February 15, 2013 Fiction








Fathers, sons and family, a monster with a vengeful streak and mystical wisdom flash for lovers of short fiction for February from Paul W. Johnstone, Margrét Helgadóttir  and Audrey Allen.





Winter by the Canal


Paul W. Johnstone



When I was small child my father used to tell that it was my soul escaping when you could see your breath in the cold. With every exhale there I was losing a little bit more of myself, this is kind of how it now feels for me all the time. My little finger pokes out the hole in my glove kissing the cold winter air, the air crisp touch a cleansing sensation amongst the suffocation of radiator riddled waiting rooms overstuffed with fragmented worries from walking skeletons.


I come here twice a day the fresh air does me good. The canal waters brush the banks as the moored boats gently list with an occasional creek that makes my bones shudder with memories. In winter the canals become so desolate, it’s as if they become frozen in time a still photograph that I can visit for a while. Only my footprints imprinted on the thin layer of frost give me away, otherwise I would be like a Wenders angel just observing not interfering never feeling.


I still always bring two slices of bread with me when I come down to the canal; just on the off chance that I might see a duck or a swan that grace these waters in more pleasant climates. But now more often than not the bread returns with me destined to go stale in the yellow bread bin. Everything around me seems to be entrapped within hibernation. The trees branches are bare, clawing reaching out over me, closing in as if to cradle or restrain singular frame.


When I was younger my Dad told me a lot of things like my Grandma was Welsh, if I was bad I would get coal and orange peels for Christmas and that sharks infest the waters. None of it was true, so I swore that when I would have children I would never tell them lies just the truth.


This wooden bench I sit on is old, I would guess maybe older than me. I wonder how many Christmas`s it has traversed, how many burdens it has helped people support over the years. There is a plaque on the bench sporting the word “In memory of”; it’s a testament to somebody. I have often wondered If the memory is the true residing place of the human soul as surely we are nothing but the sum of our memories, remove the memories and what you have left is just a vessel that looks like somebody you used to know/be. Memory could also be considered the only true place for immortality to exist for is it not true that if nobody is thinking of you, remembering you then you simply do not exist. It’s awful to think that could happen to you.


Do you know what I never see any more Robins. I can remember seeing then when I was a child but as I grew older they seemed to vanish, just like endless summers and the monsters in the cupboard. I can remember been off school on a snow day and seeing Robins in my garden pottering about leaving their tiny foot prints in snow everywhere they scurried. They always seem to be puffing out their chest, proud to stand out, a knight of the round table. I loved the King Arthur story it was my favourite to read out too. The lady of the lake was so spiritual; I can’t help be wonder if there could be a lady of canal, as I sometimes expect you just to turn up as if by magic.


I remember how much you used to love the ducks, the way you would squat down on your knees and make quacking noises convinced that you could speak their language. You were so sure that because they came towards the banks you were communicating with them, never realising it was only because you had the bread. You considered yourself to have an affinity with animals although I can’t help but feel the cats would have disagreed.


I come here twice a day and sit by the canal; I sit here alone in the cold and watch my breath escape in clouds. My face it becomes numb and I can’t feel the odd tear which escapes my glass eyes. This used to be our special place filled with laughter and quacks. People as they get older they grow out of old habits and into new experiences. Not here though this will always be a habit for me and always be a special place for you. The experiences we had have left this place scarred, this place it will be imprinted within my memory until the end.


On a Monday I come here after my swimming lesson, I never learned as a child because my father could not swim. I should have learnt so that I could have passed the knowledge on. When I was young my father would read me fairy tales with happy endings. He told me everyone has a happy ending he was wrong. I decided that when I became a father I would never lie, I told you so often that I wouldn`t let anything bad happen to you, I was wrong.


I come here twice a day to sit by the canal; I come here to spend time with you.

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  1. Rosie Kightly Stoker February 18, at 00:03

    @ Winter By The Canal: So sad. A lovely story. You can see the time pass in just a few paragraphs.


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