Tag: short stories

New Term

Orange cones blocked various lanes of the road today. There was fresh paint on the school crossing lines.

The newspaper contained a thick wad of “back to school,” flyers.

Turned on the radio and heard that B.C. is hiring hundreds of teachers. Apparently the province is advertising coast to coast for all grades and subjects.  French immersion teachers are in especially high demand.

All in all, there’s a buzz in the air. Summer is drawing to a close.  School starts in less than two weeks – a new term, a new year, new challenges, new friends to meet, new skills to master.  I always loved the return to school.  I know, I’m weird, but by the time the air turned crisp in September, I was bored with summer and ready to get back to the routine of books and classes.

I haven’t gone to school for many years now, but I still feel energized by cooler air and shorter days. I’ve been re-reading, re-writing and tweaking my collection of Christmas stories.  Many of these tales have been sent to my newsletter subscribers, so the edits have been done before, but there’s always room for improvement.  I’ve fixed a typo here and there, re-arranged a sentence to have more impact, and written new material.

I’ve worked with a red pen on a paper ms.  Very old school of me, but that is my comfort zone.  No one rings a bell at 9:00 am or demands that I present clean finger-nails for inspection, but, in my own way, I’m going back to school.  The student in me enjoys the crisp, clean paper and the sharpened pencils.  The teacher in me is quick to spot misspellings, poor grammar or awkward writing.

The new collection is titled, “The Man Who Hated Christmas – and other short stories.”  I’ve got the cover image – see photo at the top of this blog – and a deadline for formatting.  I’m happy.  I feel like I’m going back to school.

How about you?  Do you love or loathe going back to classes?  Do you prefer a new pencil box or a new ipad?  Leave a comment and I’ll enter your name to win an electronic copy of The Man Who Hated Christmas.  Winner to be announced Nov. 1, 2017.

Dreams and Promises

 

This is the cover for an anthology of six Canadian short stories/novellas written to celebrate Canada 150.  In case you hadn’t heard, my country is celebrating a big birthday.  The British North America Act was signed into law on July 1, 1867.  Under its terms, the land we now know as Canada ceased to be a colony of Great Britain and became, instead, an independent nation – with certain caveats.  We were still part of the British Empire and Britain controlled our foreign policy.  Thus, in 1914, when Britain declared war on Germany, Canada was automatically at war too.

The story I’ve contributed to this anthology is set in the aftermath of the Great War and is titled, “When the Boys Came home.” The title references a famous song of that era

Keep the Home Fires Burning, 

While your hearts are yearning,
Though your lads are far away
They dream of home.
There’s a silver lining
Through the dark clouds shining,
Turn the dark cloud inside out
‘Til the boys come home.

 

There are no WWI veterans still alive in Canada, our last known veteran, John Babcock died in 2010 at the age of 109. Still there are many families, including mine, who have old photographs of relatives who went to war. When they came home, most of them refused to speak of the unspeakable hell they had endured.

Perhaps they hoped that keeping silent would help them forget.

Perhaps they wanted to protect their loved ones from the terrible knowledge of trench warfare.

Perhaps they suffered from shell-shock and were ashamed.

Yes, I said ashamed. In our time, media, movies and books ensure the public knows about Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), as a consequence of witnessing horrible suffering. Military personnel, first responders, firefighters, police officers, even jury members at a horrific murder trial may suffer from PTSD. Gen. Romeo Dallaire, a model of compassion and courage, is one of the most well-known victims of the disorder. It is a condition that never goes away, never sets the sufferer free, and demands empathy and understanding from all of society.

After the Great War, 1914 – 1918, what we call PTSD was known as shell-shock. It was spoken of only in hushed tones. Sufferers were considered somehow culpable and inferior. “Men” were expected to take whatever evil came upon them and get over it. Society in general had little understanding of their nightmare.

I believe it is unfair for one generation to judge another based on our modern sensibilities. Corporal punishment was deemed normal for centuries. In 2008 the Supreme Court of Canada upheld section 43 of the criminal code which states Every schoolteacher, parent or person standing in the place of a parent is justified in using force by way of correction toward a pupil or child, as the case may be, who is under his care, if the force does not exceed what is reasonable under the circumstances.

And don’t forget that a parent who resorted to spanking as a last resort may also have read bedtime stories to his children, rocked them in her lap and scrimped on his own needs in order to buy his child a Christmas gift. Our notion of “abuse” has changed drastically over the last fifty years.

So, while I am loathe to foist our modern political correctness on previous generations, I admit the treatment of some WWI veterans, especially POW’s, broke my heart. Subjected to mud, filth, enemy fire, rats, lice, bad food, the screams of dying men and wounded horses, pounding of artillery and the often incomprehensible order to take 50 yards of ground at the cost of a thousand lives, it is a wonder any came home sane.

1867 was the year my country became independent but much of our national pride and our belief in ourselves as Canadians was forged in the battlefields of Europe. Ypres ,Vimy Ridge, The Somme, Passchendaele, Hill 70. . . those names resonate in our national conscience.

Sir John A. MacDonald had the vision and the will to create a new country.

“Our Boys” earned it a place in the world.

I hope my story warms your heart and reminds you of the terrible cost of war.

Dreams and Promises is available here

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