Chocolate Bunny Fragment

April 30, 2010

They are lined up in the girl’s closet, a family of foil-wrapped chocolate bunnies. The boy stares at them in disbelief. It’s several weeks after Easter and the girl has refused to eat the bunnies.

“Are you saving them? We should eat them,” he says, “Ask your mom if we can eat them.”

“Noooo!” The girl steps in between the boy and the bunnies, carefully arranged among her stuffed animals.

“Why not? Don’t you like chocolate?”

The girl gingerly picks up one of the rabbit-shaped confections. This one is the papa and his foil wrapper is printed to look like it’s wearing a yellow and red plaid shirt and blue pants. The girl says, “I love my Peter Rabbit. I can’t kill him.”

“But you’re ‘sposed to eat him,” the boy reasons.

“No,” says the girl.

“You mean,” the boy’s voice takes on an incredulous tone, “you’re not going to eat them? Like ever?”

The girl shakes her head and cradles the chocolate bunny as if it were a human baby.

“He’s not a toy, y’know?” The boy says testily. He can’t believe how stupid she is being. Why wouldn’t she want to eat the bunnies? Doesn’t she know there’s chocolate under the wrapper? That must be it, he decides. She doesn’t get these aren’t toys. She must be stupid. They’re ugly and don’t even look like real toys.

He quickly reaches down and picks up one of the baby bunnies.

“Here. Look. It’s chocolate,” he starts to peel away the foil from the rabbit’s ear but he’s barely uncovered the waxy brown body underneath when the girl emits a terrified bleat and snatches the candy effigy from his hands.

“You’ll hurt ‘im!” she bellows.

The boy looks at the foil dolls in the girl’s hands and knows what has to be done if he’s going to get a chance to eat the chocolate. He grabs for one of the bunnies, the papa one, and they enter a frenzied tug-of-war. In the struggle he intentionally pokes his thumb through the hollow bunny’s head.

Suddenly the girl stops fighting and stares at the broken rabbit with her mouth silently agape. She can still see the bunny’s face on the foil where the boy pushed it into the thumb-sized wound. Behind its torn nose and eyes is a gaping, empty darkness framed by shards of milk chocolate.

She begins screaming again. This time it isn’t a short, sharp exclamation but a continuous shrill wail like a siren. The boy is genuinely surprised to see tears on her cheeks. In no time at all, the girl’s mother has entered the room and has the girl in her arms asking her what the matter is.

“He hurt Peter! He broke Peter!” the girl shrieks. The mother looks at the fragments of chocolate bunny in the boy’s hands and then into the boy’s eyes. He feels like he is about to get into a lot of trouble but instead the mother just closes her eyes like she might be feeling tired or sick and nuzzles her blubbering daughter. Then she opens her eyes, sighs and takes the broken chocolate from him with her free hand.

“Get washed up for dinner,” she says as she turns and carries the girl out of the room, “I guess you two can have some bunny for dessert.”

© 2010 Jakob Rehlinger

Things You See In The Produce Aisle

April 28, 2010

She supported herself with an old-fashioned cane. The fingers of her right hand gripped it so tightly the knuckles were turning a yellowish white—like butter or uncooked corn.

She wasn’t old, not as old as the scuffed and pocked cane even, but her hair made it difficult to determine her age. Thinning, she wore it in the style of a middle-aged man’s comb-over. This was made all the more noticable by the contrast between the eggplant black of her hair and the potato pale flesh of her scalp.

She was happy. She energetically conferred with a companion about the price of some fruit and its seasonal availability. She had not carried the cane and the probable chemotherapy which thinned her hair into the produce aisle.

Among the rows and piles of dead fruit waiting to be digested or left to rot, she seemed uniquely alive and undegradable—tenacious as the sturdy old cane which quivered under her unsteady weight.

Things You See In The Morning

April 27, 2010

Little yellow buds make the dark grey pavement look a sickly mustard green. Thousands of them are piled up in drifts against the sidewalk having fallen from the maple trees during the previous night’s wind. Above, the branches have suddenly burst forth with emerald green with leaves, twinkling in the low morning sun. The street almost explodes with the shimmering, warm dance of spring but the smoky ghosts of  breath escape into the bitterly cold air and hold it back.

Dundas Dining: Vesuvio

April 26, 2010

There’s not much point in reviewing a place like Vesuvio Pizzeria and Spaghetti House. It’s been around for about a million (perhaps closer to 53) years and is a Junction institution. A good or bad review here or there isn’t going to make a lick of difference in their next 53 years of business. But here goes.

As we walked up to the door we were greeted by the delicious smells wafting out the window of of their take-out pizza counter next door. It’s really quite amazing it’s taken me a year and half to enter Vesuvio because every time I walk down Dundas West my appetite is stirred by the aroma. I think they must have fans blowing it out onto the street. I think they also must add some kind of pheromone to it because the magnetic pull towards the door takes every ounce of my willpower to fight. Every. Single. Time.

Just before we entered, someone in a group walking past us complained Vesuvio were just copying The Sopranos which apparently had a restaurant called Nuovo Vesuvio in it. One of them replied in that kind of know-it-all voice that this Vesuvio had been around since 1957.

Upon stepping into the restaurant, it was clear some of the furniture had been around since 1957 as well. Actually, probably closer to 1987. A pair of faux-leather chez lounges near the window were quietly delaminating. The rest of the decor seemed fine though. A warm family atmosphere not nearly seedy enough for Tony Soprano to hang-out in. I’m not sure if there was even a booth in the back corner.

Though the place was very busy (always a good sign), we were quickly seated by a friendly young boy who reminded me a bit of Even Stevens. I thought, Well, the service is pretty good. Of course, we hadn’t met our server yet.

Not that she was by any stretch a bad server. She just wasn’t very attentive, prompt or personable. Whenever she did manage to eventually come around to our table, she seemed to treat us with an off-hand manner that implied we were merely an incidental facet of her job instead of actually being her job.

Which, all things considered, was actually fine in my books. I don’t much care for insincerely gregarious and chatty servers. And she definitely wasn’t that.

I was glad, however, I didn’t want my water refilled at any point because it wasn’t going to happen. A trade-off I’m ultimately comfortable with and as far as service in the Junction goes, this was pretty darn good. Though the Junction’s standard extra-long wait for the bill still applied and she didn’t even make eye-contact when she swept past to pick up my credit card. Which felt a little weird. Like she wasn’t going to come back with it.

But what I came for wasn’t service and ambiance, it was to find out if the pizza could live up to its aromatic promise. It did, but only partially. The sauce certainly had the garlic and basil zing its smell advertised, but they could have been a bit more generous with it. The crust was also a bit of a disappointment. It was neither the fluffy, bready style crust of Pizzaiolo nor the gourmet, thin crust of Terroni. Instead it was a sort of dense, chewy middle ground. Not a terrible crust by any means, but also not as delicious as the toppings. I have to say, I’ve been more impressed with the cheap and absurdly named  1 Plus 2 Pizza and Wings take-away down the street.

Mandi’s spaghetti carbonara was apparently an entirely different basket of eggs. She said it was delicious. This made me wonder if I shouldn’t have tried the chicken parmesan or another of their dishes instead. Perhaps pizza isn’t really their specialty after all. Also not a disappointment was our half-litre of house Merlot. It wasn’t, as is sometimes the case, disgusting but was pleasantly inoffensive.

One of Vesuvio’s strengths, though, has to be the people watching. The joint was full of older couples with a hint of that old-world charm. They’d probably been patrons since the place first opened and there’s something about that vibe which is always great to drink in. And if the service and pizza is good enough for them, who am I to say different?

Jakob: 3.5 slices out of 5 mouth-watering aromas
Mandi: 5 spaghettis out of 5 carbonaras
Service/atmosphere: 3.5 empty glasses of water out of 5 old couples dressed-up for a night out

TwitFic: Quickies II

April 23, 2010

1: Massaging the side of her forehead isn’t making her hangover go away. Much like her seven martinis hadn’t made his churlishness go away.

2: As the chocolate melted he heard her say, “You can’t expect life to be a bowl of cherries.” He nodded in agreement. But it didn’t stop him.

3: As a willowy sapling the teak tree never dreamed it would be the boardroom table over which a ban on exotic hardwood imports was debated.

Photo Fragment

April 20, 2010

The man stood with his back against the wall. Only it wasn’t a wall (it was the edge of a bed), and he wasn’t standing (he was sitting) and it wasn’t his back (it was his buttocks). Really, he was facing his future. Except he was looking at his past. It had taken the form of an old box of photos.

But even as he thumbed through the assorted moments, jumbled together as if someone had scattered his life on the floor like Scrabble tiles, he was aware this wasn’t really the past he was confronting. It was only pieces of cardboard covered in a photosensitive emulsion.

The faded and creased smiles weren’t people, just faces wearing forced, joyless expressions. They weren’t even really faces, just images of faces. They brought back memories but the memories weren’t the same as the images of the faces worn like masks.

In one photograph his father stood beside the child that was once the man. They were wearing swimming trunks even though they were standing in the middle of their driveway with the door of the garage slightly out of focus behind them. The sun was making them squint. Had they been going to the beach? The swimming pool? The man couldn’t remember.

If you measured him in the photograph, the man’s father could be no more than two inches tall. He’d been so much larger in real life. In his memory, the man’s father had towered over him. Twelve feet tall at least. If his height had remained relative to the man’s own height as he grew to adulthood.

The memory must be false. If he did measure him in the photograph and he really was no more than two inches tall, that would prove it. Only, he must have been taller than that. If he were only two inches tall how had he ever impregnated the man’s mother? The last time he saw her, no more two or three weeks prior, she was at least four feet and eleven inches tall. The idea of her making love with a two-inch tall man was preposterous.

Unless, perhaps, there was a photograph in the box where she was also a mere two inches tall. It seemed likely. He dug through the crumpled leaves of pictorial fictions looking for a picture of his mother as a two-inch tall memory. He dug and dug but whenever he found the picture of a woman he thought might have been his mother, the head had been torn off.

He’d found the box under his grandmother’s bed. They, his mother and her mother, had shared what he thought must have been an unusual relationship. The old woman had seemed so devoted to her daughter but here it was, a sort of photographic proof of something deeper, always hidden from him.

There were also photographs in the box of cats. He didn’t know whose cats they may have been since his grandmother had never owned pets. His mother had been allergic to them so he’d never grown up with cats either. Were they neighbours’ cats? That seemed the most likely option since his grandmother rarely strayed beyond the confines of her small garden.

Underneath all the other photographs, taped face-down to the bottom of the box, he found one of what he assumed was a photograph of his grandmother, grandfather and his mother. He had to make the assumption since the little girl standing between his smiling grandmother and stern grandfather had no head. It had been torn away like with all the other pictures of the women he suspected were his mother. In its place, though, was pasted a cat’s head torn from another photograph.

He sat looking at the picture for several minutes.

He was fairly confident this was a picture of his mother. He measured her in the photograph and she was about an inch and half tall, adjusting for the disproportionate size of the cat’s head. She’d most likely grown to a full two inches and would have been able to mate with his father. This thought afforded the man a small sense of relief.

© 2010, Jakob Rehlinger


April 19, 2010

People like their signs. Especially when determining if Spring has proverbially sprang. For some the crocus is the harbinger of the season, for others it’s tulips, cherry blossoms, leaves on the trees or the return of panhandlers from more southern climes.

For me it is a specific moment: The moment when a pint of ale suddenly feels too heavy and lager no longer tastes like piss.

Indeed, the moment Grolsch is no longer gross is when I know Winter is finally over. Of course, lager still has to be ice cold to stay on the right side of the beer/urine scale. This means pint glasses are out and ice cold bottles are in. Each year I remember too late those last tepid 100ml of a pint are as hard to swallow as backwashed vomit.

This weekend I drank some lager. And happened to notice the trees are finally sprouting leaves.

Mount Pleasant Cemetery

April 13, 2010

cherry tree blossoms
mottle sunlight on gravestones
fluttering with life


April 12, 2010

Blogs, podcasts, memes, Twitter, forums, LOLcats, downloads… All that is well and good. But one of the best things the Internet provides me with is a little more substantive than instant gratification.

Whenever I’m faced with the feeling things are taking a decided turn for the utter bullshit, the Internet steps in with an ounce of perspective. And I don’t mean the petty schadenfreudic catharsis of People Of  Walmart or Clients From Hell.

What I’m talking about is the Yoda-esque wisdom of the popular Twitter hashcode: #FML.

And by that I don’t mean to suggest Yoda is conveying to me, through the Internet, the aphorism: Your life. Fucked it is.

No, what I really mean is when I find myself muttering under my breath the dubious mantra, “Eff… em… el…” (or if the situation requires it, “Eff-Fucking-Em-El”), I realize I’ve reverted to being a whingeing emo teenager.


My El is never truly Effed. Not an uppercase Eff, at least.

TwitFic: Quickies

April 9, 2010

Not an extended story this week, just five snapshots.

#1 : Having discovered he’d forgotten his wallet on the kitchen table, he felt eerily naked and unconsciously rubbed his wristwatch for comfort.

#2 : He flipped his collar up and, remembering that time with the puppies, steeled himself for the damp embrace of the cottony white fog.

#3 : The hands were frozen at 12 minutes to 4:00. But, Leon wondered, had it been 3:48 AM or 3:48 PM? And why would one be so cloyingly poignant?

#4 : At times she’d catch a hint of her first girlfriend’s perfume. No, not girlfriend. Crush. As melancholy and doomed as a deer’s musk gland.

#5 : Some days he felt sure he’d die alone, ravaged by dementia, weeping on a bare mattress long after everyone he knew or loved was dead.

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