Shine on Me

Theresa’s car wouldn’t start, her cell phone had just died, so she ran all the way home.

He was already drunk when she got there, sitting in a chair placed in front of her small aquarium and singing a made-up song to a made-up tune.

Fishy fishy you’re too small to eat
Do you have a fat sister?
I bet she’d be sweet
Covered in butter
A juicy treat
Oh fishy fishy

Or at least that’s what Theresa thought she heard. The lyrics were slurred and slowly devolved into gibberish.

“And you call yourself a poet,” she said with disgust, as she picked up two empty bottles of Jagermeister and took them to the garbage. 

“That wasn’t my best work,” her father roused himself enough to say. His eyelids were heavy; he blinked slowly. “It’s hard to write erotic poetry about fish.” He looked around. “Refill?”

Theresa wasn’t going to lecture him again. In fact she vowed to never again mention the fact that he was killing himself quickly, since it did no good at all and he was determined to either die or to do nothing to stop it. It didn’t seem to matter to him that his daughter might find it disturbing to watch her father destroy himself. She found a blanket and wrapped it around him, as he’d soon tip over like a poorly weighted statue and grow cold.

She’d tried to get medical help, withheld his pension cheques, dragged him to a counsellor, begged, pleaded, laid out a chart with graphs and pictures in the face of his indifference and resentment. Her one-bedroom apartment had become a hospice— the place her father had come to die.

When he was finally comfortable on the carpet she went into the hallway and tapped on her neighbour’s door. “Thanks Mrs. Kaling,” she said when the door opened to the full extension of the chain lock. 

“God bless,” said Mrs. Kaling, whom Theresa had never met.

Well if he was going to do it, he wasn’t going to do it with her blessing. She would not lecture, but nor would she enable, aid or abet, and if she could physically stop him she damn well would. It was her home. Her roof. Her rules. 

There was one thing she still had to tell him. When he got sick she would take him to the hospital. She would see him checked in and made comfortable. She would then leave and allow him to live his final days in a ward with other sick and dying. She was certain it would make no difference to him.

Fishy fishy, swim my way
While your fat sister and I pray
Flap your fins and tail
Shine on me, dead eyes
Small and pink and pale
Swim and shine and pray
Until you can swim no further
Shine on me, dead eye

Teach a man to yodel

Prompt: Taught

Dear Wednesday,

Memorable teachers I have known:

Miss Howard: My grade one teacher was a kindly old woman (was she really old, I wonder? I remember her as grandmotherly). See Spot run. Look, baby, look! A good introduction to school for a sensitive little boo like me. My younger brother and sister were not so lucky.

Miss McGillvray: My second and third grade teacher was young and pleasant; liked kids and loved her job. She had freckles.

Miss Ferguson: My fourth, fifth and sixth grade teacher was a gem. Pushed us hard because she knew we could excel. I learned to write essays (yes, essays) in her class, a skill I needed and used in university. She once rapped my knuckles with a ruler for passing notes. She saw me as a feverish loony when she made a house visit when I was off school for three weeks because of strep throat. I missed my stage debut as Mrs Flintstone in the Christmas play because of this illness, which probably dashed my future career as an actress.

Mr Fraser: A prankster. It was fun to have a teacher with a sense of humour— also got my sense of humour.

Miss Connor: The one who called me a dim bulb, and failed a story I wrote because she didn’t know what a “gremlin” was. No, I still hold a grudge.

Miss McIntyre: Never was a teacher more well-intended but more boring. I used to pray for nuclear war to put an end to the mental paralysis caused by the topic “portage”.

Miss Campbell: Miss McIntyre after 30 years a teacher and thoroughly bored (and still boring).

Mr Cummings: a young teacher who somehow got me through Math class, which I took by mistake since I was hopeless and disinterested, and congratulated me after graduation at a basketball game for passing the final exam, when I was embarrassingly high as a kite and just grinned and drooled silently like a maniac.

Mr Creep: Several of my post high-school teachers fit this mold. Yep, creepy comments, asking me out, penalizing my work if when I didn’t cooperate, downright sexual harassment. One of these was expelled by the University of British Columbia because of me. Well, not me directly. My mother and a few other parents petitioned the Dean of Women after hearing a few of the stories, which I told as if they were jokes. She didn’t tell me this for 10 years.

The teacher who told me every single word matters hugely in a poem you are writing, and every single stroke counts mightily in a picture you are drawing.

And may I now present several of my favourite cartoons, some tenuously related to today’s prompt, “taught”?

cartoon janitor conference

cartoon give a fish

cartoon viii skater

Peace, love, and early season cherries,


No Monster

Prompt: Assumption

Hello Wednesday,

Don’t you hate it when people make assumptions about you based on your gender? As if your dangly or not bits define you as an individual? I know as a woman that many of us are frustrated about it all the time– are you gentlemen also uncomfortable when you are called shallow or unmanly because you don’t live up or down to sexual stereotypes?

We are all a little sexist, but doesn’t take a lot of effort to challenge yourself. Just pause when you make an assumption about whether the doctor or author defaults to being male. Think twice before assuming that all women are natural nurturing caregivers and men are not. Take a breath.

In the spirit of assumptions, may I present a few of my favourite cartoons, the first of which only is connected to today’s prompt?

cartoon out for lunch

cartoon professor bouncy

cartoon skulls in corner

Just a pile of old skulls. It would comfort me for sure.


Who Gets the White?

Prompt: Impression

Hello Wednesday!

A family wedding took me away for a week, and now I come back to find I have to make a fresh impression– memories are short. They really are, in this world of Internet and social media, where instant gratification matters, longform is too demanding, and relationships are fleeting. Or so they say. Who actually knows how people use the resources of the Internet?

The assumption is that our fellow humans (not us, of course) are shallow and easily distracted, susceptible to click-bait, gullible, and undiscerning. Just because much of the content we find online is less than ethical, inane, “fake”, and, well, stupid, doesn’t mean that we the people are less than ethical, inane, “fake” and stupid. We learn. We are capable of perspective. We don’t have to be stupid.

This being Wednesday, may I present a few of my favourite cartoons? The first is tenuously linked to the word prompt, “impression”, by way of Impressionism; then we wander through wine pairings and end up with cupholders.

cartoon impressionist photo

cartoon fish beef wine

cartoon halo cup holder

Happy Wednesday (and every other day of the week)!


The Guaranteed to Catch a Fish Pond

Prompt: Fishing

fisherman with fishing pole holding fish

Juan Swann ran the Guaranteed to Catch a Fish Pond that was just outside of Ringerville on the way to Bartlett, in Echo Valley, but business wasn’t good. For that reason he was petitioning to rent some property right on the highway close to the bridge, where the tourists stopped because of the petting zoo, the fruit and candle stands, three fast food outlets, and now the bouncy castle (only $1 for half an hour, space permitting, age 4 to 11 only).

Business was slow at the Fish Pond despite the new neon sign he’d bought, which animated a blue fish leaping out of blue water (it was cheaper to have just one colour). He had forgotten that the neon was not as effective in bright daylight as it was at, say, midnight, when no one was interested in catching a fish out of a converted above-ground swimming pool.

But he was battling the district, who, under pressure from the Pearheads in the town of Bartlett, wanted to cap the activity on the Ringerville side of the bridge before it became, as they put it, tacky. The protesters had given up on eliminating the tourist “mall”, and now simply wanted to contain it. They pressured the district board members hard; they brought new energy into the concept of lobbying, which, to be honest, had never before been a staple of the Echo Valley District.

So Juan Swann decided to take a chance, a big one.

He asked to rent a small parcel on the Bartlett side of the one lane bridge instead of the Ringerville side, for his Guaranteed to Catch a Fish Pond enterprise. Now this was risky, as the protesters from Bartlett were a ruthless group, having recently stolen all the animals (four llamas, six goats, two old sheep, and Fancy the Chicken) from the petting zoo. These animals had recently been found roaming the fenced acreage of Jason Hock’s miniature pony ranch, in good condition except for the peace sign shaved into one of the llamas. What mischief would they get up to with Juan’s Fish Pond?

Juan fervently hoped his proposal would appease the naysayers. His Guaranteed to Catch a Fish Pond concession would be elegant, it would blend with the natural environment, it would be mostly hidden behind a copse of poplar trees, with only the subtle (in the daytime) blue neon sign announcing its presence. He would take out a bank loan and build a real wood deck to surround the pond, and would let the wood weather naturally. He would put out pots of flowers and herbs, and only sell soft drinks and water. The whole operation would be tasteful, and, he hoped, profitable for both the district and for Juan Swann.

Then one evening, as Juan settled in front of the television to watch CSI Miami, there was a pounding at the front door of his white panelled prefabricated bungalow. More curious than alarmed, he went to the door and to his horror, found a dead fish wrapped in newspaper on the porch.

It was only a goldfish, perhaps five centimetres in length, but the message was clear. Beware, Juan Swann. Your Guaranteed to Catch a Fish Pond is not wanted, and we will do what we have to do. Beware, or you swim with the goldfish.

Fish and Day 14

Prompt: Fish


First let me explain to non-French speakers, that poisson translates to fish.

I have no idea what the above infographic is trying to say. Do you? Is it about the randomness of common events and the challenges in mapping such events? It seems complicated. Does it need to be?

It’s Day 14 of National Novel Writing Month, and for all my good intentions I have barely advanced today. I realize I need to actually write down notes and diagrams on paper with a pencil, and not rely on unintuitive and complex software that forces you to face a steep learning curve in order to accomplish what you could do more efficiently with a blank sheet of paper and a pencil with an eraser.

I am going to scour the house tomorrow in search of primitive tools. Let’s all do that.

The Wedding Party

Prompt: Buddy


Jesus walked on the water. It was low tide, and Julia took pictures. His body was reflected in the tide pools, a young shirtless, barefoot man in faded jeans.

They’d already done the tuxedo shoot, and now it was time to showcase Jesus in nature, as a robust, versatile man, as much at home in denim as in black tie. Julia admitted he seemed to belong on the beach, to the beach, as much as the driftwood or sand crabs or kelp. She called out to him: Take off the jeans!

It was early morning and the shadows were long, and the sunlight caught the fine hairs on his legs and arms. She took a series of shots, then called him to have a look.

He looked over her shoulder at the digital images, still naked, unconcerned, comfortable, focused on the photographs. They were good.

Jesus just shrugged. “Look good to me,” he said, “You’re the expert.” And he grinned, and Julia realized she needed more face shots, with more grins, and they set up an appointment for first thing in the morning.

Meanwhile, he invited Julia, to her surprise, to a barbecue at his home that evening. “Salmon,” he said. “My brother is a fisherman. Please come. It is just family and a few friends. I want to thank you.”

He kissed her on both cheeks, and they got into their separate cars and left the beach.

Julia fretted about what to wear, whether she was expected to bring a date, or was Jesus interested in her as more than a friend?– and started to dread the evening. She put on a strappy sundress, went alone, and kept expectations low. She took a chilled bottle of Pinot Gris, which she liked with fresh fish.

Jesus was wearing those same frayed jeans that he’d worn that morning on the shore, but with a crisp white shirt and a tie, the tie loosened. Julia wanted to take some pics– she had one of the digital cameras in her bag –but she resisted. This was a social occasion. Wasn’t it?

His house was modest, with white-painted wood siding, and the back garden was barely large enough for ten or so guests Jesus had invited. He introduced her to his sister, and to a couple of other model friends, who Julia knew already, and liked. They got cold drinks and she watched the festivities, her eyes constantly drawn to Jesus, even though she was a serious professional in a serious field, and intended to regard him as nothing more than the client and friend that he was. It wasn’t just the way he looked that attracted her. It was the way he looked at her, at everyone.

Whole plump salmon, three of them, were set out on a platter of ice on the side table next to the barbecue; beautiful, shiny and fresh, and enough for generous portions for all the guests. Julia was hungry. Her mouth watered. Jesus’ brother brushed the salmon with oil, seasoned them generously with salt and pepper, threw them on the barbecue, and layered fresh lemons on the top. But just as the fish started to sizzle on the grill, there was a sudden blast of noise. Loud voices and shouting, originating in the garden next door to Jesus’s house. Then about thirty people spilled from the neighbour’s garden into Jesus’ back yard.

Several of the people in this boisterous crowd, intoxicated as much by the big wedding they had just attended as with the wine they had consumed at the wedding, embraced Jesus with gusto.

He invited them all to stay, to join everyone in enjoying fresh fish, caught by his brother, and barbecued on the grill with slices of lemon.

Three whole salmon, forty people.

It was cosy and a little too warm in the garden, and so many people, but the grass was cool and damp, and Julia slipped out of her sandals, as Jesus had done, and after she’d eaten a perfectly cooked serving of salmon, moist and lemony, she circulated among the guests, who seemed to be in the same state of strange euphoria that she was.

There was no point in denying it any longer. She thought about her work, about the photographs. She thought about happiness. She watched Jesus, to see who he favoured, and who he avoided. Julia had really known, in her heart, since they’d first met that day in her office.

She wanted to be with Jesus.