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What Fox Knew

And Others
edition:Paperback
tagged : family
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Excerpt

Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,the world offers itself to your imagination...The wild Canada geese fly south, taking the initial of my first name,mocking my incomplete passport application, my inability to fly.Yesterday nothing but dullness between us, my energy depleted at the speed of dark, your exuberance overpowered by my sheer inertia. You finish packingthe last remains, your first initial in the suitcase sighing as it closes. With a snap of its latches, you leave me the V and ampersand, your dog and Jo's cat. Today I pass the preying bald eagle on a chunk of lake ice, the last snowbird to leave this winter, so much colder than last. At the end of the road, my newspaper is gone,the geese gone, the pelicans gone, the cottagers gone, you gone south. Today I hold my face to the north wind, while the wipers play frozen tag on the windshield. The heavy spume crosses the causeway making iceon the fly. I repeat "Break, break, break against these cold grey rocksoh Lake Winnipeg," turning in to what is still our driveway, though there's only me to say "I'm home."

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Excerpt

Playing it SmartWinter of grade one.Boys built a snow hut.It's for guy stuff, not for girruls.But two girls got invited in,whispered their story in the coatroom after recess.That night, I rememberedmy secret deal with the smart boy. Tippy-toedto the front porch from the kitchen carryingthe old brown stacking stool, carefulnot to clunk when I set it down.Grabbed my pink show'n'tell bag frommy hook and climbed up. My armjust reaching the red rolled-upgirly calendar Daddy tucked up therewhen he came home from the service stationone day before Christmas.I slipped the naughty into my sack,put the stool back, and snuckto my room. With my treasure under my bed,I was one step closer to the hand of the boywho'd walk me into the fort. At leastI wouldn't have to kisssome dumb boy or standin the cold and lift my snow white undershirt.

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Braille Rainbow
Excerpt

Excerpt from Braille Rainbow

“The Check-Out King”

He died in his mid-twenties
(typically, nobody seemed to know what of).
Got himself safely underground
before the rest of us had had our first cancer scare.
But he was always slipping past the lens,
way over at the cropped edge of the class picture
or dead in the centre in an egg of glare.
He might be at the vortex of a scrum or rumble
or flopped down in the field beyond the goal posts,
oblivious to calls to return, watching
(perhaps) an ant traverse a blade of grass.
In those days no work meant you failed.
“Have you finished, Earl?” the teacher
asked when his head sank onto his arms.
“No.” “Have you started?” “No.”
Everyone, even she, laughed. Everyone
except Earl. He rode out humour
the way a pine tree rides out rain.
A cipher makes a tricky victim:
he may become a black hole or a mirror.
Our bully picked him out only when
he’d run through everyone else repeatedly.
Earl didn’t confront, didn’t retreat.
He stood there and one punch knocked him flat.
He lay for a while with his face to the sky
(so long that some of us
looked up too—just blue and fluffy clouds)
and then he got up and walked away
toward wherever he lived, getting
small slowly, with every few steps
bringing a hand to his face and
flinging a ribbon of blood down at the dust.

“Bill Had”

Two deaf parents who taught him sign language
which he forgot after they died.
Next to mine, the best beat-up old denim jacket
in the crew.
Small hands for such a big man.
Thick dark hair, greenish-brown eyes, and one of the handsomest
faces I’ve seen outside of movies.
A talent for mimicry.
An irritating habit of taking things too far.
An endearing one of apologizing when he did.
Small learning and large curiosity.
A pretty short attention span.
An unshakeable belief that women ejaculated
when they came.
Many girlfriends.
Dozens of friends, including ex-girlfriends.
A part-time DJing job where he met many of his friends
and girlfriends and scored high-quality drugs.
Inoperable colon cancer at age 28.
A cop costume so good it almost got him beaten up
by Halloween partyers who had flushed their dope
until he shared out his own which was better.
A filthy apartment piled with pizza boxes.
A grin no one could resist.
Nimble feet, with which he performed amusing untrained
tap, soft shoe, and jig.
Zero ambition.
Occasional mean moods but no cruel bone in his body.
A Jimmy Cagney routine in which while singing “Yankee
Doodle Dandy” he ran at a wall and up it and back-
flipped off of it, landing on his feet,
which never should have worked because Cagney
was a shrimp and Bill was linebacker-sized
but I saw it, many times, from 1981 to 1985,
during the long afternoons when the galleries
were empty.

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