Briefs of Fiction, November 28, 2012 at 01h00

Now, I don’t know ’bout other folks, all I know is for me, but copper never hurt so much. Sure I was hurtin’ before they gimme the copper, too, I guess, but not as bad as that, no way. And it was gettin’ worst, and worst, like it was burning through me but I couldn’t let go. Folks always say it’s what gets you in the end. Could be you been shot a bunch’a times, could be you been gutted open head to toe, but until that copper gets on you and you pay that damned ferryman, you ain’t really dead. Continued…


Briefs of Fiction, May 15, 2012 at 10h32

There are children playing in a park. One of them, a soldier, shoots! Another, a spy, his shoelace untied, dodges the bullet by diving behind a bush! He rolls down a bank and under an old wooden bridge. The soldier calls for help and approaches the bridge cautiously, he knows how sneaky this particular spy can be. Fingers pointed like weapons tremble as he gets closer, until finally, right beside the bridge, there’s nothing but darkness.

“If you want to find your frrriend,” a voice in the deep shadows tells him, “he is in here.” Continued…

Pieces, Torn and Sinking

Briefs of Fiction, December 13, 2010 at 08h49

One by one, the pieces fall down, down, resting for a moment on the water before being pulled away forever. Henry treats the photos like strangers. He does not want to recognize more than he has to, more than he already does. It all feels like the day before, when he still had her.

This was the day they met. Summer camp, twelve years old, she was fourteen, wearing a Road to Ruin t-shirt. He had the same poster at home, that’s what they talked about. Nobody else in the photo matters, just him and Lisa, side by side. She wrote her address on the back. It rests for a moment and then is gone.

When he was fifteen, he performed in Chicago. She came out to see him, to witness the unscheduled solo they joked about. He was kicked out of band class for it, but he had to, Lisa dared him. Her laugh was in perfect harmony.

That was the day he told her that he loved her, but this too falls and is lost forever.

Yesterday, they were dancing at their wedding. In her beautiful white gown, in his black suit, flailing wildly to the music. Laughing. This was their joke together, to play Sedated as their first dance.

And then they are torn from that day, and they fall in pieces to the water.

He remembers everything she said, every gesture, every smile. Oh, that smile, it always leaves him breathless, and then the memory gently fades. Down, down, and gone forever.

The Mad Trapper

Briefs of Fiction, October 31, 2010 at 06h00

A rifle gets cold when it hasn’t been shot, so cold it freezes to your bare hands when you’re trudging through knee-deep snow falling so thick you can’t see right in front of you. There’s tracks on the ground, and they’re not a man’s tracks, but they’re the only things to follow.

Thick fur coats, blankets, tents, food, fire; who could survive here without these things?

Someone says he must have died somewhere far behind, someone else says no, his body would’ve been found, someone else says to keep moving, it’s too cold to stop unless it’s to make camp. They say he killed two Mounties, they say he’s got to be caught.

He’s not a man, he’s the Mad Trapper of Rat River, a ghost. Can’t be caught. Hard to believe ’til you’re after him.

There’s new tracks now, a man’s, from the caribou tracks to the trees. That’s how he’s been hiding, that’s where he is now. Who knows how long ago, his footprints are almost snowed over. A few hours, maybe, but they’re deep and they’re straight, so he’s not tired. He’s running. Seventy-two miles, he’s still not tired.

The ghost goes to a canyon. The trees are thick, and it’s too dark to see anything but the tracks leading down there. Someone says to set up camp at the top, there’s mountains surrounding him, he can’t go nowhere without coming back this way. A storm hits. It’s gonna be bad.

Even with a fire, it’s the coldest night in months. Nobody knows how he’s staying warm or what he’s been eating. How’s a man on the run find time to hunt, to dry his clothes, to build a new shelter each night?

A rifle is fired, it wakes everyone up, it kills the man on watch. Somewhere down in the shadows, the Mad Trapper is fired upon, and at the top of the ridge, given away by the campfire, two more Mounties die.

In the daylight, his tracks go from the top of the ridge, down through the trees, to the face of the mountain. There they stopped, nowhere to go. The ghost either vanished or the man climbed up, at night, during a blizzard, rifle in hand.

Everyone says he’s a ghost.


Briefs of Fiction, August 30, 2010 at 10h41

Onada crept towards the garden in silence. Fallen branches bent under his step, but did not break. This forest knew him, and it would never give him away.

He paused at the edge of the clearing. Hundreds of leaflets littered his crops. There had been an airplane the day before, but Onada couldn’t tell if it was Japanese. He hoped it was, hoped that his commanding officer had come to relieve him. But of course it was not, orders were not dropped from passing airplanes. They were given in person, face to face. They were accepted reluctantly and obeyed completely.

Onada retrieved a leaflet and retreated back to the forest. It wasn’t safe out in the open, in the garden that he came to only when he must. If it were too well cared for, the enemy would know he was alive, so he let most of the crops wither, even when he was hungry.


Did the Americans think he was a fool? That such an obvious trick would coax him out to be captured? His name was misspelled, his rank was incomplete! Such poor forgery! No protector of Japan would ever accept such shame as surrender! Never would the mighty Empire of Japan fall!

Onada remained vigilant. Here, on this island, to this soldier alone, the war raged on for thirty years.

Heaven and Earth

Briefs of Fiction, August 11, 2010 at 12h10

When scientists discovered what came to be known as God, they found the explanation simpler than they imagined. Some argued over the definition of God and questioned if this being fit that definition, but this was irrelevant. When God arrived on Earth — and He did not come alone — it was impossible to question His dominion.

Almost 72 years before His arrival, an outside planet was discovered that we came to call Heaven. Its unusual orbit around our sun was equivalent to 3741 Earth years, and because of its unusual trajectory, it was only visible to us for 218 of those years when it was closest. Its atmosphere was like ours and a race of sentient beings existed there, in many ways similar to us. We called these beings Angels, and among them — an Angel Himself — God was their representative.

Millions of years earlier, colonies were sent to populate our planet. They died almost immediately. However similar Heaven and Earth are, its geological differences were still too drastic for their species. Only their basic DNA structure remained on Earth, and over time, Angels guided its evolution into a similar species that could withstand Earth’s atmosphere and gravity. This, we learned, was the origin of humankind. No longer a marvelously unique and intelligent being in the Universe, but a primitive version of a species far greater than ourselves.

God arrived on Earth violently. Heaven was no longer habitable, its luxury stripped and its beauty polluted. The Angels came to our planet as conquerors, all of them our masters. We built their enormous cities. We built the cages we were kept in. We could not resist them.

And like that, God reined over Earth, our Lord.

No Questions Asked

Briefs of Fiction, July 29, 2010 at 03h25

The 30’s had a lot of hard-working folks who just couldn’t find honest work, but then there were guys like me who avoided honest work completely. That’s why I moved to the coast, it’s the easiest place to live without really trying.

I’d been in town long enough to know who the strangers were, and one day this ship came in looking for crew, a guy I’d never seen before. Says he’s looking for two men, three nights, no questions asked. The pay is great so I get a friend, and no questions asked, we load the ship up around midnight and set sail before sunrise.

Right away I get into it with the boss. Won’t tell us where we’re going or what we’re carrying. Big heavy crates, no labels, doesn’t even say which end is up. I must’ve asked a dozen times what was in ’em, nothing. Could be dangerous, I tell him, allergies and all that, but he doesn’t care.

The Printer’s Work

Briefs of Fiction, July 2, 2010 at 10h01

When the General came into the shop, he came with thunder. He was an arm of the President — the arm with the sword — and his questions were commands to be followed without question.

“Printer!” barked the General. “Will you make posters to hang in the city! Will you tell the people the truth about their glorious President!”

Work was slow and money hard to come by. Food was nearly impossible to find anywhere, every market was empty. The Printer was shaking, he had so little to eat.

The President was generous to his few loyal supporters. His General was ruthless with the rest. It was unwise to disagree with their requests, and really, what bother is it to anyone if it’s truth being printed or not? And what was truth anyway? Truth is printed all the time, by anyone! Let the people do as they will!

At the end of each day, he returned home and in the abundant food for his family he found truth. And each morning, it was lost, and he entered his shop a liar. When the door closed behind him, it sounded like thunder.

And so it went each day for months and years, his hands covered in the dark ink of the government. He could not care what horrible shapes the ink took. He would not look at it any more than to check the coverage. Day after day, he laboured.

The colour was the richest black. It was his pride.

Emma’s Particular Diet

Briefs of Fiction, June 23, 2010 at 07h34

Emma stopped eating meat when she was seven years old. Two years later, she stopped eating milk and cheese, and three years after that she stopped eating processed food. None of this was for ethical or health reasons. Emma just had bad luck with food.

When she was seven, Emma’s t-ball team was going out for hot dogs, and when she bit into hers, she also bit into a severed pinky finger. (It belonged to one of the workers at the factory where the weiners were made.) As soon as she pulled it out and saw it pointing right back at her, she refused to eat meat ever again.

When Emma was nine she found a gelatinous gob of something icky white on top of the butter, and a little while later there was an incident with chocolate milk that she never talked about. On her tenth birthday she found what she thought was a frog’s eye in her ice cream cone. (It wasn’t actually a frog’s eye, though, it was a completely different animal.) This is when Emma stopped eating dairy.

Finally, when Emma was thirteen, she stopped eating processed food. This was an unusual year, actually, even for her. One time she found a little green worm in a fruit bar, another time a hornet’s nest in a bag of chips. A can of pop she nearly drank out of was full of nails, a donut was actually an angry coiled-up rattlesnake, and she found a paint-soaked sponge in a package that was supposed to be her favourite organic tofu. Who knows how these things happen, but they did, and they happened to Emma.

One day, Emma is going to stop eating most fruits and vegetables, all rice and beans and nuts, and everything except for a specific type of apple that she will grow herself. And then one day, something will happen, and she’ll stop eating even that.

But as Emma always said, don’t go letting her stories stop you from eating what you want. She just had bad luck, is all.

A Seat in the Fog

Briefs of Fiction, May 31, 2010 at 11h26

Somewhere in the building across the street, in some scattered bit of his confused heart, Marcel admired what his wife had done. He shoved the deed into his pocket and wandered around. Rows and rows of patio furniture, all arranged neatly across the split room, more still in boxes in the back. Each table and each chair had accumulated only the dust since they were last cleaned perhaps two months earlier. Marcel pulled a plastic chair away from a glass table and its collapsed umbrella, and he rested.

When he proposed to his wife so many graying years ago, he promised her everything. They had nothing at the time so everything was easy to give, like a house, a family, food on the table. And all these things, he gave her.

They bought a store together, a little corner store in the small town where they lived. He liked the work but never quite understood the bookkeeping, so she took care of that. And every day, together, they ran the store. People went there for groceries, to rent movies, to enjoy a home-cooked meal. They raised their children there, and their children grew up to raise their own children there, and still, always together, they ran their store.

Looking around the dark room, Marcel wiped his eyes dry. All this furniture ordered from catalogues and shipped here, all set up and arranged and regularly cleaned. He had so many questions. He wanted none of them answered. He wanted out.

Last year, she told him that she was dying. She knew for a while, but she kept it to herself. It didn’t make sense, maybe, or she didn’t believe it, or she forgot. Her mind was getting old, she said. Foggy. She forgot some things, and remembered other things, things that never happened. Sometimes she didn’t recognize where she was.

He thought she was just tired.

She was tired for a long time.

Marcel made sure the For Sale sign was visible in the boarded-up windows. He locked up the building across from their store and put the key that the locksmith made into his pocket. According to the deed, they bought the building together years before she passed away, but this was the first time he’d seen this foggy place. He did not want to come back.