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by Richard L. Provencher  
3/21/2008 / Short Stories

A Homily
As children grow older, wisdom through chores, study and relationships is acquired. Sometimes painful experiences can be harsh. They may come to realize life is a series of give and take and how decisions affect their future. Childhood is more like a plunge into exciting adventures. Thank goodness, moms and dads are often close by.


A Laughing Matter
I introduced myself to one of the men at our church conference as "Dick."
Cheerfully I asked, "What is your name?"

"Dexter," he answered with a smile.

"That's quite a coincidence," I said. "My nickname is Dixter."

"Very interesting," replied the gentleman. "And my nickname is Dick."


Dining Etiquette
80-year old mom's lunch invitation included a bowl of homemade soup. But, my slurping habit disturbed her. "Dip your spoon towards you. Consume your soup quietly," she said, wagging a knowing index finger.

I repeated the unfamiliar process several times to her satisfaction. Looking away for a moment, I turned back and gasped. She had her bowl of soup to her lips and was gurgling it down. "What are you doing?" I asked.

Barely pausing she mumbled between slurps, "This is how I get it all out."


Little One
Autumn is a whisper of Poplar leaves, within a frisky wind. One partridge struts, raises its saggy throat, wings expanding then drums above the fallen trunk. Its erotic message is an echo for other lonely hearts.

Over time this well-used platform will be replaced by Nature's future gift, a little one to take the stage from a fallen cousin. It too will grow tall and strong, mighty branches thrusting upwards in royal proclamation.

After a symphony of seasons, age will diminish its stature. And drumbeats from other fowl will arise within the wind, bringing forth shouts of birth and rebirth.


Mattie and Troy
It was the summer of 1774 in Nova Scotia. Troy and Mattie leaned against the fence, glad for shade from an old oak tree.

"Do ye think there may be a war? Troy asked. There he said it. Ever since Da uttered the possibility the other day, it was like a worm squirming around inside his shirt.

Then it entered his imagination each night, like a funeral shroud. British troops were restless. And everyone worried the Americans may invade.

"No, not yet," answered Mattie with the sureness of confidence that belittled a child older than her ten years.

Troy did not mind asking the question, since she would be direct with her answer as an arrow from the finest of quivers.

"Besides," she added, "Why do boys always want to talk about war, and other sad things. Let's go fishing, just like you wanted."

Troy thought carefully. Yes, he did wish to go fishing. But he kept worrying about his beloved Da. Would he have to fight, if a war did come? And must his two brothers join the militia?"

"Are you coming, or na" a voice at his side whispered.

Troy turned and looked at Mattie. How could anyone have named her Matilda? he thought. Looking over her shoulders, he could see Holstein cows in the pasture gathering shade under a stand of trees.

The sun was high, and his head felt warm. Yes, he did too wish to go fishing. It was always a joyous occasion, especially with Mattie.

"It is my desire to catch some fish now," he said simply. Indeed, a fanciful
expression for a boy of eleven.

Thus ended any further sad thoughts, as the excitement of childhood helped
them stroll determinedly to a river overloaded with fish.


Night Patrol
Within a melee of confusion, coyotes howled with distinctive sounds. "Enough!" came from a voice, cutting through the evening air. When the head of the clan spoke, it was the law of the family to respect his wishes.

"Stop!" was a second command, most unusual since it was usually unnecessary. But this was directed to a young pup, overly eager for his first hunt. Everyone listened to further details for their next forage into a farmer's field.

"Tonight, there is a special treat for all of us. Lamb chops. Your tongues will taste their soft flesh. It will be a very nice change from chickens."

Scout, the runt of the clan, had special duties and reported his findings to the leader, earlier in the day. This new location of food was discovered beyond a series of sloughs. Now they stood in a group of eight hungry animals, listening raptly to their leader's short speech sending taste buds shivering with want.

"Listen carefully," spoke the father of the clan. "Prepare for our grand howl of celebration over these lesser ones." The pack shivered anxiously.

"And we shall send fear into the hearts of them that await!" he snarled.

There was one animal that stood unafraid; a donkey with hardened hoofs. His ears heard from beyond the bushes. He knew coyote marauders could easily overpower defenseless sheep. But he was Eeeyore, donkey-protector of the flock. And the farm they spoke of was his home.

"Are you prepared to dine?" roared through the trees. The coyote leader was proud as his hungry pack sprang forward with a series of mighty shouts.

Eeeyore waited beyond a smaller hump of hill, near the beginning of his master's
fence line. Sharp hooves were prepared to do a little coyote-stomping this night.


Not his fault he went over to the next farm and tasted those chickens. Yummy, they were good.

Not his fault barking woke up the master last night. It was those coyotes that kept lurking around.

If only he could be allowed to roam the farm once again, instead of being cooped up in this pen. Then he could protect his master's shaggy sheep.

He's a proud breed of white Pyrenee. And should be allowed to be more than just a protector of the flock during daylight hours. That is a duty any dog could perform.

He may as well rest his throat, since no more barking is needed, He's not even jealous about the donkeys doing his job as they prowl around the sheep pen at night.

Storm drops his head after so much thinking. Sleep leads him into a world of dreaming where barking all night is allowed as he chases sheep into small bundles for protection.

He even dreams his master places a meaty bone before him, proof he still loves Storm.


Ta Rah
Within eyesight, rounded ponds sparkle in the sun. The land is captured beauty. From this hill folds of fields repeat upon green valleys. Ridges are etched upon rocky cliffs. Natural paths carve through the forest, a slash of birch following in succession.

As trees sweep to water's edge, huge Blue Spruce, Birch and Willows dance in friendship. Savoring my balance I play follow the leader in steep descent. Hanging onto limbs of sharpened needles, sometimes slipping, bare knees are scuffed on virgin soil.

This precious hideaway is a stretch of creek that meanders through a flat speck of land, not far from Greenfield, Nova Scotia. From close-up I see beaver meadow edges, marshy and difficult to navigate. There are occasions when I tumble fully clothed, like now, from a protruding bank, causing sheltered trout to scoot in disbelief. "Not again they exclaim!"

Weary from hiking and my ensuing wet experience I find myself challenged in an appreciation of nature. Words masked in awe are difficult to express as a taste of muddy bottom occupies my mouth. I am sure partridge and rabbits cluster in mutual harmony, chuckling at my discomfort.

It is difficult to stand still long enough to observe further movements. Each animal signature blends within the forest and rooted in the preservation of stillness. And I am a better person to have found such peaceful flavor.

In the meaning of time, the sun continues to provide a blanket of heat, as from a winter's campfire. Yes, summer is consuming hot.

A young deer slips easily through the trees and I watch in fascination. Because I
am an intruder, he waves his white tail in hasty farewell. Yet, there is peace
within my soul knowing solitude is the name of this sanctuary.

* * *

Richard L. Provencher 2008

Richard L. Provencher
81 Queen Street, Unit 6, Truro, Nova Scotia
Canada B2N 2B2 Phone (902) 897-2344
E-mail: [email protected]

Word Count = 1,345 for all the above stories.

Richard enjoys writing poems; many of which have been published in Print and Online. He and his wife, Esther are also co-authors of stories and a print novel. They are "born again" Christians and very busy in their church, Abundant Life Victory International, in Bible Hill, Nova Scotia.

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