Archive for April, 2013

April 11th, 2013

1962

by W. David Gamble, Learner, Writing Workshops

It was a bitter, fall day and somewhat grey, if memory serves. Just after classes at about four in the afternoon, a group of us were walking towards the tawdry, little hangout, a modest diner, we called the Honeydew in that little town of my formative years. Just as we approached it, having ascended the gentle hill to the east of the high school, the girls with whom I was walking shrieked and giggled their appreciation and not-so- hidden attractions to their favourite teachers, who, in those days, were young and, sometimes, very good-looking.

They were candid and fresh in their comments; I wasn’t really there. It didn’t occur to me that, had the ‘guys’ been there, perhaps this banter would not have been so open. But I was there, and it was.

They went through the litany of the saints: Mr. Gervais the French teacher was decidedly good-looking with a shock of thick hair that he tossed rakishly to the side when it impeded his view of the class; Mr. Black the math teacher had a body of death, having been recently demobilized from professional football; however, Mr. Piedmont whom, because of his unfortunate stature, we called Ichabod Crane was not so alluring. They shrieked guiltily at the thought of their girlish unkindness to the belittled history prof. However, I agreed tacitly to myself that most were worth noticing.

And then Paula said it: “I think Dean Walker is really sexy.”

Now, Mr. Walker, our favourite teacher and collective mentor for the entire school, was special. His influence was felt about the little town in every home from which he drew a student. But sexy?

“No, Paula,” I contradicted confidently, “I don’t think he is.”

She looked at me, I think, with a knowing kindness and replied softly in the stretched atmosphere, “But, Danny, I think he’s sexy.” Observing the emphasis on the pronoun, the others were resoundingly quiet, with the articulate silence whispering at me.

Heat rose into my face; I looked straight ahead, and when the little clique hit the Honeydew steps, I mumbled a quick ‘seeya’ and disappeared into the glooming fall twilight. The evening was as long as humiliation.

W. David Gamble’s short story was written for Cordelia Strube’s workshop: ‘Novel Writing: Level I’ (CWWR 420).

April 11th, 2013

Storm before the Calm: Jungle Hopping in Nepal

by Isabel Dimitrov, Learner, Writing Workshops

Eyes wide open and body tense, I lay motionless, gripping the bed frame as if to anchor me to the ground. I braced myself each time the thunder hit, shaking the frail bamboo walls of the hut. The room was shrouded in darkness, the electricity having switched off long ago. Rain soldiered on relentlessly, like horses galloping frantically on the roof.

“Where is Krishna now?” I wondered, thinking of his proposition just a few hours before to head to the lake at sunset and catch a glimpse of the elusive Bengal tiger quenching her thirst. “I’m a little tired,” I had responded awkwardly to mask the initial reaction that remained unspoken: “That sounds crazy.” Then again, it was a moment of spontaneity (some called it crazy) that had led to this Nepal soul-searching adventure in the first place, armed with little more than a reliance on serendipity. Of course Krishna came to mind now. He was practically raised in the Chitwan jungle, and could sense a crocodile in the water without even seeing it. Surely he would come before this monsoon swept me away.

Beads of sweat dripped down my forehead. The humidity in the room was unbearable, but staying inside seemed to beat running around in a torrential downpour. Wrapped in a mosquito net I looked up, fixated on where the net was attached to the bamboo ceiling. It creaked ominously. “Just close your eyes.” I had resorted to a consolatory saying I heard once: Sometimes things will just be better in the morning.

My eyes opened. A ray of sunlight had peeked through the shutters in the window. I sat up and let my feet touch the floor. Damp. Some rainwater had seeped in. I walked cautiously to the door and heaved a sigh. Mother Nature must have done her damage but I was in one piece. The lodge was probably in total disarray. I opened the door. Krishna’s curious eyes stared back at me. “Good morning! How about some chai for breakfast Miss Isabel?” I followed him wordlessly. Workers were sweeping away orphaned tree leaves and bringing up scraps of wood to patch up the few holes the rain had caused in its wake. “Lucky you,” said Krishna as I sat down and he handed me my chai. “You’ll be on your way before the real monsoon starts!” I sipped the chai, savouring the warm, milky sweet tea for the first time since arriving to Nepal.

About Isabel Dimitrov:

A natural nomad with a heart for community affairs, Isabel has lived in Canada, Jordan, France and Egypt and has travelled to almost 40 countries. Recently returned to her hometown of Toronto (at least for the time being!) she is inspired to write about her adventures abroad but also closer to home, including the trials, tribulations and triumphs of experiencing reverse culture shock.

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

April 11th, 2013

The Night Ensemble

by Anna Strzelecka, Learner, Writing Workshops

It is raining heavily. Water falls in a steady rhythm. Large, powerful drops slide swiftly from one leaf to another leaving them polished and refreshed. Their green, waxy surfaces begin to shine. There are unusually large leaves growing here. I grab one. It serves me well as an umbrella. I am standing still, watching the sky. Clouds come out of nowhere – heavy, inky masses that burst with the force of an avalanche. My pants, shirt and backpack are instantly soaked.

Large insects march along the twigs undisturbed. Their hairy bodies catch and carry the droplets of water deep into the forest. My eyes follow their vivacious walk. Each insect carries no more than three droplets. When the ballast becomes too heavy they shake it off. Translucent bubbles then roll down into the dark mass of decaying matter that will feed the next generation of crowded vegetation, competing for access to space and the rays of the sun.

I am in Borneo, a home to orangutans and endemic plants.

Suddenly the rain loses its power. From behind dark clouds emerges the late afternoon sun that shines horizontally. Giant leaves unfurl and open their impressive surfaces to embrace the light. Immediately the smaller plants lose their chance to catch few rays of sun. They struggle quietly in the shade, laboriously pushing themselves through this dense world.

Like the leaves, I too stretch my legs, but I don’t know how to get dry now. A local man on a bicycle passes by laughing openly. He too is dripping with water.
Now that the rain has stopped, everything seems extremely quiet. The air is thick, still, scented with the freshness of the lush greenery that was just bathed in water. Darkness quickly approaches. Within minutes everything around me turns black.

Then it starts, the frog concerto – their version of sopranos and tenors, their squeaks and squawks. They sound very close, maybe only steps away from me. Should I move? I stand still and listen. Their performance continues. It pulsates in different parts of the forest. It gets louder and louder. I catch different notes, some more timid than others. Here, everything has to compete, both the sounds and the vegetation.

The frogs lead the stage. But where are they? Miraculously my camera still works. I use my flash to find them. They must be huge. None appears in the beam of light. Instead it signals sudden silence. They didn’t like this brief interruption. A few long minutes pass. Will they stop for good, leave offended or return to their hiding places under the giant leaves?

My legs began to cramp. I strain my eyes to penetrate the darkness, but in an unforgiving way it revels nothing. I have no clue what may be under my feet. I can’t go anywhere without fearing that I might step on a snake or find myself tangled in vines.
Here, I am not the ruler. Frogs, insects, nature itself governs and they do as they please…

Slowly the musicians return. The forest becomes alive and noisy again. I put away my camera. It’s of no use. Let’s just listen to their story. Let them tell me how they got drenched in the rain and enjoyed it; how they flashed their instruments at twilight, not for an audience and not even for each other, just for the pleasure of a song.

About Anna Strzelecka:

“Originally from Poland, I came to Canada twenty years ago. I have a passion for travel, love for the tropics and the artistic merit of foreign places.”

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