This is the third chapter of my month-long fiction, album, made of word pictures.
blindside. verb. Hit someone from an angle outside of their field of vision; catch a person unawares; exploit a weakness to attack. From blind plus side; its origin appears to be in American football.
This album is from Jacob’s university days. He took a lot of pictures then, but kept maybe one in 36, and this album is only personal memories – not even meant for anyone else to look at. Here are two young men in porkpie hats, one of them jutting his jaw forward so that a straw sticking out of his mouth points upward, the other making as if to put his tongue in the ear of the one. Now, who in the hell were they? Never mind; it’s a good picture. Personal feelings about subjects of pictures can cloud their pictorial merits. On the other hand, a famous subject can make much of an otherwise unremarkable photo. Here’s the campaign photo he took of the guy who became student union president, all blow-dried and properly lit, with a 21-year-old’s version of gravitas. He’s probably not famous now, but he was a thing on campus then. Shortly after the election, a water balloon launched from a hundred feet away by some engineers hit him in the side of the head and blinded him in one eye. You couldn’t take this picture of him after that, although he actually made for more interesting photos.
Here’s an action scene from a floor lounge in the university student residence. The furniture is purple and green, couches made of tubular metal and cushions. One guy is standing on a couch holding surgical tubing adapted with a pen nib for firing an intense stream of water. It is bellied out like a fed anaconda and it is power-washing someone just half-off the left edge of the photo. At the same time, a lanky lad with an open shirt is swinging a large cushion that is about to connect with the head of hose-guy and send him sprawling. Off on the right side of the photo in the half-shadow background is a young woman with short brown hair who is sitting calmly in a chair and looking directly at the camera with the sort of blankness that dares you to guess what she’s thinking.
Clara. Continue reading
This is the second chapter of my month-long fiction, album, made of word pictures.
tumbler. noun. 1. An acrobat or similar gymnastic performer. 2. A small hunting dog that turns and tumbles in catching its quarry. 3. A kind of pigeon that can do tumble-turns in flight. 4. A drinking glass or cup with a flat bottom; originally, a drinking glass or cup with a bottom that was curved or pointed but definitely not flat, so that you had to finish the drink before setting it down because it would tumble when you did set it down. 5. The part of a lock that turns when you have put the key in; also, similar other mechanical things that you probably won’t encounter if you don’t sail or shoot. 6. Any of some other things that tumble. From tumble, a verb with old Germanic origins.
Jacob is sitting on the carpet with the photo albums, rather than on the couch behind him, because he has a tumbler full of Bourbon and he does not actually want it to tumble. The couch has no side tables and he’s not going to set the tumbler on the couch cushion and he does have to set it down as he flips through the albums. And he’s not going to look through all these albums while standing. He’s settled in. He got his exercise already today, a nice 83-minute run, 16 kilometres, not too bad given that most guys his age would be out of breath running to the end of the driveway. Now he’s shower fresh and he’s going to look through memories of people. They will be the only people he’ll see today. Out the window it’s trees and more trees, and even up the road towards the campground there’s no one, because it’s really not camping season anymore.
This house is too big for him now that he’s the only one in it, the only thumping, groaning, breathing person. Lots of ghosts, and that’s another reason he could move on. He’ll be a ghost soon enough, though. He’s already dead, as I told you; he just hasn’t gotten to the part where he leaves his body yet. Soon, though. He’s rolling towards it as inexorably as if he were on a tumbrel. And then he’ll be another ghost. And after the house burns down a few years from now? Who knows. Are ghosts inflammable? Continue reading
It’s NaNoWriMo again, that month when people in the grips of an urge to write attempt to channel it into a novel. I don’t have the time to write a complete novel, but I’m going to string together a number of word pictures to make a story. It starts here.
album. noun. A book or book-like item for collecting pictures, clippings, autographs, or similar things; or something that resembles that in some important way (e.g., a record album). From Latin album, ‘blank tablet or notice board’, from albus, ‘white’.
Jacob is dead. He doesn’t realize it yet, but he is, as surely as a person who has fallen from a high window is dead even before hitting the ground. It is inevitable, cannot be forestalled or diverted, is like a cheque that has been deposited even before it’s been cleared. It will be cleared, so it already shows in your balance. And Jacob is dead, even though he’s sitting there on the green tough carpet in his house flipping through photo albums.
The house is dead too. Events have been set in motion that will lead to its immolation within a few years. This wallpaper with its green and yellow abstraction of poplar and aspen woods, this carpet, this dark-brown-stained cabinetry, this large tripartite window, this stucco ceiling, all will be cinders, ashes, then buried under gravel. But he won’t be here to see it. If he were it wouldn’t happen. Continue reading
This is a word picture.
trick. noun. 1. Clever act intended to dupe or mislead others. 2. Feat of skill. 3. Knack. 4. Client of a prostitute. 5. Set of cards won in one hand of a game. 6. Oh, come on, you know this word. It has a lot of meanings. From Old French trique, related to Italian triccare and modern French tricher, and also to English treachery.
Jacquie is standing on the subway platform now, in front of the sign that says the station name. You don’t see ST. PATRICK. You see her face heavily made up, smiling just a little at one corner of the mouth, and her hair dyed black and voluptuously permed, and then TRICK. The ST. PA is behind her. And so is the past.
She’s in a fortune-teller costume. It doesn’t stand out tonight because it’s October 31. She’s on her way home from the company Hallowe’en party. She’s left earlier than most of the people. The trick to not having to deal with the messy end is not to be there for it.
Well, she organized the damn thing and put it all together. They can clean it up. Continue reading
This is a word picture.
commensal. /kəˈmɛn səl/. adjective. 1. Sharing the same table. 2. Living in the same area as a different person, organism, or group without competition or harm. From Latin con ‘with’, ‘together’ + mensa ‘table’.
“There are monsters,” Kalan says as he chews his stew.
His grandfather raises an eyebrow. His grandmother smiles benignly. His father says “Don’t eat and talk at the same time.”
Kalan looks over at his friend Ethan, who is visiting them for supper. Ethan has red-sandy short hair and fine features. He’s sitting in front of the window, which has twelve panes. It looks out onto a front porch with powder blue square balusters and railing, and beyond that a tidy lawn, still green, still bearing the scuffs and rolling indents from the two boys’ play last hour. Kalan has dark hair and all the adults say to each other that he is a very good looking boy. Some say the girls had better watch out for him, and some say he had better watch out for the girls, and the rest don’t say that sort of thing. Behind Kalan on the wall is a framed reproduction of a Renoir restaurant scene, a lively litter of young men and women with tidy straw hats around a messy still life of a table featuring three half-empty wine bottles and plenty of messy white linen.
“That’s so dumb,” Lily says. Lily is four years older than Ethan and is, as her grandmother says, “budding.” In a half dozen years she could be in that painting, which is getting more of her gaze than her brother or his friend.
“I heard Ethan’s parents talking about them when I was over there,” Kalan says. Continue reading
This is another word picture.
loury also spelled lowery. /laʊ(ə)ri/. adjective. Frowning, scowling, threatening, dull, gloomy; especially used of weather. From lour, lower, noun and verb, meaning ‘frown, scowl’.
It’s such a beautiful scene, such a fine picture: the sea-swell of the field, still early-summer green, smudged with sunlight, cut off at the top in an unsteady line to meet the blue and white and filthy grey of the sky. At the bottom it is fringed by ruffs of cattails and tickling prairie grass, and then a gravel road. Wind is coming, and everything tingles waiting to bend in it. Rain is coming, and all this will shine five shades darker.
Will this man walking along the edge of the road be in it when it comes? Continue reading
Today, another word picture.
rathe. [reɪð]. adverb. Quickly, rapidly, soon, early (as in the morning). From a Germanic etymon.
It’s so dark in the park, and the fountain so bright, you can’t see more than silhouettes. Silhouettes of the metal dogs vomiting water up into the tiers of the fountain. Silhouettes of trees coming into leaf. Silhouettes of three people: two standing together, facing the fountain, a tallish man and a shorter woman, she leaning slightly into him; a third one in profile, holding up his phone to take a picture of the same thing the couple are looking at. You can’t see what they’re focusing on. You can’t see a body face down in the water. Continue reading