|Country & Cottage Water Systems
||In the foreword to Around the Bend (again), Bruce Reeve wrote Whats 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 Maxs 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 Doesnt 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 pagesa short novel on its ownLife Doesnt 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 Ehs 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 asin keeping with the mood of the bookdetails have often been altered or entirely spawned by the whims of Maxs imagination. But do come along for the ride.
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 elses 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, its cool
Paradise, this cosmos, she spread her arms as if to welcome in everything, this house, this land, its 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, its 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, thats 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.
Excuse me, I dont 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 persons 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 Soldiers 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, its not the battle you have to fear most. The third short story, One Soldiers Laugh, is the final tale, for the book and perhaps all else. Except, of course, for those things that never end. top
Title: Unresolved Connections
Subtitle: Tales of journeys to unvisited places
Words and artwork: Max Burns
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
|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, heres a few excerpts snitched from the main story, Life Doesnt Have to Rhyme.
|Sams 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. Didnt the Beatles wear sandals like those into mainstream fashion after visiting some Maharishi in the 70s? And didnt those same sandals flop out of fashion not long after? Sams 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 Sams growing mound of discarded, vacant shells. Its the first clue to the hidden poems of that great revolutionary of the 70s, eh.
Sam didnt 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.
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.
Sams eyes examined the envelopes 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 Sams pile of discarded clam shells, the mystery envelope was also still there. Weird. BC.
The most surprising thing about Sams 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 greatand for unknown reasonshidden 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. Its 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 atmanthe Buddhist real selflost 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. Its a dishevelled demeanour carted around in tatty grey tweed, a persona dust-jacket with leather patches on elbows. When he standsthough he much prefers to sithis 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 communitys most ardent and outspoken politico, a sometime socialist, but not a communistas he is quick to point outor 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, hes 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 hes very good at it.
Hes 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 its rarely an original thought, the important thing is that its 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, its 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 dateParadise is like that). In case you were wondering, this is Paradise, right here, in this house, pardon the mess. It hasnt been tidied up in a while. Anyway, youll have to also excuse my brevity, but as youll see its necessary if Im to get the whole story out in the time remaining. I dont 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 hadnt 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 bottomif I couldnt 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 hadnt 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 thats 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 dont remember. Oh. Sorry. I should have checked the house first, knocked to see if someone was home. Im 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. Weve been meaning to get at that, like, you know, before winter. Main-ten-nuisance, what a drag. Personally, Im into the empty-doorway look; gives the place a groovy sort of vacant aura. She tilted her head back to face me. So mellow outits cool. Would you like to come in?
I dont mean to intrude, I repeated myself.
Youre not, relax, get mellow, she calmly said. There was a twinkle in those eyes, one in perfect harmony with that smile. Its cool.
At least thats how our initial conversation went as near as I can remember. And, no question, my memory does seem to be slipping away. So if its not exactly right, too bad, its the best I can do.
The last excerpt is from the final story, One Soldiers Laugh. Appropriate, dont 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 didnt know; it didnt matter. What mattered was that he was there, hunkered down, hugging the damp, musty earth, breathinghe 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, its 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.