Make Your Picks

LOVE, crumbsroom



There were older kids too, but you usually didn’t see them. I guess they stayed at home. Or kept to themselves, up on the second floor of a haunted, old playhouse overlooking the Townhouse entrance. The smoke from their cigarettes billowing from the window up there. That’s how you knew they were inside, even when you didn’t see them. Sitting on the floor together. Up where the bad words they drew on the walls got even badder.

Sometimes their heads would stick out of the windows. Their hair was always bushy and uncombed. They all had freckles. Even from a distance you could tell their teeth were bad. Even with their mouths closed they couldn’t keep this secret. You could see the tooth decay in their eyes. Glinting and yellow. Making their eyes seem as they too would one day rot right out of their sockets.

I’d been in the playhouse once. It was made of wood and would creak under your feet as you walked up the staircase. My grandmother had brought me here to wait for her as she went door to door in the Townhouse. Collecting money to bring an end to heart attacks and strokes, like she would do every summer. Saving the world as I stared at the words f*ck and c*cks*cker carved into the wall. Not knowing what they meant, but fascinated by how all of those letters looked together. How they must have sounded once spit through teeth.

I was lucky that there had been no one up here. I knew what the younger kids could do to me, call me names, run after me, throw rocks. But not the older ones who smoked and knew words I didn’t. Words that made me think of the pointed ends of penknives and breath that smelled like cigarettes. Words I couldn’t let my grandmother know I’d seen as I waited for her, surrounded by them. Written all the way up to the ceiling.

“Hey you! You don’t live here!”

A boy my age with a bowl cut and squinty eyes had seen me in the window. The same window all those other bad heads would poke out of and that I would see whenever riding past on my bike. He stood below me and was looking up. Was with an old woman, who I knew you were never supposed to be seen by. The person these kids were working for whenever they chased me from the Townhouses. The Landlady, Mrs. MacDonald.

“Get out! No one said you could go in there!”

My grandmother was far away, but I could still see her standing on a doorstep, collecting loose change. Knew where to run to as the boy with the bowl cut began whistling between his fingers. Calling to all the others who had been hiding up in trees. Who were willing to jump out of bedroom windows to join his pursuit of me, their ears bleeding from the homemade piercings I’d interrupted. Some shirtless. Some without pants. Their hands now full of rocks and me running across the courtyard. The sound of dogs set free and their screaming growing ever nearer the closer I got to my grandmother, who for a moment seemed not to recognize this boy being chased. Not understanding what terrible thing I could have done to bring such bad attention to myself.

Running out of breath, I now knew how to use the words I had learned that day in the playhouse. But also knew I could never say them, as my grandmother looked at me like a stranger, running from children who were still spilling out from windows everywhere. The punishment not only for trespassing, but for reading things I shouldn’t have. The secret codes of older kids who, if I got myself caught, I would never grow up to be. Or swear alongside of.


It seemed my answers had caused a sensation. It seemed the test had discovered the great things that were in my head after all. Even under the table, I had been seen.

I knew this when Jane began talking to my grandmother about taking me to the city with her. She’d never been interested in my company before, but now it seemed she could not resist it. Wanted an hour on a bus with me. Then a trip burrowing deep down into the earth, on one subway after another. Then, back above ground, a long walk down a cold street where I kept asking her where I was going. Trying to keep up with her long strides. Worried if she got too far ahead of me, I would never find my way home, and my genius would be lost to time.

The building we entered was like a face with no expression. Long, unblinking and not knowing how to smile. Like Jane’s face, but one where we could walk in through its mouth. I called it The Institute, even though I wasn’t sure if this was the correct word, or where I had ever heard it used. Probably a horror movie. Or something I had read about mental asylums.

Everywhere around us inside The Institute were very serious people. Lots of book carrying. The smell of math equations written in chalk. Lots of people talking excitedly about what I imagined were great discoveries. Everyone badly dressed. Just like Jane. Just like me. But I liked it. People seemed smart here, even though I wasn’t exactly sure why I thought this. Maybe it was that I finally felt I was surrounded by my people. Those who could find all of the complicated things in my head not even I could decipher. That tied my brain in knots and made me not to want to talk to anyone. That, even at my young age, I imagined were slowly killing me.

Jane brought me into a room. There was assortment of toys and puzzles scattered across a table. Piles of papers and freshly sharpened pencils. A chair for me to sit at and consider everything that was in front of me. A movie camera had been set up to watch me play. And think. I thought of all of my friends back home and wondered if they would see me on TV. If they would see all these things I was good at. Be impressed by how my thinking was being recorded. To be studied by future generations. To entertain the country.

Shortly after I had been seated, she began to ask me questions. Slowly and without any inflections in her voice. Just like she had in my kitchen. And because I now knew myself to be very smart, I found myself unafraid of answering them honestly and without any need to crawl beneath the table. There were even more questions this time and once finished, after putting all the papers that contained my answers into a folder she squeezed under her arm, she left the room and closed the door. But not before telling me to start playing with whatever I chose to in the room. There were no rules. No one would stop me.

“Just be yourself. Do whatever comes naturally”

She said she would be gone for a long while.

As I began to play, alone, I could tell I was being watched. From somewhere. By someone. And probably not just Jane. I could sense the eyes of strangers on me. Maybe those of some God-like being. Possibly at the top floor of the Institute. Watching me on TV and learning as I began combing the hair of a doll not wearing any clothes.


I never learned exactly how well I did at The Institute. I had begun to think not very well as Jane went back to not looking or talking to me after this. Which didn’t bother me much. I didn’t look or talk to her either.

A few years later her and my father would divorce. Only then would I be told I had scored very highly on my tests. Much better than Jane had been expecting.

I would only see her one more time once she was no longer a part of my family. She suddenly appeared one day at my school. But not in the normal part where the rest of the other students went to class. I had seen her down the hallway where none of us ever went. That we stayed away from. Where we would see children in wheelchairs and boys and girls who had been sent to school in their pajamas.

Jane had been standing down here. Taking them from their class. Leading them down the hallway to another room I had never been inside of. She had a pile of papers under her arm. Bundled in elastics. And she walked right past where I stood, as I slowly began to recognize who she was.

She pretended not to see me.
I really enjoyed this one, in particular.

I should catch up on some more of these.

I really enjoyed this one, in particular.

I should catch up on some more of these.


Just trying to get as much of this nonsense down while I'm stuck at home, between jobs. Praying that eventually I will find some way to tie all of these disparate strands together.

I can't spend all of my time just berating James Wan, after all. Even though that is probably what I'd prefer to be doing.

I can't spend all of my time just berating James Wan, after all. Even though that is probably what I'd prefer to be doing.
Make him the villain of your next story.


I’d seen them take prisoners. Captives contained by skipping rope wound round and around them. Being paraded on the sidewalks, their heads down and shuffling in their sneakers. Sometimes without any shoes at all, their feet bare, as if they had been caught after swimming.

I would try and remember their faces, which would turn from me in shame as I rode past on my bicycle. Would look at their clothes in case I came across scraps from their t-shirts washed up on rocks in the nearby creek. Anything that could help identify those who had been disappeared.

I suspected they were brought to the tool sheds I could see through a chain link fence at the back of the Townhouse. A good place for secret interrogations. Where they couldn't be seen by parents who were looking for missing children. Where it was possible to lock them in from the outside and prevent escape when those standing guard were called in for dinner. A place that was near enough to the parking lot, and the trunks of cars, if things got out of hand. If they chose the wrong tools to make them talk.

As they marched past, townhouse boys would stomp in front of the procession, lifting their knees high as they brought their prisoners towards wherever they were taking them. Girls would linger at the back, chewing gum. Blowing bubbles. Waiting to be given their skipping rope back. Sometimes, the boy with the bowl cut would be walking nearby. Sometimes joining those up front, dancing more than goose stepping. Sometimes he’d linger at the back, giving the girls dandelions he’d plucked from the Townhouse lawn and trying to kiss them. Sometimes he’d just walk alongside of the prisoners as if they were his friends, making faces for them and getting them to laugh.

Then other times he’d hit them. Push them into each other. Pull their hair and bring them to their knees. Sometimes looking right at me as he pushed them against the pavement. Now making faces for me. Trying to make me laugh as I rode past them. Pretending I hadn’t seen anything at all. Never noticing the dwindling number of children in my neighbourhood. Coming home for dinner when I was called. Wondering when it would be my turn to be captured and could get to see for myself exactly what was going on at the Townhouse. Knowing one of these days I would not be able to outrun them. That they would catch me sneaking into their world and I could finally feel like I was a part of something.

I believe the number one quality of any successful writer is graphomania.
With that the sky is the limit.
The second quality is free time.

Go for it!

I believe the number one quality of any successful writer is graphomania.
With that the sky is the limit.
The second quality is free time.

Go for it!

Check and check!

I will! Thanks!


I was not allowed to ride very far on my bike. There were streets I wasn’t allowed to cross by myself. Only my grandmother knew how to step onto them and not get hit by cars. When on my own, on my bike, the screeching of tires would quickly rise from the hot ground whenever I tried. Kept me from ever getting to the other side. Phantoms behind windshields. Behind steering wheels. Hats pulled down to their eyes and shaking their fists. Getting me to step back up onto the curb I’d just stepped off and give up.

This road kept me from the stores I could see over there. Where I could spend the quarters I’d stolen from a jar on my grandfather’s dresser. Already knew I'd get hit for sure. Imagined myself getting knocked down into the street, and all those coins I’d taken spilling from my pocket. Rolling down the road. My grandmother somehow knowing I’d been hit and running to save me. Bending over to pick up these stolen quarters with her fingers as she cried and watched the blood run out of me.

Even though I knew I couldn’t cross it, I would ride up to this street and wait to see if the cars ever stopped. They never did. Not like when I was with my grandmother and she could find the spaces between them. Get us to the store, get us to the cash register and then wonder where I’d gotten all this money from. Realize this was why my pants had been drooping. Quarters are heavy when grabbed by the handful.

But when by myself, I could only keep on going where I’d already been going. Riding in circles. Looking up at the store I couldn’t get to every time I went past. Over and over again. Sometimes noticing kids in the back, near the dumpsters, eating things they’d bought. Knowing just by the shape of their shadows, they’d come from the Townhouse.


He rode a girl's bike. It was bright orange and too big for him and made one think of how girls were usually much taller than boys at that age. I would see him riding on it around town, slouched down off the seat so he could reach the pedals. He had the kind of face that made me think he’d probably stolen the bicycle. Pushed a girl who was twice his size off it and sped away. It wasn’t a mean face. Just pale and kind of dirty. But it cast the impression he might think stealing a bike was just a harmless thing to do; something that people might laugh at if they saw him doing it.

It was the same boy I’d seen a week before. His squinty eyes still squinting. His bowl shaped hair still looking like it was cut over the sink in his kitchen. And as our bikes collided at the bottom of my sloping driveway, we both ended up on the sidewalk. Our handlebars temporarily fused together, leaving us needing to work with each other in order to untangle them.

This is how we discovered we were both looking for ice cream. How our dinners had disappointed. Both of us looking for the smelly boy who rode the bike with the freezer attached. Who had the frozen treats and the popsicles. The one who ate spiders if you gave him an extra quarter. And I had lots of quarters.

“And I have spiders”, the boy, whose name was Chris, said. Patting his pocket.

Both of our knees were skinned. We were both bleeding down our leg. We both rode bikes that were too big for us. And in this moment, this was enough to suddenly be friends. For me to share my stolen money with him, and him to share his pocket full of spiders with me. And for us to ride our bikes to places together I wasn’t allowed to go on my own. For it seemed whenever Chris rode out into the traffic, all the cars swerved to miss him. And me too, as long as I stayed close.


My aunt Cathy had something to tell me. She wasn’t wearing her beret. Someone must have told her how badly it smelled of cat pee.

“I remember your dad and your gramma had a little fling”


“Something on the side when he was with your mother”


“I heard the stories. Them dancing at the bar. Her pulling her pants down. He was very wild in those days”

“He had an affair with his mother?”

“No. Not Nan. With Sandra’s mother. Your mother’s mother. Not his”


“Just ask him”

“I don’t think that happened”

“It did”

“Probably not”

“I heard the rumours”

My fathers is no longer wild these days. His head is clear, but not his conscience. He says he spends most nights laying awake, remembering all the bad things he did a long time ago. I wonder if this is one of them.

“Cathy says you had an affair with Gramma Theresa”


“That’s what Cathy says. She said she pulled her pants down for you in the middle of a bar. That you liked it”

“I remember her pants falling down one time when she was dancing. But they were always falling down. They didn’t have any buttons, for Christ’s sake”

"You know a lot about her pants"

"Stop it"

“I heard this is how you courted each other”


“It’s very flirtatious. Kinda sexy. Very taboo”

“Huh? What are you talking about. She was an old lady. She was an invalid”

“Just telling you what I heard. Cathy seems to know things. She’s always got her ear to the ground”

“Cathy doesn’t know shit. You’re not putting this in your book are you?”

“How do I not? How can I possibly unhear this? It’s a real scoop”

My father gets a Coke from the fridge and goes to his bedroom. He goes to sleep at 7pm these days. But I imagine mostly to lie awake and think of all the old women he bedded in his wild youth. To reminisce. To wonder what could have been.