TOTEMS This is the story. It isn’t my story. It was given to me in a dream to tell, so by obligation to the dream, I’m telling it. Long ago, when the great forest covered all this place…

Source: Totems

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Forgotten by its mother and abandoned by its father it was a lonely thing made of silver needles and deep indigo eyes filled with stars.   

  Having pity on it, they hid it in a box of mirrors so it wouldn’t be lonely and they wouldn’t have to listen to it cry itself to sleep. It was well hidden and content. They say it would even purr on occasion when a ray of light would slip between cracks in the mirrors, so all was fine and well with the thing in the box until the day they lost it. 

                …

    It was a curious brooch that she wore. They say it was given to her by a young suitor that gave it to her as a promise for an engagement ring. He died in the war, and never bought her a ring, but she wore the brooch in his memory. 

  Some days she wore it on the brim of her hat coddled amongst a bunch of feathers, others it say starkly on the lapel of her waistcoat prickly and glistening in silver shivers and iridescent blues. 

   She loved the strange burr of a brooch. She swore that it seemed to sing to her and would sound like the voice of the young man that gave it to her. Her heart longed for him and when she’d place the strange silvered burr into the mirrored box he’d given it to her in, often she would cry. 

                    …..

    

    Sometimes silence is absence, and the day finally came when they noticed the thing was missing and they began to look for it. 

               ….

    The shop was old and filled with obscurities and oddities. The mirrored box arrived one day in package of the remaining unsold effects of a certain deceased woman with no next of kin. 

    He’d run the store for so long he was as much a piece of bric-à-brac as any other item in the collection of memories for sale. 

    What was another package of an unsold estate items, but something to be stuck on a shelf in a back room to be opened later for anything of value. 

    It was near closing on a dull Wednesday afternoon, when the clouds were skittish, and the sun greasy, and sales as cold as the half finished cup of afternoon tea that he heard a tiny mournful weeping coming from the back room. 

                ……

   There are cracks between coiled universes. Edges of angles that don’t quite fit in the shadows of corners where straight lines merge with the geometry of a curved world.

   That’s how they heard the thing crying, and that’s how the emissary they sent found its way into the storage room, that’s how the emissary planned to take the thing home once it found whatever it was imprisoned in. At least it was until the shop owner walked into the store room and found himself face to face with the emissary. 

   Something with far too many teeth and arms hissed as it ripped apart everything on every shelf in the storage room throwing them around looking for something. 

  Thinking he’d walked into his own nightmare the shopkeeper backed out immediately but not before grabbing the package closest to to door from which came the strange crying. 

.,,,

  

   

   

    

I wanted to paint 

your portrait,

But every colour 

was wrong,

And every line 

was somehow 

skewed,

So I left 

the canvas 

blank,

And painted 

The perfect 

portrait 

Of you.

My grandfather passed away yesterday at the grand age of ninety-seven years young. His name was Milas Douglas Thomas. I called him Opa.
I thought about what I remember most about him. I remember he loved trains, having worked on the railroad. If he ever told a you a story about trains, his face would light up and you couldn’t help but absorb a bit of that magic.
My grandparents once lived in Saskatoon, not far from a train bridge that crosses the South Saskatchewan river across the street from their house.
I can remember visiting them as a child and hearing the train whistle, and the rhythm of the wheels on steel tracks from the house as it crossed the bridge. I love the sound of a train.
Even today when it’s quiet and I’m in bed at night I can hear trains as they come into or go out of the city, and I’m always reminded of my childhood and the trains in Saskatoon, and ultimately of my grandfather who gave me a love for trains.
Rest in peace Opa.

TOTEMS

This is the story. It isn’t my story. It was given to me in a dream to tell, so by obligation to the dream, I’m telling it.
Long ago, when the great forest covered all this place and the first people spent their days busy under the sun and sat at night by the fire under the stars, Raven gave voice to the eldest of all the animals to teach lessons to the first peoples.
Now, seeing this, the evil one grew jealous of the talking animals. In shadow he brooded as the first people listened to the lessons taught by the eldest of all the animals. Attention was not given to him.
Loathing the choice Raven made, the evil one decided to destroy all the animals given voice.
Now bright eyed Raven knew the evil one’s heart and would not have his purpose undermined, so Raven turned all the grandparent animals into totems and gave them to to children of the first people.
So when the evil one set out under cover of night to accomplish the deed that had consumed his heart he could not find the eldest animals. Scour the forest as he might their presence was lost to him. He could only find children playing with carved toys. These he ignored and passed the children by.
As a cold howling wind he scoured the great forest, but to no avail. Thwarted he returned to his dark place brooding, but Raven smiled. His purpose had not been undone,
In dreams the animals given voice still teach the lessons of Raven, saved by children, turned to totems. The lessons learned in dreams.
As I said, this isn’t my story. It was given to me in a dream to tell. And so by obligation to the dream I have told it.

Rob Thomas.

So these two alien zombie rubber chickens walk into a seedy bar called “The Canned Tuna” down by the docks. It was late on a weeknight and the patrons were few and spread out in the dank smokey club.
A calypso lobster band droned out a slow rhythm while a tired barracuda danced for few clams tossed onto the stage by a couple of hammer heads on leave for the weekend.
The bar was owned by a fat sweaty overbearing sharktopus names Eddy No Butt. He smoked cigars, grinned evilly, treated his dancers badly, and didn’t take kindly to jokes about his lack of having an ass. He had too many tentacles and couldn’t keep them from where they didn’t belong. Eddy tended bar and short poured the drinks. For Eddy profit came before customer anything.
“What can I get you boys?” Eddy inquired of the two alien zombie rubber chickens through a puff of cigar smoke as they came up to the bar.
“Tequila” they said in unison.
Eddy’s deft tentacles quickly short poured a couple of shots and slid them across the bar.
The two alien rubber zombie chickens slammed a pile of clams on the bar and downed the drinks.
Eddy scooped up the generous payment.
“More!” they said together as another pile of clams skittered onto the bar top.
Eddy quickly refilled the glasses inadequately. There were clams in his eyes as he said moving the cigar to the other side of his dangerous mouth , “You’re new around here. What brings you to The Canned Tuna?”
At that moment before they could answer, Dora the Damsel fish swam up to the bar with a tray and and an order of drinks,” Scuze me Eddy. But I need 10 seaweed ales for the boys at the stage. Ska- use me sta- rangers” she said getting between the alien rubber zombie chickens and the bar with a pop of her chewing gum and a fish tail wiggle that usually ended in a bigger tip.
The pair of birds shuffled out of the way.
There was a few more hammerheads grouped around the stage now as the barracuda had finished her dance. She scooped up the few clams tossed to her and slowly swam behind the faded curtain. The calypso lobster band struck up some bland intermission rhythm. The rowdy crowd of young sharks were making a lot of noise in anticipation of the next act.
Eddy quickly filled the tray. He hated serving bottles of ale because he couldn’t short the patron. He scowled at Dora biting the cigar almost in half as he slung the filled tray across the bar at the petite Dora.
“Sorry Eddy but the hammerheads like their ale. They ain’t interested in happy hour hiballs.” and she grabbed the tray and turned before Eddy could try to grab at her.
“Scuze again shugs.” Dora pushed her way between the alien rubber zombie chickens with an “a hun” a gum pop and a wriggle and made her way to the the group of hammerheads whose banter grew louder as she tended them bottles of seaweed ale.
Eddy was getting irritated. The next act was slow to come on. His grin got wider as his cigar grew shorter. The cloud of smoke around his head barely obscured hid maliciousness.
“More!” the two alien rubber zombie chickens blurted out distracting Eddy from his anger. “More Tequila!!”
The distracted Eddy accidentally overpoured a double shot for the two in his anger and frustration. He cursed under his breath but the pile of clams that skittered across the bar turned the curse into a blessing.
It only took a moment and two empty glasses slammed onto the bar top. The alien zombie rubber chickens were definitely inebriated.
Eddy tried again hoping for a refill. “So what brings you two strangers to The Canned Tuna?”
But it was too late. The next dancer was introduced to a raucous applause from the hormonal hammerheads that drowned out any answer. Eddy bit his cigar in half and swallowed the dead end.
“And here she is from her tour of the ten seas. Direct from The Uncharted Waters. Dancing for your pleasure! Bulimia , the barely legal lesbian mermaid recently pierced and tatooed and recently freed from binging on calamari!”
The two inebriated zombie rubber chickens turned towards the stage muttering “Stella ” and there was a blinding flash and the chickens and the mermaid were gone. Eddy wanted to crap his pants, but he couldn’t . He has no ass. The hammerheads were dumbfounded for a moment but their silence quickly gave way to anger. Dora scuttled for cover with a click of her gum and all eyes turned to Eddy. Eddy wasn’t smiling anymore.

The bus pulled up and they checked the ticket. The last few things we shared carried slung over her shoulder and she turned one last time.
And it wasn’t the whispered good- bye or the tear in her eye. Or the reluctance of one last embrace. It was when the door slammed shut and the knot in my gut followed by thunder and a downpour of rain. I knew in my heart as the greyhound pulled out. I would never see her again.

Rob Thomas