Student Fiction

The Department of ERR (Extraction, Rescue, and Relocation)

By Merissa Taylor-Meissner

As the prince clutched her entire body against his—his gilded chain mail chest against her corseted bosom–the princess could not help but swoon. Finally, after several years of being locked in a forsaken tower with no end in sight, her she had been rescued from a dull and lonely fate by her dazzling prince charming. He lifted her up gently. As he cradled her, her lavishly layered dress and her sea of blond hair swept against the floor.
She looked up at him, willing her eyes to be as big, bright, and blue as they possibly could for this life-defining moment. She batted her eyelashes, and then slowly puckered her lips.
“Just one moment, milady. I must ensure that my paperwork is correct,” the prince interjected, abruptly lowering her onto the petal-dusted satin sheets beside him. Briskly, he removed a series of documents from his leather satchel.
“Paperwork?” asked the princess, bewildered. Where was her true love’s kiss?
He was oblivious to her puzzlement as he rapidly ticked off a series of checkmarks. But suddenly, his bureaucratic frenzy came to a halt.
“Oh dear,” the prince muttered. “Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear.”
“Is there a problem, my darling?” the princess asked. She began to worry that she would never get her true love’s kiss, or even a haircut. She was tired of tripping over her own tresses, or worse, forgetting to sweep them out of the way before she he went to the bathroom.
“Erm, according to the manifest, it seems I’ve—” he coughed daintily, “mistakenly rescued you, milady.”
“What mistake?” she cried desperately. “I’ve been wasting away in this tower since puberty, waiting for some prince to sweep me off my feet. I don’t even know if I like boys yet!”
“Well, my assignment briefings usually come with exact coordinates; however, this castle was poorly signed and situated well south of the path indicated. Very inconvenient, not like those airy seaside palaces. So straightforward, just a quick sail down the coast, and so much more healthful. The sea breezes, you know? Much better than a moldering old ruin full of wood rot and mildew.”
“You’ve been to other castles?”
“Yes. Erm, it seems I was actually designated to make a rescue at a neighbouring palace just a little further south. The edifice is similarly decrepit, but the princess…since you’re quite awake, you are obviously not the sovereign-in-waiting in question,” he chuckled drily. “The damsel’s insensate; at least she won’t chastise me for being late.” With that, the prince turned to stride away, still tittering.
“Wait!” commanded the princess. “What about me? Can’t you rescue me as well?”
The prince shook his head sorrowfully. “I’m quite overqualified, milady. I sincerely regret the longitudinal error, but I am restricted to rescuing royalty of 8 or higher; what is colloquially known as a Cinderella. I couldn’t possibly intervene here; your rank is only a 6, or what we refer to in the business as a ‘Frog Princess.’ We are obliged to prioritize, you know. The Department will send a lad out to engineer your departure any month now, without a doubt. He won’t be so devastatingly handsome as I, but beggars can’t be choosers, what?”
A Frog Princess? She had been corset training for over five years!

“Well, could you please explain to me how you got in?” the princess inquired delicately, fluttering her lashes in the prescribed manner.
“Naturally, the Department armed me with a set of master keys before I set out on my first recovery journey. Fortress, Palace, or Castle class, even Grand Manors…they’re all covered in the training,” he boasted, pulling out the key from his satchel.
“I’ll have that,” the princess snapped as she snatched a large, silver key from his outstretched hand. She vaulted away with as much speed as she could muster, bundling up her shroud of hair as she went. When she paused at the door, she saw that the prince was rooted to the spot, still dumbfounded. She roughly stuffed the hair down the back of her dress and turned back to tear the prince’s sword from its hilt.
“No fear, I’ll have the Department send someone over ASAP,” the princess taunted as she swept out of the room. “It might take a few months, or years even. I’m afraid you won’t have much pull as a Frog Prince—no wait, as a Frog, period!” With that, she locked the flabbergasted rescuer in her chambers and exited the castle in triumph. Once in the courtyard, she grasped the sword inexpertly to hack her hair off into an awkward pageboy. With a coy wave and a wink to the prince pining at the high tower window, she leapt onto his handsome white steed and galloped off into the sunset.
The Beach 

By Heather Adams

 

The beach I grew up by was called Martinique Beach. On summer days it was crowded and hot, but the water was still so cold you went numb from the waist down, and the sand burned your toes when you went to get a towel. A haze of heat seemed to hang over the heads of the people who drove an hour from Town to spend a day out there. I didn’t really like them. The beach was better when it was empty, like on days it rained, or in the winter.

The winter was, oddly enough, when I spent the most time there. My family used to go for walks, right up until late December, and then we would start again as early as March some years. Nobody really went then, except for locals. Their footprints would stretch out on the sand, halfway between the waterline and the dunes, on the part that was easiest to walk on. Sometimes they were alone, sometimes they weren’t. My footprints were always accompanied by someone – my dog, my brother, my parents.

The beach in the winter was a weird mixture of colours, clear and stone cold beautiful. There could be a blue sky on lucky days, so the ocean would be a grey-blue instead of slate, hitting the beach in a rhythm I knew like my own heartbeat. The sand wasn’t brown or white, like in other places. It was grey, with smooth stones scattered here and there. My Mom and I used to pick them up and throw them into the water, watching the particularly flat ones skip, once, twice, until they were swallowed by a wave. Tall grass grew at the edge of the dunes, yellow and drooping. The sand it grew in was fragile and built up to look like a mini cliff, and my Dad had to warn me to stay away or it might fall and bury me. There were big rocks at one end of the beach, where my brother and I climbed and tried not fall. I’d never been to the other end, and all I knew was that that was where the piping plovers made their nests in the dunes, so you had to be careful where you stepped.

After I moved into Town, I drove the hour out there once, with my then-girlfriend, and we went for a walk. My Mom wasn’t there to skip rocks with; my Dad wasn’t there to tell me to get away from the grass; my brother wasn’t there to throw a stick for our dog. Needless to say, we didn’t stay for long.

 

 

The One about Bureaucracy

By Alex Anderson

A colleague told me a dirty joke the other day. And by dirty, I mean filthy. It was disgusting. It was the nastiest, grossest, most over the top joke ever told. Even I was offended. Deeply. Personally. I was scarred. It was intolerable. There’s a line and that guy crossed it.

So I resolved to file a complaint with HR.

Problem: when I arrived they told me they don’t have a form for my specific complaint. Sexual harassment, conflict of interest, bribery, general douchebaggery – those they’ve got forms for and a dozen other things too. Dirty jokes: not so much.

I considered repeating the joke, purely for consultative reasons to see if the experts in HR might help me figure out what other category it might fit but decided against it. This is HR. They have the power to fire you on the spot. Or, even worse, transfer you somewhere horrible. I hear Whitehorse gets a mite nippy in January.

Now, it just so happens that I work as a communications advisor. That’s another way of saying I create forms. So, I’m told, if I want to file the complaint I could create the form myself.

Okay, I thought. It was one hell of a disgusting joke. It’s worth spending a few minutes creating a form. But forms don’t live in isolation. They are part of a greater lifecycle of actions, an ecosystem of mutually supporting elements that collectively deliver a continuum that will eventually become the dirty-joke-grievance-process. The form will be both a product and enabler of this process and, as it turns out, if I want to proceed I will have to create the whole thing.

Such an endeavor does not end with me, of course. I will have to consult with various stakeholders to make sure that the form/process is aligned with existing organizational policies and priorities. I may even have to form a committee. As a lowly communications advisor, I’m told I should not chair this committee. The chair should be at the director level or higher and should have a background in Human Resources. The committee should also include at least one representative from the union. It’s not a super important project though, so I am not going to get any admin support. I will be responsible for booking all committee meetings, recording all minutes, submitting all reports complete with lists of action items that I will then have to action.

And that’s only the beginning.

The Dirty Joke Complaint Form is, after all, only one product of the Dirty Joke Complaint Committee. There will be others. After I create the form I have to create the training curriculum to teach people how to fill out the form.

I will then have to send all relevant materials out to translation so they can support employees offended by dirty jokes in English, French, Spanish, Mandarin Chinese and at least three aboriginal languages.

Then I’ll have to hire a consultant to deliver the training. (In all languages, of course. Iikuluga Inuktituusuunguvit? Umiaryuap Publimaaqpaga tattaurniq ammayaq.*)

After that I’ll have to attend the training, for which I will earn a little certificate which I can proudly display on the wall of my cubicle proclaiming to the world that I am qualified to fill out the Dirty Jokes Complaint Form. The training will count towards my annual professional development allowance – probably resulting in the rejection of my request to attend a conference I desperately want to go to. (It’s in Vegas. In January!)

At each and every stage of the process I will have to report progress to senior management and seek ongoing approval. Before retaining the consultant and launching the training I will have to request budget allocation, which will mean securing approval from a completely different set of managers and executives.

Only then can I file my complaint.

In all, this process should take about nine months. Maybe.

So…have you heard the one about the nun, the goat and the alligator skin vibrator?

 

*Translation: “Do you speak Inuktitut? My hovercraft is full of eels.”

 

——–

One Run Away From A Good Mood

By: Jessica Savage

My feet hit the pavement and I feel good. I feel free. My thoughts come rushing.  My brain starts making a list of what I have to do later: the usual shower, readings, and sleep. I’ve been running for five minutes, I’m gaining momentum. I start thinking of my family and friends. I miss them. I worry about them. I should check up on some of them.  Another five minutes of running has passed. I’m feeling better. I smile and know I can keep going. People pass me as I run, but I don’t care it’s not a race. I’m an endurance runner. I am in no hurry for my run to end. This is my time. I feel myself start to sweat; my legs and feet start to burn. These feelings are familiar; this is what running feels like. Five minutes left, my worries are gone, my mind is free. I’ve left all my worries and negative energy on the pavement. I go home with happiness and a great adrenaline rush.

 

Field of Stars

by Madie Vezina

This is written about the Canadian fiddler and music composer, Oliver Schroer, who walked the Camino de Santiago Pilgrim trail in 2004, recording his own live compositions in Cathedrals that he visited along the way. It is told from my own imagined version of his perspective during his 1,000 km walk, shortly before he died of Leukemia. (Song that I had in mind: “Field of Stars”)

***

 

The cathedral’s incense smoke explores its surroundings. It twists and turns, snaking through the enclave of red votive candles. The colours of the paneled stained-glass windows peek through the smoke’s display. My shadow, intermixed with the shadow of my violin, stretches itself upwards, towards the towering ceilings of the ancient place. Gazing up, I see the splashes of rain water trickle down the sides of a skylight. I wonder if the summer rain is warm or not, as I gather strength to perform my song. I play for no one in particular, but somehow I believe that the patron saints and Virgin Marys of each of the cathedrals, listens and hears. My playing is my prayer, the way in which I communicate. The tautness of my violin’s strings reveals the intonation of my voice before I speak. The sheen of the instrument’s rosewood and ebony holds the details of my day—carefully placed fingerprints across the wood mark routine.

“Let’s set up here,” I tell my wife who lingers behind me, hunched over and tired from the day’s walk. Perspiration shimmers on her forehead.

She nods, smiling and swivelling her head back and forth as if ‘taking it all in’.

She pulls the recording equipment from her pack and carefully places it on a stair by the altar. She presses buttons, performing the ritual that we have done so many times before.

I have begun to recognize the one sound of the ‘Record’ button as it is pressed. As if I am about to run a race or take a test, it whispers Go, and then I am off, in another world, another life, another version of myself.

I think of my wife with her dancing curls that match the winding turns of the piece I am playing. Each note echoes and reverberates throughout the cathedral’s stone walls. I imagine the hands that built these walls and picture them in the formation of prayer. Then I picture them swaying to the music—an imaginary audience that I build for myself.

I turn towards my wife. She is crouched down next to the black recording box. Her eyes are closed but I can see an infinitesimal flutter of her eyelashes. They are dancing in tune with her curls.

I look towards the rows of pews and observe a man enter the building. He does not make eye contact with me but seats himself in the very front pew of this large space. He has thick rimmed glasses that rest on his prominent nose. The man is wrinkled and frail and has the kindest smile I have ever seen. He holds a Bible and wears a wedding band and I think to myself that this is all that I know of him.

I observe the gnarled knuckles of the man seated before me and decide that he is the patron saint today, that he will intercede to God for me. Maybe today he is Anthony or Paul.

 

Let There Be Light

By: Kayal  (ENGL 3903, Intermediate Fiction)

Kamala fills her bathtub with Fair & Lovely skin colour enhancing multivitamin fairness creams. DeCapitated tubes lay writhing on the bathroom floor, their plastic bodies convulsing, frothing white blood from their mouths. She removes her pale morning robe and examines her dark night skin with her scalpel hands.

Kamala sits in her bathtub and says, “Let there be light.”

She drinks milk with saffron she avoids the sun she only wears light clothing she often covers her head with a shawl she mocks Indian women with their brown black skin she hates them for existing she drinks milk with saffron she avoids the sun she only wears light clothing she often covers her head with a shawl she mocks Indian women with their brown black skin she hates them for existing she drinks milk with saffron she avoids the sun she only wears light clothing she often covers her head with a shawl she mocks Indian women with their brown black skin she hates them for existing.

Kamala sits in her bathtub and says, “Let there be light.”

Her mother rubs sandalwood paste on her skin her father installs an AC at home to keep his daughter cool her brother only likes white women her neighbour remarks that she is pretty for a dark skinned girl her mother rubs sandalwood paste on her skin her father installs an AC at home to keep his daughter cool her brother only likes white women her neighbour remarks that she is pretty for a dark skinned girl her mother rubs sandalwood paste on her skin her father installs an AC at home to keep his daughter cool her brother only likes white women her neighbour remarks that she is pretty for a dark skinned girl.

Kamala sits in her bathtub and says, “Let there be light.”

Her dark night skin waxes and wanes. It begins a slow, funeral hymn. It calls forth the skin of its mother, the skin of its grandmother, and the skins of the women before them. The spirits enter the room and they all wail in unison. Sobbing gently, Kamala s dark night martyr skin chokes on its own inadequateness and dies a slow death.

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Carleton University's Creative Writing Concentration

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