Short Fiction The Landlady

A Pockage from the Ult Contry

“Who Sends a Box of Sand from the Old Country?!”

Just in time for Hallowe’en, Ruby came out with a never-before-told story. It’s a little bit comedy. It’s a little bit horror. Ruby leans toward the comedy in a really big way, for some reason. Me, I think I’m still wearing a creepy-feeling expression on my face. I don’t know if it’s the story that bothers me so much, or if it’s that Ruby still finds it so damned funny. Anyway…

In honour of the Horrifying Holiday, I’m going to tell this one myself. Ruby laughed all the way through it – I swear I kept waiting for the punch-line, and when it came…. well. Let’s just say I’m gonna tell this one myself, and leave it at that. And Ruby, by the way, swears it’s a true story, and has made me promise to change the names and the type of business being run, in case relatives of long dead proprietors happen upon my blog somehow – (“I don’t trust that Internet!”) – and take offense.

So, I’ve changed their names to something nondescript, and instead of running a [EDITED BECAUSE I’M AFRAID OF MY LANDLADY] store, they have become Soup Mongers. I’ve even given them a fake accent, phonetically spelled, which you may have to read out loud to understand. Sorry. I couldn’t resist.

When Mr. and Mrs. Smith came to Canada from the Old Country, they did everything they could to fit in and prosper. They did manage to prosper, after a fashion, but the “fitting in” might have only happened up to a point. Canadians being Canadian, no one would be so rude as to give the new people the impression that they were anything but exactly what they felt they were: just like everybody else.

There were oddities about them, though, that they just couldn’t see in themselves. One was the name they chose, believing their own was too unwieldy for the English palate. “Smith” was generic enough, but it didn’t once occur to them that their accent gave them away the second they spoke. They swore to speak only English in this new country, even to each other, and after a time, the Smiths managed a fair grasp of the language, but the accent, if anything, grew thicker with the passing years.

Mr. Smith was a shoemaker, by trade, but was dismayed to discover that Canadians in the ’70’s in the backwoods little berg along the highway had a penchant for wearing running shoes. Everywhere. Everybody was on some new health kick, known as “jogging”. Even the mayor jogged to work in the mornings. It soon became apparent that the Smiths could not get by repairing shoes.

“Schneakas,” Mr. Smith would snort in disgust. “Mock my vords, dey vill all haff flot feets in der ult aitches.”

Mrs. Smith never worried, however. She knew they would get by. They always had. So, she would pat her husband’s head as she set a bowl of soup in front of him, and say, “Don vorry. It vill ull vork out. It ulveys duss.”

And Mr. Smith would eat the soup, and he would feel better, because his wife made the best soup in the world. The whole town thought so, too, and the Smiths were invited to every Potluck ever held, for that very reason.

It wasn’t long before Mrs. Smith was convinced that they should turn the store-front they lived in back of into a lunch counter establishment. Mr. Smith agreed, believing he’d lucked into early retirement, little knowing that he was going to be working harder than he ever had before, waiting tables and washing dishes all day long.

The Lunch Counter, which is what they named the place (pronounced “Loonch Conter” in Smith-speak), was an instant success, and Mrs. Smith ran it like a boarding house. There was no menu; customers ate what was put in front of them, and for awhile, the repertoire didn’t change much. No one complained, though. The soups were delectable, and no one had ever eaten better anywhere else.

“Vy you don mack [UNPRONOUNCEABLE] soop?” Mr. Smith asked one day.

“Day don haff [UNPRONOUNCEABLE] spess in dis contry, das vy,” Mrs. Smith replied. She thought she would write home to the Old Country, and ask her sister Klara to send her the spices she needed. For reasons Mrs. Smith couldn’t fathom, spices she needed for her best soup recipes were not available in Canada.

Klara was happy to oblige, and once or twice a month, a small package wrapped in brown paper, and addressed in “foreign-looking” bold handwriting would be reverently passed among the staff of the post office. They would hold it by turns, sniffing at it, all wondering what the mysterious spice inside might be, and what kind of soup it would become a part of.

One day, Mr. Smith brought home a package that confused him.

“Klara is okay, you tink?” he asked his wife, setting the package on the kitchen table. Mrs. Smith looked up from stirring her soup, worried.

“Yah, I tink,” she replied. “Vy you usk me dis?”

“Look da pockage. Klara don write dis,” he said, pointing to the mailing label. He was right, Mrs. Smith agreed; that was not Klara’s familiar handwriting. A closer inspection showed that the package was addressed to Mr. Smith rather than his wife, which made it that much more confusing. There was no return address.

Mr. Smith opened the package to reveal a bland-looking spice. There was no letter, no note, no indication inside as to who might have sent it, or what it was. Just the spice.

“Vat it is?” asked Mr. Smith. Mrs. Smith lifted the package, and sniffed it.

“I don know,” she said. “Don smell lack nuttin.” She dampened her finger, dipped up a bit of the spice and tasted it. She furrowed her brow.

“Vell?” said Mr. Smith. Mrs. Smith couldn’t place the taste at all.

“I tink mebbe it gotta cook. Den ve find out vat is it. I mack sumtin new!” Excited, Mrs. Smith began right away. When the water in a large kettle began to boil, she tossed in some vegetables, some noodles, and a tablespoon of the mysterious spice from the Old Country. When the soup had been simmering for an hour, she tasted it.

“Vell?” asked Mr. Smith. Mrs. Smith shook her head.

“Don tast lack nuttin,” she said, disappointed. “Mebbe I gotta need more.” She scooped a half-cup of the powder into the pot and stirred it up. She let it simmer a little longer, but it still didn’t taste like anything new to her. She had Mr. Smith try it, and he agreed. It was Vegetable Soup and nothing more.

Exasperated, Mrs. Smith poured the last of the spice into the soup and stirred it around. There were people to feed, and the Potato-Leek Soup was nearly gone. This “Just Vegetable Soup” would have to do.

Her customers accepted the soup, and enjoyed it, many commenting that it was the best vegetable soup they had ever eaten.

“Dat’s ult family recipe from da Ult Contry,” Mrs. Smith said, as usual. “Big seckret.” She would never admit that it was a secret to her, as well. She would have to write to Klara and find out what the spice was, and why it didn’t taste like much of anything at all.

Over the business of the next few days, though, both Mr. and Mrs. Smith forgot about the mysterious spice completely. In fact, they didn’t think of it again until a letter arrived for Mr. Smith, addressed in the same unfamiliar handwriting as the strange package had been. He opened the envelope.

“Who rite dat?” inquired Mrs. Smith, stirring the latest concoction at the stove.

“Is from my cussin in Ult Contry,” Mr. Smith said, glancing at the bottom of the letter.

“Red to me vile I cookin,” she asked, and Mr. Smith complied, reading slowly, translating the language haltingly into English as he read.

“Hullo from hom. Ve hop you iss bote okay. Ve send sad noose dat grundmadder iss not vit uss now, but she usk uss to send loff to you bote before she die, and say she ulveys vish she go to Canada to see beautiful new contry and to see you vun last time. So ve send you ushes of grundmadder dat she be vit you vonce more.”

Now, obviously, these people didn’t feed “Grandmother Soup” to the whole town – I made up the business the “Smiths” were in, after all, along with the wicked accent, but Ruby swears on her life that these people really made soup with the ashes. The whole box. And that they didn’t find out until weeks later, when the long-delayed letter arrived, what the “spice” really was. And she laughs hysterically when she says “Grandmother Soup”.

Random Song for the Day: “I Think I’m in Love” – Beck

Blog-Family Writing

Attention, Please.

Please welcome Plumeria to the Blogosphere. She’s new to this bloggery thing, but spreading her digital wings and man, oh man, can she write!

I’m not kidding. Read. She’s amazing. I’m fighting jealousy over her eloquence, and I’m not even half-joking when I say that.

Now’s the time to get to know her, and make points, folks. If I’m not mistaken, there will come a day (soon) that we will all be proud to say “I knew her when…”

Random Song for the Day: “Move On” from Sunday in the Park with George – Bernadette Peters & Mandy Patinken

Writer's Block Writing

I Prefer “Eccentric” to “Weirdo”, Thanks

Writing Tools
“Never Grow Up”

I read a hint somewhere about how to clear my head for writing. I’ll link it if I ever find it again (or if someone comes across it, you’ll let me know, right?), but meantime… the “hint” was to buy a colouring book and crayons and whenever I get stuck while writing a story, I’m supposed to pull out my new tools and colour for awhile to drain my brain.

It was so simple and laughable and childish that I immediately went out and bought the “tools” you see above. Then, of course, I immediately forgot I bought them, and they sat in a packsack until I found them yesterday.

HOORAY FOR CHILDHOOD! I wonder if I’ll ever have the guts to use it out in public and call it “homework”. Then, of course, I will stick my tongue out at anyone that dares look at me funny.

* * *

Oh, and another thing…

A Greenpeace official in Australia said our meat-eating society should be raising kangaroos instead of cows, in that, since ‘roos fart less, global warming could be slowed . . . . .

  blog it

Rory…? When did you join Greenpeace?!

Random Song for the Day: “Start Wearing Purple” – Gogol Bordello

Little Bits of Stupid

So Guess Who Drove Us Home Today…?

Gene Simmons
Not the kind of cabby you jump the fare on…

I have to say, it was one of our more memorable cab rides. Ky said, “So, I guess you know what you’re gonna be for Hallowe’en, then, huh?”

Gene Simmons
Still Rockin’ After All These Years

Gene replied, “Huh? ….Hallowe’en?!” Ky wasn’t quite sure if he was kidding or not. When I paid the fare, I was a little unsure myself. He sure stayed in character. He drove off head-banging to the radio, too.

We had gone off on a mission to find Ky’s Hallowe’en costume. Every year, this is hell. This year she found something ‘perfect’ very quickly, and I was lucky enough to discover decent winter boots, at a decent price, in my size. All in all, a successful trip. This is not usual when Ky and I shop together. There was not a single argument and no tears were shed. Ky says she thinks I might be finally growing up, and she’ll consider taking me out again if my behaviour continues to improve.

We had time on our side, and even a little moolah left over, so we celebrated with a great Chinese meal (I got to have a beer! I got to have a beer!), and a ride home with a rock star.

It was only then that I got the chance to see Ky’s costume.

Witchy Ky
Pleased with her purchases…

Hmmmmmm….. Ky says she’s got her route planned. Will carry her cell phone. Will not go anywhere alone. No worries, Mom.

Sexy Ky
I say I might have some worries. Sigh…*

Maybe I should call Gene Simmons up and pay him to be her escort…?

Random Song for the Day: “Right Now” – Van Halen

Little Bits of Stupid Photography

This is Also Temporary…

"Rainflower"Taken October 19, 2007 with Canon PowerShot A550
Taken October 19, 2007 with Canon PowerShot A550

Things are a little funky around here at the moment. A few things are going on that I don’t have words for yet. I’m trying to keep it all together here, and for the most part, I think I’m doing okay.

I may be abandoning the blog for a bit… and then again, I may not; I really don’t know just yet because, again, I don’t have words. If a sabbatical is in the making, I doubt it would be for very long anyway… I have plans. And I’m going to want to tell somebody about them. You’re it, Internet.

* * *

…and David McMahon wants to know: “Have you ever Googled yourself?”

My answer is, of course, “Of course! All the time – I’m a BLOGGER!”

Random Song for the Day: “Somewhere a Clock is Ticking” – Snow Patrol

Oh Mother...!

Great Aunt Emma

"Emma's Knight"Taken October 20, 2007 with Canon PowerShot A550
“Emma’s Knight”
Taken October 20, 2007 with Canon PowerShot A550

I must apologize to the memory of my Great Aunt Emma, for this horrible photo of her painting. It’s a water-colour, framed behind glass, hanging in an awkward niche in my parents’ small space. To get the shot at all, I had to jam myself between the fake gas fireplace and the stereo stand, straddling something or other – it might have been a speaker; I don’t remember. I imagine Emma, if she could somehow see them, would marvel at both the fireplace and the electronics in the stand, not to mention the annoying blinds that caused me problems with the reflection shining on her painting, 70-odd years after her death.

The knight in the painting is Emma’s depiction of a Crusader, having his sword blessed before setting off to convert the heathenish sinners into unwavering faith in a God they’d never heard of.

And if you can’t convert ’em, hell – run ’em through.

When I was little, I used to stare at Emma’s painting for hours at a time. I thought, then, that it was Joan of Arc. I used to imagine that maybe Emma felt a little like Joan: misunderstood… ostracized… martyred. Well… “martyred”, I guess, came later for Emma.

She was my mother’s father’s sister, one of three. As you can see, Emma was an artistic soul, at a time and in a place where that was unusual. The time was the late 1800’s or early 1900’s, and the place was a teeny-tiny farming community on the Manitoulin Island – a community of hard-working, God-fearing, good people. “Haweaters”, they still proudly call themselves, and I’m just as proud to be descended from them.

Emma was a “difficult” girl. She was not exactly… dependable. Her moods were sometimes… erratic. Her actions often confused people.

Sometimes, she could be extremely morose. Depressed. Her family worried over her. At other times, she became violently angry, and frightened them. There were days that she was giddy, and loud, or just plain “odd”. There were also days, and weeks, and probably whole months at a stretch that she was just plain “Emma, herself”, and they would be relieved and nervous at the same time, wondering which Emma would be there next, and hoping by some miracle that her “fits” had passed for good this time.

My mother believes, now, that Emma might have had Bi-Polar Disorder, or what at one time was called Manic Depression. I think my mother might be right, but that was an unheard-of condition way back then. And I’m guessing you have a pretty good idea where Emma ended up.

It must have been a difficult decision, sending her away. Committing her to an asylum. The Nut House. Booby Hatch, Funny Farm, Loony Bin. Horrible, terrible names, I know. Back then, though, they were horrible, terrible places to be “institutionalized” – places where, if you were shut up into them, whether by your family, or by a magistrate, you would be shut up with other people that may very well have started out with troubles similar to yours, but over time had really been driven literally mad. By the time you met your fellow inmates, most would be dangerous, psychotic, unrecognizable versions of themselves. And you would probably end up the same way. And back then, they almost never let you out.

Emma’s sisters, Marjorie and Lavinia, would go and visit her when they could afford the trip to Toronto. Sometimes, she didn’t care if she saw them or not. Maybe during those times, she didn’t realize who they were. But there were also visits when Emma was “Emma, herself”, her perfectly normal “self”, the sister they loved. Those visits were especially hard for Marj and Vine, because Emma would cry, and beg them to please, please, just let her come home. She hated it in the asylum. The other patients frightened her. She was going crazy. Please, please, just take her home. But they couldn’t take her home, and they would have to say good-bye and leave her in that awful place, alone.

After awhile, they didn’t visit anymore.

Emma died some time during the Great Depression. My mother doesn’t know if she was still in that asylum or not, but she was still in Toronto when she died. No one had any money then. No one could afford to travel.

There was a man who came from the Manitoulin, who lived in Toronto at the time. He saw Emma’s obituary in the newspaper, and recognizing the family name, he decided to go to the funeral. He knew Emma’s people, and he wanted to give his condolences. He wasn’t able to.

He was the only person there.

Not-So-Random Song for the Day: “Eleanor Rigby” – The Beatles

Artsy Fartsy Photography Photoshop

A Fascination with Fakery

"Applefield Sky"PhotoShopped on October 20, 2007
“Applefield Sky”
PhotoShopped on October 20, 2007

Portal2theUniverse (AKA “Gateway to the Multiverse”) called me a Prestidigitator a couple of weeks ago. At first I wondered if I should be offended, but his actual opinion of Where the Walls are Soft seems to be somewhat admiring, so I ended up feeling fairly complimented – sort of like when somebody calls me “weird”. If I’m going to cultivate the persona, I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised when others jump to the conclusion that I really must be so, even when somebody sees through the smokescreen and outs me to the Internet at large.

Prestidigitation (what a groovy-cool word) aside, when I’m taking pictures, I really want the perfect shot from the get-go, and generally only want to open Photoshop to resize the images for my blogs. Sometimes, though, Hilary Federwhore insists on taking the shot exactly as she sees it in her viewfinder, completely ignoring the vision in my mind.

At other times, she will just play the bitch and focus on something behind the very obvious, perfectly-centered object that is my intended focal point, prompting me to swear like the sailor me ol’ Da’ used to be. The apple didn’t fall far from the tree.

“…and speaking of ‘apples’…” (Har Har), I saw this HUGE field of them on my Walk-About yesterday, and got some really nice shots. The “field” was the four-foot width of grass, a median of sorts, running the length of Wellington St., and those apples are really tiny, little crab apples that can be encircled with the thumb and forefinger, so the vision in my head was probably a little over-the-top to begin with.

Hil cooperates beautifully when I break all the “how-NOT-to-treat-your-electronics” rules, in that she has survived being dropped into puddles (accidentally), being set down in wet bathtubs (several times now, but still, accidentally), getting caught in recent, sudden torrential rainstorms, and being splashed by passing cars. She refuses to die. Granted, I haven’t drowned her in coffee yet, but that’ll no doubt happen at some point. I’ll let you know how that goes.

Yesterday, to get the POV you see in “Applefield Sky”, I set her down in wet grass. On purpose. Even with her ass wet and freezing, Hil is a trooper, and gamely took the shot, but she was pissed off enough to leave the traffic and buildings in it, and this was the raw result:

"Applefield Sky Original 'Apples'"Taken October 20, 2007 with Canon PowerShot A550
“Applefield Sky Original ‘Apples'”
Taken October 20, 2007 with Canon PowerShot A550

Not the vision in my head.

The day before, I had snapped a “Skyscape” picture, as I had told David McMahon I was going to break the flower addiction with a new subject.

"Applefield Sky Original 'Sky'"Taken October 19, 2007 with Canon PowerShot A550
“Applefield Sky Original ‘Sky'”
Taken October 19, 2007 with Canon PowerShot A550

Crap photo if ever I saw one.

So I spent waaaay too much time last night in Photoshop, removing the traffic and buildings from the “apple” shot and superimposing the result over the “skyline” shot, when I was supposed to be doing homework. And waaaay too much time today, writing this post, when I’m supposed to be doing homework and clogging up the vacuum with several sweaters’ worth of cat hair.

But, hey – I am a Prestidigitator. That’s what I do.

Random Song for the Day: “U-Fig” – System of a Down

Little Bits of Stupid Photography

Does This Make Her a “Sinner”?

Off Center
“Off Center”
Taken October 19, 2007 with Canon PowerShot A550

I found this on ePifFunnies today, and it struck a chord.

Numbering the alphabet, A through Z, 1 through 26, we can calculate that, to complete a task, KNOWLEDGE gets a 96 in importance and CAPABILITY gets a 98, but ATTITUDE gets…100!

Contributed by Judy Kent of Omaha, Nebraska, who is her six children’s teacher at home and the wife of a minister.

On the other hand, it also made me wonder how a minister’s wife managed to amalgamate Numerology and an organized religion without spontaneous self-combustion occurring…

Random Song for the Day: “Drunk Willie Tamblin” – The Wild Turkeys


Mind Your Own Buzzness

"Mind Your Own Buzzness" Taken October 20, 2007 with Canon PowerShot A550
“Mind Your Own Buzzness”
Taken October 20, 2007 with Canon PowerShot A550
J.O.B. Photography Real Life

About Temporariness…

"Temporary"Taken October 18, 2007 with Canon PowerShot A550
Taken October 18, 2007 with Canon PowerShot A550

I still can’t sleep. I sleep once I fall asleep – it’s the “falling asleep” that seems to still be broken. Oddly, I’m not having any trouble getting up in the morning. I even eat breakfast. Because my kid makes it for me and spoon-feeds me before handing me a cup of coffee and running for her bus. It’s eerily like when I lived at home with my mother. Creepy.

Yesterday was my first “official” day in the capacity of “Duchess of Fracas”. I spent a lot of time reading. I also printed and folded things. Then I got to design and write things, which was fun, and then I printed and folded those things. Later, I ran an errand in the rain, and then I got to go for a car ride! During the car ride, I got to pick up and deliver things. Today, I repeated all of that, but with different things.

I bop from one thing to another all day, which makes the day whiz right by. I haven’t been working on resumes, (This is a “temporary position”… This is a “temporary position”… This is a “temporary position”… ) nor have I been cleaning up that last course for school. To do either, I must stay away from Ruby’s kitchen table, and I don’t like doing that. We’ll have to see how Time-Management works for me next week…

The entire department is temporary, how weird is that!? The girl that’s showing me the ropes turns out to be a would-be novelist. I’ve talked her into registering for “NaNoWriMo”, and we spent our day deep in conversation about what we’re going to write, and singing along to The Rat Pack while we designed and printed and report-filed and car-rided. She knows all the lyrics to “Ain’t That a Kick in the Head” (she’s 25-years-old if she’s a day), and for that reason alone, she will be known here as “The Countess of Cool”.

For as long as I’m there, I think I’ll like it. Meantime, I’m wading knee-deep in cat-hair around my cave, so I know what I’ll be doing tomorrow…

Not-So-Random Song for the Day: “Is There a Ghost (I Could Sleep)” – Band of Horses