Unresolved Connections
Tales of journeys to unvisited places

The overview
The six tales
The stats
The reviews
The awards
Excerpts from the book
(large)
Country & Cottage Water Systems

Adventures with Neddow

Unresolved Connections

These are a few of my favourite roads

Around the Bend (again)

On Any Wednesday

The Dock Manual

Cottage Water Systems

The Winged Wheel Patch

The home page

In the foreword to Around the Bend (again), Bruce Reeve wrote “What’s really fun for Max is writing about whatever
he damn well pleases. In the past this has even included science fiction and romance novels, which remain stuffed in a drawer somewhere ...” The six diverse stories tucked in between the covers of Unresolved Connections have all spent time in that drawer, or at least its mental equivalent. In each, the reader is invited down uncommon roads to places rarely visited. Reality remains an occasional travelling companion throughout but rarely dictates the route or circumstance, and never does it get in the way of the telling. Accompanying the words are several of Max’s own illustrations, each a coinage of his mind spent whenever he felt the need. Or the desire.
Unresolved Connections invites a reader to abandon disbelief and come travel with Max to fantastical places unburdened by the restraints of known horizons, places that until recently were only found in a drawer somewhere. top
Six Tales, Six Journeys

Life Doesn’t Have to Rhyme
“It's the first clue to the hidden poems of that great revolutionary of the ’70s, eh.”
It begins as a lark, an improvised, last-minute scavenger hunt squeezed into the disappearing days of a long, summer vacation. But the lark finds a new nest, evolving into something far greater as that last minute stretches the hunt to the breaking point. Science and poetry can be like that sometimes.
At 145 pages—a short novel on its own—Life Doesn’t Have to Rhyme is the longest of the six tales. In it, Max documents a search for the missing poetry of the famed 1970s poet and revolutionary, Eh Carrera. Included are five of Eh’s poems. Keen readers can trace the route taken on a good map as the first and third sections of the story transport them to seldom travelled parts of southern British Columbia. But only the adventurous who are experienced and skilled in traversing challenging terrain should attempt to actually follow the trail as—in keeping with the mood of the book—details have often been altered or entirely spawned by the whims of Max’s imagination. But do come along for the ride.

Strange Spectacles
“He saw them pass, each a flitting ephemeral image, gone in less than a breath, a mere glimpse of a darkened figure caught spying, watching ...”
But who did he see? And why are they spying? And, more importantly, are they also spying on you?
Strange Spectacles is a flash fiction, two pages, in which the reader gets a quick glimpse of other dimensions through the corners of someone else’s eyeglasses. Discover how a simple pair of corrective lenses can let a person see many things that might otherwise go unseen. Even if not looking.

Paradise, it’s cool
“Paradise, this cosmos,” she spread her arms as if to welcome in everything, “this house, this land, it’s the genesis, the beginnings of a commune that will grow as new citizens arrive ...”
Hope and idealism are not dead yet, it just seems that way. Maybe. Paradise, it’s cool is the second longest story, a novella that takes the reader on a ride into the past as the protagonist searches for traces of recent history and finds more than he thought possible.

Our Father, Who Art On the Couch
“Every single-guy gets the occasional dreamy-like, idealistic notion of how wonderful it would be to have kids, but this was different.”
Sure, that’s what they all say. At least until the kids arrive. Our Father, Who Art On the Couch is a short story about the difficulties of starting a family, the details revealed as the reader eavesdrops on an unusual session at the therapist.

The Photographer
“Excuse me, I don’t mean to embarrass you but I believe that one of the buttons on your blouse has failed you.”
What kind of person would use a pick-up line like that? And what kind of person would fall for it? Picture yourself there. The Photographer is a short story in which the reader becomes a privileged witness to one person’s clever technique for capturing images in digital format. Are the risks of posing before a digital camera too great? Best to hold any decision until after reading this.

One Soldier’s Laugh
“At the front line, in the interval between battles, sometimes there exists a period of unearthly quiet, a sort of pseudo serenity that squats heavily upon the vestiges of recent fighting left to smoulder in the aftermath.”
Sometimes, it’s not the battle you have to fear most. The third short story, One Soldier’s Laugh, is the final tale, for the book and perhaps all else. Except, of course, for those things that never end. top

The stats
Title: Unresolved Connections
Subtitle: Tales of journeys to unvisited places
Words and artwork: Max Burns
ISBN: 978-0-9730263-3-7
Publisher: Word Dust Press
Suggested retail: $28.30
Technical stuff: 6x9 hardcover, 192 pages, full colour cover dustjacket, 28 black-and-white line drawings.
Where to buy: Motorcycle Mojo Magazine. top

What Others Are Saying About Unresolved Connections
“Burns is an inveterate motorcycle traveller who has ridden many of Canada's highways, and Unresolved Connections benefits from his knowledge of the road. It also benefits from a good mystery yarn.”
The Toronto Star

“Canadian adventurer and author Max Burns delivers another tour de force in his latest book Unresolved Connections: Tales of Journeys to Unvisited Places.”
Sunday Sun

“While Burns is adamant this is a work of fiction, the descriptions of BC and the roads he takes put the reader behind the bars and in the saddle. This book and its stories are an unexpected treasure. Buy one.”
Inside Motorcycles

“These are stories of Max's disturbingly healthy imagination. You'll find a Da Vinci Code-like puzzle piece (without the gore), a Haight-Ashbury-like ghost story, an exploration of the universe's misssing dark matter ... There's also a 203 word sentence which oddly enough is quite readable. Last book I can remember with sentences that long that didn't irritate me was Pride and Prejudice, so Max is in good company.”
International Motorcycle

“The majority of this book is occupied with a fictional quest ... Burns delights in narrating his hero's passage through a landscape of mountains and self-discovery. While Max's earlier books have given up their secrets in bite-sized chunks, here he digs into the longer form to create a mystery, a story, and a character with depth. There are several smaller pieces, including a memorable romp with a patchouli-oiled hippie from a more fanciful decade. The whole book, in fact, is a fanciful romp and a new direction for Burns. Readers who have enjoyed his work will find something different, but the style that has proved so popular over the years remains firmly in place.”
Cycle Canada magazine

“Each one of the six diverse stories in Unresolved Connections draws the reader in so unsuspectingly and intently that one immediately becomes the character. Even those who have never ridden a motorcycle will now know the feeling, smells, sights—the allure of riding a V-Strom through southern BC or Northern Ontario—and the stories are not even about motorcycling. There are lots of twists and turns in the plot, each of them adding to the particular adventure. It's thought provoking, insightful and moves imperceptibly between reality and fantasy. Unresolved Connections kept me engaged the whole way through and left me wishing there was more.”
Liz Jansen, trilliumtours.com

“Burns has been a closet or drawer fiction writer for years it turns out and we are lucky he decided to come out. I could not put the book down. As a mystery book fan I appreciated the characters, the plot, and the mystery and highly recommend it.”
Community Voices

“What a great read! Max Burns leads the reader on a tantalizing trip, filled with detail, on the road to a great discovery and end it rather abruptly in the middle of nowhere. But, who cares, the ride there was great! Seldom can I read that many pages of anything without getting up, getting bored, or not finishing, but I read this non stop. Well done!”
Dr. John Marcassa

“I absolutely loved Unresolved Connections. I read Life Doesn't Have to Rhyme with hardly a break. Paradise, it's cool really took me back to the '60's. I think that Sunshine was every man's Fantasy Girl. It was a nice trip back to a golden age and you caught the characters so well. Our Father, Who Art On the Couch was a riot. I didn't see the end coming in The Photographer and I was very intrigued by Strange Spectacles, which I read over and over again. One Soldier's Laugh really caught the unreality of that weird quiet time between offensives in war. For some reason it reminded me of a short story by D.H Lawrence called England, My England. I was also very impressed with your drawings.”
Art Robinson

“The longest of the six stories, Life Doesn’t Have to Rhyme, actually tales up three quarters of the book and takes the reader on a journey of sorts. I was soon looking forward to the next twist in the story ... Because the journey can be followed on a map of the province, one has to wonder how much is imagination or the far stretched truth based loosely on real travel, making it all seem a little more believable around every corner. The rest of the fictional short stories in the book aren't remotely believable, just entertaining. It makes you think, how does he come up with this stuff? ”
Motorcycle Mojo Magazine

“Great book, especially the mystery. Your voice comes through loud and clear. Porsche Carrera indeed!”
Thane Silliker, past cross-Canada record holder top

The Awards
Short listed for Ontario Library Service—North's Third Annual Northern "Lit" Award
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The Excerpts
The six stories in Unresolved Connections vary considerably in length, content, and style, so no sampled snippet can truly be representative of the rest. Thusly warned, here’s a few excerpts snitched from the main story, Life Doesn’t Have to Rhyme.
Sam’s interest in poetry dates all the way back to last night. It started at a sidewalk café in Squamish, his motorcycle parked on the street right next to him, Sam busying himself prying apart clam shells at his table. A faint sound slipped into the edges of his hearing, the nervous slap of sloppy soles dancing across an evening street to join the snap and clatter of calcareous shells. Sam glanced toward the new sound. Sloppy sandals, held in place by a leather loop around each big toe, leaving the rest free to wag at will, were now flopping in his direction. Didn’t the Beatles wear sandals like those into mainstream fashion after visiting some Maharishi in the ’70s? And didn’t those same sandals flop out of fashion not long after? Sam’s focus pulled back, encompassing a holistically unkempt vagabond in faded jeans and well-worn Mao Tse-tung T-shirt shuffling along with apparent purpose. To Sam, this dude looked as if he had just stepped out of a time machine. Surely this could only be happening in British Columbia. BC, they call it. Be Crazy.

“Cool night for a trip, eh?” The words escaped from a darkly tanned, weather-aged face. Sam nodded in agreement as he continued finger-wrestling clam shells, not wishing to be rude, not wishing to encourage further dialogue.

“Touring BC, eh?”

“Just rambling around, no set destination.” Sam never could resist an invitation to talk about travelling on his bike.

“Then this might interest you,” said the Sandalman as he placed a soiled, once-white envelope next to the plate holding Sam’s growing mound of discarded, vacant shells. “It’s the first clue to the hidden poems of that great revolutionary of the ’70s, eh.”

Sam didn’t reach for the envelope. “What revolutionary?” he asked. As far as Sam was concerned, all revolutionaries, especially those of the poetic ilk, were famous in at least some small social sphere.

“Eh.”

“What revolutionary?” Sam repeated the question, louder this time in an effort to help his friend hear, loud enough to cause other diners to glance his way. Suspicious glances. It was too peaceful a night for a revolution.

“Eh Carrera,” the Sandalman explained, almost whispering. “That puzzle leads to the first poem,” he said, pointing to the envelope, “and from there to a poetic path of discovery around BC. Far out excuse for a tour, man. See for yourself how Eh evolved into a great leader and revered philosopher.”

Sam’s eyes examined the envelope’s tattered and well-travelled appearance, an apparent veteran of some post-office carnage

“Never heard of him.” Sam tossed a reject onto the scrap heap of evacuated mollusks, picking up another steamed candidate waiting to be converted to emptiness. He was enjoying this feast, each freed clam providing another reward for his palate. Yet in the moment it took to pry open a clam, the Sandalman left, Sam looking up to catch a departing glimpse as the slap of sloppy sandals dissolved into the darkness of a Squamish evening.

Sam immediately looked over to his parked motorcycle. Tankbag, luggage, everything still there and apparently untouched. A scent, familiar, like formaldehyde, lightly stained the air, then it too dissolved into the night. Odd choice for a cologne. Back at Sam’s pile of discarded clam shells, the mystery envelope was also still there. Weird. BC.


The most surprising thing about Sam’s encounter with the Sandalman was that he picked the envelope up, stuffed it into his tankbag, and carted it along with him back to his motel room. The envelope affiliated with that famous revolutionary, Eh. And there, in the privacy of his own rented space, he slowly turned it over, examining its sullied appearance from all sides. Unopened, apparently, and therefore yet to be read, this clue to the whereabouts of great—and for unknown reasons—hidden poetry. Maybe it might fetch something on eBay. Even the envelope must be worth a fortune. Sam ripped it open, withdrawing a typed note. Must be old: nobody types anything anymore. This intrigued Sam. He tossed the envelope into a nearby waste basket with his right hand as he read the note in his left.

And, further along in the story:
The Bent Café is a hangout for area artists and local literati, real or imagined. It’s just one street over and two blocks east of the First Street Diner but there is definitely no overlap in clientele. For example, Sam never visits the Bent. Ms Reid, however, is one of the regulars. So too is Ikr Jakovitz, or Jacko as everyone except his mother, lawyer, and Patricia call him. His mother calls him Ikr. His lawyer calls him Mr. Jakovitz. Patricia calls him Ike. But by any name, he remains an enigma, his atman—the Buddhist real self—lost behind a well-fabricated and time-hardened veneer. The Jacko image is dominated by a black beret forever perched atop his mess of greying curly hair, a picture blurred by ever-moving nicotine-stained hands, each hand emphasizing some point (but not always the same point), bushy beard and matching eyebrows bouncing in unison to the discourse, obscure eyes of unknown colour set back somewhere into yesterday behind that animated facade. It’s a dishevelled demeanour carted around in tatty grey tweed, a persona dust-jacket with leather patches on elbows. When he stands—though he much prefers to sit—his hunched posture makes him only slightly taller than Patricia. An onlooker might notice the brown baggy unpressed pants and brogues in need of a shine, but probably not. Too much is happening closer to the beret.

Jacko is the community’s most ardent and outspoken politico, a sometime socialist, but not a communist—as he is quick to point out—or even a Marxist-Leninist, though few of his associates are able to grasp the subtle differences as espoused by Jacko. Uninvited, he regularly speaks for and against the proletariat, a working class with which he shares nothing, for he rarely does any actual work, instead choosing to squeeze out a meagre living as a social commentator for the local leftist newspaper, Free News, and occasionally for assorted magazines and radio. Typically, he’s angrily denouncing some “right-wing totalitarian” or “greedy industrialist” though those with socialist inclinations are certainly not above his wrath. Nothing is. Bashing others is how he raises his own stature, a stature that increasingly needs propping up as it erodes with cruel time. Perhaps most of all, Jacko fears becoming a nonentity, or a sort of Falstaff to the press. So he attacks. Regularly.

And he’s very good at it.

He’s also a voracious reader, consuming every book and article he can find that even hints of political orientation, mostly to find fault. And he remembers it all. Consequently, he can quote Orwell or Woolf as effectively as Marx or Stalin, though few of his readers, or even the Bent crowd, know the topics well enough to dispute the accuracy. Fortunately, his rants are typically quite entertaining so accuracy is of secondary importance and therefore rarely questioned. And of course, Jacko can always be relied on to deliver a quotable sound bite when interviewed regarding some current topic in the news. Never mind that it’s rarely an original thought, the important thing is that it’s the right thought for the occasion, imitation being “the most perfect originality” according to Jacko (usually omitting that Voltaire voiced the same thought somewhat earlier). The public, that “stagnant mass of mainstream dullness,” often refers to him as Wacko Jacko. Out of respect

Now, a wee taste of the second longest story, Paradise, it’s cool.
The following is a hasty account of what brought me to Paradise, and my life here to date (though I seem to have lost track of the date—Paradise is like that). In case you were wondering, this is Paradise, right here, in this house, pardon the mess. It hasn’t been tidied up in a while. Anyway, you’ll have to also excuse my brevity, but as you’ll see it’s necessary if I’m to get the whole story out in the time remaining. I don’t know exactly how much time that is, but not long. So here goes, starting with the ride in.

The trail was in shambles, getting more jumbled every minute and in near continuous descent, overrun by rocks and ruts and the tops of even bigger rocks poking out to bash the undercarriage of any vehicle whose owner was brave enough and dumb enough to venture down it, with a few smaller trees, donations of past storms, adding to an ever-growing repertoire of hazards. Not that I hadn’t got into this sort of situation before and always managed to get myself out, but this one was looking particularly snarly. And no way was I able to stop and about-face on such a steep and narrow decline so badly battered by all this crap tossed at it by time and disuse. I was committed, no turning back. My saving grace, the one thing that coaxed me to attempt this trail in the first place, was the railroad at the bottom—if I couldn’t get back up the trail I could just ride out along the rails. Obviously, this was not my preferred way out, trains having a habit of appearing at odd times, but it was there if needed. I had food, water, the tent and a cozy sleeping bag. If necessary, I would just wait until a train passed and then get on the tracks and bounce along the ties to freedom while hoping some train company service vehicle hadn’t decided to do the same. So it was no real concern; I knew where the emergency exits were.

And, after our determined protagonist arrives at his destination:
Okay, time to check out the house, to assess if the proposed accommodations were up to my usual low standards. And that’s when I saw her, first time, leaning in the open doorway as if she had been watching me all along, a smiling beauty of about 20, with a wild outburst of flowing red hair, looking lean and tall in a long, subtly patterned skirt and tie-dyed top. Merely leaning against the door jamb as she was, her skirt and hair gently touched by the wind, she struck me as a model of elegant grace, of simplicity, and oddly dreamy and bemused. And so completely unexpected.

I stopped dead. I must have been gaping. Such beauty, so out of place, and me looking every part the stunned ass that I was. I must have stammered, I don’t remember. “Oh. Sorry. I should have checked the house first, knocked to see if someone was home. I’m really sorry to intrude like this.”

“No place to really knock. No door, if you can dig it.” She glanced at the door jamb, her voice soft, quiet, full of warmth, each word uttered through that subtle smile. “We’ve been meaning to get at that, like, you know, before winter. Main-ten-nuisance, what a drag. Personally, I’m into the empty-doorway look; gives the place a groovy sort of vacant aura.” She tilted her head back to face me. “So mellow out—it’s cool. Would you like to come in?”

“I don’t mean to intrude,” I repeated myself.

“You’re not, relax, get mellow,” she calmly said. There was a twinkle in those eyes, one in perfect harmony with that smile. “It’s cool.”

At least that’s how our initial conversation went as near as I can remember. And, no question, my memory does seem to be slipping away. So if it’s not exactly right, too bad, it’s the best I can do.

The last excerpt is from the final story, One Soldier’s Laugh. Appropriate, don’t you think?
At the front line, in the interval between battles, sometimes there exists a period of unearthly quiet, a sort of pseudo serenity that squats heavily upon the vestiges of recent fighting left to smoulder in the aftermath. How long had it been since the last battle raged, how long since the last explosion of conflict sounded across the plain, since the last voice cried out in the darkness? He didn’t know; it didn’t matter. What mattered was that he was there, hunkered down, hugging the damp, musty earth, breathing—he could tell he was still breathing, see puffs of breath leave him to join the heavy mist that swallowed the world beyond his foxhole, that part of the world lost to war. There, in his shallow dugout, alone, at the most forward position of the front, his orders were to sound the alarm when the enemy approached, to warn the troops, it’s time to enter battle once again. But his eyes could not penetrate past his immediate surrounds; he could see nothing beyond the sodden soil that rimmed his foxhole. His ears served him no better, hearing nothing save for the muted murmur of a sombre wind; the song of death searching for its next client. It does this patiently for it is in no rush.
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