position but Borden interceded.

“Oh no, you’re not passing out here again, ever!” Borden gave a quick boot to Rainer’s shoulder. This caused his body to unfurl enough that Glynnis could get him to his feet.

“Out the door. Come on, Glynnis. Let’s move him outside.”

“Yes, yes.” The disgust in her voice was undisguised.

Between the two of them, they managed to deposit unconscious Rainer with his back against the alley side of the livery stable two doors down. Before he turned back to his store, Borden Batter peered over his spectacles at Glynnis.

“You’ll never get out of here if you stay with him and he keeps up like this. As sure as there are pork chop bones at an Anglican picnic, you’ll be stuck in a shack with him and his gruesome family all your life. With how many babies? Oh, right, none. Because this one,” he pointed a haughty thumb at Rainer Slate, “can’t plant a seed.” Borden pursed his thin lips into a smile, which evolved into a leer as he walked past her.

“Don’t malinger. Store’s open,” he spat.

At that moment Glynnis couldn’t decide which of these two men she despised more.

“Ouch.” Coming to, Rainer suddenly grabbed the back of his head.

“That was five minutes ago. You’re just feeling it now? That’s how drunk you are? Idiot. Where’s your shirt?” Glynnis could barely look at her husband.

“Something’s burning.”

“Don’t get going on about that again. Nothing is…”

“If it’s not burning now, it will be.”

“You are just trying to spook me, Rainer Slate, you devil. You always have been good at that.” She ran her hand over his chest.

“I smell smoke. There is something else mixed with the smoky aroma, something subterranean, mysterious, even sinister. Something that tastes like it came out of a thousand-year-old bottle. Elegant mischief. I can’t actually name it. I am not able to name it.” He gently rubbed the back of his head. A small lump was forming. “Ouch.”

Glynnis was more than a little spooked now. Subterranean? Sinister? Elegant mischief? She had heard her husband speak mainly in monosyllables in the four years she had been married to him and the year she knew him before that. He was an uneducated lout, a description Borden Batter had applied, accurately, pathetically, to her hapless husband on every appropriate occasion.

“Why can’t you name it,” she asked, curious where this would go.

“Smelling the smoke is a memory. A memory from the future. A burning bush with berries hanging red and delicious, temptation’s fruit luring us back and forth, swinging like a pendulum.”

Slate suddenly stopped talking, his mouth agape. He looked at his wife. She saw a little fear in his eyes.

“Somebody is going to burn down Shoal Lake.”

He said it without thought or inflection, a voice from a subtle wise place within him.

“Somebody is going to burn down Shoal Lake.” His words echoed in the narrow alley.

“Damn that hurts.” He rubbed the growing lump on the back of his head and pulled his hand back to see if he was bleeding. There was a small red smear on his fingertips. “I’m bleeding. How did I get this?” he asked Glynnis.

“I don’t know,” hoping her disgusted tone would hide the lie. It didn’t.

“You’re lying.”

“You must have gotten it when you fell in the store. Luck had it, there were no customers when you came in. Or dropped in.”

He knew she was still lying but chose to let it go. He laughed instead.

“I did drop in, didn’t I?” He smiled his unabashedly cute smile at her, which always melted Glynnis’ heart in an involuntary way she’d come to recognize as love.

Glynnis stared at her handsome half-naked man.

“I have such a headache,” Slate said wrapping his hands around his head as if it was a delicate glass bowl.

“Who’s going to burn down Shoal Lake?” she asked.

“I don’t know who but it’s because of politics, land, jealousy, greed, the usual reasons. I must lie down.”

Slate rolled onto his side and stretched out on the rutted dirt in the alley. He carefully placed his head to avoid contact with the swelling and closed his eyes.

Glynnis made no effort to keep her husband conscious. She let him go, let him sink to wherever he needed to be at that moment. She was spooked, truly, abundantly spooked. Who was this unconscious man at her feet who looked like her husband but talked like a professor? How can a fool be cured? What change had occurred in the past few minutes? What will happen next? These questions all suddenly, overwhelmingly, flooded into Glynnis’ mind.

She had to sit on her folded legs to accommodate the dizziness. She touched her husband’s trousers. They were damp and crumbly. She tasted the contents of a thousand-year-old bottle. Her vision became hazy, details dissolved in a fog of unrecognizable shapes. She heard a fond humming that made her feel nostalgic and happy. Some old songs all in a jumble, tumbling, crumbling then…she passed out.

“GLYNNIS!”

It was the shrill voice of Borden Batter at his most furious. His hands gripped his sides so tightly his knuckles turned white.

“GLYNNIS! WAKE UP!”

***

Three weeks later, on September 10 1889, a stiff northwest wind propelled a fire from one end of North Railway Avenue to the other, wiping out eight businesses including two hotels, livery stable, general store and Batter’s Apothecary. The fire changed the shape and destiny of Shoal Lake, provoking businesses to open along Station Road, south of the tracks.

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Filed under Fiction, Local History, Pioneers

Nothing Virtual About It

Reid Dickie

Six weeks after I had double bypass heart surgery in 2002, I wrote this piece about healing and prayer circles.

Before we got our home desktop, whenever my computer-literate friends would talk about virtual reality, virtual communities, virtual museums, virtual anything, I would smile, nod and appear to know exactly what they meant. I didn’t, of course.

I understood the word ‘virtual’ and the concept they were using it to support but I was not adequate to their meaning of the term. It was the context I was missing. I didn’t have the necessary tool to create the possibility of something/anything being ‘virtual’ in my life. That changed the day I unpacked the computer. Soon I’d be keenly aware of the new meaning of this word ‘virtual’.

It was Valentine’s Day 2002 when I found out I needed double-bypass heart surgery. The stress test, angiogram and nuclear heart scan all pointed to the same conclusion: two of my coronary arteries were almost completely blocked. Surgery was recommended though not urgent since I could function with medication and moderation.

Ten years before, at age forty-two, I’d had a heart attack shoveling snow on another February day. It was my wake-up call! I paid attention. Changing my diet, habits and attitude, and walking twenty miles a week for a year at a rehabilitation-fitness centre saved my life. I had ten good years before my “genetic predisposition” caught up with me. The cousin who minds the family tree mentioned how many of my male predecessors had heart problems and attacks. The surgeon who performed the bypasses commented on how I’d gotten a bit of a raw deal genetically since I was slim, otherwise healthy and “young.”

There is a limit to the amount of responsibility for one’s situation you can attribute to “genetic predisposition.” The guilty food pleasures, the walks I should have taken but didn’t, the negative thoughts and aggression that always work against the heart; this is where my responsibility lay, how I started to jam up my own arteries. And now the consequence, the feedback was making itself known. Heart surgery!

Nothing virtual about it. This was a problem at the level of matter and meat. It was something we could fix, do fix everyday, almost routinely, with modern medical tools and skills. A re-arranging of arteries and veins, the right drugs for the various stages of the procedure and afterwards, the pump to take over from the heart and lungs, the drainage pathways required, the restricted movements to allow proper healing of bone and flesh – all this we are very accomplished at doing.

I had the surgery in mid-June. With at least six weeks of recovery after the operation, some financial planning had to be arranged and I needed to research the surgery and the alternatives. I spent many hours online reading about the heart, bypass surgery – often in full colour graphic detail – and the other resources available.

After weighing the alternatives, Linda and I decided the surgery would be my best option at this stage of life. I was strong and healthy enough to survive it intact, we were confident about the skills of the surgeon and the surgical staff.

One idea I came up with during this time was to create a prayer circle of family and friends online and elsewhere when the day of my operation neared; a ‘virtual’ prayer circle as one of my friends dubbed it.

As resilient and resourceful as the human body is, it necessarily houses a spirit that requires expression in the world and thrives on love exchanged between beings. That was what I wanted to tap into with the prayer circle.

I was on the cardiac surgery waiting list four weeks. On a Friday, I got my date. It would be in one week. Linda and I kept the date to ourselves during the weekend giving us a chance to mull it over and feel more settled about the whole procedure. It weighed heavy on my mind.

When we live more intensely, as in a pre-operative state, life begins to manifest itself in ways that are necessary and appropriate. As we began to inform family and friends about the surgery date, something wonderful happened! When we shared the burden of knowing, an increasing lightness started to grow in both Linda and me. The simple act of sharing the burden relieved the weightiness of the immediate future. With each successive person we informed, anxiety melted away. An unexpected confidence started to build in me, complete certainty that this was the right thing to do.

Two days before surgery I emailed the prayer circle request to about 25 family and friends. It was straightforward with date and time of surgery, approximate hospital recovery time and a simple sincere request:

“Please join together in a circle of love during and after my surgery with your prayers and positive energy. Your loving help means so much to us at this time and will aid in my full and speedy recovery. Thank you for sharing in my healing. Now that you have read this, the healing has already begun!”

Several people emailed me right back with their messages of hope and loving support. The rest I felt in my heart. On surgery eve, I was awash in the positive energies and expressions of love generated by the prayer circle; bliss in full measure took over my being. It was palpable. Linda felt it too. I had invoked the healing interplay between body, mind and spirit and wept at the sheer perfection of its unfolding. I was ready for the repairs!

 There was nothing virtual about it. The reality of love and friendship, expressed with singular intent across many miles from many sources, converged in me. This aura of love carried me through the surgery, the immediate recovery and onto the ward where I spent four days. I basked in the afterglow of this healing intent, aware of how it was fueling my recovery, abetting the natural regenerative abilities of my body and lifting me when I felt some post-operative depression.

This outpouring of loving support manifested in other ways. It helped me sustain a positive attitude during my hospital stay. The people who noticed this immediately were those angels of mercy, the nurses. They’d seen people deal with this same situation in all manner of ways, some more successful than others.  Maybe it was my spiritual preparedness or the intangible support that I brought with me; whatever it was, the nurses and staff recognized something extra was happening.

Looking back on this I now realize what was happening: the ‘virtual’ was being made real in the world. The prayers and loving intent that I asked for ‘virtually’ online became my reality. While the computer tool made the virtual prayer circle possible, it was the spirit and expression of our loving first nature that made it real in the world. I was living those special conditions.

And what was my responsibility? The answer came to me with such brash certainty I could not ignore it. It made perfect sense. The only way I could repay my family and friends for their limitless sharing of love was to recover fully, completely. It would answer their prayers. It was the exchange the special conditions demanded.

In the six weeks after the surgery, my recovery was nothing short of remarkable. My heart, with its new stamina, allowed me the increasing exercise I needed, the flesh and bone healed with little scarring and no infection. An unexpected benefit of the procedure was increased creativity. Suddenly I had all this extra blood flowing to my brain causing fresh new ideas to spew out of me. For a writer that’s almost a miracle! One of the risks of heart bypass surgery is cognitive decline. For the exact opposite to happen is an unexpected bonus.

The fact is, love lives large in the world and, when focused, produces amazing results! The love shared by my family and friends merged with Linda’s unconditional love and devotion resulting in a perfect healing environment for body, mind and spirit. Nothing virtual about it.

Read an earlier post about my heart surgery.

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Filed under BEAUTY, Family, Hope, Linda, Love, Momentous Day, Spirit

Abel Klemper Snorts Crystal Lite – Fiction

 Excerpt from “Last Order of Loneliness”

Reid Dickie

The morning is grey with a promise of clear skies tickling the western horizon. Abel Klemper is heading to Hugely Park by the lake to meet his friend Freddy Kane who is a year older than Abel and in Grade 6. Abel feels the nervous excitement of doing something for the first time as he walks the overgrown path into the trees. Freddy is already there, sitting on a downed tree.

“Did you bring it?” Abel asks Freddy.

 Freddy pulls a small sandwich bag a quarter full of grey powder from his knapsack.

“Is that it?” says Abel.

“This is it,” says Freddy. “Mom will never notice it’s missing. Ready?” Freddy untwists the twist tie, opens the bag and an aroma of bananas rises from into the still damp air. “I’ll show you how since this is your first time.”

Freddy takes a small amount of the powder on the tip of his index finger, brings it to his right nostril and sucks the powder up his nose. He sniffs a few times to get the dust as far into his sinuses as he can. A weird smile crosses Freddy’s face. “Your turn.”

He hands the bag to Abel whose hand is shaking a little bit but he manages to get the powder onto his finger, snorts it up his right nostril and follows Freddy’s lead, sniffing it several times. “Oh, owww, it burns,” Abel says.

“Yeah but just for a minute,” Freddy starts to laugh through his strange smile. Both boys take another fingertip full and snort it up their left nostrils.

“Ooow, I taste bananas,” says Abel. Both boys start to laugh and start making monkey noises and motions. They both get dizzy and sit down on the fallen tree trunk. Abel feels a little like throwing up but resists.

“My head is growing,” says Freddy. “Growing like a pumpkin in autumn.”

Pumpkinhead would be a good nickname for Freddy, thought Abel, finding it increasingly difficult to think directly about anything. His head felt big and floaty, more like a balloon than a vegetable.

“Pumpkinhead,” Abel says, turning toward Freddy. “That would be a good…” Abel stops in mid sentence. With horror at the suddenness of it, Abel says to Freddy, “Your nose is bleeding!”

“Yeah, that sometimes happens with this stuff.” Freddy dabs his nose with a tissue. “It’s a good idea when you know you’re going to snort to bring along a tissue or two.” The bleeding is spotty and soon stops.

“Let’s go,” says Freddy.

The boys wend their way out of the trees toward Hugely Elementary, staggering slightly. Abel’s’ head still feels light and large.

Twenty minutes later, as Abel ponders the first page of a math test with ever-mounting confusion – a combination of his general inability to do math plus the affects of the aspartame-loaded drink mix – a large red drop of blood splashes onto the paper. Abel stares at the blood without moving, his eyes growing larger and more horrified. A second drop falls, then a third. Abel doesn’t move, he’s transfixed by the sight of his blood so cleanly and readily leaving his body, a strange attraction to it grows in him.

A shrill scream from the girl sitting across the aisle shatters his interlude. She has noticed his bleeding nose. Abel jumps and the class turns to see him rubbing his nose on his sleeve leaving a long red gash on the blue fabric. He tries to wipe the blood off the test paper, smearing it with his hand, leaving bright red splotches on the paper and his hand. He wipes his hand nervously across his forehead leaving several thin red lines. A few sniggers arise from his classmates. A solid red line of blood runs from his right nostril over his mouth and drips off his chin.

Realizing he is the focus of everyone’s attention, Abel smears the blood over his chin and cheeks with increasing intention. His face is a reddening mask pierced by two huge black eyes that survey the other children as if they are prey. He tastes banana and begins to growl, rubbing his face with more blood, small drops of it spatter around him onto other students. Abel imitates a monkey and laughs a high keening wail. He scratches his sides and his butt, woofing through funneled lips. His classmates become less entertained, more frightened by Abel’s actions.

Miss Baxter runs to Abel’s desk. “Good Lord, Abel, Abel, are you all right?”

“Shove your fucking Lord up your fucking ass,” snarls Abel through his reddened grimace.

Miss Baxter exercises her control over the Grade 5 class.

“Everyone! Clear the room. Everyone out in an orderly fashion. Wait in the hallway. Everyone out NOW!”

The room clears quickly, leaving just Miss Baxter and Abel. Without his audience, Abel is deflated and slumps into another student’s desk, watching his blood splatter onto the clean white test papers. Miss Baxter puts the box of tissues from her desk next to Abel. He takes several and wipes at his nose. The bleeding is slowing. He holds the white tissues against his face in stark contrast to the red blood which is beginning to dry and peel off.

“Abel Rufus Klemper.”

Abel has never heard his name spoken with such negative force.

“Abel Rufus Klemper.”

Abel trembles, too afraid to turn around. “Who’s asking?” he peeps.

“I’m not asking. I’m telling. Look at me.”

Abel turns to see the letters B-A-M on a large silver belt buckle. Principal Mangle glowers down at Abel, his fists clenched on his hips, his crisp white shirt and tightly knotted tie support his large angry face.

“Stand.”

Abel stands.

“To my office.”

“Miss Baxter,” Mangle says, “I’ll let the janitor know for a quick clean up. Reschedule the test. Take them for a study break in library. Let’s not overreact.”

“Yes. Thank you Principal.”

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2420 Summers Ago

Reid Dickie

Rustakoomaw crouched in the shade of the cottonwood that grew next to a dry streambed. It was the only tree for miles, an imposing sentinel against the sky. He held a small round drum made of hide and wood that he beat steadily and quickly with a fur-tipped stick. His voice accompanied the persistent beat, sailing across the still prairie, mixing with the whispers of cottonwood leaves the slight breeze spurred. Eyes tightly shut; his body weaving slightly, Rustakoomaw approached the trance with awe and respect. He stepped inside.

Immediately his power animals were with him, ready to accept and follow through on his intent. Rustakoomaw had come to the trance for help. His people were sick and dying, the rain had not appeared for many moons and the buffalo herds had deserted the prairie for the wetter north country. The grass was drying up on the hills, creeks and sloughs were now just smooth stones and crusted earth. He was asking Great Spirit to feed his people and bring the rain so the buffalo grass would grow again. His power animal Wolf linked the shaman with the Divine. Tears rolled down Rustakoomaw’s dark face, landing on his bare chest. He beat the drum harder. Wolf beckoned him.

The shaman found himself being lead toward a high hill that he knew very well. It was at the eastern edge of the region he and his people hunted. It overlooked a vast rolling plain; below it was the white shore of Bad Water Lake. The grass grew tall and green surrounding the hill. He stopped at the foot of the hill and looked up. At the top of the rise, he saw a wavering vision begin to take shape. Emerging from the shimmer of the heat and the clear cloudless blue beyond, Rustakoomaw began to make out a shape, an animal shape.

Like a jewel atop the verdant hill, the image of a huge white buffalo appeared. It turned and looked Rustakoomaw in the eye, nodding its shaggy head. He began to climb the hill toward the buffalo. As he approached, he realized he was suddenly getting wet. It had begun to rain. The vision of the white buffalo dissolved in the sheets of rain that slashed at the land. The sky was still bright blue and cloudless but the rain continued to fall in Rustakoomaw’s trance.

That evening as the small band devoured a thin white-tailed buck, a lucky hunt by one of Rustakoomaw’s sons, clouds began to roll in from the west. A gentle rain began that persisted all night and into the next day. Every evening that week the rain came. The parched earth drank every fresh drop and the grass returned to the prairie, along with it the buffalo and the health of Rustakoomaw’s people.

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Filed under Fiction, shaman, shamanism, Spirit

Big White Combine

Fiction by Reid Dickie

Bruno Insinger is having The Dream again. He started having it before Christmas and here it was the middle of summer.

Though seeding was delayed by a cool spring, the rains came at an opportune time and Bruno’s 1600 acres of barley and oats germinated into a promising crop. When the crop was about six inches high, the heat started. That was six weeks ago. Not a drop of rain had fallen since and his stunted crops wilted in the fields. Every day was above 80 degrees. The crop wasn’t able to hold the earth in place to counter the erosion; even light winds lifted top soil into hazy blusters. A crop yield 10% of the average was what Bruno expected to get this year. It was a disheartening depressing prospect, a waste of time, energy and money.

In The Dream, Bruno is surveying his fields. For miles around the pale parched green of his stunted crop matches the dry grey earth. The highest point on Bruno’s farm is a rise. Though somewhat precarious, it is tillable and harvestable. He is looking toward the rise which is shrouded in an impenetrable white mist. Above the hill, clouds have formed, billowy and white; from behind them, the sun is sending glowing shafts of light toward the white mist. Gold tinged and subtly moving the heavenly shafts penetrate the mist. Slowly in deep spirals from the bottom of the rise, the mist begins to ascend into the sky. As it clears the top of the hill, a huge white combine appears. It stands enormous against the sky, glistening with clean bright light. The machine is blindingly white, so bright Bruno can only take brief glances at it, a glistering gem against a blue velvet cloth.

Accompanying the vision is the rat-a-tat-tat of tin drums, children’s toys beat with determination and clamorous intent; toy pianos tinkle, plastic clarinets wheeze, a tambourine finds no rhythm. The cacophony increases in volume when the big white combine fires up, perceptibly shaking on the summit. The noise becomes louder as The Dream goes on.

There is a sudden flurry of diagonal white motion; the combine is moving, traveling over Bruno’s acres, eating them up like a starved deafening goblin. A man Bruno doesn’t know steps up to him and writes something on a small slate board. No matter how hard he tries, Bruno can’t make out what the man wrote. That’s when The Dream ends.

The next day was hot and rainless. That evening Bruno sat on the porch swing. He was alone, something that rarely happened on the farm. The kids were vacationing with his relatives and his wife was visiting her sister a day’s drive away.  The cold beer sure tasted good, ‘100% good.’ He thought of The Dream.

At first, it sounded like loud electrical static, a broken buzzing that seemed to come from around the side of the house. Bruno cocked his head. From the other direction, a crackle came that sounded close and dangerous, then another from across the lane. He thought he was about to be hit by lightning. An explosion on the cement porch steps made him realize it was hailstones.

He got up and looked behind the house toward the west. The sky was black with roiling clouds, pierced by near-continuous lightning. Suddenly the air was full of ice. It pounded off the roof of the porch, battering the flower and vegetable gardens into pulp, smashing the windshield of the half-ton, careening and shattering off everything. As Bruno watched, his yard, his lane, his fields all turned white. Hailstones, ranging in size from marbles to baseballs, fell for seven minutes over an eleven square mile area. Bruno’s farm was in the middle of that area. The temperature dropped seventeen degrees in ten minutes. In places, the hail was a foot deep. A day later, there were still pockets of hailstones in shady areas.

The following afternoon the hail insurance adjuster inspected the damage. When he was done Bruno asked, “Well, what’s the word? Big white combine?”

The adjuster wrote “100%” on a clipboard and showed it to Bruno.

“Big white combine,” said the adjuster.

Bruno was relieved. It was over.

For this year.

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Filed under Fiction, Pioneer Village

Three Days in Eastend – Chocolate Peak

Reid Dickie

Day Two

Day Two in Eastend finds me standing before this pretty house. Author Wallace Stegner lived in 20 places in eight states and Canada, one of them being Eastend when he was a child. His little house, well-maintained and loved, is now a local tourist attraction and houses resident artists. Stegner’s autobiography, Wolf Willow, is the seminal work about the prairies, much of it youthful remembrances from the Eastend area. A worthy and honest read. In 1972 Wallace won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction with Angle of Repose. Here’s an excerpt from Wolf Willow about how the prairies feel. 

“There was never a country that in its good moments was more beautiful. Even in drought or dust storm or blizzard, it is the reverse of monotonous, once you have submitted to it with all the senses. You don’t get out of the wind, but learn to lean and squint against it. You don’t escape sky and sun but wear them in your eyeballs and on your back. You become acutely aware of yourself. The world is very large, the sky even larger, and you are very small. But also the world is flat, empty, nearly abstract, and in its flatness you are a challenging upright thing, as sudden as an exclamation mark, as enigmatic as a question mark.”

The SW Quest for Art & History is a self-guided tour of various historic and artistic places in southwest Saskatchewan, the Stegner house one of its stops. Their website gives you the entire tour.

On Day Two, Today Eastend offers us some recent and geological history wrapped into the same site, Chocolate Peak, situated just outside of town. I won’t spoil the sweet treat. Find out what I mean by watching my short video report.

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Filed under Day Tripping, Local History, Natural Places, PRAIRIES, Saskatchewan

New Sidebar – Reid’s Flash Fiction

I’ve added a new sidebar feature called Reid’s Flash Fiction, which will offer a short short story every few weeks, replacing bum wines. Flash fiction is usually defined as being under 500 words and my stories will conform to that. You can find my longer works and more flash fiction on the Fiction page. Flash fiction is on the right sidebar about halfway down. Enjoy! Reid

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Filed under Art Actions, Blog Life, Fiction

Fifteen Museums That Don’t Exist

BEFORE AND AFTER VAL MARIE

 Reid Dickie  

BEFORE

            At Ipswich McCauley’s Museum, you will see five hundred sixty one pairs of baby shoes dating back to 1750; one hundred twenty of them are bronzed, some are moccasins worn by Sioux babies.

Down the road apiece is Doanne Skweizer’s grandfather’s collection of wrenches, 184 in all. Next to each wrench is a glass jar of nuts and bolts the wrench was used on.

In Lipton Seeback’s farmyard is a small shed that contains three hundred eleven early electric fans and a couch made of horseshoes welded together. Not even one of the fans work but, improbably, the couch is extremely comfortable.

Astwurst Shfickins brought his mother’s collection of dolls made of goat dung – all two hundred seventy three of them – from Norway. She made every one herself. He keeps them under locked airtight glass domes, each dome lit by an intense overhead beam.

A mile detour gets you to Ditdit Kbeema’s House of Coconuts. It is not a house made of coconuts but rather a collection of all the varieties of coconuts the planet provides.  Ditdit will always try to sell you a polyester Hawaiian shirt. Do not buy one.

Lukas Smallth claims to have about $30,000 worth of coins that he watched being run over by trains after he put them on railway tracks. When you ask him the obvious question, Lukas will likely weep.

Pershing Dowhauser inherited an uncle’s collection of clothespins and displays them on a clothesline holding up an aunt’s collection of Irish linen tea towels with birds on them. Everyday is laundry day at Pershing’s house.

As a school project when he was eight, Gorse Grass started keeping a diary of his toilet habits and still persists at this fifty-three years later. He will show you his twenty-seven volume diary, point out highlights, explain his rating system and, if he is in a good mood, show you the entry for his most favourite bowel movement ever.

Dawn Intrafficschool’s museum features the two things she collects: ribald stories about nuns and obscure laundry detergents. Dawn will enthrall you all day with her nun stories, which she reads aloud in her bold voice. Since she blushes easily, she will spend most of the time beet-faced and embarrassed. Next to her wringer washer is her collection of rare laundry detergents with names by Pek, Jer, Poomt, Durf, KKKleen and White World. Whether removed from the market due to corrosive natures, unhealthy emissions or witless naming, all her detergents have a story to tell, just like Dawn herself.

VAL MARIE

            I stopped at a pay phone outside a garage in Val Marie, Saskatchewan at 3:00 am to call in my report. A small green ball of light shot around the streets of the tiny village the whole time I made my call. It ignored me and, making a tiny rocket noise, zoomed about four feet off the ground up and down the dozen dusty streets that comprise Val Marie. The few streetlights in the village were the old-fashioned, loaded-with-shadows white light types so the brighter-than-neon green gave an eerie organic illumination to the scene.

As I drove out of town, the green ball streamed by me then turned down a street it had traveled 80 times in the last 5 minutes.

A few miles on, I stopped at the side of the highway. As I stepped out of the car, Orion stepped out of the sky and rubbed my shoulders. I palpitated next to Highway 18, massaged by a constellation.

By a stream, I fell asleep. I know this.

I am eastbound now, horizon speaking directly to me in the dim yellow language of morning.

AFTER

            Toodhow Klippenhaus will show you his collection of Venezuelan toreador hats for a small fee, usually from $5 to $8. He has over 800 to show you. Set aside a day.

At Aurora Gaunt’s Soup Museum, taste sixty-six kinds of consommé.

Watch for the dozens of flags flying at Biffyland, the world’s largest collection of outhouses, all in working order. How many? They have lost count but you can count on getting lost in the Biffy Maze. This is a recommended pit stop.

For some odd reason Clynmyst Gigglougg kept everything his mother told him never to put in his mouth. And here it all is, awaiting your perusal. Warning signs are posted.

The Old Testament is written on the west wall of Bryton Galosheski’s barn, on the east the New Testament. The gable ends are painted to look like the fore and aft of Noah’s Ark. All along the ridge top of the gambrel roof is a large wooden cutout of the Last Supper, elaborately painted on both sides. The entire roof area is covered with antlers, horns and hooves of wild animals fastened securely with airplane wire. Some say “awesome”, others say “ghastly.” You decide.

If broken scissors are your bliss then do not miss the stimulating displays at Dayton Drayder’s Home for Wayward Half Scissors. Dayton can answer all your scissor-related queries, even “Is half a scissor better than no scissor at all?”

  March 15, 2004

 None of these museums exists. Sorry.

Val Marie does exist in southwestern Saskatchewan at the western edge of Grasslands National Park. It has 137 people, an excellent bed and breakfast called The Convent, interesting tour guides and the Information Centre for Grasslands National Park. It is often the Canadian hot spot.

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Filed under Fiction, grasslands national park, Saskatchewan