The Canadian Writers' Collective

Writing, and writerly tangents

Friday, December 22, 2006

Our guest, writer Martin Heavisides

In the Bag
by Martin Heavisides

This time of year I start to supplement my almost nonexistent courier income by buying used books and CDs at all kinds of sales and reselling them to dealers. I was heading out soon to the first church sale of the season, earlier than necessary as I'd soon discover, and not liking the fat flakes of snow coming down like popcorn outside the window. Not in an aesthetic sense, they were pretty enough even on the tail end of a winter we'd hoped we'd seen the last of; but my only boots each had a crack running from end to end across the middle of the sole and I'd have at least a three block walk from the nearest bus stop to the church with the sale. (In the event I walked two blocks the wrong way so I soaked up seven blocks' worth of the wet those flakes were turning to copiously.)

The windows were drawn in our bedroom. I said to Marysia "Have you seen the snow?" because that's what she'd said to me last night when I came to bed. I looked out on the balcony to check and she said "April Fool!" She knew I'd been too busy on the net, posting a flash in the Zoetrope workshop and reviewing other peoples', to notice a little thing like whether any snow had fallen in front of our big bay window in the living room. She smiled, remembering the joke and I pulled open the curtain. "Got you back!"

I took with me when I left a little carry-all bag crammed with recent work, and tucked in my jacket pocket a few scrap pages on which I was writing a new flash fiction. I hoped, besides finishing this very short piece, I'd have a chance when I settled somewhere to look over the
two scripts I was working on for a radio play competition on BBC. But all my recent work, stories, flashes, jottings, everything for the past three months, was crammed into the plastic bag I put into my carry-all.

As you already know, after I bought a coffee at an organic cafe near Runnymede and Annette I started walking in the wrong direction, which meant I'd get to Runnymede Presbyterian a few minutes late but maybe this early in the season competitors wouldn't be out in force so that wouldn't prove fatal. As I arrived I saw two of my chief competitors already leaving, well, they were interested in books mostly so if there were any CDs they'd be undisturbed. All last year I had better luck with CDs anyway. In a minute I discovered how they'd scouted this sale so briskly---the listing in the Villager had jumped the gun; the sale wouldn't be 'til April 9.

My head and feet were both soaking but the rest of me was more or less dry. Luck was with me to this extent, that I caught a bus right away to Jane station where I settled in at Timothy's for a coffee and danish. I guessed the coffee question so I only had to pay for the danish. "The African version of this animal has two horns, the Indian only one." I hadn't known that about the Rhino, but I did know it was the go-to animal for horns in that part of the world. (Of course there are antelopes and wildebeests but none of them, except by misadventure, ever has a single horn.) The next person to guess thought it was the hippo; I told him the African and the Indian hippo (is there an Indian hippo?) each have no horns. (Except, in a rude sense, the male at certain particular moments.)

By this time I was pretty much reconciled to the way the day was going. My socks were dry. My flash fiction piece was succinctly concluded. A ride one stop on the subway and a bus going south would get me home to a hot bath and a day of writing. In fact I was already on the bus and it was just about to pull out when I noticed I didn't have my bag. Jumped off, headed down to the subway platform, turning over the possibilities in my head. Probably I'd left it at Timothy's on
Jane. Possibly at the coffee shop near Runnymede and Annette. If neither of these I was screwed until at least Monday when I could get to TTC lost and found to check if it had been turned in when I left it on the bus. Three months' work. First through third drafts of materials
from two highly intricate scripts. Most likely it was at one of the cafes. If not maybe God could sweetly arrange a miracle. Before Monday please.

Two trains pass in the opposite direction while I wait. Jump on the train and wait impatiently 'til it pulls into High Park station. I was on the wrong platform. Rush to the other one, now I've got two stations to sweat through. IF the train arrives ahh! it's here. Dash past the boys selling daffodils for cancer and up the stairs to ground level---didn't know I could still clear three of those at a leap. Popping in the door I can tell by the counter girl's smile I won't need to traipse over to Runnymede and Annette. I'm sure you can imagine my relief.

I've done this before and though sometimes I've had to visit, with mounting panic, five or six places I'd stopped at before finding whatever the current project was I'd left behind, I always have found it---someplace I could have assured myself it was safe and secure. So naturally I wonder: is this a test I impose on myself from time to time, even a method of backhanded encouragement? A way to remind myself how valuable (to me at least) my writing is? I'll tell you one thing, it gets the adrenalin going.

C 2005 Martin Heavisides


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Got my adrenalin going too, Martin.

I have quirks about my writing too.

Merry Christmas, Diane; the Maple Room at Zoetrope

Fri Dec 22, 10:07:00 am GMT-5  
Blogger Tricia Dower said...

How nice to think ahead to April and to revisit a few Toronto neighbourhoods. So glad you didn't lose all that work.

Thanks for guesting, Martin. Happy holidays!

Sat Dec 23, 04:23:00 pm GMT-5  
Blogger Andrew Tibbetts said...

This reminded me of the time in the 80's when I went to buy a winter coat. I went straight to this odd looking Japanese thing I'd seen advertised in a trendy magazine. I tried it on several times, but it was just too weird, even though I thought it looked great. So I moved on from the trendy area all the way across town to where the more normal clothes were, finally picking an ordinary coat out, only to discover at the checkout that I had no money. Somewhere along the way I had lost $700 in cash. I skeddadled back through my day's wanderings all the way to that first coat, where hours and hours later my money was still in the pocket. I bought it, of course.

It's hard not to think of such luck as a message from the universe.

Thanks for guesting, Martin!

Wed Jan 03, 02:24:00 pm GMT-5  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is Martin. Thanks for posting me Andrew, and thanks all for your comments. I would have replied earlier if I'd known it went up so soon after I'd submitted it. Sounds like you made the right choice about the jacket Andrew. Either leaving the money there was a Freudian slip,or the coat was declaring for you as an owner.
Cheers all.
(Didn't create an identity for just now since I've had a full work day and haven't the energy to come up with a username and password.)

Mon Jan 15, 08:08:00 pm GMT-5  

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