all stories

Stephanie Brisdale, hopeless romantic and serial kayaker, has her many crimes exposed, not the least her terrible spelling Kayak

An hour later Vanessa was once more sitting at the defence table, contemplating just exactly how she was going to dematerialize the wall directly in front of her by dint of applied concentration. A matter of focus. That’s all. The brain is a powerful organ, a generator of unparalleled psychic force. That’s what they said on all the science programs, and she knew herself to be capable of supreme acts of telekinetic power. After all, in her all too prolonged involvement with Bronco Flanaghan, she had managed to make the entire conscious, mature, reasoning world, the entire globe with every library and every thinker and every statue to every thinker absolutely vanish. So it was just a matter of sort of visualizing an old-fashioned radio station dial, black with knurled depressions for the fingers, and tweedling it back and forth until the judge’s podium, and the chair, and the wall, pull themselves apart like cheap fabric. There would probably be a ripply heat wave effect that would go with it, and then she would step through to the alternate Vanderville, one surrounded by white, tropical beaches and inhabited by generous, caring, and even thoughtful people. Free of greed, avarice, and above all, realtors. Maybe most of them would now be monks of some order or other, dedicated to poverty and the rest of it, but they’re principle occupation between holy services would be waiting on tables under the Cinzano umbrellas, serving Pina Colada’s and fine white wines. Underscore the wines, and of course, some of the monks would, well--it was only the law of averages--be very young men. With thick dark hair, craggy, masculine, cliff-like features, and granite fortress strongholds of bodies barely concealed by their plain grey tunics of devotion and penitence. Strong powerful hands, wiping down the tables, emptying the ash trays, replacing the utensils, apologizing for delays in rich and cultivated foreign accents of noble lineage, humbly asking for her order, any order, any order at all....

Some people’s fantasies are sick. So, so, sooo sick. You owe me for this sister, you surely, surely do.” Hendrikssen dropped the pile of community newspapers in front of her nose.

What? Oh.” Vanessa blushed. The tunnel to Vanderville II caved in on her head. The monks were gone. Where was she? Oh. “Uh, yeah. I guess.”

I never had to fantasize,” said Jessica.

Both Hendrikssen and Vanessa turned to her in surprise, but at that moment the Judge entered. “Don’t bother to rise, I want to get this day over with. Ms Stuhlmann: you missed our little magic show. Did you have a pleasant time in the interim?”

Yes, your honour. They were going to stretch me on the rack, but settled for me footing the bill for lunch.”

Fine. I think it is your turn to be humiliated. Do you wish to cross examine the witness?”

Yes, your honour,” Vanessa said, rising to her feet. She walked to the witness stand. By court order the force field had been removed. Now Stephanie Brisdale looked expectantly at her with two large brown eyes.

Ms Brisdale. It seems a large part of your life revolves around the water, is that right?”

Yes, that’s true.”

You’re in it day and night, is that correct?”




Anything else?”

How do you mean?”

I mean, do you have any other aquatic pastimes? Swimming, for example.”

Er, I can swim, but I don’t swim for itself, if that’s what you mean.”

I see. Not in the water, below the water, diving, snorkelling....”


Or do you use any other kind of boat? Canoe? Raft? Rowboat? How about fishing on a sunny afternoon?”

No, never.”

And I suppose submarining is out of the question.”

Umm, yeah--I guess....”

Of course. Though I’m told half the point of going kayaking is to try to drown yourself, flapping around underwater upside down.”

Stephanie sat up straight. “No. That’s not quite right. We’re rolling. To turn the kayak completely over and around again. For safety. We practice.”

Ah. We. Whose we?”

Uh, people who kayak. My friends.”

Your friends. You have a lot of friends, don’t you, Ms Brisdale--or had.”

The witness looked down and saddened. “Yes.”

Tell me, Ms Briz--pardon me, can I call you Stephanie? I feel like I have a hornet in my mouth otherwise.”


Tell me Stephanie, how do you make your living?

Oh. I man the toll booth on the Upper Esterbrook Highway.”

Upper Esterbrook--oh, to the toxic landfill site in East Woodrow.”

That’s the one.”

I didn’t know you had to pay to get in.”

No. It’s to get out. They pay twice as much and complain half as little that way.”

Ah. Still, a nice government job. Good benefits, fulfilling, interesting co-workers....”

I have no co-workers. It’s a tollbooth. It’s two feet ten and a half inches wide. Except for the corner where I cracked my elbow trying to swat a fly. It’s ten and five-eighths inches there.”

Oh. But isn’t the dump located in the watershed of Mt McRobbie, you know, just above the reservoir? Overlooking the Bay? Nauseous reek but breathtaking scenery?”

I work graveyard. It’s completely black. I see nothing outside the booth. I feel like I’m in some bathysphere on the bottom of the ocean.”

Graveyard. Oh, I see. Still, the dump’s a busy place from what I hear. Going night and day. Surely you must meet some interesting customers?”

To me a customer is a blinding headlight and a screech of tires from an old pick-up truck. Coming in, that is.”

Oh. And going out, when they pay you?”

Going out? They’re usually slumped over the wheel at that point.”

It must be a lonely job then.”

The racoons are okay.”

I see. Then, Stephanie, you must have lively weekends to make up for this. Parties, places to go...”

I have to sleep through the day. At night I tour the 24-hour Laundromats and watch the clothes spin in the dry cycles. If I’m lucky somebody is doing their polyesters. It’s the only colour I experience in my life.”

I’m sorry to hear that. But it’s in these Laundromats you meet your men-friends, is it?”

Uh, no....”

No? No rescuing wretched bachelors from mixing their whites in with their perma presses, no beefy lumberjacks cramming their skunk-infested pup tents into the Maytag and expecting miracles for three quarters and a bar of soap they stole from the lavatory?”

Er, no.”

No? And you don’t meet men at your job--at least those who don’t glow in the dark or don’t have noses that drop off in polite company. So then, Stephanie, where do you make your friends?


Stephanie, does the community newspaper Marshall Island Masher mean anything to you?”

Uh, no! Er, why should it!”

Just wondering. I saw the most interesting ad in the Personals section there I have it here. Let me see, hum hum hum, ah yes here we go, Marshall Island Masher, March 9:

SWF, as pretty as a dewdrop on a dandelion and warm as a puppy in love, seeks generous, good-hearted, chucklehead for fine wines and good times, hot muffins and good lovin’, midnight strolls free from trolls and plenty of hugs with generous jugs--and sex with tacks if not kayacks. Box 872

Sound familiar?” asked Vanessa.

Stephanie stared fixedly at the far wall. “Er, no! Not at all!”

That’s too bad. The personals make great reading. You should try it sometime. How can you pass up gems like this, from March 23rd?”

adventurous, avaricious and cunning SWF seeks unwitting patsy to fall for her venomous charms and superficial beauty to lead life of danger, torment, and kayacking. Box 872

Are you still sure you don’t know anything about this? Sounds like someone you might know or run into downstream or up the creek.”

No! Not at all! Uh, can I go? My stomach hurts!”

So does mine. Imagine what it must be like working in the personals section of a paper. Reading this stuff all day. Sheesh. Here’s another one, short and sweet, from May 4th.”

SWF, intense, inspired, insane, seeks sincere masochistic gentleman to share short life of whips, pain, chains and kayacks. Box 872

Stephanie’s smile had cracked and she looked around the room nervously, a folksinger whose kum by ya had come.

Vanessa leaned over her and asked. “Stephanie, are you absolutely sure you don’t know who might have authored these advertisements?”

Uh, er....”

You really don’t know who had the breathless contempt for the English language to write ‘turn and squirm, you worthless worm, as you learn to yearn my turn to burn your--’ ...oh I better not say this...’lah dee-dah dee-dah... kayack?’”

I really wouldn’t know--”

Or how about this: hey guys, have you ever put it in a kayack? Answer my ad and you can put it in mine--

Uh, that’s too gross for me--”

Or: ‘put your paddle in my kayak and we can stroke together?’”


Or: ‘what’s a roll in the hay when you can roll in a kayack?’”


Or, switching the metaphor, “put your kayack up my river and you will never walk again?”


Vanessa stopped and leaned directly into the witness. “Stephanie, how do you spell, ‘kayak’?”

Stephanie looked around anxiously. Bronco rose suddenly. “Your honour, I object. This is a court of law, not a spelling bee.”

How do you spell ‘idiot’, Mr Flanaghan?” said the Judge.


One I, not two. Objection overruled. Answer the question, Ms Brisdale.”

Stephanie gulped. “uh, uh, ‘K-A-Y-A-C-K’.”

Are you sure of that?” asked Vanessa.

I think so.” replied Stephanie.

I think not. According to the Webster’s dictionary, a kayak is spelled K-A-Y-A-K, from the Inuit word qayaq, meaning a canoe covered with skins except for a hole in the centre, but which by the twentieth century has become a canoe of fibreglass with a hole in the centre roughly the size of the hole in the head of anyone who is such a fool as to take up such a ridiculous sport--or the hole in your heart, Ms Stephanie Brisdale, who, in your lonely, twisted, perfidious dreams of eros uses the personal ads of a sleepy little community rag like the Marshall Island Masher-- with its charming little stories about neighbourhood bake sales and incensed letters to the editor about cracks in the sidewalk--to lure unsuspecting men to their watery demise to satisfy your unnatural sadomasochistic urges for flagellation, mutilation, and...kayaking.”

No! No!” shouted Stephanie.

Yes! Yes! I put it to you, Stephanie Brisdale, that there were no deadly fish under the pier of my client--Jessica Endicott--and never were, and that the only deadly fish lurking in the sea was you, sinking your teeth into the hearts and minds and eventually the neck--and god knows what else--of every sad and lonely, but eternally hopeful young man who had the bad fortune to pick up a copy of The Marshall Island Masher on their way to weekend garage sales in their sunny little suburban streets.”

No! Never!”

Outrageous! Objection! The evidence! The doll! How do you account for the outraged body of the Gerald Styrinski sex doll!” demanded The Great Rotini.

Practice on slow days. Now don’t interrupt. So, Ms Brizzy, what do you say to all that!”

I want to speak to a lawyer!”

The Judge raised his hand. Without a word he stared directly at Bronco, The Great Rotini, and at Vanessa. Then he looked around the room. He stood up and surveyed the court, peering into every corner. He shook his head. “I don’t see any, Ms Brisdale, so we’ll have to continue.”

Oh,” said Stephanie. Turning to Vanessa, she started to tremble. “It’s all lies! You’re twisting everything I say! Yes! I wrote those ads. Yes! I’m a lonely, twisted girl. Yes! I like strange and peculiar practices but I swear--”

Excuse me,” interrupted The Great Rotini.

Uh, yes?” said Stephanie.

Have you ever been sawn in half?”

Why, uh, no, I’ve never tried--”

Enough! Enough!” said Vanessa.

Meet me after testimony,” said The Great Rotini. “I have some boxes that might fit you.”

Can we get on with it!” fumed Vanessa.

I doubt it,” sighed the Judge. He addressed the courtroom. “I’m too disgusted. Court is adjourned until I feel like coming back. Goodbye.”