Monday, December 20, 2010


SideRoads Magazine is a supplement to Northumberland News. Below is the story they recently published for their winter edition. Enjoy!

A great January whitemess stealthed over Cobourg at the speed of fog.

Things began getting flakey when children, bearing bellies of hot cereal, galloshed and gallumped, gimbled and gabbled, and jabberwalked to Central School on George Street.

It was as windless as the interior of a coffin. Each snowflake loitered in the air, rocking on molecular nanowaves. Moist warm helipads emerged from the mouths of children as flakes floated like ghostly punctuation marks, commas, colons, periods. The game was to lick out of airy nothing, the few fat flakes that would impact on the tongue like an exclamation point! Drunken trails in the snow along the streets followed their vocational pursuit of devouring weather in a single gulp.

There was the fascination of a bare naked hand, palm-up being held out for the white stuff; watching three flakes clinging to each other as they hand-landed and dissolved into a flat teardrop. One after another, singly and in small groups, the flakes hand-landed and instantly morphed into tears, draining down the length of a life line and dripping onto its fallen brethren at ground level. Faces full of smile and roseblush dripped with the debris of martyred flakes.

It was magic and guilt-free. Once upon a moment it was a flake all intricate with organic symmetry, then poof, it’s a teardrop in hand. No flake has ever been known to wail out in agony or thrash about as it immigrated from one state of being to another state of being. They assimilated from white to clear without protest. It was the kind of thing that inspires children to trace their routes back to the poem age, which invariably leads to the Imagine Nation. (The Imagine Nation is compelling and exhilarating because it is lawless)

Life is so Normal Rockwell at times. The school bell (((RANG))). Scampering leads to elbowing through the clogging on the school doorsteps, the thresholds where wild spirits of imaginationism are “civilized”; then the anxious soft-shoe shuffle begins as children distribute themselves to their homeroom holding cells governed by cranky teachers venting in the blackboard bungle.

The flakey fog continued outside the windows. At the very moment when fidgeting was about to become a disturbance issue, the bell rang for regress. Children tumbled down the wide stairs, white water rapids, hootin’, hollerin’ gallumphin’ and bumphin’ through the doors and into a schoolyard filled with white-sized imagination.

Off in the far corner of the schoolyard there was a spot of turbulence. The cry echoed across the yard. “Fight!” “FIGHT!” “FIGHT!” Children hurried and scurried to bear witness, uploading the dramatic seen into their biocomputers.

The bell (((RANG))).

Regress is over.

I’ll see you on James Street after lunch, you dipschtick!

That’ll be your last date dorkhead.

The exhaustless children returned to their holding cells to endure the remnants of the morning agenda, becoming more and more civilized. Yawn. They bloated on the excessive government-approved lore of history and geography. As the lessons wore on, breakfast became, like, so hrs&hrs ago. Noon stretched over ten hungry ten excruciating ten unbearable moments away. The bell (((RANG))). Children fled the building carelessly cocooned in muffler, mitts and misaligned buttoning of winter jackets.

It was a lickety-split lunch. Many moms were blind-sided by the wolfing at the kitchen table. “What’s the rush?” “Chew your food.” “Why so fast?” Dash to door. Mad scramble. Golly Galosh. Tangle of coat, muffler, toque, mitts, mitts, where’s the mitts? Hibernating in jacket pockets. “Bye mom, gotta go!” SwOOsh, galumph glosh.

Grievzi, Fig, Whopper, Rupe, were ploughing down the middle of Chapel Street leaving drunken furrows in the snow. The usual route to Central School for the Chapel Streeters is Buck Street, but not today, not when there is an unmellow drama expected to go down on James Street. Dorkhead vs Dipschtick.

Heading up Division Street, the exuberant spawn of post-war celebration, finally took notice of the abundant debris dropping from The Perfect Stealth Storm. Packing snow! The generosity of the snow gods was total. Snowballs that packed in moments. Never mind the 23,738 words for snow that the Inuit have – packing well in five seconds is all and exclusive. Packing snow. Impacting snow. High calibre custom fits for every mittened hand

Turning onto James Street, the boys were stunned to see, not a fight, but chaos, utter chaos. Twenty children or so were lobbing snowballs back and forth across the street. That stretch of street was an ammo dump. In fact, ammunition continued to float from the sky.

The Chapel Boys crouched down behind a 1958 Plymouth because its excessive fins provided a shield for incoming snowballs. It didn’t matter who was on the other side of the street. It wasn’t personal. They were targets because they were there. They were targets because they were children. Yes. Restricted to twelve and under. The street was an adult-free zone. It was also civilization-free.

It wasn’t long before the street was swarming with winter warriors. Children flowing down George Street to return to school suddenly took a left turn onto James to join the fracas and frolic.

Thod Wooosh! The snowball hits the windshield, shattering itself into shrapnel that hits two. Thod, thod, thud, thod, thish thod. The Plymouth took a pounding. Fig was a lousy shot so he was assigned to built the stockpile that fed us sharpshooters. Thwack! “Got him” Thwack thwack thwosh, “Gotcha back!

There’s girls over there.” “Girls?” “And they’re throwing snowballs.” “But they’re girls!” The boys arm themselves each with three snowballs. CHARGE!!!! This is immediately followed by squeals, screams, screeches, and flailing arms softened with fluffy pink mitts. Took seconds to unload, then return to positions behind the Plymouth.

Snowballs were largely thrown willynelsony, every which way. Now and then a victory whoop went up when a rosey-cheeked face became intimate friends with a snowball. It was a special treat to hit someone on the back of the neck. The collateral pain came from the cold trickle down the spine.

The battle moved down James Street and onto the unblemished front lawn of Central School. It was a tossed salad of full frontal fun and frolic, wild abandonment of civilization, Lord of the Flies, meanwhile, the forces of civilization were uploading the scene from the window between the power grey pillars. Adults. Przt!

The bell (((RANG))).

The action stopped. Just like that. Scampering took hold, elbowing through the clogging on the school doorsteps, the thresholds where wild spirits of imaginationism are “civilized”; then the anxious soft-shoe shuffle begins …

What were once referred to as elementary school students were now relegated to waddling duck status. The warden of the school, and other back-up authorities, were picking out ducks from the incoming lines. Easy pickin’s. The culprits were a mess. The innocent largely neat and dry.

Twenty miscreants soaking in meltdown stood shloppy in the school foyer. They received a loud lesson supplemented with a passing reference to The Strap. This civilizing influence was seriously absorbed by the shloppy shloaking children whose jelly-bean tootsies marinated inside water-sogged boots.

A wet whispered voice from behind says, “Twenty of us, eight strap slaps each, the old fogie ain’t got it in him to swing his arm 160 times.”

And so it was. We were all left to marinate in the collateral damage of our frolic, and eventually grew up to become the best educated, most prosperous and free generation the world has ever know. Peace babe!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Jill Battson reads Courage by Anne Sexton

Cobourg Poet Laureate, Jill Battson, reads Courage, written by Anne Sexton, at the Inauguration of Cobourg Town Council in the Concert Hall of Victoria Hall, Cobourg, Ontario.

It is in the small things we see it.
The child's first step,
as awesome as an earthquake

- - Anne Sexton

rest of poem here