Short Fiction – Table Manners

Alison gave the exclusive restaurant’s private dining room a final once over. Everything had to be perfect this evening. She adjusted the forks at two place settings on her family’s side of the table, stopping to refold a napkin at the spot where her father would be seated.

The room was as elegant as she could want. A long cherry-stained table with cream-coloured velvet seats filled the centre of the space. Three walls of the room were exposed brick, with the fourth being glass that allowed the diners to view the restaurant’s extensive wine cellar. The menu was mostly local ingredients prepared with classic French and Italian techniques, but without the piety of those nose-to-table places that told diners the name of the chicken they’d be eating. It had taken weeks to narrow down their choice to something that would suit everyone, and even now Alison feared that someone in her party this evening would have something to complain about.

She smoothed the skirt of her silk dress, admiring the sapphire colour, knowing that it made her eyes look even more blue. “I hope everyone can find the place,” she said, turning to Percy, her fiance, who was sorting the selection of wines arranged on a sideboard for their meal.

He sniffed as he replaced a bottle and turned to her. “It will be fine, Ali. Don’t get so stressed. There’s enough wine here to make your parents and my parents the best of friends.”

“That’s what I’m afraid of,” she replied, admiring his stoicism. “Or that there’s enough wine to make everyone come to blows.”

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Book Review — The Hiding Game

The Hiding Game
Naomi Woods

That first year at university, college or art school, when young people leave home for the first time and form new relationships with the world around them can become the framework for the rest of their lives. Thus begins Paul Beckermann’s journey through the Bauhaus school. It is 1922 and he and the other Bauhaus babies treat the town of Weimar and the surrounding forests like their playground. A quickly formed group of six offers up love triangles and jealousies. Paul loves Charlotte, Charlotte loves Jeno, Walter loves Jeno…

Told from Paul’s point of view decades later, he’s moved to England and is now Paul Brickman, famous abstract artist, The Hiding Game traces the life of the six friends and the Bauhaus school as it moves from Weimar to Dessau and finally Berlin, each time being pushed out by conservative (fascist) forces that dislike what the place stands for. Continue reading “Book Review — The Hiding Game”

Book Review — The Kitchen Front

The Kitchen Front
Jennifer Ryan

Kent, 1942 — the war rages on and the rural villages under the path of Hitler’s blitz on London are starting to feel the grip of food insecurity. The Dig for Britain campaign is in full swing and rationing is the only way to get meat, butter, and eggs unless you have a farm. This period was resplendent with contests and competitions to keep up people’s spirits and share advice on how to make the best out of limited resources.

In The Kitchen Front, The women of Fenley Village are encouraged to show off their best recipes and win a spot as an on-air radio host demonstrating their skills in the kitchen.

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Book Review: Aubrey McKee by Alex Pugsley

Aubrey McKee
Alex Pugsley

This collection of stories about a well-to-do kid from Halifax’s South End is apparently meant to be the first in a 5-part fictionalized autobiographical series. This book covers Aubrey’s childhood and teenage years in the 70s and 80s, and includes a cast of characters that range from his parents’ friends to drug-dealing ruffians from the poorer parts of town, to a collection of eccentrics and misfits who are the early adopters of Halifax’s vibrant punk music scene in the early 80s. But Aubrey’s life is pretty insular and posh. Private school, tennis lessons, and yacht clubs all play a role in his development and it’s only when another character tells him off and points out that his life is nothing at all like that of other Halifax youth (a refreshing twist, because I wasn’t sure the author actually had that self-awareness up to that point and was beginning to think he might be an awful jerk), that it became clear that somebody had the great good sense to consider Aubrey a poncy twat, and to call him on it.

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Pride Vignettes — Willis

“Oh, it’s THAT day of the year again,” Willis opined to Gerald as they settled into a double seat on the streetcar. “Careful the seat isn’t already covered in glitter and who knows what else.

“I mean, really, what must their parents think? This… lifestyle. SUCH an embarrassment. I can’t imagine. How horrible it must be for them. To have your children grow up to be like… this…” Willis gestured widely at the streetcar’s interior, indicating twenty or so people dressed in sparkly clothing, feather boas, and rainbow-themed shirts, his voice full of disdain and intentionally loud enough to be heard.

People turned away, annoyed and disgusted, intent on ignoring Willis and his speechifying.

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Pride Vignettes — Katie

The place looked the same, Katie thought to herself as she exited the bus from New York. Ten years away and Toronto looked exactly the same. Okay, sure, there were more tall condos and the stores were not the same ones that had been here when she’d left, but overall, it was the same dull, not especially exciting, city that she’d fled.

Or maybe, Katie realized, it was she who had changed so much, and her old hometown just couldn’t keep up.

She caught a streetcar to her Aunt Paula’s house. She hadn’t seen any of her family since her mother’s funeral three years previous, where, against her better judgment, she’d dressed in the only men’s clothing she still owned, a conservative black suit kept specifically for the occasion, so as not to upset anyone by her appearance. It went against her principles, but it had been her mother’s last request of her. Upon returning home she had taken scissors to the suit and then also set it aflame, just for good measure.

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Pride Vignettes — Heather

Heather and Mattie walked the few blocks to the street party at a quick pace. Heather hadn’t bothered to dress up especially, knowing that Mattie was always the subject of any attention when they were out anywhere together. Once they entered the throng of people, all eyes, and often hands, would be on Mattie. Heather was okay with this. She was content to let Mattie be the draw, and to bask in the glory that surrounded her, knowing that she could take the opportunity to engage people once they approached to see her beautiful companion.

They reached the crowds of Church Street and were immediately an attraction.

“Oh my god! That dog is huge! Lady, can I pat your dog?”

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Pride Vignettes — Dianne

The shirt was a little snug. Dianne rooted through the boxes to find another one a size up, one that didn’t fit so snugly across her ample hips. She didn’t mind her hips, “child-birthing hips” Bruce had called them once when she was pregnant with Madeline, they were part of her and part of her life story, but she knew a tight t-shirt would drive her nuts and she’d be fussing and adjusting the hem all day if she didn’t find something looser.

She tidied the boxes and shoved them back under the long plastic table, repositioning the table skirt and feathering out the pamphlets on top in an arch, making sure that a couple of boxes of tissue were within easy reach. They went through a lot of tissues at Pride. So, so many tissues.

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Pride Vignettes — A Week of Pride-Themed Flash Fiction

Having spent a lot of time in the gay community and attending at least a few Pride events almost every year, I wanted to do something to celebrate both Pride itself and the interesting people I’ve come across. Most of the people I write about in this series are outliers, people on the periphery of the parades, festivals, and events who don’t exactly fit in, but who most definitely add to the overall atmosphere.

I started outlining this collection last summer, when it seemed as if this year’s Pride would be like all the ones before it. With no parades, marches, or street festivals to attend, no parties or dance clubs at which to gather, I wondered if stories celebrating those activities would even be relevant for Pride 2020. But unique personalities are always worth celebrating, and hopefully by this time next year, we’ll all be back out on the streets, sun-burnt and glitter-covered, reveling in the love and acceptance.

In the meantime, I offer you seven stories of the (perhaps not typical) Pride experience. Running each morning from June 22nd to June 28th, they are short bursts of “flash” fiction, each a quick, fun read, coming in at under 1000 words, and offering a unique perspective on the diverse and amazing people celebrating Pride.

Please stop by each day, starting Monday, June 22nd, for a new story.

June 22 — Darren
June 23 — Dianne
June 24 — Terrence
June 25 — Heather
June 26 — Katie
June 27 — Beth
June 28 — Willis

Bookish – In Which I Offer Mini Reviews for Many Books

Nobody reads my book reviews anyway, so I figure it’s totally okay if I cheat and pile a bunch into one post. I just want a place to record everything I’ve read because otherwise I’ll pick up the same title five years from now and read it again, and seriously, there are too many books to read, I’m not reading something twice unless it changes my life in some way.

So here’s what I’ve been reading lately…

Crow Winter
Karen McBride
This novel about a young Anishinaabe woman returning to her family home after the death of her father reads more like a young adult novel with traditional characters from the spirit world coming to life to help her come to terms with her loss and save her community. Beautiful artwork throughout by the author. A good entry point for readers of colonial descent to learn more about First Nations culture.

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