Thursday, 24 December 2015

I can't believe that one year has gone by since the Scribbler interviewed Santa Claus. That was fun and if you missed the interview you can go here to read it.

I would like to thank all of the 15000 visitors and readers that dropped by since then, people from all over the world. Many thanks to the folks that purchased my novel and short story collections.

I am especially indebted to all the guest authors and artists that participated in the Scribbler over the past 365 days making it the success it has become. 

A special thank you must go to several people that have shared my blog and supported it faithfully and they are;

Susan Toy - fellow author and special guest.

Lockard Young - another talented writer and friend.

Christine Beers for always sharing.

The future is bright for the Scribbler with many new authors lined up for the coming year. More artists & musicians as well as storytellers will be featured.

It is my wish that everyone has a safe and happy holiday.

Merry Christmas                   Joyeux Noel

Rosh Hashanah                   Eid Saeed

Vrolijk Kerstfeest                  Frohe Weihnachten

Buon Natale                         Happy Holidays

And to all a very Happy New Year.

And here's some funny stuff for you.

The Scribbler will start off the new year with the  special guest Andrew Moore on the 4Q Interview. A musician that is causing ripples in the local music scene.

Friday, 18 December 2015

Guest Author Mark Tilbury of Cumbria, England.

This week's featured author is Mark Tilbury.

I live in a small village on the West coast of Cumbria after living in Oxfordshire, where I was born and raised. I had lived there all my life apart from five years spent serving in the Royal Navy on submarines. The navy introduced me to lots of different characters and cultures and taught me a lot about the importance of teamwork and acting responsibly.

I have always had an overwhelming urge to write. Poems, short stories, novels, even random stuff that just pops into my head. I sold a couple of short stories to magazines back in the nineties, but then I was widowed and left on my own to raise two young daughters, and my writing went on the back-burner as I readjusted my life to cope with my new situation.

My three favourite authors are Stephen King, Tom Sharpe and Catherine Cookson. My favourite book is Misery by Stephen King and I think the film adaptation is brilliant as well.
An excerpt from his debut thriller - The Revelation Room.

Edward Ebb looked at the Infiltrator and shook his head. The Infiltrator didn’t look in good shape, which wasn’t any wonder seeing as Brother Tweezer had shot him out of a tree overlooking the courtyard. The Infiltrator had sustained a broken wrist and a broken leg to go with the bullet wound in his left shoulder. He kept whinging and whining that he’d broken his spine, but Ebb doubted the validity of the claim. He’d kicked and thrashed well enough when Ebb had poked a hot needle into the wound in his shoulder.
Ebb conceded the Infiltrator may well have suffered internal injuries as well, but he didn’t care. He wasn’t a doctor. It was of no consequence. But he needed to tread carefully because Satan was at his most potent when lying dormant.
The Infiltrator looked in a pitiful state tied to a chair in the Revelation Room. Lumps of congealed vomit lodged in his beard. His bald head gleamed with sweat beneath the overhead lights.
Ebb unscrewed the cap of a bottle of Evian spring water. ‘Are you thirsty?’
The Infiltrator croaked something unintelligible.
‘What’s the matter? Afraid it might be holy water?’
‘Who are you?’
He looked at Ebb with devious eyes. Full of pity. Full of deceit. Full of hate. ‘I’m… a… bird-watcher…’
Ebb laughed. ‘A bird-watcher, huh? So how come you had a long-range camera in the tree with you?’
‘I was—’
Ebb shook his head. ‘We’ve had the film developed. Guess what?’
His nose started to bleed again. 'What?'
Ebb resisted an urge to poke out an eye. ‘There wasn’t one picture of a bird on that film. Not one. But there were plenty of pictures of my courtyard.’
‘Who sent you?’
He looked away. The way liars did when backed into a corner.
‘Did a demon send you to spy on me?’
‘No.’ The word came out in a bubble of blood.
‘Would you like a drink?’
‘Then tell me who sent you to spy on me?’
‘No one. I—’
Ebb turned the bottle upside down and tipped half the contents onto the dusty concrete floor. He then righted the bottle and took a swig. He wiped his mouth. ‘That’s so good. Nice and cold. Straight from the fridge.’
The Infiltrator licked his cracked lips with a lizard tongue.
Ebb screwed the cap back on the bottle. ‘I’ll let you have some if you tell me who you are.’
The Infiltrator’s eyes narrowed. He looked like a fox with the scent of chicken in its snout.
Don’t trust him, Pixie-pea.
Ebb jumped. He turned around to face three skeletons secured to wooden crosses on the far wall. The middle skeleton had a pink wig lodged on its skull and sunglasses covering its eye sockets. Ebb addressed it cautiously. ‘Don’t you worry about that. I’ve got his cards marked.’
Never trust a man with a beard, Pixie-pea.
Ebb gawked at the skeleton. ‘Leave me alone. I’m busy.’
The skeleton seemed to grin at him, but that had to be a trick of the light. Skeletons didn’t grin. A one-eyed cat could tell you that much. He turned back to face the Infiltrator. ‘Tell me who you are and I’ll let you have a drink.’
Ebb threw the bottle at him. It bounced off his forehead and landed on the floor next to his chair. The Infiltrator attempted to escape the ropes securing him to the chair. He wriggled like a maggot on a fishhook. At one point, he almost tipped himself over.
‘Sit still. I shan’t pick you up if you upend yourself.’
The Infiltrator stopped writhing and stared at Ebb with those deceitful eyes. ‘Please. I’m… in… agony.’
Ebb snorted. ‘And I’m a busy man. All you need to do is tell me who you are and who sent you, and this will be over and done with.’
Done and dusted, Pixie-pea.
Ebb ignored the voice. ‘Wouldn’t you like that?’
The Infiltrator nodded his head and winced. Ebb noticed that two of his front teeth were missing. ‘How would you like Sister Alice to splint that leg and wash your wounds?’
The Infiltrator nodded and snorkelled blood and snot back up his nose.
‘So tell me who you are?’
The Infiltrator exercised his right to remain silent.
Ebb reached into the pocket of his white ceremonial robe and pulled out a small glass vial. He held it up in front of his quarry. ‘Do you know what this is?’
‘It’s holy water. Do you know what holy water is?’
The Infiltrator nodded.
Ebb smiled. ‘Good. So you’ll understand it burns the skin of evildoers?’
The Infiltrator’s eyes widened. They looked to Ebb as if they were making a grand effort to launch from their sockets and fly to the moon. And well they might. If he was connected to a demon, he was in for a tough time. A very tough time indeed.
Ebb uncapped the bottle. There was a tiny dropper attached to the lid. He drew some of the liquid into the dropper and stepped closer to the Infiltrator. Close enough to smell his rank body. The stench of bodily waste was almost too much to bear. God alone knew what diseases the Infiltrator harboured.
The Infiltrator wheezed and rasped like a knackered engine trying to whirr into life. ‘Geoff…my name’s…Geoff…’
Ebb stepped back and studied the weasel’s face for signs of deception. ‘Geoff? Geoff who?’
The Infiltrator sucked in air through clenched teeth. He gasped five or six times, as if he were about to deliver a baby demon, and then shook his head.
Ebb took a deep breath and tried to summon patience. It was wearing as thin as the Infiltrator’s hair. ‘Geoff who?’
The Infiltrator looked away.
The demon was toying with him. Teasing him. Trying to provoke him. Ebb refused to rise to it. ‘I don’t particularly care what your name is. I want you to tell me who sent you.’
The Infiltrator scraped his tongue over dry lips. ‘I’m a bird-watcher.’
Ebb shook his head. ‘Did Satan send you?’
‘Does Satan reside in you?’
A long drawn out wheeze, and then: ‘No.’
Ebb smiled. ‘I expect nothing other than denial from a terrorist.’
The Infiltrator shook his head. His eyes rolled back in his head. Further indication to Ebb that he was harbouring a demon. ‘I’m not—’
Ebb raised a hand and stepped back. ‘I fear no evil. I shall not stand in the shadow of evil. I am the light, and I am the resurrection.’
‘I’m…Geoff,’ the Infiltrator croaked.
The words sounded like they’d been raked over hot coals. The hot coals of Hell. ‘Show yourself, Satan.’
Ebb smiled. ‘Denial is always the first port of call for Satan’s seafarers.’ He stepped forward again and held out the dropper. ‘The holy water shall determine your validity.’
The Infiltrator stared at him with those treacherous eyes.
‘Do you fear the holy water, Satan?’
Satan did. He’d written it in a thousand lines upon the Infiltrator’s face. And well he might fear the holy water. Just as he’d been right to fear the hot needle that Ebb had thrust into his wounded shoulder. Like all cowards, Satan was not as good at taking pain as he was at dishing it out.
Ropes pinned The Infiltrator’s hands to his sides. Tweezer had secured him well. Tweezer seemed to enjoy tying people up, especially people who had betrayed The Sons and Daughters of Salvation. Ebb dripped a few drops of holy water onto the Infiltrator’s right hand.
The coward did not stand on ceremony. He bucked and writhed and tipped himself sideways onto the cold concrete floor. His head hit the ground with a nasty thud, reminiscent of when Ebb had hit his mother over the head with a shovel many years ago.
‘Come forth, Satan. Come forth and show yourself.’
Satan seemed content thrashing about on the floor inside the Infiltrator’s body. Ebb had intended to drop acid onto the weasel’s other hand, but he didn’t want to risk his own safety by getting too close. A wounded animal was a dangerous animal.
‘Come forth, Satan. Come into the light and face the truth.’
Satan’s rage frothed and bubbled on the Infiltrator’s lips. Ebb wouldn’t have been at all surprised to see ectoplasm forming a cocoon around that filthy, matted beard. He stepped back to a safer distance and screwed the cap back onto the bottle.
‘I shall send Sister Alice and Brother Tweezer to attend to you later.’
The Infiltrator didn’t look very grateful. He wriggled and moaned and scraped his head on the rough concrete floor as if trying to burrow his way out of the Revelation Room.
Ebb was in no mood to pander to whims. He left the Infiltrator to bask in self-pity and walked out of the Revelation Room. He locked the door behind him and rested his back against it. As soon as he understood Satan’s purpose here, the Infiltrator could go straight to Hell courtesy of death by a thousand cuts.

Thank you Mark for your teaser. Wishing you much success with your book.
Please drop by Mark's website.
What's happening next week on the Scribbler....?
Leave a comment, tell a joke, tell us how your day's going?

Friday, 11 December 2015

Guest Author Rob Rayner.

This week on the Scribbler you will meet Rob Rayner. A multi-talented gentleman from St. George, NB.

I never knew what I wanted to be when I grew up.

In addition to a few go-nowhere jobs, I’ve been a journalist (in Cambridge, England), a teacher (in Colchester, England; Glovertown, Newfoundland; and Charlotte County, New Brunswick), and an elementary school principal (in St. George, New Brunswick).

I’ve been writing as long as I can remember, news and features as a journalist, tracts and diatribes on education as a teacher, stories to read to students as a principal, and, all the time, stories for their own sake. Rather to my surprise, I’ve now written one crossover novel, nine YA novels, fourteen novels, and three adult novels.

Although I forsook being a school principal to teach music at home, and to have more time for writing, I still love the world of school, and often talk to students about writing. Many of my stories have grown out of, and continue to grow out of, my experiences working with children of all ages.

When I’m working on a book, I usually write in the morning, starting early, and play and teach music in the afternoon. If I’m under pressure to finish something, or I’m obsessed with a story (which I regard as a good sign), I tend to write at every spare moment, and when I’m not writing, I’m thinking about what I’m going to write.

When not writing, or playing and teaching music, you’ll find me (just suppose you want to) walking, reading, skiing, taking photographs, feeding and watching the birds, or listening to music. I play keyboard, and a bit of sax and clarinet, with Stepping Out, a band that performs standards, country rock, blues, and old rock and roll, and I use the guitar to accompany songs I’ve written to introduce some of the characters in the stories.

I live in St. George, New Brunswick, on the Magaguadavic River, where I drive Nancy, my wife, to distraction by getting obsessed with writing, and by watching lots of soccer on TV (go Newcastle United and Wolverhampton Wanderers), and by playing loud music.

My crossover novel, Colorland (have to use the US spelling because it’s published in the States), tries to explore the concept of a ‘higher self’ that we call upon when we need to achieve something normally beyond us, maybe in an act of heroism or desperation, maybe fortuitously when pursuing an interest and having everything ‘click’ at exactly the right time.

As Ridge, in the novel, explains:

“You know how sometimes something happens, and afterwards you think what you could have – should have – done, if only you had the nerve and the confidence to do it, but of course by the time you think that, it’s too late.”

Isolde nodded.

Wenden mumbled, “Only, like, all the time.”

“Well – it’s like having the nerve and the confidence to do it straight off, at the moment you need to do it,” said Ridge.

Colorland is an adventure story of rebellion, comradeship, and betrayal; of reluctant initiation into the arbitrary necessity of violence; and of love, requited, unrequited, and lost.

The novel is published by Speaking Volumes Press and is available in e-form at Chapters/Indigo, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and iTunes, and in print form at some Chapters/Indigo/Coles stores, and in both print and e-form from the publisher.


Here’s the prologue:  

     Isolde is crying again.

     Wenden, waking, hears her through the thin walls of the old farmhouse. He rises and pulls on shoes and a warm jacket. They all keep their clothes beside them at night, ready to dress in a hurry. Across the room, Meru stirs and murmurs in her sleep. She’d been on first watch, until Ridge took over at midnight. Wenden tucks her blanket around her.    

     When Speed brought them here, and showed them the two spare bedrooms, they decided one would be for the girls and one for the boys. But Isolde comes to Ridge most nights, despite his aloofness, and Wenden goes next door and sleeps in Isolde’s bed, in order to leave them alone. Sometimes Meru creeps in with him, for warmth and comfort. Only once has it gone beyond that. Wenden wonders if he should be offended by her lack of desire for him, but he understands, because he sees how Meru looks at Ridge. It’s the same as he looks at Isolde.          

     He pauses in the hallway, listening to Isolde’s weeping. He’d like to go in and comfort her, knowing she’s alone, remind her that Ridge can’t help how he is, he’s like it because he saved them all, but she knows this. Besides, he fears how his friend would react, in his present state, if he found them. Even in Ridge’s aloofness, Wenden knows the vestiges of his bond with Isolde remain, as responsibility for her, if no longer love, and he doesn’t want misunderstanding to unleash his friend’s ruthlessness. 

He stands on the veranda. The morning sky is red and immense, and the plain stretches in shades of russet and brown as far as he can see. Speed is somewhere out there, checking the perimeter, as she does every morning. She promises they’re safe here. No-one can approach without their knowing in plenty of time to flee, and the city can’t afford aerial reconnaissance. Not yet.

     The sun is just up and the air is cool. Wenden reckons it’s late October, which means they’ve been there nearly a year. He wonders if that’s cause for celebration or lament. 

     Ridge comes around the side of the house and stands beside him.

     “Isolde’s crying,” Wenden tells his friend.

     “She’s always crying,” says Ridge.

     “She can’t help it.”

     “I know.”

     “My watch,” says Wenden. “Get some rest.”

     Ridge goes inside. He peers in his room. Isolde is grey. Like Wenden, like all of them, like everything. He’s almost forgotten color, since he’s been trapped on this side. Sounds are muffled, in harmony with the grey pall, except the sounds of danger, or of anything at which he directs his essential ruthlessness. It’s what he’d learned to summon – what he’d needed – in the months before they found sanctuary with Speed. Now he curses his transcendence, at the same time as he knows that one day he’ll need it again.

     Isolde sits up in bed, a grey wraith, sniffling, wiping her nose with one hand, one shoulder bare as the baggy tee shirt she wears to sleep – one of his – slips down. She reaches her arms towards him. She rises from the bed like smoke. Her hands slither over him. Her voice comes from a distance.

     “I want to feel you.”

     “You can’t.”

     “What do I feel like to you?”

     “I’ve told you over and over. Like nothing. Just a … a resistance.”

     She tries to smile. “I’ve never resisted you. Not for as long as I can remember.”


     “Don’t you feel anything in Colorland? I don’t mean just touch, but feelings?”

     He tries to summon feelings.

     His coat round her shoulders, her hand in his, the day old trace of her scent on a borrowed shirt flit through his memory and are lost.  

     “You ask me that every day.”

     Outside on the veranda, Wenden rises from his seat on the steps to greet Speed.

     She says, “Everything okay?”

     Wenden shrugs. “Isolde’s crying again.”


Thank you Rob for joining us on the Scribbler and this teaser to your thriller, Colorland.

Discover more about Rob at the following links.
Book trailers (and some music stuff):

Please visit again next week when Mark Tilbury of Cumbria, England shares an excerpt from his thriller - The Revelation Room.

Don't forget to leave a comment, or two!

Friday, 4 December 2015

Guest Author Susan Toy of Bequia.

This week, I'm happy to have Susan Toy return with another of her entertaining short stories. Susan has been featured on the 4Q Interview (see here) as well as a previous guest author (see here). Drop by one of the previous pages to discover more about Susan and her artful writing. So many of her fellow authors are indebted to her kindness of sharing our work on her reading recommendations web site link

Here's another one for you to enjoy.

Family Jewels

By Susan M. Toy


Tracy lay on the hotel bed, fully clothed. With the window shut and thick curtains pulled tight, she was completely in the dark.
But she wasn’t asleep, just thinking, fast thoughts racing through her head, so jumbled, that she couldn’t sort out what to do next. Unconsciously, she had been studying a crack in the wall, one that began in the upper left-hand corner of the room, meandering its way down, almost meeting the window’s edge.
There was a tentative rap at the door. Tracy closed her eyes then covered them with the back of one hand. She remained silent.
            Tracy?” Doug’s voice tested the waters. “Trace, honey. I know you’re in there. Please open the door.”
A moment passed before he tried the handle. It turned, the door pushed open, and he entered the room.
“Why didn’t you lock the door? Anyone could have walked in.” He sounded more annoyed than concerned about her. Then softening his voice, he said, “And what are you doing in the dark? Aren’t you feeling well? I knew it. Why didn’t you say so at the restaurant?”
            Tracy waited a long moment then said in a whisper, “I’m fine.” She removed her hand, but kept her eyes shut.
          “Maybe you just need something to eat. Would you like me to order room service?” Doug hesitated. “Or maybe you’d like to go downstairs. You could get the same food, but it would cost a lot less in the café. Walking around might do you some good, too. Better than lying here on the bed, in the dark.” He walked over to the window and grabbed a curtain.
            “Please keep that closed,” Tracy said, opening her eyes to glare at her husband, who was dwarfed by the high-ceilinged room of that once-elegant hotel.
Doug turned when she spoke, dropping the brocade.
“What’s wrong with you, Tracy?” His face twisted with anger, any tender concern vanishing. “And what’s this about leaving? You amaze me! You don’t really want to leave. Where did you get this idea? You suddenly want to give up thirty years? And after all I’ve done for you, provided you with? And right now, too, especially when I’ve finally retired, you want to leave me? I thought we were going to spend our golden years together.” He waved an arm, ordering her to stand. “Now stop this foolishness, Tracy. Get up and we’ll go out so you can eat.”
Doug shrugged then shook his head as though in disbelief. He moved to the foot of the bed, and his voice softened again. “I already ate, after you left the restaurant; we can skip the gallery this afternoon, if you want. Maybe do something you’d like to do. Shop? I don’t mind. Really. But let’s forget we even had that conversation, and just go back to the way things were. Okay?”

Shut up! Just shut up!

Earlier, Tracy had propped one elbow on the café railing and, cupping her chin in the hand’s palm, gazed down the street at nothing in particular, silently willing her husband to stop pontificating. Bad enough she’d had to traipse around after him all morning in the museum. Now he was hell-bent on lecturing her about what they’d seen.
            The Parisian back street was moderately busy that sun-drenched day. The restaurant patio, a block from their hotel, offered welcome cooling shade, and a place for Tracy to relax her aching legs. Doug had plans to hit another art gallery shortly after lunch, so she would have little time to rest.
Not conferring with Tracy first, he automatically ordered café au lait, “Deux, s’il vous plait,” holding up two fingers in a V at the passing garçon.
Tracy didn’t bother to remind him that the French count numbers beginning with their thumb. Her lips set in a tight, silent line, she also didn’t mention she would rather have had something cold to drink, maybe a beer for a change. What was the point?
Doug launched back into his monologue, not showing any sign of letting up, so she continued staring down the street, nodding towards her husband every so often to give the impression she was paying attention. After thirty years of practice she had this routine down pat.

Tracy sat up on the bed and turned around, placing her feet firmly on the carpeted floor. She looked directly at Doug and, emphasizing each word, said, “What you’ve done for me?” She gulped. “What you’ve given me?”
Now that she had suddenly found her voice, though, there was no stopping, and she leaped right down his throat.
“I’ve had thirty years of boredom, of doing only what you wanted to do because I thought that was the way a happy marriage worked, what society wanted of me, and I was afraid to do anything different. Now a naked man has shown me there’s something more to life that I’ve been missing all along. I know it’s okay to do what pleases me–if I want to. It’s not just the gallery this afternoon, Doug.”
Her volume had risen to the point where it bordered on a scream.
“If I get dragged into one more museum, or have to do anything else because you want to do it, I might just possibly die. Walking around the streets naked would be preferable to this unrelenting boredom our life has become. At least I’d feel free, like I was doing something I chose to do.
            “Shhh. Keep your voice down.” Doug held out his hands, patting down the air. “There might be someone in the next room.”
            “They wouldn’t care about what we’re saying in English.” But Tracy lowered her voice out of habitual deference.
Doug paused and, nodding slowly, said, “It’s the money you want, isn’t it? If you think I’m going to let you go without a fight, allowing you to get away with this … or, wait a minute … is there someone else? You’ve planned this with someone, haven’t you?”
            “You just don’t get it–and there’s the problem. I don’t want your money, or at least no more than I’m entitled to. And there’s no one else. I just want to be allowed to find out who I really am. I can’t do that as long as you’re constantly calling the shots.”
            “I know what it is—you’re menopausal. You’re not thinking clearly, Tracy.” Doug looked concerned again and, leaning over, reached a hand out to touch her shoulder. She stood up from the bed, shrugging him off in one motion.
Doug continued, “Can’t we wait until we’re back in Calgary to talk about this? You could see a doctor there, or maybe talk with a therapist. Then we’ll both decide what to do.”
            Through clenched teeth, Tracy said, “I’ve never thought more clearly in all my life.” And if I don’t follow through now, I’ll never get away from this man. “I’m not sick. I just need some space.”
            “So what do you plan to do?” He became very business-like. “I might remind you that there are responsibilities you can’t just walk away from. We have tickets and bookings already paid for. You should at least stay and finish this trip.”
For the first time in her life, the novelty of not-knowing, not having a plan as to what was about to happen, was decidedly exciting, yet, at the same time, frightening.
“I think I’d like to go home.” She said, looking away from him.
“Okay, if that’s what you want.” Doug shook his head. “I don’t know why we can’t just go back to the way things were this morning. We were having such a good time.”
No, you were having a good time. I was tagging along, like I’ve always done.
Tracy glanced at Doug’s angry face before he turned away to walk into the bathroom. When he came back out she was still standing in the same position as though chained to the spot. “I’d better start seeing about changing our flight,” he said. “This isn’t going to be easy, you know. It’s probably going to cost a lot, too.” He pointed around the room. “You pack up our things. I’ll call from the lobby and let you know when I get through with it all. And, Tracy … ” He reached an arm towards her, attempting to drape it around her shoulders, but she slouched out of the way so the arm hit empty space before dropping by his side again. “Buck up, Sweetie. We’ll figure a way out of this.”
He let himself out of the room. 


Finally, some activity broke through Doug’s lecturing drone, catching her attention. Startled into close observation, she blinked hard, twice, not believing her eyes.
            Pedestrians were stepping aside, giving wide berth, pointing, and stifling laughter behind hands. An elderly man, squat, pleasantly plump, and totally naked, save for sandals and white socks, strolled out from the parting crowd along the sidewalk’s centre towards Tracy. With a full head of wavey-grey hair framing a Cheshire Cat-face, he resembled an odd mix of aged-cherub and manically grinning gargoyle, just like those carvings they’d seen in Notre Dame.
Tracy stared intently, then giggled, imagining a friend’s oh-so-British voice declaring, “His dingly-danglies are showing!” When the man came alongside Tracy, he turned his head and they made eye contact. He flashed her a big, self-satisfied smile, threw a quick wave, and continued walking. Tracy returned the infectious smile.
            “What the … ” Doug said, his consideration of the
Gauls and Visigoths ending abruptly.
            Tracy turned back to look at her husband, a smile on her lips. “You didn’t see his gem-encrusted penis ring. Gave new meaning to the term Family Jewels.”
Doug huffed, “Where are the police?” Craning his neck, he watched the man’s backside, adding, “Surely, even in France, one can’t walk around naked.”
            Tracy looked at Doug, her brow now furrowed. “Why not? He seemed perfectly happy to me.” She turned around for another glimpse, but the nudist had already disappeared into a crowd. “And harmless,” she said, more to herself, continuing to look down the street.
A moment later there was a scuffle when two police approached. They grabbed the naked man’s arms, plucking him from passers-by, and dragged him out of Tracy’s sight.
            “Good!” Doug said, settling back into his seat, pulling straight his jacket lapels. “That’s taken care of.”
The waiter appeared and disinterestedly placed two cups on their table, leaving immediately.
            “Merci,” Tracy said to the retreating white-shirted back. She reached for a paper napkin and, while sopping up spilled coffee from the saucer, she studied her husband’s face. “Why good? Why can’t we do what makes us happy, whenever the moment grabs us?”
            “What a question! Everything would become chaotic without rules. You know that. You’ve helped me raise three children.”
            “Helped?” Tracy said, catching her breath, her head shaking in anger. More like, we’ve always done as you’ve said, but she didn’t dare speak those words out loud.
             “People can’t do whatever they want, you know, not if it upsets everyone.”
Doug settled back into his seat, looking satisfied he had made his point and their discussion was over.
            Looking around, Tracy observed that life in the café had resumed as though nothing had happened. Or, what was more likely the case–a naked man walking down a Paris street was so common an occurrence that few had paid any attention at all.
She waved an arm at other diners seated on the patio. “You’re the only one who’s upset.” Laughing, she added, “Besides, if the man has an expensive penis ring, why can’t he flaunt it?”
            No longer in the shade, she cupped a hand over her eyes. Doug’s face, even still protected by the overhead awning, was turning a brilliant crimson; sweat beaded his brow.
            Tracy, this isn’t funny. He’s crazy. How long will it be before he hurts someone, or himself? Better if he’s locked up.”  
            Like me? Tracy pursed her lips, but remained silent. After a few moments, gathering courage, she looked Doug straight in the eye, and said, “I’m leaving.”
            “You want to go back to the hotel? But we just got our coffee. I thought we were going to eat lunch.” He searched around for their waiter.
    “No, Doug. I’m leaving you.” Tracy reached to the ground, fingering her purse’s handles.
Doug turned back to her with a deer-in-the-headlights look. She’d managed to silence him more effectively than if she’d reached across and slapped his face. Composing himself, he harrumphed and, reaching for the sugar, fumbled with the coffee spoon, buying time to avoid the direction Tracy was heading. Finally finding his voice, Doug said with a hiss, “What will the kids think? What about the rest of the family, our friends, our neighbours? How do you expect me to explain this to everyone? Have you considered anything at all? You’re going to make me look like a fool!”
The balding spot where his hairline was receding had been sunburned an angry red; the skin would soon peel. A tear glistened in the corner of one eye. Quickly removing his glasses, he swiped the moisture away, not allowing it an opportunity to course down his cheek.
Tracy sighed and shook her head as if to stop any guilt from settling on her shoulders yet one more time. She grabbed the handles of her bag, lifting it from the ground and, pushing herself up from the chair, reached over and placed one palm on her husband’s cheek. She whispered, “Goodbye, Doug.” Then turning, she straightened her back and walked steadily through the café entrance, out onto the sidewalk, heading towards their hotel. If Doug had called out, trying to stop her, she didn’t hear.   
The sun shining full on her face caused her to squint. Or was that the beginning of a smile? Tracy opened her bag and pulled out a pair of sunglasses, fitting them on. Then flicking the blouse button high on her neck, she impulsively unfastened it, as well as the next, allowing a slight breeze to deliciously trickle down into her cleavage. 


Tracy sighed deeply. Where had her happiness gone, what she’d felt earlier when leaving the restaurant? She walked over to the window and drew back the curtains. The much cheaper room-without-a-view Doug had insisted on booking looked out on the blank wall of a next-door building. The large pane of glass still allowed in some light, although not that famous Paris light known to artists, and Tracy stood in the middle of its sunny warmth, trying to clear her mind of all thought. It hurt to think, but if she could just figure out which direction was best, now that she’d suddenly set things in motion. All she knew was that there was no going back to what they’d had, what they had been.
Reaching behind her head, Tracy expertly pinned up some escaped strands of hair into the usual tightly wound bun. Sighing once more, she walked over to the wardrobe, opened the door and, reaching in, pulled out her own suitcase. She hesitated briefly, just for a moment, before also grabbing Doug’s.

 Thank you Susan for sharing your stories. Dear readers, if you get a chance, pick up one of Susan's novels. You won't be disappointed.

Watch here next week when Rob Rayner of New Brunswick is featured as our guest author.