Fiction & Creative Writing
Matt's true passion is creating compelling characters and weaving their narratives into stories that catch and hold the reader's attention. Most recently Matt has been writing for his local community newsletter with stories based in the area in the hopes of inspiring community pride and opening his friends and neighbours' eyes to the beauty around them.
He's also working on a number of short stories and two novels are in process.
Below are a few short narratives and excerpts from some of Matt's Fiction writing.
Sowing Seeds (Published Winter 2018)
John Kingston had watched the mercury in his thermometer yo-yo over the past several weeks, as spring worked to wriggle free of winter’s icy grasp. Finally his weather app had only positive numbers in the forecast and, more reliably, John could feel it in his joints that winter had at last yielded its hold. He went to the garage to gather his things.
On a warmish day in late-March, John, shovel in hand, had ventured outside to lay the foundation for his project. Well, their project. Today, along with his neighbour-turned-friend, Carol, John would, for the first time in his life, take to the soil to grow his own crop of vegetables. It wouldn’t be anything extravagant – John was not an extravagant man, a fact which was not about to change as he neared 76 years of age – but it was another one of those things that he had always talked of doing and never found the time to do.
Carol was waiting for him at the side of the house with a box containing a number of creased seed packets, a few potted plants that John silently guessed were tomatoes, two pairs of gloves, and a thermos filled with hot coffee. Carol considered herself a bit of a green thumb, and John could tell by her beaming smile that she was excited to get going.
“We’re burning daylight,” she joked.
“Then we better get to it,” John smiled back.
The two passed through the wood gate and set up camp at the near end of the bed. Carol began unpacking the contents of the box while John knelt in the cool grass. She passed him a pair of gloves but John set them aside. Instead, he ran his hands over the dirt, feeling the soil crumbs roll and bump and jostle against each other under the palm of his hand. It was magic.
And then the pair got to work. Carol was, at once, his coach and his mentor and his friend. Together they poked holes for the carrots, installed trellises for the green beans, transplanted the tomatoes (John chuffed that he had been right), and buried the potatoes. As they toiled they joked, they laughed, they shared stories, and they even cried a little. Then they stepped back to admire their work.
It didn’t look like much but John hadn’t felt such a sense of pride in a long time.
“Would you like to come over for some lemonade, John?” Carol asked.
“I’d like that,” John replied.
First Day (By Matthew Page - Published 2016)
Carol Smothers loved watching the pre-school festivities of the first day of school from her classroom window at Holy Family. Her classroom backed right onto the baseball diamond, so she had a front row seat for the rekindling of friendships, as if these reunions were a silent movie that played only for her. And the acting was superb, because it was genuine.
Past the ball diamond, across the soccer field, and just over the little hill that marked one of the entrances to Owl Park, Carol noticed little Bradley Matthews enter stage right. He was holding his mother’s hand and sporting a backpack that was nearly as big as himself. Bradley halted in his tracks, and his mother almost pulled him off his feet before she realized he was not going any further.
Carol had already met Bradley. Bradley and his family were new to the Hunt Club community. They had just moved in from Edmonton because his mother, Angela Matthews, had accepted a job at IBM, and they were still rediscovering their lives in cardboard boxes. They had come to meet Carol, or Ms. Smothers, because they wanted Bradley to be familiar with the school and his teacher before his first day. Bradley was a quiet young man; he was serious and thoughtful and polite. He enjoyed reading and had a green belt in jiu-jitsu. Carol only saw him smile once in their first meeting, and it instantly became one of her goals to see that smile on many more occasions this year.
Now she watched as Bradley’s mother crouched down in front of him and the two exchanged words. Carol could not see Angela’s face but she could see Bradley’s. He was not scared. He was determined.
The two embraced. Angela stood up, looked towards the school, and crossed her arms nervously. Bradley took a deep breath, Carol took a deep breath, and then Bradley strode towards Holy Family. He walked straight over the hill, cut through the soccer field, and marched onto the ball diamond. It was at that point Carol remembered to exhale.
Standing at home plate was a circle of five boys, three of whom were in Carol’s class this year; all of those she knew were going to be a handful. Carol realized that this was Bradley’s target. He walked right into the circle, said a few words, and stuck out his hand. The other boys looked as if an alien had just beamed into their midst. The scene became a tableau.
Carol thought to grab her reflective vest and rush out to save Bradley from certain doom but before she could move Luke Waterson, in her mind the least likely candidate, put his hand in Bradley’s and gave it a shake. The other boys followed suit, and it looked as if miniature business meeting had just commenced. Bradley smiled. Carol smiled.
Carol looked up at Angela, who was still standing at the park entrance. She watched as Angela uncrossed her arms, brushed at her cheek and turned to exit the scene. Carol brushed at her own cheek, and then the bell chimed to start another school year.
The Long Road to the Park (By Matthew Page - Published 2016)
Rima watched as Adnan burst through the screen door and spilled out into the summer sunshine. It was as if the boy had no recollection of the past four years of his life, and maybe he didn’t. Hopefully he didn’t. Of course Rima knew that it wasn’t true. He still had the nightmares.
Adnan had been born, through no will of his own, into a world that was crumbling into civil unrest and eventually war. By the age of two, his father had been killed defending his home from three armed men, leaving Rima just time enough to escape into the night with Adnan. He had spent his next two birthdays in a refugee camp, where the two lined up daily for food and water; their patience was not rewarded everyday but they were provided with just enough to survive. And then one hot morning, cloudless and already scorching, Rima was approached by two UN representatives, who informed her that she and Adnan had been identified for resettlement. They told her that she would be leaving Syria and Jordan behind for Canada. The rest was a whirlwind.
“Come on, Mommy!” Adnan called back, as he waited impatiently at the end of their walkway.
A paved walkway lined with green grass was a stark contrast to the cracked desert of the refugee camps, a fact that was completely lost on Adnan. Rima stood on the front step and absorbed the moment - her son standing, without a care, beckoning for her. She choked back her joy. If only her husband could see their boy standing so innocent, so free.
“I’m coming, Adnan.” She called back as she started after him.
Adnan waited for his mother to catch-up and took her hand. They followed the pathway out to McCarthy Road and turned towards the community centre. The night before, as she tucked him into bed, Adnan had made Rima promise they could go to the park to play. His eyes had been so wide and hopeful; she could never have said no.
His little hand was hot with anticipation in hers, and his gait was as restrained as any four-year-old’s on a mission could be, as they walked across from the church, past the fire station, avoided the candy at the gas station, and stopped to practice reading the English on the signs outside the grocery store parking lot.
Once through the intersection at Paul Anka Drive she loosed her grip on his hand, and Adnan was off in a full sprint for the playground. Without a moment’s hesitation he was involved with two other boys, lost in a land of imagination. When Rima caught up she found a bench and sat down beside another mother. The two exchanged smiles. It was so nice to see a stranger’s smile. She was about to introduce herself when she was interrupted.
“Mom! Can I have my birthday at the park?” Adnan asked. Before Rima could respond, he followed with, “And can Paul and James come? They’re my new friends.”
This time Rima couldn’t hold back the tears, “Of course they can come.”
“Yes! Guys, did you hear that?”
Excerpts from "A Collection of Women" (By Matthew Page - Unpublished 2015)
...And then out of the light a shadow appeared at the bedroom door. One hand, the left, gripped the top of the door frame and the silhouette leaned drunkenly. Jessica tightened her grip on the baseball bat. She could still feel the sticky remnants of her own blood congeal her hands to the wood. Her flesh filled the imperfections of the grain on the handle.
The bat felt heavy; it was a good heavy. It was a violent heavy.
The silhouette exhaled and swore under its breath; with that one breath the scent of dirt, smoke, leather and alcohol filled the room and penetrated her closet. Jessica almost gagged and had to cover her mouth to avoid making a sound.
Then it was gone. The doorway was empty...
...“Look young man, my husband died 8 years ago. Since then I haven’t had a single man look at me like I was worth a damn. My son ignores me, his wife is a bitch, and my grandson is a spoiled brat for whom I am merely a convenient babysitting service. I am still a woman, even if I am sixty-three, and I want to be treated like one. I’m not here for the sex or money or whatever. I’m here because I want to be desired. I want people to look at me the way my husband looked at me when he saw me naked. I want to be seen as a woman and not just a mother or grandmother or some dried up old woman. So if you can’t do that for me then I will find someone else who can.” Mary expected her face to feel flush but instead she was calm and confident...
Mae and Larissa
...At a word the room fell quiet. That silence was abruptly fractured when the doorknob angrily rattled against the lock. Almost every eye in the room swung to the classroom door and saw the red, puffy face of Mr. Ward pressed against the door’s window. The tempered glass fogged with the flare of his nostrils.
The only people not looking at Mr. Ward’s spittle covered lips and purple complexion were Larissa and Mae, the former smiling triumphantly at her foe. Instead of conveying anger, Mae’s eyes pleaded. They did not plead for forgiveness but merely for opportunity. Larissa’s smile faltered. The doorknob rattled again, this time the door strained in its frame.
“Ladies, eyes up here.” Mae’s voice commanded, her voice surprisingly level. “I am not trying to preach to you or tell you how you should live your life. All I want to do is give you all the information you need to make decisions for yourself. You are all young adults and whether you believe it or not the decisions you make today, tomorrow and every day after this are going to affect your life. Maybe you are ready to have sex, or have a boyfriend, or have a baby. Maybe you’re not. There is no one shoe that fits for everyone. You are all individuals who have different experiences and different lives. You shouldn’t let anyone tell you there is only one choice, because one is not a choice!”
The pause in Mae’s appeal was filled with the jangle of keys seeping in from the hallway...
Mystery of the Disappearing Rabbit - Curtis Cluesleuth: Adventures of a Super Detective
With his ham and cheese sandwich finished Curtis Cluesleuth made his daily journey out to the giant oak tree and began to set up shop. He had selected the oak tree because it was in the very middle of the schoolyard, and that way his office could be seen by everyone. As he had done each day for the first three weeks at his new school Curtis hung his “Cluesleuth: Arthur Holmes Elementary Super Detective” sign from the nearest branch and sat down with his back against the tree. And just like the last three weeks it appeared this gloomy September Friday would be light on detective work. At least it wasn’t raining Cluesleuth thought to himself.
The other children had gotten used to his oak tree office, and they no longer gathered to stare at the new kid and his homemade sign. This lack of general attention is what made Melanie Mislapin’s nervous stare and cautious approach impossible to miss. Cluesleuth had seen her from across the playground but had not wanted to scare away his first customer by staring back at her. Instead he coolly pulled out clumps of grass and tossed them into the gentle fall breeze. He actually got so caught up in the fluttering grass that his last handful landed on Melanie Mislapin’s perfectly polished shoes. Startled, Cluesleuth looked up and the two made eye contact for the first time. She was the most beautiful girl in his class and her sad eyes left Cluesleuth speechless for a moment. Luckily Melanie was too worried to notice.
“He’s gone.” Melanie pouted. Her words snapped Cluesleuth back into detective mode and his mind began recording every detail. “Frank’s missing!” she added as if Cluesleuth hadn’t already known what she was talking about. Frank was the class’ white pet rabbit but actually belonged to their teacher, Mr. Karatz.
“I know. He’s been missing all week,” Cluesleuth calmly replied to her outburst. Melanie’s eyes went wide with surprise, Cluesleuth smiled. “You did a good job of trying to hide it Melanie but since Frank wasn’t there to eat any of his food you never had to add any all week,” Cluesleuth explained. Melanie guiltily stared at her grass covered shoes, “Don’t worry, nobody else has noticed besides me.”
Melanie looked slightly relieved but concern crept back into her face, “But I still can’t find him! I’ve looked everywhere and Frank is just, gone. I promise I didn’t lose him again. I think someone took him!” Cluesleuth remembered that in the first week of school Melanie had forgotten to latch the cage door and Frank had escaped. Fortunately the janitor Mr. Dustbin had found him in the kitchen before the crazy lunch lady Mrs. Olive had. Melanie’s words again snapped Cluesleuth out of his daze, “Well, can you find him? I know I didn’t lose him this time. The latch was shut when I came in on Monday.”
“Tell me everything that you know,” Cluesleuth exhaled as he slowly leaned back against the tree, took off his glasses, closed his eyes and folded his arms. Melanie was at first distracted by Cluesleuth’s closed eyes but as she got into her story she hardly noticed that the detective appeared to be sleeping.
“Well, I think it was either Chip Patterson or that awful substitute teacher Mrs. Schneeze. She hates classroom pets you know. I heard last year she flushed the grade four fish down the toilet! And ever since Monday, when she took over while Mr. Karatz attends his magician’s convention, she hasn’t hardly looked at Frank’s cage and when she does she sneezes. How funny is it that Mrs. Schneeze sneezes when she just thinks of Frank! I think…”
“Please,” Cluesleuth opened his eyes for a moment, “the facts. Tell me about Chip Patterson.” Before Cluesleuth closed his eyes again he saw Melanie’s face turn an angry shade of red.
“Chip Patterson,” she almost spit his name. “That boy has always teased me! Anyways, I think it was him because on Friday he volunteered to clean the blackboard after classes. He never does that! And then he almost missed the bus but cleaning the board doesn’t take that long so what else could he have been doing besides stealing Frank to get me in trouble? Plus on the bus he kept looking at me and smiling. I bet it was him.”
Before she could talk anymore Cluesleuth held up his hand, “I’ll find Frank, I promise.” Melanie smiled but before he could say anything more the bell rang and she turned and ran back to class. Cluesleuth collected his sign and closed up office. He hurried back towards the school as he had one person to talk to before school days end.
Cluesleuth knew he had to speak with Chip before the weekend and he was slowly running out of time. Usually it was unfortunate that Chip sat behind Cluesleuth as it meant torture for much of the day from thrown wads of paper and pokes from freshly sharpened pencils. Today it was lucky. Cluesleuth made sure that the very cranky Mrs. Schneeze was looking right at him when he placed a note on Chip’s desk.
“Chip Patterson!” she bellowed from the front of the classroom, “Is that a note on your desk? Bring it here right now!” Chip, glaring at Cluesleuth picked up the folded piece of paper and marched to the front of the class. “Please read it aloud so everyone can be a part of your fun,” she demanded.
Chip unfolded Cluesleuth’s note and repeated, “No Chip, I don’t think Mrs. Schneeze is the worst teacher I’ve ever had. Signed, Curtis Cluesleuth.” As he read the words Chip’s face had slowly changed from embarrassed pink to a deep shade of furious purple. “Why you” He was interrupted before he could finish.
“Chip Patterson. Curtis Cluesleuth. Both of you to the Principal’s office right now!” Mrs. Schneeze barked and both boys scurried out into the hallway. As soon as the classroom door closed behind them Chip grabbed Cluesleuth and backed him up against the lockers.
“Look Colesloth, I don’t know what you’re trying to pull here but you’re going to pay big time!” Chip seethed as Cluesleuth was pressed even harder against the cold steel of the lockers. “Maybe I’ll put you in one of these and then you’ll be stuck here all weekend!”
Before Chip could begin his plan Cluesleuth interrupted, “I just want to ask about Melanie Mislapin,” and just as he expected the color in Chip’s face returned to an embarrassed pink and he eased up the pressure. “Ah, just as I suspected. You have a crush on her!” Cluesleuth exclaimed.
“I do not,” Chip shot back but his face gave away his lie and he knew it. “How did you know?” Before Cluesleuth could respond Chip put his guard back up, “You better not tell anyone Colesloth or you’re going to be in more trouble!”
“Fine Chip, I promise not to tell but you might like to know that Frank has gone missing.” Cluesleuth revealed.
“So? What do I care about that stupid rabbit?” Chip responded, his anger starting to rise again.
“Well Melanie thinks it was you who took it because you always give her such a hard time,” Cluesleuth replied. “She thinks you stayed late after class Friday to steal Frank so that she would get in trouble. I mean, you did almost miss the bus just from washing the blackboard.” This news again saved Cluesleuth some time as Chip’s eyes opened wide with shock.
“Why would she think that?” he stammered. “Mr. Karatz asked me to get a big box from his car for him. He promised to show me a magic trick if I did. That’s why I almost missed the bus!”
“Can you show me the magic trick?” Cluesleuth asked slyly.
Chip looked nervous while he answered, “I’m, well, not good at it yet and Mr. Karatz said a good magician never reveals his tricks. He made me promise not to show anyone until I showed him I could do it right.”
Before they could talk anymore Mrs. Schneeze burst into the hallway and both boys tried to out run her angry screams all the way to the Principal’s office where they received detentions for every lunch of the next week. Chip was devastated that he would be missing his soccer games while Cluesleuth was only worried that another detective might take up his office.
After school Cluesleuth met with Melanie and let her know that Frank would be safely back in his cage Monday morning and she would have nothing to worry about. He then had to run for his bus before it pulled away, leaving her with so many questions
Monday morning Cluesleuth was the first student in class and watched as everyone filed in. Mr. Karatz was busy writing the morning’s lesson on the board when Melanie shuffled through the door and over to the cage. When she peered through the bars she saw little Frank staring back at her. She let out a small gasp and turned to look at Cluesleuth as if to ask for an explanation. Cluesleuth only smiled back.
Mr. Karatz must have heard Melanie’s gasp as he turned back to face the class. “Ah Melanie you must have been so worried about Frank this last week! Well, I told you all I was going to a magician’s convention but I forgot to tell you that Frank was coming with me. Really, what is a magician without his rabbit? Plus, apparently Mrs. Schneeze is very allergic of rabbits so that even the very thought of them makes her sneeze! Also I’d like to thank Chip for bringing in my rabbit cage from my car so I could transport Frank safely. More of you should try to be a good example like Chip. Especially you Curtis, who I hear has been passing notes in my classroom”