Archive for November, 2012

November 28th, 2012

8 Minutes in Paradise

by Adrienne Munro, Learner, Writing Workshops

Assignment: Using three words (swim, radio, and bitter) as triggers, write, without thinking and without stopping, for 8 minutes.

Watching those glistening, berry-brown children leaping through the waves, towering double-volcanic backdrop, I hardly noticed when he shoved me out of the way to puke over the side of the banana boat, tipping wickedly in those gut-cranking swells, me planning how I’d grab the gangplank to keep myself afloat when the boat tipped over, I knew it would, and I’d have to swim for it there with those goddam freshwater sharks nipping at my heels, little fuckers; somehow we made it across upright and stood shoulder-to-shoulder three hours on that throbbing, sweat-dripping bus – the merengue bus with the blaring radio and red lights flashing a warning to everyone, jesus on the back window, outnumbered, flanked on either side by jean-claude van damme.

We finally made it to that giant-toad-and-scorpion paradise under the banana trees and it was all worth it, dusty pigs and children naked in rubber boots dancing in the rutted dirt highway… and then Armando on the back of the banana truck watching me, and later his Dad says when I move there to live with them in the shack by the lake he’ll teach me to shoot patos, to shoot ducks, god, me the vegetarian, eating beans and rice and beans and rice and excited when they serve rice and beans instead with a little hot sauce, and his crazy old uncle who lived on a bed under the tree with his shaving mirror nailed to it, jumping around yelling FOOOT, FOOOOOOOT! – pointing to his foot but saying it so it rhymes with boot the only English word he knew, I guess…

But Armando’s old Grandpa, he was a wily one, he told Armando I wasn’t coming back, just like that Alaskan girl said she’d come back but left Armando’s Abuelo high and dry and bitter well he married Abuela so I guess it all worked out… me and Armando in that old canoe and little Antonio spitting lakewater at us and Armando’s grandpa was right in the end though I didn’t mean for it to be like that, back in the laugh-dreamy days under the screeching monkey trees in the forests of pica pica when everything was still possible.

Adrienne’s piece was written for Ann Ireland’s online workshop introducing short fiction writing: ‘Short Fiction Writing – Level I’ (CWWR 410).

November 19th, 2012

Treasures of the North Atlantic

by Jessie Harrold, Learner, Writing Workshops

I trudge ankle deep into tea-coloured water, heavy sand enveloping the oversized boots of my drysuit. My husband and I, adorned like Christmas trees in our scuba gear, are surrounded by rickety wooden fish cleaning stages that jut into the water and rocky cliffs held together by dense evergreen forest. The morning is quiet, save for the far-off drone of a four-wheeler. The smell of fish entrails lingers on the breeze. Wading in, the usual trepidation flutters in my chest. Though I have been scuba diving for over a decade, the mystery of a brand new dive site always fills me with a combination of fear and excitement. Murky water compresses around my drysuit as I walk chest deep into the unknown water and feel the relief of nearly a hundred pounds of coldwater dive gear beginning to float. I place my regulator in my mouth and breathe crisp, dry air from my tank. With this, I kneel and push off horizontally into the water, fins slowly beginning to kick, eyes wide and searching, glancing between my compass and the dark ocean.

Diving in a previously unexplored place is a bit like wandering a foreign city without a map. Silver-striped pollock glint past the lens of my scuba mask, ignoring me in the everyday pursuit of food and evasion of predators. The mouths of giant scallops open and shut, salty current rushing past succulent muscle. A rubber boot lodged upright in the sand catches the corner of my eye and is somehow made beautiful in the wave-flickered sunlight.

For me, exploring the seventy-two percent of the earth’s surface that even the most intrepid adventurers have never dipped a fin into is the ultimate thrill, and I’ve found my own stretch of uncharted territory near my in-laws’ place on the west coast of Newfoundland.

We swim several hundred metres over deeply rippled sand before we get to the good stuff. Weightless, I hover over a treasure trove of broken china and antique clay pipes sixty feet below the surface of the North Atlantic. Each of us begins digging fingers into the sand, pulling up antique bottles encrusted with purple coral, broken china with intricate blue-painted designs, and the occasional dinner plate-sized scallop shell. The rhythmic pull of each inhale and bubbled exhale quickens as I bag dozens of “treasures.” My husband swims over, his eyes smiling behind his mask as he shows me a bottle marked “Allen’s Lung Balsam.” The bottle is still corked and contains a dark, syrupy liquid – a particularly rare find. He’s had this kind of luck before: on a previous dive in another little cove not far from where we are, he found the wreck of a small schooner and surfaced a teacup that our research revealed was manufactured circa 1850.

Our dive epitomizes the allure of braving the moody, frigid waters of the north coast of Newfoundland. The floor of the ocean reveals to us a few lines in the story of this little outport that may have been forgotten until now.

Sadly, as the air supply in our tanks dwindles, we must turn around and begin swimming back to shore. Surfacing a few hundred metres from the beach, I quickly make myself buoyant and drop my regulator from my mouth, licking salty water from my lips. Sun sparkles off the glass of my scuba mask as I take in the rugged landscape.

Jessie’s travel writing piece was written for Ann Ireland’s online course for beginning travel writers: ‘Creative Travel Writing’ (CWWR 952).

November 8th, 2012

The Playground

by Cara Edell, Learner, Writing Workshops

We used to lie there for hours, under the stars. By day it belonged to the children; by night it was our private playground. We’d curl up together under his grey flannel blanket, on our bed of grass, surrounded by sleeping swings and slides.

We’d talk about life – about our love, about our past, about our future in heaven. He was dying, but on those nights he was more alive than ever.

He’d put his arm around me, tell me what I needed to hear, and nothing else mattered. Sometimes we fell asleep sheltered by the oak tree’s branches. Sometimes we became the kids and played tag around the park. He liked it most when I’d go across the monkey bars; he said I looked like a swinging angel.

That playground was at the end of Winston Street, a five minute walk from his house and a ten minute drive to the hospital. But in our moments, before his passing, it seemed as if we were miles and miles away from reality.

That was the place where we felt safe. That was the spot where we’d stare at the moon and wonder what it would be like to travel that high in the sky. That was the dirt where he picked the flowers he gave me on our last date.

He had set up a midnight picnic of sparkling cider and vanilla cake. He knew I had a sweet tooth. He was thin and weak by that point, but at our goodbye party he smiled courageously.

The swings swayed in the summer breeze. The stars were scattered across our vast ceiling. The oak tree looked majestic, proudly showing off the initials we had carved into its trunk: A.J. + R.D. The grass was damp from the earlier rainfall, but the flannel blanket kept us dry.

I still have those wilted flowers, those memories, those scars on my heart. I pray the oak tree outlives me.

Cara’s piece was written for Susan Glickman’s novel writing class: ‘Novel Writing – Level 1’ (CWWR 420).