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Meet Jonathan February 25, 2020

Filed under: Chapter Selections — Noelle Bickle / Abby Brooks @ 6:27 PM

The Ship is Sinking – Jonathan – Spring 2004

Detective Jonathan Doours sits at his desk and pounds the computer keys willfully, filing the paperwork on yet another person lost to crystal methamphetamine. The drug is running rampant through the streets of this town, along with large cities and small towns across the entire country.

Sitting beside him is the new rookie – Ben Myers, watching his every move. Ben was hired last month and had been shadowing Jonathan since his first day here. Next week he would play sheep to the guys on domestics. Another eye opener that should dim what brightness the kid had left in his eyes from a mere 26 days on the job. Jonathan finishes the paperwork and glances over at Myers. The kid looks forlorn.

“Any questions then?” the sound of Jonathan’s voice makes the rookie startle.

“What? Ummmm…yes, I do actually.” He adjusts the gun belt slightly as he shifts in his chair. “How long…or, when do you…”

Jonathan waits for him to finish, but the young man just looks at him despairingly. Jonathan recognizes the look the rookie wears. It’s the face each new officer earns, once he realizes the world is going to hell in a hand basket, but before they get jaded and are ultimately unaffected by tragedies. “Let’s have it then. When do you… what? Finish your question, Ben.”

“When…when does it get – I don’t know – less shocking how fucked up the world is?” Ben leans in towards Jonathan, lowering his voice. “That guy scared the shit out of me. What a freaking mess.”

Jonathan nods. The guy they just arrested was exactly that – an utter mess.

“When I was a cadet – a bit younger than you, I guess, just 21 years old, the people I busted fit into two groups. The first were long haired hippy types, shaggy beards and sandaled feet – hanging onto the 70’s generation – they were at least peace loving.” He gave a light chortle. “They didn’t resist much. The drugs were mostly pot or hash, sometimes mushrooms. It made the generation sloppy, lazy, and damn nitwitted. But pot smokers were mostly shitheads, who wanted to waste their days away. You know – listening to music while munching on everything in sight?”

Ben laughs and when Jonathan looks at him, the worry on the young rookie’s face has faded and instead he leans forward with anticipation of stories of the old days on the beat. Jonathan smiles back at him. Storytelling was a right of passage that he, along with a few other long timers at the detachment, relished in when the new guys came on shift. They had enough stories to fill every unusually quiet day or an endlessly long nightshift.

“Those guys” Jonathan continues, “They were mostly harmless, mostly controllable. The second group though – we called them “porn people”. Men with oversized ‘stashes, and form-fitting leather jackets; and the women wore crazy shit like silver spandex and mega big hair. They were more high-strung. Edgy. Indignant, really. They were usually coked up and were ready to call the lawyers in the minute we walked on the scene. Pain in the ass they were.”

Oddly, he looked back at those days with certain nostalgia. He spent most of those early years on the beat, clearing drunks off the sidewalks, checking in on the town stores, and handing out simple violations for public nuisance. What was seen at the police station in today’s world was a different matter. The hippies of yesteryear were child’s play compared to the waste he saw daily on his job as a drug enforcement officer.

“Well, looks like we get all kinds these days. Can you believe that guy we just booked was a teacher and has 4 of his own kids?” Ben face gets long again.

“And a wife,” Jonathan reminds him. “That disowned him after he had lost their home to the bank, after almost a year of spending their mortgage payments on meth. Sad, but true. She likely won’t bail him out this time around.”

Ben shakes his head. “What the hell gets you to that point, eh?”

Jonathan understood, how in so little time, this beloved grade 8 teacher went from being a good husband and father into the shrunken man who sat shaking with tremors in the cell behind him. He understood it, because he saw it too often. He figures Ben will learn soon enough, but decides to give him his own views anyhow. The kid is looking for answers, there is no need to shelter the truth of how ugly it really is.

“Crystal is one nasty bitch. Ben, that drug will take down anyone in her path. It turns normal average family members into liars and thieves. Addicts will do anything to get money for that drug. They spend paychecks. College funds. Just to breathe in the toxic waste that left them in a hell disguised as ten-hour paradise during the high.”

“Is that how long it lasts? Ten hours? Shit, that’s potent. No wonder this guy looks like hell.”

“You haven’t heard the worst of it.” Jonathan continues. “Then they spend the remaining 14 hours of each day looking to score more. No eating – which accounts for the emaciated appearance meth addicts have. No sleeping – which accounts for their confusion and general pissed-at-the-world attitude. Oh, and my personal favorite – the nervous twitches which always lead to incessant scratching until their skin comes off in chunks, leaving open sores on their face and body.”

Ben winces, his face starting to pale. Jonathan suddenly regrets throwing it out there like that. Ben’s just a kid after all; and he’ll become jaded without Jonathan coaxing him into it. Overkill. Jonathan was famous for it, or so his wife always said. Looking at the discomfort he had just spread onto the young rookie’s shoulders, he reminded himself to shut the hell up for a while.

The face of this drug was gut wrenchingly painful to watch, and yet he witnessed it every damn day. Ben would too. They’d see more of the effects this very evening when they had to deal with the guy they’d just booked.

Ian Sykes, the meth-head school teacher, was brought in after breaking into a elderly neighbors’ house, searching for money so he could score his next fix. The couple, in their 80’s hid in the closet until they saw that it was their trusted old neighbour. They’d seen him almost everyday for the last 6 years before Sykes had lost his home. Across the yard. In the driveway on the way to work. Always pleasant, always polite. They were relieved when they saw it was him, and the old man came out to see what was going on, telling his wife to still stay put in the closet. He shuffled over towards him, and offered out a questioning plea.

“What are you doing here, Ian?” the 85 year old voice was frail, and not nearly as intimidating as it had been when he was a young man with confidence and vitality.

The school teacher spun around, frantic, realizing the house was not empty, just still. His eyes flickered to the bedside table and back to the old man who stood before him. His voice strained through clenched teeth, the desperation pained his face.

“Get out of my way old man. You shouldn’t be here.”

The old man dug his slippered heels into the carpet and set his jaw, eyeing him in this new light. More bewildered than alarmed, he barked back.

“You get out of my house, Ian Sykes. Get out of here now!”
Sykes acted without reason. The monster within him reached out, and shoved the man aside as he lurched for the bedside drawer, ransacking it with fury before grabbing the roll of bills and the silver wristwatch, before tearing out of the room. The same moment the front door slammed, the blood had seeped onto the carpet; after the old man’s head had split on the antique bedpost. He didn’t struggle to get up; he simply reached his hand towards the closet door, and closed his eyes.

His wife, witnessing it all from the crack down the centre of the old bi-fold door, crawled to him on her hands and knees. She tried in vain to get him to respond to her voice. With no other option, she made her way down the hall to the phone that hung on the kitchen wall. By the time the EMS and the police arrived, she was simply spooned around him, whimpering his name.

Jonathan looks down the hall of the station towards the first cell. Sykes is quiet now, and though likely still shaking, he is calm enough for Jonathan to takes his prints.

“Ok Ben…the fun begins. If Sykes is anything like the last few meth heads we arrested, the shaking will get a hell of a lot worse before it got better. We’d be better to print him now.”

Jonathan walks with long confident strides. Ben trails behind him to the cell door, and they both peer in at Sykes.

“I need you to get up. We need to get your fingerprints. Let’s make this easy, ok buddy? Let’s go.” Jonathan waits for him for get up, and head towards the cell door.

Sykes moves nervously, cowering towards him with his head bend down towards his chest, though his eyes flash fiercely around the cell. With each step slowing, his eyes flicker faster. Like a cornered animal, Jonathan notes, and readies himself for the battle that always seems to come with that look.

He reaches his arm out and lightly grips the back of Sykes arm, trying to ease him out of the cell and avoid any ugly confrontation that might be building in his mind. It seems to calm rather than rile him and they start towards the print room. Jonathan often wondered if the calming effect came over the detainee due to the small gesture of human contact that felt soothing; or if the touch registered the prey instinct that assured them they’d have their face planted to ground in seconds if they resisted his grasp.

It wouldn’t have been the first time Jonathan would have driven a man to his knees before they knew what hit them. The fact that he towered over most men at 6’5 and 240 pounds – gave them little chance to defy him. Besides his brute strength and intimidating size, Jonathan had great instincts. Anticipating reactions meant survival for him.

Ben is watching him as well, Jonathan notices, and has kept back a few paces as they walk down the corridor. They print and photograph Sykes. The guy had made a call to his wife, but she’d hung up before he’d even finished explaining the pickle he was in. He spent the next 20 minutes sobbing out his story to Jonathan instead. It was part of the job – lending an ear. Jonathan refused to be so bitter and jaded that he would turn away from someone who needed to say their peace. Since it had been a few hours since then, and Sykes was still docile and quiet, Jonathan offers him the phone again.

“You wanna make another call, Ian?” Jonathan asks. He pauses at the phone that hung at the end of the corridor housing the small row of holding cells.

“I thought I just got one call.” Sykes replies – his voice meek now, and weary.

“That’s just in the movies. You want to call a lawyer or another family member?” He lifts the receiver and puts it in the crook of the frail man’s neck and bony shoulder. “I’ll dial. What’s the number?” He says, looking back towards the cuffs, locked tight on the teacher’s wrists.

“I…I don’t have a lawyer. Nobody will want to hear from me. Other than my wife, who I thought might, there isn’t anyone. Do you have a lawyer?”

“I don’t need a lawyer.” Jonathan snaps the reply without thinking.

“I mean…well…do you have a number of a lawyer who I can call?” Sykes pales at Jonathan’s bark. Grasping the skeleton-like arm of the strung out school teacher, Jonathan slips the phone back into the base and starts to lead him back to the cell. He softens his tone deliberately, aware that this guy has hit a nerve.

“Officer Myers here, will place a call into a public defense lawyer for you, but they won’t be in until morning now. We’ll get you settled for the night. Someone will be here to see you bright and early. Alright then?”

Jonathan motions Ben off, and then continues to lead the school teacher down to the cell. He gently coaxes him through the door, and turns him around so he can remove the cuffs.

“Yeah. Okay.” Sykes sounds defeated. His shakes start to come back stronger again, a growing tremor running through his veins.

“Get some rest. Sleep if you can.” Jonathan advises as he shuts the cell door. He watches Sykes jump and give a shutter when he hears the bang of the iron door clang shut, then turns away and leaves him sitting on the edge of the small bed. An iron growth from the concrete wall. Sykes already has his head in his hands and rocks back and forth, as if to comfort himself.

Jonathan walks back to his desk and sits down. He rubs his hand across his forehead to ease the tension growing there, then just stares at the blank computer screen in front of him. The world had changed. Policing was different. Jonathan often felt like he was making a desperate attempt at keeping the world together with duct tape.

His family had changed drastically too. Somehow his perfectly normal, happy home was an utter wreck. As head of the family, he’d been long ago elected team captain. At this point though, he didn’t know how anyone saw him fit to master this wayward ship, swiftly sinking.


Meet Jenny

Filed under: Chapter Selections — Noelle Bickle / Abby Brooks @ 6:25 PM

Sharpened to a Point – Jenny – Spring 2004

Jenny closes her math textbook, laying a bookmark at chapter 13. She starts to tuck her pencil and eraser into the case, and then decides to sharpen it before she puts it away. That way she doesn’t have to get up in front of her class tomorrow. She doesn’t have to walk across the room with all eyes on her. By now, she’s mastered how to enter the room first and last. More importantly, she knows how to get through the halls of the school almost unnoticed. Invisible.

She pushes back her chair and goes to the drawer of odds and ends. The little sharpener that is supposed to be there, isn’t. She walks down the hall to her dad’s study and presses her ear against the wood, straining to hear sounds on the other side. She wonders if she should just leave the pencil dull. She knocks lightly – two long, two short – then squashes the left side of her face up against the door once again, listening for her cue. He never disappoints.

“What’s the password?” a gruff voice barks through the door.
It’s the only pig Latin she speaks anymore. “addy –dae is the est-e-bay” The door opens to Jonathan’s wide smile.

“Shucks kiddo…I almost forgot you cared.” He tousles her hair, and then leans up against the door frame, blocking her entry. He sticks his head into the hall and looks towards the kitchen. Hearing sounds of Helen making dinner; his attention turns back to his daughter. “I’m pretty busy here Jenny, can it wait?”

“I just have to sharpen my pencils dad.” Her eyes won’t meet his.

“Well…come on in then; you know where to find it.” He leans against the door, shutting it behind him. The click of the latch makes her jump. “What’s up with you, Jenny?”

His stare weighs on her shoulders. She pushes the pencil into the sharpener, angry at herself for not doing this an hour ago, when he wasn’t home. “Nothin’.”

“Hmmm. It doesn’t seem like nothing. You seem on edge. You’re quiet, you hardly spoke through dinner last night. Or all week for that matter.”
Jenny sighs, exasperated. “I don’t know. I didn’t feel like talking. It’s not like anybody else talks anymore, anyway. I don’t know why we even have to eat together.”

“We eat as a family, because that what the Doours family does. We can at least have one meal together a day as a family. That isn’t much to ask, Jenny.” His hand comes up and lands on her shoulder, trapping her there. “I know things have been hard, but things are looking up. It’ll get better, and we’ll be back to normal, ok?”

Jenny rolls her eyes back in her head at the thought of their family being normal. “Whatever, dad,” she holds up the sharpened pencils. “Can I go?”

She waits, eyes full forward and locked on the door handle. He reaches out and takes her chin in his hand, lifting her face to his. Her body tenses, and strains for the escape. Her face is tilted up towards him now, but her eyes are still on handle of the door. Her jaw sets, and she can feel her lips starting to tighten as she puts up an invisible wall against him.

Jonathan furrows his brow. “Yes, you can go.” She starts to move forward when he speaks again. “What’s the password?”

Jenny’s throat tightens as she spits out the words. “addy –day is the est-e-bay.”

She doesn’t look up at him, but knows his eyes are wounded, and she just doesn’t give a royal shit. She wants away from here, from him, from all of them. She doesn’t know how, but she is getting out.


Meet Jeremy

Filed under: Chapter Selections — Noelle Bickle / Abby Brooks @ 6:19 PM

Jeremy – Spring 2004

Most seniors at Central High School are waiting on acceptance letters from college or university, eager to leave home. Their bags almost packed – they are chomping at the bit for independence at 18 years old. Jeremy Doours though, hasn’t lived at home for well over a year. Most nights he spends hiding out from watchful parents, sleeping in friends’ garages or basements. Sometimes he has to stay at the local men’s shelter. Those are the nights he feels truly homeless.

His favourite nights are when his own parents have gone to bed early, and his sister Jenny sits watching a movie alone in the family room. He watches her from Creek Hole Corner. That’s what Jenny and Jeremy have called the small forested area across from their house, since they were knee-high.

Tonight though, his father is working in the den. He didn’t go to bed with his mother. Instead, he spends two hours staring at paperwork while Jeremy sits in the oversized willow, cheeks cold from the bitter evening wind, and his belly rumbling with hunger. The minutes creep by painfully slow as he waits.

When he was a just little, six maybe seven years old, he used to bound down to the breakfast table, anxious for food to fill his belly so he could get outside and have adventures. His mother insisted on oatmeal every morning. She said it was the best way to start the day. She topped the steaming oatmeal with thick black molasses, delicious and sweet. But the waiting! The waiting for that mouth-watering oatmeal while she drizzled the sluggish molasses in figure eight formations was unbearable. He used to feel like he would lose his mind watching it ooze out of the carton, and that’s how he feels tonight; sitting up in his favourite tree, watching his father move like lethargic molasses.

It feels like a little bug has run up his neck and is burrowing in his chin, but when Jeremy brings his hand to it, there is nothing. Still, he can’t resist brushing at it which gets him mad with itch. He digs his fingernail into his skin, trying to stop the irritant tunnelling into his flesh. The tingle moves, and is pricking the fleshy under-part of his chin. He pulls his tongue back and starts jamming it down into the soft tissue, hoping to get relief from the inside – with no luck. He brings all four fingers to it now, and scratches frantically. It isn’t the surface of his skin that is full of itch, its underneath. In between strands of muscle and tissue, biting against his veins like a flea burrowing into a dog.

It must be the waiting. The waiting is making him crazy with itch.

When Jonathan Doours finally gets up and snaps off the light of the den, Jeremy can hardly contain himself. He raps lightly on the window before his father’s even finished in the bathroom.

Jenny doesn’t smile when she hears him. She jumps in her seat, sending the bowl on her lap flying, and creating a spray of popcorn that looks like edible fireworks. She puts her finger to her lips and shakes her head no. Her wide eyes dart back and forth, towards the door leading to the hall. Their father must be upstairs by now, and well on his way to bed. Short of a fire, he wouldn’t be seen now until breakfast. But still, she makes him wait.

Jeremy wraps his arms around himself and rubs them up and down. “I’m cold!” he mouths. He motions towards the side door and starts to walk towards it, but Jenny doesn’t move from her chair. She puts her finger up, telling him to wait, and makes her eyes. She means it.

“Easy for you to say,” he mumbles and sits down against the house, planting himself there. He draws up his knees, rests his head, and waits for what seems like another two hours. When he hears a tiny knock, knock on the window above his head, he thinks twice about standing up. He considers instead staying crouched there, and pulls his feet closer still to his body. A part of him wants her to panic – to think he’s left and feel regret for not letting him in when he first stood in front of her. But a gust of frigid air blows sense into him, and he stands up to see doe eyes peering out at him, worried and sad. She points to the door and he heads that way.

He really has no right to be angry with her. Considering she never goes against their parents and always does exactly as told, it’s a wonder she ever snuck him into the basement at all. It was a sheer miracle that the first time she saw him standing there she even looked at him. But she did, and it was without hesitation that she pointed him to the door, and unlocked the latch. That first time, he thought she’d sneak him a sandwich or a bag of cookies – squeeze them out the door, look at him with a sad sorry look – and then just lock the latch. Instead, that night and each night he showed up since, she’d quietly turned the bolt, and ever so slowly turned the knob until the door creaked open and she motioned him in. Without a word she tiptoed downstairs and crept over to the little end table switching on the lamp that used to sit beside his bed.

The room stored all the items that used to make them a family. Board games, a closed up ping-pong table, their old plaid couch – cushions fat and lumpy. That’s where Jeremy slept when he crept down the side steps, on the glorious lumps and bumps of that old plaid couch. He was safe and warm under the three old afghans his grandmother knit, when she was dying, alone in the rest home. Dying of loneliness due to infrequent Sunday visits, and too much time on her hands. Jeremy felt oddly comforted by that. He was swaddled in blankets made with loneliness and that, somehow, made him feel less alone.

“I knew you’d come,” she whispers. “You can sleep down here…no one will know. But you need to go before mum and dad wake up, ok?

“No problem, Jenny Henny. I’ll be gone before they remember I exist.” His hand reaches out and tousles her hair.

“It’s not that -” Jenny doesn’t finish.

“No? What then?”

“Well,” Jenny’s face flushes pink all the way to her ear lobes. She bites her bottom lip and chews on it a minute, then releases it from the clench of her teeth, and lets out a tiny sigh. She looks up at him for just a second before her eyes shoot back to the floor.

He reaches out to save her. “I don’t sleep through a whole night anyway. I’ll be out before they’re up. I promise.”

“Will the sun will wake you up then?”

Jeremy didn’t have it in him to enlighten his kid sister that one aspect of hiding in places you aren’t welcome, is that you do indeed wake up before the dawn breaks, and get a head start on your day. You got up before you got your ass kicked out.

“Yup. The crack of dawn. Now…got any grub?”

Jenny hands him a loaded paper bag. A massive apple cinnamon muffin – his mother’s homemade; a ham and swiss on a kaiser; a plum, a bag of carrot and celery sticks; two chocolate chip cookies – also his mother’s baking at her best; and a bottle of water.

“Is this your lunch Jen? No – keep it, just grab me some bread or something upstairs.” He holds the bag back towards her.

“Its okay, Laura and I are walking over to the fry truck for poutine anyway.” She pushes the bag back. “Have it. Besides, you need it more than me. You’re getting skinner, and I’m getting fat.”

“It’s the poutine,” Jeremy grins at her. “Mom would kill you if she knew you’re tossing her cookies and eating toxic poutine. Plus, how do you get the money?”

“I still eat the cookies,” Jenny giggles. “And I have my own money –I babysit sometimes now. It pays $5 and hour, and the kids are mostly sleeping.”

“Way to go Jen…not a kid anymore eh? Making your own poutine stash.” Jeremy rifles through the paper bag and pulls out one of the cookies, devouring it in one bite. “I’m pretty broke right now. Any chance you could loan me a bit? Just till I get a new job?”

“I saw a sign up at Cora’s Diner. They’re looking for a cook I think. Maybe you could wear one of those big hats.” Jenny stifles her laugh with her hands.

“Ya – chef Jeremy, fine dining at Cora’s greasy spoon.” He gave Jenny a light poke. “I’ll check it out though. I used to cook a mean egg, remember?”

Jenny nods. Her hands come down to her sides, no smile to stifle anymore.

“So…do ya think you could loan me a bit then?” Jeremy asks again, trying to look casual, but hungry for far more than muffins or cold meat.

“Ya-ya. I have $25, but I need some for lunch tomorrow, now that you hoovered mine, after all.” Jenny grins again. “Is $20 ok?”

“Twenty bucks is perfect. You’re the best, Jen. I’ll pay you back as soon as I can.” He watches Jenny creep up the stairs. Maybe he would go over to the diner, they might hire him…he did make a mean egg, that was no bullshit. He’d pay Jenny back too, eventually.

He could think about that later though, for now he’d relish the luxury of sleeping in a warm house, wrapped in wonderfully lonely afghans.


Meet Helen February 17, 2020

Filed under: Chapter Selections — Noelle Bickle / Abby Brooks @ 7:43 PM

Debris – Chapter 1
One Person’s Trash – Helen – Spring 2004

Approaching lights flash red and white, blinding Helen Doours as she clutches the tiny bundle to her chest. The ambulance turns into the parking lot and slows to a stop. The doors swing open, and as two paramedics bound towards her, she pulls the infant closer to her own warmth.
Jonathan steps forward, and nods to the fastest moving attendant.
The man doesn’t miss a step, but his face is surprised – shocked even. “Detective Doours? You call this in?”
“My wife found him. In the trash can.” He has his police voice on, Helen notes.
“Jesus. Some welcome into the world.” George looks down at the infant and gives his head a quick shake. “Mrs. Doours? Are you ok to walk holding the infant? The less we shuffle him around, the better.”
She moves the ten feet to the back of the ambulance as George leads her there – his hand bracing her arms cradling the baby. She looks down at the waxy-blue face, peeking out from the cashmere he is wrapped in. She can’t remember doing that – wrapping him. But it is, in fact, her favourite cashmere sweater swaddling the baby. Dark splotches of wet seep through the soft fabric. The stickiness on her arms and chest has soaked through her blouse and marinated her skin as she held him.
The second attendant has already flung the back door open and hopped inside the portable emergency room. He is beside the stretcher, waiting. Jonathan and George help ease Helen up into it, while the waiting attendant reaches out and directs her to lay the baby down onto the white sheet. George hops inside as Helen steps back and the two men check the tiny body for signs of life.
Jonathan takes Helen’s arm to guide her out of the ambulance. She starts to tremble. She tries to control it, but has no luck – her body tremors mercilessly as the rain pelts her skin.
“How long has it been since you found him?” George calls to her.
His giant fingers are wrapped around a bulbous rubber object that reminds Helen of a miniature turkey baster. He sticks the instrument up the newborn’s nose, and gives it a quick squeeze. He does the same in the other nostril, then puts his fingers on the tiny chin and opens his mouth, suctioning down the baby’s throat. His partner uses giant scissors to cut the umbilical cord. He clamps the stump. He discards the placenta into a white trash bag sitting behind them. The end of the fleshy cord hangs ragged out the top of the bin, and Helen’s eyes transfix on it.
Jonathan gives Helen a little nudge and she snaps to attention. “What? I’m not sure. Twenty minutes ago maybe?”
“About twenty,” Jonathan agrees.
“He was in the trash. I heard something, and…he was in the trash.” Helen tries to block the image of him lying in the garbage can.
“Was he cold to the touch when you lifted him then?” George is swiping the inside of the baby’s little mouth with his pinkie finger. Still there is no sound. No cry escaping from the tiny lips in protest. He is quiet. Still.
“Cold? Maybe. He didn’t – he didn’t feel alive really. He was very still.”
George holds the tiny oxygen mask over the face of the baby, but still, no movement. A police cruiser pulls in and an officer rushes over to them. Jonathan greets him as Wagner, and quickly updates him on the horrific circumstances. Officer Wagner looks in at the paramedics working tirelessly.
“Will he make it?” Helen squeaks out the question.
George looks from Helen to Jonathan, then to the officer now waiting alongside them. His eyes fall to his partner’s hands – gently pumping the tiny chest with his fingertips, then holding the stethoscope against the beat-less heart. After what seems like an hour, the attendant stops his rhythmic pumping and sits back on his heels. George sets the mask back on its perch, brings his hand to his forehead and wipes the sweat from his brow.
“I’ll call it. 14:25.” He makes it official.
Wagner has already moved off to the side and is radioing for additional officers. George steps out of the ambulance and away from the open doors. Helen and Jonathan move over with him and George extends his hand. Jonathan takes it and Helen watches as they grasp each in a solemn handshake. Jonathan sighs. “Bad day. Hope to see you on the road sometime under better circumstances.”
George shrugs as he closes the ambulance doors. “Not likely though, eh?”
The officer comes back towards them and nods to George, then addresses Jonathan directly. “I need a statement from your wife, but we still have to secure the area and collect evidence. Can I stop around your place later, are you heading home?” Wagner asks.
Jonathan nods. “I have the sergeant’s cell as well. You can reach me on it, but yeah, we’ll head home. ”
Jonathan leads Helen to their car, helps her into it and hands her the seatbelt before closing the door. For the thirty seconds she’s alone while he walks to his side, a whimper catches in her throat and fills the car. The moment the door latch opens though, she swallows the lump and stifles the sound. They pull out of the parking lot and pass another two cruisers heading towards the gas station. Helen turns and watches the chaos through the rear window. They drive away from the scene, but her mind is still with the paramedic in the back of the ambulance, swaddling the now dead infant.
Helen and Jonathan ride most of the way home in silence. Before they round the last corner, Jonathan speaks. “You okay, Helen?”
“I don’t know. I just can’t believe it.” She chokes on her words. He reaches over and pats her thigh. She turns her face to the window and sees home approaching. “What do we tell Jenny? She’s too young to hear about things like this, but, I don’t know if I can keep it together. She’ll know something’s wrong.”
He gives her leg a squeeze now, then takes her hand from her lap and fixes it in his. “Don’t worry about that yet. Let’s see how things go. No use upsetting her with the crap of the world either. It’s enough that we have to live it. Besides, she was still feeling sick this morning, she might still be tucked up in bed. I’ll bring her a cup-a-soup, and you can go relax upstairs. Make a cup of tea and have a hot bath, okay?”
He’s trying to make it better for her, she knows. Jonathan sits beside her, hands firmly on the wheel, unaware that he still wears his officer façade, even with just the two of them in the car. He is calm and controlled, handling this situation like a routine incident on the job.
She looks over at her husband. He has the look of old Hollywood heroes, a strong square jaw and steel-blue eyes that speak of troubles buried deep within them. Like a modern-day Cary Grant, his demeanor is that of men in black and white movies – dignified, honorable, and larger than life. She wishes he could make the flooding images leave her head. She wishes he could save the day.


Ah, Spring April 24, 2013

Filed under: What's Up? — Noelle Bickle / Abby Brooks @ 9:06 AM
Tags: , ,

The time of new beginnings. Time for regrowth and renewal, when we clean out closets and rid the clutter in our homes and yards. During that first outdoor assessment after the snow melts, you can expect damage done by Father Winter and plan for an afternoon or weekend of yard cleanup.

When we lived south in the suburbs, this meant a general sweep of the 75’ lot, to pick up wayward sticks and rubbish that may have found its way into the yard. Now that we live down the country lane in Boontown,  it means hours of chainsaw fun to clear fallen trees, then gather, load, stack, or burn the wreckage.

It didn’t help that we had an ice storm in April that brought down massive branches around the property – we especially love the ones that play chicken with our vehicles.

Though wacky nature makes for a lovely photo or two, the labour it creates is more of an ongoing seasonal activity than a few hours of casual afternoon tidy up.

For county living folk, spring cleanup also lends to finding all kinds of hidden treasures on your land. Usually the dog is a big help finding all the things you wish you never saw. I’m truly grateful for having a passive dog that lives to please, and who most often stops the minute I give a squeal, shout or scream of horror. My sweet Maalik usually stops short of picking up his finds – which is a relief – because I admit I’m one of those dog owners who gives my pooch the odd face smooch. It’s not like I kiss him square on the lips or anything, but a muzzle nuzzle wouldn’t be happening anytime soon if he had in fact retrieved the foot he excitedly found laid out like a movie prop on our back acreage.

Yes, some great finds this year besides the poor dismembered beast – including half eaten tomatoes (?!?) and a dead porcupine. On the upside, I guess we won’t have to worry about the porcupine damage to our trees that has been a problem in the past. (see my past post about our pesky porcupine)


Ah yes, a fresh breath of air and tranquil country living. Spring is all about the new beginnings.


A rose by any other name… April 17, 2013

Filed under: Uncategorized — Noelle Bickle / Abby Brooks @ 1:07 AM

Choose your battles. Don’t sweat the small stuff. It is what it is.

I believe in those mantras wholeheartedly. But there’s always that one thing that just needles you and the worm of  irritation gets set in your skull. At that point the ability to listen to level-headed, logical advice seems to evade you. That’s where I’m at.

My daughter no longer wants to go by her lovely given name of Lainey, and now prefers (or rather demands) to be called Shadow. This has been going on for the last year, but it’s becoming more of an issue in the last few months. We got a note home from the teacher saying she refused to sign her given name and was handing in everything signed Shadow. She alshadow 1so battles it out with peers who won’t relent to the name preference, and corrects anyone who calls her what she was born with that her name that is actually Shadow, not Lainey. Sometimes she has success with it – like with our amazing Naturopath who made up her tincture with Shadow on the label (which scored big points), or with her Taekwondo coaches and teammates as they cheer her on. Her best friend has been calling her that since last summer and now asks to speak to Shadow when he calls to talk to her on the phone. She’s thrilled when someone does oblige with the name change, is miserable when someone resists, and has informed us on many occasions that she will be changing it the very day of her 16th birthday. Oy.

shadow 3Overall, I’m not sure if it is a menacing Shadow,  a mysterious Shadow, or a bright sunny day kind of Shadow – though that one  might be wishful thinking. Regardless, Shadow is what she likes to be called.

But, here’s the thing – I can’t really do it. I feel like an idiot calling her Shadow. Not only do I like her name (as most mothers who pick names for their children do), but it just irks me every time I say her name and she corrects me. I’m a-0k with her friends calling her that, or her bribing her brother to use it, as in when he asks for a favour she says, “Call me Shadow for a whole week or no deal”. But for me to call out across the grocery aisle, “Shadow, grab a carton of yogurt, will you?” I just feel like a dolt. I tell myself to choose my battles, I tell myself this is a phase. I tell myself to lighten up.

Don’t get me wrong – I’m all for children expressing themselves. I don’t insist on certain kinds of clothes, or haircuts. I believe everyone is unique and special and should do what they need to do to shine and feel good about themselves.  I want them to be happy – that’s it. The rest is gravy. But Shadow? Seriously? I just choke on it every time. Truth be told, I try not to call her any name these days, and if I need her attention, I call her hun or sweetie, or even dolly. But now that I’ve written it out, I guess those aren’t any less ridiculous than what she wants to be called.

When I was growing up, my childhood neighbour (who, like my daughter, is also an artistic soul – maybe that’s what’s going on here) went through a long phase where she wanted to be called Angel Rosebud. She used to give herself body tattoos with pen, and went an entire summer inking her bellybutton up to look like a giant sunburst. She also went about two full years without smiling in a single photograph. She turned out okay in the end, and we call her by her given name now. No Angel Rosebud required.

I may just have to toss in the towel on this one. Or maybe I’ll strike her a deal that I’ll call her Shadow if she calls me Ms. Marvelous. Remind me again – when does this get easier?


Dusting off the blogwebs… April 12, 2013

Filed under: What's Up? — Noelle Bickle / Abby Brooks @ 9:08 AM

It’s been awhile and oh – how I have missed you all!

I know I wetake me backnt MIA. Went into the bloggers black hole and left my readers for a good long while without so much as a “stay tuned” or even a BRB. My bad. I won’t make grand or lame excuses, I’ll just say – honey, I’m home – will you please take me back?

So if you’re still reading, consider us blog buddies once again, and I’ll catch you up on what’s been happening down this snowy country lane the last little while.

2012 was a certain rollercoaster ride of a year for me, but when I start to get bogged down about how pissy the entire thing was, the angel on my shoulder says “Hey now, don’t forget about the good stuff!” And so, I’ll just say, 2012 was full of high highs and low lows. It was a year of wonderful beginnings and sorrowful endings, and a year of change for certain. Let’s just say, I welcomed 2013 with open arms.

On the high side, my mother is cancer free and healthy, my family is happy, and I am getting paid for doing work I love. Yup, 2013 has brought health, happiness and prosperity, so who can complain?

Speaking to my job, I started with Canadian Authors last May and am loving my role as Program Director. Big changes are staring to happen – we have just launched an e-zine (an online magazine); in a few weeks we’ll launch a new website, new logo, and new member newsletter; and in a few short months we’ll be hosting an amazing writers’ conference, our 2013 literary awards, and a bunch of new and exciting programming including Young Authors of Canada for teens! (I wasn’t great at balancing work, family, writing, and blogging – something had to give, dear friends, but again – no excuses for blog abandonment!)

CanadianAuthorCoverYou can check out how darn pretty (and informative) the e-zine turned out by clicking the cover to the right or you can  link to the Canadian Author e-zine here.

I’ll also let you know when the new website is up and running, so we can all ooooooh and ahhhhhh together.

As for writing life, I’m ashamed to say I haven’t penned daily (as every good writer should!) for the last few months. In fact, I just got back on the writing wagon and can’t believe how much I’ve missed the characters in my new book. Interesting how starting back to writing the new novel brought me back to the blog. Every successful writer I’ve ever known has said the trick is writing something every day – it’s a “rule” I’ve heard about for many years. But I think the trick of it is writing something you love, or that you are driven to write every day is the key. Working for a long-standing writers’ organization in an everyday working capacity does keep me writing, but I forgot about the passion part. The creative process is much like a jealous lover – ignored too long, and it will make you beg for mercy or worse yet – leave you.

So I am back at writing my daily doses, and will be sure to send my weekly blog posts to let you know what’s up, and how it’s hangin’.

But the posts won’t be explicitly sexual in nature, no matter how suggestive that last line came out in the end.

Or that one.

Cheers – it’s good to be blogging again!



Riding a bus on the highway to Hell June 14, 2012

Filed under: What's Up? — Noelle Bickle / Abby Brooks @ 2:48 PM
Tags: , , ,

It could have been a glorious morning. Birds chirping, a warm breeze rustling the leaves on this bright, sunny day. It could have been one of those lovely, easy mornings – but we slept late. We just stepped foot onto the porch when we heard the sound of the school bus barreling down our country line. My kids picked up the pace into full run when they didn’t hear her slowing. I hadn’t ventured off the porch – I was still braless in a t-shirt and my husband’s boxers with rat nest hair and unbrushed teeth.  I only had time to hastily pack lunches, and be sure my kids had a flash breakfast of champions consisting of a yogurt drink with a side of peanut butter right off the spoon.

I figured the morning was getting better – my kids would make it – even though the driver whizzed past the driveway, half the bus hollered a late-running-kid alert and she screeched to a stop. The whole bus cheered and I caught a glimpse of my kids running the 30 feet down the road past our place to catch their ride. I was relieved – they made it, and I could expect to spend my day writing without interruption. That’s when I heard her – the driver – screeching voice wafting out the bus windows like a fast-moving river above the trees and across more than the acre of lawn between her and my front porch.


The whoops and hollers of joyful June children greeting my kids’ late arrival simmered down to a dull murmur.


The murmur settled into complete silence, short of the rattle of the idling bus. Nobody was giving up anything. These country kids don’t sing like a canary, they stick together like peanut butter on a stainless steel spoon. Just like the one my daughter had run down the driveway carrying as her second helping of breakfast. I could only hope she remembered to pitch the empty (or not) spoon on the pine garbage box at the end of our drive before jumping onto the food Nazi’s bus.


The bus jerked and jolted into drive, and off they went on their merry way to school. I stood there on the porch, dumbfounded, my golden at my feet looking up at me with perked ears and worried eyes. He was not impressed either. And I comforted his concern with the first words that came to mind.

“What a bitch, eh Maalik?” He agreed.

The question I have, is this. Why – oh mighty lord of the bus routes – why would anyone choose to drive a bus full of kids if they don’t have the patience of a Saint, two hearing aids, or a great sense of humour? I’d never be a bus driver – you couldn’t pay me enough. And frankly – they probably aren’t paid enough for the job that they do – but either are teachers or police officers or nursing home workers – but it doesn’t mean just anyone should do those jobs. If you don’t love the job, why the hell would you submit yourself to daily doses of rambunctious kids?  I understand the need to make a buck – I really get it – we all have to eat, even if it’s just spoonfuls of peanut butter. We aren’t all scholars with tenure, our butts eased into a cushy leather chair in our office. But, you can expect loud, bratty kids on a bus (even seated with nothing in their mouths), so if that isn’t your idea of a good gig,  go get a job at Wal-Mart or Tim Horton’s or a recycling centre. Don’t take an “easy” job because you don’t have the time, training, determination or the good fortune of having your first choice career in an air-conditioned office or in a kid-free zone. If you lose your cool easily, or would rather be anywhere than at the wheel of a big yellow hell-mobile, I’d prefer you didn’t take my kids along for one of your road rages.

Needless to say, I’ve already made my voice heard with the bus-powers that be, because she wasn’t the only bitch with a bone to pick on our country line this morning.


A little cooperation, please? May 31, 2012

An interesting thing happened this week. My youngest daughter’s teacher called and asked us to attend the monthly assembly at the school because Lainey was getting the “character trait” award. I’ve mentioned this before, I’m sure, but to refresh your memory – in order to teach good values (that kids may not be getting at home) the school board has character trait posters and reminders plastered all over the school to teach kids about integrity, honesty, courage, etc. They then reward a chosen kid or kids from each class that have displayed the current character trait throughout the month. The chosen kid gets a ribbon (the ones you used to get in track and field) and certificate, and get to parade across the stage to accept the honour with a round of applause. I don’t know if it changes a rotten kid into a great one, but my kids have come home each year with a ribbon sooner or later, and they’ve been pretty impressed about it. If for no other reason than they get to walk around all day wearing a ribbon to signify that they are more “Inclusive”, “Empathetic”, “Optimistic” or “Caring” than everybody without the ribbon. Are we teaching kids that they need to be rewarded and applauded for showing normal and socially acceptable behavior, and teaching them to gloat about achieving it? As sad as that sounds, I would say that is what we are doing – keeping that bar low. You aren’t expected to do those things, but if you manage it – you get rewarded! I don’t know if we’re doing them any favours, but since this month it was my kid getting the award – hey, it’s a pretty good system.

Anyway, when my husband and I showed up at the assembly, I couldn’t find my son in the crowd. Turns out, he was also waiting backstage for a ribbon. Well, we plumped our pride and got our camera ready. Two great kids? Wow. Imagine our pride (and frankly, surprise) when both of our kids walked across the stage with ribbons for this month’s character trait: Cooperation.


For those of you not familiar with my children, let me clear up the confusion. My kids don’t cooperate. Ever. They fight about who has to go first at music lessons, who last filled the dog’s water bowl, who brushes their teeth first, who is faster, smarter, sweeter, or the family favourite. They battle over whether music should be on or off for the car ride, whose dish was left on the kitchen table, and who got to pick the last movie on family night. At any given time, either one of them will be hollering “UNFAIR” for any number of stupid reasons – that one of them got to pick first, go last, ride in front or have the bigger piece. There is little to no cooperation going on in this house – which is why I had to contain myself from jumping up and yelling “Fixed, fixed!” from the crowd of proud parents.

Those sneaky little jerks. You mean they actually know how to cooperate? Not only do they know how, but they stand apart from the rest of the class and excel with this particular character trait? Unbelievable. Never have I been so perturbed at my kids for coming home with an achievement ribbon. I wanted to ground them both for the rest of the week and confiscate those damn certificates. My husband and I went home wearing the “in yo’ face” and “gotcha, sucka” ribbons, wondering how we managed to do something so right and so wrong at the same time. I guess different rules apply when they’re out of the house.

Cooperation? Well, I’ll pull those ribbons out during the next round of “he’s looking at me/she’s so annoying/he won’t turn that down/she won’t stop bugging me”. At least we looked like stellar parents to the teachers and other adults at the assembly. We smiled, nodded our heads knowingly, and took all the credit we could – isn’t that what being a parent is all about?


Green around the gills… May 24, 2012

Filed under: Uncategorized — Noelle Bickle / Abby Brooks @ 5:37 PM
Tags: , , , ,

Jealousy. It ain’t pretty.
But lately I’ve been various shades of green from moss to emerald and everything in between. Before I have you on the edge of your seat for scandalous divorce news, let me assure you – the beast is far bigger than that. It’s other writers I’ve turned Hulk over, and it seems to have a grip on me in all the delicate places.
Part of becoming a better writer is to always be a voracious reader and word lover. Always a book in my hand or a song to my ear, I am forever listening to other writers stories, and I long to move readers and listeners like they have moved me. The latest case of this comes from brilliantly disturbed songwriter Damien Rice, whose haunting song was recently covered on the TV show American Idol by (my from-the-start-favourite) Phillip Phillips. If you can get past the redundancy of his name, you will be mesmerized by his talent as a musician. Beyond the fact that Phillip’s voice seems to do things to woman of all ages, but most inappropriately to women over 40 – he is an amazing musician. That being said – I read the lyrics of the song Volcano and was equally moved (if not stirred in questionable places). It should be a theme song given to every girl at her high school graduation. Why does it take a man younger than my eldest daughter (oh lordy, that makes me feel quite despicable!) to give me a worm ear that works its way into my brain and makes sense of past issues?
I’m pretending Damien Rice with his wise words is a good generation or two older than Phillip Phillips at the tender age of 21. I don’t want to be corrected by anyone. Though perhaps I just should take comfort in the fact that young men somehow got wise in terms of relationship smarts? Why didn’t I date writers in my youth?
So enjoy – let Phillip Phillips rock your world with his version of Volcano. Brilliant lyrics are posted below. Ahhhh…green, green, green.
And tell me…am I alone in loving everything about him?



“Volcano” by Damien Rice

Don’t hold yourself like that
You’ll hurt your knees
I kissed your mouth and back
But that’s all I need
Don’t build your world around volcanoes melt you down
What I am to you is not real
What I am to you you do not need
What I am to you is not what you mean to me
You give me miles and miles of mountains
 And I’ll ask for the sea


Don’t throw yourself like that In front of me
I kissed your mouth your back Is that all you need?
Don’t drag my love around volcanoes melt me down
What I am to you is not real
What I am to you you do not need
What I am to you is not what you mean to me
You give me miles and miles of mountains
And I’ll ask what I give to you


Is just what I’m going through This is nothing new
No no just another phase of finding what I really need
Is what makes me bleed
And like a new disease she’s still too young to treat
Like a distant tree
Volcanoes melt me down
She’s still too young I kissed your mouth
You do not need me