Category Archives: Nova Scotia

Park Bench Stories

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It’s been a while since I had a story to post. This one’s a sequel. Something I haven’t done before. It was sparked by a Facebook post that popped up thanks to their algorithms that remind you of a post three or five or more years ago. This one was called The Park Bench, based on a prompt given by Shauna Nearing Løj. This story has been particularly popular and has twice been released in Spain, courtesy Gerry Wright.

Fast forward to two days ago when a friend from the Bahrain Writers’ Circle, Veronica Selvarajan, read the story and made the comment, “I am going to be wondering if she ever reciprocates….” Well, of course that possibility wouldn’t leave me alone untilI had written the sequel and decided if she’s ever going to reciprocate. Well, Veronica, Cynthia, Charlotte, Joy, Malini, Gerry, Ajoy, Pam, Aruna… and many others. I’ve become a romantic in my old age.

The Guy at the Park

by Rohini Sunderam

She’d never really forgotten him. The young man at the park bench who always asked her if she’d ‘found a young man’. There had been a marked electricity between them. It was palpable through book after book that she read almost every workday afternoon. All he ever did was chew a fresh blade of grass and look up at the sky. There was a quiet confidence in his cocky voice and silence. He lived in the moment. Enjoyed the breeze, the birds in the sky, the clouds, the trees. Over the years they had developed a silent, comfortable, companionship. It was a quiet hour every workday that she kept for herself, before she took the bus home. They had hardly ever even had a conversation. He had grown strong and grown up since that spring so many years ago when they first shared the park bench. She had never learnt his name, nor what he did for a living.

And yet, all these years later, she remembered the look on his face the day she told him she had ‘found a young man’. He wished her well. But his eyes went dull grey like an autumn sky suddenly robbed of the sun.  And something in his face crumpled. But he didn’t say anything to her when she broke it to him. She wondered, ‘was all that electricity just in my head?’ She’d risen from the bench and had disappeared from his life for twenty years in the big city.

Twenty years, she said to herself. Why did I put up with ‘my young man’ for that long! There’d been that early euphoria of being married, being in the financial centre of the country, of looking after a house. But she and Bill had never really had much in common. He constantly wanted to go to this party and that restaurant, spend a fun time with his friends, anything but come home to an evening of quietude, an hour of  reading or listening to music.

He’d come back from work and it was, ‘Right, where are we going tonight?’

Her responses, ‘but I’ve just cooked this lovely dinner, I thought we could enjoy it together,’ were usually overruled.

Occasionally he’d agree and then it was a sullen silence they shared, nothing calm and companionable like it was with the guy in the park. That was a magical hour; the park was a Tom Thomson painting, the colours fixed and immutable. Instead, the meal she had so carefully prepared was wolfed down without a word of thanks and then he’d want to go out for a nightcap. Being a lawyer meant he could afford all that as well as the house. After a few years he went out on his own. Leaving her to her still pool of solitude that bordered on loneliness and her books that transported her on their magic carpet pages to other possibilities.

The miscarriages hadn’t helped either. Her mother had assured her things would improve once a baby or two arrived. After the first two losses, when she felt her world had been wrenched from inside her, her soul and heart shattered into a myriad shards of glass that cut her every time she saw a couple with a baby in a pram, Bill had grown more distant. The doctors said she wasn’t likely to have any more. Bill’s night-time forays became more frequent. Then there was his affair. Secret and sly, sordid and so typically with his secretary. Sinning is hard only the first time, so it wasn’t long before there was another affair and another.  Finally, the divorce and when her mother died, she decided to move back to the small city. The house was hers and she could easily get a job, perhaps even her old job at the library.

It was a cloudy day in November when she thought of going to the park with her book. ‘For old times’ sake’ she said to herself, he’s probably not even there any more. The years had flown like the clouds overhead. She was as nervous as a teenager as she walked in her high boots and her camel trench coat down the path towards where she remembered the bench used to be. It was four o’clock, her usual time from force of habit.

There was a man on the bench. Sitting where he used to sit. He looked at her. Her face implacable she looked at him out of the corner of her eye. She made a small harrumphing sound as she settled in her corner of the bench. He turned and looked at her again. Then he looked away. She was sure it was the guy. The same sinewy arms. That firm jawline and clean-shaven face. His nut-brown hair was streaked with silver. A small smile twitched at the corner of her lips. Then she whispered, “Did you never find a young woman, then?”

His voice was hoarse, as he all but whispered back, “Don’t be silly, I don’t want a young woman…” and then almost inaudible but she caught the last few words, “I only ever wanted you.”

She bent down to pull up a blade of grass, then turned to look at him as twenty summers and winters, autumns and springs melted away like snow. “But you never said anything.”

“What could I say? We hardly knew each other. I still don’t even know your name, young lady!” He grinned and the old cocky look came bouncing into his face.

She smiled, a clean, honest, unguarded smile. “We can rectify that, it’s Louise.” The first fat raindrops began to fall, “what’s yours?”

He grabbed his jacket and flung on the hood, “Al, for Alistair. And we’d better find some shelter soon. Before the wind an’ the rain carry you away, eh?”

“We’d need quite a strong wind to carry me away,” She laughed.

“Oh, aye,” he said like an old friend. He put his strong arm around her waist and they hurried out of the park. She realised he was a good bit taller than he appeared when he was seated. She liked the way his pace matched hers. And then they dashed across the street to a café.

“This should be fine for now.” He said as he led her, still clutching her book and bag, to a table near the window.

For the first time, she was sitting across from him. He had grey-green eyes and that unstoppable slightly amused, cocky expression; crow’s-feet eyes probably developed over the years from staring at the sky. His hands were strong and slightly calloused. ‘What did he do for a living?’

The coffee arrived, hot and steaming with a doughnut on the side. She was grateful for the steam that arose between them. It allowed her to look at him more closely.

“So tell me about yourself,” he said after a long deep gulp of coffee and a swipe of his cuff across his mouth.

“But, I want to know about you,” she said fingering the edge of her book.

“We have enough time for that later. What happened to the ‘young man’ then?”

Between sips of coffee and the doughnuts that the café boasted were amongst the best in the country, she sketched a quick outline of her life. “Now, it’s your turn.” She said.

The cocky smile and the amused look in his eyes deepened. “I’m a plumber by day,” he said.

“And what do you do at night?”  A nervous tremor caught at her throat.

By now he was grinning, “I write.”

“What? Books? Articles? Stories?”

“What kind of books do you like to read?” He asked getting up.

“All kinds,” she replied, “but that doesn’t tell me what kind of books you write!”

“Doesn’t it?” He grinned again. “I really do have to rush now. I’ll see you at the park again, tomorrow?” And he was gone. Striding down the street in the opposite direction of her bus ride home.

‘What do you like to read?’ What kind of a mysterious response was that!

When she got home, she was still mulling over it as she opened her book where she’d left her bookmark. It was another tale of lost love and might-have-beens. Her favourite kind. ‘What do you like to read!’ No! It can’t be. A. Hunt. She’d always assumed it was a woman and there was nothing about the author’s life that suggested plumbing.

-end-

Extract from a work in progress

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I am at last working on a story I had started way back in 1994! It’s also my first novella set in Halifax. I have written one short story set in Lunenburg County in Nova Scotia, and you can read that here, it’s titled A Rhyme and a Reason, the first thriller I have ever attempted.

And now, here’s a peek into a tale to be…

As she approached Scotia Square, Meera looked around seeing everything afresh. She marvelled at the old buildings standing amiably next to newer glass and concrete structures. The red brick and the sombre grey, articulated doorways with raised eyebrows looking forever down their noses at the large plate glass of some upstart new high-rise. Thankfully, there weren’t too many high-rise buildings here. There was an olde-worlde charm she hadn’t noticed before. It’s quite a beautiful old street, she thought. I’ve never really looked at it properly. A bit like Calcutta. Almost straight out of Dickens! Then she smiled, trust me to think of Dickens. I used to think it was a dreary grey English sort of street, which it is, but now I have a job and it takes on a romantic air. I am so, so, lucky. It’s been less than three months since we arrived and I have a job. Part time too, the most wonderful part of all. I can fix dinner, do the housework, make lunch… the plans started to fall into place. I’ll tell Ajoy that now we must do the laundry just once a week. Oh, God! A number two. My bus!

She almost shouted out aloud. Then lifting her sari slightly, displaying silver anklets worn over skin-tone knee-high nylon stockings, she ran to catch her bus. ‘I have a job’ the chorus in her head came to a crashing crescendo as she clambered up the steps and tossed the coins into the receptacle with a flourish. I’m an expert at doing that already. How Canadian will I get? She wondered. Will I ever wear pants? I may have to when it gets really cold. A dress? Never! It must be so strange to have all that cold air going up your legs, oof! She shuddered at the thought of it.

When she reached her stop, Meera almost ran up to the strip mall on at Lacewood and Vimy, where Ajoy had recently established their video rental store. She pushed through the door, he had a couple of older customers and was deep in conversation. so she wandered to the side and looked at the list of videos on offer. Through the corner of her eyes, she watched him speaking with animated gestures to his enchanted audience. Her heart skipped a beat, he had grown old so suddenly. The hair at his temples had begun to grey and there was a thinning patch at the crown of his head. His large soulful eyes, usually edged by laugh lines, had begun to droop in the three months since they had come to Halifax.

The birth of Corpoetry

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About eighteen years ago a chance remark from a colleague at the Chronicle-Herald, in Halifax, Nova Scotia, sparked off a buzz that has now eventually found expression in a collection of fifty poems that I’ve titled Corpoetry.

We were discussing an ad concept, when we heard that extra boisterous forced laughter that one associates with laughing to please. “Ah!” my colleague and friend said, “Corporate Laughter”. I found the phrase amusing and apt. But it entered that odd space that exists inside our minds where tunes get trapped, phrases beep-n-bop around, lyrics of songs we don’t even like buzz and we can’t get rid of them. So ‘Corporate Laughter’ bumped around inside my head.

I tried to dislodge it by listening to old music. Next I recited old nursery rhymes. Nope. It was still there. Grinning like a gremlin, ‘Corporate Laughter’ it said and hooted into my sleep, my dreams, my quiet space. Nothing helped until I sat down and wrote the first poem in what is my now published collection: Corpoetry. Then, like a deflated balloon it shrank to nothing.

The ‘thing’ didn’t disappear. But, I had found its weak spot – to write it out of my system in a poem – please understand I use the term: poem, loosely. These poems aren’t your highly artistic, searching-for-the-meaning-of-life poems. They’re just fun.

After that, every so often I’d see a situation that gave rise to another poem and then another. During my lunch hour, I’d sometimes use the clip art available and mix and match it with word art to create doodles to complement my poems. I had so much fun doing these that I soon began to see more and more situations, office dynamics, gossip, etc. that gave rise to ever more poems.

And that, dear friends is how Corpoetry began. You can find out more on my Facebook Page.

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My Imagination

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By Patsy Mills

I work as a Security Guard at a Halifax campus and one of my duties is to patrol around the outer perimeter of the campus. It only takes about ten minutes or so to do and very rarely is there very much to report about. So, to make my patrol kind of interesting, I use my imagination to give myself a chuckle once in a while.

There are three big garbage bins from the company Re-Group. The Re stands for Recycle, Reduce and Reuse. Part of my patrol is to walk around them to make sure nothing out of the ordinary is around them. Never was told exactly what was meant by “out of the ordinary”. As long as there are no small dead animals or being over run by rats or ants, then, I don’t mind covering the territory as required. It is very boring and the garbage cans have become the basis of my imagination.

The garbage bins are square with two flapping lids on the top. Sometimes the lids are open and sometimes they are closed. The words Re Group are written on the front of the bin.

My imagination portrays the bins in an animated form, and I am human, not animated. Similar to the pairing of cartoon and human done on the movie of Roger Rabbit or also, compare it to the movie “The Night at the Museum” with Ben Stiller and all the statues in the museum come to life after the museum closes.

I am walking along on my patrol, minding my business and as I get closer to the area where the bins are, I can hear voices, as if they are in a heated discussion. I turn the corner to walk closer to the where the garbage bins are and they catch a glimpse of me approaching and then I hear, “Shhhh!!!! Sh!!!! Stop talking you two!!! She will hear us!!! Shut your Lid. Come on guys , we need to “ReGroup!!!!” Shh!!!

As I get closer, I walk around the bins, thinking to myself, “I am SURE I heard some voices!!!” Even if I did hear voices, uh, from garbage cans, ha ha, I think All I would hear would be “trash talk”.
They are just ‘Has-Bins’. I am a lover of using Puns or play on words even when thinking to myself. As sure as I was that i heard voices, I think I was trying to coax a response out of these bins, even though that sounds crazy as the birds.

As I finish my patrol, I walk away. It was either a breeze that flapped the lid on the bin, or was my imagination making me think I heard one of them give me a raspberry as I am walking away.

I turn around and give them a raspberry and continue on my patrol.

NOTE: THIS IS A FLASH FICTION STORY FROM A FRIEND IN HALIFAX SEND IN YOUR COMMENTS!

Halifax Streets

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From a place called Leeds Street

You can see the ocean

Behind an institute of technology

That spawned engineers and builders

The kind that mauled the hillsides with roads

And marshalled the trees

Into soldierly rows

Gouging out in a mere two centuries

What Nature had husbanded

Soil on rock, soil on soil, layer upon layer

Too thin a soil belt to hold a redwood tree

It bravely sustained pines and hemlock,

Birch, maple, elm and cedar

Too few to people the hills with now

They have become mere street names.

Memories of Nova Scotia – Cape Bretonese

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Cape Bretonese! The article below has been recovered from an old copy circa 2002 of The Chronicle-Herald, the renowned daily newspaper that has delivered news of the world, Canada and Nova Scotia to the people of the province since 1875.  I am proud to say that I worked there as an advertising copywriter from 1994 to 2003.

It is now several years since I left the Herald – as I moved to the Kingdom of Bahrain – but I still feel that I belong to that great community known affectionately as the Herald Family.  In addition, as any Bluenose Nova Scotian will tell you, once you become a Nova Scotian you’ll always be a Nova Scotian no matter where you go… or as they like to say “you can take the Nova Scotian out of Nova Scotia, but you can’t … (take Nova Scotia out of the Nova Scotian)”.

I dedicate this section of the blog to the memory of that most beautiful part of the world where the friendly warmth of the people can dispel even the coldest winter day.

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A Nova Scotia summer in the country

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A bunch of lupines, bending in the sun

Holding their sides and laughing just for fun

Too hysterical from giggling at Life and Lunacy

To stop and share their little joke with me.

A crowd of lupines, gathered in a field

Gossiping in knots of purple, pink and green

Smiling at the clouds, chatting on their knees

Unmindful of the weather and the sudden chilling breeze.

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