Raymond Holmes: Writing

Ray Holmes

Raymond Holmes in Brampton, Ontario.  He writes plays, novellas and short stories. His stories have been published in Unleashed Ink, an anthology created by the Barrie Writers Club, The Northern Appeal, a Simcoe County literary magazine and Commuterlit, a Toronto based ezine. His plays Boris and Hermanand The Lonely Vigil Of Emily Baxterhave been performed at the South Simcoe Theatre in Cookstown, Ontario. The latter play was awarded third prize in the 2014 Ottawa Little Theatre Playwriting Contest. His play The Pooman, will be read at the South Simcoe Theatre in June, 2018. Raymond also enjoys making furniture and playing the violin, although he admits to performing the latter activity rather poorly.

 

AN ENEMY IN OUR KITCHEN 

That incident in 1953 when I was nine years old has festered in me ever since; a malignant thing pressing on a nerve. The curtain of carefree, innocent childhood opened to reveal the occasionally hateful, intolerant world of adults.

At public school that year, Rick Sakamoto sat in the desk behind me. Some kids in our class called him names like “slitty-eyed chink.” His race didn’t matter to me. I liked Rick and wanted him for a friend.

A quiet, polite boy, he possessed a remarkable, natural talent for drawing. Anything I drew appeared stick-like and silly, but Rick and his HB pencil made it look effortless. He could sketch military aircraft and war machines that appeared realistic and I admired him for that ability. World War II had been over for eight years by then, but movies and the army surplus stores along Toronto’s Queen Street kept it alive in our imaginations. It was all heroism and excitement to us.

On several occasions I invited Rick to see my collection of model fighter aircraft, but he always declined, offering some excuse. After my birthday, I asked him again.

“We can have chocolate cake and you can see my collection of lead soldiers,” I said.

He accepted. I felt light and excited.

I thought that mild, October day in the classroom would never end. The hands of the wall clock crept like a puddle freezing over. At last the 3:15 p.m. school bell rang and we ran out through the large double doors of the building to my home three blocks away.

Upon entering through the back porch so as not to disturb Dad in his store-front barber shop, my Mother smiled and greeted us as we walked into the kitchen infused with the fragrant aroma of her cooking.

She cut two slabs of dark, three-layer chocolate cake covered with thick icing left over from my birthday the previous Saturday and poured two tall glasses of milk.

We were enjoying this after-school treat when the kitchen door opened and Dad entered. He started to say something to Mom then looked over at us. His mouth curved down; the face twisted and flushed.

“What’s hedoing here?” he said, jerking his head toward Rick.

Mother’s face warped. “Jimmy—please—don’t—” she pleaded, before being cut off by Dad’s yelling.

“You—get out!” he said to Rick. “We don’t want your kind in this house.”

My mind raced and stomach fluttered. What had we done?

Rick’s yellowish complexion whitened. His eyes widened and stared like a cornered animal; right hand suspending a fork in mid-air; unmoving mouth filled with cake.

After a tense, silent interval, my father jabbed a finger at him and spewed a staccato command like a volley of bullets.

“Get – out—of—here—now.”

I watched horrified as Rick laid down his fork, wiped the milky moustache from his mouth with a shirt sleeve, then got up and left. My body stiffened; the skin on my neck and face crawled.

As the screen door on the back porch clicked shut, Dad screamed through the half-opened window, “Don’t ever come back here again,” before returning to his shop, slamming the kitchen door behind him.

The colour slipped from Mother’s ruddy face. She looked down at the floor; white-knuckled hands scrunching her apron into a white rope.

Things had moved so quickly. The world seemed upside down. I wanted to hide.

“What did we do?  What’s wrong?” I burbled, through tears.

Mom’s chin trembled. “You boys didn’t do anything wrong.”

“Then why did Dad yell at Rick and tell him to leave?”

“Because Rick is a Japanese boy,” she said.

Why did that matter? I thought Rick was Chinese like the people who owned the corner restaurant.

“Why did that make Dad so mad?”

“During the war, the Japanese attacked the Americans at Pearl Harbour in 1941,” she explained. “Canada believed they were our enemies, too. Some people, including your father, still hate all Japanese people even though the war is over now.”

“But Rick didn’t do anything bad. That was before he was born.”

“Yes, I know.”

“Then why did Dad blame him?”

“Sometimes grown-ups do, and say things that are wrong and unfair.”

I glanced at the kitchen door leading to the shop and stiffened. Would my father return and punish me?

~~

The next morning I dreaded going to school. Mom yanked the covers off me and said to get up. How could I face Rick sitting behind me in class? I felt ashamed of what had happened.

I pushed breakfast away. Mom sat down beside me and curled her arm around my shoulder.

“Listen. What the military people in Japan did was bad, but Japanese people living here in Canada can’t be blamed for that,” she said. ”What your Dad did was wrong, but the War caused a lot of pain and suffering. War is just a game to you boys, but many people were killed and maimed for life. Some Canadians, including your father, want to blame all Japanese people for what happened no matter where they were born.”

“But that’s not right,” I said.

“I know, but some people can’t forgive what happened in the past.”

“But the bible says we have to forgive others. I don’t understand why Dad can’t forgive.”

“Sometimes when a person feels wronged by a group of people they seek revenge. Innocent people can be hurt.”

“Will you ask Dad to forgive Japanese people and let Rick come here,” I said.

Mother shook her head with eyes sadder than I’d ever seen before.

“I’m afraid my asking him won’t do any good, son, but you must not act the way your father did. Always treat others the way you want to be treated and speak out when bad things are done to them. Wrongs added to wrongs will never make a right. They’ll just make things worse. Hate hurts the hater too.”

“I’m afraid to tell Dad he was wrong. He’ll get mad at me.”

“I understand,” she said. “Perhaps with time your father will realize that what he did was hurtful. Good people like your Dad still have faults.”

She stood up, bent down close to my face, and put her hands on my shoulders. “I want you to do something very important.”

“What?”

“Apologize to Rick. If you do that, I will be very proud of you.”

What could I say that would make the previous day’s hate and abuse go away?

~~

On the slow walk to class my shoes scuffed along the sidewalk. I saw Rick standing alone against the schoolyard fence watching a group of boys kicking a ball around.

What would he do when I approached? Would he strike out at me? I didn’t have the heart to fight back. I kicked at the black cinders covering the yard, avoiding eye contact.

“I’m sorry about yesterday,” I mumbled. “My father was wrong to say those things and make you leave our house.”

Rick’s shoulders curled in and he bit his lower lip. He wasn’t angry which surprised me.

“He can’t forgive what Japan did in the war and hates all Japanese people for it,” I said.

Rick raised his head. “It wasn’t your fault. We’re used to it now,” he said.

I knew he was bullied, but did you ever get used to it?

“It happens a lot,” he continued. “My parents moved here to get away from it, but last week a man spit at my father and called him a dirty name.”

“Where did your mom and dad come from?” I asked.

“British Columbia. My father was a fisherman. So was my grandfather and great-grandfather. My Dad had a big boat. We have a picture of it.”

“That province is far away in Western Canada. It’s on the map in our classroom,” I said.

“Mom, Dad and my uncle lived near the ocean. My parents said it was nice. There were mountains and lots of trees.”

“Why did they leave?”

“They had to.”

“Why?”

“The government made them go. They said all Japanese people were Canada’s enemies because of the war.”

“My mother told me about that. She said it wasn’t true.”

Ricks lower lip quivered. “They told my parents they couldn’t live near the ocean any more. The government people came at night and took away their house and everything else. A strange man said Dad’s boat was his now. All they could take with them was a suitcase. Mom cried when she left her house.”

A cold dread penetrated me. How could someone take away everything you own?

“Where did they make them go?”

“To a camp far away from the coast. They gave them a small cabin to live in. I was born there.”

“Gee, that’s awful,” I stuttered.

Rick’s head dropped. Sniffling, he went on. “They worked hard all day growing stuff and stayed there a long time. My uncle hated it, hurt himself, and died. After the war, government people said my parents had to go to Japan or move east. They didn’t know anyone in Japan so they came here. My dad works in a factory now, but he’s sick a lot. Mom has bad dreams and pains in her head.”

“Can’t they go back?” I said. “Wouldn’t things be better there now?”

Rick’s face hardened and his voice elevated. “Dad says there’s nothing to go back to.”

 “I’m sorry,” I said.

A defeated look crossed Rick’s face. He wiped his eyes. “Gotta go now—bye,” he said, before turning and walking away to our classroom.

~~

From then on things weren’t the same between us. I felt guilty about what happened in our house and sorry for his family’s ordeal. My father’s words must have cut his heart like a knife. A barrier arose between us; a wall of hurt that saying “sorry” a thousand times couldn’t break down. He still sat behind me, but we rarely spoke, and he stopped showing me his drawings.

Some boys kept calling him names. I wanted to beat them up for that, but they were bigger and tougher than I was.

After Christmas, Rick moved away. I never saw him again and always wondered what his life had been like. I hope it was good.

~~

Decades later the Canadian government issued an apology to Japanese-Canadians for what was done to them and offered compensation. I read that announcement with adult eyes, and memories of that long-ago day returned like the taste of sour milk.

Many of the Japanese people directly affected by those actions were in their graves by then. They were Canadians; born here, who happened to be of Japanese ethnic origin. The idea that Canada could do that to its rightful citizens was chilling. Could it happen again?

Yes, there was an enemy in our kitchen that day, but it wasn’t little Rick Sakamoto.

The Working Class

These are the working class of the world—the people who perform in mostly labour intensive jobs, at low pay. They do work that is avoided by the middle and upper classes. Without them society would fall apart. And yet, these people labour on, day after day, year after year, never quite receiving the praise they deserve for their menial work.

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Vancouver. BC. Canada. Measure it twice. Cut it once.

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Sint Martin. Neth Antilles. Making a clean sweep of things

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Buenos Aries. Argentina. Some work. Others play.

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Henley. UK. Planning strategy

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Nassau. Bahamas. A painter artist at work.

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Copenhagen. Denmark. All in a day’s work.

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Delhi. India. The Lawn Ranger

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Delhi. India. That pollution can really get to you.

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Rostock. Germany. Keep it in ship shape.

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Tallinn. Estonia. Building it one brick at a time.

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Katmandu. Nepal. Everyone deserves a break.

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St. Petersberg. Russia. Two men aiming for higher things.

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Katmandu. Nepal. Counting the day’s take.

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Katmandu. Nepal. Some jobs are back breaking.

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Helsinki. Finland. Outdoor work is great only in summer.

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HoiAn Vietnam. Mirror mirror on the wall.

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Santiago. Chile. A man who can smile on the job.

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Varpraso. Chile. Waiting for their ship to come in.

 

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Buenos Aires. Argentina. A new coat for a new look

 

Rena Graefner: Poet/ Writer

Rena Flannigan was born in Scotland and many years ago moved to fill her childhood dream to live in Canada.  Her biggest success was becoming the speed skating champion of Scotland and Great Britain.  She became the Canadian Champion at Kempenfeldt Bay, Barrie in 1964.  Always athletic, she was a good tennis player and skier. Later, she found her niche on the dance floor winning trophies for Latin and Ballroom dancing.  Rena was a tailoress, a teacher of Fashion and Design, and she became the Vice-Principal of a private designing school.  These were followed by a career as a Tour Guide and Manager, her all-time favourite occupation.  Now she is learning how to use a computer and wants to be a writer of various genres.

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SPRING, WHERE ARE YOU?

Snowdrops appear

Their bell heads waving in the breeze

There is no sound of ringing

Are they sad because

The April showers are not here

To give them a drink?

Instead of April showers

Bringing the flowers

There are snowflakes

Dancing in the wind

Enough to cover the snowdrops

Holding back other colourful buds

The trees once again have branches of white

There should be green all around

Snow is for winter

It is now Spring, but it is hard to tell

A white carpet covers everything

It is all over the grass and flower beds

Are the buds on the trees also confused?

Are they hiding, waiting for the sun

To warm them and welcome them

To please the souls

Of the winter’s weary people?

Will it end soon is a question we all ask

To see a blue sky during the day

Lifts the spirits and hopes high

The night falls

So does the snow – again

This is not supposed to happen

It is April not bitter winter

Mother Nature fooled us

No snow when it should have been here

Summer in January.  Some days

Shirt sleeve weather,

The climate is so confused

Upside down and back to front

Even the sun is hiding

Above the grey clouds

No warmth can we feel in the air

To lift our spirits out of the doldrums

We must think positive

Spring will come . . . it must.

Janet Naidu -Poet

Janet Naidu was born in Covent Garden, Guyana, a rural village close to the sugar plantations of Farm and Diamond.  Janet comes from humble beginnings—her father worked as a cane cutter and her mother sold greens in the village and in the market place.  She, along with her seven siblings assisted their parents in earning extra income.

Janet has made Canada her home since 1975. In 1973, two of her poems appeared in a small booklet called Heritage. After writing sporadically over the years, her first collection of poems, Winged Heart (1999) was short-listed for the Guyana Prize for Literature, poetry category.  Her other two collections include Rainwater (2005) and Sacred Silence (2009). Her poems capture themes of uprooted movements, nostalgic memories, resettlement, feminism, resilience and survival. Her writings also include essays of cultural and historical themes. Janet Naidu (4)
Her poetry and writings have appeared in news media, online publications, anthologies, referenced in books on Indo Caribbean themes and in the Women’s Journal of the University of the West Indies.

Janet obtained a BA from the University of Toronto and a Bachelor of Laws from the University of London, UK.


Janet, thanks for taking the time to do this interview for my readers. I’d like to focus on your collection Rainwater, in addition to your writing, in general.

Q. At what age did you start to write? What do you remember writing about? Does that writing still exist today?

A. As a teenager I sold greens in the village with my mother and had a notepad to write down credit given to the villagers. I used to also make little sketches and writings at the back pages when I waited for people to purchase items in our baskets. But most significantly, I started writing to pen pals around the world after posting my name and address in a pen pal magazine. I had pen pals from New Zealand, England, Germany, Japan, Pakistan, USA and many other countries. It was during this time, I entered into writing to pen pals around the world, telling them about my family life at home, and life in Guyana. I used to get creative, talking about simple things in the village, like when the sugar cane would burn and the cane dust would come through our windows. I made it sound exciting. Living in Canada, I am often taken back to that time when I was care free and thoughts of the natural world flowed so greater then. This reflection continues to influence my writing.

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Story Of The Month

NOTE: “The Story Of The Month” changes every month and might also have been featured in my collection DOWN INDEPENDENCE BOULEVARD published by MiddleRoad Publishers in 2017 and available on Amazon, or might be an Extract from my two novels RACING WITH THE RAIN and JUNTA.

FOR MORE WRITING LIKE THIS CHECK OUT

Down Independence Boulevard: and other stories
by Ken Puddicombe
Link: http://a.co/4Fy5oBg

 

2017

December -The Touch Of Peace

2018

Jan – The Interview

Feb – The Underground [2nd Prize Polaris Magazine]

Mar -Welcome  To Punta Canada

APR – Return Of The Prodigal [from Down Independence Boulevard and Other Stories]

MAY- No Thank You

JUNE – The Shoplifter

JULY/ AUGUST: The Last Straw [from Down Independence Boulevard and Other Stories]

 

THE LAST STRAW ©

[featured in DOWN INDEPENDENCE BOULEVARD AND OTHER STORIES available at Amazon and in eReaders]

“Bring my food, I will eat here.”

Zorina heard the command from Raj who was sitting in the family room.

And she brought it, as she’d been doing for what seemed like an eternity.

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Photo by Gratisography on Pexels.com

It was a habit he’d picked up lately. He was looking at one of those long Sunday afternoon football games, refusing to budge, demanding to be served. The first time it happened, she’d suggested they eat together as a family. He shouted her down and told her to mind her own business. She never interrupted his game again.

He stretched out his left hand when she approached. She placed the plate on his palm and he took it without looking away from the TV. The plate was filled with rice smothered with dhal, bhaji, aloo-curry and roti, along with sweet-rice for dessert, an appetizing combination that always brought out the best in him.

She’d been cooking and doing chores most of the morning while he watched television. No frozen food for him, or his mother. Fresh food was essential to a long life, he often said.

“The food is too cold,” his voice was filled with scorn. He flung the plate across the room. “How many times must I tell you that I hate cold food?”

She was shaken. Half-hour ago she’d told him she’d finished cooking and he had ignored her. It was his own fault the food had grown cold while he sat there glued to the set. What did he expect her to do?

Raj had done many mean things in the past but never anything violent. There was the time last winter when he’d invited his friends over for drinks. He had quite a few. His glass fell on the floor and shattered. In her haste to clean up and leave the room, she had nicked herself on the broken glass. As she headed back to the kitchen she heard him say to his friends, “Clumsy woman. She can’t do anything right.”

Back then, she’d felt humiliated. Now, she was enraged. She scooped the food off the floor and hurried to the kitchen. As she passed through the entranceway, waves of nausea engulfed her. She dropped the plate on the table, rushed to the sink and vomited.

After she composed herself she went back with a brush and a bucket filled with water and soap. The rug was stained: a long, yellow streak where the plate landed. As she scrubbed away at the discoloration, Raj sat there, attention focused on the game, not saying anything or acknowledging her presence. It was the same way his mother and three sisters treated her. They would be talking to one another and if Zorina tried to get involved in the conversation, they’d ignore her. What am I, Zorina thought, a servant girl who has to know her place? Only speak when spoken to?And the looks they gave her, cutting up their eyesand turning away, treating her like some mangy cat whose owner no longer could bear its presence.

Zorina went back to the kitchen to clean up the sink and wash the brush and bucket. I can’t take much more of this. If this continues, I will lose my mind. She felt her stomach heave and throb. Especially now, of all times.

There was a presence looming behind her and she thought it was Raj. Had he realised how mean he’d been to her and come to apologise, perhaps?

“Zorina.” It was her mother-in-law. “I don’ like the way you sew dis dress.”

Here we go again. There is no pleasing this woman.

“Why, what’s wrong with it?”

“It not fitting praperly.”

It must run in the family. She and her son are just the same. “It’s like all the other dresses I sew for you.”

“I tell you that dis one not sew praperly, girl.”

Zorina caressed her protruding stomach. I can never do anything right, in her eyes. First, she tells me she wants the dress to be loose fitting, now she’s telling me it’s too slack. This all started when the results of the test came back and she heard that it was a girl. Instead of being happy that I finally got pregnant after so many years of trying, she was far from pleased. She as much as said it, she wanted a boy to carry on the family name. As if it’s my fault. She’s trying to get back at me. I just know it.

“Where is it not fitting properly?” Zorina said.

“It bunching up here and here, and here.” The old lady pointed to the top of the dress, the waist and the hips.

The number of hours I spent on this dress! She must have put on weight since I made the last one. I dare not tell her that, though! She will end up complaining to her son that I told her she is getting fat and useless, and he will give me hell, again.

“Why don’t you try it on again for me to see?” Zorina said.

“I telling you it not fitting right. The whole t’ing gat to rip open and sew back again.”

Zorina was speechless. She knew it was futile to argue, useless to tell her of the number of hours it had taken to sew the dress, hopeless to try to please her. The familiar response would be: “You have to do it the way I want it. Is not your money paying for it, anyhow.” Zorina knew she was better off ignoring the remarks, although they would linger for a long time, gnawing at her like a migraine that can be eased with a pill, but in the long run could be the sign of worse to come.

Her mother-in-law tossed the dress on the kitchen table and left the room.

Zorina sighed and shook her head. Days like this she had to keep reminding herself that it was not the end of the world. She reached into the cupboard, pulled out a plate, made her way over to the stove, filled it with food. She stuck the plate into the microwave and pressed the Reheatbutton.

***

Zorina was reworking the dress on the machine in the master bedroom as Raj prepared for bed. She could see him through the open door of the washroom. She knew all his habits—could tell what he would do, when he would do it, how he would do it. It wasn’t as if she was gifted. After all, he reminded her often of the advantages of a good family background and first-class education. And if he didn’t tell her that so many times, there was always his mother to remind her how fortunate she was to marry into an upper class family, considering the small dowry she had brought with her.

Raj opened the grooming kit and started his nightly routine in front of the mirror. Over the years she’d noticed the increased dedication to his moustache and before long it became something attracting favourable comments wherever he went. When the comments came, they seemed to strike the right chord with him, bringing out a sense of pride and accomplishment. She knew he was following in his father’s footsteps. He’d joined the police force in what was then British Guiana, same as his father. He joined the military after independence came; his father served with British forces during WWII. And he had grown his moustache, the same as his father.

Zorina continued her sewing, taking an occasional glance at Raj.

The moustache: handlebars that started off thick and abundant immediately below his nose, spiralling outwards and upwards across his cheeks, the outer fringes gradually tapering off until the ends looked like two small paintbrushes around the sideburns.

The most important part of his primping: he used a small pair of scissors from his kit to trim the hair around his nostrils, black flecks falling all over the bathroom sink which she would have to clean before she went to bed. All through the day, every day, he defended the shape of his moustache from wind, sleet, hail or rain, ensuring it retained its structure with an application of wax in the morning and a second before bed. She wouldn’t have been surprised to learn he applied wax at work, too.

The waxing was just one of the ways that his moustache managed to retain its appearance. She saw many men fidgeting with their moustache in a pensive mood or during a conversation. To her, it seemed like the most natural thing in the world, a habit so ingrained it became second nature. But Raj had tremendous willpower. She saw him many times as he sat with his friends, drinking whisky and soda. His face would twitch and jerk; yet he never touched his moustache. When someone entered the room he looked down his nose and along the sides of his face, checking that all the hair was still in place, fully knowing that sooner or later, his moustache would be the centre of attention.

Raj always boasted of the discipline he acquired in the police force and the army. In public he sat with hands folded, as if he were grasping them and refusing permission to scratch, until all his features eventually assumed the traits of a twitching rabbit. His face went into spasms and his large brown eyes dilated but he would not pull or tweak or curl his moustache. At times like this, his large nostrils flared, his cheeks turned dark brown, his eyes watered. She never saw what happened to his lips—they were concealed beneath the thick growth above and below, but she thought surely they surely had to be quivering.

Now, Raj took his last look at the mirror. Even as he made his way out she knew he would look sideways, keeping his eyes on the mirror, checking the shape of his pride and joy from every angle, right up to the moment his reflection disappeared from view. It was the same when he left for work in the morning; he took such a long time to lace his shoes she swore he was looking at his image in the bright sheen. And not once had he told her what a good job she did on his shoes. When he went through the door and paused to take the flask of tea from her, he would take a last glance at his reflection in the glass in the top half of the door.

 “Do you remember what you said about the dress that I sew for Ma?” she said.

He hesitated at the side of the bed. She thought he looked wary, as if he felt she was trying to lure him into a trap.

He shrugged.

“Don’t you remember how you said it was so nice? Well, here it is. I’m reworking everything for her–she didn’t like it one bit.”

“Oh?” He climbed into bed.

“Yes, and there is nothing wrong with it. I sewed it exactly the same way she wanted it.”

“Why is that such a big problem? Why do you always make such a big fuss over such trivial matters? If she doesn’t like it, it must mean that it doesn’t fit her good. Just sew it over again.” With that, he turned away and pulled the blanket over.

She shook her head. So many times over the past years, she wondered how things had reached their present state. When they were first married she was happy, even though she was living in his parents’ house on Independence Boulevard. Eventually, she realised she was the one doing all the housework, even though Raj had three sisters who were old enough to share the burden. She soon started to feel like a stepdaughter, instead of a daughter-in-law. Like the Cinderella character, only, there was no prince coming along to save her. She already had someone who thought he was a prince.

She hoped he would change, and in those first few years when they lived in their own house on Canal Road, before it was renamed Independence Boulevard, he was a lot more considerate. Sometimes he even helped with the household chores on the weekend. Then, came the period of political instability in Guyana, a general strike that crippled the entire country and riots sending refugees fleeing to areas where they felt safer among their own kind. He started to feel the discrimination of being one of the few East Indians in the armed forces. It didn’t take long to realise there was no future for them in the newly independent Guyana.

Canada beckoned and they came with great expectations of a better life. The first thing he did was to apply to join the Metro Toronto Police but was rejected outright as being unsuitable. The explanation given was vague, something about not meeting requirements, but he was sure it was discrimination all over again. Working for private security companies in a series of low paying jobs followed. It was never the same again.

On the few occasions they went out together shopping at the City Centre, he walked ahead, as if she were a servant required to follow in her master’s footsteps. When they returned, he wouldn’t help to bring in or pack the groceries. Clearing snow off the driveway was entirely her job, and his contribution to cutting the grass was to raise his feet off the ground as he read newspapers on the lawn chair.

Despite all her misgivings, she knew she should be thankful. She had security; a large house with all the conveniences she never knew existed when she was a girl back in British Guiana. And now, she had a child on the way. But, every new confrontation with Raj or his mother made her feel as if it were the last straw, as if she would end up doing something rash. Her situation became so desperate at times that she wanted to scream and lash out at both of them, tell them she had enough, and couldn’t continue to take their lack of consideration.

It was no different when his family came over to visit. Not only did they take her for granted, they acted as if they had more rights in the house than her. At times she felt like his mistress instead of his wife, especially with their habit of glaring and whispering in the background. What really troubled her, though, was the lack of recognition of her contribution to what she and Raj had achieved so far. Why, it was her sewing that brought in the extra income over the years and if it hadn’t been for her skimping and saving, they would never have been able to leave their apartment in Toronto and move to their first house in Brampton. She could remember the look of defeat when he was about to sponsor his mother for immigration and he thought he would fail because of lack of funds and accommodation, and then the amazement on his face when she pulled out the bankbook and showed the money she had saved, all from sewing for people who recognised her talent.

She woke up early the next morning, starting her chores earlier than usual. She’d already piled all her clothes in the laundry basket the previous night. Now, she brought the basket down to the kitchen, pulled her suitcase from the basement and started to pack. She stuffed the old suitcase, folding her dresses, slips and underwear, with swift, precise movements, the stillness of the morning broken only by the low-pitched whine of the condenser in the fridge kicking in every now and then. The steady rhythm of the pendulum of the clock on the wall counted the minutes until daybreak when Raj would rise.

She finished packing her suitcase, but before closing it, there was one more thing she had to do. She hurried up the stairs and headed for the master bedroom.

There was no sound coming from her mother-in-law’s bedroom as she passed it. In the master bedroom, Raj was still asleep. There was no waking him; that was the way he slept after a heavy meal. She’d made sure the food was piping hot and was not surprised at the satisfied look on his face, the contentment of a man whose two pleasures in life were flagrant exhibition of his moustache and that from eating a hearty meal.

She opened the walk-in closet, turned the light on and reached for the sewing kit on the top shelf. It was the one item she needed, had to have if all her plans were to work. The kit almost fell from her hand as she reached for it. She caught it just before it hit the floor but the lid flew open and banged on the door. She held her breath and tilted her head in the direction of the bed but the steady rhythm of his breathing continued. She opened the kit and extracted the scissors. The twin blades were cold steel in her hands.

It would be so easy, she thought.

He’s sleeping. He would never know what happened. Am I brave enough to do it? Should I repay him for all the insults, all the cruel acts he and his mother inflicted on me over the years?

And it was true. She felt she had reached her breaking point.

She waited on the driveway for the taxi she had arranged the night before; she wanted to make sure the doorbell did not ring when it arrived. The taxi took her straight to the GO station and she caught the first train to Toronto.

Settled in her seat, she looked at her watch. It was exactly fifteen minutes to six. Raj was like clockwork and he was rising at this time. In the next minute he would be calling for her to bring his first cup of tea as he headed for the washroom.

At ten minutes to six, he would stand at bathroom mirror to wash the sleep from his eyes. She could imagine him, reaching for the towel from the stand.

He’d be saying: “I wonder what the devil is taking dis girl so long with my tea,” and he’d shout her name at the top of his voice. “Zorina, you trying to make me late for work or what?”

He would take his first look in the mirror after he washed his face. In that exact moment, he’d probably notice the image staring back. He’d wonder who the stranger was. She could picture the lack of comprehension, the horror growing on his face by the second as he reached out for his cheeks, pulled them to see if he was really awake or in the middle of a terrible nightmare. Then, he would open his eyes wide as the truth stared back—the right handlebar was gone, pruned like a brush cut-back all the way to its trunk in spring. She had snipped as close to his nostril she could get without disturbing him. Later, he’d find the snipped section in his lunch box—a present to ponder for a long time. The best part of it: he’d have to trim the left and feel the pain of the moment as he did it!

She wished she could be there, if only for that moment. It would almost make up for everything.

END

 

Down Independence Boulevard and Other Stories

A taxi driver notices the changes in Independence Boulevard since freedom was gained from Britain. A free-wheeling spirit spends his time gambling and engaging in riots. A man is sentenced to death for the murder of his lover. Two women escape racial conflict and seek a better life at home and abroad. A housewife has faced the last straw with her husband. A mailman is caught in the middle of the World Trade Centre terrorist attack. These are some of the characters encountered in this engaging collection of short stories from the pen of Ken Puddicombe.

Amazon link: Down Independence Boulevard: and other stories
by Ken Puddicombe
Link: http://a.co/djDIyAZ

 

 


 

 

Michael Joll

MJoll New Background for CS

Author Michael Joll

Born in England during the Late Pleistocene Age, Michael Joll has called Canada home since shortly after Confederation. He has held many jobs, from selling Continental Delicatessen in Selfridges on Oxford Street in London, to temporary part time deck hand and purser on a car ferry plying the North Reach of the Bay of Quinte. In between he was gainfully employed for forty years too many. Retired since 2004 (“The hours are great, the pay not so much”) he has spent most of that time writing fiction. He has been a Brampton, Ontario since the mid-1970s with a wife (his own) and the memories of the dogs with whom he has been privileged to share his life.


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Book Review – Down Independence Boulevard and other stories

NO better reward for a writer than to see his work acknowledged!

90rollsroyces

I found out about this book by Ken Puddicombe on Rosaliene Bacchus’ blog – Three Worlds One Vision. Read her fantastic review of this book – Down Independence Boulevard and Other Stories by Ken Puddicombe. 

I wanted to read this book since its based in Guyana and the steady diet of American/British based novels was getting too boring. I am glad I read the book because it has given me an idea for a book of my own. I don’t like short stories – so I never buy a short story collection by any author, but this book is very interesting because its a series of short stories that are all interlinked. Just loved that style.

I learnt a lot of new things – the presence of Indians in Guyana for one. I knew that there were Indians in the West Indies because some of them play for the…

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