First Impressions By Peter McMillan

April 23, 2015 Comments Off on First Impressions By Peter McMillan

Cecil was wheeled into the rec room where all the residents were passing the time ‘til the evening meal.

His room was too small. Much smaller than what he was used to. At least it had cable. He just needed a TV. The nurse said one might be coming available.

This was the first time he’d seen any of his new neighbours. It was a lot to take in. Some were dressed to the nines. Others were singing showtunes while a woman wearing a cancer turban played the piano.

“Who’s the old bird facing the corner?” he asked.

“One of our long-termers, Miss Annie. She prefers it that way, sometimes,” answered the nurse.

“Kinda ruins the atmosphere, doesn’t it?”

“Well, Mr. Snow, this isn’t rehab.”

“Don’t I know it. My boy made that pretty clear. ‘Here Dad, your new home,’ he said. ‘Nice,’ his new girlfriend said.”

“She doesn’t have anybody — just us.”

“No family?”

“Moved away soon after she came.”

“What did she –?”

“Real estate. Thirty years. Pretty successful I heard.”


“Lots of irony here, Mr. Snow. Would you like to take a tour of the gardens?”

“No thanks, saw it through the window in my room.”

“Alright then. I’ll leave you to mingle. By the way, those boxes — the boxes your son mentioned — need to be unpacked when they arrive. Boxes left in residents’ rooms will be removed after two days. Policy. Health and safety, you understand.”

© 2014 Peter McMillan

Peter McMillan is a freelance writer and ESL instructor who lives on the northwest shore of Lake Ontario with his wife and two flat-coated retrievers. He has published three anthologies of his reprinted stories: Flash! Fiction, Flash! Fiction 2, and Flash! Fiction 3.


Excuse Me, You Seem to Have Fallen Asleep on My Shoulder by Peter McMillan

March 31, 2014 Comments Off on Excuse Me, You Seem to Have Fallen Asleep on My Shoulder by Peter McMillan

What’s this little black gangsta think he’s doing? Does he know he’s fallen asleep on the shoulder of an old Jew, someone he may have been taught to mistrust, possibly hate? And all these other people … why are they ignoring this?

Friday night, rush hour on the subway like any other weeknight … but not. There’s a head, tucked deep inside a dark gray hoodie, leaning on me, no, more like pinning me in my seat. It’s not particularly threatening, not in any violent sort of way. I mean, he’s just a boy. I guess he could have — wouldn’t be surprised if he had a knife … or even a gun. But for now, while he’s sound asleep, it’s a rudeness, an intrusion … a violation of my space on this overcrowded subway car.

A tall muscular man, with menacing tattoos up and down both arms, pushes his way through the standing patrons, looks our way, and says “Ain’t that thweet? Ith like a Norman Rockwell,” just before he steps off the train.

Across the way, between the suits hidden in their papers, through the ebb and flow of one-sided conversations, and past the bobbing, swaying heads immersed in silence, Grandma stares vacantly in our direction, yet there is a faint smile out of the left corner of her mouth. The right side doesn’t move. Fixed there, as if by a stroke.

In the background off to my right, a young woman is excitedly going over her guest list with her girlfriends. Over to my left, a little girl is whispering loudly the questions that I myself have been asking. Her mother shushes her and tries to distract her with one of the presents she’d just bought — a book about ballet, Peter and the Wolf, I think I hear her say.

For twenty minutes we ride like this. My friend fast asleep on my arm. Not snoring, not drooling — thank God — just quietly sleeping.

By now, mostly people are leaving the train at the various stations, but occasionally we pick up riders headed further down the line. One, a scruffy-looking thirty-something, who has an air that doesn’t suit his scruffiness, ends up standing directly in front of us though there are plenty of empty seats nearby. After a minute or two — maybe the time he needed to consider the awkwardness of my situation — he asks whether I’d like him to wake the youngster.

To my surprise, I say “No, I don’t think so. He seems to be exhausted. But I’m getting off in three stops. Perhaps then you could take my place.”

© 2013 Peter McMillan

Peter McMillan is a freelance writer and ESL instructor who lives on the northwest shore of Lake Ontario with his wife and two flat-coated retrievers. He has published two anthologies of his reprinted stories: Flash! Fiction and Flash! Fiction 2.

‘Risotto by Peter McMillan

January 28, 2013 Comments Off on ‘Risotto by Peter McMillan

I dreamt us again last night … Otto and me. It didn’t seem out of the ordinary that we were sitting at the back of a crowded airplane. The pilot had just announced that we would be landing in a few minutes. I heard myself calling, Where’s Otto? ‘RisOtto, here boy, to get him to come and lie down. Otto was enjoying the attentions of a chubby young boy and his anemic older sister a couple of rows in front. He never passed up a chance to be noticed and appreciated, and that’s why he wasn’t listening to me.

As I reached out to grab him by the collar in order to pull him over to me, the collar slipped over his head, and he was sucked out the door at the back of the plane. Strange. It didn’t even occur to me at the time to wonder why the door was wide open. I watched myself hesitate, then jump out the door, and then improbably land right beside him.           

Gathered up in my arms, he didn’t feel so heavy anymore. He lay motionless, until he began gurgling and coughing ― not blood but water. In no time, I saw us limping across the runway past the cargo handlers and maintenance workers who mostly cheered; though some wagged their fingers or shouted mean things. Inside the terminal, we quickly became invisible in the waves of arrivals and departures.           

Long, diagonal corridors, bounded on both sides by small, colourful shops selling newspapers and magazines, laptops and plasma TVs, souvenir shirts, fashion gowns, books, and sofas connected the terminal’s multilayered sections. None of this appeared odd ― just incidental. As I watched us moving through the busyness, it seemed that everything around us had been staged.           

Once outside in a nearby wooded park, a dozen or more happy, playful dogs greeted Otto and me. He was back in his world ― back where he was meant to be ― and I looked so very happy that he was happy, again. He ran fast and hard, wearing his big, goofy dog smile as he led the pack round and round the park. He ran so fast, I couldn’t even tell that he was running on only three legs.           

Then, darkness came quickly and caught me by surprise. Otto had disappeared down a square spiral of concrete steps, which led to a deep tunnel under the freeway. I heard ‘Risotto! being called down into the tunnel. I heard ‘Risotto! ‘Risotto! echoing back from the emptiness below, and again, I would relive not finding Otto. 

© 2012 Peter McMillan 

The author is a freelance writer and ESL instructor who lives on the northwest shore of Lake Ontario with his wife and two flat-coated retrievers. In 2012, he published his first book: Flash! Fiction.

The Walled City by Peter McMillan

June 7, 2012 Comments Off on The Walled City by Peter McMillan

What I did on my summer vacation.

It was just a weekend trip—just the four of us, my parents, my brother, and me. We almost missed our flight. My stupid brother set off the security alarms—he didn’t empty his pockets—and was taken aside, patted down, and questioned. Mom cried. Dad stood out of the way with his hands in his pockets. Turns out they were just training a new guy.

When we dropped below the clouds, there it was, built on a cliff, overlooking a river. Mom read about it in the airline magazine they keep next to the barf bags. She described a lower and upper town, watched over by a towering fort. The skyline of the city was dominated by spires and steeples and bell towers—no glass, steel or anything modern. This place was centuries old.

She also told us—she alone loved history—that after the wars, the inhabitants came to feel the upper town had become like a prison, so they lowered the walls—from 10 feet to two feet. Behind the walls, the history, architecture, food, music, and crafts of 400 years had been preserved.

The churches were mostly empty now, she had read. Even so, they dominated the city as we saw up close on our dizzying cab ride through the narrow cobblestone streets that rose and fell with my stomach.

We’re not real adventurous, especially Dad, so when it came to hotels, we stayed with one of the big American chains. At the front desk, they spoke perfect English. Of course, the food was best when it looked and sounded like something we had eaten before. Pizza and steak were safe. No translation needed. Coke was universal, too.

It rained Saturday and Sunday—that time of year, they said—so we all stayed indoors. We girls went shopping. We stayed in the upper town using the church towers to navigate. The boys watched college football in the room.

We got back late Sunday night, but because Dad forgot the passkey, we had to wait past midnight for the security guard to let us in the gate.

Finally home, my brother lugged his stuff into his room and slammed the door underscoring the “KEEP OUT” warning on his door.

I rolled my suitcase into my room, locked the door—CARBON LIFE EXPERIMENT to the outside world—and pulled out my i-Phone. That’s when I stopped taking notes.

“So, Ellen, what did you say was the name of the city? Maybe others would like to visit.”

“Uh, it’s not really real. I sort of made it up.”

“Ellen, you know you were supposed to speak, not read, about a REAL vacation in a REAL place. I’ll excuse it this once, because I did say this is not a graded assignment. Class, did you notice how Ellen’s story personalized the ‘walled city’ theme? That was clever, Ellen, and I’m sure you came up with it on your own. Who’s next? Kevin, I think you are.”

© 2012 Peter McMillan

The author is a freelance writer and ESL instructor who lives with his wife and two flat-coated retrievers on the northwest shore of Lake Ontario.

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