Friday, July 26, 2013

Bide a Wee, Bully

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From between two of the steel rails in the gate, a rich brown orb placidly observed the crowd. The animal was tightly wedged in the box, but even if he had had more room, he wouldn’t have moved.

“Bide a wee, bully,” his Scottish ancestors would have said. So he’d waited. There was no use wasting his energy at this point. He contented himself with looking, listening, and feeling.

The stands were full of Stetsons, blue jeans, checkered shirts, and leather vests adorned with glitter and glitz—an eclectic mix of real cowboys and wannabes.

He knew the spectators were watching him. He looked back at the crowd with the one eye at his disposal. From somewhere beyond him and above them, he heard the voice of an announcer, made raucous by the public address system in the arena.

“Ladies and gentlemen, cowgirls and cowboys, next up we have Scooter Martin. Scooter is a three-time champion bull rider, so he’s no stranger to us here on the circuit. Scoot hails from Edson, Alberta, Canada, and so far has earned himself fifty-seven thousand, sixty-nine dollars, and change on this pro tour. He’s a winner, folks and so far, he’s the cowboy to beat.”

The crowd roared its approval.

“Scoot has drawn himself a new bull, a Red Angus that we haven’t seen on the circuit before. Goes by the name of Butterscotch, and comes to us from the Samuel Jackson farm out near Horsehead Lake in North Dakota. Butterscotch seems to be taking his first appearance mighty calmly as he waits for Scooter to get himself ready.”

The announcer seemed to take delight in pronouncing Butterscotch’s name with more than just a hint of derision. The crowd got the message, and laughed. What kind of bull was a Butterscotch? The bull flicked an ear in mild annoyance.

Bide a wee, bully, bide a wee.

Butterscotch felt the weight of the rider on his back. It was slightly bothersome and Butterscotch wiggled, banging his back end against the rails. He also felt the chaffing of the bull rope around his middle, and the weight of the bell that hung underneath him and kept the rope in place.

Bide a wee, bully, dinna fash yersel.

He settled himself once more, allowing the cowboy to tighten his grip on the leather handle braided into the rope and double-wrap the loose end around his gloved hand. The pulling and pounding on the glove, to make sure the hand was well anchored, furthered annoyed Butterscotch and he tossed his head. The blunted tip of one horn tagged a cowboy sitting on the rails beside the rider. The man drew back quickly.

“Looks like Butterscotch is getting anxious for the show to start, folks,” chortled the announcer, to the delight of a crowd too far away to see the action in the box. The bull relaxed again, conscious that he needed to wait, to be patient.

Guid lad, bully, bide a wee.

“Get ready for what could be the championship ride, folks. Scoot’s settled, and my money’s on the veteran rider over the novice bull. It only takes eight seconds, friends, and Scooter Martin will be collecting another cheque.”

Butterscotch saw, and heard, hand meeting hand as the crowd clapped and roared its agreement. He felt the digging in of the rider’s knees. His time was coming.

If a bull could smile, this one would have done exactly that.

Puir foolish creatures, they give tae ye a name o’ their choosing—‘Butterscotch’— for the colour o’ yoor hide; but they’ve seen naithin’ o’ the colour o’ yoor heart.

The gate swung open and Butterscotch launched himself out of the box with a brutal hind-end swivel followed by a wicked mid-air twist. It only took four seconds to send a shocked and frustrated Scooter scrambling for the protection of the rails as the novice bull took his victory lap around the ring to the howls of the disappointed crowd.

He heard his ancestors, voices ripe with approval:

Bide a wee, Bully—till next time. ‘Tis the heart no the hide that’ll be markin’ the difference twixt guid an bad—be it bairn o’ beastie.*

With apologies to all Scots out there, and any Red Angus bulls who might read this.

Bide a wee = rest/stay a little
Dinna fash yerself = don’t worry yourself
Guid = good
Puir = poor
Tae = too
Ye = you
Yoor = your
Naithin’ = nothing
No = not
Twixt = between
Bairn = child

Friday, July 19, 2013

One Bad Breakfast

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Susan LaFrance wiped her face with a wet towel. The sour acid taste of vomit lingered in her mouth. She had just lost her breakfast in the ladies’ room outside Courtroom B in the Hall of Justice. Getting to the bathroom in time had been touch-and-go. Luckily, lawyers, especially newly created junior partners, always hurried, so her somewhat frantic rush to the restroom had not been commented on.

“Rabbit up and keeled over dead did he, sweetie?”

Susan jumped. Lost in thought, she hadn’t heard anyone enter the washroom. The old woman now facing her was dressed in faded blue overalls and trailing a rather grungy looking mop.

“No,” responded the younger woman, “just a little disagreement with breakfast. And do I know you?”

Old eyes took in the ring-less hand.

“I doubt you’d think so, sweetie, but you sure look to me like you could use a friend. A friend indeed is a friend in need. Somethin’ like that. Anyway, doesn’t matter. Need a Kleenex? I got one of those minty, freeze-your-tongue things if you want, How about an aspirin? No, forgit the aspirin. Shouldn’t take that stuff when you’re pregnant, sweetie.”

“People get sick for any variety of reasons. I don’t mean to be rude, but it really isn’t any of your business. And I’d appreciate it if you wouldn’t call me, ‘sweetie’.”

“Sorry, honey. Don’t mind me. Just can’t help helpin’ out, you know what I mean? There’s a vending machine outside. Supposed to be loaded with pure spring water. Hey, I got to remember that one—loaded with spring. Get you a drink if you want. Should drink lots of water when you’re havin’ a baby.”

“No, thank you, I’m fine. I don’t need any water. And I am not having a baby.”

“Whatever you say, sweetie.”

Susan took a deep breath, struggling to hold her temper in check and to recover her lawyer persona.

“Let’s say, hypothetically, that I was sick to my stomach because I am pregnant—which I’m not. Here we are, two perfect strangers in a public washroom. You’ll never see me again and I’ll never see you again. Why should you care?”

“Why not? People go in and out of this washroom all day and half the night. They all got trouble—why else would they end up in the courthouse in the first place? A little carin’ goes a long way I always say. Can’t have enough carin’ in the world, sweetie.”

“You didn’t answer my question. Why do you care?”

“Hypo-whatever speakin’? Make a short story shorter than short. Found a baby on the floor of one of those stalls once. Good thing it wasn’t flushed. Didn’t get here soon enough though. Couldn’t do anythin’. In a better place now but still, a real shame. Don’t want somethin’ like that to happen again is all. No siree.”

“Well obviously I didn’t vomit up a baby.”

“You can’t.”

“Can’t what?”

“Vomit up a baby. Are you sure I can’t get you somethin’, sweetie?”

“I told you, I’m fine. There’s nothing wrong with me except an upset stomach.”

“Yah, I know, you’re tryin’ hard to convince yourself. And you got it wrong.”

Susan was getting confused, and just a bit frustrated.

“Excuse me? Wrong about what?”

“About me knowin’ you. I see you everyday goin’ in an’ out of the courtroom doin’ all that lawyer stuff. You just never noticed me until today. I guess that proves it.”

“Proves what?”

“Always figured, sweetie, that trouble makes people see things different than they ever did before. Now that’s a fact, ain’t it?”

Yesterday it was fame, fortune, and a future partnership with the firm of Barnes and Sutherland. Today … No, today will be the same as yesterday. I am not having a baby. I will not have a baby. I just need some Maalox.

“I have to go.” Susan headed for the door, turning her back on the old woman.

“Sure you do, sweetie. Gotta go save some criminals. That’s a good thing, everyone needs savin’, but …”

“But what?”

“Don’t forgit that baby’s worth savin’. Maybe she needs some good defense lawyerin’ too.”


Susan opened her mouth to protest again that she wasn’t pregnant but shut it before the words formed. Reality overtook pretense and wrestled it to the ground.

Time to stop kidding myself. One bad breakfast could be explained, but six in a row?

Susan turned to acknowledge her unlikely mentor’s advice.

The woman was gone.

Friday, July 12, 2013

I am Maranta

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Twilight descends as heavenward I bend
to embrace its portals.
Evening skies, chameleon as I, rainbow hues reveal:
Blue to orange, pink to mauve, purple to black.
I too am transformed, an aberration
like the human kind who follow my lead.
By day I stretch, verdant greens, spots and lines
in graceful combination,
a tribute to a creative Master.
Designed to delight and inspire,
I reach out to the light, to the Son, to heaven’s gleaming,
soak in its deepest sense;
then give back, exchanging one blessing for another.

I am Maranta.
I caress the light, hiding from its burning
yet seeking its warmth.
As night enfolds the day and holds it close
I retreat into myself, from reaching out
to pulling in.
Beneath the greens of light and dark, the veins and spots
hide another side,
another story.

I am Maranta.
Green turns to purple, the veins marked wine,
the spots of reddish-blue
blood-red against the darkening sky.
A curiosity to the uninformed who view my nature
as strange as that of those who lift
holy hands toward the sky.
I raise my “hands,” though they are not,
toward the One who made me thus.
Why, I ask, am I to be
so different from the rest?
I think He made me to reflect that bitter night,
the twilight of His life when, His prayer released,
He bled.
And vibrant life to death itself committed,

I am Maranta.
At twilight, the green of my life
to purple turns, the blood-red old as death
as to my Master I give myself in prayerful stance
as once He did with committed, dependent heart.
For those who echo my example,
who labour as He, with earnest voice;
be warned.

I am Maranta, an aberration,
as you will be to those who, without understanding,
fail to see that the greening of the soul
requires a purple twilight,
a garden of waiting,
of urgent pleading,
of heartfelt praise,
sometimes suffering,
always committed,
ever faithful
even to the death,
in prayerful pose.

I am Maranta.
Follow me.

The Maranta, more popularly known as the prayer plant, folds itself up at night revealing an undersurface of rosy-purple.

Friday, July 5, 2013

Shift Change

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6:59 a.m.
The call came in just before the shift changed. The dispatcher pushed his brain from neutral to first gear. It had been a quiet night—until now.

7:11 a.m.
Two cruisers roared around the corner of First Avenue and Cedar Street, coming to a teeth-rattling stop in front of a dilapidated house. Four policemen tumbled out, hitting the pavement at a crouch. Two raced toward the back while the other two headed for the front door.

10:22 a.m.
Bitsy Miller and Kevin Donnelly sat defiantly in their respective interrogation rooms. Outside, two detectives wondered who would be the first to blame the other for the bullet-ridden body of the man found crumbled at the bottom of stairs in the old house.

11:00 a.m.
The captain briefed the officers under his command about a little girl who had been reported missing. Her mother had called her daughter’s best friend to ask when to pick Ally up after a sleep-over, only to discover that there had been no sleep-over. Ally had been gone since leaving for school.

12:40 p.m.
Donnelly demanded a lawyer while, next door, a street-smart detective worked on charming Miller into fingering her boyfriend for the murder of his stepfather.

1:00 p.m.
On the steps of the police station the cameras rolled as the teary-eyed parents of Allison Henry asked the public for any information about the whereabouts of their ten-year-old daughter. Officers were already out canvassing the school, the neighbourhood, and a nearby park looking for anyone who had seen the little girl.

3:34 p.m.
Two of the ‘boys-in-blue” stopped for coffee at Hot ‘n’ Sweet. Just as they walked through the door, a boy pushed past them clutching two loaves of bread and accompanied by shouts of “Stop, you little thief!” from the annoyed shopkeeper, Sammy the Greek. The kid was literally “collared” by one of the officers as he slipped out the door.

4:10 p.m.
A nanny walking her charge in the park near Allison’s school told police that she had seen the child in the playground waiting by the swings. She hadn’t seen anyone approach her. When the woman returned that way ten minutes later, the girl was gone.

6:00 p.m.
Kevin Donnelly’s public defender arrived at the station with a thin folder outlining the forensic evidence in the case. Everybody’s fingerprints were on the murder weapon, including those of the victim.

6:32 p.m.
The two officers walked through the dingy hallway of a rundown apartment block. With Jimmy Jackson in tow, they stopped at 5-C and knocked loudly. The place smelled of mold, sour cabbage, and the sweet odor of illegality. On their third knock, the door opened as far as the cheap chain would allow. A half-face, grey, lined with pain, and tinged with fear, looked out at them.

8:47 p.m.
Allison Henry’s schoolbag was recovered in a dumpster on the opposite side of the city from which she had last been seen. Police again canvassed a neighbourhood. No one had seen anything.

10:05 p.m.
Sandy Jackson rested on a gurney in the emergency room of a local hospital while a doctor examined tests and x-rays taken since her admission.

11:58 p.m.
A tired Bitsy suggested that the shooting was accidental. The old man had tried to kill her. He and Kevin had struggled for possession of the gun. It didn’t explain her prints and four bullet holes in the body.

1:35 a.m.
The shopkeeper lingered at a discrete distance as a worried and exhausted Jimmy waited with his mother. Sammy refused to press charges once he discovered why the boy had tried to steal the bread. He hung around, keeping an eagle eye on the situation just in case he was needed.

4:13 a.m.
A car crept slowly along a back road several miles outside of the city. The driver reached across and gently touched his passenger.

5:48 a.m.
An exhausted lab technician called to tell detectives who had last touched the trigger of the murder weapon.

7:00 a.m.
The day shift dumped their ongoing case files on the desks in the squad room, collected their messages, and settled in. Another 24 hours and hope was fading for Allison.