photo by ex-Bowen Islander Jason Wilde, Killarney Lake, Feb 2019.
The NYT has a project called “tiny love stories”. Readers are encouraged to pare their personal story of love down to 100 words, and send it in. I recently reprinted one writer’s extraordinary story, about Barney the dog, and was inspired to write my own. I have, after all, tried to write about love, briefly, before. But in thinking about it I’ve concluded that I don’t really know much about love, and am not terribly comfortable with the subject. So instead I’ve written five stories that I think are interesting, maybe even educational or inspiring, reduced as close as possible to 100 words:
I. the line-up
pre-covid, hour-long lineup of cars, US-Canada border
idling, inching forward, bored,
playing games on my phone — suddenly
damn i was sure car was in ‘park’; I exit,
woman in car in front says damage’s about $200 —
curse myself, write a cheque.
minutes later, knock on my window:
“you know the car in front of you rolled back into you, right?
we saw the whole thing — in the lineup beside you”
we visit the woman in the car in front; she’s dismayed:
returns cheque, apologizes — she was watching videos,
just assumed since I was behind her…
“hope you don’t think I misled you deliberately!”
I give the good samaritan a small gift for her favour,
wonder if I’ve learned my lesson? probably not. (124 words)
II. why don’t we walk more often at night?
the world’s a different place past midnight
when everyone has gone home:
lamplight, moonlight, speak a different language from the sun’s;
leaves are a different green in this light,
and the sounds: the nighthawks with their peents and booms,
the rising song of swainson’s thrushes, soon en route to denali,
even the ravens, gentler in the moonlight than their raucous daytime manners.
the rain smells different too: earthier, richer, subtle-hued.
why don’t we walk more often at night? — fear, in some places, I suppose
but not here: concern about being thought eccentric,
with nowhere to go, perhaps, or up to no good, skulking.
but it’s most likely that the quiet lights of nighttime can’t compete
for our attention with the shrill light of video screens —
the night beckons too softly; but when we listen, and go
such a reward! (140 words)
III. dans le métro
in the paris métro, with three american work colleagues;
feeling shabbily dressed
compared to two exquisitely attired young françaises standing
a few feet in front of us, whispering, full body language deployed.
their journey home’s a chance for play:
they flirt with their eyes and postures with guys in their line of sight
evaluating them to each other, laughing.
then, they turn towards us, assuming us to be foreigners —
one murmurs, in french “such terrible taste; english do you think?”
her companion replies “americans; even the english dress better than that!”
I reply, point to my colleagues, nod yes — then
point to myself, shake no, mouth “canadien” and shrug, smiling.
the young woman laughs, covers her mouth at being caught out,
mouths, in french “sorry, no offence intended”.
I smile, nod, bow slightly
she nods, laughing, as they exit the subway,
whispering conspiratorially (140 words)
IV. the emotion of light and colour
paying attention is hard for me. I’m so easily provoked
to anxiety and fear. but I try to slow down, and focus:
safest for me is to pay attention to small spaces —
a patch of lawn or garden, the corner of a lamplit room,
a bird’s nest, or the details
of light and colour in a piece of art, a photograph,
a single tree viewed from a new angle.
light and colour have their own emotional language,
laid-back soft yellows, gracious rain-dappled greens,
stand-offish blues and indomitable blacks —
and whites, ever hopeful and ever fragile, never lasting long.
the movement of wings, the rustle of a sudden breeze,
shadow and contrast, ripples of reflected sunlight —
these are the verbs of this gentle language,
or rather, its gerunds, since
though nothing is really happening,
everything is always and already happening,
just waiting to be noticed, and felt. (150 words)
my young granddaughter loves to tell stories,
improvised, made up on the spot,
and they entrance her adult audiences;
the plot suddenly zigs or zags,
goes off in an absurd and improbable new direction,
eliciting wild laughter from the rapt audience,
and is delivered with such delight, such energy,
such total-body engagement
that we hang on every word,
every illustrative movement of hand and body.
the presentation ends, when it ends, with a bow,
received applause, and then a suddenly self-conscious
“what-EVER”! (84 words)