Late Night

Joel worked late, the desks outside the glass walls of his office empty. The lights on the floor low, but…he flicked a glance at the corner of his screen…not for long.

He read through the report he’d been working on, checked the numbers again, and hit save. His eyes on the outer office door, he leaned back in his chair, stretched his legs out under his desk, and waited.

The frosted glass door, the company name and logo etched front and centre, swung open. The lights came up, and a cleaning cart bumped over the threshold.

The orange vest was hideous. You would think, after all these weeks, Joel would be inured to its repellant neon sheen, but no. Too long, too wide, it hung on the man wearing it. Granted, the damn thing was probably one size fits all, and the guy wasn’t big.

Tell-tale white plastic hanging out of his ears, head bopping to music only he could hear, the man pushed the cart to the first desk. Black hair pulled into an undercut ponytail hung past the guy’s shoulders as he grabbed a spray bottle and cloth.

Desk cleaned, computer wiped down, and waste basket emptied, man and cart moved to the next cubicle. After almost two months of watching this man work, Joel had the routine down. The outer office first, desk to desk, cubicle to cubicle. Next, the vacuum cleaner mowed under chairs, and between desks. Joel’s office, the only enclosed space on the floor, was tackled last.

A knock on his open office door, a nod of greeting, and green eyes smiled in at him. Joel never got used to that smile either. He shut his laptop down, grabbed his suit jacket off the back of his chair, and got out of the guy’s way.

Same routine, desk, laptop, wastebasket. The vacuum cleaner whirred and was hooked back into place on the rolling cart. Joel, leaning against a desk in the cubicle outside his office, watched and waited. The earbuds disappeared into the guy’s pocket. The neon vest dropped onto the collection of cleaning supplies.

Hand on his cart, the man turned, tossed a smile at Joel. “Good to go?”

Aimer at Amazon

A Covid Wedding: Canadian Style

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Like many other couples during this past summer, Keith and Chris had to make a few changes to their wedding plans. First up, whittling down the guest list. At the time, Covid restrictions in British Columbia limited outdoor gatherings to 50 people or less.

The outdoor part was easy, the men having always planned on having their service in Keith’s parents’ backyard.

Scaling down the guest list from a cozy 105 to a painful 45? Not so easy.

Because the invitations had already gone out, Keith and Chris had to make a lot of tough phone calls. Tell people they cared about that they couldn’t come to their wedding.

When Covid concerns had their catering service bowing out, a determined Keith and Chris rolled up their sleeves and prepared all the food for the wedding party.

Amid all the Covid-dictated changes, some things remained the same. The couple didn’t have to go looking for another ringbearer…

jpandco.ca

Their Bernese Mountain Dog, Gus had no problem walking down the aisle with them.

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Boo

Arms full of boxes, Martin emerged from the basement. Charlie took his eyes off the game long enough to ask, “What are you doing?”

“Could use some help here,” Martin said, kicking the basement door closed behind him.

“With what?” Charlie didn’t move, didn’t so much as take his feet off the coffee table. It was Sunday, the game was on.

“When’s halftime?” Martin dumped the boxes near the front door.

“Why?” There’d been a time when the break between quarters meant quick and dirty groping on the couch, but they’d been a lot younger back then.

“I need a hand with the coffin.”

“Not mine.”

Martin glanced at the TV, at the game clock. “Call me when it’s halftime.”

Charlie turned back to the game undisturbed by the noise Martin made getting the boxes out the front door. The clock ran down on the field, but he didn’t call Martin. He’d never had any intention of calling Martin. Charlie walked into the kitchen and cracked open a beer.

The front door opened. “Halftime,” Martin said, slipping his phone with its Google informant away, and heading for the basement.

“Ah, crap.” Charlie grumbled on his way down to the basement and on his way up. “Every year, every freaking year. Why can’t you just stick a skeleton on the door like normal people? Plonk a pumpkin on the front stoop? No, it’s got to be a grand production.”

Martin wasn’t bothered by the whining, it’s not like he hadn’t heard it all before. Plus, part of his job as Charlie’s partner was to give the man something to complain about. Worked out nicely. “Watch the walls,” he cautioned, as they maneuvered the coffin through the hallway and out the door. “Here,” he said, walking backwards, guiding Charlie into the temporary graveyard he’d set up. “Yeah, that’s good. Thanks, babe.”

“Yeah.” Charlie turned back to the house, left Martin to fiddle with spider webs and ghouls. He didn’t get it; they didn’t even have that many kids in the neighbourhood anymore.

Hours later, after the game, after dinner, after Charlie turned out the lights and made sure the front door was locked, he opened the bedroom door on a pitch-dark room. “Martin?” He hit the light switch, but nothing happened. “Shit. Martin? The power’s out. Where—?”

 A body at his back, an arm locked around his chest, a hand tugging at his belt buckle.

“Boo,” Martin’s voice ghosted at his ear.

Aimer at Amazon

Stuck With You: a Covid Story

“Pancakes?” David said, sliding onto a stool at the kitchen counter.

“Observant.” Joel grabbed two mugs, set one by David’s plate, and slipped onto the other stool. His stool. It was undeniably his kitchen too, although technically, he was a guest. The condo was David’s.

Eyes on their tablets, they forked up the pancakes in silence. Neither one of them was much of a talker before the caffeine kicked in.

“You see this?” David asked, pushing his plate aside. “We’re starting Stage Two on Wednesday.”

“Yeah.”

“We can get a hair cut.” David smiled, waiting for the inevitable what-hair crack from Joel, but he got nothing, not even a smirk.

His mind obviously on something more serious than David’s ever-widening bald spot, Joel gathered up his plate and mug, and slotted them into the dishwasher. He snapped the door on the machine shut and leaned against the counter. “I can go home.”

No! This is your home. Here, with me. “You think that’s a good idea? A five-hour flight, recycled air, germs floating about in a confined space?”

“Air Canada is enforcing a mask policy.”

“Yeah, that will be comfortable.”

“No, but…” Joel shrugged, shoved his hands in his pockets, his eyes finding David’s across the space between them. “This was never supposed to be permanent.”

True. When the country had shut down in March it had been chaos, flights cancelled, stores and businesses closed, the government pleading with people to stay off the streets, to stay home. Joel, a sales manager from their Vancouver branch, had been stranded in Toronto, and David had offered him a place to stay. Sure, they knew each other. They’d hooked up a few times, but they weren’t a thing. Not then.

“It could be. Permanent, I mean,” David said, walking around the counter. He gathered a handful of Joel’s terry robe and pulled him close. “It could be very permanent.”

Aimer at Amazon

Is God Wrong?

Who’s to say? Don’t we all see God in our own way, or through the filter of our parents’ voices? What God—if he/she exists—thinks, is and always has been, a mystery.

We though, with all our human failings, are often wrong.

Even those of us who try to get it right. Even those of us who believe they hold God’s playbook in their hands, who think they know God’s mind.

Redeemer University, a private Christian university in Hamilton, Ontario, is an institution that believes it has the inside track on interpreting God’s intentions. Believes it with a conviction that promises disciplinary action against any student engaging in sexual activity outside a heterosexual marriage.

Same-sex marriage has been legal in Canada since 2005.

Do you see the problem here?

Redeemer is facing criticism from former students who take issue with the school’s edicts. LGBTQ students who walked the campus in guilt and fear. Questioning students who view the school’s policy as discriminatory.

Susan Ursel, a Toronto lawyer who represented the Canadian Bar Association against Trinity Western University on a similar issue, says Redeemer is discriminating against not only LGBTQ students, but any student who chooses to remain single.

Susan Ursel

“In a decent, multicultural, diverse society are there limits to what religion can do?” That, says Ursel, is the question before our courts today.

Is God wrong? Maybe not, but religions and religious institutions are another matter.

Aimer at Amazon

Human Rights

A simple phrase, the meaning fairly jumps out at you. No explanation necessary—or not.

In recent weeks, former employees have gone public with allegations of racism and homophobia levelled against the Canadian Museum for Human Rights.

The museum’s mandate claims it is “centred around the idea that respect and understanding of human rights can serve as a positive force for change in the world.”

Understanding implies knowledge, and for two years from 2015 to 2017, the museum adopted a don’t ask, don’t tell policy when conducting certain tours. At the behest of some schools, the museum staff was told to excise specific exhibits from their guided tours.

I’d give you two guesses as to what those exhibits were, but you only need one—LGBTQ content.

Staff members were asked to steer the students away from any displays that mentioned diverse sexual orientation or gender identity. They were told to stand in front of a same-sex marriage exhibit blocking it from the students’ view.

That this conspiracy of silence was even considered, much less condoned for over two years at a museum purporting to encourage dialogue about human rights—all human rights—is disheartening. One more example of how far we still have to go as human beings.

Note: The CEO has resigned and the museum has issued an apology. They no longer adapt any of their education programs at the request of schools.

Aimer at Amazon

Gentleman Jack

Guilty.

I’m cheating on Netflix with Amazon Prime and Crave.

Netflix holds my heart, true, but…to quote Oscar Wilde, a man who knew what he was talking about, “I can resist anything except temptation.

I’m a weak person, lured away from my true love by Tim Roth in Tin Star winking at me from Amazon Prime. Tempted by Nathan Lane in City of Angels calling out to me from Crave. Seduced by Suranne Jones in Gentleman Jack smirking at me on Crave.

In my defence, I didn’t intend to cheat. I was just looking, you know, the way you do…

Top hat?

I stopped scrolling.

—For reasons I’m sure I don’t want to look at too closely, top hats get my attention, tuxedos too. Doesn’t matter which sex is wearing them, remember Julie Andrews in Victor/Victoria?—

Top hat. I hit select.

Funny thing about guilt, the more you cheat, the less it bothers you. Fortunate, that, because I’ll be cheating until the very last episode of Gentleman Jack.

Set in 1832, Halifax, West Yorkshire, Gentleman Jack is a period piece with a twist. That twist is Ann Lister. From the first scene, from the minute she drops the reins, jumps down from a public coach she’s not supposed to be driving, and strides onto the screen, you’re hooked.

Ann’s who we all want to be, if we were only stronger, smarter, braver.

Did I mention she wears a top hat?

Tempted?

Aimer at Amazon

Family Pride

Too freaking hot. Too many people. Glen much preferred to watch Pride from the comfort of his living room. He was too old for—Hello, someone’s been working out. Glen eyed the young man shouting into a microphone atop the float rolling down Yonge Street. Nice. When was the last time your abs looked like that, huh? Never.

He wouldn’t be standing shoulder-to-shoulder with half of Toronto if it wasn’t for his nephew. No, not fair, this wasn’t Tony’s idea. This was his sister’s fault. Blasted Type A personality. When Tony came out a few months back, Karen couldn’t leave it at we-love-you, use-a-condom. Nope, she had to join PFLAG, and volunteer with EGALE, and drag the whole family down to Pride. Overkill.

Not that he didn’t support his nephew, he did, but Tony didn’t need his family here. Somewhere between the parking lot and Yonge Street, he’d disappeared into a gang of his friends and more power to him. Glen wouldn’t mind ducking into the nearest pub for something cold himself. Beer on his mind, he tried to wedge himself out of the crowd and stepped back—onto someone else. “Sorry.”

“No problem.” The guy moved back, clearing a few inches for Glen. “Bit tight in here.”

“Yeah.” Glen shifted to the side, but the crowd surged forward and he found himself chest to chest with the stranger he’d stepped on. Green eyes bracketed by age lines, sunglasses set atop waves of grey hair. Lucky bastard. Glen was not okay with his own shrinking hairline.

“Had enough?” The grey head nodded at the crowd.

“Too old for this.” Glenn winnowed his way through the glut of bodies, aware of the stranger at his back.

“Me too,” Grey Mop said, as they reached the relative quiet of a store front. “Only came to support my son.”

“Nephew. Married?”

“Divorced.”

“Beer?”

“Hell, yes.”

Too old for Pride? Maybe not.

The Boys

Sebastian loosened his tie.

“Long day?” Claire, his housekeeper/cook/lifesaver asked.

“Board meeting,” Sebastian said, liberating a beer from the fridge.

“Ah.”

“Boys home?”

“Upstairs.” Claire shut the oven, set the timer. “You might want to check on Ethan.”

“He okay?”

Claire shrugged. “You know Ethan.”

Sebastian nodded. “Yeah.” On a good day, Ethan wasn’t a talker. On a bad day, Sebastian had to beat the words out of him.

“Okay, the chicken’s got another fifteen minutes,” Claire said, washing her hands and slipping her wedding rings back on. “Everything else is in the warming drawer. See you tomorrow.”

“Thanks, Claire.”

His boys meant everything to Sebastian. They were the family he’d never thought he’d have. Halfway up the stairs, he knew Claire had been right. Ethan was worried about something, Sebastian could hear it in the tones he was pounding out of the piano.

The family room sprawled across the top of the house, Ethan’s piano sitting at one end, a seemingly never-ending sectional facing a large flat screen at the other, and various exercise stations plunked in the middle. The flat screen was dark, and it would stay that way until Sebastian gave permission for it to be on. It was a house rule, meant to remind and reinforce their central family dynamic—Sebastian was in charge.

Mark, racing against himself on a stationary bike, didn’t see Sebastian standing in the doorway, but Ru, sitting cross-legged on the sectional with his ever present laptop, did. A smile lighting his face, he closed his laptop and crossed the room to Sebastian. At thirty-nine, Ru was on track for tenure next year, and Sebastian couldn’t be happier for him.

Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony ended with a crash of fingerwork, and Ethan seeing Sebastian, smiled and abandoned his bench. At twenty-eight, Ethan was the youngest of his three boys, and played with the city’s symphony orchestra.

Ethan stepped in front of Mark’s bike, pointed at the doorway. Mark turned, grinned, and shut the bike down. The newest addition to their family, Mark had been Ru’s personal trainer. He still was.

“Boys,” Sebastian said, happy to be home.

With the ease of practice, all three men went to their knees.

“Sir.”

Versailles

Not the palace, the Franco-Canadian television drama that is now on Netflix.

Think sex, drugs, and poison. Throw in an exquisite setting—yes, the palace—elaborate costumes, and enough Oh, no! moments to make you say, Oh, yes! and you’ve got Versailles. A soap opera wrapped in history, wrapped in naked people with great hair.

Is this historical drama historically accurate? Who cares? It’s riveting.

Versailles has several main characters, enough for fans to have digital fist fights over their favourites. Personally, my vote goes to Philippe, duc d’Orléans, the king’s younger brother who never gets the chance to be everything he could be. Alexander Vlahos, who plays Philippe, makes those period costumes look good.

Versailles is three seasons of binge-worthy viewing, but don’t take my word for it. Check out the fan video created by MonChevy below. It may have you considering a flight to France 🙂

Aimer at Amazon