St Petersburg

Ever been to Russia? I haven't, but with the power of the internet I can pretend.

WARNING! Do not use this map for navigation purposes. The scale is all wonky and I forgot a bridge!


Grandma is a matchmaker

I'm experimenting in faster writing, with less editing time. Hopefully the result remains clear. Enjoy!


Grandma is a matchmaker.

One day we, me and my brother Leonard, were playing in our garden. We have a big garden and there are always big fat slugs crawling over the lettuce leaves. Mama gives us pennies when we catch slugs, then we take the pennies to the store on the corner for candy, or sometimes use all our pennies together and share an ice cream from the man who sells strawberry or chocolate from a big ice box on the back of his bike.

We hadn't found any slugs that day. My brother was lying on the little grass hill on the edge of the vegetable patch staring at the clouds and he told me that Grandma was a matchmaker. When he said it I thought he meant she made matches, like the ones I'm allowed to use to light the old stove at our cottage when we need to burn all those mini-cereal boxes we only ever eat there. The ones with white tips on red that smear across the black iron, strike anywhere matches. Leonard lit one on his zipper once.

As a matchmaker I picture her sitting at a large wooden desk, from the back. She has a bright light shining on her. On the desk to her right is an enormous pile of neatly stacked wooden sticks and she pinches one in her fingers, bringing it to a tiny red and white match cap that she pinches from an equally large pile to her left. Time after time. And if I imagine her face she has one of those one eyed glasses pinched in her right eye, and there's a magnifying glass so when she brings the stick and match-head together the pieces are easy to see and her hands are not just too big but look fat and ungainly. But they still make the same small connection, again and again. It's like she's a jeweler at work, except she's working from the wrong end of the periodic table.

The periodic table is where all the world's elements are listed with all their specific details, and some of them, depending on what they look like and stuff, people pay a lot of money for. It's a bit confusing because there are a lot of numbers but I like science and my brother tells me about it and lets me look at his books from class.

That's wrong though. Leonard told me she's a matchmaker because she knows who should get married. He figures in a few years grandma will probably tell him he's meant to marry Janet, some girl he goes to school with. He also says my old babysitter Joyce just got married to Lester Jenkins just because grandma said she should. They barely knew each other and I heard Joyce say once that she liked a boy named Tom, but they're married now anyway.

It's really confusing because I thought when people were in love, that's when they got married. I asked grandma and she asked me if I make my shoes and I laughed and laughed. I don't know how to do that. Then she asked me if I cut my hair. I do that sometimes, but Mama says I look silly when I do it and I think she's right so the barber does it. Grandma explained it like this:

You probably think you know your own hair better than anyone else because you're around it all the time, but other people see it more than you do. You need a mirror to see what it's doing, but others have a different perspective and can look at it in a different way than you. A barber cuts hair all day long, everyday. He sees all sorts of stuff and gets a good idea of what looks good. If the barber sees a fat headed child with red freckles and pudgy cheeks that squish his eyes closed he knows that boy's curly hair needs to be cut a certain way, and when a skinny older man whose hair his half grey and thinning in the middle sits down the barber knows that man needs something else to look his best. People might think they know what they like, and maybe who they want to marry, but they don't see love enough. They only truly think about love when they love and people can only love so many times in a life. Certainly not enough to be an expert. I think about love all the time. I know how certain kinds of love work for some people but different people need different love. And sometimes people might think they need love but what they really need is someone with a good job, or a person who loses their keys constantly, a husband with a short fuse but likes to go dancing on Saturday night, or a wife who cries horribly when she thinks the meatloaf is burned although each week it inevitably turns out more delicious than the one before. It's my job to know what people want and need, even if they don't.

What Grandma said makes sense I think. Mama and Dad are funny. Sometimes they yell or argue, but they always like to hug afterwards and give big kisses to each other. I thought everyone had parents that acted that way, but they do not. My friend Cal's parents never shout but I've seen them stare really mad. Their eyes can be mean. I guess that's what Grandma means. Mama and Dad like to yell, and like it when someone yells back. If Dad had married Cal's mom by accident they wouldn't be happy. He'd be yelling but she'd just be quiet and cross and staring at him and then no one would be happy.


humanist philosophy

Inspired by Dan Beirne's fine fan fiction (and here) on Said the Gramophone I've been working on this for a few days. Had to get it out before the election.

Apologies if the format is wonky, it looks way better in pdf format.

                               Humanist Philosophy
                                  Camel Attack
              Sainted Strings of a Harp: an unauthorized biography

          The cinder block walls are painted yellow and mostly bare.
Beside the door there is one large bulletin board that
overflows with paper; fire procedures, upcoming socials and
garage sale notices jostle for space. Another section of
wall is covered in children’s art; smears of colour,
abstract dogs and dozens of traced hands cut out and
decorated. The only window in the room is at ceiling level
and it is night outside. There is a table set up with mugs,
coffee and two plates of sad biscuits.

In the middle of the space chairs form a rough semi-circle.
Some are empty while others are filled by eight men and two
women. The people are from fat to thin but tend to be
gathered at the poles. They seem weary, sick, depressed or
all three; defeated by life and the world. One man, PRESTON,
sits in the group, pale like the others but with eyes that
are bright and alert. His head bobbles precariously on a
long skinny neck with a pronounced Adam’s apple bulge. He
wears a blue suit that should be smaller and needs pressing.
In front of the chairs, watched by the gathered sunken and
darkly-ringed eyes, two men stand:

TED is the only person with colour in his face, thanks
largely to a rancid orange tanning cream he has applied
religiously for the past 3 years. He glows, exuding support
and kindness looking towards STEPHEN.

STEPHEN looks nervous wearing an unflattering sweater and
blazer combo. His brown hair is thick and wavy but poorly
cut. STEPHEN’s blue eyes move between the ground and TED
until on a nod from TED he speaks:

My name is Steve and I am afraid of

Hello Steve.
Would you like to share a ghost
story with the group Stephen?
Yes. Thank you.
TED takes a seat in the semi-circle of chairs. 
  I’ve only ever seen one ghost, and,
well, I haven’t been the same
since. It happened in 1984 when I
was still a student, at the
University of Calgary...am I meant
to say that?
It’s alright Stephen, tell us
whatever you’re comfortable
Well, I was working on an economics
paper in the library late at night.
Paranormal activity had never been
a thing for me, and the library is
a new building, so I wasn’t even
thinking...I was just worried about
my deadline.
Some of those in the chairs are nodding their understanding.
  I remember looking up from my books
and being surprised because
suddenly there was no one there. It
was well after midnight and I
suppose everyone had gone home, but
I hadn’t noticed them leave. I
didn’t even see a librarian at the
circulation desk. I felt very
STEPHEN stops for a moment, closing his eyes and breathing
deeply to compose himself. The meeting congregants shift
uneasily in their chairs. Even TED’s orange skin greys
I knew it was against library
rules, but I had a ham sandwich and
thermos of coffee hidden in my book
Knowing snickers and quiet laughs.
(stares coldly at the
gathering before him)
  It was a thermos of coffee.
(looks at the ground and
regains his composure)
I decided to eat my sandwich and
drink some coffee. I was flagging.
No one was around. I didn’t even
try to hide what I was doing.
  I had finished half my sandwich, it
was a ham sandwich, did I mention
  Yes. Go on Stephen. Take your time. 
  So I had just eaten it and had some
coffee when I heard a noise behind
me. I turned and there was
a...a...I still don’t know what to
call it. It was an orb of light
floating in space. A ghost.
       CUT TO:    
STEPHEN sits turned in his chair. On the table, to his back,
sprawl a mess of books, a half-eaten sandwich and a thermos.
He looks the same, perhaps slightly younger and is wearing a
button-up shirt. He is staring incredulous and frightened at
an apparition. His words describe the scene.
  I stared, I don’t know how long,
and it didn’t do anything, really.
Just moved back and forth in front
of the humanist philosophy section.
(long beat as 1986 STEPHEN can
be heard struggling with his
emotions, 1984 STEPHEN is
frozen in fear and confusion
and the orb continues to do
nothing except slowly change
colours red, orange, green and
       CUT BACK:
Oh God! It didn’t DO ANYTHING! But
that’s why it was so terrifying.
Just a glowing ball, something you
could never quite come to grips
with or focus on, indeterminate and
ominous, like it could turn into
anything at any moment. The best
thing I can say is it held
potential. A horrible potential
that was vaguely threatening. Am I
making myself CLEAR? There was the
possibility of looming DISASTER!
   (his voice is increasingly
ragged, tears build in his
eyes, and his face quakes. He
has lost his cool)
Then it was gone...and a librarian
said they were closing...and I
shouldn’t be eating or...drinking
in the library.
STEPHEN breaks down and collapses with a whimper. TED has
anticipated the fall and is already standing to catch him.
TED’s orange seems to strengthen as he guides STEPHEN to a
chair. The shot stays on STEPHEN who is quietly crying.
Someone hands him a mug of coffee and a biscuit.
My name is Preston and I am afraid
of ghosts.
  Hello Preston. 
When I was 15 I went camping with
my family in Tennessee. On that
trip I lost my virginity to the
ghost of a Confederate general’s
STEPHEN sadly bites into his cookie and wipes his nose with
the back of his hand.
     THE END