top of page

November Muse

November 2022

November Writers Muse

Published by the Writers Foundation of Strathcona County

“There are perhaps no days of our childhood that we lived as fully, as the days we think we left behind without living at all: the days we spent with a favourite book.”

Proust: on contemplating why we read.

Editor's Note:

The Strathcona Writers Muse is a forum for members of the Writers Foundation of Strathcona County to publish their works. Anything published in our letter is eligible to receive a publishing credit. We accept all manner of submissions from short stories, poetry and book reviews. We prefer short stories of 1000 words or less but longer pieces can be accommodated if they can be published in parts. We are always in need of new items, so don't hesitate if you have something we can put into our publication.

Send submissions to care of Henry Martell, editor.

Important Dates

Writers Circle Virtual Sharing Meeting online

Next date Nov 1, 2022

RSVP on the website and the link will be emailed to you prior to the meeting.

Next Board Meeting: Nov 8, 2022

Poets in the Park

Poets in the park meets the third Wednesday of every month online.

Reply to the link on the WFSC website

Next scheduled meeting Nov 16, 2022

Children's Creative Writing Workshop

Second Monday of each month

Next Meeting Nov 26, 2022

Reply to the link on our Website

This Month's Submissions

A Cereal Conundrum

by Karen Probert

The small paper list said, 'cereal'. No following clarification.

Arthur stood in the aisle at Safeway that had a header at the end saying 'Cereal'. Boxes lined three-quarters of the shelves top to bottom in this aisle. He stood still. He scowled. 'I can do this.' is all that was in his mind.

As Arthur read labels he rejected uncooked oatmeal, anything that said 'Gluten Free' or 'European'. Francie couldn't cook right now. That's why he was in the grocery store. He knew she wasn't celiac and she'd never been to Europe. She did eat foreign foods but mostly Mexican or South Asian not French or German. Sometimes Italian though.

Arthur pulled his mind back to the task at hand. He stepped a bit to his right and started at the top shelf so he could work his way down. He rejected anything with chocolate or nuts. Neither of these seemed to be breakfast things. He read the label on one whose picture showed strawberries. They were sweetened and dried so he returned that box to the shelf. He decided if the labels had cartoon characters and the bowl in the picture contained multi-coloured pieces of stuff it was probably only for kids. When he saw a cereal made with rice he stopped. He'd eaten 'Rice Crispy Squares' last fall at a picnic for new students. Was this the same stuff but without marshmallows? It had to be. It looked like it. He put that box in his cart but kept moving slowly to the right as he tried to imagine Francie eating each one.

Arthur hovered. He'd never eaten cereal as a child. As a home-schooled boy growing up on a remote farm he'd eaten eggs every morning with toast made from his grandmother's home made bread. Living in the university residence he chose from the long buffet in the cafeteria each morning. Francie had taught him about 'eating out' as she called it in restaurants and bars. But never for breakfast. Francie lived off campus in an apartment. He'd been there, of course, but not yet ever spent a whole night so didn't know what she ate for breakfast. Food had nothing to do with why they were at her place. Arthur smiled for the first time that day.

Just as Arthur got to the end of the aisle and older woman stood beside him. She said, "It's hard to choose, isn't it?"

Arthur looked at her. She smiled. Arthur blurted, "My girlfriend broke her leg. She wants cereal but I don't know what kind."

"I like your choice," the lady said as she glanced at his cart. "But I like Mini Wheats better. Especially the ones with a little brown sugar icing on each piece. Would she like that?"

'Francie likes brown sugar' swam into Arthur's head. He took the box the lady handed him. He said, "Thank you very much" as he added it to his cart.

She smiled again, "I hope she likes them both. It's kind of you to shop for her. Can I help with anything else on your list?"

Arthur smiled for the second time since coming to the grocery store. He looked at the list before answering. "I think I'm okay. I just need bananas and strawberries and I'll be done. Thanks again."

As Arthur unpacked the bags at Francie's she sat on a stool at her kitchen island with her broken leg up on the second stool. "If you'd bought marshmallows", she said, "we could make Rice Crispy Squares. I love those. Oh, and Brown Sugar Mini Wheats are my favourite. I want some right now, with a banana sliced up and milk."

Arthur watched as she made it all up in a bowl and spooned it into her mouth.

"Want some?" Francie asked. "You did great!"

Arthur made himself a bowl of the same things. As he tentatively crunched into his first ever bowl of cereal he was thinking about all the other things he wanted to learn about living in the city. He smiled at Francie. And maybe about living with Francie so they could eat breakfast together each morning.

Prairie Grassland

Kathie Sutherland

This summer, along the highway between Morinville and Athabasca, I decided to write about old buildings. I jotted notes about grey weathered wood and rusty hinges on broken doors. swayback barns, and moss yellowed shingles on collapsed roofs of dilapidated cabins. I noted how tight-fitting tongue and groove planks fall and return to the earth. I speculated about the folks who once lived and spent their lives fighting bitter winter cold, or reveling in the perfume of wet soil in the spring. I wondered how their lives passed and if their precious photographs, china teapots and handmade quilts were appreciated when bequeathed to their sons and daughters.

I imagined living on the outskirts of Colinton or Rochester, or in the villages of Vimy or Nestow. As a child, I yearned to know how it felt to come from a small Alberta place. My childhood was not rooted in prairie farming history, but in military tradition and the myths of a family I didn’t know.

Along the highway west of Athabasca is the Field of Dreams Antique Store. As we passed on our way to the lake, I insisted we stop to wander among the old combines and rusty tractors. In the golden light of the sunset, I daydreamed about bronze-tanned farmers with wrinkled eyes drifting in from hay fields, hot and dusty, calling out for a wife to bring a cold drink of water and bacon sandwich on homemade bread. I could see them coming home to a two storey hand-built house with dormer windows or a widow’s walk looking out on a sea of grain. Surely one of them trudged into a single room shack, mud chinked to keep out the cold winter wind, and onto a dirt floor in the lean-to kitchen. A good wife could keep the mice out of the flour sacks in her pantry and the swallows out of the chimney.

Along that same highway, I saw granaries and carriage sheds defying gravity, leaning on each other for support as if a single puff of wind would collapse the wood into a pile of rough boards. Surprisingly, they survive year after year, despite fallen roofs, doors that hang askew, and the empty window casings. They are, however, apt housing for coyotes and bats. The abandoned water pumps and broken outhouses that decorate the landscape, along with chicken coops and pigpens, are now overgrown with raspberry canes, and the garden spaces gone wild with weeds.

I could almost see a lonely pioneer lady with her skirts tucked into the waistband of her knickers planting daffodil bulbs and geranium roots mail-ordered from back east. She may have tried to imitate an English garden in an attempt to bring to mind her mother’s grey head bent over the dahlias and roses she used to grow beside the step. I like to think it was there in a little patch of black dirt that she found solace from the moan of the dry wind. For a few minutes she might have found respite from her hollering youngsters, the hot stove for baking bread, the smokehouse for drying rabbit meat, and the unending washing and mending of threadbare shirts and patched woolen pants. And if she had become sick at heart, she might have given up and walked blindly toward the half-full dugout holding her youngest baby in her arms meaning to drown her loneliness. She might have been accompanied only by the wind and her feelings of insignificance in the wide sky and the wider land. She might have been expected to maintain her cheerful outlook despite the disaster of a grass fire that took a hard won crop of wheat and found she could not bear another year or another disappointment.