Saturday, October 31, 2015

Trick or Treat — Happy Hallowe'en

Trick or Treat — Happy Hallowe'en

In an article published in the Gruelling Gazette, circa October 31, 1831, Professor Ambrosia Mortebanger wrote that the defining principle behind Hallowe'en was our strange obsession with hunting.

No sooner had the publication hit the streets of Restless Hollows, Massachusetts, when Professor Mortebanger was running about the dark streets of the town to tell anyone who was listening that she had inadvertently left an "a" out of the word, "hunting," and that, in fact, she meant to explain how Hallowe'en was connected to our strange obsession with haunting, and not hunting.

Sadly, the original article has long been lost. All thirteen copies of that renowned newspaper vanished when Stoker's Grocery & Bait Emporium went up in flames, the apparent result of a youngster's Hallowe'en prank gone wild.

Far be it from me to try to resurrect Miss Mortebanger's contorted thesis, but I have long wondered about the nature of that ancient art known best as "Trick or Treat," a phrase which I think defines the difference between "haunting" and "hunting."

In modern times, the entire Hallowe'en experience seems to have become more about hunting than it does about haunting. Children dressed in strange bedclothes wander the street with the sole purpose of hunting down as many treats as possible, and the "Trick" in "Trick or Treat" seems to have all but disappeared, save for the ongoing events at the Bunny Rancheros in Nevada, where a trick is really a treat anyway.

No, the age of great Hallowe'en "tricks," the essence of a true haunting experience, has disappeared. Oh sure, I suppose you might see an unroll of toilet paper idiotically arched over the branches of the Finlayson's prize red maple tree, or you might possibly find some arguably obscene soap graffiti across the front windshield of Reverend Axelworthy's new BMW, but really, these are standard nuisances of little consequence. And, yes, the buxom Mrs Milfhunter, from down the block, still dresses up as a fairly decent witch in her tall black hat with her fulsome black cape draped over her surreptitiously sequined, see-through negligee, but I'm not sure anyone finds her at all too frightening. It's as if the modern age has driven the "spook" out of "spooky."

Consider, however, what it must have been like on October 30, 1938, when Orson Welles broadcast to America that the world was being invaded by aliens from Mars. Now, that was a trick of epic and historical proportions. Millions of people went into a panic, and I'm sure that Mr Welles made millions of dollars off his little misadventure. If you tried a similar undertaking today, you'd become the property of Homeland Security, and you'd spend the rest of your life holidaying in Guantanamo Bay.

Caution is now the name of the game, and we have become a cautious people. These days, the best form of trick that we can offer is what I call the "shock treatment" — you know, putting on a ghastly mask, jumping out from behind the door, and screaming "Boo!" as your kids head out to do some hunting.

Kids today are no longer daunted by imaginary ghosts or goblins drifting about on Hallowe'en night. So let them hunt for treats, and let's forget the tricks. Soon enough, they'll face a world that is far more haunting than anyone of my generation could ever imagine.


Friday, October 30, 2015

the abandoned ...

the abandoned ...

she sits at his cluttered desk
her hand touching the dark oak
stained with pale rings from winter mugs of coffee
and frosty summer glasses of whiskey
and her fingers trace every one
in an endless repetition that measures
eternity and her infinite sadness
for the man she loved and lost in death

she remembers his body
the ripple of muscle that snaked
like a restless vine across his back
and she remembers how she would hold him close
hold him so tight
that his body would disappear into hers
and now she groans with sorrow
in the vacuum of her loneliness

she glances at the photograph
perched behind a confusion of papers
and sees herself in a younger day
dressed in a white shawl
that flutters like wings from her shoulders
and when she reaches for its wooden frame
her hand disappears into ghostly transparency
just as the front door rattles and he returns to his empty life


Thursday, October 29, 2015

Danger Stranger

Danger Stranger

In Canada, there is a chain of coffee shops called Tim Horton's, which was started by and named after a hockey player who died many years ago in a car crash. In some cities, you'll find one on every street corner. Everybody loves "Timmy's" coffee and donuts. I do too. But I never thought it could be a place of dire menace, a place where the infamous "Danger Stranger" might lurk.

I was sitting outside the local Tim's last summer, when a girl, no more than a nine-year-old, rode up on her fancy candy-striped Schwinn bike, with oversized whitewall tires and sizzling gold handlebar tassels.

"Hey," she called to me from the curb.

I looked up and saw her standing with one leg cocked casually over the seat of her bike. She was wearing a hot pink Barbie outfit, a form-fitting skirt draped casually over spandex leggings that accentuated her straight-line figure. Her long blonde hair swirled in the wind, and she was constantly removing a wayward strand or two that would catch the corners of her mouth.

"Hey there," she called to me again.

I'd been around enough seniors' conferences to know what she was up to. Still, I hated the thought that I should be impolite. I lowered my prescription, bifocal sunglasses so that I could see her more clearly.

"Hello?" I said punctuated, as you can see, with a question mark.

"How's that coffee working for you today?" she asked in her bubblegum voice.

I slowly looked down into my paper cup at the oily black concoction. "Good," I said with something of a frog's croak in my throat.

"No donuts for ya today, eh?" she continued.

"Not today," I confirmed.

"Too sweet for ya probably, eh? Are you diabetic?"

"Not really," I said simply. "Type two."

"Want a sugarless, easy-to-digest, non-lactose, soy protein bar? I got some over at my house."

I recognised this ploy right away. I can't count the number of times I've heard of an innocent, naïve senior being tempted to go off with the Danger Stranger for a slick stick of soy protein granola sweetened with sucralose. I wasn't about to fall for that one.

"Easy to chew too, if those pearly whites of yours aren't real . . ." she quickly added.

"No. No thanks," I said in my firmest voice. "I'm not supposed to go with strangers."

"Don't be silly," she said with a surreptitious giggle. "We're not strangers. Look at us out here in the nice sun and talking like old friends."

"Well, I'm not really hungry," I replied in as blunt a tone as I could possibly muster.

"I got an old dog there that you can pet," she coaxed. "He's only got three legs too . . ."

"What kind is he?" I asked with a foolish interest.

Her voice lilted an octave. "Old black one," she cooed. "Needs a good brushing, you know."

"Well, all the same. I can't go with you."

She slipped her leg off the saddle of her bicycle, and kicked down a bike stand. She balanced the Schwinn carefully on the sidewalk cement and walked towards me.

I must admit my heart rate leaped and I'm sure, despite all the medication I've been taking for hypertension, my blood pressure skyrocketed to 160/90. I was about to stand up and go into the Tim's to tell the manager that I was being approached by the Danger Stranger, but before I could uncork my bad knee, she was standing over me. She put a small hand on the droop of my shoulder.

"You're a kindly old gentleman, aren't you?" she began in her best wispy, childhood voice.

"Yes," I conceded.

"You don't think a nice little girl like me would hurt you, do you?"

"No," I mumbled more comfortably.

"I just need a big, strong grown-up like you to come and help me with something at my house."

"What do you need me to do?" I asked with far too much curiosity.

"Are you good at plumbing? You look like you're very good with tools."

"I am good with tools, very good. I like tools," I said proudly.

"See? I knew you were. I need you to come to my house and fix a leak under my mom's kitchen sink. It's creating a terrible mess."

"Do you have a bucket under it?" I asked.

"Why, yes, but it's almost full, and I really need a strong older man who can lift it up and throw that stinky old water out the door."

"I have a little arthritis . . ."

"Oh no," she assured me. "It's just a small bucket. You'll have no problem, really."

She gently tapped me several times on my shoulder and then smoothed the few strands of hair remaining on the top of my head. "Great comb over," she purred. "C'mon, let's get that leak fixed."

She turned away from me, and as she walked back towards her bike, her tiny body disappeared for a brief moment behind a signpost. In that instant, I suddenly caught on to what was happening. I was allowing myself to be lured into the web of a seniorphile. As her gum-stick figure reappeared in the sunlight, I saw her for what she was at last. She was nothing more than a ruthless, psycho-sociological predator, a wolf in sheep's clothing.

"You coming?" she growled.

Thankfully, I remembered a lecture that Constable Willie Succumb, Ret. gave at the Golden Door Senior's Centre just a few weeks previously. In his speech, Officer Succumb reminded the group that, if approached by a seniorphile, one must:


I remembered his words exactly, and he said them in a very loud voice, just like I've written them all in red caps there.

So, I stood up and smacked myself against the wall of the Tim Horton's. I didn't have a pen, but I did scoop at my eyes and nose, kicked a few rocks about, and in a booming voice shouted "FIRE, FIRE, FIRE!"

Within seconds, the young, thirty-something manager of the Tim Horton's came running outside and grabbed me by the shoulders. "What's the matter?" she screamed at me.

"DANGER STRANGER," I yelled in more caps.

The manager looked around. She even saw the little seniorphile now mounting her Schwinn and pedalling away on the sidewalk. Still, she seemed unperplexed.

"What are you talking about?" she moaned. "There's no one out here."

"There," I pointed. "There on that candy-cane coloured bike."

"She's just a little girl," the oh-so-perceptive manager laughed. "You're having some kind of delusion."

"No, I'm not," I pleaded. "No, I'm not."

"Come inside," she said softly. "I'll give you a free coffee and a Tim-bit."

I began to relax as I saw the little pervert disappearing on her bicycle over a hill in the distance.

"OK," I said more calmly now. "That would be nice. I'm sorry for the disturbance. I am, really."

"Good," the manager asserted firmly. "Come inside. You may be able to help me with something."

"What?" I wondered.

"One of our sinks has a leak, and I thought an older man like you could . . ."


Wednesday, October 28, 2015

This Little Piggy

This Little Piggy

"But I don't want to be a pig!" I oinked.

And with that I woke with a start from possibly the strangest dream I have ever had.

In the dream, I was a participant on a reality television show, clearly based on the popular TV series, Survivor. The difference was that all the contestants in the show were pigs — large ones, small ones, a couple of black-spotted ones, and mostly pink ones. Even the host, who hogged most of the camera time and looked amazingly similar to a robust Jeff Probst, was a pig, somewhat small in stature but with one enormous tusk. I was one of the black-spotted pigs, with a kind of hairy skirt around my ample midsection, which tended to drag in the mud, and a peculiarly exaggerated, long but curly tail, actually, more like a single dreadlock, or dare I say, a twist-tie pigtail.

I was stranded with my fellow porkers on a deserted island somewhere near Vanuatu, where the pig is revered as a symbol of wealth and prosperity. I considered this a lucky break, since I have always thought of pigs as just a slaughter house away from becoming pork chops and that honey glazed ham I like so much. Then a extremely large sow, pink as diaper rash, waddled up to me and told me the bad news.

The show was cancelled.

"It's because of the panicdemic," she snorted into my furry pointed ears. "Hundreds have died in Fiji alone, and the virus has spread into New Caledonia. It won't be long before it gets here."

I looked at her through my beady black eyes, checked out her curvaceous hammocks, and then shook my snout in disbelief.

"What are you saying?" I burped out in a series of grunts.

"The human flu," she grumbled in almost obscene guttural yips. "The human flu, which they are now calling the P1Poo2. It's killing all the pigs."

For a moment, I was struck with the thought that bacon might disappear from existence, and my heart sank. Breakfast would never be the same. BLT's would become LT's. All-beef hot dogs would become commonplace and no longer command higher prices. Chinese food would likely disappear completely, and what would people substitute for turkey at Easter?

"That's ridiculous," I guffawed back to her, "pigs are pigs. They're as horny as a teenage boy with a joystick, they copulate at the drop of a corn husk, without even a moment's worth of foreplay, and they breed litters of piglets almost faster than rabbits turn out droves of those cute little bunnies. There will never be a shortage of pigs."

"Don't believe me?" the pink parcel of braised ribs cawed. "Just wait and see. In a week or two, you'll be dreaming about mad cows, with nary a pig in your wacky subconscious."

At that point, things are a little hazy. I do remember the herd of pigs lining up for something. Perhaps it was a queue for inoculations, but I can't be sure. It was when some day worker prodded me on the rump tenderloin with an electric prod that I woke up.

Normally, I never remember my dreams. I suspect that, for the most part, my dreams are probably similar to episodes of Desperate Housewives, in which I am the new mailman delivering the latest edition of Cosmopolitan and loitering at the door for far too long. So, I suspect that the very fact that I remembered any of this dream is somehow prophetic, and tomorrow, I'm going to check out the local clinic to see about getting a swine flu, uh, I mean an H1N1 flu vaccination.

This is one little piggy who doesn't want to rush to that great market in the sky.


Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Open Wide

Open Wide

I'm sure most of you will agree that there is nothing more terrifying than going to the dentist.

As you wait for the day of your appointment, your anxiety levels go through the roof of your mouth. You imagine what is to come, and I suppose that whatever your imagination pictures in the cinema of your mind, that terrifying horror flick of scrape, grind and drill is almost as bad as actually being in the dentist's chair. Almost, but not quite.

It's a primitive practice, this thing we call dentistry. Think about it. We let someone invade our mouth with handy little power tools to have a go at some kind of absurd dental renovation, not just once mind you, but over and over again. That's right, every six months or so, someone calls us on the telephone and instructs us to show up for a little invasive S&M.

But it's not rough sex, is it? I mean, there's no orgasm waiting for you after the hogtying or flagellation comes to an end. No, after your painful little date with Dr Molarbaum and his evil assistant, you get a second whacking, when you stagger from the dentist's chair into the waiting room and the bright-white-smiling receptionist presents you with a bill that approximates the cost of a down payment on a house.

And, incredible as it may sound, you pick up the tab for the entire affair. You're still so half-drugged, so half-crazed from agony, that you actually pull out a credit card and pay some atrocious amount for your tryst of suffering.

What's worse is that there is usually a follow-up appointment, a second date, yet another frightening ménage à trois with those two masked invaders, the very two whom you've just managed to escape, so that they can complete their illicit bump and grind in your most sacred orifice.

The horror, I say, the horror!

Oh sure, someone will tell you that it's all a necessary evil. Someone will placate you with admonitions to be brave, to be an adult, to be calm.


Next time, the dentist's office calls, be afraid. Be very afraid. You're in for some STD, Some Terrifying Drilling, and no amount of penicillin will ease your suffering.



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