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BY Roy

04/01 Direct Link
A few years before my girlfriend discovered her last boyfriend was a big jerk gave him more than enough time to move his band up to the big time and write a beautiful (and successful) song of his love for her—which, of course, mentions her by name (over and over and over)—and even give her a share of the royalties.
     His love for her still plays on the radio and in various best-of compilations. His love for her still brings in a few hundred dollars a year.
     How in the hell am I supposed to compete with that?
04/02 Direct Link
When I was eleven, they gave me an IQ test where I had to fill the hole in a series of pictures with the patch that best matched the pattern. This ended up with me being shipped off to special Saturday Mornings classes and ultimately into an enriched high-school programme. They never would tell us our scores, but they made no secret that we’d all scored higher than 140; so really, why would I ever take another test? I may not have a doctorate degree, I may not make much money . . . but I was a genius when I was eleven.
04/03 Direct Link
The tickets warned of a “partial view” but then that was the best we could get after waiting too long. I figured they would put us behind one of those pillars I remembered from my last concert there, but instead found myself up in the gods looking down edgewise onto a huge speaker assembly hanging over the stage. Sure, it blocked the view, but it was the sound I kept missing, and the patter between the songs that made everyone laugh, except for me and the quiet crowd around me. We didn’t get any of the jokes for our $37.25.
04/04 Direct Link
Imagine you’re the new boyfriend, dragged to the cottage, surrounded by a crowd that’s been vacationing together for years, and you’re not even off the boat before you’re invited to a big party next door. And imagine you’ve spent the rest of the day dreading the whole thing . . . everyone will be there . . . they’ll all want to meet you  . . . and a simple solution, the discovery that—for the moment, at least—it’s merely a matter of telling your girlfriend you don’t want to go (even if she has to) and a sudden relief that eclipses all the shit you’ll catch later.
04/05 Direct Link
The summer I turned 16, my mother gave me my first driving lesson, in a gravel parking lot, somewhere north of Orillia. The family car was a brown, 1977 Volkswagen Rabbit, an automatic, which I soon learned would move forward in drive whether or not you pressed on the gas, but at a speed that suited me just fine. I learned, too, that you shouldn’t press too hard on the brake, even if you were just moving forward in drive. And I learned that I really wasn’t very interested in getting my license after all. Twenty-nine years without an accident.
04/06 Direct Link
We passed through the small town of Intercourse, Pennsylvania, on the way back from our trip to the Jersey Shore, with a shop on one side of the road selling knick-knacks and quilts made by the local Amish women, and a single motel on the other. I insisted we stop in the hopes of finding something to add to my collection of tacky souvenirs, but we really should have stayed overnight, if only to have the town come up in conversation one day and let us dismiss it with that weary cynicism of the seasoned traveller: “Been there, done that.”
04/07 Direct Link
The final centuries of human dominance on Earth is marked by a thin geologic layer of silicon, copper and lead that clearly divides the age of Man from the emergence of a new planet-wide sentience that arose when the accumulation of discarded consumer electronics reached critical mass and somehow developed the ability to make its own decisions and communicate those to the machines on the surface that cared for the organic beings who once roamed these empty streets that are only now returning to life with the sound of their music and the conversations we’ve managed to reassemble so far.
04/08 Direct Link
When we first caught him, he behaved pretty much as you’d expect for someone who’d been trapped in a mirror, pounding on the glass and cursing our names . . . not that it made any noise in the real world, but it was discomfiting to see his angry face there whenever you happened past.
     In time, though, he seemed to adapt, and you’d often have to look in sideways to make sure he was still there. Apparently, he’d even taught himself to read backwards, because there he’d be, sitting in the reflection of our library flipping through the books from our shelves.
04/09 Direct Link
That’s the thing about getting trapped in a mirror . . . sure, the initial effect is quite profound, but most people soon figure out that everything in the real world is reflected in their new prison. If the mirror’s near the kitchen, for instance, there’ll be plenty to eat . . . and if not, there’s a reflected hallway that’ll take you there. And once you’ve figured that out, it won’t be long before you might just try that reflection of the front door, which is okay, really, because with you out of the picture we can finally go back to using the mirror again.
04/10 Direct Link
The doctors at the hospital are there and gone so quickly that you never have the time to even remember all your questions, let alone get the answers . . . and the clerical staff, who are always there, don’t seem to know even the simplest things you’d think most every patient would be likely to ask.
     “How long does the anaesthetic take to wear off?” I asked, with just a hint of down there to remind her why I was here and not merely curious.
     “I don’t know,” she said.
     “Because it doesn’t really hurt right now.”
     “Then you’d better go fast!”
04/11 Direct Link
I stink at the sort of uncritical praise required when people get married or somebody dies, and so I do what I can to avoid situations where it might be required.
     They make a wonderful couple, but . . .
     What a beautiful baby, but . . .
     He was a certainly great writer . . . but his last novel was a huge disappointment, and he wasn’t particularly impressive when I finally saw him in person. But he was my favourite for the longest time, and even though he didn’t make the most of his appearance on
The Daily Show, I was sorry to hear he had died.
04/12 Direct Link
After three months of relatively unsuccessful chiropractic treatment, Dr. Ho now thinks it may be the SI joint that’s causing the pain in my hip.
     “There’s something we can try . . .” he says with a grin that suggests he’s as reluctant to tell me as I’ll be to hear it. And he’s right, because what he wants to do is inject anesthetic into the joint, so that if the pain goes away, it will confirm that the underlying problem is indeed in the joint.
     Understand, this is just part of the diagnosis.
     I don’t even want to think about the cure.
04/13 Direct Link
These prototypes were to be our most realistic ever: one male, one female, human in ever detail . . . but with one significant advance—these robots were programmed to automatically fall in love.
     Certainly, we’d already perfected the mechanics of love, but this model would mean it, and experience it with an intensity designed to perfectly match your feelings for the machine.
     Some expressed concern that this synthetic love might grow indefinitely, but testing revealed we could pretty much rely on the natural dampening effect of our self-centred customers.
     No one, however, had anticipated what would happen if the two prototypes met.
04/14 Direct Link
These prototypes were to be our most realistic ever: one male, one female, and human in ever detail—plus one significant breakthrough . . . these robots were programmed to fall in love with their owners.
     Certainly, we’d already perfected the mechanics of love, but this model would mean it, and experience it with an intensity designed to perfectly match your feelings for the machine.
     Some were concerned this synthetic love might grow indefinitely, but testing revealed it would be easily constrained by the dampening effect of our self-centred customers.
     No one, however, had anticipated what would happen if the two prototypes met.
04/15 Direct Link
Okay, I admit that last installment was a bit of a cop-out, but as one of my more attentive readers pointed out, the first time through the story I had managed to give away the surprise ending well before the end . . . which is no mean feat in a story that short. And so, I decided to create a second, alternative version and leave it to posterity to sort it out. After all, tastes change, and future generations of readers may not share our need for literary suspense. Indeed, there is every chance they’ll find both versions a little long winded.
04/16 Direct Link
Considering their limited experience in the field, the programmers had done a surprisingly good job of developing that first synthetic love . . . so good, in fact, that once the new robots had fallen for each other, there was little else we could get them to do.
     Without a precise way of measuring love, however, we could only guess at how closely the robots were approximating our sophisticated emotions; that is until someone stupidly suggested we try hooking one up to a simple music synthesizer, and the songs it created were more beautiful than anyone could bear . . . those few we could understand.
04/17 Direct Link
The first twin-blade razor actually did seem to shave better, but no one really knew why. So, it was left to Gillette’s marketing people—in a barefaced piece of reverse-engineered make-believe—to assert that the first blade was pulling each whisker slightly out of its follicle so that the second could cut closer, when all you were really doing was shaving twice with a single stroke, and which became all the more obvious when they installed an additional blade that added nothing to the story and left the commercials with nothing to say but three blades are better than two.
04/18 Direct Link
Here’s how it works . . .
     The first blade pulls the whisker away from your skin, allowing the second blade to cut it even closer before it snaps back.
     The third blade scrapes away the years that have passed since you could still sport a few days’ growth and not be mistaken for someone who lives on the street and shaves when he can.
     And the fourth blade is for everyone who needs to shave four times faster than their grandfather did, one-third closer than those poor three-blade schmucks, and anyone who’ll upgrade to the new five-blade system the moment it’s released.
04/19 Direct Link
I’ve been shaving with a Sensor Exel since 1995, when I found a free sample among the rest of my junk mail. It wasn’t a commercial that turned me onto those two spring-mounted blades, the microfins, and the lubrication strip; it all came down to the fact that this new razor somehow did a much better job at cutting through five or six days’ worth of beard—because I really hate shaving. Someone should tell Gillette that they’re missing out on a huge market of self-employed slobs . . . although I’m pretty sure we won’t be seeing that commercial any time soon.
04/20 Direct Link
The sun is shining in the sky, there ain’t a cloud in sight, and I’m stuck inside on the first nice day of spring because of a project I’ve been putting off too long. To tell you the truth, though, I’m really just making things worse by listening to music instead, and the final cut on ELO’s Greatest Hits that even today (hey, hey) leaves me feeling I’m missing out on something that everyone else is doing, and I guess right now it really doesn’t matter if it’s actually 1980 or 2007, web page or English essay, MP3 or vinyl.
04/21 Direct Link
I’d feel a whole lot better if you had your own e-mail address and I didn’t have to send messages through your boyfriend’s account. It’s not as if I’m thinking of anything untoward here, but this e-mail thing has me worrying he might think we’re sneaking around or something, and I really shouldn’t be thinking about you in that way any more. But really, what’s happened to you? Do you really want him knowing everyone you’ve been talking to? You know, it’s not that hard to set up your own address. Let me do this one last thing for you.
04/22 Direct Link
“I thought things were going good,” she said. “No pressure. No big commitments.”
     “But you practically make me hide when your friends come over!”
     “Can’t you just enjoy our time together?” she said. “Besides, you hate when I ask you to dress nicely, and you think my friends are stupid.”
      “I never said that.”
     “And you probably think I’m stupid, too.”
     “That’s not it at all,” he said. “All I’m trying to say is that I don’t like being treated like a fucking Murphy bed.”
     “There you go,” she said. “I don’t even know what a fucking Murphy bed is.” 
04/23 Direct Link
A few weeks into grade seven and the art teacher already had a hate on for me. There were kids who’d spend the class making cocks out of plasticine, complete with Elmer’s-Glue cum, but she saw me as the troublemaker and gave them A’s for cleaning up.
     So, I decided to team up with the smartest girl in class and create large pastel interpretations of all twelve star signs . . . and although it was my idea, and although I was the better drawer, the praise all went to my partner including the unspoken thanks for having taken me under her wing.
04/24 Direct Link
This is exactly the kind of thing you really don’t want to come out at the class reunion, when you’re stuck in a room with a bunch of people that you haven’t seen in ages, and who—if they’ve even thought of you once in all that time—still remember you exactly the way you were back then. Because, even if you’ve done all sorts of interesting things with your life, this is the thing they’ll latch onto, the thing that once defined you, the thing that will let them jump to the conclusion that you haven’t changed a bit.
04/25 Direct Link
Perhaps the last story my father ever told me was of the poker he’d played on a deep-sea fishing trip off the Jersey shore, pushing through the waves to where the fish were with the quarters all bouncing around on the table. He’d come to Toronto for his first visit in years, and though I was still too young to share a beer with him, I must’ve told him of the penny-ante poker I played with my friends.
     I’d like to think now I could drink him under the table.
     I’d like to think now I could whip his ass.
04/26 Direct Link
With my bookcases all full up, I’ve taken to stacking my books in the various corners of my office, so that now, whenever I finish reading something, I simply add it to the top of the current pile. You can’t let them get too high, of course, and it’s a pain when a book you’re looking for is near the bottom, but I find that this new vertical strategy adds a lot to my sense of accomplishment as I look at this tall thing I’ve spent the last few months building . . . when I suppose I should’ve been doing something else.
04/27 Direct Link
To assist our students in following the new curriculum, each child, on his or her first day of school is presented with an authorized collection of the books he or she is required to read from kindergarten through to the final year of high school. We expect your child to proceed from the top downwards, at a pace comfortable to him or her, but with a careful consideration to the milestones indicated on the appropriate volumes. Parents can encourage their children to meet these goals by reminding them of the sense of accomplishment they’ll enjoy when they reach the bottom.
04/28 Direct Link
It was stupid to think she was the least bit sexy, this sad lonely girl who’d just been dumped by her husband and had nothing better to do on a Saturday night but learn to poker from a bunch of guys tied down with a girlfriend each. My next mistake was to take her up on her offer to work on my arm after the game broke up. She was a massage therapist, after all, and slim, and blonde . . . and so my biggest mistake was telling Mary the truth of what I’d been up to until three in the morning.
04/29 Direct Link
Our chalkboard has failed, and it was the only system we had. We’d run out of something, and we’d write it on the board. When we had to stop a film halfway through, we’d make a note of the time. A birthday party, a phone number, a movie somebody had recommended. But the problem was that we so seldom got around to erasing the things we had done . . . or when we finally did, we’d end up mucking up something else nearby to the point were wouldn’t dare erase anything until we could figure out if it was important or not.
04/30 Direct Link
Apparently I’m not the only fool to have left his taxes to last minute because now, after a solid day of collating my most recent batch of disappointment and obligation, I find I can’t even sign onto the website I was depending on to sort it all out, sneak it in under the wire, and put the whole mess behind me for another year. I was even willing to line up at the post office they’ll keep open until midnight, but that was before the penalty started looking better than another few hours online and a cold trip across town.