Multiply Stuff 8

Most of this page is small snippets written for a 30 Days of Text Challenge


Impermeable usually refers to a membrane that does not allow a chemical in solution to pass in either direction. I have often thought about relationships and systems in a similar way. Teen agers appear to suffer a great deal from impermeability. The are no longer interested in learning from the adults who are close to them, and they don’t want to share their lives with those adults. Of course I am not sure that a fully permeable relationship is terribly healthy either. We do need to know where we end and the other begins. So semi-permeable relationships in which certain chosen information has free flow and other things don’t may be the way to go.

If anyone knows how to do this. Please tell me.


There is a din living in my head. I don’t mean tinnitinitus, or even those annoying jingles that get stuck in your head and keep coming back. No, the din is all the conflicting bits of me shouting advice. Usually I am fairly focused and keep order in my head. Today my thoughts are about as organized as a parlimentary brawl.

I live with mental illness, not just mine but my wife’s. I deal with depression by walking and prayer. It works about 95% of the time. The other 5% I just fake it until I feel normal again. My wife isn’t so lucky. She is in the middle of a med change. Without her medication she is unable to control the connection between her emotions and her words. She becomes cruel and sarcastic. Then she becomes morose, feeling that I would be better off without her.

And I would. I would be able to put my energies into dealing with my own stuff. I wouldn’t have to constantly adjust my boundaries and forgive the unforgivable. I wouldn’t have her humiliating me in public. But all that really isn’t the issue. I made a promise. Actually, I made it twice, since we renewed our vows after a three year separation. I knew what I was doing. So I listen to all the voices shouting that I should just leave, that I should give up, that it isn’t fair.

Then I silence the din. I go home and hug my wife and tell her that I love her and that I always will. I forgive her, and pray that tomorrow she will have a better day.

Din update: I just got home from taking my wife to the psych hospital where she will be for at least the next three days and probably longer. The house is quiet. No one is asking me to get them water, or advil. There are no requests for back scratches or massages of knees.

So inevitably, I can’t sleep.


“Mayday! Mayday! Mayday!” John screamed while he ran in circles with excitement. He is a precocious almost four year old (his words not mine) who discovered the calendar with its listing of holidays. You would think from the sound of it that he expected some magical entity like Santa Claus to appear with a bag full of treats. I let my mind wander over the concept. Perhaps a old fashioned Soviet General bringing parades of phallic looking war toys….

In any case John doesn’t expect any more from May Day than he did from ANZAC (Australia) or Maulid Day (Tanzania). He is just delighted with every new thing he learns.

I think my next calendar will have a word of the day. He will be in school and his teachers should share the fun.

Vacuity va·cu·i·ty   (v-ky-t, v-) 

n. pl. vac·u·i·ties

1. Total absence of matter; emptiness.

2. An empty space; a vacuum.

3. Total lack of ideas; emptiness of mind.

4. Absence of meaningful occupation; idleness: “the crew, being patient people, much given to slumber and vacuity” Washington Irving.

5. The quality or fact of being devoid of something specified: a vacuity of taste; a vacuity of emotions.

6. Something, especially a remark, that is pointless or inane: a conversation full of vacuities.

(from the

Vacuity appears to be one of those words we use to show off our vocabulary. Why use two syllables when you can use four? Roald Dahl, in his Phantom Tollbooth had a great notion. A syllable tax – you needed to pay extra to use words of more than one syllable.

I love long complicated words, but only when they work better than their shorter cousins. To use vacuity instead of empty would just confuse the issue. On the other hand I use vacuous with fair regularity. Go figure.
(As you can see my idea bank was a vacuity in just about every way you can use the word…)

Want Ad 

Joe turned desperately through the classified section. It had to be here somewhere. Everyday for a week he had found the ad and circled it. He had been waiting for his first paycheck, then he would have it.

It was a guitar, but not just any guitar. It had belonged to a member of one of his favourite bands – signed and auctioned off, then sitting in some collector’s room until his wife forced him to sell off the instruments that he wasn’t actually playing. This would be better than any brand new guitar. Joe’s fingers ached to slide up and down the neck and try to wring the same waling notes out of it that his hero had.

Only it was gone. The ad wasn’t there today. He had his check in hand, and the guitar was gone. His shoulder’s slumped and he carefully folded the paper and put it in the recycling. Two weeks at work had grown some new habits.

“Joe,” his Dad called, “Come here a moment.” He walked down the stairs to his father’s office. He took a deep breath and let his disappointment go as he exhaled. It wasn’t his father’s fault the guitar was gone. He wasn’t going to make him deal with his bad mood. Another lesson learned.

He opened the door. The office was more a miniature recording studio. There weren’t gold and platinum albums on the wall, but there were pictures of his Dad and the old time band he still occasionally played with. The studio was a hobby, a way to give back a little to the music community.

His Dad was playing a riff on a guitar that Joe hadn’t seen before.

“I saw the ads,” his Dad said. “I didn’t think it would last the week, so I picked it up for you.”

Joe felt something he couldn’t describe running through him. Something suspiciciously like tears was leaking out his eyes.

“Thanks,” he somehow said. “I’ll get you the money.”

“Later, later.” his Dad said, “First, let me hear you make her sing…”


Debuted means to start in a new role. Unfortunately I appear to be stuck in old roles. It is crazy how fast I fall back into being the guy who fixes things between people. This is in itself not a bad thing and I am very good at it. The problem comes in when I take too much responsibilty, and the people I am fixing don’t learn to make their own peace. Like my family.

My wife and my son are very similar in personality, but put them together for too long and they mix like nitro and glycerin. I get to be the stabilizer. Especially now as my wife is changing her meds for the second time in 12 months and just can’t handle the stress. I am not sure I can either. There are days when I feel closer to 90 than my true age of 48.

Maybe it is time I debuted in a new role. I just need to figure out what it is….


John very carefully filled the flasks with the precious liquid. He worked by moonlight since the slightest spark could set off a fire and explosion. He couldn’t work by daylight since someone might see him and ask questions that he would rather not answer. Life was a dangerous game, and growing more so with each season he saw.

The light finally faded too far for him to be able to pour safely. He capped off the flasks by touch and stood them on the rough shelves at the back of the cave. He carefully looked around as he stood in the shadow of the entrance. He listened intently for a long moment but heard only the normal night noises. At the last minute he ducked back into the cave and grabbed a bottle from the shelf.

A man needed his scotch to stay warm at night.


Sue walked into the Super Scooper..

“I want a Metropolitan Ice Cream, please.”

“I think you mean Neopolitan,” George said.

“That sounds Italian, I don’t want Neopolitan.”

“That’s good, because I don’t think we have Neopolitan.”

“Then why did you offer it to me?”

“I didn’t. I just said that you probably meant Neopolitan, because I have never heard of Metropolitan ice cream.”

“Just because you haven’t heard of it, doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist, young man.”

George though briefly about calling her ‘old woman’ but her purse looked big and heavy.

“What would you like then?”

“I would like a Metropolitan ice cream.”

George opened and closed his mouth several times before inspiration struck.

“All our ice cream is made in Toronto. It is all Metropolitan ice cream.”

“I’ll have vanilla then.” Sue said.


I yanked at the cord again – still no spark. If the plug wasn’t sparking, the motor wouldn’t run. If the motor wouldn’t run, then the grass wouldn’t get cut. As I inexpertly traced the path of the electricity to the spark plug, I once again pondered the advisability of just buying a cow and letting her graze on the grass which must have been plenty tall enough for a first cut of hay. I could dig the cow pies into the garden, and placate the neighbours with promises of steak in the fall. I located the loose wire. Fantasies of running a miniature self-sufficient farm on the corner lot where my house stands were choked by the smell of burning gasoline and cut grass.


“Quittal That’s ten, eleven, twelve, thirteen, fourteen, fifteen, sixteen, on a triple makes it forty-two.” I smile in triumph at my wife as she stare at the score pad. We are half-way through our nightly ritual of what we both describe as ‘full contact Scrabble’ It helps us reconnect before we retire, though other people tend to turn pale and run when we bring out the board.

“Challenge,” she finally says turning to the computer and bringing up the Oxford English Dictionary website. A quick search prooves that the work is legit. She scans her letters with her forehead furrowed.

“Gnocchis” she says as she puts the tiles on the board.

‘”Challenge,” I say, “Gnocchi is already plural, the singular is ‘gnoccho'”

Her fingers fly on the keyboard and I see ‘gnocchis’ all over the place. Some with helpful aids to pronounce a word that shouldn’t exist.

I sigh and begin to count up the score.


An international gathering of economists made the news today when they all agreed on the economic forecast for the coming year.

“If the situation doesn’t change, growth will continue as it has. A downturn in the global economy will indicate that production has slowed. Higher food costs may cause a global slump, or they might not. Certainly continuing volatile oil prices will have an effect.”

In other news, a sportscaster is recovering well after being beaten by an entire baseball team after asking how it felt to blow a ten run lead in the ninth inning…..


The dogs waiting outside were the first hint, but the giveaway was the fractured pieces of the door. Not content with bombing me with a metaphysical asteroid, the universe decided that I needed to deal with a break in too. I looked dismay at the blank space that used to hold my laptop. I phoned the police, then wandered with a sick feeling through the house counting the things that were missing. My wife’s laptop, the theatre system, the Xbox 360, my rilfes and shotguns. With each loss my anger grew until I was fantacising about finding the punks and pounding on them.

The truly horrible loss is the hundreds of pictures that I have taken since I backed up last. I was planning to do another backup next week when I would have the time to sort through all the files. Fortunately my writing is mostly on Worth 1000, I have lost some work on my novels from this summer, but I can recreate that with a few weeks and some peace.

I am dealing with police and insurance alone. My wife and son are in Manitoba at the funeral of a close friend’s son.

The only good news is that I did get a lead from a friend of wonderboy’s to pass to the police. With luck I will get the computer and my work back. The problem is that I don’t really believe in luck

I only wish this were fiction, but it is typed on a crappy keyboard through borrowed computer.


I am going to civilise these kids if it kills them. Usually you would say “|f is kills me”, but I have no intention of expiring. It would send the wrong message. So back they come, and find that I have sold every piece of electronic equipment in the house. I have a computer in my office, but my office is locked and wired. Here we are as they say, in the middle of nowhere. (Actually they don’t say that. What they say is much ruder.) I have given them a choice. Behave, or starve. I can’t really starve them. But I have laid in a supply of brussel sprouts, liver, and octopus and other delightful goodies.. Everytime they swear at me, I substitute some horrible food for what they like to eat. My lawyer says it is legal. They can leave anytime, but it is a good hundred miles to the next person on a road that only I use.

They think they are tough, but they don’t know tough. After all I survived what my old man did to me….


The scientists call the asteroid that killed off the dinosaurs, (maybe, if it wasn’t smoking or not properly punctuating dialog…) an ELE – extinction level event. It caused such catastrophic changes to the environment that the big guys just couldn’t keep up.

I think my life has been struck by an asteroid that is just slightly smaller. Between a very hard medium term foster parenting arrangement, the aliens abducting my son and replacing him with a zombie, (it is the only rational explanation for the change in his behaviour ) and his subsequent behaviour that turned my leisurely vacation into renovation therapy complete with torn rotator cuffs and dilapidated vertebrae pinching a nerve and the sudden tragic death my wife’s oldest friend’s son our life has become something in the same relationship to soap opera as Japanese game show are to “The Price is Right”.

Since I have been struck by a metaphysical asteroid, I figure I am due some luck on the other end and await the next Tim Hortons “roll up the rim” contest. At which time, if life were reasonable, I will win a car.

I wonder what kind of mileage a metaphysical car gets?


Jean’s mouth was held in a grim, straight line. She wasn’t frowning, but she sure as hell wasn’t smiling. Robert had been at her again. He meant well, but she was tired of being fixed. She had muddled along for 53 years pretty much the way she was, why did she need to change all of a sudden? She didn’t.

She didn’t. Jean stopped in the middle of the room as the light bloomed in her mind. She didn’t need to change. She was indeed fine the way she was.

“I’m going out to aerobics.”  she called as she grabbed her bag.

“Going out again?” Robert said. Jean heard passed the whine in his voice to the very real need. He was trapped in the house all day since the accident.

“Why don’t you come with me?” she asked. “A lot of the guys do they repeat the lies their wives tell them about how much weight they lose.”

“OK, why not?” he said suddenly and wheeled his chair to the door. She tossed her keys in the air and grinned to herself.

Just because she didn’t have to change didn’t mean that she might not want to, once in a while, when she felt like it.


Ruby hummed to himself as he flitted from one flower to the next. He was very proud of the fact that he was one of a select few birds that could hover or fly in any direction. Of course being a humming bird wasn’t all fun and games. He had to eat at least his weight every day and not all of it was just sitting there waiting for him. He ate his fair share of insects too. He moved up to a tree branch where he could save energy and still watch the flowers to protect them from intruders. While he sat there he listened to the other birds trilling away. He wished he could sing like that, but he could never learn the words.

Mary was expecting the call. What she wasn’t expecting was the call to come at 6:30 am. She dragged herself out of bed and hit the appropriate buttons on the new videophone  It was only the fact that she had gone over the presentation so many times in her head that got her through it for real. She held up the pictures and graphs to the lens and actually made coherent explanations of her work.

She did wonder at some of the expressions of her client group, but put it down to the fact that she had designed a challenging campaign. Yet in the end they bought it and asked her to send her standard contract for them to sign. Even in her mostly somnolent state she recognized this as cause for celebration. She decided to go out and treat herself to an expensive breakfast.

It was while she was brushing her teeth that horror struck. She had done her entire presentation in wrinkled flannel pajamas. Half the buttons were done wrong leaving dangerous gaps in her attire. Her hair was its usual early morning rat’s nest. Mary stared at the mirror in horror, then she started to laugh. No wonder their expressions were a bit concerned at times.

Mary still told that story to her interns from her corner office of her multi-million dollar corporation.

“It is the product that matters,” she would say, “If you do your work right you could sell it half naked. After all, that’s how I got my start.”


“Did you corroborate your story?” the editor asked running his hand through the hair that used to be on his head.

“No boss, but I did check it out.” the new intern was enthusiastic but could have been the prototype for every blond joke ever told, except for her jet black hair.

“Fine then, that will do.” He looked at the story and wished again that he wasn’t short staffed because of summer vacations. She had written something that was either brilliant journalism, or was going to get his butt sued, maybe both.

“Do you want the pictures too?” she asked.

“You have pictures?” he couldn’t stop the words from coming out of his mouth. His hand ran through none existent hair again.

“Sure,” she pulled a tiny memory card out of her purse and plugged it into a thumb drive, which she then plugged into his computer. “Let me pull them up.” She began scrolling through what seemed like hundreds of pictures. He was sure he saw a girl with very few clothes on. “Oops, you weren’t supposed to see that. She went back to the picture and deleted it. It was official. She hadn’t dyed her hair.

The pictures went on and on. She began providing commentary. This one was her little brother, that one her girlfriend, these others a variety of ex-boyfriends. Finally she found a dark picture with a couple of blobs that might have been people. He expanded it to full screen and they became fuzzier blobs.

“This is the picture?”

“Oh sure. I didn’t have my camera with me, so my girlfriend took the picture with her cell phone. I got her to email it to me, but it got lost, so she put it on her Facebook and I downloaded it.”

He stared again at the blob.

“I can’t print this.” He said keeping his hands firmly on the table.

“You can go,” he said handing her back the thumb drive. He stared at the story on his desk. It was going to be a long night checking this one out. He missed the days when he had hair. It would have been so satisfying to pull it out.


John put the plate in front of his guest and surprised a brief look of dismay before she covered it up with the “What is this? I am so intrigued.” look. However bold Katrin might be in other areas, (Some of those areas were the reason for this meal, but that properly belongs in a different story.) she was somewhat choosy about her food. John enjoyed gently teasing her with meals that looked odder than they were.

She pushed the little dumpling shapes around in their buttery sauce and looked at John.

“What are they?” she asked, “I mean, they look delicious, but…”

“They are gnocchi.”

“Nockies?” she poked at them some more.

“No gnocchi, g-n-o-c-c-h-i”

“Oh, g-nockies,” she speared on and lifted it for closer inspection.

“The ‘g’ is silent. Like in gnome.”

“Maybe you should have invited Gerald. He likes gnome food.”

“They are a dumpling made with wheat or potatoes or something.” John said in a hurry as the fork, still spearing the gnocco lowered to the plate. “The ancient Romans invented them. I thought a classic food for a classic beauty.” He held his breath as she stared at him from under her blond bangs. Then she smiled and ate the dumpling from her fork.

John let his breath out slowly and poured the wine. It might still be an … interesting evening.


Jake was comfortable. There in his Lazyboy reclining chair with the massage and heat settings he ruled his world.The remote not only worked the TV, but his sound system, the alarm system, the lights, even the coffee maker. The only thing the remote didn’t work on was Paula. Paula was Jake’s wife and the mother of his three grown children. She would leave in the morning during a fishing show, and come home in the afternoon during the show on fixing up your hunting cabin.

Jake didn’t hunt or fish much. With his bulk it was much easier to watch. Paula kept trying to convince him to leave the comfort and security of the chair. He had bought when he retired so he could watch the TV the guys had given him in comfort. The grandkids liked sitting on his knee while they watched their silly movies.

One day while Paula was at work Jake felt a pain in his chest. He figured it was the wings from last night’s poker game. But when it kept on he thought maybe he should give Paula a call. She would know what to do. Trying to get out of the chair almost killed him. The pain blossomed and travelled down his arm. He could hardly breathe. Jake fell back into the chair gasping. He didn’t want Paula coming home and finding him dead. The thought made tears come to his eyes. The remote. He reached into the pocket of the chair and pulled it out.

Jake pushed buttons until the alarm went off. Soon the neighbours were banging on the door. Soon after that the fire department and ambulance arrived.

Three weeks and a major surgery later Jake arrived home. He shuffled into the living room to check on the chair. It was gone. Jake heaved a great sigh of relief and pulled out the list the doctors had given him. Comfort was all well and good, but living was better.

Penguin Collections are a funny thing. My brother collected penguins. I say collected because he has stopped. He reached the point at which the penguins in his home had reached critical mass, and they were crowding his wife’s teddy bears.

He isn’t a real collector. A real collector would buy a larger house before giving up any addition to their collection. I guess I’m not a real collector either. I recently put a bunch of my frogs that had been sitting in boxes in the basement for three years up for sale on Ebay. My biggest complaint was that the shipping was more than the final price on my no longer beloved frogs. Of course I kept all the good ones. Like the dollar store glass frogs that decorated the cake the second time I married my wife, or the porcelain ones from Salzburg, or the hand crafted pottery one… well you get the picture.

The thing that keeps me from being a real collector is that my collection is not the most important thing in my life. I can walk past a signed print of a very hairy frog by a west coast native artist and while I appreciate it, I don’t calculate how to buy it.

I have learned how to say “Enough”. My brother has learned to say enough.

It isn’t a bad thing to learn.

We were heading out of the burger joint when the storm hit. The first drops hit the ground as I held the door for my wife and son; by the time we made it to the car thirty meters away we were soaked. The rain blew across the street in sheets making me wonder if we had been transported into one of those news reels of hurricanes hitting Florida. I decided to head for home, but stick to the back streets. With the wind and the rain shaking the car and thunder deafening us we crawled through the deluge. In front of us a tree gave way and crashed across the road pulling down hydro wires in a shower of sparks. We turned around praying that another tree wouldn’t block us in. I parked at the grocery store. The water washed past our car, coming almost up to the doors. Then, as quickly as it started, it ended. The waters receded and we weaved our way home past the dozens of trees that lay across the road.

For years after that storm, whenever it rained my son would tell me to watch out for the trees.


It has happened again. I enjoyed the one inch think New York strip loin with mushrooms and garlic and all manner of other goodies. Now it is two in the morning and I am experiencing the purgative effects of eating the toxic substance that passes for meat in far too many restaurants. It tastes good enough, but the residue of antibiotics and chemicals make it dash through my system like  an Olympic sprinter on steroids.

So here I sit – enthroned with my pj’s around my ankles contemplating. I don’t contemplate anything in particular. I just let my mind wander while my digestive organs punish me for eating something with which I wasn’t on a first name basis.

To purge is to cleanse, hence purgatory is where one is cleansed of any remaining taint of sin that might follow after death. I figure my late night meditations in the tiny room under the stairs would cut years off of purgatory, assuming I believed in such a place.

I suppose indigestion is as good a metaphor as any for the effect of evil on our world. We don’t plan evil, it just comes upon us when we lower our guard or stop paying attention. One day we find it roiling in our soul. The only thing to do then is whatever ritual of purgation will rid us of the poison. The end result is as rank and unholy as the air in the tiny bathroom when I finally groan my way to my feet and stagger back to bed.

But as they say – better out than in.


Harry sat alone at the back of the store drinking his tea. He had just had the third fitting of a suit for one of his most rotund customers – a man who refused to believe that he should look any different than he had ten years and a hundred pounds ago.  Tailoring clothes for the rich and out of shape was becoming harder and harder to justify in a world where the price of one of Harry’s suits could feed a family on the other side of the river for a month.

The business had always been in the family. It was started by a man who became an accidental hero after the careless slaughter of seven flies in a single blow. There was the regrettable incident of the Emperor’s new clothes, but still the tradition persisted. Harry had relatives who were tailors from Panama to Saville Row. They might be rich or poor, but they were all tailors. But he had no family to pass the business along.

Harry sipped his tea and wondered. If he weren’t a tailor, what would he be? He didn’t have the temperament or physique for anything more rambunctious.  He needed to find a way to make clothes take on new meaning. The front bell interrupted his cogitations. He put his cup down and went out front to meet his newest customer.

It was a thin, raggedly dressed young man – probably looking to use the washroom.

“I need a suit.”

Harry thought those were the most unlikely words to come from that mouth, yet there they were.

“My suits are expensive,” Harry said, but his hands had already pulled out his tape measure. “Stand on the platform.”

The young man stood on the platform. His shoulders were hunched and his feet were ready for a fast escape.

“Stand straight, please.”  Harry deftly measured and prodded until the young man stood relaxed and erect.

“The Council is going to shut down our houses and sell them to some developer. I need a suit to go and argue. They won’t listen to this…” he waved his hands briefly at his ragged clothes.

“When do you need the suit?” asked Harry. He walked to the back of the store and pulled out a dusty bolt of cloth. It was good enough, but somehow never took the fancy of any of his customers. “Will this suit?” he asked as he draped the cloth over the young man’s shoulder.

“Yes,” his customer replied. “The meeting is in a week.” He rubbed his hand cautiously across the fabric. “I can come in and work to pay for the suit.”

“Ah yes,” smiled Harry, “Suits and respect must both be earned. Come back tomorrow morning and I will teach you how to hem pants.”

Harry watched the young man leave, then locked the door. He carried the bolt back to his work table humming to himself. Councils and developers were almost as good as giants.

Multifaceted is the perfect word to describe my life right now. I am working at my main job, volunteering at a couple of local camps, reading books for review, reading other books for a paper I would like to write. I have also almost finished the first half of renovations to the upper hallway in my old house. Just to make life really interesting my only son has moved out leaving my dear wife and I to look at each other and wonder who we are when we are being Wonderboy’s parent’s or working.

Life is multifaceted, but that is OK. Gems are multifaceted to show the light better. The angles of reflection and refraction are carefully calculated to give the optimum sparkle and shine to each stone. They are polished and set, not with a view to protecting the gem, but so it can make a statement to the world about….well I guess that depends on who is doing the wearing. All I can hope is that I am adding a little shine to someone’s life. Somehow that makes it all worth while.

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