Category Archives: short stories

Burn/I’m On Fire

“So kiss him again,
Just to prove to me that you can,
I will stand here and burn in my skin,” – from “Burn” by Ray LaMontagne (LaMontagne)

“Sometimes it’s like someone took a knife, baby, edgy and dull,
And cut a six-inch valley through the middle of my soul,” – from “I’m On Fire” by Bruce Springsteen (Springsteen)

 

As the summer days race toward their end, I am drawn back to the beginning of the season and the words I wrote about how I feel so lost from my friends. So lost I rode my motorcycle the 2500 miles from Los Angeles to Toronto and “screamed banshees” through our old neighbourhoods.

It has been a summer of reflection and trying to understand myself and my actions more or less over the last ten years. Those ten years include the inspiration for my TV show Astoria, and then the writing and five year run of the show itself. Before I give you the final stories and their life altering conclusions ever appropriately accompanied by Springsteen inspirational quotes, I want to revisit the scene from Season 1 of Astoria when I followed Erica to the departure area of Toronto’s Pearson Airport, and then followed myself home.

In case you forgot, the story went something like this:

From what Erica’s sister Nikki told me, Erica was on her way back to her fiancé Damo. At least that’s what I inferred from Nikki telling me that Erica was on her way to the airport. I didn’t wait around to hear the rest, if there was a rest to hear.

I got out of the cab bristling with nervous energy. The departure drop-off lanes at Pearson were their usual mess of cars swerving over each other. Every part of me had a layer of perspiration. I had no idea of the airline, so I entered the nearest doors and searched in every direction. I might have even stared at the ground in case somehow Erica found herself meshed with the cold tiles.

It was ridiculous to think that anything was going to happen with her and I. This, more or less, was what Omar yelled after me as I bolted for the door. Chris just said my name in an imploring lilt, and I believe Cynthia said something about being a dummy. All due respect to my friends but, fuck those guys. We finally – only took five years, five hundred conversations, and one awesome night on my couch – proved them wrong. Though the current state of Erica and I maybe proved them right.

I looked up and saw Erica standing with Damo not more than 100 feet away. He had a traveler’s backpack snug to his shoulders and she had nothing more than her purse hanging tight to her back. Her hands rested on his shoulders and his cupped her waist. I willed my feet to move but the neurons must have crossed the signals as I could nothing but stand rigid with unblinking eyes and I was drawn into the past. Continue reading

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If It’s the Beaches

“Take whatever what you think of,
While I go gas up the truck,
Pack the old love letters up,
We will read them when we forget why we left here,”  – from “If It’s the Beaches” by The Avett Brothers (Avett, Avett)

 

In the waning minutes of the day, people mulled around outside the cabin sized bus terminal. The long shadows of dusk echoed the anticipation of goodbyes that weighed down their shoulders. It appeared no one was expecting an arrival that night, just a group waiting for the inevitable departures of loved ones.

They stood closer to the roadway away from the group. The slight breeze brushed across her bare shoulders and kept her cool on the humid July evening. She looked up at him. The wispy air played with the ends of his unwashed hair, but couldn’t seem to nudge it out of his eyes. When she did catch a peek of them, the whites were cracked with red, and the blue stared at her suitcase near her sandaled feet.

“Tomorrow, I shall no longer be here. Nostradamus,” she said.

“I should never have switched from scotch to martinis. Humphrey Bogart,” he said. Continue reading


White Line Fever

“And I took one last ride by your house, and saw you sitting there inside,
Thought about our love, and all those things, that seemed to make it die,
Well baby out of all them other girls, you’re still the best that I’ve ever seen,
But I just sit there idling, wondering when everything,
Got so fucked up, got so turned around,” – from “White Line Fever” by Blacklist Royals (Blacklist Royals)

 

Christian “Kimbo” Marshall wondered if anyone besides his band mates could tell a sort of death was near.

They had just hopped on the small but legendary stage at The Horseshoe for The Something’s Coming secret show. Fifteen years on, they were still Toronto’s favourite punk sons, whatever that meant anymore.

He strummed the guitar anchored around his thin and inked neck, and looked out at the rammed back room. Kimbo remembered being one of those kids, sweaty with anticipation at seeing a favourite band and ready to get wetter with the rest of the crowd.

From behind the drums, Ben yelled ‘ready’ and Yuriana – she preferred Yuri for short – and Max, the other members of The Something’s Coming, yelled ‘ya’. With the affirmation, Kimbo assaulted the strings with his thin pick and tore through the opening thrash of “Day Train”. While his mind should have been on those expectant faces in front of him and giving them “the best goddamned show they had ever seen”, as he was once quoted as saying, it was on the conversation he’d had with the three assholes facing his back.

“Are you fucking serious?” he yelled while he faced the living room wall of Ben’s Admiral Rd. mansion. His eyes shot to some snooty painting for fear he would lash out at anyone in his view. It wouldn’t be the first time they had physically confronted each other, but this time it was four against Kimbo and he knew his anger would only be met with solemn shakes of their heads.

“It just makes sense man. Like we’ve got other shit we want – ” Ben cut off with  a shake of Yuri’s head.

Kimbo turned when Ben stopped and looked at Yuri herself.

“Chris…it’s the last tour…that’s it. No discussion, no anything. Maybe in a few years we can pick it back up, but for now, we’re done,” she said.

Her words were calm, measured, and direct. They pierced Kimbo like needle sharp daggers, imperceptible at first, yet devastating when he realized how deep they had cut.

What the fuck am I supposed to do now? he thought.

He spread his arms wide and said, “What the fuck am I supposed to do now?”

Kimbo looked at each of Ben, Yuri, Max, and then at Roger the band’s manager. Their silence did little to sway him.

“Fuck. This!” he shouted, followed by stomping out of the room. Continue reading


Fake Plastic Trees

“She looks like the real thing,
She tastes like the real thing,
My fake plastic love,” – from “Fake Plastic Trees” by Radiohead (Greenwood, O’Brien, Greenwood, Selway, Yorke)

 

Del bought the plant because he and Colleen broke up. The only reason he dated Colleen was because she had the same name as a girl in a Dropkick Murphys song. The only reason he bought the plant was because he wanted to see if he could keep it alive longer than any of his failed relationships.

He succeeded.

The end.


Runaways

“I knew it when I met you, I’m not gonna let you runaway,
I knew it when I held you, I wasn’t lettin’ go,” – from “Runaways” by The Killers (Flowers)

 

They traveled. They went to Montreal, New York, Los Angeles, London, Dubai, Paris, Marseille, Cape Town, Pretoria, Johannesburg, Vancouver, Rio, Casablanca, Jerusalem, Amsterdam, Berlin, Dublin, Cardiff, Bucharest, Lisbon, Kyiv, Krakow, Nice, San Francisco, Seville, Prague, Cairo, Bangkok, Brisbane, Sydney, Perth, Madrid, Bilbao, Barcelona, Valencia, Wellington, Auckland, Ho Chi Minh City, Jakarta, Beijing, Shanghai, and Hong Kong.

When they traveled, they sometimes went alone.

They ate and they drank. They fucked and they made love. They held each other and they slept. They yelled and they screamed. They walked in silence and talked for adventure.

They almost stopped speaking five times throughout the 40 years they were together.

They liked hugs, but didn’t like holding hands.

They loved animals. Even the scary ones. Continue reading


When We Were Young

“Let me photograph you in this light,
In case it is the last time,
That we might be exactly like we were,” – from “When We Were Young” by Adele (Adkins, Jesso Jr.)

I found an old newspaper that I saved because it had picture that hit a chord of inspiration for me. Here’s the story I wrote about it:

Olivia kept the photograph of her grade three class because it was in the newspaper. When she was nine, she did not really understand why it was a big deal to have your picture in the newspaper. Her mother kept it safe for her at first, and over the last twenty years, it traveled everywhere Olivia traveled. Even to the mushroom-tripped and MDMA flights during Thailand’s full moon parties, the picture was in her bag. What Olivia most enjoyed about it was you couldn’t see her face. Naomi’s right arm covers it as she raises both triumphantly in the air. Olivia’s own arms are also raised, but in front of her. She always thought this was hilarious as there is no way to confirm it is even her in the picture. Continue reading


Here Comes My Man

“Let the good night decide, who she wants me to find,” – from “Here Comes My Man” by The Gaslight Anthem (Fallon, Rosamilia, Levine, Horowitz)

I asked my friends (and myself) if they could remember the first time they fell in love with their people. Here is what they came up with:

Omar: “When we were sitting on the fire escape at our old apartment during my welcome home party from rehab. It was like the first time I looked at her. Like actually observed her as this strange human being. She wasn’t the person I slept with. She wasn’t the person that picked my ragged ass up off the ground. She was a stranger, and it was that stranger I think I fell in love with. I saw her from the moment she was born and through all the moments of her life until we sat on the fire escape that day and figured us out. I knew I loved her in the seconds before I told her. I’m just glad I remembered her name.”

Chris: “Don’t ask me Jack. My love stuff is more fucked up than yours. Okay fine. When did I realize I loved Ava? When I watched her plane takeoff and I looked to my right to make some off-hand, bullshit comment, and I realized she wasn’t there. She was hurtling through the sky, away from me, at thousands of miles per hour. So I bought a ticket on the next plane to London and the rest is boring, ancient history.” Continue reading


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