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FF – Lockdown

It’s my photo this week. The picture shows part of the Rouge River near Toronto Zoo. It’s a beautiful place and feels a lot like freedom on day trips from the city. We take the kids often and let them paddle, climb and explore. It’s one of those places that is wonderful in every season. We went a lot this winter, when there was nothing else to do and nowhere else to go, but this particular story takes place back on the city streets, inspired by those bleak ‘eyes’ staring out of the image.

Toronto has had the longest lockdown in North America (one of the longest in the world; depending how you measure it); as we gradually lift restrictions, it’s clear that lives have been saved, but you only have to talk to a few people to learn the cost of the lockdown. I’m not saying we shouldn’t have done it, I’m just saying we need to acknowledge the losses and find ways to minimise their effects.

Lockdown

It’s our designated hour for walking.

I remember the first weeks, when we skipped in the Spring sunshine, enjoying the freedom and the fresh air on our faces. We’d take chalk and leave trails for friends to follow. After our hour, we’d retreat inside, draw rainbows and paste them to our windows.

The rainbows are faded now. The sun’s shining, but we trudge. I catch a glimpse of a face pressed against the glass. His eyes are empty; he is young enough not to have known the Beforetimes. I wonder if he’s young enough that he will see the After.

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Reflections

Photo courtesy of and copyrighted by Roger Bultot

Reflections

“Nobody can see themself properly.” Rhian watched her sister glaring at the mirror. “I promise you look fine.”

Bryony twisted her torso, trying to make her belly disappear. The extra inches just moved to her hips, and then onto her thighs. “Urgh. I’m disgusting.”

Rhian wrapped her arms around her sister’s emaciated frame. “No more mirrors,” she said. “Let’s go get ice cream!”

“I ate already.”

Rhian remembered her sister taking an hour over a single cracker at breakfast. Then she thought about what Dr Sarah had said. Pamper her.

“OK,” she said, grabbing her makeup box. “Makeover time.”

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FF – A Single Candle

Photo credit to Na’ama Yehuda

A Single Candle

Father Michael was glaring, hellfire shooting at me out of his eyes. I stopped dancing and bowed my head, but it still felt like he was watching.

“We’re supposed to listen to the music. It makes us feel closer to God,” he said after. I knew he meant me.

I asked Ms Mwanna later. “How can God make Father Michael angry when He’s the one who made me dance?”

“Your God makes a lot of people angry,” she said. “Keep dancing, my girl. I reckon you’re closer to Him than they are anyway. One day, you’ll light up their darkness.”

Extroduction

Melanie is a recurring character in my blog, and one of my favourite characters to write. You can find more of her stories using the Melanie tag.

As for this story and photograph, snow in July throws me for a loop. A friend recently posted a skiing photo on Facebook. It took too many seconds for me to realise she hadn’t shared a memory… she lives in New Zealand!!

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FF – Special Relativity

Photo credit J Hardy Carroll

Special Relativity

Time moves slower on a train. It’s the perfect chance to read or to write, even to sleep. If you don’t mind occasionally waking up in Wales. But the world moves faster around it, changes at a glance. Bleak warehouses become sheep, huddling from the rain that minutes ago was sun.

You can age a year just waiting for leaves to be cleared, but the world won’t hold on. The wedding can’t be delayed for a single guest, even one who might have put a stop to it and told her she was making a mistake. Especially not for him.

Extroduction

Einstein’s Theory of Relativity is a great example of why I didn’t study physics beyond 16. I just… no, it’s ridiculous. I mean, I’m not saying I know better than our great scientists, I’m just saying this is theoretical too far for me. If you are interested though, here’s the video Sebastian and I watched this morning to try to understand it for this story. Start about 3 minutes in for the portion this narrator is referring to.

Albert Einstein’s Theory of Relativity – YouTube

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FF – Inside and Out

Copyright for this photo belongs to Sandra Crook.

Inside and Out

Maggie barely knew her own name, but she always recognised Stan: never took her eyes off him. We admired their love and his daily visits – most husbands came a couple of times a week. Then I noticed Maggie flinched when he held her hand … realised she watched with fear, not adoration … heard the tone of his whispers.

After he left, I took her for a walk in the garden. Out of the blue, she grabbed a rose and snapped its stem and flicked a bug from within.

“Even the most beautiful things can be rotten inside,” she muttered.

Random Ramblings From Me

Today’s photo actually made me think of the word pock-marked, and the etymology of that in ‘the pox’. When people talk about eliminating Covid-19, I often point out the humanity has eradicated precisely one disease ever and it took almost 200 years. I think our best case in the short-medium term has to be harm reduction not virus elimination.

Vaccines are incredible though. Smallpox killed 3 in 10 of those infected, its eradication has to be one of humanity’s greatest success stories and is a rare example of truly international cooperation. Wandering down the smallpox rabbit hole, I discovered Ali Maow Maalin, the last man to catch smallpox minor. Maalin had avoided the vaccination program when it came by, because he was scared of the needle. He isolated at home during his infection (sound familiar?!) and when he recovered, he went to work on the Polio vaccination program, persuading others to participate. As a result of the work of Maalin and thousands of others like him, polio is now endemic in only 2 countries. Two of the three strains have been eliminated completely. Another wonderful success story.

All my research turned up lots of stories, like Ali Maalin’s, which a historical fiction writer might have turned into their Friday Fiction. But none of them stuck. Instead, the muse decided to turn my attention to two other ‘pandemics’ that we have been living through for years.

There are around 10 million new cases of dementia worldwide every year. Although many dementia patients die of something else first, none recover and it is in itself deadly.

The UN has found more than 30,000 women die each year from domestic violence. That statistic was measured before Covid-19 and lockdowns, which appear to have increased the levels of domestic abuse. Many, many more, live with it for years and may or may not ever escape, let alone recover.

Neither dementia nor domestic violence has any hope of a vaccine.

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FF – Born Under A Wandering Star

Thanks to Russel Gayer, long-term Fictioneer and great humorist, for the photo.

Born Under A Wandering Star

I was born under a wandering star, but roots grow deep without meaning to. I stopped when my truck died on the highway, thought I’d work a few weeks to pay for a fix. Then I met Gloria.

Two guys together don’t roll into a new town round here unless they want to be rolled right back out, so we stayed. He’s been Gloria for years, so they’d all gotten over it before I arrived.

Truck’s all grown up with ivy now – kids climb in and dream of traveling the world. Been there, done that. Turns out it’s right here.

If you’re in the mood for a musical interlude, check out one or more of the links below, which came to mind as I wrote this story.

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FF – Empty Chairs

Photo copyright Brenda Cox

Empty Chairs at Empty Tables

We giggle and order everything we’ve dreamed about for months – it’s a good feeling to be out together again.

At the next table, the man tells the waitress to remove her mask, says he’d rather die than wear one. He gets angry when she refuses, starts shouting about infringement of liberty.

An older lady approaches from where she was sitting alone. She’s a full foot smaller than him but there’s strength in her eyes.

“A little more caution might have meant my husband was with me today,” she says. “Is a mask a greater infringement of liberty than death?”

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FF – The Discovery

Photo copyright Alicia Jamtaas

The Discovery

This is the News at Five

After yesterday’s discoveries, our historical experts have been investigating the impressive collection uncovered by the Earth lander. A reminder than excavations unearthed a near-perfect collection of plastica objects believed to be from some time around 21st century of the Earth Epoch.

In spite of their age, the items are almost intact and indicate a hitherto-unknown faith held perhaps universally by our ancestors. The crowned Goddess depicted on each sacred drinking vessel appears to be nautical. Waves of hair cover her naked form and tail-like shapes appear to flick behind her.

Her name was Starbucks.

Extroduction

This wasn’t the story I was planning. I can’t decide if it’s a bit cliché these days. But I was talking to the boys literally yesterday about what would happen if humans suddenly disappeared from Toronto. How fast the plants and animals would take over, and what would remain. So I guess this photo took me there.

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FF – The Destination

This photo, courtesy of Dale Rogerson , reminded me of the Big Apple we pass on our drives out East. The story that follows is fictional, but we’ve never stopped. Perhaps we should.

The Destination

Whenever we drove East, we passed the Big Apple. Mom said it was a pie store, and we couldn’t stop because pie’s not good travel food. I recently discovered there’s a whole play park there too. I asked Mom why we never stopped.

“Honestly? I wanted to. I asked Dad every year, but it’s such a bad location. If we stopped there, we’d never get to the island.”

“Isn’t the point of a vacation to enjoy the trip?” I asked her.

“Dad always wanted to get where he was going,” Mom replied, tapping the urn. “And now he’s made it.”

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FF – Ooops!

Photo credit – Liz Young

Oops!

“Oops!” was one of Mum’s words.

Graze your knee in the playground? “Oops!” Crash the car on your driving test? “Oops!”. Knock red wine all over her new carpet? “Ooops!”

We joked that if we killed someone she’d maybe add an o or two, but still reach for “oooops!”.

She died before I realised it was a defensive mechanism; a reaction to the punitive parenting – if you can call it that – of the nuns who raised her. There was no room for “oops” at the convent, and Mum was determined everyone have space to make mistakes. Even herself.

N.B. Like most of my stories, this one is entirely fictional. I do say ‘oops’ a lot, mostly while watching motor racing crashes.

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