Here is a list of the winners:
Frozen – Roberta Taylor
Time has stopped.
Night comes to greet three frozen dancers captured in the moonrise.
City lights illuminating golden beauty
the moment caught forever:
embraced by sky.
The dance suspended remains unfinished, the song not heard.
Yet the yearning to be released from the movement
The dancers come alive – not frozen at all,
leaping into eternity.
Having souls of their own.
I can hear the song they hear.
I’m leaping with them into the beauty of eternity
and see the magic of it all.
It is never too late to dance at any size – Maria Sabourin-Jovel
She was excited, as always, whenever she was on her way to enjoy a creative dance performance. She had a long trip ahead of her. She could not help but remembering with nostalgia how she dreamt of being a dancer when she was young. At that time, she was still hoping for a happily ever after life. In her young inexperienced mind, dancers lived a carefree happy life going from one party to another one and enjoying their good luck. She had no idea of how many sacrifices were required to become a professional dancer. For her, dancers lived in pure joy and freedom. She wanted to dance traditional and modern Cuban music. She would have loved to have been admired by many for her talent as a dancer.
She never got the opportunity to find out if she was even good enough to be a professional dancer. She was not allowed to take a single dance course. Her mom refused flat out loud adding that there was no way that one of her daughters was going to be a dancer. Her mother has spoken. No arguing, complaining or even rolling of the eyes were ever allowed in her mom’s presence. She had no chance to defend herself or to negotiate her position. She knew better than to say anything else about it. Just like that her dream was crushed.
She was also reminded of how fat and how tall she was. She could never be a dancer anyway with that body and with her lack of grace. If she only looked like her sister, maybe she could try. She never stood a chance with all that extra fat in her body. She had to do something else. Becoming a very smart girl and shine in a profession where her looks would not matter was her only option, her mom said not noticing her tears. She felt sad and hurt so deeply. How come her own mother could be so cruel? She said nothing. She understood that her mom was right. After all, dancers are not fat nor ugly and she was both. Just like that, she gave up on her impossible dream. She was dealt a bad body and there was nothing she could do about it but move on.
She kept dancing and singing aloud all around the house. Music was her savior and it made her feel happy. Her first secret love taught her how to dance well the Cuban danse “casino”, which is a special way of dancing salsa that only Cubans know how. She enjoyed dancing so much. She danced everyday at home at during her breaks at school. She felt free and beautiful when she danced, even if only for the duration of each song. That was enough for her to keep dancing and falling in love even more with music.
Dancing with her relief. Saturdays were her favourite day of the week for she went out dancing in the evenings. She felt whole when she moved rhythmically and follow the drums and the bass in each song. She danced too provocative for her mom liking but that was her and her way of moving was very sensual. She could not help it.
She kept dancing through university, just for fun. She became a Mathematician and later a university professor. Her looks never mattered in that line of work. She excelled at her job but she never gave up dancing. She was a very special kind of mathematician, a dancing mathematician.
She came to Canada in her late twenties. She could not understand why most of the time no one asked her to dance. Despite her size, she could move so beautifully. Her hips and her waist moved graciously and commanded the dance floor. She had the love for music in her heart and it showed when she moved. She was gifted with the joy of appreciating music. However, in Canada many judge her by her size and were intimidated to dance with her. Somehow faulty stereotypes dictated that a fat person was not a good dancer.
She defied stereotypes like no other. She was a champion at it. After all, she has lived in a brown body all her life. A body that was seen by many as less than, but she has always been the best in her class wherever she went. She knew she had a brilliant mind and what others though of her was not her business.
Even though it was difficult at times, she stood up proudly, in the middle of a dance floor, and danced by herself. She was not going to let fatphobia get to her. She was determined to show them that she was not scared to shine and that she could dance much better than they expected her to, even if she was twice as heavy and most people around her. After all, she was 50% Cuban by blood and 100 % at heart. Cubans were gifted with dancing like no others and she was also given that gift. She was a Queen, admired by so many when she danced.
Nowadays, she dances while sitting. Her legs are not hers anymore. She knows that one day she will be Ok and sooner that later she will open her own dance studio in which all sizes and abilities would be welcomed. Her dream will one day become true. She will become a plus size dancer. She will move again her body to the waves of her beautiful music. She will get to be who she always was meant to be – a dancer. She is still the Queen of salsa and no one can take that crown away.
She knows she will dance again without feeling any pain. She believes in herself and in the power of her body and her mind. For now, she is happy doing what she can and feeling those warm hugs from the music she loves. Dancing takes her sadness away. Music is her medicine and her God. After all, she is a Caribbean girl who can not live happily ever after without listening to her daily fix of drums.
She hopes to be able to dance until her last day on this earth so that she can spread joy to others and smile enjoying life. The ride was long, but she has finally arrived at the theatre. She was ready to enjoy another beautiful show. She can not help but think that she could have been one of those dancers carefully displayed in that work of art. It is never too late to be who she wanted to be. She has not given up on her dream neither should you. Let’s make those dreams a reality! It is never too late to shine!
Her brown life and her voice matter – Maria Sabourin-Jovel
Life has sometimes strange and cold surprising ways of waking us up, she thought to herself. She definitely could relate with being doused with a freezing cold bucket of ice water. It had happened many times in her lifetime. Every time it hurt to the core, as much as the first time it happened when she was four years old.
This time everything started with the video of George Floyd’s murder in plain day light. She could not believe her own eyes when she watched that video that was to hunt her for months and still does. She knew all along about police brutality in North America. After all, she was brown herself and she has experienced racism so many times in the 23 years she has lived in Canada. What surprised her this time was the complete disregard for human life, even when the murderer knew others were watching him. That policeman took a human life in front of a camera and no one dare to put a stop to this horrible act. What has society come to? Was she even safe? Were other brown and black people like her safe at all?
She felt so angry that tears could barely come out of her. That man could have been her own father helplessly under that knee and crying for his life. It could have been her cousin, her nephew or her ex-husband under that knee. Half of her family was black, the other was white and also sadly racist. She felt so lost and sad. She had nightmares for months since that video.
She has been many times to the U.S., but she mostly visited Florida, where she never felt as a foreigner. She loved Miami and Tampa, with all that Cuban music playing almost everywhere. In Miami, she felt like she was back home. She prided herself in being well informed, but nothing could have prepared her for what she saw that day. Many other cases of abuse surfaced and were shown in social media. Too many to count and follow if she wanted to keep her own sanity. She stopped watching videos showing abuses of black, brown, and indigenous people. She could not sleep for weeks. She kept feeling as if these incidents were done to her. She could not stop eating to calm herself down. Nothing helped. Her heart hurt so much. She felt abandoned, unsafe and not wanted. She felt lost for some many weeks.
She was not silent. She spoke out. She kept posting and making public all those abuses. She gave a voice to the unheard. She was reminded over and over that her life and the life of the ones who look like her did not matter as much as the lives of others who have less melanin in their body. The trauma was repeated so many times with every video that surfaced. Her anxiety hit extremely high levels. Her depression got worse. She had lost a big part of her faith in humanity. She could not find a reason to live.
She was not a stranger to racism. She was made aware of it too early in her life. She was a result of a love story of a mixed couple on the 60’s. Her father was a proud Cuban with a dark skin like the chocolate she loved so much. Her mom was white. She herself was a “mulata”, proud of her heritage and of each drop of black blood in her veins. She identified with her black side more and she thought of herself as a black woman. Her parents had to fight very hard to be together. Her mother was disowned for choosing to love and to marry a black man. She does not remember her devoted catholic maternal grandmother ever hugging or kissing her or her sister when they went to visit for the holidays.
Her maternal grandmother, after whom she was named, has been a champion in the defence of women’s rights. In fact, a recent article has been written by the law society of El Salvador honoring her for being the first female lawyer in that country and the first female appointed judge. Her grandma was ahead of her time in many areas, but race was not one of them. There was no doubt of her grandmother’s brilliant mind and indomitable spirit, both of which she had inherited.
It seemed very difficult to understand that her grandmother could never forgive her own daughter. What was her mother’s crime? Falling in love with a man who adored her and just happened to have more melanin in his body that what was deemed acceptable for a racist society. Her maternal side family was polite during the holiday’s visits but the two milk chocolate sisters never felt fully accepted not loved. How could the family love those two caramel kids who were a constant reminder of a past they would have rather hid from the world.
Everyone was told that her mom had married a French national and lived abroad with her kids. That sounded more than acceptable to the curious and details about the color of the husband or the kids were spared. In fact, her paternal great granddad was French and her father’s surname was typically French, so no one dare to question the story. Her mother died without being able to see her own land ever again. Her mom was not welcomed anymore, not even when her grandma passed away after a long battle with cancer.
She lived with the pain of her mom’s suffering ostracized from her family of origin. Nothing could have ever prepared her for what she had endured most of her life. She was told at 4 years of age that she was different and having a brown skin meant that she had to work twice as hard a everyone else to be treated as an equal. Her mother made sure to repeat, almost everyday, that she did not have the luxury to be allowed to make mistakes. Mistakes, for people with her skin color, were rarely forgiven. A lot of buckets of ice water had been thrown at her through during her 48 years existing as a black woman. She is not counting the first four years of her live as she was unaware of what race was.
The latest wake up called she received was finding out that the majority of her so called “friends” were covert racists and they choose to worry more about the destruction of property than that of a human life. She cried and kept asking herself, how many more buckets of water she will have to endure in her lifetime. Her only crime was being brown in a white world. She was not going to let the world to convict her without speaking out. She was determined to fight back and to reclaim her place in society, whether others like or not. She was a seasoned fighter. She was become one not by choice but out of necessity. She has been fighting for a fair place in the world since she was 4 years old.
She kept repeating to herself Black Lives Matter. Her life matter as much as everyone’s else. D’Andre Campbell’s life matter. Brianna Taylor’s life matter. She was not ever going to stop fighting for what was right. Racism had no place in Canadian society nor anywhere else in the world. She stood in front of that colorful mural drawn by Nick Sweetman and she cried while holding her head high. She cried for she could feel all 400 years of abuse in her body. She could feel her ancestors asking her to not give up as they never did. She was determined to speak out and writing was her way of saying what she had to say. She hoped her word was heard.
Kai’s Resting Bench – Christina Walsh
A dear friend of mine named Kai lived in Downtown, Toronto. He was homeless, yet he had the most generous, giving heart imaginable. He had been my friend for a number of years back in the late 1990s, early 2000’s. I met Kai at Our Place Drop-in, on Elm Street, just off Yonge Street. It’s a drop-in where people of low income, homeless and those with mental health challenges can hang out, eat dinner a few nights a week for one dollar, having fifty cent cups of coffee, participating in fun activities, with Friday night dances and to socialize. They were open Tuesday to Saturday 2:30-10:00 pm. I had the best times there with “Kai the Gentle Giant.” I secretly felt that about him. He had the biggest, blueberry blue eyes, a hearty laugh, a fatherly, friendly face, a fun loud distinct voice, and always told funny jokes. He bought me a giant joke book once. “Would you like to have this, Christina? I bought it for you.” I accepted and thanked Kai. He always had a smile for me as I welcomed him into the drop-in. I hugged him. Nobody else hugged Kai as his appearance was not like others who I met at the drop-in. Though his nails were chipped and rugged, his hands having cigarette smoke caked to them, his clothes unclean, his hair oily and matted, combed over to the side, yet tied up in a ponytail at the back that did not matter to me. I overlooked it. I loved Kai’s genuine, generous heart. I loved having him around. I would go into the smoking room at the drop-in just to hang out with him and I did not smoke. I loved hearing his jokes, with his eyes lighting up as he shared them. I loved high-fiving Kai a lot. I can tell he enjoyed that! I enjoyed it. Kai brought out so much good in me. I felt safe with Kai always. Never once did we put each other down or judge each other, which made it more special to be around him. Magic happened when Kai and I hung out together, unforgettable times.
Kai and I would go for coffee at the Second Cup just south of Yonge and Gerrard Streets for a late-night coffee, when the drop-in closed, with some of our other friends. Kai offered to buy me coffee numerous times. I accepted. “French Vanilla right Cee?” He would say. We also had coffee at Tim Hortons located at Victoria Street and Dundas Street. “French Vanilla Hot Smoothie?” He would say. I accepted. He did not like me paying for his coffee as I would offer to pay sometimes to reciprocate. Kai and I enjoyed sharing about our day and again, more jokes, more funny stories emulating from Kai brightened my heart
On December 6, 2000, Our Place drop-in treated all of us to a trip to Black Creek Pioneer Village. It was one of the best times of my life. It was six days before my birthday. I was overjoyed when Kai came along. He was the life of the party. Brad, Jeanette, Mitch, Randy and many others, including volunteers was with us. It was family for me, for Kai. I remember going to the gift shop with Kai. “Want some candy, Cee?” I pointed to the candy called “Moose Droppings” which were hard cinnamon candy in a small bag for $2.50. Kai paid for the candy. I thanked him and hugged him. I felt like a child being with my father in that moment. We enjoyed the decorations, hot chocolate, the scenery, a sleigh ride, singing, just being together on this particular day. It was our time to celebrate Christmas, which had been difficult and lonely for both of us, for a long time. I recall all the fun we had that day at Black Creek Pioneer Village.
Fast Forward, I kept those moose dropping candy for over a year, to have something sweet to hold onto, to keep Kai close to me. I savored each candy as I savored Kai and who he was to me.
One particular time, Kai and I went to our usual Tim Hortons for coffee, paying for mine and his. “Listen Cee, I have something to tell you.” His facial expression suddenly grew dark and serious. His blueberry big blue eyes teared up. Kai was doing all he can to remain in control, to not cry, to stay composed. “My dentist messed up my teeth really bad, on purpose, see?” showing me his teeth. I went numb. I continued to listen. I took Kai’s warm hand and said, “I am here for you, please continue with your story.” “Queen Street Mental Health Centre also messed me up for years, electric shock treatment, so many admissions…” Kai began to shake. He stopped himself in his tracks to say no more. He sipped his coffee, his hand shaking slightly. I took his hand again, reassuring him that he is in a safe place with me attentively listening to his pain. “I’m so sorry Kai you had been so traumatized, horribly mistreated. I wish I could take your pain away.” “That’s ok Cee. I needed to tell you this. I told nobody else.” I continued to hold Kai’s hand, sipping my coffee, trying not to cry, to stay strong for him. “You want to go back to the drop-in to joke around some more?” Kai offered. Suddenly his demeanour changed. He was being his old joking, happy self in no time. I was surprised. We walked back to Our Place and hung out some more. Though this story still replays in my mind, I can’t help but to feel deep empathy for Kai.
Sometimes, I would go to Kai’s resting bench to talk to and be with him before he turned in for the night at the local park downtown. I loved walking him there. It was our ritual each night before I biked home. Kai didn’t appear to mind sleeping on the bench, as he repeatedly told me. He somehow made his way, did well for himself, having money for coffee, cigarettes, cheap meals and getting clothing from donations at different places in the city.
I commend Kai for all he has done for himself and for me, considering these were dark times for him. Kai had a selfless heart. He never complained about being homeless. He never felt sorry for himself or blamed those around him for his situation. I admire that and his bravery, his courage for moving on, for being a dear friend, family to me. I admire Kai for putting the needs of others before his own, wow! When others made fun of him, Kai would zone it out and continue being his fun, jokey self. Not many can do that. I could not. He made fun of himself sometimes. He would say “I don’t believe in using mouthwash, toothpaste or deodorant, screw it. Who cares?” and laugh a hearty laugh. Kai had freedom in his own way and was never afraid to be his true, authentic self. He taught me a lot. “Go for your dreams, be you, the special person you are.” Kai would say to me. He talked to me with love, respect and joy. We gave that to each other.
I would run into Kai on the streets of downtown, Queen Street West, on the Queen streetcar. He would say “Hi Cee” and I would say hello back, giving him a hug. Others looked at us strangely, but we did not care. Acknowledging one another, meeting each other, where we were at was key and it allowed us to find our own way safely with one another. There has been nobody else like Kai I had met since. He will always be a key to my heart and an open door when I need a friend, a laugh. Now, when I have my French Vanilla Hot Smoothies, I think of him and say, “Cheers Kai. Thank you for giving me some of the best times of my life. I pray you are happy”
The Bench – Patricia Reid
Josie was tired and sat down on the bench in the downtown park. She had often frequented the bench in the downtown park trying to unravel the mystery lady who died on the bench long ago. It was a quiet place where she could hear the many sparrows chirping but where not many people came to visit.
Years ago, the police found an unnamed siting on the bench where she died. It had been so long ago, but Josie remembered it as if it was just yesterday.
An unknown woman dead sitting on the bench. Over the first few years, articles were written. In the newspapers asking the public if they knew the woman who the police found on the bench.
The police found no one who knew her or could help them identify her. The police knew a few things about her. They knew that she came from a wealthy home. Her hands were not calloused and her clothes on her body were expensive brand names. She was holding a small white purse which was siting on her lap. It had nothing in it not even a few coins. She didn’t even have a birth certificate nor a health card.
An autopsy told the police that she died of natural causes. There was no foul play The man who did the autopsy said that she was between fifty and sixty years old. She had never given birth to a child.
Josie was very interested in the story and she cut out each newspaper article. Always hoping that someone would provide a clue as to whom this lady had been in life. But the only clue the police had was the woman herself and the beautiful manicured fingers. The ring had three large diamonds on it between a garden of flowers
Every few months there would be another small article especially in the Toronto Sun. It would again be asking the public, “Do you know this woman? Have you ever seen this ring? No one ever got in touch with the police. The articles appeared over a two year period trying to find out who the lady was on the bench. Even though it was a mystery the police were never given any tips as to her identity. Josie would go over her news clippings once a month and she would do so on the very bench the lady had died upon.
With each article Josie saw in the paper she would cut them out and put them
in her scrap book. She had visions of finding out the identity of the mysterious lady. It hung on her mind whatever she was doing, and she envisioned herself finding out who the lady was in real life. Why would she just die without anyone missing her?
After the two years of periodical articles about the unknown lady all the articles stopped. Two year when the police found the corpse she was buried in an unmarked grave. Still Josie continued to ponder on who the mysterious lady could have been in real life.
However, when Josie’s long-time marriage collapsed, and her husband left her for a much younger woman, Josie realized she couldn’t take everything with her. The news clippings of the unknown lady with the unique didn’t make the move.
Peekaboo, I See You – Heather Jasmine
We all wear masks and the time comes when we can’t remove them without removing some of our own skin. — Andre Berthiaume, Canadian short story writer
His deft movements attracted Farrah’s attention. Alternating between hiding his face behind his hands and then revealing his visage, he moved behind the trunk and amongst its branches. Peekaboo, I see you. Ironically, he was masked as almost everyone was these days. But little Farrah didn’t notice the absurdity of it all. Watching, she clapped her tiny hands and gurgled, cooed and smiled. Sitting beside her on the park bench, Farrah’s veiled mother was too preoccupied to notice Farrah’s odd friend.
He was devilishly handsome even if he looked like an outlaw of the outdoors. Didn’t everyone look a bit criminal these days? With six light and six dark rings, you’d think he was tied down. But he was not. This nurturing nanny blended in until needed. He protected and entertained Farrah whenever she came to the park. Toronto was the world’s capital for his kind so there were umpteen others like him. However, his personality made him stand out.
Farrah and he often played Peekaboo while Farrah’s mother said her Dhuhr or Asr afternoon prayers. The mother and daughter came to the park late morning or after and never stayed past early evening. Lately, Farrah’s mother was dressed head to toe in black. From phone conversations, he knew that her husband had died recently. For four months she followed the ritual of Iddah to heal and mourn, while everyone else was required to show respect for only three days. She cried a lot, but seemed calmer after prayers and when playing with her baby girl.
He took more chances when Farrah’s mother was praying. He would gently rock the pram and swing the attached swinging knobbly toys to keep Farrah happy. Then he would disappear again before Farrah’s mother finished her prayers. Peekaboo.
Very tired of late for no apparent reason, he worried that he might have coronavirus. He worried that Farrah’s mother might be in real trouble once Iddah was over. She wanted to provide for herself and Farrah without having to marry her husband’s brother. How could he help her?
Lazing around on his back one day waiting for Farrah and her mother to occupy the park bench, he noticed someone taking pictures in his direction. During his nightly forage, he was startled to see his picture on a newspaper’s front-page days later. He was outraged: the photo broadcast his recent lethargy and unkempt coat. It placed him in danger as his likeness and location were exposed. The shooter should have asked him for his John Hancock on a photo release form or refuse consent. He had made no contract with the snap-happy goon.
Rotten rubbish. Ferreting out the photographer’s name and newspaper affiliation from the photo credits, he would track down this Joey Jalousie of City of Trees Press and make him pay.
His mask was more distinctive than most so traceable back to him. His location was also revealed as he hung out by the park’s biggest Christmas tree. Its fuzzy needles were softer than others so made a comfortable bed.
His night-time tree, an old tall beech, was paler in colour like him. Luckily, Toronto was home to more black squirrels than greys, so his tree’s smooth bark had not been stripped. Nevertheless, there was danger afoot. Proud to live amongst some of Toronto’s four million public trees, he’d have to warn his neighbourhood of potential intruders.
Visitors took a break from city restrictions, so the park was filled with unmuffled speech, laughter and otherwise hidden smiles. With masks it was sometimes hard to tell potential threats from real no-gooders. Faces were partially hidden so intentions harder to read.
That night he left a message for the photographer. He had followed Joey Jalousie home a few times. After Joey left, he broke in through a basement window. Painting his paw with nut spread from the fridge, he stamped his picture from the paper. He found the photo release forms on the desk and circled the consent with a marker. He marked a picture of a beech tree and a raccoon peeking out of a cavity in its trunk. His home was adjacent to the tree he had been caught lazing about while feeling the sun’s soothing warmth on his belly. He got a grocery flyer and circled his favourite things -fish, fruit and nuts. He placed the flyer beside the release form. He hoped Joey Jalousie would understand that he wanted these things as compensation for putting his face front and center without permission.
Deliberately, he messed up the desk throwing all other papers onto the floor but left his offerings in the middle. Raiding the fridge, he devoured two salmon filets, several slices of watermelon and a bumbleberry pie leaving his paws sticky and red. His final act was to leave a calling card, a long dark tubular dropping with undigested berries, in the middle of Joey’s kitchen table. When he skedaddled, he left a trail of reddish paw prints.
These days Farrah was fussy. Teething, she wanted to gnaw at toys and fingers. Poor kid, she was miserable.
He whittled a piece of wood for Farrah. Chewing it and refining the shape and details with his dextrous paws until smooth, the final product was a replica of his face. Living up to the meaning of his name, “he who scratches with his hands,” he washed the wooden pacifier over and over in the stream.
Talking on the phone in a higher pitch, faster and more than usual while biting her lips, Farrah’s mother plunked herself and the cradle down on the park bench. “No, I’m not going to marry Aabdar. Not cultured, he’s rough. Impotent and infertile. Aabdar wants to marry me because Farrah would become his heir.”
Farrah loved her new soother from her furry friend. While her mother engaged in a lengthy conversation, he entertained Farrah her with his somersault-peekaboo routine. Forward and backward. When he was turned away, he’d jump up with his hands over face and then remove them. Peekaboo. Farrah clapped her hands as she bit down on the wooden raccoon.
Several days, he noticed a strange man taking pictures of Farrah and her mother. All his senses told him to keep watch. Nobody was going to hurt his family.
Food payments appeared in his cavity while he was playing with Farrah. He was glad that Joey Jalousie had gotten his message and was now making good.
Halloween today, kids were dressed up as outlaws like Jesse James, masked animals, horror picture characters such as Scream’s Ghostface and Silence of the Lambs’ Hannibal Lecter; masked hero, Zorro, superheroes like Batman, Robin and Captain America; coronavirus survivors; scientists testing for a vaccine; nurses and doctors.
His sweet tooth loved the dropped candy. He didn’t care if chocolate and some candy had insects as an ingredient. As an omnivore, he ate almost anything but preferred fish, nuts, fruit and sweets like pies, Fig Newtons, cakes, candy, Gatorade and soft drinks, especially Coca Cola.
Farrah showed up in a cute raccoon costume. Maybe her mother had noticed him. She was still dressed in mourning-black hijab and abaya.
While Farrah’s mother was praying, a masked man suddenly snatched Farrah and ran off. He scampered after him. As the masked man placed Farrah in a car seat in the back of the car, he hid. As the man moved to the driver’s seat, he opened the door, released Farrah and galumphed off with her in his mouth.
When he arrived back at the park bench, there was already a crowd around the frantic mother including police, and photographers. Joey arrived just after him. “Here’s the raccoon who saved your daughter! I’ve got the whole thing on film.”
He took off leaving Farrah on the ground. Farrah’s mother bowed to him, ”Alhamdulillah!” (‘Praise be to God’ or ‘thank God’). Looking from a treetop he could see that Farrah’s mother was over the moon, her daughter safe and sound. When they were escorted home by police, he followed. He kept watch from a treetop close to Farrah’s bedroom. A mature red maple, this tree was one of the city’s privately-owned six million trees. He loved living in a city with so many trees, the source of all life. A full moon illuminated Farrah’s room.
He had seen four other blue moons in his lifetime. The first while he was still suckling his mother’s teats in his birth den. Relatively rare, a blue moon comes when there is a second full moon in a month. Hence the saying, ‘once in a blue moon’. Usually it is bigger and brighter, a supermoon, but this year’s was a minimoon being farther from Earth. The moon is not really blue except when smoke or dust particles are in the atmosphere, a very rare phenomenon that Canada last saw after extensive forest fires in 1950 and 1951. He had also seen a rarer black moon in the park’s telescope amidst the seemingly all-black sky. His exceptional vision was better at close quarters not long distance into space. Halloween had last had a blue moon in 1944.
Tonight, after the kidnapping, he needed to be vigilant in case of another attempt. The sky was lit up so night prowlers were more easily spotted.
He knew that he was pushing the odds with every 12 moons: wild raccoons typically only lived two to five years due to viruses, vehicular manslaughter, trapping and predators. In captivity, whether a pet or in a zoo, his kind often lived up to 20 years. He wouldn’t mind living with a loving family, his needs met for his remaining days. Exhausted, foraging and remaining alert all the time was becoming more difficult.
The next day he woke up unceremoniously in a net. Eluding capture and death over many moons, he was now ignominiously confined. Transported to a clinic, he was prodded and tested. Results confirmed that he did not have coronavirus, but he did have those pesky roundworms so common to raccoons. He felt rejuvenated a few days later after a course of anti-parasitic drugs and star treatment from clinic staff who called him Jesse and gave him fruit, pop and nuts for treats. Apparently, his heroics resulted in him being dubbed Jesse after infamous Jesse James and being a “gift of God”. Jesse was not put down or released back into the park, but instead driven to Farrah’s house to be adopted with special dispensation. He was over the moon happy with his chosen family. Jesse didn’t have to hide anymore, but he still played peekaboo with his charge.
Joey Jalousie had been dropping off fish and nuts to the beech tree’s hollow when he witnessed the kidnapping and got it all on tape. The story went viral, imaginations captured locally and globally. COVID-19 made everyone hunger for a heart-warming story of heroism and triumph. Now known as ‘Ringer’, Joey won the coveted Journalist of the Year prize. Despite the photo release only applying to “persons” and pets, Joey delivered treats to Jesse at his new abode every few weeks. His article led to the arrest of Aabdar on kidnapping charges despite being considered a pillar of the Muslim and local community. Aabdar had planned a moonlight flit with Farrah under the cover of Halloween costumes. The Islamic association and banks did a fundraising drive for Kamaria and her daughter to tide them over while Kamaria returned to school to become a veterinarian.
Jesse was a particularly well-behaved raccoon so that he didn’t jeopardize his new lodging. Although he spent a lot of time in the backyard tree overlooking Farrah’s bedroom, he still visited his friends in the park at night. Farrah’s first word was ‘Jesse’ and her second ‘Peekaboo’. Kamaria didn’t mind: Jesse had saved her daughter and they had an unmistakable bond. Outgrown, her favourite teether was shellacked and mounted in a frame.
Raccoons were no longer dismissed as simply cute pests. Jesse’s loyalty and cleverness became legendary, enshrined in the Animal Hero of the Year award. Jesse’s final resting place was by the Christmas tree and his former beech treehouse memorialized with a plaque on the bench. Farrah was 16 and never forgot her childhood best friend. She sat on their bench regularly, especially when she needed guidance or strength. Years later, Farrah took her own infant daughter there and played Peekaboo with her.
Once in a blue moon a friendship defies all odds. It lasts past the beginning Peekaboo honeymoon stage.
Der Sorrows and Sorrows of Young Werther – Jack Norman
Alas! I have a date no more with thee,
But with the tracks ‘neath Pelham One Two Three.
My body will mangle, my skull shall crack,
Be carried away in der tater sack.
Der note I left beside her right-side cheek,
“I must depart this dire despair you seek.
Last cupcake in the bakery of life,
Hello life, goodbye life, goodbye life…life?”
Alas! What is this I spy before me?
A strip of yellow before One Two Three.
Curse this fear that foils mangledtopia,
This glaring streak of Xanthophobia.
Since I am here and in lost love’s fluster,
Please lend der ear and perhaps I’ll busker.
Tuba have I for an occasion be.
Failed suicide ‘neath Pelham One Two Three.
Silenced – Lisa Kaitell
Step hop flap jump (paste). Step hop flap jump (paste). Step hop flap jump (paste).
I am standing here struggling with this pointed perspective.
I’m not silent at all. From my ribs strides a heartbeat.
It’s mine. Inert and bursting into the emptiness wanting to reach you, riding.
Step hop flap jump (paste). Step hop flap jump (paste). Step hop flap jump (paste).
I am lonely but not alone. The anchor of urban chaos for our populous on hold, is taking hold.
Pressure me away from the absence. I’m stuck in my knowledge and lineage.
Point the base. Fill this side. My blue eye pulls back to your feet.
Step hop flap jump (paste). Step hop flap jump (paste). Step hop flap jump (paste).
For the occasion of my borrowed taps, there is stillness and no sound, in my soft shoe.
Only a ghost in a tunnel and you. I’ll take back my rhythmed heart and mix it harder with theirs.
The passage of time that’s brought me here presents a void that runs yellow.
You’re late. I’ll tap my card and thunder up the stairs to the Red Exit.
Step hop flap jump. STAND
Step hop flap jump. STAND
Step hop flap jump. STAND
THE DANCER: SUMMER FLING – Adam Quang
40ish queer weekly outing to reclaim glory of 80s music, Zipper, where everyone knows your name.
Rhythmic music pump-ping to the tune of “No Worries” by Love and Rockets as we enter Zipper. The night is just getting started, and the place hasn’t fill up with people. As you walk through a dark lit hall, one side of the wall is covered in cage wire, making one feel like we are about to enter into a raw untamed sexual escapade.
As the dance floor opens its arms to greet us, with its multi laser-light beam assaulting the disco ball, making it spin in ecstasy. We walk through the dance floor, passing ChinChin who reaches out his hand and pull me close for a French double chin kiss greeting, and familiar eyes greet from other regular patrons. We do not know each other’s names, it feel like a family of familiarity through the sharing of love for 80s music – a weekly regular night at Zipper!
The guy with the tambourine has been coming to the bar for the past 20 years, edging his way to the rim of the dance floor, with the out of tune shaking of his tambourine.
The dancer and his date dance sweetly to each other. They tease each other with kisses and being affectionate, with the Pet Shop Boys playing int the background “I Wouldn’t Normally Do This Kind Of Thing” as they dance and sway to the music, feeling each other’s synergy, the gentle hair on their skin slowly rises as it anticipates the other’s touch, releasing pheromones onto the damp dance floor which is now packed and hot with body heat. Dancer and his date are oblivious to the attention around them and are lost in their own world. The regulars are eyeing the couple, some measuring them up for gossip, others wondering of a possibility of getting in on the action.
The bar is now filled to capacity. The dancer and his date take a break from dance floor and decide to walk to the piano lounge area in another part of the bar. They have to pass through another dark corridor, where men are lined against the wall in the shadows with hungry eyes, shuffling in the dark eyeing the young couple like a fresh lamb in a den of wild beats. The dancer and his date walk on, they feel the accidental rub against their crotches and other parts of their body, a few time they felt a full-on cupping of their athletic bottoms from a stranger’s hand.
Half-way thought the passage, there is a stairway up to the 2nd floor, the walls are lined with well used discipline paddles, and are now on display in different shapes and sizes and individually framed. As they walk up the stairs, the musky scent of man sweat is getting thicker. On the stair landing, one side is completely dark and the other side leads to an outdoor patio.
Unsure which way to go, the date asked, “Why is the room so dark?”
“It’s the ‘Dark Room’ where you go, to lose your inhibitions or have a quick relief,” the dancer replied. “Do I have to take off my clothes to go into the dark room?”
And so it begins – the summer fling.
Stenciled Daisies – Lisa Kaitell
She sat on the side of a rusted bench before the wooden gate.
Making her mark from end to start.
Wide, dimpled rimmed and safe.
The season of blooms had passed.
The love-me-nots had won.
Still with her teacher’s chalk,
She drew a grin of daisies,
Very fancy and for fun.
They’re missing you see and the yellow buds are out of reach.
These white grainy outline were all she had to teach.
How many petals round the fluffy disc sit?
Three Layers upon layers.
Dreams funny with fashion and ice cream upon cake.
Never & forever a worry but only one mistake.
The daisies were marigolds,
And I’m not awake.