About me

I've been writing stories for years. I think I'm a good writer and I'm willing to bet you'll feel the same way. So here they are. Enjoy them, comment on them, tell your friends about'em, reblog them, retweet them, reread them. I have four stories in my archive so far:
"One day on the Mountain", a story of Lycanthropy, a father, and a son.
"The Boy", a story of a very ambitious and sociopathic fifth grade boy.
"The Easy Girl, A story of infidelity and unpaid sexual debts. This story is very dark.
"Brick The Mighty", a story of an aging superhero.
Although this is primarily a blog of horror, I also write about things that are important to me. I have more stories tucked away; they just need editing. There's even a few novels. There will be more to come.
PS. Feel free to leave a comment. I love comments.

Monday, 1 August 2011

The Odd Couple


"Why do all these Chinese food products have the word ‘cock’ in their title? Oh, and here’s ‘fuck’ on this one."

Said the lawyer in his tailored suit.

They were in the Ethnic food aisle, where the money he spent on his suit could dress ten passing families.
Before she got married, she would take the bus to this very store where it bordered industrial land and jam her groceries – at least twenty percent cheaper than anywhere else – into her camping pack, take the bus back and fill her fridge and the second-hand jars in her elderly pantry. After marriage, she both dreaded and relished shopping near Jason's condo at Urban Fair, where the stores flew in French bread from France every week. But for the big trips, when they had to buy staples and dozens of jars of baby food, he took them here instead. Downtown he might have to pay three dollars more for a jar of organic tomato sauce, and that was too much. Also, no one here could afford to pay extra for tomato sauce. People like that fascinated him.

An old man shepherded his retarded adult child, who made a hoarse, staccato moan that might have been laughter. The air was thick with the chatter of foreign languages spoken out of hijabs and the occasional niquab. A tall and gangling man with a wedge of red hair pushed his cart and kept a tiny Asian woman locked in between his elbows. He talked to her non-stop, and the Asian woman nodded, her face downcast, her eyelids jumping.

"You go over there and get the yogurt; I’ll take the bulk aisle and get the nut mixes," said Jason, and headed to the bins. She turned the cart, Cooper and the childseat a little precarious in the front compartment, almost hitting a gaggle of beautiful olive-skinned children, and shouldered her way through the rushing crowd past the fridges and aquariums full of scallops and King Crab to search for the dairy section.

Jason returned before she arrived there and threw three different nut mixes in the cart. One type for his power hikes, one to stash in his desk at work, and one for the home office. He'd told her it was for his glucose-glycene axis, whatever that meant.

"I know I should respect and support single moms," said Jason, "but that is just weak."

"What is?"

"Girl with the baby over there. And I mean girl. She’s filling up her cart with chips and sour cream. I did not see one single healthy thing in there. Ten bucks she heads to the smokes counter next."

Charlotte looked to where Jason was pointing. A very young woman – she couldn’t have been more than eighteen – pushed her cart and baby down the cookie aisle. She had bathroom-sink streaked hair. Charlotte had died her hair the same way at that age. Like them, she was consulting a list. "You shouldn’t be so judgmental."

"I speak from experience. When I was growing up, girls like that could flip you off, light a cigarette, and push a stroller all at the same time. They’re raising the next generation of criminals."

"What a terrible thing to say."

"Criminals have to come from somewhere. You think Cooper will be in that group? I think not. We feed him well and read him stories every night; we provide a good environment. It’s not just nature. That kid is fucked from the get-go."

"You never know."

"I know what you’ll say next. Some famous artist or composer came up from nothing; his mom on welfare, and isn’t it amazing. Well, it’s amazing because it’s an exception to the rule. Is Cooper asleep yet?"

"Yes."

"Good job."

They only had a quarter of the shopping list, and store was getting busier. It was as large as a football field yet as crowded as a small fruit and vegetable store before dinner. After muttering something about a bodum with an extra filter, Jason strolled off again.

Charlotte owned and ran a small store that specialized in fantasy paintings and sculpture. The store was in a mall in Richmond, surrounded by Asian carpet-sellers, kitchen supply stores, tiny kiosks of joke-books and calendars of every breed of dog and cat, and food courts that seemed to serve nothing but fried rice, popcorn and muffins. A stalwart group of fantasists took the Skytrain along the Number Three Road to buy goblins and warrior figurines. They were heavy, with coarse and clotted beards, and – she sometimes imagined – permanent hard-ons beneath the layers of wool and rolls of fat. The balance sheet was covered in stacks of stained bibs and bottles of breast milk; she paid the store rent and her suppliers with checks from the joint account. Once she kept Cooper in the space beside the cash register, and had her worst week ever. Her customers weren’t into fantasy for nothing.

Her wrists were aching from steering the cart through the crowded aisles. The nanny had already fed Cooper earlier in the day, and he was a content child who had no interest in nursing. Her breasts felt like they might burst.

She looked up, and there they were. An old couple. They stood out, even in a store where everyone was so different.

The husband was enormous, heavy but tall; the dense span of his body made his height less noticeable. His toupee was an anthem to age and frugality; it resembled nothing more than an old brown rug raggedly chopped into the shape and size of a skull. It sat on his head in chewed-up tufts. His wife trailed behind him, an escort to his cruise ship. She was a miniature version of him. Her long curved nose split the air before her under thick-framed black glasses. She toddled along, her head cast to the ground, a tribute to the length and misery of marriage. Compared to anyone else – the East Indian families, the Chinese mothers babying their little princesses, Charlotte herself with peasant dress and henna rinse – she was by no means a small woman. Her head jerked up when her gaze fell upon Cooper sleeping in his car seat.

"My my my," said the woman. "Such a pretty little – " and here she gazed at Charlotte for assent, " – boy?" Her voice was quite deep.

"Yes."

"He’s so fet." Her accent mangled the word and made it sound wet. "And you so skinny. You be thankful skinny gyurl like you have such a fet little boy."

"I suppose so." Charlotte didn’t know what to say.

The woman laid her hand on the cart and leaned over to look at him.

"My my, I just love babies."

She cleared her throat and called her husband’s name. It sounded like Fred, but had some added syllable Charlotte didn’t recognize from her own language, so it came out somewhat like Fled, or Fned.
He turned ponderously, his great head swiveling until his eyes found his wife and then settled on the baby. He walked toward them. Charlotte was unnerved by his size – he seemed to grow exponentially as he approached her bubble of personal space. He came within three feet of her, and she could have sworn he was over seven feet. The other shoppers somehow made their way around him.

"What’s this?" His voice was like industrial machinery as it made gravel.

His wife spoke to him with vowels that rumbled and clanked between the sharp metal consonants. Then she beamed horribly at Charlotte.

"Forgive me. My husband English is not so good. For years now I translate for him."

The husband smiled. A rim of sticky black cowered along his gumline, but his teeth were huge, healthy and square. He knelt down, and like a garbage truck extending its metal arm he reached out and stroked Cooper on the cheek. His hand was huge, the size of a center plate, with a thick coating of wiry black hair on his knuckles and long, brown nails.

"Coo-coo," he sang in his gravelly voice. Charlotte blinked and tried to look in the center of her glasses. His other fingers were hidden in a fist, but he seemed to be missing one of them.

His mouth abruptly became shiny. A thin thread of drool extended from his lip, stretched to an impossible length, and snapped.

The woman’s hand plunged into her jacket pocket, retrieved a hanky, and wiped off her husband’s mouth. He stood at his full height again before Charlotte could say anything.

"Nice bebby," he said. "I like. Ya?"

"Sure," said Charlotte. She leaned against her cart for support.

Their cart was full of meats – pressed and processed hams, rows of drumsticks, many bottles of sticky brown marinades, and near the bottom of the cart Charlotte saw a large cut section of meat wearing a white sweater of fat and strung through with clipped ribs. Charlotte hadn’t eaten meat in fifteen years, and fought back the urge to gag.

"Thank you for letting us look," said the woman.

They left her. Charlotte smiled in return and made sure Cooper’s seat was firmly jammed inside the two framed metal walls of the cart. Twenty feet away, the woman plucked at her husband’s arm and spoke to him. He pulled away with a great dramatic thrust of his elbow, nearly striking a passing old woman in the head, and growled at his wife so loudly the floor under Charlotte’s feet vibrated. He walked around the corner, his wife toddling after him.

Jason came back again.

"I just need to get flour – "

"Did you see those people?"

"No. What people?"

"This gigantic man and his wife. They creeped me out."

They rounded the same corner where she last saw them. "There they are." The man was examining the Cyrillic script on a foreign-made can. His wife stood back several paces from him, possibly because he might strike her with the can.

"Them? Just eccentric old people. They retire here from all over the world."

"You don’t see them they way I saw them," Charlotte said desperately. "They looked at Cooper in the strangest way. They said I was lucky he was so fat."

"They thought the Coopster here was cute? How frightening. I hope you weren’t rude to them."

"Oh, fuck off. You weren’t there; you don’t know."

"Where the hell are you going? What did I say?"

She pulled ahead of him. She was angry with him, but not enough to forget where she was in the grocery list. She walked towards the frozen food. She tried not to sprint by the strange couple. The man waved to her, but his eyes were muddy, deep, and unreadable.

Traveling in the opposite direction was a cart full of brown-skinned children pushed by a lone woman in a Sari. A man in a turban walked behind them, chatting into his cellphone. Passing the strange gigantic man, they didn’t notice as he slipped something into the cart between a baby in a carseat and a chubby two year old with a pulsing soother. The wife, her glasses sliding an impossibly long distance down the bridge of her nose, lifted her head and deeply sniffed in the the wake of the cart full of milk and children. Charlotte tried to see more but she was still angry at Jason. So she rounded the corner, circumvented the stacked display of paper towels at the head of the aisle, and found herself in the petfood and tea section. She wanted nothing here.

The same East Indian family rounded the opposite end and careened towards her, faster now that the father had put away his phone and taken the helm. Like her they made the pass through all the aisles out of long-established habit, and like her they bought nothing in this particular aisle. The second youngest held something in his hands. As he came nearer, Charlotte saw it was a tiny wooden box, with deep grooves on its peeling painted surface. It had little knobs and shut doors on its sides, and the child narrowed his eyes through eyelashes as long as summer wheat and pried away on one edge. The next oldest, a four year old, took the opportunity to try and pull it out of his hands. A tug-of-war ensued which the older child won, but he pulled too hard and the prize went flying through the air. Before it disappeared over the top of the stacked dogfood bags, Charlotte saw the open door in the tiny box, and the dull flash of metal.

Jason caught up with her. "Whatever I’ve done or said, I’m sorry."

"It’s fine. It’s not you."

"Is it that big guy and his wife? They’ve got you upset?"

"It’s silly."

"Tell me what’s the matter."

"They remind me of the paintings and sculptures in my store – really big, hunched over, with these great outsized features. I used to have delicious nightmares about just those sorts of things when I was little. I always thought they were out in the woods, hiding outside a farmhouse window. Not in the city shopping for drumsticks and BBQ briquettes."

"What do want me to do, Char? Arrest them? Give them a DNA test to see if their blood is green? Alright, I’m sorry I said that."

"You better be."

"But you do know this is funny, right? I promise I won’t tell anyone about it, but it is funny."

"I guess so."

Between her with the cart and Jason’s scouting expeditions to the store’s nether regions, they were done. Their last purchases were several little bags of individually wrapped chocolates from special holiday bins at the back of the store. "Probably rancid, that’s why they’re so cheap," said Jason almost happily. At the halfway point they walked by the single mother and her child, her hair falling into her eyes as she wrestled with something in her hands. Oh no, thought Charlotte, she’s forgotten her wallet and she can’t pay. Almost a toddler, the girl's baby sat in the makeshift seat by the cart handles, fast asleep with tiny plump legs dangling through the footholes.

The lineups were terrible at any of the registers save the express, which they couldn’t take anyway. They settled into the line Jason guessed was the shortest, and settled into waiting while she read a gossip magazine and he fumed. She was reading something undemanding and perhaps that was why her mind clicked and told her something.

In her mind’s eye she was in her shop, reading a magazine during a quiet period, idly contemplating the floor and deciding whether or not to vacuum, and turning her head, ever so slowly, to the multi-tiered glass case ten feet from the counter, next to a rack of coffee-table art books and posters of Elvish princesses and Franzetti prints. "It looks just like a game of three-dimensional chess," a customer had told her. He had been tall, wearing an oilskin coat, a fedora, and a ponytail. She was puzzled until he said, "from Star Trek? Spock was always playing it."

There, on the middle glass pane suspended in air by ornate metal columns, below the heroes with their swords and sorcerers’ capes, and above the virginal, doe-eyed maidens with Mayqueen garlands of posies, were the villains. Unlike the heroes and maidens, the metal in which they were cast made them uniform grey, but the sculptor made up for it in the details. They always had hairless heads, sunken eyes, and often carried a stick, or a rock tied to a swinging chain. They were stupid, but full of low cunning. In one of her books an old painting showed an ogre, his mouth open and his hands extended, as he crouched over a bed full of sleeping children.

She remembered the man, and his great and unkempt fingers as he stroked her son’s cheeks, and the wife’s happiness at Cooper’s baby fat. The grocery cart full of meat.

A scream rang across the store.

Charlotte said to Jason, "Watch Cooper," and ran toward the sound.

In the middle of the store, surrounded by a circle of curious people, was the young girl. She was hunched over. Blood dripped from her hand. For a moment she looked odd and incomplete and Charlotte couldn't think why.

"My fucking hand, what the hell," she said. "That little box I found on the floor. I was about to give it to my son. There’s a knife, or a needle in it or something. Fuck, does it ever hurt."

She looked up and saw that she was alone and her cart was gone. Her face went blank and then swam with fear. She said something, and Charlotte got only two words of it before she heard the crash. The floor shook, and a boy wearing roller blades and the store uniform rushed by and around them towards the noise.


The girl had begun to scream again – not her scream of pain Charlotte had heard before, but a wordless howl of loss. Charlotte followed where she was staring, and saw half an aisle away the mother’s cart where she had stacked several bags of chips and cheesies and shrink-wrapped bags of hotdogs. There was empty space where the sleeping boy had been. The mother ran to the cart, looked around it for any sign of her son, and sprinted in the direction of the crash.

Around the corner a grocery cart lay on its side, wheels spinning. It had been packed so fully with meat and meat products that they had not come loose, save for a enormous rack of ribs covered in plastic wrap. It lay flat on the floor several feel away. In its spongy centre was a dirty and impossibly wide boot-tread.


Charlotte ran to the front of the store, pushing past the line-ups, and the people entering the store. Through the window she scanned the parking lot. The mother kept screaming, yelling for someone to call the police, yelling please someone help me, for God's sake. 


 Of all the shoppers leaving for their cars, only they had no shopping cart. The man was walking fast, taking delicate strides to appear as if he wasn’t running. His wife was running, doing her best to keep up with him in a scene that must have played itself out in their marriage for however long they had walked the earth, and Charlotte suspected that might have been a long time. But everyone has to retire and move to a land where the nights are not so cold. Everyone has to retire.

The man’s jacket bulged on one side. He looked around, his great brow beetling as he looked about to see if anyone was looking. The wind blew at that moment, toppling the terrible old rug from his head. Charlotte saw him for what he was – old and horrible, with a cunning hungry brain underneath that gray wrinkled scalp. His head was oddly shaped, and his face twisted with rage when he realized he was exposed. He grabbed with one hand at the falling toupee; the other hand was holding the edge of his jacket shut. Charlotte could hear him through the store’s thick windows as he roared at his wife. She scooted down and picked up the toupee.

They got to their car. It was some old boat, a retired old man's car, made when gas was cheap and cars were the size of truck. Long and cuboid, with grainy brown siding. He opened the trunk. Charlotte saw something thrashing weakly in his huge hands before he shoved it into the trunk and slammed it shut.


He ran around to the driver’s side, and stopped. He looked up, and looked straight at Charlotte, straight at her across the parking lot and through the streaked windows. He pointed with one great, wickedly nailed finger, and cocked an eye at her. His mouth moved slowly, with great exaggeration. Then he squeezed himself into his car and started the engine. His wife barely made it in before he floored it and shot out of the parking lot. The big old engine roared.

Charlotte stared at the road for a while, numb. When she walked back inside, Jason was still in the line for the cash. He carried Cooper in one arm and had a trashy magazine in his other hand.

"I think that girl lost her kid," said Jason. "Nasty business. There but for the grace of God, that’s what I say. Did you see anything?"

"No."

All she could see was the man's eyes, seeing her across the parking lot. The old woman's enormous nose, flexing and questing like a lamprey. Smelling Cooper, smelling Charlotte. They would know her anywhere. She saw them slowly trudging through Yaletown, the wife sniffing, getting closer to the shops where Charlotte went, to the place where Cooper had his playgroup. She saw the old man, looking at all the windows in the buildings, seeing perfectly into every one. She remembered his finger, pointing at her. She remembered the words he had telegraphed with his lips across the parking lot. You saw nothing.
 "No," she said again. "I didn't see anything."

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