Please do not adjust anything…


Every time.

Every time there’s a major shooting incident involving someone straight up murdering a ton of people in a public space, the definition police show up on line to educate us.

Every time someone uses the convenient short hand of “assault weapon”, we get treated to a long lecture on all the minute differences between various types of automatic and semi-automatic rifles, the correct nomenclature of each of these, and the apparently enormous chasm between a military weapon and something made for general commercial sales.


Close behind them are the statistics-police, who inform us that we aren’t defining “mass shooting” properly, and that if we were, we would clearly see that not only have the number of shootings in the USA declined by (insert arbitrary percentage point here, because they NEVER have a direct source for this),  but if you use their definition of one or more people killed by gunfire in any and all circumstances, it is plain that Italy (or Easter Island, or Greenland, or some other place) clearly leads the pack.

And then, like some eerie Greek chorus, the “Nothing can be done” singers show up to tell the world that the citizens of the USA are so extremely lawless, violent, and nefarious that it would be impossible to limit how and where they can access any type of gun they wish for, let alone take any of the existing guns away from anyone, no matter how troubled and/or criminally insane their past might show them to be.

And we’re all back to thoughts and prayers, too, because, clearly, this is not the time for politics. When that time might be is not ever mentioned.

None of this would matter to me – as a Canadian, I have shopped for my entire life without once worrying that some mad lumberjack from Nelson, BC would open fire on the people cruising through Roots looking for a new sweatshirt – except that I don’t live in a “me and mine only” mindset.

I care about all of us.

And I need all of you to care, too.


Flash Fiction Friday!

I didn’t start out life intending to become a criminal.

It just goes to show that these things can happen to anyone: a toss of the coin, a turn of the cards – one bad bit of luck can take you places you never wanted to go.

But never mind all that. The fact is that by the time I was twenty, I had closed off every other option in life, and I was, in fact, one of the best burglars in all of Fendrais. Not for me the risky life of a pickpocket or the violence of highway robbery: I specialized in knocking off snatch-and-grabs from the most showily  elegant townhouses of the newly-wealthy.

Oh, but what about the servants?

Don’t make me laugh. The moment the master and mistress are out the door, their butlers and footmen are into the left-over port, and the parlour-maids are on the back steps, flirting with the grooms.

If you’re agile and have a head for heights, you can be in and out before anyone even shuts the front door.

I’m never greedy, and I’m always cautious. I spend days watching my chosen target, and I never take anything that might be too precious or too unusual not to be instantly missed. A china figurine from a grouping on the mantel, or a silver fork or five from a drawer crammed with a hundred more just like them – and with a little deft rearrangement, the theft might not be discovered for weeks.

Every so often, though, there’s something a little more…lucrative. Old Pol, the fence in Gauderaude, well, sometimes a client might want something in particular, and since I’m the only one he knows who has never been caught, it’s only sense that I would get the call.

The Tremaurian Rubies? Yes, that was me. Right after the summer fete, too, for all they weren’t  discovered to be missing until Midwinter.

The Rainewell Chalice? I took that, too. It was a bit of work, that one. I spent a full month figuring out how to hide inside the Town Hall overnight, and how to get back out again in the morning without being noticed, and I did two test runs before I actually lifted the dashed thing, and no – it wasn’t magically alarmed, whatever the mayor claimed afterwards.

I try, really, not to get overconfident. You know how all my former teachers and mentors had gotten caught? Five good heists, and you think you’re uncatchable.

Of course, that’s when the sixth one goes wrong and you fetch up at the gallows.

I wasn’t going to let that happen to me.

Power Dynamics (and why you need to step up your game, fellas)

girl walking

It’s a tradition for me and my nephew to go out for lunch together as an end of the school year celebration. He works pretty hard just keeping his act together for nine months, because focusing on schoolwork is challenging for him, and it’s good for that effort to be noticed and valued.

Also, he’s a hoot and I like hanging out with him. He chose Taco Bell because tacos are his favourite food, and yes, you and I know that what he gets there are not really tacos, but that’s what we have here in the thriving metropolis of Camrose, Alberta, so that’s where we went.

And then, as we were walking back home, I got cat-called by some guys in a pick-up rolling by.

Evan just did not get it, and we had to have a talk on power dynamics (not to mention good manners), which was not what a celebration of completing a school year without driving his teacher absolutely batshit insane was supposed to be about.

First I had to explain what was yelled out, because sexual innuendo isn’t really in a seven-year-old’s vocabulary, and walking the line between enough and too much information isn’t easy.

Then we discussed how this relates to power over others, bullying, and being kind and welcoming to others.

And you know what?

He did most of the heavy lifting himself, recalling situations on the playground where people denied other people the right to occupy space, or made it seem like they had the right to decide those things for others.

He came to the conclusion that yelling comments at strangers was at the very least incredibly rude, and that people should not do this.

I think if Evan can figure this out before he’s out of elementary school, all the adult men complaining about being called out for this stuff should just STFU.

Because you should at least be capable of the maturity of a grade 2 student, right?

Flash Fiction Friday!

On that particular Saturday, Myra woke up at exactly 6 a.m., as she always did. She lay gathering her thoughts for precisely five minutes, then rose, put on her brown terry-cloth bathrobe, went to the toilet, brushed her teeth, made herself some coffee, and sat down at the kitchen table to write a grocery list.

It was not her usual list, though. This one was heavy on the ingredients for casseroles, crackers and similar “appetizer” finger foods, and freezable desserts, all with longish shelf lives and suitable for the kind of function that inevitably follows a funeral.

Myra had always made sure no one had to do anything for her, and she wasn’t about to let dying change that.

Garbage Collection



The other day, there was a news story about how a group went out to a beach somewhere and gathered up a literal tonne of plastic and garbage from the shores.

It was the quintessential climate-emergency “feel-good” story.

“Look what we can do if we only try!”

But I had some questions.

Mainly, I wanted to know what precise good this was going to do, overall, because the garbage still *existed*. Picking up didn’t make the garbage go away – it didn’t magically disappear. It still exists, as garbage, and, I suppose, would go on to a landfill, still polluting the earth, but just not where anyone could see it.

A lot of people complained that it was still a Good Thing to have done, because at least it wasn’t polluting the ocean, and I guess that’s true enough.

But today I had an idea about where people could put that garbage, and all the other garbage they collect in this effort to clean up (finally!) after ourselves.

We could arrange to deliver it to the appropriate governmental offices.

Here in Alberta, we could dump it on the lawn of the Alberta Legislature buildings.

In Ottawa, it would go best on the green expanse in front of Parliament.

US people could maybe look at 101 Independence Avenue SE, in D.C.

All around the world, we could drop that tonnage, so lovingly collected, in a place where those who are blithely ignoring the problem can see it, and maybe we could leave a note, advising them that it is their problem, for real now, and we are eager to see what they do about it.

Because playing three-card Monty with our rubbish isn’t working that well so far.

Flash Fiction Friday!

She stood in the shadows, watching the wall.

It was a damp, dank alleyway, a place for vagabonds, hookers, and thieves and rarely anything else, and for three nights now, she had watched, but no one came.

This night was different, though – she could feel it. The air was still and humid, and the sounds from the street behind her seemed muted and dim. This was the night. She was sure of it.

The light from the windows above winked out, and it was several moments before her eyes adjusted. There was just that one moment to feel as she had before – the anticipation, the sense of triumph – and then the panic set in.

He was as beautiful as the early dawn, and she hadn’t expected that. Oh, sure, she’d heard the rumours, but she was worldly and experienced enough to have discarded those as simply embroideries on an ancient tale. She’d expected the ugliness of centuries, the twisted remnants of force gone bad, but there he was: tall and pale, with fine-drawn features and a well-tailored suit, not one hair out of place, and his lips curving into an inviting smile of welcome.

She raised the crossbow.

His smile widened.

“Alicia,” he said, softly, and it was like warm cocoa with marshmallows, it was sweet and wise, it was like a fond grandparent, so filled with love…

Had he come closer to her, or was that merely illusion?

“Alicia,” he said, again, and she felt herself weaken.

“No,” she said. It came out thick and raspy. “No, not this time. I won’t let you.”

He stepped one long pace forward. His eyes were sorrowful. “My dear child, don’t be ridiculous. How will you stop me?”

She didn’t answer. She couldn’t. Her tongue was stuck to the roof of her mouth, and her eyes were drawn, inevitably, inexorably, to the shapes beyond, the twisted remnants of his victims, their lives reduced to the terrible graffiti of shadows that lingered, like ghosts, on the wall behind him.

Was she drowning? It felt like it. Things seemed to move so slowly now, and she saw the crossbow begin to droop.

No. This wasn’t how it was supposed to go. She had studied the history, memorized the patterns, and she’d taken every precaution. He could not win, not this time.

She looked up and realized he had stepped even nearer. He was only an arms-length away now. She tried to raise the bow, but it was heavy in her arms.

“Kneel,” he said simply, and she did not even try to resist this, she sank down in obeisance onto the wet asphalt, feeling the cold and the gravel through the fabric of her jeans, her bow tilting up as the base hit the ground in front of her.

He was only a hands-breadth away, and as he reached out to pat her head, he said, very amused, “Good dog.”

And that’s when she shot him.

Point-blank range and a crossbow bolt made from sky-iron, straight through the heart.

It’s the only way the Elder Gods can die.

Talking ’bout my generation…



What happened to us?

There was a time when we seemed open and welcoming to every form of self-expression, assuming that that expression did no harm to others.

We celebrated diversity.

We did.

We took courage in these words Chimes of Freedom

We sang along with this oboladi oblada

We knew the truth of this  Big Yellow Taxi

We rocked out to this Lola

These were hit songs, and we knew all the words. We believed them.

We put our bodies and our futures on the line in massive demonstrations, begging the world and the powers that be to stop killing people. To let us all sit on the bus together.

We marched for peace and civil rights, practically every weekend.

And now?

We vote for people who are infinitely more repulsive and dangerous than Nixon et al ever were.

We complain if those on the margins call us to account.

We might not actually chant the hateful words, but apparently, we don’t much mind of others do.

I am angry. I am ashamed.

And I want to know what happened to you. Why you have betrayed every one of your best selves, and support injustice and racism, and think that “things have gone too far”.

Because, believe me: your 20-year-old self thinks things have not gone anywhere near far enough, and they would haul out Madame Guillotine for each and every one of you, were they to see you now.