The Magic Door–or, How to Call Back Your Muse when it’s on Vacation.

Last Friday I was feeling–well, out of sorts. If you’re a creative person like I am, you’ve experienced a similar feeling: like a square trying to fit into a round hole. Nothing was going right for me. I had planned on doing some writing, but at the present moment,  felt like my muse had suddenly decided to take a vacation: gone on one of those famous Italian cruises, I guessed!

I paced back and forth in my office. I was desperate. Then I had an idea!

I went and stood just outside of my office area and, with my right index finger extended, drew an imaginary outline of a standard sized door in the space around me. I started out with just a plain outline of a basic door: about seven feet high and roughly thirty inches wide. Then I began to embellish it. I placed some large, yellow sunflowers with smiling faces about two feet off to the right, ensuring that some of their cheerful yellow heads bobbed happily into the door’s space to help break up the otherwise stark outline of the door, then added twin vines on each side,  letting them entwine as they grew upwards to end in a dense, leafy crown over the door header. Then, much like a magician would do, with the same index finger I drew imaginary bunches of tiny white snow flowers in my hand and, in dramatic fashion, sprinkled handfuls of them on the vine. They glittered and fell like fairy dust as they settled among the green, leafy vines. The whole scene looked quite pretty–and antiqued! I wanted to give the scene an old-fashioned, late seventeenth century look, and I was about to complete the scene by imagining an ornate, black metal bench just to the right of the door where I could stop to rest and drink in the tranquility of what I had created, should I choose to do so, but at the last moment, decided not to. I didn’t want to stop to rest: I wanted to open the door, and get in!

My next step was to mentally construct the door of deep brown walnut wood, well aged,  inlaid with garlands of floral designs in a lighter walnut. I hung the door on large, old rusting iron hinges that had been hammered  into their present  shape eons ago by an artisan who loved his craft. The door was heavy and, at present,  quite impossible for me to open unless I knew the right combination of magic words that would let me lift the iron latch that held the door firm in its place (I borrowed the design for the latch from a photo I had once seen in a magazine of a beautifully crafted latch on a door of an old castle). At first, I drew the door as being stubbornly immoveable because that was exactly how I felt–at least, creatively!

Then, another thought: what lay on the other side of that door?  To find out, I would have to think … think hard …  find the secret, magic password that would let me lift the heavy iron latch and open the door.

Abracadabra!” That was the best I could come up with at the moment. What the heck–I wasn’t creative today anyway.

To my surprise, that was it! That was the magic word: Abracadabra! Suddenly I was able to easily lift the heavy iron latch . The door objected irritably by creaking loudly as I pushed it open and walked through. In my mind, ahead of me, lay a long, narrow bench topped with plain, office quality, off-white Arborite and had several computers positioned strategically along its length. Men and women were sitting in front of these computers, each busy typing something … I dared to step closer to peek over the shoulder of a pretty young lady who was so busy typing she never even noticed my presence. She was creating a romance novel. She was dressed in a seventeenth century peasant-cloth grey dress, complete with white bonnet and apron. I named her, Annabel.  “I’ll bet she’s in love with the young prince that lives in the castle just down the road, and he most likely doesn’t even know that she exists.” I felt empathy with the young lady.

Next, I inched cautiously over to the lady–I placed her in her late 30s– short, blonde hair, very trim and efficient looking, dressed in a starched white shirt under a light grey business suite. But, unlike the previous young lady, I couldn’t go unnoticed here: she saw me, looked up from her computer and threw me a smile.

“Watcha workin’ on?” I thought I might as well ask since I had been discovered anyway.

“It’s a draft for a business plan my boss wants me to type up for him,” she offered in a tired voice. “As if I haven’t got enough other office work to contend with, now I have to  also type up his personal stuff.”

I left her to finish her draft and moved on to the next gentleman–well, surprise! I’ll go out on a limb and call him a gentleman, but he was anything but that: completely the opposite to the previous trim lady in a business suite:  he was unkempt, hadn’t shaved for a week, wore a dirty white Tee shirt stretched over an overstuffed beer belly  and was wearing  jeans that had seen better days. He even stunk a bit.

“What you want from me?” he growled as I approached. “You’re not getting any ideas from me!” He covered his monitor with an equally dirty grey hoody so that I couldn’t see what he had been typing. “I have a hard enough time coming up with ideas for my own stories.”

“Well, I wasn’t–I mean, I was just … browsing–”

“Well, don’t browse!” He yowled back that ended in an animalistic grunt. What an unpleasant person, I thought! “Go back to your own computer. You got more creativity than I’ve got.” He got up from his computer and came towards me in a threatening manor. I’m sure he meant to do me harm …

O.k., I decided that was enough! And, not a moment too soon, I ducked back to safety behind my side of my Magic Door.

Then, more magic! As I stood there, still holding fast to the latch on my Magic Door, now tightly closed  to bar that–ugh, gentleman–from grabbing me, I suddenly felt completely refreshed.

“Hey!” I fairly shouted, surprising even myself as a realized the  rush of creativity that now engulfed me. My Muse was back off its Italian holiday! With renewed confidence, I again took both hands and lifted the imaginary  iron door latch and again stepped through my Magic Door, only this time I didn’t create an imaginary scene. The scene was already there in real time!

The long  bench with its computers and people typing on ‘clickety’ keyboards were gone. I now  stood in the real world facing my own, real computer monitor. I sat down and started typing …  clickety, click-click … scenes and visions rushed into my head faster than I could type.

Thank you, Magic Door!

Stick ’em Up!

Our news, when reporting crimes, usually reports on only the more serious ones because, of course, crime is a serious offence–especially robbing banks. However, as a former police officer, I can tell you of many humorous cases that makes the law department laugh. This story is fiction, of course, but it could have happened in your town!

z0304
Halt!

“I tell ya, Clinton, this time it’s gonna be different. This time we’s gonna be rich!”

Clinton folded his arms in modest protest to Barton’s suggestion. “Yeah? Well that’s what you said last time, and all your smart thinkin’ did was get us three years in jail. And the reason we didn’t get more jail is ‘cause the judge and the cops couldn’t stop laughin’ at us ‘cause how stupid we was.”

“Ok, ok, I admit, last time I didn’t think it all the way through and we got caught. But, this time, I’m tellin’ ya, Clinton, this time it’s gonna be different! Those three years in jail gave me time to think and plan, and see where it was that I made a mistake.”

“Yeah, a good start in thinkin’ would be, this time, let’s not rob a bank.”

“You got somethin’ better to rob than a bank that has lots of money?”

“How ‘bout a jewellery store?”

“Nah! Jewellery stores is too hard. They got security cameras all over the place and, besides, then you gotta find a fence to sell the stuff to. Too much trouble! I tell ya again,” Brandon emphasized, “that bank on Fifth is our best bet!”

“Well … I don’t know.” Clinton spotted an empty pedestrian bench next to Bert’s Shoe store and sat down. “I gotta think more about it.”

“What more is there to think about?”

“Like, three more years in jail!”

Brandon could see that he wasn’t getting anywhere with Clinton, so he tried a new approach. “Hey, you gettin’ hungry?”

“What time is it?”

“How should I know. I ain’’t got no watch.” Brandon hailed a passerby. “You got the time on you, buddy?”

“Ten to twelve.”

“See? It’s almost noon. You getting’ hungry?”

Clinton became aware of his empty stomach. “Well—“

“Ya got money to buy yourself lunch?”

“No—“

“Then with what you gonna feed yerself with?

“We could go to the Community Church soup kitchen—“

“Again? And what about tonight? What about tomorrow…next week? We always gonna eat at that soup kitchen? Soon everybody will say you’re just a good-fer-nothin’ moocher!” Brandon sat down next to Clinton and embraced him. “Listen, pal, we’ve been buddies fer a long time now, right?”

“yeah.”

“Well, we’s gotta stop bein’ moochers. We gotta start havin’ our own money and support ourselves. Thems is the rules of society!” Brandon stood up, also pulling Clinton up. “Come on. Show you got some guts and that you ain’t just some kinda looser!”

“Somethin’ just don’t feel right, Brandon,” Clinton mumbled, “I tell ya, somethin’ bad’s gonna happen to us!” Although still filled with misgivings, he yielded to Brandon’s nudging him towards the Fifth Avenue Bank. They stopped at the bank’s front door where Brandon pulled out a folded piece of paper from his pocket. “See? I got it all writ down here.” He unfolded the paper and showed it to Clinton.

“What’s it say?”

Brandon snorted. “At least one of us can read and write. The note sez, I got a gun. Gimme your money.”

“But, I don’t got a gun!”

“They don’t need to know that. The note will make them think you got one, and that’s all that matters. Now you go on in there—I’m right behind you, and just hand the teller that piece of paper. That’s all you gotta do. You don’t need to say nothin’. She’ll start giving you all her money. Then we run out outa there and meet at the park. What could be easier?”

“Why do I haveta give her that note? Why don’t you?

“Cause I saved the hardest job for myself. See this bag I’m holdin’? I’ll be right behind you, passin’ this bag to her for her to put the money in. It takes teamwork to do a good job, so you gotta do your part, too. Remember, I planned it all out, and it’s gonna work this time!”

—–

The clock in the tower of the Fifth Avenue Bank struck one o’clock. Most of the lunch hour customers had already returned to work, leaving the bank nearly empty. Brandon and Clinton stood, silent for the moment, in front of the teller. The teller, in return, remained politely patient, anticipating a request.

Clinton wished that he could be in the park feeding the pigeons rather than standing here in front of the teller, but he didn’t dare get Brandon angry, so he forced himself to slowly hand over the note to the teller. At first, the teller’s face turned ashen, as if she might faint, but color quickly returned and she gained complete composure. She paused for a longest moment, giving the appearance of having to study the note. What was taking her so long? Brandon pushed Clinton a little closer to the teller’s cage. Then her facial expression turned puzzling, as if she had found something wrong with the note—something that she didn’t understand … then abruptly shoved the note back to Clinton.

“I can’t give you any money!”

“Why not?” Brandon countered from behind Clinton.

“You misspelled ‘give me’”

“Did not!”

You wrote ‘g-i-m-m-e.’ That’s not a word! What does ‘gimme’ mean?”

Clinton cast a timid glance back at his partner. “See, I told you your plan was—“

“Shut up!” Brandon turned back to the teller. “That note means we wants your money, lady!” He shoved the note, including the bag he was holding back towards the teller. The teller lurched back as if repulsed by the dirty bag. “That thing is filthy!” She animated.

“That bag’s the best we got, lady. Now, you gonna give us the money, or do we gotta use our gun?”

“But—“

“Shuddap!”

The teller paused again. Brandon could hardly stand it any more. “What you waitin’ for, lady?”

The teller ignored Brandon. She needed time, so she tried to give Brandon the impression that she had to steel herself to be able to touch the dirty money bag, let alone put money in it.

Clinton started to whimper quietly.

“Stop it!”

Brandon glanced around nervously. “You’re takin’ an awfully long time, lady. We ain’t got all day, you know. Now, give us the money!”

“Do you want the money in five dollar bills, or in tens—“

“Never mind! Just give us whatever you got in that drawer!”

“Maybe I should just call the manager and let him decide—“

“Well, well, well! Brandon and Clinton! You two still haven’t learned your lesson, have you?” Brandon felt a heavy hand on his shoulder. The voice sounded familiar. Yep, it was Constable Nelson, alright!

“Now, why don’t you two boys stop bothering this nice teller and come along with me.” The Constable’s voice was relaxed and casual-like, as if he were talking to an acquaintance at a dinner party.

Barton felt insulted and humiliated. Sure, maybe they got caught again, but why couldn’t the Constable at least have drawn his gun and yell at them—commands, like, “Stick ‘em up! Drop your gun!” like cops are supposed to do when they arrest someone? At least, that’s what they do on TV. Barton sighed. One of these days he was going to get it right!

Clinton started sobbing. “I told you your plan was no good! We shoulda at least worn masks! Now, when the cops bring us in front of the judge, he’s gonna laugh at us again, like he did last time!”

—–

The Hole-diggers

This light-hearted short-short piece of fiction is an attempt by me to deliberately not give names to characters, nor any “he said, she said,” and with a minimum of descriptive action on the part of each character. Yet the reader should be able to identify the three characters in this story as they individually speak and act out their part. Writing this story was an exercise in demonstrating that in short, tight-fisted writing, “he said, she said,” plus a lot of descriptive action, can be redundant.

Dysfunctional Labor

“Yes, ma’am, we two is the best hole diggers in town.”

“Good!” The spinster snapped back. “Then you will be able to dig a proper hole for me for my clothesline post.  I want it over there, see?” she pointed a skinny, arthritic finger in the direction where a fluorescent red ribbon was stapled to a survey stake near the edge of her fence. “It has to be exactly centered on that marker, and it has to be exactly three feet deep! Do I make myself clear?”

“That’ll be ten bucks, ma’am.”

“You’ll get paid when the job is done!” She stepped back into the house and firmly closed the door behind her.

Sheesh! Give that ol’ gal a black hat an’ she could pass fer the Wicked Witch of the North.”

“Even her nose is big.”

“She don’t got no warts on her nose, though.”

“Hee, hee! But she can bark jus’ like that skinny lady at the welfare office. ‘Specully when we ask her fer some extra cash!”

Armed with their rusty post hole digger, the two shuffled away towards the survey stake and took positions, one standing on each side of it.

“Sniff.”

“Yech! You dirty tramp. Will ya stop wipin’ your nose on your shirt sleeve? It ain’t polite, you know. You’re forever doin’ that, an’ it’s ugly an’ unsanitary!”

“What we gonna do now? Just starin’ at that stake ain’t gonna help.”

“Cht-ptu!”

“Spittin’ on that stake ain’t gonna help, neither, you know. You cussin’ me fer wiping my nose on my sleeve. Hah! Well, spittin’ ain’t polite, neither. ”

Shaddap! I’m thinkin’. … O. k., pull that stake out an’ start diggin’.”

“Can’t. I hurt my back sleepin’ in that culvert last night, and I can’t bend. Besides, you spit on it, and I ain’t touchin’ that stake.”

“Oh, sheesh! Sometimes you can be as useless as a balloon with a hole in it!  … Here. Uh! O.k. … I pulled it out. Now, gimme that digger, since you’re crippled and I gotta do all the work.”

“O.k., I dugged about a foot. Can’t dig deeper.”

“Why you stoppin’?”

“Can’t you tell? I hit a stone, stupid.”

“Well, twist harder. Maybe it’s just a small stone an’ you can push it aside.”

“O.k. … Now you see what you made me do? I broke the digger!”

“Now what?”

“Whadya mean, now what? Can’t you see? It broke!”

“Well, fix it. If we don’t dig that hole, we don’t get paid.”

“Can’t fix something that’s broke this bad. Think I’m a magician? Can’t even pry out the broken piece. It’s too deep in the ground.”

“Told you we should have picked up that ol’ lawn mower from the dump an’ gone cuttin’ lawns instead. Probably make more money, too”

“Told you, shmold-you! Sheesh! Don’t preach to me, tellin’ me what we shoulda done! That junky ol’ lawn mower at the dump probably wasn’t workin’ anyway. That’s why they threw it in the dump in the first place.”

“What wasn’t workin’?”

“The lawn mower, stupid! What’s with your brain today, anyway?”

“Oh …yeah. … Probably wasn’t workin’. Probably no gas in it, neither.  So what we gonna do now? We can’t finish diggin’ this hole with a broken digger – unless you can fix it.”

“I said, I ain’t no magician, ya hear? We might’s well go back to the dump an’ see what else we can find.”

“Might’s well. No use standin’ here in the sun. My back ain’t hurtin’ much anymore, but my feet are startin’ to hurt. Think she’ll pay us for just half a hole?”

“Doubt it. Let’s go.”

“Walk slower. I said, my feet are hurtin’.”

Andy Baudy

  When you walk down the street and pass by a “bum,” with his hand out, do you give him a wide birth? Totally ignore him? Maybe you feel annoyed: a little guilty, maybe. lazy tramp! Why doesn’t he just get a job and get off the street? I hope this story will change your opinion of bums!

“Andy Baudy, you’re nothing but a drunk! A confirmed, hopeless, incurable, worthless alcoholic!” The Constable towered over Andy, spitting down his disgust on him.
“Yes, sir.” Andy replied humbly, fearing the worst. He removed his worn fur cap from his balding head and clutched it tightly to his chest. Experience had taught him that, removing one’s cap when in the presence of the law, was a sign of respect. Sometimes it got him out of being hauled to jail, sometimes it didn’t. Also, intuition told him that if he stood really still and made himself look really small and pathetic, he could avoid another weekend in jail.
“What’s the matter with you, Andy?” the Constable continued.
“Maybe I’m jus’ stupid?”
“Every day I see you bumming on this street. Look at you. You have no friends, no job. Yes, I agree, you are just a stupid, shiftless tramp!” The Constable paused, weighing his options. Should he haul him in again and charge him with vagrancy—a seemingly unproductive venture, or should he just let him go? His voice softened, his face screwed itself into an expression of disgust. “Aw, what the heck, another weekend in jail isn’t going to help you anyway. Get out of my sight, and consider yourself lucky I didn’t find a bottle on you today.”
Those were the words Andy was hoping to hear.
Later, as he aimlessly shuffled down Eighth Avenue, his dejection mounted to the point of near-tears.
“Why does everything go so wrong for me? I don’t ask for much.” He mumbled to himself. “I ask fer a handout only when I’m hungry. I don’t bother nobody. Can’t even get a smile—” but even this was becoming harder and harder to find in Calgary.
Maybe Calgary was becoming too big a city. Maybe it was time to move on … But, he remembered …
“No!” he stubbornly stomped his foot. “I do have friends!” The Constable was wrong! There was Charlie who lived in the McNeil Block who would buy him an occasional beer, and once in a while even give him a dollar along with the beer. Then there was that fat little lady at the Sally Anne who gave him the old fur hat he was wearing—
He remembered that he hadn’t put the cap back on after leaving the Constable’s presence. He turned it over in his hands and examined it. A lot of the fur had worn off, but that was fine. It was cooler in the summer that way—
But, with fall coming, he should visit that nice lady again for a warmer hat.
Andy’s aimless sauntering took him to the front of the Queen’s Hotel that also served as the entrance to the beer parlour. He paused. Should he dare enter? With all the bad luck he was having today, he’d probably run into rude ol’ waiter at the door and get turfed out even before he had a chance to ask someone for a beer.
The smell of stale beer and noisy conversation teased him: tempted him.
“Shucks, why not?” He shrugged, and gingerly entered. Fortunately, Charlie was sitting at the very first table, and saw him as soon as he entered. The waiter was about to come between him and Charlie, but Charlie objected.
“No –!” Charlie raised a hand. “Andy’s my friend. I’ll take care of him.” Reluctantly, the waiter moved on to other tables. Charlie shoved two beers towards Andy, along with: “Here’s a fiver. After you’ve finished your beer, go buy yourself something.”
“Two beers and a five dollar bill!” Gosh, Charlie, you’re the best friend I ever had!” Andy was thirsty and quickly drank the beer, then wiped his wet lips on his dirty shirt. He was feeling much better now. As soon as he finished the beer, he had a strong urge to leave and run out to buy himself a bottle of wine with the five dollars, but that would be rude, so he sat quietly, listening to the conversations between Charlie and his other friends. Andy offered no small talk of his own to the conversation. Charlie’s aunt had died on Sunday and left him an inheritance. So that’s why he was so generous today: he was loaded in cash! Finally, Andy could stand it no longer.
“Gotta go, Charlie.” He excused himself and slipped out of the hotel and into the bright sunlight. The liquor store was only a block west of the hotel.
Now, with his bottle tucked out of sight inside his jacket, Andy ducked cautiously through allies, moving southward, avoiding any contact with people.
It was still early in the afternoon when he finally reached Princess Island. With the kids still in school, the island park was almost deserted. At least the kids wouldn’t be bothering him for a few hours. Actually, he didn’t mind the kids so much as some of the adults who constantly swore at him and kicked him. A few of the kids were even nice to him. Some kids did laugh at him, mostly teasing him for always talking to himself. In the past, Andy tried to explain to the kids that he wasn’t talking to himself, but was talking to his friends that he met whenever he came here to the river, but the kids only laughed at him even more, telling him that he was crazy.
True, he admitted, he saw his friends only after he had a few drinks, but they were very real, even if only he, and no one else, could see them.
Andy searched out his usual secluded spot next to the river’s edge underneath some willows that helped hide him from any passersby. He broke the seal on his wine bottle and took several long, satisfying swallows.
“Ah … that feels good!” He let the wine warm his stomach. Using his shirt sleeve again, he wiped away the few drops of wine remaining on his lips. He untied his shoes, the original shoe laces having long ago been replaced by heavy white store string, and let his bare toes wiggle refreshingly through the warm sand.
Winter would be coming in a couple months. He made a mental note that he should go see that nice fat lady at the Sally Anne again. Maybe she would give him a pair of warmer socks for the winter. Maybe even a new pair of pants. He looked down at his pants. One leg had a tear, almost from top to bottom. “Uh, that stupid dog! Look what he did to my pants!”
Andy took another sip from his bottle. The sun was warm, the sand was warm, and he felt warm and happy all over. He drank a toast to the warm – no, make it two toasts – to the warm summer sun, then he let his feet slide forward until they were submerged up to his ankles in the cold water. The sudden coldness of the water, in contrast the warm sun, reminded him of something he had promised to do when he got to Princess Island. He reached into his coat pocket and drew out a folded, soiled piece of paper. Last night, when he had bunked down in a south end garage where the owner had left the door open – and before that same, mean old guy had kicked him out, he decided to write a poem to the river.
“Little Bow flowing by,
Little Bow so blue.
Little river how I sigh
And wish that I was you!”
As a final gesture, Andy brought the bottle to his lips and drank a third toast to the river, then a toast to his own creative genius for having composed such a thoughtful and beautiful poem.
The bottle was empty. He threw it into the river and watched it for a moment as it floated down stream before it filled with water and sank.
“I heard that poem, Andy Baudy!” a child-like voice interrupted.
Andy turned his head, a little too quickly, for he almost fell flat on his face. His head reeled and he had to blink hard several times to bring his eyes back into focus. It was then that he spotted his dear friend, Lipstick, a white paper doll about a foot high, seated on a clump of grass just to his right.
“H’llo, Lipshtick, d’jya like my poem?”
“Gorgeous! Simply gorgeous!” Lipstick wrapped her paper arms around herself in a display of ecstasy.
“Make way for the mad dog! Make way for the mad dog!” Another voice, this one a deep, masculine voice that sounded very much like the voice of an old school principal he remembered from his high school days, broke into their conversation. Andy turned to his left, a little more cautiously this time, and saw his other dear friend, the gingerbread man, coming towards him. The gingerbread man was shorter than Lipstick by about three inches. Ginger didn’t show up every time Andy came to Princes Island. Mostly, he came only after Andy hadn’t eaten for a while and was hungry.
“Ginger! How’dja know I got chased by a dog?”
“Look at your pants,” Ginger pointed to Andy’s torn jeans.
“Uh – yeah.” Andy tried to cover the worst of the tears.
“Tut, tut, tut!” Ginger shook his head. “You shouldn’t have crossed that lady’s lawn this morning. You should have walked around, and used the sidewalk, like everyone else does.”
“He should not have!” Lipstick shot back in Andy’s defence. “Andy is like me. He likes only the beautiful things in life. He wants to … um, — uh, yes. He wanted to admire the lady’s flowers. Isn’t that right, Andy?”
“He did not! He was just lazy and took a short cut!”
“He was not lazy!”
“Shtop! Shtop right now!” Andy raised a blurry hand in objection. “I feel too – uh, oooh, my head!” He clutched his head with both hands. “I feel so mishrable right now.”
“Yeah, so do we,” Lipstick let her paper doll chest sag in immediate response to Andy’s feelings. “Wish something beautiful and exciting would happen.”
“Well, aren’t I something beautiful and exciting?” A refreshingly new, yet somewhat familiar feminine voice, asked. She had a light, silky, Southern drawl. All three turned towards the river, the source of the voice. A miniature mermaid lay there in a graceful, sexy sort of a way, on top of a small rock that jutted out of the water.
“Oh, she is beautiful! My wish came true! My wish came true!” Lipstick jumped up and down with excitement.
The dancing sunlight that reflected off the fast moving river caused Andy’s head to spin. He shook his head to clear away the whirling, dizzy lights. When he had regained his composure, he asked, “You new here, huh?”
“Oh, no! I’ve been secretly watching you for a long time, you handsome prince. See, I even know your name. It’s Andy Baudy.”
“Be careful of newcomers, Andy. If you don’t know ‘em, they can lead to trouble!” Ginger cautioned.
“Oh, shut up!” Lipstick retorted. “She is beautiful, and Andy also thinks she’s beautiful, don’t you, Andy? And that’s all that matters! Andy is like me. We both like beautiful things, don’t we?”
“Well – uh, she is boot – er, beautiful. Very … very bootiful!” She had long, thick dark hair that fell in loose curls over her shoulders, half covering her bare, firm breasts.
“Washername?”
“Guess.”
“Ha, ha!” Her sultry smile was so infectious. He thought for a moment. On impulse, he ventured, “Ish it Alish?—I mean, Alice?” He had known a girl in high school who looked just like this mermaid. At the time, he had been secretly in love with her, but was always too shy to approach her and ask her out on a date. In time, Alice married the school’s basketball star and he ended up thumbing a ride to Calgary.
“Aw, you guessed!” She feigned a syrupy pout.
“I don’t like her, Andy!” Ginger cautioned again, more sternly this time.
“Shut up!” Lipstick screamed at Ginger. “Can’t you see Andy’s enjoying himself?”
Andy paid no attention to either of them.
“Where you live?”
“I live in the river, of course, you big, handsome man. You don’t think I’d ever live in that mean, cruel old world you live in, do you?”
“Well, it doesh get a li’ll rough – ‘speshully in the winter –“
“Then, why not join me, you sexy hulk?”
“But –“Andy protested. “But, I can’t live in the water.”
“All right then, have it your way.” Alice rolled over and turned her back to him. “If you won’t even make an effort –“
Andy tried to stand up, extending an arm towards her. Too dizzy, he wobbled, then fell flat into the water. The sudden cold gave him a moment of soberness that allowed him to stand up without falling over again. He splashed closer to Alice.
“Alish – Alice! Don’t turn away from me! I love you.” He promised himself that this time this wasn’t going to be a repeat of high school days where he let her slip away. He took a couple determined, faltering steps into the water, closing the gap between him and Alice.
“Well, o.k., have it your way.” She rolled over to again face Andy.
Andy tried to balance himself and keep his footing on the slippery rocks on the bottom of the river. The swift moving water was now almost up to his hips. As he came closer, Alice gestured with open arms. “Just remember, I’m a very passionate lady, and I need lots of lovin’.”
“Alish! – I love you!” He stumbled, got up, ever moving deeper to the center of the river.
Finally, the river’s current was too strong for him to remain upright. He slipped, fell – “Alice!” He screamed one last time as he lunged for the rock, and Alice.

… “What a strange world,” Andy thought. Everything seemed so peaceful, without pain. Not even the water was cold anymore. All that mattered was on Alice, now had moved up tight against him and wrapped her soft, lily-white arms around him. In an equally passionate grip – a vice grip, Andy held Alice to his bosom. “Never, never, ever again, will I leave you, Alice!” his heart throbbed as he continued to embrace his Soul Mate in an eternal embrace.


Next morning’s Calgary Herald carried a brief news clip on page three:
“Late afternoon yesterday, police pulled an adult male body from the Bow River, just off Princess Island. The homeless man had no identification on him and cause of drowning is still under investigation, although officials were puzzled by the vice-like grip the deceased man had on a small outcrop of rock near the center of the river.