Urban Animals – Garbage Barons

Urban Animals series.

Garbage Barons

Busy digging in wet leaves, or padding down alleys, the bandit raccoons discomfort us. Their small hands so quick, so nimble. Their disdain and avarice, equal and unhidden. They are too much like us. City raccoons are garbage barons, lazy and clever. They are anarchists, devising dissent in huddled groups on neighbourhood lawns and leaving garbage cans overturned. They are the gangs of teenagers that watch as you pass, sullen and suspicious. They are the homeless tent-city in the heart of concrete and glass.  Grubby and independent and bold, they crack our illusion of success.. Our imaginary reign crumbles in the rainy night, their reflecting eyes gleaming from the bushes.


Urban Animals – Corvid Commute

I’ve started a series of micro-fiction stories, titled Urban Animals. Here is the first.

Corvid Commute

Each night over Vancouver the crows commute east. A long line of black wings, loosely grouped into a corvid highway. A nightly diaspora from the city to the suburbs. Where do they come to roost? I imagine, high on Burnaby Mountain, their homes are nestled in dark coniferous enclaves. After a long day in concrete and car exhaust, they breathe with relief the cooler mountain air, damp with wet pine and rich umami soil.


The whispering woke him early. Fish fins stirred up the waters inside Vhamso; it was impossible to sleep. He tried to read the newspaper over breakfast but the muttering distracted him. He knew already that this was not going to be a doldrum day. On doldrum days, his fish were quiet and floated lazily from head to arm, stomach to ankle. On doldrum days, Vhamso’s thoughts drifted as well, like leaves on a placid river, inconsequential and unhurried. Today was decidedly not a doldrum day.

Spurred by aqueous activity, Vhamso walked through Town, attending now to a conversation between a small crab and a miniscule starfish and now to another, between a ghost shrimp and a belligerent betta.

Read more at The Townsfolk Blog

Illustration by Bronwyn McIvor

Liberty and the Librarian

“Listen Mack, I gotta good one for you.”

“Yeah, what’s this one about? It ain’t about the twins that are actually four people, is it? I heard that one.”

“No, this is new.”

“All right, shoot.”

“Gonna buy me a drink?”

“Fine, what’ll y’have? Jimmy, two scotch and sodas. All right, let’s have it.”

“Ahh that’s fine stuff. Here’s the tale:

“Couple a months ago I was hired by this big city chap to track his wife. She was disappearing off in the afternoon and he didn’t like it. Figured she was playing him false. Lovely missus with hair like the sun in the sky and legs that just wouldn’t quit.

“So he hires me and I set a tail on the lady. Now, I ain’t one to follow a lady with my hat pulled down over me eyes and a trench coat pulled tight. That ain’t respectful. I follow ‘em nice and friendly.”

“Sure, real friendly.”

“Don’t mix business with pleasure, Mack. No one ever teach ya that?”

“All right, so what’s the story?”

“So’s I’m following this lady and like the gent says, she goes off every afternoon, dressed to the nines and don’t come back til dinner. She takes a taxi downtown to the central Library. Big building, lions out front, respectable, y’know?”

“I dunno, can’t trust ‘em book jockeys. They got systems. They find stuff.”

“Yer nervie, Mack and I get that. But ain’t no harm in a high-to-do lady visiting the Library in broad daylight is there? Naw, there ain’t. So’s I go back to the gent and tell’s him what I saw. He’s still suspicious. His wife tells him she’s visiting the Librarian. Something about writing a book, or a family tree. But he’s still suspicious. Tells me to keep on it.

“Well the gent’s got greenbacks so I do I little digging. At first I thought maybe it was a little hanky panky with the Librarian, caught in the stacks kind of story. Turns out something fishy is goin’ on but that ain’t it: the Librarian’s a bird!”

“So it ain’t the hanky panky. But why can’t a dame be a librarian? I admit it’s a little unorthodox but now them suffragettes have got ‘em the vote, every dame’s after a job.”

“You’re a liberal man and I’ll give ya that, Mack, but that ain’t what I said. The Librarian ain’t a dame. She is a bird. An avian. Born with wings, feathers and a beak, so please yer uncle.”

“Get outta here! Wouldn’ta bought you that drink if I’da known I was getting this cock and bull story.”

“True as the Virgin’s cloak, I tell ya. In charge of the Library, a great flying bird!”

“So what’s the dame’s story?”

“I’m gettin’ there. Mack, what’s the symbol of this here our great nation?”


“Close but not. What signifies liberty and freedom to all who look upon it?”

“Why, the eagle!”

“You got it, Mack. Proud symbol of our country. Found on every state document, in the history books, woven into the very texture of our glorious past. And it’s all been put there. It’s all been added by the Librarian and birds of its kind, workin’ in the knowledge profession to change the past. And this dame was helping.

“A little digging uncovered a dirty avian past of her own. Before her arrival on our free and beautiful soil, and subsequent marriage, she’d spent considerable time working in the Imperial Library in Munich…under the supervision of the Reichsadler!”

“A dirty Kraut!”

“You got it Mack. This dame was workin’ to overthrow our liberty-loving nation. She and her kind failed in Germany but they were trying again here. With the people primed by history to follow any Accipitridaen leader, we’d be headed willy-nilly into feathered facism!”

“Sonofa- So what happened?”

“Brought it to the feds. International nest like that’s above my pay grade. Last I heard, the Librarian’s been cooped up somewhere. I doubt he’ll fly free.”

“And the dame?”

“She disappeared before they got to her. Funny thing, so did her husband, the gent that hired me. At least, they say he disappeared. But I heard they dragged a body from the river shortly thereafter so I ain’t so sure.”


“You said it.”

“Another drink?”

This story originally appeared in Two-Fisted Library Stories volume 4.




Palppoi chewed thoughtfully on a barnacle. It was one of the last from the outmost pillars holding up the pier. The two farthest logs were now almost clear of barnacles and other encrusting sea life. Palppoi preferred not to move closer to land. He stayed in the liminal space that the end of the pier afforded, tethered between the very edge of land and the great ocean.

Read more at The Townsfolk

Artwork by Bronwyn McIvor

Willowfred and Salma

Willowfred lived down by the brook at the bottom of Mrs. O’s garden. A bend in the stream created a calm pool by which he built his house. Originally it was made of long grass stems he had woven together and placed over a frame of twigs; but one day when Mrs. O’s clumsy maid broke a teacup, she brought the porcelain shards down to Willowfred. Over the course of a hot summer week, he used the teacup slivers and mud bricks to fashion a snug new den. It was cool in the summer and warm in the winter and wasn’t at risk of falling down in a strong breeze.


Read more at The Townsfolk.