The Plan

[From Voice and Vision 2020: my initial piece]

They rehearsed every step with her till she knew them by heart.

Shortly after lunch, she strolled into the market and browsed the stalls. At exactly 2:23, she approached the designated vendor in the designated stall selling the specified doll. They haggled over the price – it had been agreed upon even before The Plan was activated, but bartering was essential for its success. Negotiations concluded, she handed over the money and took the doll.

She sauntered through the market, examining other items. She heard a commotion behind her, tromping footsteps, things knocked aside and broken, then angry voices shouting her name. Why were they calling her? How did they know her name? She turned to look. A bullet ricocheted off the pavement, too close for comfort. This was not part of The Plan!

Her pulse quickened. She searched for a place to hide, but the stalls were jammed together with no space between. She panicked and began to run. Five soldiers dressed in black appeared from between the stalls, pointing their high-powered assault rifles at her. “Stop!” they yelled. She was trapped. She clutched the doll to her chest and screamed.

And sat bolt upright in bed, clutching the blankets. Her heart pounded, her breath came in great gasping gulps of terror. It’s okay, it was just a dream, calm down, breathe, she told herself.

But what was she holding? It didn’t feel like blankets. She reached over and turned on the light.

And shrieked.

She was holding the doll.

“Everything’s OK” by Verone Solilo. (Acrylic on canvas)

Verone‘s response to “The Plan”:

This painting was done in response to an intriguing short story about a woman waking up from an adventurous, but frightening dream. It reminded me that the things that cause us anxieties, can often be remedied by showing ourselves the same kindness that we would show a small child, frightened by a nightmare. That inner child, who still retains his/her innocence, creativity and wonder toward life, sometimes needs a hug and some comforting words … “It’s Okay, it was just a dream, calm down, breathe.”

#VoiceAndVision2020 #CreativeCollaboration #VeroneSoliloArtist #MargaretGHanna #Fiction #948-ARTS

First Date

First Date by Verone Solilo. Acrylic on canvas (Artist’s statement is below)

[From Voice and Vision 2020: my response piece to Verone’s painting]

She was the most popular girl in high school – beautiful, witty, talented.

I was the class nerd – brilliant at math and sciences, lousy at sports and small talk.

Somehow I found the courage to ask her to the graduation dance. I couldn’t believe my ears when she said, “Yes.”

The big night, I fidgeted in her parents’ living room, only half-listening to her father’s lecture. I gasped when she swept into the room, resplendent in red. God, she was beautiful!

After the dance, she giggled and grabbed my hand. “Let’s go dance in the park.”

We danced in the bandstand, then walked among the blossom-laden trees and talked about our futures till the stars dimmed.

That fall, I went to MIT and began my career as a theoretical physicist. We lost touch.

Thirty-some years later, I returned home for my parent’s 60th wedding anniversary. The hall was crowded with people I hadn’t seen in years. I almost dropped my drink when she walked in. Age had only made her more beautiful. Her face lit up when she saw me. “Do you still dance?” she asked.

My heart skipped a beat. She remembered!

Before we could talk further, I was whirled away to give the toast to my parents. An hour later, I saw her leaving. I ran after her. “Stop! Wait!”

She turned, her eyebrow cocked. “Yes?”

“Um, um.” I was again the tongue-tied teenage nerd. “Let’s go dance in the park,” I blurted.

She laughed, then took my hand. “Let’s.”

Verone’s Statement:

This [painting] was inspired by a memory. When I met my husband at 16, our first dates were bike rides to Wascana Park, in Regina, Sask. This is a gorgeous park that has lots of paths winding around the lake and through the mature trees, well-groomed lawns and flower beds, and Canada geese. It also boasts a beautiful white bandstand/pavilion, which is set in this lush urban forest. I recall that pavilion being the perfect rest stop since it was halfway around the lake. I’m sure ours was not the only first date at the pavilion that blossomed into lifelong love. Lovely memories.

[NOTE: The Bert Church Theatre interviewed Verone and me about our joint contribution to Voice and Vision 2020. You can listen to it here.

#VoiceAndVision #CreativeCollaboration #VeroneSoliloArtist #MargaretGHanna #948-ARTS


This photo by Britt Gaiser inspired “Chiaroscuro”

The square of light traces its trajectory across the floor, inch by inch, minute by minute, moving slowly from right to left. I fade away from it, back into the shadow. Where I’ve always been.

I first learned about light and shadow in university when I had to take an arts option. I searched the catalogue, found one entitled “Painters of the Baroque Era.” It sounded interesting, esoteric, so I enrolled.

I was bored stiff until the day the professor put up the painting The Calling of St. Matthew by an artist called Caravaggio. The professor droned on about something called chiaroscuro – the strong contrast between light that highlights some parts of the painting and leaves the rest in shadow and darkness. He called our attention to a beam coming from a window, something like what I see now, that highlighted some of the characters and left others in the shadows.

Everyone’s eyes followed the light. Mine did not. Mine searched the shadows. What was hidden there? What mysteries? What evil? Or good?

I sought out more photos of Caravaggio’s paintings, to the point I forgot all about the course and failed it. In fact, I failed my entire year.

By then, I on a different course – to see every one of his paintings in the flesh, so to speak. I travelled to Europe, beginning in Rome – there were so many there – and then Florence where I saw the one that affected me most deeply, Nativity with St. Francis and St. Lawrence. It was almost completely shadow.

Then and there, I determined to own a Caravaggio by hook or by crook. But how? They were big. That one was almost 11′ x 6′. I couldn’t wrap it up in my coat and carry it under my arm out the back door like Vincenzo Peruggia had done when he stole the Mona Lisa from the Louvre.

I decided the only way was to become like one of Caravaggio’s shadows – there but unnoticed, invisible to all who were entranced by light rather than shadow.

I succeeded, after a fashion. I won’t tell you how or when or which painting or which art gallery. It would be too embarrassing for all concerned – the art gallery because I succeeded, and me because I got caught. They got me but not the painting. And, no, the painting still hasn’t been recovered. It’s in a secret place, waiting for me when I return.

I hear footsteps coming down the hall. The key rattles in the lock and the door swings open. The jailer motions me out with a sideways jerk of his head. I stand. The leg shackles rattle as I walk toward the door.

I walk into the light.

Author’s Note: The painting, Nativity with St. Francis and St. Lawrence, was stolen in 1969 from the Oratorio of St. Lawrence in Palermo and has never been recovered. There are many stories about who stole it and what happened to it. A replica was commissioned in 2015 and now hangs above the altar where the original hung.

#Caravaggio #LightAndShadow #Chiaroscuro #ArtTheft #Fiction #BaroqueArt #MargaretGHanna #BrittGaiser

Dinosaur At Large!

“Mom! Mom! There’s a dinosaur outside!”

I looked up from my crossword puzzle. “Really?” Now what had Adam, my son, seen?

“Quick! Come see.” He grabbed my hand and I followed him onto the back deck.

He pointed. “It’s over there. You can’t see it now, it’s feeding on something, but just wait! Oh, there it is!”

Off beyond the trees, I heard roaring and grating and tearing and then it appeared above the trees, swung around and disappeared — the neck of a large yellow excavator ripping up the street in the next block.

I clapped my hands to my face in mock terror.

“Good gracious, Adam. It’s going to eat us!”

“No, Mom.” He rolled his eyes – I was so ignorant about dinosaurs. “It’s a herbivore, probably one of the brontosaurus species.”

“But, it’s so huge. It could squash us and not even know it. Or knock over our house. How would we escape?”

Adam patted his large watergun. “Mom, you don’t have to worry. I have my Blast-o-Matic with me. If it comes this way, I’ll dial it up to maximum and blast it into extinction.”

“But when you kill it, it will fall over and crush us!” I was trying hard not to laugh.

“Mom, don’t you remember?” He sounded so exasperated. “When my Blast-o-Matic is at max, it vapourizes things.”

I heaved a sigh of relief. “Thank heavens. Adam, you are such a brave boy. I’m glad you’re here to defend us.”

He smiled, straightened and saluted. “At your service, Ma’am!”

I went back inside, smiling. My little hero had things well in hand.

* * *

A couple of days ago, I did indeed see a large yellow “dinosaur” working in the street one block over. As the arm swung back and forth, into and out of sight, it reminded me of the long-necked dinosaurs that used to roam the earth. How big they were and how tiny we are! I just had to write this story about a boy with an imagination as big as a dinosaur and his mother, complicit in his fantasy.

Writing this story also reminded me of the many times my brother and I lived out our fantasies when we were children.

We traveled across Canada, even the world, by train – all in our dining room. We lined up the chairs, one behind the other; I was the passenger, my brother the engineer cum conductor. “Ticket, ma’am,” he’d say, and I would hand him my “ticket.” We traveled through the Rocky Mountains, across the prairies and through forests, to the sound of “choo-choo-choos,” steam whistles and clanging bells. Every now and then we went to the “dining car” to enjoy whatever it was that Mom – excuse me, the Chef – had prepared for us. Eventually we had to park the train, er, the chairs and return to – sigh – reality.

Long before Sputnik and John Glenn, we went to the moon and back, in a cardboard box. To adults, it looked like a cardboard box but to us it was the super-duperest, spiffyest rocket ship ever built. And guess what? Long before Neil Armstrong stepped on the moon, WE discovered that it was not made of green cheese. Why would anyone even think the moon was made of green cheese? We brought back moon samples; at least, I think we brought back moon samples. Of course, all that traveling really worked up an appetite, so it was off to see what culinary delights NASA, er, Mom, had devised for space travelers.

This was well before we had TV. We had to devise our own entertainment, and devise we did. And no, it wasn’t playing “house” – “you be the Mommy and I’ll be the Daddy.” Heck, that was so boring!

We’d rather be outside, playing “cowboys and Indians” – now politically incorrect – or maybe it was “Cowboys and Rustlers”. Either way, there was a lot of running around, pointing our index fingers at each other, yelling “Bang!”, and falling down “dead,” only to be miraculously revived when Mom yelled, “Lunch!”

We pulled cattails from the nearby slough that magically became swords and we transformed into swashbuckling pirates battling the Royal Navy (and always sending the Navy high-tailing it across the seas) or we were Knights of Old saving Damsels in Distress (I refused to be the damsel in distress).

We climbed our favourite tree and became Robin Hood and his band of merry men, waiting in ambush for the nasty Sheriff of Nottingham. “Take that, you villainous cad!”

Or, once again, we were pirates, in the crow’s nest, on the look-out for gold-laden Spanish galleons. Arrr, me hearties!

TV ruined a lot!

#Dinosaurs #ChildhoodMemories #ChildhoodImagination #Fiction #NonFiction #MargaretGHanna #LifeBeforeTV #Play

Possible Death of Terrorist under Investigation

(Last week, I offered the challenge of writing COVID’s obituary. My obit turned into a newspaper report.)

tombstonePolice are continuing to investigate the disappearance and possible death of SARS-CoV-2, also known as COVID-19.

No body has yet been found, but COVID has not been seen anywhere for at least 14 days now.

Police are questioning a relative, Aunty Body, and her accomplice Vax Scene, as “persons of interest” in COVID’s disappearance. Two other individuals, Hi Dochs C. O’Quin and Rem D. Sever, have claimed responsibility but authorities have yet to find any evidence supporting those claims.

COVID’s origins are shrouded in mystery and controversy. Most agree he was born in China but his parentage is debated. One source claims he was the son of a laboratory worker, although this has been derided as a manufactured story. Other sources suggest he was the son of a vendor in a meat market, a story many find “batty.”

Debate still rages as to the veracity of either assertion.

Whatever the place and circumstances of his birth, COVID first appeared in Wuhan, the capital city of Hubei province of China. Within the space of three months, he was wrecking devastation around the world. No country was safe from his terror.

When asked to explain COVID’s murderous rampage, noted expert Dr. Epi DiMiologi said, “the most plausible hypothesis to date is sibling rivalry.” He pointed to the 2003 damage inflicted in places such as Toronto by an equally insidious terrorist known as SARS.

“As you can see, COVID and SARS share the same surname. If he really were the offspring of a lowly butcher, it is reasonable to assume he had an inferiority complex and decided to over-compensate by become even more insidious than his older brother.”

SARS attacked only about two dozen countries whereas COVID has afflicted countries on every continent except Antarctica.

Investigators point out that SARS and COVID would be, at best, half-brothers. SARS was born in Guangdong province in southern China whereas COVID was reportedly born in Hubei province in central China.

A terrorist investigator who spoke off the record stated that if SARS and COVID are indeed half-brothers, then “that father certainly got around!”

Leaders of some countries are suspected of being complicit in COVID’s reign of terror. Rather than attacking him with a forthright campaign, they characterized him as a petty thief of no consequence who would soon disappear. Unfortunately, this dismissal lead to confusion and mayhem which only facilitated COVID’s reign of terror.

Police are asking anyone with information about COVID’s whereabouts to contact them at 946-268-4319. If no further attacks occur within the next 14 days, then they will close the case file.

#TongueInCheek #COVID19 #Coronavirus #Pandemic #MargaretGHanna #EndOfCOVID #Fantasy #Humour # Fiction #FutureHope

Musings on a Chance Encounter

He swaggered across the parking lot, a swagger enhanced by a pronounced limp. He was dressed in black from head to toe: black leather stetson with a star badge on the crown, black trousers and shirt, a black leather belt fastened with a large shiny oval buckle, and a long black leather drover’s coat that flapped around his black cowboy boots. All he was missing was the six-shooter on his hip and a Winchester rifle. Instead, he carried, and used, a heavy wooden walking stick. I could almost hear the theme from “The Good, The Bad and The Ugly”: toodle-loodle-loo, too-loo-loooooo.

He opened the store’s glass door and stopped, shocked to see me standing there. “Sorry, ma’am, I didn’t see you.” He bowed low and swept his arm out as an invitation for me to exit.

I smiled and shook my head. “That’s okay. I’m waiting for my ride.”

He smiled, whipped off his black sunglasses – one eye was covered with a patch – “Morning, ma’am,” and entered the store. Clerks greeted him by name; he was obviously a regular customer. They laughed and joked. He found what he was looking for, paid for it, then walked to the door.

* * *

Who was this Gentleman Gambler type? The limp, the patched eye suggested a veteran. Perhaps he had fought in Bosnia or Afghanistan, or one of the Gulf wars – he was too young to have fought in Viet Nam. But if he had, how could he be so cheery? War is a messy business. Your comrades die horrible deaths, or survive to live horrible lives, as do you, wounded in both body and soul. How had this man, if he had been a soldier, risen above despair and depression? He had obviously found something that made life worth living, and worth living well.

Or perhaps he had been a bull rider. That would explain the western garb, the big shiny belt buckle, the swagger, the limp. Bull riders are the king of the rodeo circuit. Anyone who would willingly sit on the back of a ton or more of an animal whose only intent is to throw you off its back and then gore you – well, that person is either supremely confident or insane. Probably insane. But also respected. Eventually, he decided he was too old for that contest of wills and for the bodily punishment that ensued. He retired happily – he had his earnings, his injuries and his belt buckle to prove his success in the arena. He had stories to tell over coffee or beer or whatever he and his friends gathered over. He had survived; no wonder he was happy.

* * *

I was still standing by the door, waiting for my ride to appear. As he left the till, I walked outside and held the door open for him. He tipped his hat. “Thank you, ma’am. Bless you and good morning.” I watched him swagger back across the parking lot. He was whistling.

And the tune he was whistling? The theme from “Rawhide.”


(Wars and bulls result in stories either funny or sad. Two such stories are in my book, “Our Bull’s Loose in Town!” Tales from the Homestead, available in both paperback and e-book. Like the story above, they are — as Hollywood claims — based on true events.)


#WesternCowboy #BullRider #Soldier #Contemplation #Attitude #Courage #Happiness #MargaretGHanna #OurBullsLooseInTown #BWLAuthor

On the Horns of a Dilemma

“It’s easy. Everyone here does it.”

“It’s theft. And not everyone does it.” I glanced around. The mail room was bustling. Would anyone notice?.

Joe slit the parcel open. “Jackpot! A digital camera!” He took it out and retaped the box, then handed me the knife. “Your turn. Pick a parcel.”

I was new, bottom of the ladder. Would I be shunned, or worse, if I told the supervisor? Could I live with myself if I didn’t?

I pushed the knife away. “No thanks.” I wouldn’t steal but I wouldn’t blab. I needed the money for my wife’s medical expenses.

(A 99-word challenge: write about a postal carrier in an extreme situation)

#MoralDilemma #MoralChoice #DecisionTime #MargaretGHanna #BWLAuthor


Every afternoon, as I walked to work, I saw the old woman sitting on the park bench, feeding pigeons. Then, one day, she wasn’t. I stopped, startled.

Questions: Where was she? Was she sick? Dead?

Who was she? Perhaps a renowned scientist, a poet, a successful businesswoman. Was she a beloved grandmother? Mother? Sister?

The question that truly burned: Why could I notice her in her absence when I couldn’t take the time to notice her when present? Why didn’t I smile, say hello?

Regret filled me. I should have stopped. What memories did I miss by ignoring her?

(my response to the 99-word challenge to write about a park bench)

#Regret #MissedOpportunity #Meditation #Fiction #99WordChallenge #MargaretGHanna #BWLAuthor


The hutch stands in the far corner of the shed. Dusty, bedecked with cobwebs, hardware missing, doors hanging askew, it is a battered shadow of its former glory. No prized china sits proudly on its shelves, only last year’s sparrow’s nest. Paint cans and oil filters sit where carefully pressed linens were once stored.

I run my hand over the gouges that scar the counter, among them a crudely carved heart enclosing the initials: DL + BR. My fingers stop at the heart, linger there for a moment.

Who were DL and BR? Were they high school sweethearts who married? Or was it only a summer romance? Does it matter? What matters is that, for one moment, they were caught up in a passion that inspired them to leave this everlasting declaration of love.

I trace my finger around the heart and sigh. I envy them. There is no such moment in my life. I am empty.

(inspired by a word challenge to write about a hutch)

#Loneliness #Romance #Love #Longing #Regret #Fiction #MargaretGHanna #BWLAuthor

Best Dressed Nest Competition

“Finders Keepers,” mixed media. Melissa Bruglemans-LaBelle, artist

“How does it look, Mitch? Do you think three pieces of Mojo wrapper is too fussy?”

“No, not at all, Madge, they nicely complement the origami paper. You were right about eliminating the feather. It is just so . . . brown! Now, a goldfinch’s feather would be perfect. I regret not getting one of those Tanagers’ feathers when they were passing though last year.”

“Yes, but look at those Swarowski crystals, you’ve arranged them so well, they really set off the curve of the nest.”

“Now if only we could work in those buttons, then we could say we had the competition all buttoned up. Ha, Ha, Ha!

“Oh Mitch, you’re such a card. By the way, I heard Sid is one of the judges this year.”

“Sid? The sparrow from the apple tree? Ya gotta be kidding. What does he know about interior design? He thinks a bit of shredded plastic is haute couture.”

“Yah, I know, you’d think they’d get someone more knowledgeable. At least Jay and Woody are on the panel. They know quality. Just be thankful that old Loon isn’t on the panel again.”

“You’re right, Madge. Look, the judges are leaving the Redbreasts. We’re next.”

“Wait! What’s that cracking noise? Oh no! One of the eggs is hatching! No, not now! That will mess everything up!”

“Quick, Madge. Sit on the eggs and look nonchalant. Here, wrap this fur around your neck. That’ll distract them. Oh, hello judges, come on in. May I give you the tour?”


(“Finders Keepers” was Melissa’s initial submission to Voice and Vision 2019, and “Best Dressed Nest Competition” was my response. This was the most fun I’ve had in a long time. I had originally planned to write a serious piece about how we are easily distracted by shiny things but somehow the magpies acquired the names Mitch and Madge, and you just can’t write anything serious about Mitch and Madge.)


#VoiceAndVision2019 #Melissa Bruglemans-LaBelle #Humour #WritingForFun #Birds #MargaretGHanna