Muck and Finn are Bored

Two little boys who grew up in Saskatchewan spend a typical summer trying to entertain themselves.

Here is another episode of The Adventures of Muck and Finn, by guest writer, Lorne Finlayson.

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Muck on the left, Finn on the right.

Muck and Finn were bored. It was summer holidays and it seemed like all the other kids had left town. The boys thought if they found enough kids they could get a game of scrub softball going. They rode their bikes all over town but no one was to be found.

“Well, what are we going to do,” asked Muck, “’cause if I go home my mom will make me work and I don’t feel like pulling weeds.”

“The only things I can think of right now is playing catch or going to the lake,” said Finn.

“ Swimming! Ha! You swim like that big rock over there,” taunted Muck.

“Better than you. All you can do is dog paddle. I’ll bet you don’t dare go out over your head.” Finn laughed.

“Betcha I would!”

“Betcha you’d be too chicken!”

Muck glared at Finn. No one called him chicken, not even Finn. Not even his big sisters. Not even the big kids because he would just beat them up.

“OK, Finn. Let’s go down to the lake and I’ll show you who’s chicken—and it ain’t me.”

“Big talk, Muck. I’m going home to get my trunks and towel and then I”m going down to the lake. Come along if you’re brave enough. Dog paddler! Ha, ha.” Finn laughed as he jumped on his bike and pedaled home fast, keeping ahead of Muck.

At the lake, they changed clothes and ran to the shore to dive in, but the adults there told them not to go in. There was “itch” in the water. The itch came in late summer. It would make little red dots on a kid’s skin that were so itchy that they almost drove a person crazy. No one really knew where the itch came from but once it was in the lake, well, that was the end of swimming for that year. By the time the itch went away school was about to start and the kids figured it was too cold to go swimming anyway.

All that tough talk about who could swim the best was forgotten when they tried making sandcastles. The sand was so dry it couldn’t be sculpted into anything. Neither of the boys had thought of bringing a pail to haul water from the lake to wet the sand piles. Reluctantly they took off their swimming trunks, got dressed and then sat down in the shack that was used as a change room. What could they do for the rest of the day?

They parted company a few minutes later and each went home to see if their moms had made lunch. They were in luck. It was just lunch time and each of the moms had made a plate of sandwiches; some salmon, some baloney and some deviled egg and the boys ate their fill, then polished the feast off with cookies and cold milk.

After they had helped to clean off the table they sat down and waited for the orders. Weed the garden was the worst, but cleaning up ones room came close. In his house, Muck thought he would have to sweep all the floors and dust the many porcelain ornaments that his mom had collected and displayed.

Meanwhile, over at his house, Finn awaited his fate. If it did not include toiling in the boiling afternoon sun pulling weeds it would probably be something worse like shelling peas. First, one had to go out and pick the peas off the vines, then bring them into the house, open each pod, and push out the peas. Finn liked peas, but that job seemed to take forever. Moms were great at finding horrible chores to keep little boys out of trouble when they were bored during those last days of summer holidays.

But, to their great surprise, each of the moms said, “Okay, now that you’ve helped clean up the kitchen you can go back outside and play.”

What! No weeding! No dusting! No pea shelling! They couldn’t believe their good fortune and hightailed it out of the house just in case a mom changed her mind. Muck ran over to Finn’s house and they sat down in the cool shade on the north side of the house. The boys reached into their pockets to see how much money they had so they could go to the café and have an ice cream sundae.

When they put all the nickels and dimes together they had over a whole dollar. As they walked down to get some ice cream the thought struck them. “Let’s get some cigarettes and have a smoke. All the cool older kids smoked so why not them?’

The problem was to get someone to go into the Pool Hall and get a pack. Muck and Finn were too little to be allowed into the Pool Hall. That was for older kids and adults because parents knew that in the Pool Hall billiards was played, not for fun, but for real money. Sometimes rude words could be heard from inside the Pool Hall if one held an ear to the windows.

The boys hung around the Pool Hall waiting for a big kid to show up who would buy the cigarettes.

One big kid to come along was known only as Nimbo Stratus. “Hey, Nimbo,” said Muck, “how about getting us a pack of Black Cat Cork Tips if we give you the money?”

“You guys are too young to smoke,” said Nimbo. “That’s for grownups, like me.”

“We smoke all the time,” said the boys. Neither had ever so much as taken a puff.

“OK, then,” said Nimbo.“Do you have the 50 cents for a pack?”

“Of course,” they said, reaching into their pockets for the money.

“And,” Nimbo added, “another 50 cents for my trouble.”

“What!!” they cried. “That’s highway robbery!!”

“Suit yourself,” said Nimbo, turning to go into the Pool Hall.

“Well, OK then,” they conceded, giving him the whole dollar.

Nimbo was in and out of the Pool Hall in a flash. He brought out the pack of Black Cat Cork Tip cigarettes and a packet of penny matches, just to show what a good guy he was.

Muck and Finn ran to Muck’s place and hid behind the outhouse. Muck opened the pack of cigarettes and each boy took one. Oh, those cigarettes smelled so fragrant, so rich and musky. But when they lit up it was a different story. The smoke got into their noses and made them sneeze. To really smoke they had to inhale, like real grownup smokers. That made them cough and wheeze. After a few minutes of that each boy felt like the world was going around in circles. Then their stomachs rebelled!

“I have to go, really go!” said Muck. He dove into the outhouse and sat on the seat just in time.

“Oooh, me too,” whined Finn and he took off to his own outhouse across the street. He got there in time, but it was a close call.

The boys felt ill for the rest of the day. Their moms figured it was just a one-day summer flu until they got close and smelled the unmistakable odour of tobacco smoke. Then each got a lecture about the evils of smoking and were marched off to their rooms for the rest of the afternoon.

The next day they searched around until they found Nimbo. They told him they had decided to quit smoking, and asked if he wanted to buy the rest of the pack of Black Cat Cork Tip cigarettes. Nimbo had a great laugh at their expense, but gave them their 50 cents for the smokes.

That was 25 cents each, just enough for an ice cream sundae. They ran to the café and in no time were enjoying the cold treat. After that, they decided that smoking was not all that great. Ice cream was much better!

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Cool Paper, Art, and Poetry

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Gina K. Page is a lady of many talents. This blog isn’t big enough to talk about all of them, so I’ve chosen a few to display a sample of Gina’s creativity and sensitivity to beautiful things. I asked Gina to provide me with some photos of her folding books which are a combination of her poetry and artwork. Click on the photos for a very large image and a much better look at the artist’s books.

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These are etchings done from drawings Gina did at the Page family farm on Galiano Island. She has added her own poetic description in the pages of the book.  I will let her explain the process in her own words:

Gina:

I’ve been writing poetry and making prints for quite a while, so combining them both into artist’s books seemed like a logical way to pursue both interests.

When I am creating etchings, usually aquatints, to include in an artist book or to stand alone, I employ a method called chine colle, in which I place thin pieces of coloured Japanese tissue papers that have been cut or torn to desired shapes into position on my inked etching plate.  Each piece will have been previously sprayed with an adhesive.

I then place a piece of heavier damped printmaking paper, such as Somerset or Stonehenge, over the paper and plate, being careful not to disturb any of the thinner papers, and roll everything together through the press.  The resulting print is a seamless image created by the ink from the plate as well as the colours of the chine colle papers.

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I usually use a light or dark coloured hadura paper for the base layer of the chine colle, as it gives a beautiful edge when torn damp.  Occasionally I use kozo or gampi papers; they are both strong and can be very thin and allow other colours to show through them.  Kozo has a wonderful softness, and gampi has an attractive sheen.  I often use Japanese rayon tissues that have very small gold and silver metallic particles in them, as many of my etchings and writings have to do with dreams, dusk and the night sky.

The papers are lovely to work with, especially those made from natural fibres. I choose subtle colour combinations well suited to nocturnal musings.

Being very light, though, they require a lot of concentration when being put in place, as the slightest breath or movement can cause them to shift out of place.

Meditation on a Canterbury Bell Stem-inside [1]

Because I don’t have my own press and type, I use alternate means of producing the text.  For the past few years, I have been stenciling the text onto the paper.  I use a purchased plastic sheet of upper and lower case letters, and stencil the text one letter at a time, with a quite stiff oil based stencil paint.  This process is time consuming but very effective when carefully done.

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One of Gina’s earliest books of poetry was entitled “Along a Road of Pattering Shade.” I found it perfectly named for the West Coast.

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Here is one of my favourite poems from that book:

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And finally, two more pieces of unique artwork by Gina K. Page.

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Best of luck with your poetry and artwork, Gina.

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Please don’t be shy. Leave a comment and let us know what you think.

A Writer’s Paradise

Greetings, writers!

Do you ever wish you could be on an island paradise with your notepad and pen, or better yet a laptop with an ever-charged battery? How about in a place like this?

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Or this?

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Or like this?

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Yes, Mauritius would make a perfect writing retreat.

Pooben Narayanen is a writer who is lucky enough to live here. Of course, it’s not as if he’s on holiday 365/24/7, but almost.

I asked Pooben if he’d mind if I interviewed him and here, for your entertainment are the results.

*Note* I have borrowed some interview questions from other interviewers as I saw no need to “re-invent the wheel” and besides, individual answers will always differ.

Tell us about your work in progress.

Oh boy! I have been working on this book for a while now.  It’s a children’s adventure story that takes place on Mauritius. I’ve changed the story about three times. Hopefully I will not change it again!

What was the most demeaning thing said about you as a writer?

The most demeaning thing was when a guy who couldn’t put two sentences together in English let alone speak it, told me that I had really bad English and I should go back to school. This is a guy whose writing I had to edit and rewrite every day. I kept thinking of Daniel Day Lewis in Gangs of New York when he beats a guy up and tells him, “I’m going to teach you how to speak English.”

Are the names of the characters in your novels important?

Absolutely, so my reader can identify with the characters. I’m also hoping they’ll discover some people from a different part of the world who are not really that different from them.

What about the title of your novel?

The title is what will hopefully entice the person to pick up the book to read!

Are there any occupational hazards to being a novelist?

If my book takes off and I get to write others, I’m hoping there will be some hazards, so it makes it more exciting.

Tell us about where you live.

I live in Mauritius which is in the Indian Ocean off the coast of Madagascar and right now it’s winter. It is a popular destination for families and honeymooners. Although it is a tropical island, it’s well developed. There is a decent standard of living which keeps going up.

What is the best thing about living there?

The weather.

What is the worst thing about living there?

The slow decay of the island’s natural beauty.

What’s your favorite fruit?

Mandarins.

What do you want to be when you grow up?

A good father and husband.

What is your favorite bedtime drink?

None really.

Do you ever wish that you had an entirely uncreative job, like data entry or working in a factory?

No!

Do you believe in a deity?

I do. He is called Ganesha Lord of Wisdom.

Who would play you in a film of your life?

Myself I guess!

What are the most important attributes to remaining sane as a writer?

Patience and persistence.

Have you ever read or seen yourself as a character in a book or a movie?

Of course in Star Wars!

What is the single most powerful challenge when it comes to writing a novel?

I’d have to say the biggest challenge is sitting down and writing. Speaking from personal experience, the ideas are in my head. I just need to write them out–to put them into words–but that can be a challenge.

Do you research your novels?

Yes I do.

How much impact does your childhood have on your writing?

Major impact. My experiences growing up have a lot of influence.

What was the greatest thing you learned at school?

How to act as a responsible citizen. This was taught to me by two teachers who did not see their job as simply teaching in the traditional way.

Do you laugh at your own jokes?

Sometimes.

Do you admire your own work?

I’ve never looked at my own work in that light.

What are books for?

Escape.

Are you fun to go on vacation with? Why, or why not?

I’d like to think so; I’m open to exploring new places and then chilling out with a drink at the end of the day.

How do you feel about being interviewed?

It is interesting!

Why do you think what you do matters?

To take it to the basic level, it’s about taking care of my family. So it matters.

Have you ever found true love?

Yeap!

How many times a day do you think about death?

I am an avid newsreader and death is pretty much what you see all the time on the news. You can’t help but think what a family in Baghdad or the Congo is going through when they have lost a loved one due to violence. So it makes me think about it sometimes.

Are you jealous of other writers?

Not at all.

What makes you cry?

When I see pure happiness and love.

What makes you laugh?

My little boy and my wife.

What are you ashamed of?

I get distracted easily! Is that something to be ashamed of?

What’s the loveliest thing you have ever seen?

My son.

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Pooben Narayanen continues to work on his youth novellette set on the paradise islands where he lives.

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Thanks for the interview, Pooben.  I wish you lots of success with your writing.