Crazy, Funny or Passionate Words

My writing took a more unorthodox form out West than in high school. In high school it was about getting into a good writing program, publishing and winning awards. When I broke free from all that expectation I turned writing into a gift I could give.

I scribbled away in notebooks either around a bonfire on a beach in Victoria or in the crew cabins of fishing boats. Whoever was hanging around me at the time would eventually ask “What are you writing?” — “Descriptions, notes from conversations. A lot of it ours.” And most people would get uncomfortable, maybe stop talking to me so much, until I’d rip out a page, something that I got down really well — “Hey, you might like this.”

I never write anything personal or over-analytical about someone. The dialogues I handed to people didn’t contain some unnerving representation of themselves, they contained characters that were alive and crazy because the dialogues were written from a whole bunch of crazy, funny or passionate words that came from the receivers. It was just the best parts of their minds in the form of a character.

"Found Note" by Rick Harris, edited by A. Malcolm

"Found Note" by Rick Harris, edited by A. Malcolm

Those Significant Moments

So: I have a head injury, a price to pay for a flight, consequences to suffer for abandoning my parents and kidnapping Claire, no job and nowhere to live, but all in all a good start for a story. Claire’s going to hate that I’m writing about this trip. In high school I wrote a lot about the two of us, but only because I had to. To accelerate my education in writing, my English teachers gave me lots of extra credit assignments — short stories and essays to write and publish in local newspapers and journals. They’re what got me out a year early (and what were meant to get me into a prestigious writing program a year early) so of course I did them, but every teacher and workshop leader told me I had to dig into my personal history, to find those significant moments in my life and use them in my writing. Personally, I think all that 20th-century-build-your-character-through-Freudian-pschyoanalysis-crap as crap, but I went along with it for the credits. My teachers new I had a twin-sister, so I based most of the stories on our mutual childhood.

They were made up though, I only acted like they were true in class. Like this family road trip story where Claire and I huddled together while our parents screamed at each other (our parents hardly talked, let alone screamed), or the story of my confrontation with her over an abusive boyfriend (she dated a chain of horrible guys, but, as demonstrated on the beach, she’s good with weapons and can hold her own), or the story about her first period — she smacked me with a frying pan over that one.

Chapter 8 | Firewood

While Kate and Sam take down the sail and secure the canoes, I climb up the concrete pile to find some wood. A mudflat stretches all along the top of the bank, and behind it grass-and-shrub-land runs for as far as I can see. Not the best territory for finding wood, so I walk towards the lighthouse.

A road descends the back of the lighthouse hill and continues, presumably, to the base of the peninsula. The rest of the hill faces the water and drops sharply to a rock and gravel base, a couple road-lanes wide. The base is flat and provides a perfect platform for viewing 270 degrees of horizon — from the open water to the distant smoke stacks of Hamilton’s steel mills and around the lake-shore to Toronto’s skyline. I walk around the platform, past boulders, piles of fill and a whole bunch of crazy art pieces built from the bricks, rebar and concrete slabs. I walk until I can see the city, its office towers popping up from behind the tree line of the next strip of land. I can see a gap in that strip — our way to the inner harbour. I store that landmark in my memory and walk towards a forest between the road and the city-facing shore to find firewood.

"Concrete Hand 2" by Andrew Rivett, edited by A. Malcolm

Caught you Again

While she bandages me up we pass the bottle back and forth and watch Kate. She’s climbing around the pile of freshly dumped concrete. Then she gets her head and arms between two big slabs, looking like she’s about to fall in.

Sam says, “Be careful, you could get crushed.”

She keeps rummaging until she backs out dragging the fish by the tail. “Caught you again you sucker.”

Sam says, “Gross, it’s covered in garbage now.”

“Demo-fill, it’s fine. Coast, time to build a fire. I’m starving.”

I say, “Might as well. There’s no telling how long Claire’s going to be up there.”

Sam says, “I guess there’s no way she’ll want to stay in touch after this.”

“I don’t know, she might come around once the shock from everything has worn off.”

Sam laughs at me. “You can take a hit and not give up hope, that’s a good quality in a person.”

I fall back onto the rocks, “Thanks, I might just be stupid though.”

"Fishing" by Ian Muttoo, edited by A. Malcolm

"Fishing" by Ian Muttoo, edited by A. Malcolm

Scotch Over my Head Wound

Instead I end up on the ground, bleeding from the head.

Sam (she didn’t actually see or hear what happened— the diesel engine blocked out the sound of Claire’s “hraa” and my “ahh” when the bottle hit my head — she just saw Claire storming off) says, “Claire, come back. I have a towel in the canoe.”

“I’m going to dry my clothes off up at that lighthouse. We’re leaving when I come back down. Maybe you should give the towel to your new idiot-cousin.”

Then Sam sees me, bleeding on the rocks, laughing at myself.

While she’s cleaning me up with a first aid kit she had in the canoe, I say, “Did the Scotch bottle break?”


“Did it all spill out?”

“A lot did, but no.”

“Can I have some?”

“Sure, but I need to do something first, gotta protect you from any Lake Ontario pollution.”
Before I can ask what she means, she pours Scotch over my head wound.

"Lighthouse" by John Vetterli, edited by A. Malcolm

"Lighthouse" by John Vetterli, edited by A. Malcolm

All Will be Fine

Claire hasn’t moved an inch. She stands in the water, frozen, her arms raised up scarecrow-like. When she finally starts walking to the shore, I follow. A big wave comes and knocks us both down. She’s grunting out tears when she comes up. I don’t do anything but follow, I can’t imagine how to damage-control this train wreck.

When she gets to the shore I yell “are you all right?” as loud as I can. It doesn’t matter because the waves crashing combined with the diesel engine lowering the bin of the truck cancels out any sound. I feel I have to do something, so I grab a bottle of liquor from my bag — Scotch, the most expensive bottle I bought — open it and offer it to her. I don’t know if it’s the water or what, but I see eyes of solid red when she looks at me and takes the bottle. For a moment I think all will be fine, that she’ll take a sip, feel better and maybe see some humour in all this.

"Serenity" by Martin H, edited by A. Malcolm

"Serenity" by Martin H, edited by A. Malcolm

Trespass Police

“And don’t think you can camp or start a fire anywhere around here. All you’re doing is getting in your canoes and leaving.”

Kate says, “Do you live here? Does anyone you know live here? Does anybody live here at all?”

“Of course not, it’s a work site and a park.”

“Then what the hell are you acting like the fucking trespass police for? Just get in your truck and get the fuck out of here.”

Sam says, “And be happy you didn’t hurt anyone.”

The guy storms off to the cab of the truck yelling that he’s going to tell the authorities. Kate, facing us from the bank, makes faces in imitation of him.

Disrespecting Natural Waters

Kate laughs, “Um…what fucking park are you talking about? All I see is some shitty shoreline. You should be grateful we’re gracing this crap pit with our presence. I suppose you’re going to say you’re the park warden.”

“Hey! What a mouth on you. I’m a truck driver and I’m just doing my job like we do when the park’s closed.”

Sam, stomping out of the water, yells, “You just dumped a bunch of trash into my lake. That’s not work, that’s disrespecting natural waters.”

“This ain’t trash, it’s fill from demolition sites. It don’t pollute nothing.”

Kate says, “I already told you that, Sam. See? I’m always right.”

"P1030455" by Robb1e, edited by A. Malcolm

"P1030455" by Robb1e, edited by A. Malcolm

Buried my Fish

Kate, sticking her finger into his chest, says, “You just buried my fish.” There’s a stand off silence between them. “I caught the biggest Northern Pike I’ve ever caught. We were just about to gut it on a concrete slab that you just buried with your dump truck.”

The guy looks down at his hands and the red disappears. “Well shit lady, I didn’t mean to bury your catch. I was just dumping fill like we do when the park’s closed.”

"Fish in the Sand" by Jamie, edited by A. Malcolm

"Fish in the Sand" by Jamie, edited by A. Malcolm

Get it? Private Property

Kate stomps out of the water. “What the fucking fuck, I knew I hated this city for a reason. Our first landing on its shores and it tries to dump fucking garbage on us.”

A fat guy with a goatee and a beet red face appears beside the truck on the bank. “Hey! Hey, hey, hey! Don’t you understand open and closed times? The park is closed. Not open to paddlers. Shut down so we can work. Get it? Private property. You’re trespassing, get out of here!” Kate charges up the pile of concrete blocks right at him. “You want to get yourself killed? This is a work site, you’ve got to go.” She grunts and struggles to get to him faster, and he looks worried. “You better get down off those blocks, you get killed I’m not responsible.” Kate practically screams in a final sprint up to him. He jumps back a few steps. “This ain’t my fault. You’re not supposed to be in this park.”

"Groundhog" by Matt MacGillivray, edited by A. Malcolm

"Groundhog" by Matt MacGillivray, edited by A. Malcolm

Chapter 7 | Fatally Injured

Christ, what the hell was that? We all nearly got crushed. I looked up and saw the bin of a dump truck tilting right above us. I screamed run, grabbing Claire’s arm and charging towards the lake with Kate and Sam right behind. The boulders of concrete crashed down where we were and an explosion of concrete dust enveloped us. That freaked us out even more so we just kept running into the water until waves were crashing at our chest.

We turn and look at the pile that almost killed us and the dump truck it came from, the bin still tilted high.

I say, “Everyone all right? Claire, you good?”

She snaps her dragon eyes at me. “Am I what, Alex?”

“Good, like not hurt.”

“I’m not good or hurt. You on the other hand are fatally injured.”

“No, I’m good, I’m fine.”

But that’s not what she means.

A Distant Crackle Builds

I grab the bottle from the canoe and come back. “After we have a drink, guys, we have to go, Claire—”

I stop, my voice overtaken by the crashing of a particularly large wave. Because the waves crash right at the water’s edge, and onto the steep grade of wave worn bricks, the wave sounds like thunder, exactly like thunder. As the curl nears us, a distant crackle builds into a collective rumble. Awesome.

There’s another sound, one that becomes more apparent as the crashing wave fades. It’s a beeping, like when a truck is backing up, and another sound I can’t quite place. Is that hydraulics?

Then I look down the beach at the half cone piles of windshields and marble, the ones that appear freshly dumped, and then I look up.

Say 'The Wild'

“Take it easy, hippy, it’s just concrete and rebar. Rock that once came from nature and now returns to nature.”

“Listen, I want you to get some terminology straight: I’m not a hippy, I’m a canoe tripper, and just because I like paddling canoes and not stinking up the world with gas powered toys doesn’t mean you can label me. And don’t call anything ‘nature’ — it’s a meaningless, overused, powerless word now. So instead of nature say ‘the wild’, and everyone knows what you mean: these bricks and this rebar originally came from the wild, until they were domesticated into building materials, but just as you can’t send a dog back into the forest, you can’t just chuck a brick into the water and expect that you’ve returned something to the wild. Ugh, Kate, my brain hurts and I have to sleep. Can I have a bit of the vodka first though, Coast?”

Bricks and Rebar

“Don’t be a jerk, I know everything about our local landscape. I’ve paddled all the shorelines and been up all the rivers.”

“So you’ve seen the beach I’m talking about? The new one?”

“There’s no such thing as a new beach, they’re not like dirt bike tracks, nobody builds them, beaches are from forever.”

“Then explain what we’re standing on, because I’m pretty sure bricks and rebar have not been around forever.”

“Well crap, what is this then?”

“It’s fill from demolition sites. A beach near us is used for the same thing, fenced off but we busted through to check out spots and found it. There’s a whole peninsula built out into the lake, just like this.”

“But that’s so bad for the lake.”

"J. Price Brick" by Andrew Rivett, edited by A. Malcolm

"J. Price Brick" by Andrew Rivett, edited by A. Malcolm

Wave-Worn Bricks

I look back at Kate and Sam again. They’re lugging the fish up onto a flat chunk of rock. They probably want to gut it and cook it up on a fire — at least that’s what I want to do. “Okay, we’ll get back in the boat and paddle to the city. From there I’ll pay for you to get to an airport and fly out of here.”

“Fine, let’s go.”

We’re walking back towards them. As we walk I’m noticing that the entire bank is made of concrete, brick, rebar, tiles and all sorts of other junk, and the beach, wave-worn bricks. There’s nothing natural in sight. In some spots along the bank there are piles of stuff — a cylindrical pile of big marble slabs against the bank down towards the lighthouse, and behind me one of what looks like windshields. Kate and Sam are talking about all this as we walk up to them.

Kate says, “I know exactly what this place is. I’m surprised you don’t, Sam, because we have the same beaches right in our home town. Guess you don’t know your own local landscape.”

"Leslie Spit" by Rick Harris, edited by A. Malcolm

"Leslie Spit" by Rick Harris, edited by A. Malcolm

Big Cities like Montreal

I look back as I say this, hearing Kate, holding an empty beer can, yell, “Oh I’ll fucking do it, I’ll fucking do it and you will fucking see me.”

Sam says, “Don’t Kate, it’s bad for your head.”

She crushes the can against her head — “Why did you cover your eyes? Well shit” — and tosses the can into the lake.

“Kate, you jerk, that’s pollution, that’s going to kill fish, go get that.”

Kate laughs, “You can’t tell me what to do you fucking hippy.”

“I’m serious, I’m not talking to you until you grab three pieces of garbage from the lake.”

“Oh fuck…”

Claire says, “Not my kind of people, Alex”

“Oh come on, they’re a little rough around the edges, but so are a lot of girls back East.”

“Yes, they are like girls back East — crazy, unkempt and weird — but I don’t live out East anymore. I live in Montreal, with other people who live in Montreal — the type of people who live in big cities like Montreal. And now I have to get back to Montreal and away from anyone who lives back East, out West, or in goddamn Hamilton. How is that going to happen?”

"Killdeer" by Matt MacGillivray, edited by A. Malcolm

"Killdeer" by Matt MacGillivray, edited by A. Malcolm

Acting Crazy

I catch up to her. “You won’t get to the downtown that way. We’re on a peninsula that goes miles out from the city. Even if you walk all the way you’ll only come to a bunch of houses and apartments way east of the downtown.” She’s trying to speed up with every word I say, and I’m having trouble keeping up. “You’re acting crazy, Claire. We have to paddle to get to the city. It’s the only way. I’m sorry, but you’re stuck with us at this point.”

She stops and throws her backpack to the ground. “You want to know why I’m acting crazy? I don’t know those people, and you don’t know me. We’re not practical-joking-siblings who kidnap each other onto trips. You’re just a goddamn weirdo, and I’ve suddenly woken up trapped on a beach with you and two strangers and no other people around.”

“Ah Christ Claire, it’s not as bad as that. And Kate and Sam aren’t so bad, just come back and have a drink with them.”

"Sculpture" by John Vetterli, edited by A. Malcolm

"Sculpture" by John Vetterli, edited by A. Malcolm

Face to Face

Kate, Sam and I back out of the canoe away from her. I say, “Claire, easy, there’s an explanation here, and trust me, you’re going to be happy you’re here with us instead of back in Hamilton.”

She springs over the canoe and shoulders past me and Kate, looks up at the lighthouse, out over the water, at the bank (that’s too high to see over), and then she stands face to face with me.

“Where am I?”

“It may not seem like it from here, but we’re in Toronto. We sailed this thing straight across the lake after our parents got in this huge, gross fight with theirs the moment they—”

“Shut up, I don’t care why you’re here, why am I here?”

Kate, irritably, says, “Simmer down, you’re here because we’re on a trip to Toronto so we don’t have to be in Hamilton where—”

“Where I shouldn’t have been in the first place, and if I knew what a dump of a town this mysterious other side of the family lived in I never would have come down.”

She shoulders through us again, grabs her bag from the canoe and storms off.

Chapter 6 | Year of the Dragon

Seeing her stare into the Pike’s eye in much the same way the Pike is staring into hers, I’m expecting Claire to scream, though now that I think about it I can’t remember ever hearing Claire scream. Instead she grabs the handle of the net, shoots up straight, and lets out a martial arts “hraa” as she rotates the net over herself and slams the pike’s head on the stern seat killing that fish dead.

Claire and I were born the year of the dragon; though this point doesn’t say much about myself, it paints Claire with the right aesthetic — she has red hair (I have black), green eyes (I have blue) and she’s wearing a necklace with strings of green things wrapped repetitively around her neck so that they look like scales running down her chest. With predatory eyes and a long slow-moving neck, she surveys the shore and the people that stare at her from the opposing half of the absurd boat she’s woken up in.

Slowly, quietly, she says, “Is this some kind of joke?”

I say, “Claire, listen, I’ve made a stupid mistake, I brought you with—”

And screaming “Is this supposed to be funny?” She charges like a Komodo dragon on her knuckles and knees off the bed and onto the rocks. I see red on her knuckles. She doesn’t notice, but there’s definitely skin tearing.

Perfect Landing

Kate says, “Sam, you’ve got this right?”

“I’ve got the canoes holding straight, that’s about the only thing I can do right now.”

“Well, shit, we’re fucking surfing!”

And just like that we forget about the fish and Claire, getting sucked into a pretty thrilling moment — the catamaran tilted, but perfectly sunken into the downslope of the wave; the water crashing, the stone beach fast-approaching, and the curl of our wave charging at us from the left. We all scream as the wave breaks and throws us on the beach (the beach’s grade is really steep, so the crash happens right at its edge). And when we are sure we are thrown far enough that we won’t get sucked back into the water, we cheer and high-five each other — Sam says, “Was that a perfect landing or what?” Kate says, “For a drunk driver you’re all right” — but we freeze the second we hear a loud and alarmed intake of air from a now very awake Claire.

"Seagulls on a Sculpture" by Jamie, edited by A. Malcolm