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Sand in My Crack

July 6, 2011

I hoard emails. Some are future story ideas, some are copied and pasted text from when a good bit comes to me that I don’t want to forget but am certain to do so unless I write it down, right away. Mostly, I forget these prompts forever, or they turn up while I’m searching for something else, but no longer strike my fancy on the re-read. Momentum lost, or story canned in a moment of second thought.

Fishing around today for a file I know is there somewhere, I found a rather ripe email exchange between my brother and I:


Him: Mom baked me my own apple crisp. I hear apple crisp is a natural fertiliser!

Me: Sure, but only when mixed with beer and vomit.


I checked with him this morning and was relieved that he, too, has no idea what we were on about. I can speculate, from what I know of my brother and know of myself and know of the way our senses of humour resonate. But, I’ll leave that out…because, if I’m right, it’s not very nice.

The email folder labeled “story ideas – for the island retreat” was a treasure trove of absurdities, one-liners I sent myself from the office over the past month or two, which I intended to tackle while living out here for the week. A week is short under any circumstances, but I’m finding this one especially so; the number of days remaining in my working holiday seems really small. With two large-ish projects already completed, I feel ok just messing around, tinkering with a nearly complete essay, catching up on reading at The Nervous Breakdown, and sifting through my story hoard to see what comes up.

I’ve also accepted that being briefly unproductive is not a character flaw, and spent a day at the beach getting a burn on my backside and sand in my crack, and a day in tears pretty much non-stop. It started with a baby bluejay being hunted (successfully) by a local cat, and progressed to crying in frustration at hitting a dead-end on one project, crying in irritation at the dozens of mosquito bites on my thighs, crying out of anger when I realised someone had taken my really cute stainless steel water bottle from the communal kitchen while my back was turned, and crying from exhaustion as landscaping trucks rumbled past and the dude in the studio next to me blared music, watched top-volume slasher films on his laptop, and spent hours opening then closing his adjoining doors, each time with a slam so loud it dropped papers off my bulletin board. All fairly useless and self-absorbed tears, at least on the surface. But also rather helpful ones, like a detox after two years of working like crazy, taking no breaks, and struggling to really, really, for real this time get a career off the ground, and generally hoarding stress along with all those emails, and finally, out here on the island, letting all that shit go.

In addition to the gardening tip from my brother, I found a sentence-long message, from and to me, that said, “the other side of summer berries”, which is definitely a threat or omen of some kind but over which I can cast no insight. The other side of summer berries indeed. Like, the side that causes them to sprout fur and develop hunchbacks and go on rampages when the moon comes full? The side that makes strawberries talk behind their friends’ backs? Who knows.

My story folder isn’t all useless bits of this ‘n’ that, and occasionally, turns up good stuff like this, which I wish I remember writing:

“Neither the night porter nor the concierge was keen on the late shift, but neither man had logged enough hours to refuse. They’re often paired from 8 pm till sunrise, hauling few suitcases, logging few check-ins and fewer check-outs, and cover for one another throughout the night, while each catches a moment to himself in the corridor between lobby and car-park. The porter thinks the concierge uses his private time to masturbate, returning to the front desk flushed with hands wet between the finger crotches. At least, the porter thinks, the man takes time to wash up. The concierge knows what the porter smokes and figures that so long as his own furtive masturbation goes unreported, there’s no need to turn the guy in for a few puffs of weed.”

The last time I tried to write fiction was five years ago. Make that eight. So, chances of finding the rest of this story, or remembering where it was going, seem remote and I’m nearly (but not quite, but working on getting) excited to start fresh now. Not yet excited, because fiction is hard, and it makes my chest feel tight, and is not that much different than trying to solve math. But hoping to become excited, because I have two days here before I head home, and also, this morning, I found this, which I think was part of the same story, and which positions things nicely for a good bit of prairie action:

“At the taxi stand, he gestured to the woman from the toilets and baggage carousel that she should take the next car and he would take the one after. Slipping into the taxi, the woman dropped her eyes and raised a hand to her rib, although it had long finished hurting. The man stacked his luggage by the trunk for the driver to load then loaded himself into the back seat, sliding his briefcase and camera bag to the left. Now he sits tight and speeds toward downtown Winnipeg.”

I wonder what happens next?

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