100 Words X 5

by Anne McGouran

1. The badass in front of me in Giant Tiger checkout line in parachute pants and a “Shoot Informers Not Drugs” muscle T looks like he might be living rough in the Walmart parking lot. Then again, he could be the Banksy wannabe tagging condo hoardings in drippy splatter font. “Are you dumb? All’s we need is one good skate park” over top of “Taste the Ultimate in Luxury”. A tagger who goes by ‘Missguided Yoofs’ just obliterated “Toast the 4 Seasons Good Life in Collingwood” with “Grape Jelly’s Good on Toast!!!” and a line of flying ants clutching butter knives.

2. Holocaust survivor Dr. Felix Zandman roughed out his breakthrough bulk metal foil resistor on a luncheon napkin. Vladimir Nabokov doodled butterflies; Samuel Beckett sketched golfing scenes; Henry Miller drew naked women; Colette did line drawings of her Maltese cat and a bulldog snacking on marrowbones. In the 1960s, design scientist Buckminster Fuller doodled zeppelins airlifting housing units to illustrate urban planning efficiencies. Around that time, I was wearing a school uniform with snap-on cuffs made out of some kind of gyprock that chafed my wrists. During study period, I’d unsnap the cuffs and doodle Latin swear words: “Es stultior asino. 

3. Every Sunday, my landlady Mrs. Ridley hosted an “at home.” Effete young men from the United Church gorged on cheese straws, stale Swiss roll and the loaded “tipples” cart. If I was in my room with the single burner hot plate overlooking streetcar tracks, Mrs. R would bellow, “Where’s our scholar? Come tell us all about love in the Renaissance!” I’d sing for my supper then hide in the powder room where a 1950s photo montage of Deer Park socialites and their milky-white daughters hung above the vanity. I filched an eyebrow pencil and crosshatched moustaches on their rosebud mouths.

4. My father would sit at the kitchen table and rant about “Black ’47,” Ireland’s famine year. He didn’t live to see the Famine Memorial in Toronto’s Irish Park which opened in 2007. Tucked behind massive grain silos at the southeast corner of Bathurst Quay, this “cemetery without bodies” honours famine migrants who fled to Toronto in 1947. Five bronze statues face the skyline. I’m still haunted by one Famine ghost, the figure of a traumatized young boy with clumsily splayed hands… uncertain how to move forward. On an adjacent boulder someone scrawled: “Too much remembering makes a stone of the heart.”

5. Grosse Île in the Gulf of St Lawrence east of Quebec City was a quarantine station for victims of the Great Irish Famine… lost to ship fever, starvation, cholera, typhus. Jagged ridges mark the mass graves. After pausing at the Celtic Cross monument, I walked through hemlock forests and marshes full of starlings and bulrushes. Inhaling the life force of rare gentians and ferns, I almost forgot the island is full of ghosts. Later, I learned that two men quarantined in the fever sheds scavenged rough wooden planks then hand-carved a storm-tossed ship and a cozy cottage among the flowering maples.

Anne McGouran

Anne McGouran

About the Author:

Anne McGouran’s nonfiction appears in Queen’s Quarterly, Smart Set, Coachella Review, Journal of Wild Culture, and is forthcoming in Northern Terminus Journal. Her fiction appears in Understorey Magazine and Emrys Journal. She resides in Collingwood, Ontario where she has developed a fascination with ice huts and orchard ladders.

About Weekly Flash Prose and Prose Poetry:

CutBank Online features one work of flash prose or prose poetry every Monday. Submissions are free and open year-round. Send us your best work of 750 words or less at https://cutbank.submittable.com/submit.