Panorama: A sunlit room in small town Canada, just a day after the first real snow of the season. Locus-equidistant of the fridge and window. Subject of motions within: the balancing of pen strokes between the craft of report carding and friendly lettering.

I placed a mint cigarette in my mouth as I watched the snow crystals turn to dust and blow over a blue sky. The brand on my lips: Craven.

Other notable smokers of Craven: Bob Marley, reggae legend. Muhammed Ali Jinnah, founder of Pakistan.

Dramatic Rise: Something on the kitchen floor caught my attention- it was larger than a human, but purporting to be just such. My cat, (or someone else’s perhaps) licked at the dead thing’s toe; a patch of shiny black flesh was visible through a parting of wool. I took a drag of mint smoke and put it out with a splash of bitter tea. The ingestion allowed me just enough time to catch my HORROR before it tumbled from me as food would fall from an upturned restaurant tray. I assembled my posture in mimic of manly stereotype and calmly stood so as to edge my way around the dead thing. Once in the next room I found it easier to focus on the work at hand, though the cat’s tongue seemed to lick louder.

Registrant: Anthony Hollinday

Student Number: 2000348922

Status: Undeclared; freshman

Anecdotal: Most likely a homosexual, introverted and pampered by mother. Suspect marital conflicts (most likely physical abuse) toward the mother which lead to some extreme doting effect upon Anthony. Reciprocally, Anthony feels the need to make up for his mother’s absence of womanhood through a series of cliched feminine intonations. Overuse of the word “fabulous” in both oral and written responses.

Essay: F

Excerpt of Report: Anthony’s essay entitled “Middle Class Patience during Recession” lacked both sufficient research or detail. Anthony makes no use of the strategies necessary to complete a holistic paper in this course. Furthermore, the failure to use Voraise or Compte' as sources in an essay on the Canadian middle class leaves the piece highly expurgated. End of antecedent.

The report card is perhaps the most sincere and objectivist form of journalism, and thus satisfied with my remarks I placed Hollinday’s report on the “complete” pile. I then retired from the comment cards altogether and into another pile of the papers I had carried from the kitchen. From the scrawls I pulled a small letter, which I arranged carefully next to laptop.

Battery Life of Laptop: 37%

Subject of Email: Seeking to Re-build Confidence in a Once Great Man

To: Dr.Fraulien Boson (

Subject: Your biggest Fan

Excerpt of Email: At times there is a genuine feeling of contempt for the way these cup-bearers act. At the end of the day we are: Doing balancing tricks at a circus with a bunch of lunatics for an audience. Jesus was an illiterate man for God's sake! Clown: Fuzzy Hal that works over at the new Lawton's, has a funny way to his walking. He thinks- and truly believes- ah, that he's going to get a promotion any day now. He hands out fliers in the parking lot, ones with real fat chicks turning into skinny ones on the inside (he keeps a scrap book of all his old pamphlets). How could a man on such a ground-swollen rung of the patronage ladder that is Lawton's, afford in his mind even the most remote possibility of promotion? Hal has a toothless mouth! Imagine that, a toothless mouth running your drug store! No- it’s a circus Boson, plain and simple. I think it’s because we are born champions- race winners. Blast out we come a small tadpole in a ten million tadpole race, racing toward some mystery on a track we hadn't even known existed before the moment the propulsion began. As sperm we were just born to swim forth into uncharted territory, weaving in and around an army of competitors. And when we arrived at our destination we just had to force our way in, at least one of us. We are the sole survivors of a sperm holocaust, and we spend the rest of our lives trying to relive whatever the hell happened to cause us victory on that epic first day in our mother's vaginal caverns. We are lottery winners, all of us- the clan of the survived sperm….so few….it is incalculable the amount of sperm which have died so that we may live…the ratio is almost absurd! Oh the balance of creation and nothingness…it is fragile as a membrane. It is a membrane!
~ Sincerely, Norman Affidavit,
Sessional, St.FX University

End of antecedent.

The rare and ever awkward coincidence of a phone ringing and a door bell button being pressed simultaneously occurred. I immediately began making a complex series of plans to edit my email and respond to both solicitors. (Personal Reflection: It occurs to me now that perhaps the most pressing action should have been at the time the black carcass, although it seems then the thought of its disposal was nowhere present in my mind).

Change of tone: humorous, self-depreciating. Expository scene of a two potentially major characters: “You’re sister is in labour,” said the voice on the phone as I was greeted by a smile at the front door. It was my brother in law, Wentzel on the line and some strange new face at the awning. She took my attention, and I hung up the phone without reply. The girl (you will come to know as Magritte) was instantly gorgeous, possessing a fibre-optic beauty. Calm eyes with a mist of eagerness and lips thin- long, naturally rouge and slightly parted to show soft but well brushed teeth. Her cheeks were long as well, and pillared inwardly to a sharp chin. Hair gushed from her scalp, all sorts of shiny colors, brown being the most abundant. I failed to gauge her age, but can grant you a range between 13 and 47. Her shoulders had a natural sway and once I picked up the rhythm, I then noticed she was wearing some sort of uniform. This matter instinctively led me to believe her to be a Girl Guide and in turn caused me to reach for my wallet. Mint cookies, there were no pockets in my boxer shorts and with that, the scene was infected by a rare excretion of my own bashfulness.

Reflection of the Moment: Love at first sight; intense desire to fuck.

Though I stood silent and red- faced, the moment that followed allowed no indignities at all. The woman stepped in without a word or care and removed a bag from her shoulders.

“You can’t come in,” I said without any convicting intonation.

“I am in, and should stay in,” she said. “It is cold outside. It is better to explain the Bamboo indoors anyhow.”

“Yes, of course, the snow, how rude,” I say. Bamboo?

I stiffly led her into my cluttered living-room, a sight which she seemed to welcome. She took a seat on the sofa of arabesques and we looked at one another as I tried to locate in my mind mind's eye some memory of where I had left my pants. Was I worried about her discovering the dead thing and reporting me to the authorities? Or was I more worried that she would see the thing and lose any interest in allowing me entrance into her temple?

I tried to block any view of the kitchen with the shape of my body. As she slid a hand into her leather bag, I noted a galactic cluster of stars painted on each of her fingernails. Each was so detailed and real, eternal, cosmic and propitiating of the circumstances.

“It’s just, we can’t do it here,” I say suddenly so as to relieve the moment of relaxation. “My sister is giving birth.”

The girl smiled and giggled. She removed her hand from the bag allowing the stars to come alive one more time.

“Well let’s do this in the car then,” she said. “I’ve always wanted to try giving that sort of thing too.”

I found a smile and then she did something I had secretly desired to have done to me since my first cigarette. The girl stood and reached into the pocket of my dress shirt (by now you can imagine my attire) and took the third or fourth last cigarette I had stashed there. She did not light it, but rather simply held it between a vacant spot in her lips as though it were some kind of garnish to her wholesomeness. I retreated upstairs, hoping and not hoping she was looking at my butt as I made my way to the changing room.

Change of Setting: A car, Korean in make speeding along the Trans Canada Highway through two-lanes of poorly plowed snow. Possibilities of black ice, low visibility, and fog in the Nova Scotian low-lands.

Car Speed: Conservative

Highlights of our discussion, un-embellished:

"Have you been to Halifax before?" I asked

She giggled. "Of course." Her eyes then turned to me without movement from her head. She poured a gaze that invited flirtation.

"I fed you're cat, by the way. He looked hungry."


"Sorry, she," the girl replied. A small tube of lip gloss appeared and was applied evenly to the lips. A small cloud of white breath is visible. I wished then that I knew how to take compliments. I decided to re-cast my line.

"Can I call you by your first name?" I asked.


" French?"


"I see," I said, not seeing. "And what do you sell, Magritte?"

"Vacuums. You're my last stop of the day. I brought a pamphlet to show you."

"Well let's see."

"The company has one filled with pretty women for the male clients, and another pamphlet with luxurious women for the female clients."

"Good to know."

The pamphlet she removed from her bag appeared to be of the latter genre.

"I'll take one vacuum cleaner," I said swiftly. "But first you must pitch the idea to me."

Magritte smiled.

"Bamboo Vacuums are not large machines, nor are they a boisterous view. At Bamboo we believe in suction as a way of life- a pathway to domestic peace. Our cleaners may not have the most suction, but they offer to your home an escape from dissonance. And we all know a life free of dissonance is a life well lived. When you turn on a Bamboo, you're home won't just be clean… it will be hollow."

Magritte stared at me for the duration of the pitch, a warm stare intent on something more than sale.

"Thank you," I said. "Sounds very systolic."

Magritte unbuckled her seatbelt, and leaned close to me, her nostril air warm, the tip of her nose threatening to tickle my cheek. You're handsome, she possibly thought at that moment.

"And what do you do, Mister?" she asked, smoothing out the jade ripples in the fabric of her uniform and continuing to stare at my right temple.

"I am- was a sociology professor. Not anymore. I just grade now."

Emotion in-momentum: Unparalleled awkwardness, unrivaled confidence, Bamboo like tranquility.

"Sociology," she said the word with a pepper grain of twang-de-francais that made my chest pump. The word was like a candy suckled upon within her mouth.

We sat in silence for some time as the cars passed us and the snow broke into wake on all sides.

The hospital named for Queen Elizabeth was deep into the city, and the snow on the streets around us had been melted into puddles by exhaust. The ride had proven remedy to my initial interaction with Magritte at the front door, and I felt confident in my flirtations as we made our way through the parking lot. We both entered the hospital together, I following her in fact.

"Where is the obstetric wing?" Magritte asked a nurse with breasts the size of yoga balls.

Moments later we were in the elevator alone and ripping at one another's garments. I remember the movable box being so warm and the touch of her lips and bare flesh being even warmer. I felt microwaved and kemotherapied all at once. We did not part when an old man supported by an intravenous stand entered on the third floor, and we ignored his protests to desist. Only on the fifth floor did we pause, (a long web of saliva extended outward between us as we disconnected lips.) When the door opened, Wentzel was in the hallway, red-faced and screaming.

I ran to him and took him by the shoulder. “Congratulations!”

Nature of my Brother-in-Law’s Response: There were tears in his eyes!

"Wentz?" I said.

"Norm...she's dead."


"The baby's was so big. There were complications...I saw it all. They tried to get me out of the room but I saw it all. He split her apart like a coconut Norm! She was gone in less than a few moments."

Falling Action: I unsuccessfully attempted to comfort Wentzel while Magritte fetched some Styrofoam-coated coffee. A doctor came over to us, attempting comfort as well, but Wentzell was too quick. Too quick indeed.

"I don't ever want to touch that thing!" he screamed. "Get rid it or I will kill it myself!" Wentzel's face was magenta now, his eyes blue and hateful. Years earlier, Emily, my sister had confessed Wentzell had a pierced nipple. "I want to go home," she had said. "People don' thave those kinds of hang-ups in Maine."

When Magritte returned I was alone. Wentzell had broken the Doctor’s nose as well as hit one of the nurses. After smashing the glass on an incubator he'd mistaken for his child's, security had arrived. It took them some time to evacuate my brother. Thankfully, they allowed me to stay. The scene was horrible, and were it not for the anticipation of Magritte’s return, I may have cried.

I said little then, save, "I can take you home."

"I like it here,” she said, letting the coffee mist veil her eyes.

I said nothing.

"But maybe you’re right. We should go.”

Thoughts of my sister far from my mind, I made love to Magritte when she and I arrived home. I hadn’t even gone to see the baby! We just slipped out of the hospital and found ourselves under a pile of seldom-washed flannel sheets. Oh how she welcomed me! I was but an honoured guest and I took from her hospitality the most prodigious satisfaction. Did she too reflect the sentiments? She sure sounded and tasted of pleasure.

Afterward, the cat slept between us and a light snowfall could be seen through window. Magritte slept silently and glowed in the dark. Not the pale-whitish green of a child’s glow stick, but a rather a soft purplish-pink. Perhaps it was a play of the moonlight and snow, but even after I closed the curtains I was sure I could see the effulgence.

I let her sleep and made my way downstairs for some kind of snack. The dead man still lay on my floor somewhere between the backdoor and fridge, and did not protest when I crouched beside him with a pile of corn-beef hash and steaming rooibus tea.

“You don’t smell at all,” I said as I sucked the salt from a mouthful of corn-beef.

I finished my snack and crept back upstairs. When I entered the room a chilly breeze tickled the exposed flesh above my neckline and around my ankles. The window was open and flakes of snow poured into the room. With a terror greater than the loss of my sister, I found my nest to be empty. I darted toward the bed and jumped in searching the sheets for Magritte, but found only emptiness. She was gone.

I then went to the open window looked down. The dim grey of street-lit snow looked up at me, and I could faintly see the tracks of small feet. She had leapt from my window onto a heap of snow. I followed the trail with my eyes to a spot just next to naked maple tree. There, upon the snow around its trunk there was a small snow angel, well formed and fresh.

Sighing, I fell back onto the sheets and am not ashamed to admit that I cried for quite a period of time as the snow crystals turned to dust and blew over a blackened sky. After some hours I peeled myself from the bed and opened in my new vacuum which Magritte and I had brought in from her car and assembled. I plugged in the Bamboo Equinox 200 and turned it on. Moments later, through the haze of mint smoke, a note appeared on the hill top of my pillow.

Contents of Note:

There is always a ball on Newton’s table that He didn’t put there. There is more spice than anything else in this world, and in flavors too complicated to savour. Remember it’s not whatever floats your boat, rather, its whatever boats your float. I hope your cat is not of the outdoor variety
~ Merci, Magritte.