Saturday, 16 November 2019

SERIAL PUBLICATION: The Recalcitrant P.I. ~ Chapter 25


a Mac Armstrong mystery


T.F. Pruden

Copyright © 2018 by T.F. Pruden

All rights reserved. No part of this manuscript may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, including photocopying, recording, or other electronic or mechanical methods, without prior written permission of the author


Paul sipped from the tall double Caesar, first removing a limp stalk of celery from the glass.
"So, this case is like your first one," he said, "discretion is the priority."
He handed a folder across the table to the waiting Mac.
"Don't open that here."
"Right," Mac's reply conveyed practiced reassurance, "so pictures of hubby, wife, cars, house, kids, but no third party in there?"
"Roger that," Paul grinned at the younger man, "with addresses but little else.  As usual, he's suspicious but too busy to check into it.  Much like the one you handled last fall if you remember?"
"Right," Mac spoke with recalled frustration, "the tree-climbing case!  Hope the fuck I'm not gonna' havta' camp out to watch a couple f'ugglies go at it again."
Paul sipped again from the Caesar, enjoying the salty-fresh flavor of the clamato mixed with the Gimli vodka.
"If you're lucky, you'll be able to use the same tree."
Despite a reasonable attempt, Paul was unable to hide the satisfaction taken from the notion of Mac hanging in a giant elm.
"Well," Mac's voice was dead pan, "as long as the pictures show it goin' in, right?"
Paul laughed aloud.
"You're nothing if not graphic," he said, "but remember the more we can show the less anybody will have to say about it.  As with the last one, in this case the husband wants to avoid a divorce."
Mac shook his head in apparent disgust.
"I don't get that myself," he shared real confusion, "why the fuck don't these clowns just cut their losses? Getta' fuckin’ divorce! Payin' all that money to catch the wife cheatin'?  It makes no sense to me."
Paul nodded, though not in agreement.  If he were fortunate, the young investigator might one day discover the value of working things out with his wife.  Though he doubted the fellow would be granted the opportunity.  Mainly due to what seemed near relentless demand from an ever-wandering eye.
By now, Paul had privately surveilled Mac in more extra-marital entanglements than cases he so far hired the young fellow to investigate.
"Successful marriages take a lot of compromise," he said, "and believe me; you're married now, one day soon, you're sure to find out all about it."
Mac shook his head before replying.
"Lemme' tell ya," an edge was clear in his voice, "my ol' lady ever took a walk on the wild side an' I found about it, she'd be out the fuckin' door.  No questions asked."
Paul grinned at Mac, with one eyebrow raised.
"To each his own," he said, "but a man is a long time finding a wife, even longer a good one, and everyone makes all kinds of mistakes.  When you get a little older, you might come to appreciate that a little more."
Mac looked back, frowning.
"Fuck that."
Paul again laughed aloud, this time shaking his head.
"I'm also pretty sure," he said, "that if we looked with any interest at the husbands in both these cases, we'd likely find each of them keeping a bit of fluff, or maybe more than that, of their own, on the side."
It was Mac's turn to laugh aloud.
"That's no excuse," he protested, "just because a man needs a release don't giv' 'is wife permission!  Jeezass Christ, watsa world comin' too, eh?"
Paul took a sip from the sweating glass, savoring the tabasco's heat as it enhanced the marriage of the vodka to the clamato.
"Like the song says," he paraphrased with a voice granted only by experience, "no one knows what goes on behind closed doors."
Mac again shook his head in reply.
"I get that," he said, "but in my house, the only one gettin' behind that door is me!  If I was interested in sharing her, I wouldna' fuckin' married her!"
Paul nodded, before again sipping from the tall glass.  The afternoon sun warmed the patio as the cold drink refreshed him.  With feigned concern, he considered the young man seated across from him.
"But some people are, Mac."
He smiled across the table at the fellow.  Twenty-five years of domestic abuse calls changed what a man thought about married life.
"Did that not occur to you?"
Mac first said nothing in reply.  The older fellow's remark surprised him.  In fact, the idea had been neither apparent nor considered.  The notion cast not only the work, but his marriage, in different light.  For a moment, Mac wondered if it were both.
"Not for a minute!"
He spoke factually.
"In most of our cases," Paul spoke in a lowered voice, after first looking about to make sure no one might overhear, "whether insurance, collision, or divorce our version of the facts is provided as a tool for use by those with money to pay for it.  Poor folks don't hire us to check up on one another."
Mac nodded.
The older man continued after another slow sip from the still sweating glass.
"You haven't been at this long enough," he said, "to be introduced to the business on the other side of it.  Soon enough you'll see how that works.  It will change your mind about more than a few things.  Of that I'm sure."
Mac frowned.
"I doubt anything this business will teach me is gonna' change my mind about marriage."
Paul nodded in reply.
"Though knowing why the fuck people put themselves' through such misery over a piece of tail," Mac said, with disgust plain, "might come in handy!"
"Time will tell," Paul said, "but a man can't help being affected by heartache when he's exposed to it continually.  Soon enough, you’ll understand.  Unfortunately, there’s no way to prepare yourself for it."
Mac perked up at the hint of more work.
"What should I be getting' ready for?"
Greed was plain in the private investigator’s voice.
"For one thing," Paul said, "I'd like you to start meeting directly with a new adjuster at MPIC."
Paul sipped from the waiting drink before continuing.
Mac sat with ill-feigned patience.
"In fact, if you're available I'd like to schedule a meeting for the two of you first thing next week," Paul's voice conveyed the serious nature of his request, "would ten a.m. Monday work for your calendar?"
Mac's eyebrows rose.  His surprise was real.
"Sure thing," he said, "I mean, I can move stuff around.  Which office?"
"The north end branch," Paul replied while searching the briefcase at his side.
"Is that the one on Dufferin?"
"That's right," Paul spoke while handing a business card to Mac, "a block away from the City Bread bakery."
Mac took the card.  The adjuster's name in black ink stared up at him.  Next to the MPIC office address with phone number was spelled Cathy Langer, Claims Adjuster.  With any luck, she might prove attractive.
He said nothing of this to Paul.
"Sounds good."
"We'll be discussing these two files," Paul now passed a pair of folders over the table to Mac, "so you'll want to look at them before the meeting."
Mac stuffed the thick files into a briefcase now open on his lap.
"Here's an invoice for the last two weeks," Mac said, "it looks like we're finally wrapped on the gardening guy.  I'll turn in the report next week, I'm just waitin' fer' a chance to develop the last of the pics."
Paul took the invoice without either comment or review.  He removed an envelope from the case on his lap after placing the itemized list into one of its many pockets.
"Here's payment for your last invoice."
"Thanks," Mac spoke while tearing open the envelope to review the cheque inside.
After checking the amount, a smile of satisfaction spread like melting butter across the younger man's lips.  The rate increase, earlier promised, was there confirmed.  Mac's financial circumstances, almost despite him it often seemed, were again improved.
"So that divorce case," Paul said, "I'd like you to start right away.  This afternoon is best if you can squeeze it into your schedule.  It comes with full-time hours available, pre-paid so don't worry about logging as many as you need.  You'll again be watching the wife, so it could take a while."
Mac nodded, grinning to the tall man across the table.
"Ain't it funny how it's never the wives bothering to check up on these rich clowns?"
Paul snorted in response before replying.
"Don't kid yourself," he said, "plenty of the wives do, you just haven't worked for one of them yet.  Believe me; it's much worse when the shoe is on the other foot!  When a wife hires us, a court appearance in service of a nasty divorce is almost a sure thing."
"No shit, eh?" Mac's reply betrayed a nascent cynicism, "why am I not surprised?"
Paul tilted his head with a grimace.
"It's not fun," he said, "that I can say with certainty.  There is absolutely no wrath to compete with that of a woman scorned.  One day, I'm almost sure you'll be as disappointed as I was to discover most men haven't yet figured that out."
Mac frowned, considering the words of the older man.
"Somehow," he said, "I don't find that hard to believe.  Not at all."
Paul nodded, sipping again from the rapidly diminishing drink.
"The facts of life, my boy," Paul spoke with detached good humor a moment later, "are often simple, but most times harsh."
Mac only nodded.  The pompous superiority of the older fellow pricked at his youthful ego's yet sensitive inexperience.  Despite being married longer than Mac was alive, the man earned no right to hand out marital advice, as far as he was concerned.  Paul's preaching was as unwelcome, as it was unappreciated.
For the first time however, Mac considered his marriage in the light cast by his work.  If investigated himself, the private investigator knew he could only receive a most unfavorable report.
"Ain't that the truth?" Mac's reply conveyed a growing awareness, "When did people get so carried away with their fuckin'?  Was it always like this or is it just another part of the revolution?"
The question he posed, though naïve, was sincere.
"As far as I know," Paul said, "it's always been this way."
He paused before continuing, considering his next words while sipping from the dwindling Caesar.
"But remember, I've been looking at it one way for a long time," he said, "after a while, it’s even harder to avoid making judgements, because we’re always on the same side.  Either way, so long as he presents only the facts, what a man believes shouldn't make much difference."
Paul stared off into space after speaking; seeming to forget, for a moment, he was not alone.
Mac said nothing in reply.  He wondered how Toni might react to news of his routine infidelities.  Would she drag him into divorce court or leverage his behavior to save their marriage?
Mac grew increasingly unnerved the longer he thought about it.
"Anyway," Paul spoke with resignation, "it's a living."
Mac nodded.
"And a good one too, apparently," he said, "thanks again for the raise, Paul."
Paul nodded as he replaced the near empty glass onto the table.
"Well earned, my boy," he spoke with a smile on his broad face, "well earned.  Most happy to give it too, as it means there's more coming.  We're on the grow Mac, at least, until the no-fault legislation comes along to spoil the party, so we'd best enjoy it."
Mac grinned; relieved enough at news there would be more work on the way to overlook the unwanted paternal familiarity.  His opinion of Paul McAllister continued, with increasing speed, to diminish.
Like many of his law enforcement colleagues, the fellow hid, poorly, the ingrained attitude of a died-in-the-wool racist.  The routine incidents of abuse endured by dark-skinned relatives at the hands of the police were countless.  Either here by city cops or handed out by Mounties while growing up next to a Reservation, the song remained the same.
For Aboriginal or Metis people, life in Canada meant a policeman could be many things, but most of all, those wearing the badge were near certain to be no friend.  Mac also knew that for many on the national police force, when it came to people of the first nations, the only good one was a dead one.
A harsh lesson, Mac learned it early.  Though spared much abuse because of light colored hair matched by pale skin, he would not forget.  To the fair-headed Metis boy, of only one thing could there be no doubt.
It was a white man's world.
"Sounds good enough to me, boss," he replied.
Mac made no attempt to hide the intent of his jailhouse greeting; near certain the ex-cop would ignore it rather than risk a confrontation.
Paul barely nodded in response, raising his glass to finish the blood red Caesar.
The rising afternoon sun beat down as the older man signaled the waitress.  Despite a languorous heat, the two men must soon return to their nefarious work, in service to certain profit at the price of unknown misery.
In each case, the anguish created by their efforts would eventually prove someone else's worry.  On the streets below meanwhile, those under watch lived in casual disregard of these men, whose livelihood depended upon their concealed surveillance.

Monday, 27 May 2019

The Twelve Rules For Writing Literature

The Twelve Rules For Writing Literature


T.F. Pruden
1. Literature must provide questions, not answers.

The writer's job is sharing experiences, not telling readers what to think about them.  As the fundamental responsibility of art, music and literature is illuminating the condition of society, neither personal opinions nor rhetorical positions are acceptable for inclusion within literary work.  Specifically, the writer must share a story, while keeping both opinions and answers out of it.

2. Literature must be known by experience, not reported as bystander.

A writer may factually document only that which individual temporal experience personally reveals.  Specifically, third-party information must be identified in first-person narratives, with omniscient narration based on science, observed, or related behavior employed only when or if judged necessary to best serve the story.

3. Literature must respect the rules of grammar, not serve them.

The writer must demonstrate mastery of the craft.  As such, basic guidelines of mid-twentieth century English grammar are to be observed, aside from within dialogue.  While splitting the infinitive for reasons of style is approved meanwhile, use of the vernacular must always be limited to either first-person narratives or dialogue.  Specifically, this rule prohibits sentences from ending with prepositions, while those begun with prepositional phrases require use of a comma. 

4. Literature must rely on facts, not beliefs.

As science is fact while history but opinion, so genre fiction is entertainment and not to be confused with literature.  For a work to be literary, the facts of temporal reality must compose and provide the entirety of theme, plot and characterization.  Specifically, this rule identifies that while opinions are certainly as common as assholes, they have no place in literature.

5. Literature must be written individually, not by committee.

A writer must work alone, from a project's start to its completion. The writer's work is not finished when either draft or manuscript is completed. While editorial feedback is encouraged prior to engaging the revision process, neither line editing nor collaboration of any kind is allowed at any time. Specifically, this rule approves the use of word processing and editing software but limits third-party assistance to feedback, proofreading and copy editing.

6. Literature must provide historical perspective, not timely reportage.

Experience while most often the best teacher, must be allowed the benefit of time's perspective to be appreciated. The writer must not allow emotions or desire for timeliness to limit the perspective achieved only by distance and time. Specifically, this rule prevents the damning of a work to either period or emotional influence by requiring writing driven by fashions, fads or favorites be avoided.

7. Literature must be grammatically constrained, not mutilated.

While appropriate for the writer to incorporate specific language constraints to demonstrate literary mastery, such constraints must always be near invisible to the reader and incorporated throughout a work.  Specifically, this rule identifies either loss of grammatical consistency or stylistic readability in support of constraint as not acceptable.

8. Literature must be thematically defined, not limited.

While multiple thematic elements are acceptable within a single work, each must be effectively represented within its context.  Specifically, this rule recognizes broad implementation of either symbolism or metaphor as suitable but requires single-sentence thematic statements provided in explanation for a work be suggested within the text.

9. Literature must respect tradition, not deny it.

Defending traditional literary forms requires an understanding of the difference between influence and respect.  Those either hidebound by conformity or blindly devoted to innovation miss the point of not only literature, but also music and art.  The timeless secrets of form and function valuable to writers from all ages meanwhile, are most reliably discovered within classical works.  Specifically, this rule confirms those who don't read good books suffer a far greater loss than they who can't and requires the writer to read and implement the lessons found there.

10. Literature must be stylistically consistent, not obtrusive.

No matter what is written, literature must incorporate a narrative voice appropriate to the writer's taste, not that of either desired audience or treasured results. Consistency of literary style builds trust between reader and writer, and from that rises verisimilitude. Specifically, this rule identifies the intellectual and emotional bond created by consistent and unobtrusive style as necessary to a believable and lasting literary experience.

11. Literature must serve the story, not its writer.

The point of writing novels is neither enriching nor ennobling writers but documenting the ever-evolving conditions of life on earth.  As talking about and promoting the work might damage or affect its process, a writer must avoid intrusions related to fame, fortune and notoriety.  Specifically, to achieve success a writer must choose to write, not speak.

12. The writer must write, not make excuses for it.

As a wise man said long ago, to be, one must do.  Thus, to earn the authentic title of writer requires the act of writing be an undeniable and lifelong habit bordering on obsessive compulsion.  To those who must, the work produced should then and ever be allowed to speak for itself.  Specifically, this rule prohibits the writer from either written response to critics and criticism or seeking of awards and plaudits.


T.F. Pruden

Thorsby, Alberta, Canada



“Do not seek perfection, which is death.  Let it seek you.” ~ William Saroyan, 1908-1981


Thursday, 21 March 2019

Cards on the table.

Because it needs doing, this writer does it.

A fellow somewhat renowned for lack of ambition, were someone else tending to it, you may rest assured a man would not persist with effort both thankless and difficult.

For to this writer, the well of whatever from which the words spring has ever been both mystery and necessity.  A man was also forced, long ago, to accept that a life-long struggle learning to master and control what ~ from the outside ~ amounts to little more than angst-ridden neuroses propped up by emotional immaturity, could lead to neither popularity nor riches.

Despite this knowledge and with serious intent, the writer kept the business to himself through what was a lengthy and often public life.  Not because he wanted to, but as result of knowing it should not be managed by any other means.

For to know, there is but a single way.  One must be.  This according to a man reckoned wise by minds brighter than this, who is claimed to have once said ~ paraphrased here ~ that to be, one must do.

Long ago, in a land far away, this writer drank of that beverage.

Everything since was as result.

To make sense of it, one must first accept that playing a part, like an actor, is not a substitute for living life.  Nor is reporting of its events, from any perspective, be it live or from a historical viewpoint, considered here a realistic documentation of facts suitable for fictional history.  For by now, we should all know most of the stuff that fills our textbooks, web searches and news sources was written by peons at work on behalf of history’s winners.

The paradox and failure of most writer’s work, after all, is a need to report third-hand information as first-hand knowledge.

So it is, and so it shall remain.

For this writer, even second-hand information is much like moral authority, a necessary evil considered best practiced by others.  In these parts, the job is telling the facts of how it was for a participant, not telling you what to think, believe or feel about it.

Like it or not, life remains short, brutal and dumb.  The long-term danger of whitewashing both history and diversity, though often convenient, has rarely been more apparent in western democracy than it is just now.  A society spoon-fed single-viewpoints in search of homogeneity without acknowledging the sometimes-bitter facts regarding alternative lifestyles or differing perspectives, eventually leads to repressive and stunted political regimes marked by divisive populism and tyranny of the masses.

These are facts of early twenty-first century life.

The challenge to writers and artists in all disciplines, everywhere but here in the west particularly, is responding to the times in which we live and create history together.

As the next man, this writer leaves the crumbs he can produce to mark a trail for those who might seek to find them.

That’s part of what it means to be a responsible individual around here.

As required by such a philosophy, the writer works to record what happened, not as observer, but as participant.  In each case, with a first goal of telling how it was.  That means including the hard stuff, and not dressing up or rationalizing any of it.

How it went, is all that’s been told.

The characters you meet in this writer’s work may not be beautiful or famous, but they reflect a shared time and common experiences lived not so long ago.  A man is also comfortable saying that like many of us, most of them do the best they can to get by, and that’s about all that can be asked of anyone.  Thus, though like a mirror easily distorted, literature provides a lingering reminder of the endlessly confounding and multi-dimensional nature of our shared temporal existence.  Able only to reflect that which might pass before it, the looking-glass yet reveals secrets we find near impossible to either resist or deny.

In that way, this writer’s work seeks to provide a reflection of the singular experience of a markedly small and decidedly underrepresented group of people from within the cultural and historical mosaic that composes life in modern Canada.  The goal is to create a recording of a rarely-told individual history, written neither from a need for apology nor desire for reconciliation, but rather as an unvarnished and uniquely Canadian history that reveals the facts of life in post-colonial society.

For here, just as people do everywhere, we recreate each other using images distorted by perspective, for better and for worse.  This writer’s sole purpose and art’s real societal value ~ the raison d’etre for each ~ is achieved only by revealing that fact.

To this writer, there can be nothing more.

As the reader, everything else is up to you.

Thanks for being here and thanks for sharing the blog.


  • TFP
    March 21, 2019

Monday, 11 February 2019

RIP Mr. Koko Pruden, December 5, 2002 - February 11, 2019

After a brief illness, with great sadness I must report the passing of my adorable, Mr. Koko Pruden.
The resolute dog has left the building.
A little man in a hair suit made completely of love, Mr. Koko was my best friend, ever and always. The last of the actual road dogs, Mr. Koko stood guard for Harwill at over 1500 show stops and traveled more than a million kilometers from coast-to-coast and throughout North America. We spent the best days of our lives together and my baby boy gave love to the end before passing away in the arms of his papa.
Beloved by all before circumstance brought him to live with me at age two, throughout his life Mr. Koko also found great joy loving and caring for his original and extended families. For the life we shared and all I learned from him, there can be no recompense other than to report he taught me how to live. The subject of 2015 #1 hit song 'I love my dog (the ballad of Mr. Koko)' on the US Americana charts, there never was, nor could there ever be, another like him.
Though our tears must fall, the love and wisdom of his teachings lives in our hearts forever.
So long pard, it's been good to know you.

   Feb 11, 2019