Fragments 1-93

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Michael Laxer Michael Laxer's picture
Fragments 1-93

Hi All,

A couple of years ago, when I was separated from my wife (fortunately we have "made-up"), I started a blog of "Fragments", odd little stories/poems that had formed in my head for whatever reason over a few years.

I am still writing them, and do intend to get to 93!

I used to shy away from sharing them, but then why write them?

The link to the entire set, which can be read in order is here:

I will also post what I think are my five favourite fragments...

They may not be that good...but it is nice to have a forum outside of Facebook to share them in.

The first one I would like to post is:

Fragment 31: Proletarian Order

It was three days after the plant closed its doors for the last time that I got in my Ford pick-up truck and pulled away from the bungalow, 6 a.m., with Martha and the kids left behind still sleeping.

I had told her nothing, but had written the note. I felt she would understand.

Boris had his little fishing shack two hours out of town in cottage country.

I remember him telling me, God knows how many times, about his grandfather picking the place up in the 1940's for this tiny fucking sum of money, like two hundred bucks or some ridiculous shit, and now he was surrounded by rich folks and million dollar lakeside palaces.

But that is the way it always is, we start it and they fuck it up.

I love the way gravel sounds under the pick-up tires, and the road to Douglas Lake was all gravel once you pull off the 410. It is a beautiful noise, so I immerse myself. With twelve hundred a month going to the house, five hundred twenty to the part-time daycare, and all the other expenses of an average life in a mid-sized city, I think I can kiss the truck goodbye. Martha's four nights a week at the KFC won't cut it much with the bank when the severance runs out.

And for me that will only be....well not all that long.

This fucking truck was my reward to myself for six years of double shifts. It'll be the first thing to go.

July. Thirty degrees and perfectly sunny. Slowing slightly for shirtless kids in shorts walking roadside, pulling in past the tacky old sign that he bought with Janice the year before she died in the accident down at the turnpike (phone ringing at 4 am, Boris frantic, telling me he needed me to come out, telling me he just couldn't identify her alone...)...Chez BOJA with two cartoonish sunbathers grasping fancy looking drinks entwined on what seemed a single deckchair.

Down the stairs past the cabin to the dock.

There, by perfect blue is Boris, staring blankly across the small lake to the other shore.

As always the fishing rod lies at his side. Meaningless, he hasn't fished in years. You can't actually fish in a small lake with sixty cottages on it and a bunch of drunk stock brokers driving loud motor boats stupid fast as some kind of cock extension.

We sit for ten fucking minutes before he says a word.

The lake placid, the joy of kids laughing, jumping from some offshore swimming dock, a skinny teenager holding her hand up, swerving to-and-fro, waterskiing.


Boris has this huge beard, Karl Marx big he likes to say, greying round the edges, and monster tattooed arms. Only thing he wears for summer weather is the wife-beater and one of what seems to be two pairs of all together too tight shorts (not flattering, I remember he once insisted that the guy at the union sensitivity meeting was coming on to him, but given my faith in the average gay man's sense of good taste I sincerely doubt that that wrinkled ass would have gotten a second's glance from Philip).

Boris pulls out a 100 menthol Slim and lights it, drawing smoke in deeply. Its a lady's cigarette, but when Jackson, drunk, made the mistake of pointing that out one night he found that a pool cue can, in fact, serve two functions.

-How's Martha?

Always the same shit. He knows full well Martha is fine. He talked to me yesterday. Chivalry. (Seeing me, really loaded, leaning over, touching Cynthia's leg...I'm in the can and there comes Boris saying what the fuck are you doing man, what about Martha you prick...)

How's Martha? How's Martha? Well frankly, last time I saw her she was crying at that stupid fucking "retro" breakfast table we bought in 2008. It didn't seem to matter how many times I told her, she just couldn't accept that I had no fucking clue what we were going to do...

-Were you there for the last unit?

Yeah, that's right Boris, I waited around with all those other poor fuckers, tears streaming down their faces, holding hands like it was fucking 9/11 or something, as that last fucking air conditioner rolled off the line, signing their names to the fucking thing like it was an atom bomb. You can be sure that after that management threw the little fucker straight into the garbage.

Not me, sorry, but I was already drinking, blowing that payoff, knowing that the three dollars for the Bud was a day's pay for the poor bastard working the twelve hour shift at the new facility in Shanghai. I thought those fuckers were supposed to be Communists...well, we all know that in practice the powerful find a way to fuck us all, regardless of what they deign to call themselves.

-what are you proud of...

I know what he is proud of, fourth beer open, why talk...

-I remember I walked into that plant, twenty-eight years ago and the first shift I fought so goddamn hard to keep pace. That night when I got back to the old apartment we had at the time I hurt so much that I wept like a three-year old....

Some kind of singing, distant yet unmistakeable.

-But nothing compares to when I got voted onto the committee.

Vague mint odour wafting across, one cigarette lit upon another, consummate old-school chain smoker, soon to go from Miller to Rye.

Always from Miller to Rye.

-Remember the strike in '98?

(How the fuck could I remember a strike three years before I started?)

-You know what got wasn't the bosses holding out or the office types, even the secretaries crossing the line, it was when that asshole down at the coffee shop came up to the picket and told me that I was a lazy mother-fucker and that I should stop complaining and be happy I have a job.

The sound, louder than it should be, of a helicopter overhead, reminding that this all became a whole lot less rustic when they opened the airport ten minutes drive north.

-Thing was I had been going to his shop for ten fucking years, must have spent 2 dollars plus a day, 300 fucking days out of the calendar, and here was this asshole, six fucking grand plus richer because of me, and he's calling me a lazy mother-fucker.

(Boris, four years ago, college kids drunk, telling him that he could wash their office floors one day, dislocating my shoulder as he pushed past me, breaking that one arrogant asshole's nose)

-Well, after the strike I went over there, ordered a latte, and when that timid little prick brought it over, with his sad fucking that'll be $2.25 sir, I took that fucking cup of shit and tossed it right over the counter at him. I think I said "shove those two dollars a day up your ass".

He's yelling, angry loud, and the kids a little over are staring across...startled...

-Boris, c'mon man, tone down...

-Did you go to any of the rallies?

Calmer, now, leaning back, opening another pack, a bit of a breeze accentuating his immense mane of hair, he staring off to his right, avoiding eye-contact...Boris, when angry, always avoids eye-contact...doesn't even matter if he's mad at you, he can't look over.

-No, Boris, you know I didn't. I didn't see the point. We could have protested every day for the last seven months after we got the fucking news and you know that it wouldn't have made any difference at all.

Boris keeps staring away, I should have just shut up...

-Look, be as mad as you want, and I am not saying that going wasn't worthwhile, but I spent the time with the kids. A Sunday is a Sunday and the kids don't give a shit about protesting if it means that we don't play basketball in the driveway.

-You could have brought them, teach them a thing or two about the union, you know all these teenies don't care at all about what we fought for and your kids will be teenagers soon enough...and then, who knows, maybe one of those endless stream of twenty somethings doing the minimum wage thing, hating unions because the asshole manager at Wal Mart that they work for tells them to...

Why disagree with him? He's not wrong, I guess (though I am sure that like all older people his opinion of the young is about as interesting and enlightened as is the average young person's view of him), but I just hadn't cared. Deer in the headlights, fucking Stockholm Syndrome, I don't know, I just wanted to move on, I just wanted to get out of there. Maybe it hurt too much.

-I knew you never came, of course, not like I couldn't see...You know you are part right. I remember the last of the three that NDP guy came. He got up and he sounded great, going on about how if they had been in power, if the worker's had been represented in government, it would never have happened, we would all still have our jobs because they would have a "Made in Ontario" industrial strategy or some such shit. We all know its fucking nonsense though...NDP or no NDP they can move their factory anywhere they want. Small changes seem to change nothing at all.

Silence, gentle waves ripple past, that midday quiet that comes between lunch and late afternoon, where everyone retires for an hour or so...a Canadian summer siesta.

-I wonder, you know, is it really so awful if working people get a decent shake...I mean, to not have an education or office job, does it really mean that we should get some shit wage or have other poor folks get mad if they don't have a union job with union pay? There is just no solidarity at all out there anymore. Its like it is somehow my fault that other people are getting even more fucked by their bosses than I am, like they just can't see that its not me...

-I should go Boris...

I want to leave. I feel even worse than when I came...and that is actually saying something.

Boris doesn't even answer, gaze still off aside...

-You know, I only ever liked you because of baseball.

Now this is something of a shock...

-What are you talking about..

Laughing, first time in days...

-Well, we were all over at the Golden Goose, Friday night, shift's end, and they had some godawful Bob Seger rip-off band singing about all that old time fucking rock-and-roll, and there you were, alone at the bar, staring up at the T.V. totally immersed in the Blue Jay's game, even though we were having a .400 season at the time. I thought, now that is dedication. This guy sticks with things.

The sky is now absolutely clear and the sun is brutal hot, beating down, no shade. Beer, fresh from the cooler is lukewarm in moments...

-Up till then I kind of thought you were just another young asshole. But you joined the bowling league, and you were there for all the hockey games...and you were the best goddamn outfielder we ever had on the plant team...

I loved those nights, so hot, humid, lights way too bright, ridiculous bad quality play, always some jackass who took it way too seriously, drinks at the Kat's Kaboose after, Screwdrivers, Molsons, bad wine...happy in the knowledge that the weekend lay ahead...

Boris and I, winning that stupid trophy, autoworkers glaring at us, but all in good fun, Sandy calls for Springsteen and the bartender obliges...

Boris is now, five years later, very drunk already, and kicks out forward knocking the bottle of Alberta's Finest over. He seems almost dizzy and uncertain. Voice wistful...sad...

-we'll never take that fucking title again, will we?

Michael Laxer Michael Laxer's picture

The second one I really want to share is:

Fragment 35: Mortal Combat

Perfect moments.

Air still, Trevor, two-years older is ahead.

Bicycles racing down Bethune, early summer morning, heat gentle, not yet oppressive.


Eight and ten.

Before...well before everything.

Trevor was one of those kids everybody liked. Brown hair, freckled face and toothy grin.

Just a nice guy.

Trevor would make the old ladies at the donut shop laugh.

He would make the OPP guys smoking on break out front of the station house laugh.

He could make our mother laugh, and no one did that.

Even when I was a kid I knew my mother was beautiful.

She had, I later understood, those wistful, country-girl looks that made men weak in the knees.

But she never made a personal decision that she did not regret and she never met a man who didn't walk all over her.

But I couldn't know that then.

She was just mom and she'd hug Trevor and I each day home off the bus with her happy face and sad eyes. Standing, waiting at the top of the stairs of the house that her father bought when our dad left.

(1999, just before the new millennium, and the phone call comes from Texas..."Mrs. Ridell, were you once the wife of...)

I guess summer city folks would have thought our house quaint or even idyllic, but it was just a home.

God, we never had any money. Sort-of makes me laugh now, you know?

Good thing we had that house because the rest was all Kraft Dinner and Hamburger Helper.

Not that Trev or I cared. KD was OK by me!

She tried. What can I say?

When Trevor was twelve, guess it must have been '95, the Second Time Around got one of those Genesis systems. All our friends had one, or a Nintendo, or so it seemed. I am sure it was not really true, but you know the perceived injustices of childhood are the deepest injustices of all, right-or-wrong.

Trevor wanted it so badly.

He would stroll up outside the store window and simply stare, slack-jawed, trying to dream the fifty dollars into existence.

I do know that when Christmas came around and Grandpa made sure it was under the tree it was the happiest day of Trevor's life.

(Grandpa mad, mama crying in the kitchen, goddamn it Jennifer, not again, why the fuck would you let him...sudden silence as I walk in unexpectedly.)

I can't even begin to count the hours we spent in front of that fucking thing.

I loved the fighting games. All that martial arts shit.

Not Trevor. He would play them, but for him it was Sonic or sports or even Bugs Bunny stuff.

He was a gentle guy, you know?

(Remembering Grandpa dying, mama almost stone faced in shock, Trevor's head on her lap, tears streaming down his face, long lines of neighbours anxious to pay respects and there, in the front yard, I see the cardinal, high tree-top, gazing intently into my eyes)


All a kaleidoscope.

Colours blending as do memories, swirling together and then apart.

Girls, then young women, then women indeed.

The kisses, and hands held. The break-ups and...

All the friends moving away, taking that one-way ticket to Toronto.

(Shannon, hugging Trevor, big eyes and honest smile, I am sure I will only be gone a few months...)

Somehow you stumble through, right? You make it through.

And you know why?

Because one day, getting ready to go off to college, waiting tables at the Boston Pizza, and there is Cynthia, from grade three, but now she is...well she is different!

And she is off to college too!

Why did Trevor want to go?

Who knows?

All the socialist types I met at York said our soldiers were war-crazy or had no choices.

But, you know what, that is bullshit.

It's just bullshit.

Like it or not Trevor wanted to make a difference.

It is true, he didn't have a job on Bay St lined up, but it wasn't about that.

When he told us our mother was furious. To him that didn't matter; he wanted to serve his country.

He wanted to serve in Afghanistan.

Smarter people than me, years from now, will decide if he was wrong or right. But this is where we all, it would seem, were willing to send him.

Dusty roads in Kandahar, laughter on patrol, coming around road's corner, children waving from just off-centre as the final wave of light rushed in at him. Did he have time to see his arm gone? To look over at those children now dead? To feel the pressure of the blast?

Floating, floating, slowly.

First in the cargo hold.

Then across the highway to the ceremony.

And finally to home.

To mother now older and beyond sadness.

And to the streets and yards and greasy spoons and treehouses and schools and hockey rinks that he briefly graced.

Now an impression. Ephemeral.

It was only a month after Cynthia and I married that mama died.

Her heart just stopped. Forty-nine years old.

Clearing out the house, Cynthia now seven months along, moving slow.

Trevor's room untouched.

Leaf's posters (You know, he had said laughing at Dylan's just five winters past, I will never live to see them win a Stanley Cup) Girly mags under the mattress, country CDs.

I was stunned to find a dog-eared copy of The Plague by Camus in his top dresser drawer.

But I was even more surprised, digging through piles of sweaters and shoes, to find the Genesis.

Buried at closet back. Carefully all the games stacked beside.

The Christmas card from our grandfather taped atop.

We had not played it in many years. Yet Trevor had kept it hidden here pristine. Almost a subconscious shrine to fond memory.

So there we are.

All huddled together, flesh-on-flesh.

Waves crashing astride the landing crafts.

Hearts full of trepidation and fear.

The sounds of death and terror about us and the violence of this meagre existence near surreal.

The future on unknown beaches.

Waiting, as we all ultimately do, to meet a fate not foreseen on a childhood's Christmas mornings.

Michael Laxer Michael Laxer's picture

The third is:

Fragment 16: Descent

Flying past the front doors of the factory, new job, all decked out for the occasion, finally in management.

I was the poor boy made good. Engineering school. Wearing the ring to prove it.

No more alienation from the means of production baby! What was the old refrain...the working class can kiss my ass, I 've got the foreman's job at last!

Well...not really. I was an office man. Didn't have to deal with the plebs.

After six months on the job I put the down payment on the house. Nice two bedroom in an up-and-coming neighbourhood. Beers with the boys on Saturday nights down at the Canadianna. Foosball and checking out the short skirts. Music always a little too loud and a little too fucking old...

I had the lifestyle. The drugs, the booze, the escorts when the dates were hard to get. All placed on the plastic.

Spiralling forward, twisting, reckless...god was it ever great! Empty, maybe...but at least I wasn't one of these poor married fuckers who lived vicariously through my water cooler stories. Fuck them is what I thought.

It was a Tuesday that you started.

Who is the new girl? Latin. Gorgeous. Features...shit did you have features.


To call you statuesque would have been to give too much credit to Michelangelo.

I, needless to say, had to have you.

As we sat over very rare steaks at The Readcoat Inn, I realized, also, that I loved you. You were smart. Passionate. Committed. Opposites attracting and so on...

What an unusual feeling. Heightened pulse, confused emotion, all of the bullshit. Thought it could never happen to me.

It did.

Taking me back to good-old mom and dad. Dad was what you might expect. Reticent at first. Chilean exile with strong, though not totally modern views. It was his only girl, after all. But a few glasses of the twelve-year old Scotch I had brought later and he was prepared to marry me if his daughter did not.

She did.

Planning the wedding was the stuff of everyday. Each particular detail. Nothing left to chance. Had it rained I suppose I would have become pathetically unhinged.

Magical in pure white, dancing, swirling around the ballroom, hundreds of guests. I mean who the fuck were they all? Uncle Dickhead from Twofuck Alberta. Why did we invite this guy?

Why not I guess?

I even bought a convertible. Two door, jet black. The engine asserted itself. Made sure she was heard. We drove away through cascading waves of rice, July oppressive yet delightful, shades of amber as the sun sets, face at an angle gazing.

Was it only a year? We saw every new production, every critically acclaimed movie. Trips through Europe and North Africa. Why do too much, too soon you said? Life is long.

You changed me. Suddenly, I cared. Went to church. Worked the soup kitchens. Found some small redemption in embracing the sense of purpose I felt in you. An ephemeral connection with the beyond, the spiritual, the eternal.

When I came home that cold Sunday, you were already in terrible pain. It must be just a headache, after all. Take more of the Advil.

Looking at me with closed eyes, the hurt too intense for light, begging me to put you in the car.

St. Joseph's was only a ten minute drive, but by the time we were half way there I knew that you were not going to make it.

Later they found it had been an aneurysm. No way to detect or predict. Random.


Purposeless after all.

For many weeks I could not go back to the house. I stayed with friends. In hotels.

I was no longer able to work, and while they tolerated this for awhile, it was in April that they let me go.

Just as well. It meant nothing to me at all now.

Opening the door, trepidation, plane to Thunder Bay leaving the next day.

Pictures, letters, old bills...too much to process. But I had to.

Making my way through the past like this, however recent, however short, I was stunned to see all these moments.

The strangest thing of all, though, was the small envelope under the stacks of private papers.

Katie & Karl...

All the best to you in your future endeavours...

With Love,

Patrick Jacobs,
Pennington, Alberta

Inside the gift certificate. Somehow overlooked and forgotten. Seventy-five dollars towards promise unfulfilled. Improvements never to be made. Rendered irrelevant by circumstance.

A distant echo of past earthquakes.

Michael Laxer Michael Laxer's picture

The fourth is:

Fragment 35: Thermopylae


It is Monday morning with flags unfurled.

Children gone, last one out today.

An empty house.

Mandy the years just slipped by. It wasn't a conscious road, this road that led me away from you.

It was never what I wanted.

But then life is never what we want.

The dreams of fifteen that dull to the ache of fifty-five.

When I saw you, sunglasses on, by the boardwalk at the end of Brand St.

Before Balfour's, before marriage, before the mortgage.

You had that inscrutable smirk.

Sly, quizzically flirtatious face.

Darling green eyes.

You know these summer things never last...

Well you were wrong before you were right.

All great relationships, like civilizations, leave monuments to decay in their wake.

The bungalow on Miles Ave. with its multiple extensions.

Debbie, Jake and Joseph, too grown up now.

The memory boxes of shared joys and pains that are a garage and basement plump with the detritus of lives joined.

Fragments of junk sale daydreams.

These vaulted and echoing cathedrals that we ourselves erected but can only now visit as if tourists being guided through our own past.

It is, I guess, as was Stonehenge after the Druids left.

But what is this then, this compulsion so many of us have?

This desire to stand shoulder-by-shoulder as if against the tide of the world?

Knowing as we all must that we are sure to fail.

I suppose it is that the failure matters less than that, on those many days that littered our battlefields, you would whisper ever so softly to me. Touch my fingers with yours.

So find me Xerxes and Leonidas,

And to this brink and pass do draw me near,

Loose these quivers full of expectations,

And deliver me into this valley of tears,

And then go tell it to the Spartans,

Stranger passing by,

That in faith with this fleeting fairytale,

We tried.

We tried

Michael Laxer Michael Laxer's picture

The last one...for now, is:

Fragment 24: Uprising

When Jonah was eight the doctor told us he was going to die.

The cancer was irreversible.


Janice cried for days.

All I can remember is putting Jonah in the backseat. Strapping him into the booster. Nothing at first changing, yet all different. Looking into innocent eyes not knowing.

Am I sick dad?

How is it that a single brilliant sunset can seem eternal? Is it the grasping, the determination not to let the moment pass?

Six months before his...

Well, six months before, Jonah begged me to put him into the local baseball league.

Weak as he was.

Saturday after Saturday wondering why we were bothering. Volkswagen mini-vans to diamonds in parks across town.

He was truly very, very bad.

Couldn't catch a ball.

Never made a throw.

Struck out every time.

Thing was, last game of the season, team already out, stifling hot.

So skinny, so frail.

Refracted sunlight.

He got under it. He actually got under it. The only time.

Up late, final approach.

Janice and I all but done. Married in name only.

She angry, wanting to find fault.

You know, absolutely, he will never play in the big leagues, little leagues, any leagues.

I understood. But she was wrong.

He would, indeed, play in a league. Of his own creation, yes. But nevertheless a league. And his moment would be as permanent as any from Barry Bonds or Babe Ruth or Mickey Mantle.


A 4 foot tall Spartacus.

That's how, when I do, I recall him.

Michael Laxer Michael Laxer's picture

The other 30 (so far) can be found at:


Thanks for indulging me!

Michael Laxer Michael Laxer's picture

The first one I posted is missing its final line!

Oh well...the line was...

I suppose not.

Catchfire Catchfire's picture

Hey, thanks for sharing, Michael. I read the first one, it's really good. I like "college-kids" drunk." I even like it better without the last line, i think. I'll make it through the others later.

Btw, I don't know where you got the "fragment" idea, but just as the Gothic genre was coming into its prime in the late-18th century, it was quite fashionable to write little story fragments without any kind of larger context. They were called things like "Sir Bertrand, a Fragment" and "Raymond, a Fragment." I always liked the form.


Catchfire wrote:

Btw, I don't know where you got the "fragment" idea, ...

His family was fragmented. Pay attention.


Michael Laxer Michael Laxer's picture

@ Catchfire...Thanks! Maybe the first one is better without the last line. It is more blunt that way. I will check out fragments you are suggesting...I must say I had not heard of them, they sound really interesting.

@Unionist I had never really thought of it so bluntly...but you are right. It is where the whole idea came from!

Catchfire Catchfire's picture

Oh dear, I wouldn't suggest checking them out. They are not what one would call "good" literature. I just kind of like the cultural imperative to publish a "fragment" in isolation. The idea itself is pure Gothic: like Frankenstein's monster assembled from unique parts without reference to their whole.

Anyway, this is off-topic. Back to your fragments...