FLASH FICTION: The Sweet Stripener

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The children don’t understand. What they live and scream for is not squeezed from the machine with stripes intact. No—they must be painted on, by hand, with so much care. It it almost unimaginable, the care.

My partner is a sweet turner. He holds the sweet, and turns it. I apply the stripes. He is my partner. But also, we are in love.

We work and live in the Cormack Candy Factory. Our region is Green Region 3, where sweets are painted, and nuts are shelled. At day’s end, we sweep up the shells, lay down blankets, and sleep. Mr. Cormack charges not too much rent. It is difficult to afford anything, at present.

Mr. Cormack is a powerful man. He is a great and a terrible man. But also, generous. Without him, we would have nothing. Not even a floor on which to sleep.

He is like a magician, this Cormack. I have never before seen his face. I have heard his voice, and when I turned … there was nothing. Is his a pleasing or a nightmarish face? When I gaze at the intercom, I wonder.

One evening, after the sweeping-up…

I was returning my broom to the cabinet in Hall 7. At the end of the hall was a man. His back to me. A black suit, he wore. There had been rumours of a black suit.

I moved forward, though slowly.

He was admiring a painting, this man.

I felt weak, but proceeded.

I was a few feet from him, now.

And suddenly, he turned. Hearing my light tread, he turned. The man in the black suit turned.

I looked at his face. But I did not see his face. For he wore a mask. A jewelled mask.

I trembled. And quit the hall quickly.

In the past, it was my duty to paint one hundred sweets per day, to keep my position. Now Mr. Cormack is insisting on two hundred.

My art is taxing. There is so little time. But if I cannot keep up, and work and live in this factory…

I do not even want to dream of that.

                                                                   

Rolli’s latest book is The Sea-Wave

Buy him a coffee.

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SHORT STORY: Marcellus

My latest short story for Transition magazine. Though written years ago, and just published, the subject matter (the emotional fallout of a school shooting) is all too timely. Read “Marcellus” here.

 

FLASH FICTION: Something

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There was a woman. There is always a woman. A beautiful woman.

The life of any man is a burning, then a standing over ashes. Stirring and stirring, with his cane. I was young. And burning.

*

We walked, evenings. This woman and I. For the days were too warm. When the sun went down, and the wind rose, and the moon, we walked. Through the town. Across the lawn, the green lawn of the museum. Behind the museum, where we would make love. We could not pass by, without doing so.

One evening…

We had been talking. I had been talking, and she had been listening. She listened attentively, but said nothing. There was a sadness about this woman that was no small part of her charm. She was never so sad, or so beautiful, as that evening.

I stopped. And I asked her … if there was something.

She did not answer. But asked me to keep walking. And speaking. Being in the mood for listening, but not speaking.

I continued, for a time. Then paused again.

The woman. In the moonlight, she was so beautiful. Yet so melancholy.

I asked her again, if there was something.

She shook her head, only.

I wanted so badly for her to speak. To hear her. When you are in love, and young, only, it is a pleasure to listen. When you have forgotten about love, and so grown older, you cannot hear, and will not listen. You will talk a great deal, as before. But you will never again listen.

So I asked again. I took her by the shoulder, and turned her. For I knew there was something. There is always something.

I leaned in.

Then she said, “I am afraid … there is something.”

I listened. Watching her white teeth moving.

“There is something.”

*

We were walking home. We crossed the lawn, the dark lawn of the museum.

We kept walking.

FLASH FICTION: The Cemetery Bird

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They won’t bury you.

That’s what they whisper. When they really want to hurt you.

When someone dies, when a kid dies in my town, they don’t bury you, they feed you to the Cemetery Bird. There’s no room for kids in the cemetery. If you’re poor, there’s no room, but if you’re rich, they find a way.

Billy…

My mom carried him. I walked behind my mom. She walked up to the bird. My dad didn’t even go up. The bird opened up its mouth and my mom dropped my brother in. Then it closed its mouth. That was it.

They didn’t bury him. They won’t bury you.

One morning, I felt cold in a different way. My parents got nervous. The doctor talked to my parents. When they looked at me, I felt like I was on fire. Though I was so cold.

Every day, I try to feel okay. I walk around with my cane a bit. I try not to think about it.

Yesterday…

I walked past the cemetery. I looked down at my legs. They were shaking, I was so tired. I grabbed onto the cemetery gate. When I looked up, I shouldn’t have, I looked right at the Cemetery Bird. A big, pale bird like a pelican. It breathed out. It swallowed. I felt just as cold as the cemetery gate. I cried there for a long time. When I got home I was still crying.

I’m just trying to feel okay.

EVENT PHOTOS: Joan Betty Stuchner Award

As you may know, I was recently in Vancouver, where I received the inaugural Joan Betty Stuchner – Oy Vey! – Funniest Children’s Book Award. Here are a couple photos from the event (FYI, I’m the tall, ape-like gentleman):

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For more photos, check the official website.