Here are two quick story posts and a post-it note reminder:
Some recent stuff from the Mitchellsphere I thought I’d share:
First: My story “Peacemongers” was one of 23 stories selected for inclusion in the beautiful anthology, “Out of This World” The Best Short Stories from The MOON 2013–2019. Danke seea to Editor Leslee Goodman!
Read more about the anthology here: https://mitchellaneous.com/2019/07/09/out-of-this-world/
Follow this link for more links to the Amazon page, including a sample page!
Here follows a snip from “Peacemongers” to whet your appetite. The excerpt I have chosen is a true childhood recollection from a good friend of mine where he (“Matt Zehen”) is antagonized by a character who represents a real-life cousin of mine, who goes by “Tracy Lord” in the story.
Tracy was the one we feared most of all. He terrorized us and even though many of my friends’ more wide-bodied older brothers could take him in a fight, they did not dare to tackle his older brother, “Rebel Richard” (or, Reb, as he liked to be called.) So Tracy was left unchallenged and he took particular delight in torturing us little guys, who feared him openly and without shame. I dreaded going to my grandpa’s distant shoe shop on an errand for Grandma because it would take me past one of the restaurants where Tracy hung out, drinking innumerable Pepsi-Colas and smoking Export “A” cigarettes.
On one such trip, he saw me and pulled me roughly into a vinyl upholstered booth, where Scotty already sat, likewise kidnapped. Tracy pushed me in next to Scotty, then lit a wooden match with his thumbnail and held the orange flame under the heel of his hand. “Just getting’ ready for Hell, boys, jus’ gettin’ ready,” he said evenly while he grinned at us. Then he cuffed us each sharply and said we’d be taking a ride soon, “so stick around you little shits!” Scotty and I seemed like his favourite victims.
Of course, we left as soon as he went to another booth full of girls and turned his back to us. He later caught us at the A&W and pulled us into the front seat of his 1949 Ford Fordor Sedan, our exit blocked by big Johnny Fehr who sat eating a burger against the far door. Tracy held the car keys up in front of my face and said, “Hey Zehen. Did you know this car is a magic car? This car is a LIE DETECTOR, Zehen and you are gonna be tested right now.”
Johnny snickered, elbowing me a little but without Tracy’s psychopath attitude. Tracy continued: “OK, Zehen. Here’s the first question: Do you like girls? Eh, Zehen? Do you like girls?”
I stared at him dumbly and then looked at Scotty who shrugged his shoulders and turned his palms up, his lip quivering. “C’mon Zehen – time’s up,” Tracy cooed, prodding me hard with the car key. I sucked in my breath and stiffened, involuntarily leaning against Johnny Fehr (Johnny Fear to us) and making him spill a bit of his root beer. He shoved me back hard, back into the key point which tore my shirt.
“Answer, little turd!” Johhny growled. “No!” I answered. “No, what, schnudda-nase?” (snot nose) “No, I don’t like girls.” I sputtered back.
“Ohhhh. We’ll see,” Tracy said, gesturing with the car key. “Car,” he intoned mechanically, “Does Zehen here like girls? True or False?” Then he pointed at the gas tank gauge, the red needle lay inert pointing at the E. As he put the key in the ignition and clicked it once, the needle animated and rose steadily past ½ and then slowly stopped, pointing directly at the F.
“F!” Tracy yelled, making the family in the car next to us stare. Johnny Fear waved a hand at them in annoyance, shouting sarcastically, “Take a picture!”, to which they responded by looking away, except the small children in the back who stood on the seat staring unabashedly.
“F stands for what, Johnny? F stands for . . .”
“FALSE!” Big Johnny barked, despite a mouth full of food. “F stands for False, m’ Lord.”
“False, eh, Zehen? The lie detector Ford says that your answer is false. So, I asked if you like girls, you said you did not, and the car says your answer is false. So that means you DO like girls.”
Johnny chimed in roughly, “Good thing, don’t want no homos in here.”
Tracy laughed just a bit too hard, bringing looks from the family next door, which Johnny waved away angrily, gesturing with pronged fingers for them to point their eyes forward.
“OK, Zehen. Here’s the next question. The lie detector Ford is all warmed up now. Tell us, Zehen – do you like ME, Zehen. Eh? Do you boys like me, Tracy Lord?”
To say yes, we liked him, was a lie – too easy for him to insert the key and generate the F response. Then what? If we didn’t like him, what would happen?
“No. We don’t like Tracy Lord.” Scotty interjected calmly, to my horror.
“What’s that? What is THAT, shit-for-brains?” Tracy erupted, as Johnny Fear laughed, wheezing and spitting onion and saliva on the worn steel dashboard in front of him. Johnny clapped Scotty on the back and coughing, eyes tearing, said, “Good one kid, good one!
Spotting a pair of girls arm in arm, coming out of the bowling alley towards the drive–in, Tracey suddenly lit a cigarette, gestured at Johnny to look and jumped out of the car. […]
That’s all for that one, unless of course, you buy the anthology. 🙂
Next is a short story about a heavenly (we presume) visitation. The main character entertains a unique character one sunny afternoon and in the end, we see there is a special reason for the visit. Here is an excerpt from, “Away Game”. Danke seea to Editor JM Landels!
Read more about the magazine (Pulp Literature) in which it appeared here: http://pulpliterature.com/2019-year-of-authors-15-19-july/
My great-great-grandfather came to visit us at the lake. This was unexpected because he died 110 years earlier.
He spoke in a Mennonite brogue that featured sure-footed enunciation with short demanding sentences and syntax reminiscent of a buggy ride over frozen stubble. Clear eyes stared you down into the frost-blackened remains of a failed Turkey Red wheat crop.
“That’s some beard you have there,” I said after we got settled down by the water’s edge.
“Call me Opa,” he said, sensing my hesitancy. “Why don’t you have a beard?”
“Too itchy,” I replied.
He stared at the lake, frowning. “Why are you living here? What’s wrong with town?”
“We like it here, Opa. How is it where you are?” I asked, curious but scared I’d say the wrong thing.
“It gets beastly hot and smells like sewer gas, but the women sure are sporty,” he said. Then he took a long sip of his drink, eyes merry over the rim of the glass while he regarded me.
Janice, standing behind my chair, misted me with lemonade as she burst out laughing — a spit take for a dead man.
“That John Candy guy told me to say that, if you asked,” he said. “He is jost terrible funny!”
In life, Opa was a church Deacon, a farmer, a part-time inventor, and a beer maker of some renown. He was also known for his service as a church delegate, one of twelve chosen to come to Canada in 1873 to choose the land the Molotschnan Mennonites would settle. Bearded and bonneted, my ancestors left in a staggered diaspora when the friendly steppes of Catherine The Great became unwelcoming. Following his journey, the migration continued until 1924, more or less.
Strangely, death agreed with him. He looked exactly like he did in the crinkled black and white pictures from the shoe box in our closet. He even showed off a fine set of store-bought teeth.
I kept playing it straight. “You are with the Lord?” I said, earnest and tepid.
“Well, it’s not exactly like that, but I’m not supposed to tell. They don’t let.”
“Nah jo,” I replied, slipping into Plautdietsch — the language my antecedents developed with Dutch, Polish, Russian, Yiddish, Ukrainian and of course, German provenance. They adapted the jargon to their needs as they fled tongue screws and beheadings in the Netherlands and lived in social banishment among Jews and Gypsies outside the city walls of Danzig. They ended their European sojourns in isolated colonies in Southern Russia. This “Low German” patois was Opa’s native tongue, and I spoke it for his benefit.
“There’s no language where I am,” he said in his matter of fact way. “No religion either.”
As I considered this and wondered who the mysterious they were, he hawked his throat extra loud and regrouped. “Derwin says goondach. He says you guys were buddies.” It came out sounding like ‘bodies’ because of his accent; the vowels flattened like fresh horse shit under a cartwheel.
I thought back to my friend Derwin. I remember him sitting in the pub with us after basketball one evening. He had come out to join us—his first and last time—and sat in his new, tight-middled tracksuit drinking rye and Coke. Derwin had been a historian before his untimely passing and he told me stories about our shared relative, this ‘Delegate Zehen’ who sat in a lawn chair in front of me now. Larger than life or death, my reedy, stiff-necked Opa (seea denn oba nijch schwack—“very thin but not frail,”) was a revered part of our family history.
Opa hummed and smacked his lips, looking again at the far shore. He seemed restless. “Got any smokes? Dere’s no smoking up dere,” he said, jabbing a crooked thumb skyward. “I miss tobacco, a bit.” […]
Find out more about “Away Game” and enjoy cameos from John Candy and Moonlight Graham too, by buying a digital copy of the whole magazine for only $4.99 CAD!
Last, here is a reminder that I will be posting a large anthology of short stories, flash fiction, poems, and CNF from friends of mine, here. Many of these pieces will be performed by the authors or proxies who will read on the distant writer’s behalf. The event—PROSETRY—happens under the gibbous moon on July 20, the 50-year anniversary of the moon landing. It’s an informal evening of readings and song on the shores of Jessica Lake, swimming distance from the 50th latitude.
Word contributors include:
- Hege Lepris
- Doug Hawley
- Charlie Fish
- John E. Neufeld
- Mary Lou Driedger
- Rosemary Vogt
- Ross Murray
- Kevin Spenst
- Matthew Reimer Fehr
- Ceinwen Haydon
- Charlynn Toews
- R. Dorsey
- Phil Hossack (pix)
- Sharon Frame-Gay, and more