Nebula (#8) Is Proud To Present


by Colin Ward


This, our eighth, feature is a sampler of the work of Colin Ward, a writer living in 'Winterpeg, ManItsColdA'. It includes a poem, an excerpt from an unpublished novel, and -- in the Nebula tradition of eclecticism -- a song. Enjoy. Enjoy.

Triptych: Three Not So Easy Pieces
by Colin Ward

Left Panel (Poem)


 When our teacher told us to rise
   for the "Lord's Prayer"
 My friends,
   Siddhu and Abdul
   looked at me
   with dog-to-the-vet eyes
 But I could not understand.

 Years later,
   driving through the God-is-dead section of town
   I saw the atheist version
   scribbled on slum walls
   one line on each surface
   as I proceeded north:
         "Our father
          Who aren't in heaven
          Hollow be thy threats
          Thy kingdom's gone
          Thy will be read on earth
          As there is no heaven
          Divvy up this day
          Our daily bread
          And forgive us our trespasses
          As we shoot those who trespass against us."

 Far too late
   I understood.

Central Panel (Novel Excerpt)

Chapter III: Phoenix Son (from In The Shade)

It was more than a year since Grandpa McGuire had died. Three years since the divorce. Occasionally some of Grandpa's friends would drop by 'to see how Jim was making out'. This was a thin pretence. Usually they were desperate for refuge against agents, debtors, fans and/or the law. Some were curious to see if Jim was continuing the open house policy of his grandfather. Jim tried to be a gracious host. No one was turned away. He would greet them at the door, lead them to the living room, fetch them a cold drink and begin polite chit-chat. How have you been? Oh, fine. How long has it been seen we've seen you? Has it really been that long? Eventually the guests would yawn or glance at their watches and say 'It's getting late...'

Jim lacked the empathy and charisma of his grandfather. He couldn't keep an audience spellbound. He hadn't inherited Grandpa McGuire's ability to open heart and hearth to acquaintances. After a day or two the guests would leave. None of them ever returned.

Jim hadn't written a word since the funeral. He still did some reading and editing for Stork. The bills had to be paid.

Only now was he beginning to appreciate the inspiration that his grandfather had been. It wasn't that Jim used his grandfather's story lines. He considered them silly allegories with no popular appeal; no 'bad guys', sex or violence. What Jim missed was experiencing Grandpa's ability to hold an audience spellbound with those diatribes and parables. If only he could hold such sway over an audience! If only people paid the same fascinated attention to him that they had to Grandpa. Even if it were an audience of one. Sarah, perhaps. Or Margaret.

Without Jason's story-telling to draw upon the younger McGuire floundered. What was there to write about? And what was the point? The world had far more hack writers than it needed.

'I heard a feminist woman say that men are useless,' Grandpa had said shortly after the departure of Sarah and Margaret. 'She didn't know how right she was. We are useless. Superfluous. And what's worse: we know it. When the ships go down it's women and children first. We used to have wars to get rid of `excess' men. Pacifism became popular only when war got too messy; when too many women and children were killed. We're hardly needed for procreation; the population actually booms after a war has killed off half the men. In the family the father is a luxury--a luxury that fewer and fewer families are affording these days.'

'So what's the point?' Jim had asked.

'We don't always miss the things we need. It's like being deficient in a vitamin. Time goes by, our condition slowly gets worse. So slowly we hardly notice it. I've heard of an experiment some psychologists conducted. They put a frog in a pot with some water. They began heating it up. The frog simply adjusted his body temperature. As the water got hotter and hotter the frog continued to accomodate. Eventually, the frog boiled to death without ever trying to jump out of the pot.

'We men get separated from our families and we never really understand how much we miss them. We forget how nice it was to be part of a family. We adjust too easily. Too well. Like the frog.

'We never consciously voice it but we know, in the back of our minds, that we're...expendable. Unnecessary. Extra. Is it any wonder why we drive fast cars, play dangerous sports, smoke, drink, start wars and look around for other suicides? You know, we men take great pride in the fact that we're not afraid of dying. Sometimes I wonder if we aren't afraid'

Jim hadn't fully comprehended this sermon when he'd first heard it. But now that he was alone Jim began to understand what 'unnecessary' meant. Sarah and Margaret didn't need him. Sarah had a good job selling computer software. Didn't even need child support. Knowing his circumstances she had told him not to bother sending money. Something about 'shipping coal to Newcastle'.

Jim was more than proud of Sarah. He was envious of her. Sarah was alive. Jim was entombed in this cabin, lost in the northern wastelands. Sarah had her friends on the coast. Parties. Gatherings. Jim had only Bernice, his St. Bernard. And Sarah had little Margaret. Sarah would continue to play an integral role in raising their daughter. Sarah was part of a process that stretched back to the beginning of humankind and forward to its ultimate destiny. It was something primordial. Perpetuating the species. Sarah's role was important. She was needed. In every sense of the word Sarah was vital.

Little Margaret would be starting grade one in a couple of weeks. Margaret was a survivor. She would do well with or without a father figure around.

Jim sat in front of his blank computer screen. He had the best hardware and software that money could buy. His system had excellent word processing, style checking, text searching and print spooling programs. The computer itself was state-of-the-art for that era: a 60 Megahertz 80486 with 128K cache memory, eight Megabtyes of Random Access Memory, Super VGA colour monitor and a 426 Megabyte hard disk drive boasting a fast 9 millisecond access time. With a 14,400 baud fax-modem Jim could use his phone line to exchange manuscripts and revisions with Stork. At 17 pages per minute his laser printer could produce documents in seconds. Facing $20,000 worth of computer equipment Jim could not produce one word. After an hour the screen was still blank.

Jim swung clockwise 180 degrees in his leather swivel chair. He stopped as he faced the east wall of his den. Shelves of old books--mostly Grandpa's--stretched from floor to ceiling along this entire wall. Perhaps, if he read for a while, an idea might come to him. Sure. Read a little Vonnegut, some Voltaire, a dash of Kirouac and a sprinkle of St. Exupery. Jim shook his head in disgust. What would come out of such a combination? Mutant Princes from Mars?

A restless feeling overcame him. If only he could write a best seller! To be free of money worries! He could set up a trust fund for Margaret. Wouldn't have to sit here like a fool wishing that his computer could write books for him. He could assert that his grandfather hadn't wasted his time raising him. He would be able to demonstrate that, at one time, a man named Jim McGuire had passed this way. These things were important to him now.

Jim could deal with the feelings of uselessness. That was part of being male. He could handle the loneliness. After all, he had Bernice the St. Bernard with him. At least Bernice would never leave him.

It was cold comfort to know that even Grandpa had suffered fromloneliness. Jim's grandmother, Mattie, had died when Jim was only seven. Jim didn't remembered her very well. But he remembered how disconsolate his grandfather was without her.

'Jim, do you know what a taboo is?' Grandpa asked a few days after Grandma's funeral.

The young boy shook his head.

'Do you remember last week when you couldn't sleep because you were afraid of the boogie man? Remember how you didn't want to tell me that you were afraid of the boogie man?'

Jim nodded.

'You knew that the boogie man doesn't really exist, didn't you?'

Again the boy nodded his head.

'A taboo is like the boogie man. It's something people won't talk about. We know we shouldn't be afraid. But, in fact, we're so afraid of it that we refuse to even talk about it.

'You know, we used to have lots of taboos. Boogie men. Death. Guilt. Even love! Lots of taboos.'

'But we can talk about those things now, can't we?' Jim asked.

'Yes, we can. But there's one taboo left. One of the boogie men still survives.'

'Which one is that Grampa?'

'Loneliness. You know, it's almost funny. We can talk about anything. We can admit to anything. On the talk shows we see people admitting to murder, abuse, theft, anything. But we can't talk about loneliness. And loneliness isn't even a crime! The worst of it is that the lonely usually don't even have anyone to tell it to.'

'Are you lonely, Grandpa?'

The elder McGuire nodded.

'Maybe it's never been said by one human being to another. But I'm telling you, Jim: I am lonely.'

Jim remembered how he had felt at that moment. Even a seven year old knows that loneliness comes from being alone. Grandpa had Jim there but considered himself alone. It was as if Jim didn't exist. The Invisible Child.

With Grandpa, Sarah and Margaret gone, Jim felt that way again. But worse than these feelings of isolation and insignificance was the feeling of powerlessness.

Grandpa had felt powerless too. A few months before he died the old man sat motionless on the living room couch, staring blankly at the coffee table in front of him.

'Something wrong?' Jim had asked.

Grandpa McGuire did not respond.

'Gramps!' shouted Jim as he snapped his fingers in front of his grandfather's face. 'Earth to Grandpa. Is there anything wrong?'

'Yes,' replied the septuagenarian, 'very much so.'

Jim waited patiently for further disclosure. Grandpa had recently been diagnosed as having Alzheimer's. His speech was slower now and his memory lapsed at times. This was one of his last fully lucid moments.

'Jimmy, when we were young we thought we were gods. Invincible. Many of my friends went off to war in Europe and Asia. Some didn't make it back. Must have been a shock to them; they all thought they were invincible. And powerful. Thought we could change the world ourselves. We even thought we had magical powers. Used to yell at the television set, trying to direct the football players. At the bowling alleys...we'd twist and yell at the ball. Thought we could change its course after we'd thrown it. Used to judge everyone all the time. Like God on Judgement Day. Hard to figure the world was here before us. Hard to figure it would be here after we die. Used to get angry when people wouldn't do what we wanted 'em to do. Didn't make sense.

'Yes, Jim, we were gods. Invincible. Immortal. Always sitting in judgement. Gods on a planet full of gods!'

Jim squinted his eyes as he tried to keep up with his grandfather.

'But now that I'm old I know how mortal I am. And I'm not so judgmental. The world was here before me and will get along fine without me. At last, I'm human!'

'Of course you're human.'

'That's right. I'm not...all-powerful. Not all-knowing. I'm human. And so is everyone else, although they may be too young to know it yet. That's what this is all about. That's what all of this bullshit is all about.'

The elder McGuire was excited; his voice was stronger, his words were rushed and he was using a word like 'bullshit'. For this one last moment in the sun Jim got to see the old Jason McGuire.

'What `bullshit' is that, Gramps?'

'Life. Conflict. Self-examination. Philosophy. Humananity. Fate. Everything. Don't you see? We're all gods, becoming human! And until all of the gods become human we humans must protect them. We have to remind the gods of their humanity, even if they choose to ignore it. We have to see that they live long enough to discover their own mortality. Their own humanity.

'And to do this we humans must draw strength from our own weakness.'

Jim remembered a time when he himself felt this way. In fact, on that occasion he too collapsed on the couch and stared blankly at the wall. Then it was Jason's turn to ask what was wrong. Jim had been very slow to reply. His eyes were moist and his voice was unsteady. Grandpa had caught him at a very bad moment.

'I just got back from town,' he began. 'I saw Debbie Morrison on Molte Street. You know her. She was in my high school class. She lost her job when Siberry's went mobile.'

Siberry's had been a manufacturer of designer jeans. It had been the largest employer around Gopher Brook. When the union contract had come up for renewal the company demanded pay concessions. The union refused so the company simply packed up and moved elsewhere. 'Going mobile' was a very common practice in the conservative 1980's. Many companies, large and small, took advantage of freer international trade to go overseas. Others, like Siberry's, simply moved on to the next town down the road. Siberry's made a big fuss about being 'forced' to close down because of 'unreasonable union demands'. A week later, under a new name, the company with its same equipment and owners moved 200 miles west to Busterton. A simple change of address and name became a powerful union-busting weapon.

'Debbie's husband left her a few years ago. She's got two kids. Living on welfare. When I ran into them on Molte they were trying to sell their furniture at Muldoon's Second Hand Store. A thirty five year old woman and two kids carrying a bed down Molte Street. Nice life!

'I stopped her and asked if I could help. She didn't say anything. She was embarrassed. Friends shouldn't be embarrassed like that. Eventually she said that she could manage. I asked her if she needed anything. She just shook her head. Friends shouldn't have to lie like that.

'I don't mind telling you that I felt like a piece of dogshit on that sidewalk. And it wasn't just her I felt sorry for. I mean, there was so little I could do. And what's worse, I was doing even less than I could. I sit here killing time, reading and writing shit, while Debbie Morrison is selling her bed on Molte Street.'

Jim was not the only one wiping tears from his eyes.

'Pretty shitty,' concluded Jim. But he always remembered what his grandfather said next.

'The situation is, as you say, `shitty'. But there is something wonderful here.'

'Wonderful? And what the hell might that be?'

'This is a very proud moment. Today, my grandson became a man.'

'Grandpa, I'm 39, for God's sake. I've been married. Got a daughter--'

Jason stopped him with a wave of his hand.

'I remember the day you graduated from high school. You looked down from the stage at me. I knew what you thinking then. You were thinking: `Today I am a man.' I know. That's how I felt the day I graduated. You felt the same way when you graduated from college. I remember the day you married Sarah. You looked at me that same way, as if to say: `Well, today, surely, I am a man.' And I remember the way you looked when you brought Margaret home from the hospital.

'But today is the day that my grandson became a man. I'm very proud of you.'

Jim could never hope to understand his grandfather. But he was elated by the fact that this was the one and only time that Grandpa had ever said those words: 'I'm very proud of you.'

Sitting alone in his writer's garret, struggling with his own impotence, Jim did not feel elated. He couldn't bring Grandpa back. Hell, he couldn't even bring Sarah and Margaret back--and they were still alive. He couldn't force the world to buy his next book. He couldn't even force himself to write the damned thing!

Jim stood up. Clearly, he was not going to produce anything worthwhile this morning. With his toe he hit the switch on the power supply to his computer. The morning sun filtering through Venetian blinds warmed his back as he crossed the living room. Indian summer. Late October usually had the residents of Gopher Brook shivering with cold and fear of snow.

The walls of the house's main room were alive with native North American paraphernalia: a huge, gawdy mask, a ceremonial spear and a blood-stained buckskin shirt stretched across the west wall. The wall that divided living room and den sported another mask, shaman's rattles and ochre-stained cooking utensils. All of this was the legacy of his grandfather. Grandpa McGuire had been fascinated by these artifacts. Native archeology, sociology and history had always interested him.

English was a second language in the McGuire household. Jason had taught his grandson what he called 'the Language Of Our People'. Jim refered to it as 'LOOP' and assumed that it was a native American dialect. After all, Jason was one quarter native himself.

Jim remembered when, as a child, he had been taken to various native meetings. 'Pow-wows'. He had always felt awkward there. These gatherings were not well attended by other non-indigenous people. Little Jim had been intimidated by the sea of red-skinned faces evaluating him. These faces stared blankly at him whenever he tried to communicate in LOOP. Perhaps it wasn't a native language, after all. Maybe it was Gaelic.

Grandpa, on the other hand, felt at home at these outings. Jim remembered the time they attended a meeting of the Iroquois nations. The various tribes had met to discuss self-government. Some had argued that native groups should establish independence. Others feared abandoning the patronage of the federal government. Much to everyone's amazement the grand council solicited Grandpa's opinion. The old man picked up a stick and handed it to the leader of the independence faction.

'Break it,' Grandpa had commanded. The chief complied without difficulty.

McGuire Sr. then handed a stick to the leader of the federalists, asking him to snap it in two. Again, this posed no problem.

Grandpa then handed a large bundle of sticks to each of the two chiefs.

'Break these,' he challenged. Neither was able to accomplish the task. The chief elder of the council smiled. He praised Grandpa's wisdom. Jim watched as the council decided to 'correct an accident of birth', conferring honorary Iroquois status on Grandpa McGuire. Hearing that this honour would also extend to his offspring unsettled Jim. Caucasian boys of his age were generally more comfortable as cowboys than Indians.

Over the years that followed Grandpa was inducted into three more tribes: Hopi, Huron and Cree. He struggled for recognition of native rights in South American and Canadian parliaments and in the offices of the U.S. Congress. The old man got his nickname 'White Owl' not from the natives but from a Canadian Minister of Indian Affairs who had more dealings with Grandpa than either man might have liked.

Jim's thoughts returned to the task at hand. Where was the television remote control? Must be under all of this rubble on the coffee table. Pizza boxes, beer cans, papers, TV guides and place mats. Start by shaking all the pizza boxes. Open the ones that rattle. Nothing but mouldy crusts. Rustle the beer cans and shake the place mats. No luck. Drastic measures may be unavoidable. He may actually have to--gasp!--clean up.

Wait a minute! There it was! Under the couch. Must have dropped it there when he'd fallen asleep last night watching CNN. The previous night's program had been about the media's role in the fight against drug use. CNN's contribution to the struggle has been the irradication of any need for barbituates.

Click! The television sprang to life at the touch of the remote switch. CNN again. Some nonsense about this year's boogey man. Gaddafi, Hussein, Castro, Idi Amin, Ceaucescue. Whoever. The names where interchangeable. The stories remained the same. Another murderous tyrant who wouldn't buy arms from North America. Certainly not to be confused with Batista, Pinochet, Somoza or the Shah of Iran.

Ten o'clock in the morning. Time to eat. Eating earlier than 10:00 A.M. was unthinkable.

'It's like tomahawking your stomach,' Jim would say.

The McGuire 'manor' did not distinguish between kitchen and living room. The refrigerator was placed conveniently beside the leather sofa. Behind this divan was a small preparation table with a toaster and microwave. There were two cupboards beneath the table: one for dishes, one for food. Utensils could be found in drawers between these cupboards and the table top.

Jim opened the food cupboard. Empty. Not a crumb.

'Jesus!' thought Jim, 'This makes Mother Hubbard look like a hoarder!'

One of these days he'd have to go into town and do some serious grocery shopping. Come to think of it, Christmas was coming soon. He'd have to do some gift shopping for Sarah and Margaret. What does one buy for a 6 year old girl? Jim's stomach growled: 'Forget Christmas! Feed me! FEED ME!' Obviously, Jim's digestive tract had learned to speak from watching 'Little Shop of Horrors'.

Jim skipped around the sofa and opened the refrigerator. What have we here? Hmm, typical bachelor fare. Beer and cheesecake.

'Breakfast of champions', he muttered. Cherry or blueberry cheesecake? Decisions, decisions. Blueberry seemed more appropriate to his mood. So blueberry it would be.

Jim couldn't remember shopping for this cheesecake. It could've been there since the Big Bang for all he knew. Another decision: should he microwave it to destroy the germs? Jim pondered the questions for a moment. He came up with three reasons not to mike his dinner. For one, there wasn't any visible mould growing on it. For two, bacteria was the closest thing to culture found in Gopher Brook; why kill it? Thirdly, the beer had fermented; why shouldn't the cheesecake?

As he tasted it Jim felt vindicated by his thoughtful choice. The 'aging' process had given the cheesecake a unique, full-bodied aftertaste.

'I'm a genius,' he told himself. As he lay on the couch he opened his bottle of beer against the edge of the coffee table. Jim prided himself on never drinking beer out of a can. He was a slob, not a boor.

CNN was showing the President of the United States railing against the proliferation of nuclear arms in smaller, non-aligned countries.

'Harrumph!', grunted Jim. 'That's like the Boston Strangler calling the Boston Red Sox `chokers'.'

As Jim finished his breakfast the President was calling for support in a war against the latest prospective nuclear power. Jim scowled. The guest seemed to suggest that the answer to nuclear weapons was conventional warfare.

'It is true that there is a distinction between American republican and British parliamentary democracies,' his grandfather had once argued. 'The British have an intrinsic faith in government. They see it as benign at worst, protective at best. That's why socialism thrives there and not in America. But people in the States rebelled against that very government. Americans tend to view government as a hostile and intrusive entity. Hence, the War of Independence, the right to bear arms, the Wild West, the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. And, since government is seen as an adversary, people in America tend to elect very mediocre Presidents. Men incapable of competently actualizing all of the malicious and invasive intentions ascribed to governments. No stuffy intellectuals in the White House, please. That's why, while parliamentary democracies elected Churchills, Trudeaus and, yes, Hitlers, Americans voted in Bushes, Reagans and Nixons. Some might describe the latter three as evil. No one has ever called any of them an `evil genius', like Hitler.

'Take Nixon, for example. Here was a man who not only bungled the WaterGate cover-up but who actually retained tapes to prove it! What was frightening was the fact that Nixon would have survived the Watergate scandal. His downfall came when people began to perceive him as being too clever. Cunning. Calculating. Nixon's fate was sealed when the public began calling him `Tricky Dicky'. That's the irony. He was forced out of office for the one crime of which he was complete innocent: the unforgiveable `crime' of intelligence!'

Jim smiled at the memory. Grandpa McGuire had taught him a unique appreciation of current events. Nothing, however, could make Jim appreciate CNN. With a deft flick of the remote control off switch Jim put himself out of his own misery.

Jim carried his desert dish and fork over to the sink. He took no notice of the crusted china and cutlery stacked there. There were a few clean dishes and utensils left in the cupboard. No need to do a wash yet.

After depositing his dish on top of this heap Jim leaned against the counter. What to do now? He strolled over to the VCR and checked the tape. Damn! He'd forgotten to record 'Donahue'. Now, certainly, there was nothing to do.

He wandered outside, letting the screen door slam shut. October was merciful this year. The sky was clear and the sun could still lure bathers out to perfect their tans. Late autumn left the wind scentless. There was no smell of pollen, blooms or harvest in the air. Most would not notice these absences. Jim breathed deeply, knowing that his allergies would not flare up.

The last time he'd seen such weather in October was when Sarah, Margaret, Grandpa and he had gone to the coast to visit Sarah's parents, the Flynns. Ten years ago. Mrs. Flynn suggested that the men should rent a boat and do some fishing. Had they ever fished for marlin? No. Brook trout and smelt. But fishing was fishing. It was all the same thing, wasn't it? Sarah's mother smiled and suggested that the McGuires go and find out. Mr. Flynn agreed to tag along.

Mr. Flynn was a golfer, not a deep sea fisherman. But he'd been out a few times. Compared to the McGuires Flynn could've played a title role in 'The Old Man and the Sea'.

The threesome went to Walker's Wharf to rent a boat. They didn't anticipate a problem. The proprietor took one look at the McGuires, shook his head and muttered something about 'flat-landers' being the worst sort of 'landlubbers'. A boat? All of the larger boats were already rented out. They would have to take two smaller dories. And a guide.

Alright, bring out the guide. Impossible, replied the proprietor. All of the guides were already out for the day. At this impasse Flynn suggested a day on the golf course as an alternative. Walker sighed. His wife could look after the shop and he would accompany them out. He approached this task with the same enthusiasm as one might go to a dentist.

Jim marvelled at the tackle. What was this, the anchor? No, groaned Walker, that was their sinker. A sinker? The damned thing must've weighed a hundred pounds! And the fishing pole! It looked more like a telephone pole. Why so large? Walker fitted on the sinker and the reason became obvious. The rod bent almost double under the weight. It was harder to make things sink in salt water, Walker explained, his patience straining with every minute.

What was the club for?

'You, if you ask any more silly questions!' Walker must have thought.

'You'll see,' Walker assured him.

Old Man Flynn accompanied Jim while Grandpa McGuire went with Walker. This would allow McGuire Sr. to mollify Walker while Jim would benefit from the limited experience of Flynn. As soon as the two boats settled in a location Jim stood up. Flynn turned around just in time to see Jim's sinker flying through the air like a wrecking ball, swinging towards his head.

'How do you cast with this thing?' shouted Jim as his father-in-law ducked.

Walker tried to keep a tight rein on both dories. But after an hour Jim's boat drifted out of earshot.

'I've got a bite!' shouted Jim. From the tug on his line he knew it wouldn't be a salmon. A marlin, perhaps? Jim giggled with glee. Flynn had already moved to the farthest end of the boat. He now tried to move even further away. He almost fell overboard in this effort.

Walker gasped as he spotted the tell-tale dorsal fins at the end of Jim's line. A shark!

'I've got a marlin!' screamed Jim.

'Cut the line!' hollered Walker.

'It's huge!' exalted Jim.

'Cut the line!' Walker bellowed.

'I'm reeling him in!' vowed Jim.

'CUT THE LINE!' Walker begged.

For half an hour Jim fought his prey while Walker tried unsuccessfully to start his motor. Grandpa watched helplessly as Jim struggled to get the six foot shark aboard. Flynn recoiled in terror as Jim landed his quarry. Jim's fish took up the entire dory; both Jim and Old Man Flynn retreated to the gunwale at the front of the boat. Every minute or two Grandpa McGuire could see the shark thrash about and snap in the air. Jim armed himself with the club and batted his catch repeatedly over the head. Neither Jim nor Flynn could get to the back of the boat to operate the motor. When Walker finally got his motor started he towed the other boat back to the dock.

Jim would not be discouraged. He dragged his catch onto the dock and exhibited it. Onlookers gathered around him. This was his finest hour. He couldn't hear the observers commenting about the fool who had not only landed a shark but displayed it so proudly!

Walker strode out of his marina, down the length of the dock and handed the bill for his services to Mr. Flynn. Grandpa McGuire snatched it from Flynn's grasp and paid Walker in cash. The grizzled old seadog grabbed his money and started back up the dock.

'Can we eat him?' asked Jim as Walker passed by.

Walker stared vacantly at Jim.

'Can we eat him?' repeated Jim insistently.

Walker's patience snapped.

'Eat him? EAT HIM!? You're fucking lucky he didn't eat you!'

Jim's relationship with his father-in-law cooled somewhat after this trip. Flynn had always suspected that Sarah had married an idiot. This trip removed all doubt.

'I can forgive you for marrying my daughter,' allowed Flynn. 'But I can't forgive this attempt on my life.'

The October sun edged toward its zenith. Jim knew well enough that he'd already passed his own.

Right Panel (Song)


 A gambler sees his next card as his last source of mercy
      G               Em7              Am7            D7
 He calls a St. Bernard every time he gets thirsty
      G              Em7        Am7           D7          
 He knows he's in the game;  he knows the deck will be stacked
      G                Em7        Am7                D7   
 As he reaches for a bag that is never fully unpacked.
          G           Em7          Am7        D7   


           And I just don't know
                C  G         Bm7
           If it's a struggle or a show.
                         C     G     D

 Debutante sees her dance card as her last source of pleasure
 She steals a glance, she takes a chance, but knows she cannot measure
 The world that lies behind those eyes, looking back in terror
 Is this a test?  A joke?  A jest?  Or just another error.

 The fighter sees his next card as his last hope of glory
 They say it's like a dance, just a little bit more gory
 He leaves the fans all cheering; he leaves a man there kneeling
 But it's cost him all his senses.  It's cost him all his feeling.


Colin Ward is a writer, "itinerant computer consultant", and tournament chess and bridge player. He works and plays in Winnipeg, Manitoba. A rumour has it that Mr. Ward might be willing to reveal more of his novel to anyone emailing him with words of sufficient enthusiasm. Write to Colin Ward

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