Episode Seven - Guest Author rob mclennan

This week we are excited to welcome our first guest author, the prolific rob mclennan. rob currently lives in Ottawa, where he is home full-time with the two wee girls he shares with Christine McNair (check out her new poetry collection Charm). The author of more than thirty trade books of poetry, fiction and non-fiction, his most recent titles includeThe Uncertainty Principle: stories, (Chaudiere Books, 2014) and the poetry collection A perimeter (New Star Books, 2016). He spent the 2007-8 academic year in Edmonton as writer-in-residence at the University of Alberta, and regularly posts reviews, essays, interviews and other notices at robmclennan.blogspot.com

***

We were stretched flat on the dark side of the lawn, opposite the garage light and porch, staring up at the sky. We were counting the stars. I can’t believe you’ve never seen a shooting star, she said, as common as goldfish. We remained for a long time, sweeping our eyes across Ontario sky, and I looked over, amazed at this sprout of a child beside me, my ten-year-old daughter. I was studying the shadowed shapes of her developing profile, a sparkle in her eye. There’s one, she pointed. I turned to look. It had already vanished.

from The Uncertainty Principle by rob mclennan, Chaudiere Books, 2014

Subscribe to us on iTunes or wherever else you get your audio fix.

 

Episode Six - When her cat had died

graveyard-438548_1280.jpg

When her cat had died, her parents had lied to her. They said January had gone back to the Mennonite farm they’d got her from, that she’d be spending some time with her mother. Bethany tried to picture her tortie snuggled back into the straw-lined banana box she’d come out of. Until the dog dragged the carcass out of the shallow plot and paraded it around their yard. The decomposing pageantry was bad enough, but, worse, she wondered if her parents thought she was weak. If they spared her because she needed sparing. And it made her mistrust them. Even now, when they told her they were going out for dinner, she wondered if the house had burned down. Lately, she was disappointed that it hadn’t.

(written by Claire Tacon and read by Chioke I'Anson)

Subscribe to us on iTunes or wherever else you get your audio fix.

Episode Five - The past three nights

That he’d died in hospital had been keeping her up for the past three nights. Regret scratched at her like a raccoon trapped in a dumpster. The din of its claws, determined to tunnel out. The insomnia was making her clumsy, forgetful. She’d seen a friend at the grocery, someone she’d served on a board with, and had hidden behind a display of nectarines because she couldn’t remember if he was Reginald or Albert. Bertie? Reg? What did it matter if she couldn’t name him? She had always been someone who cared about others, who listened with both eyes. But now the rest of the world felt calloused over. She wasn’t sure sleep was going to fix that. And to find out, she’d have to make peace with the raccoon. Crack the lid and throw in an apple. Forgive the oncologist.

(written by Claire Tacon, read by Chioke I'Anson)

Subscribe to us on iTunes or wherever else you get your audio fix.

door-349807_1280.jpg

Episode Four - At first it was just a doodle

photo by David Solce

photo by David Solce

At first it was just a doodle

A boy with a cat’s head and tail. Eric had posted the sketch to his blog with the caption Xavier, two years old. It was a friend who emailed the first article, linked from a conspiracy site. Petri-dish Infant Escapes. There was Eric’s drawing, recreated with blurry stock photos. Right down to the overalls. Soon seasoned journalists reported sightings, warned the public against approaching. Online, people were divided. Some vowed to shelter the little one. Others set out bowls of poisoned milk. Eric pressed his ear to the door, waited for a purr.

(written by Claire Tacon, read by Chioke I'Anson)

Subscribe to us on iTunes or wherever else you get your audio fix.

Episode Three - On dives, the headlamp made the water blacker

image by Timothy Knepp

image by Timothy Knepp

On dives, the headlamp made the water blacker. There was nothing with sizeable teeth in this Ohio river but it was unnerving, the lone illuminated tunnel. Eric thought it must be some deep human fear, shadows on the periphery. Some ape thing like the hypnic jerk before sleep. He was here removing tracking cameras, the funding dried up on his paddlefish study. The population was down, no hiding that. A new dam, lax sport fishing regulations, the zebra mussel’s steady paving. Paddlefish were a barometer species. Eric couldn’t help but romanticize their plight. Imagine outliving the dinosaurs—Eoraptors to Triceratops—only to be squeezed out by twerpy homo sapiens. As he unscrewed the recorder, he was pinched by the anxiety that he might be to blame for the decline, simply by mounting cameras. It didn’t matter your intention, did it? Consequence seeped out just the same. Nothing could sandbag against it.

(written by Claire Tacon, read by Chioke I'Anson)

Subscribe to us on iTunes or wherever else you get your audio fix.

Episode Two - Who would she sleep with now?

Who would she sleep with now? He had shared the same queen- sized mattress for eight years. An Ikea futon for a decade before that. She didn’t want to be the kind of person that keeps stuffed animals or body pillows. Perhaps she would sleep on the couch, allow herself to be spooned by the cushions. How quickly would her weight make an imprint? How soon would guests know? And would they stop visiting, afraid to seat themselves on the mold of her bereavement? She didn’t want to make a spectacle of herself but grief felt like a third limb, something people’s eyes couldn’t help but seek out. A chipped tooth slowly remapped by the tongue.

(written by Claire Tacon, read by Chioke I'Anson)

Subscribe to us on iTunes or wherever else you get your audio fix.

Episode One - My Son is Given an Ark

DSC01938.jpg

My son is given an ark

Inside the red, plastic hull are pairs of molded elephants, zebras, giraffes, lions and doves. This Noah, clenched in my son’s hand, wears suspenders, hip waders and fisherman’s cap. He might as well be on a cod trawler. I wonder what his plans are once the waters dry up. Another white man with a Big Five game reserve. Surely his wife bites her tongue, wondering about tourists, if she’ll have to breed her own economy. Why not a pair of sheep? Chickens? She pleads with my son, “Wasn’t my sister worth twenty elephants?”

(written by Claire Tacon, read by Chioke I'Anson)

Subscribe to us on iTunes or wherever else you get your audio fix.

Welcome to The Oddments Tray

So, I’m terrible at blogging. But I got an offer I couldn’t refuse—the inimitable Chioke I’Anson suggested recording some microfiction together. We’d been working together on a podcast called Do Over (check it here!) and lending me his voice for my own writing was too generous a proposition to pass up. I’m hoping to release one compact story a week with some guest writers popping up as well.

The title comes from the junk receptacle between the two front seats of a car. When I think about my writing process, I often compare it to driving with random objects knocking around in the trunk. Every so often I open it up and see how they’ve come to fit together. Over the years, I’ve written a lot of text that will never find a commercial home—so here, in audio form, I’m emptying out the car tray, lost paper clips, loose change, grimy trail mix and all.   

In case you want to know more about Chioke (and you do!), you can check him out at VCU’s Department of African American Studies, listen to his interviews on SoundCloud, or you could just listen to NPR—he’s the one reading the underwriting

Subscribe to us on iTunes or wherever else you get your audio fix.