☛ Submission for October, 2024 issue (Vol. 5, No. 2) is going on. The last date for submission is 30 September, 2024.




-         John Tavares (Canada)

Police were searching for Herman, a thirty-seven-year-old former armed security guard, who had escaped from a detention facility in Toronto, after the parole board denied his application for an early release. Initially, Yolanda hardly paid attention to this news. She did not think she should be on the lookout for Herman since he was not accused of any violence that might have rattled her. The news item piqued her interest because Yolanda noticed they were apparently the same age and she felt anxious to make a connection.

At the age of thirty-seven, Yolanda’s friends considered her a success. She had acquired a bachelor’s and then a master’s degree in civil engineering. She graduated at the top of her class, considering herself a nerd and a geek, in a class with no shortage of beer swillers. Then she went to work for the public transit agency, helping design and build new subway lines, underground throughout the city, and light rapid transit lines, a euphemism for streetcars. The transit system’s planning and execution was constantly challenged by political interference, but this disorganization only helped create more work for engineers like her. Projects were started, restarted, delayed, and then shutdown, until new plans were conceived and approved.

Yolanda’s coworkers urged her to apply for work with Translink in Vancouver. They were building massive public transit infrastructure projects, without local political interference and personal and acrimonious arguments between influential politicians who preferred one mode of public transit over another and instead ended up with the same or no new public transit. Yolanda applied and thought nothing of her application, since she thought Translink would reject her. Meanwhile, the few friends and acquaintances she had in Toronto admired the fact that she earned over one hundred thousand dollars a year.

Yolanda also owned her own family-size condominium on Yonge Street downtown. After work, when her mind was not preoccupied with construction and engineering problems, she lived a solitary life. Her favorite activity was to board the subway train in the evening, after supper, and ride it back and forth across Toronto for hours, as she indulged herself with an absorbing novel and takeout coffee. She spent an inordinate amount of time cooking, to fill her empty time, her vacant evenings alone. She also read plenty of books and novels, including erotica and romance novels.

Her gay co-worker teased her, when he realized she was telling him she was chaste and she felt anxious to lose her virginity, saying he could hook her up with a friend. She admitted to him she felt as if she had reached a point in life where she wanted more than anything a man to desire her as a woman. Through this co-worker during coffee break in the engineering department at the transit commission, she heard about the nude beach and cruising trails that surrounded the shoreline of the Toronto Islands. He admitted even women had hanky panky with men at this beach through casual encounters, and he encouraged her to explore Hanlan’s and experiment, determine if she could bond somehow.

As Yolanda shopped for bikinis at Nordstroms, she was complimented on her shapely body and athletic physique. When the clerk and salesperson discovered she was single and a civil engineer and that she did not work out at a gym, they were filled with admiration and expressed amazement she remained single. Yolanda left the Nordstroms department store with five hundred dollars’ worth of bikinis, about a dozen minimalist swimsuits, cut, designed, and fashioned to varying degrees of modesty.

The following day, Yolanda went to Hanlan’s Point Beach, despite the fact the skies were overcast, and rain was in the forecast. This would be the only day she would have off for the next several weeks as the transit agency attempted to work through delays, cost overruns, labor shortages, conflicting schedules, and chaotic plans in its gridlocked construction projects. As she rode the ferry to the island she realized the weather was unlikely to cooperate. This was not an ideal beach day, but then again she had not expected ideal conditions; she was an engineer, after all, who admired built-in redundancies and safety mechanisms.

Yolanda had never gone nude to a clothing optional beach, but when she arrived she went in the buff as if it was part of her regular routine. Then she started to read back issues of The Economist and an erotic novel as she lay on the beach, hoping any potential partners would realize she was receptive and in the mood.

As she lay on the beach, sun tanning, her body oiled, reading erotic literature, she found the men around her disinterested. In fact, many of the men at Hanlan’s Point Beach were gay, but, she thought, this was pathetic. Where was the desire, longing, and passion. She walked naked along the trail, hoping that she would be accosted by a hairy man, but instead the men cruising the trail walked gingerly around her, or waited for her to pass.

Yolanda wound up swimming in the cool water of Lake Ontario, whose chill and choppy waves assuaged her desire and passion. Then she luxuriated as she lay in the sun, which appeared through the clouds, and heated the pale skin of her body. She put aside The Economist newsmagazine and continued reading erotic literature. She sipped the vodka coolers she brought along, even though, as she told Herman later, she was normally a teetotaler and simply did not imbibe alcoholic beverages. The beach began to become abandoned, as the ambient temperature cooled, the sun set, and night approached.

Yolanda lay spread eagled on the beach, near the few remaining men, and even considered touching herself but that seemed too blatant, too overt. She shook the sand from her towel, gathered her empty beverage can, her granola bar wrapper, her sugar free ginger ale, and tossed the discards into the garbage and recycle bins.

Yolanda packed the beach bag and backpack and then she walked naked along the shoreline. She walked back and forth, in either direction, several times, nude, naked, in the diminishing light, hoping to attract the attention of some potential suitor, but she had no takers. The men that remained behind were gossiping about adventures and relationships. She took the scrunchie from her hair and let it flow down and then walked along the cruising trail. At a spot in the bushes where she had earlier observed men having adult fun, she simply set down her beach bag and her backpack and settled down naked on the trail, waiting for an anonymous man to come along and touch her. Uncomfortable with the sand clinging to her skin and the crevices of her body, she shifted on the ground of the trail and swatted mosquitoes.

Yolanda lay on the trail in the diminishing light until Herman, whose musky smell she noticed, walked along, gathering sticks, breaking off the branches of trees. In the darkness of the bush trail at twilight, she saw a handsome muscular figure, with a bare, hairy chest and strong arms. She ended up following Herman further south along the trail to another part of the beach. She discovered him sitting at a campfire on the shoreline, stoking a huge bonfire, partly built with driftwood he had left to dry in the sun. The night had cooled but the day had the heat and humidity of midsummer.

Herman appeared comfortable, she thought, and she sat naked on the other side of the bonfire, beside a waterlogged log. She thought of what she could say to Herman, who looked raw, rugged, and unshaven, like some character in a war movie, and she felt a longing of desire. When the flames from the bonfire diminished, she walked along the beach, helping gather driftwood, sticks, and pieces of wood for the fire. She tossed one of her back issues of The Economist magazines, damp, into the fire.

“Whoa!” Herman shouted. The smoke grew dark and billowed until Herman tossed another piece of dry wood into the pit, and the flames leapt higher and danced. Herman murmured absently through the darkness.“What are you doing putting damp papers on the fire? Trying to send smoke signals?”

“Sorry. I’m not an expert on campfires.”

“So, what are you an expert on?”

“Designing public transit, electric trains.”

Herman coughed, cleared his throat, and spit into the fire.“So, what the fuck were you doing on the trail, lying down naked?”

“I wanted a man to have his way with me.”

Yolanda could see through the night the orange dot that darted through the darkness that Herman was puffing a cigarette. Indeed, Herman blew a plume of smoke in her direction. Normally she did not like people who smoked, but she decided that she liked him.

“Fair enough,” Herman said.

They sat beside each other in the light and warmth of the campfire. Yolanda kept looking at Herman through the scattered orange light of the dancing, licking flames and smoke, admiring his masculine body. But his mind and attention seemed elsewhere, as he wordlessly ignored her.

Finally, Yolanda asked him, “Would you like to have your way with me?”

Herman tossed a piece of wood on the fire as he stared at her through the darkness. “I used to prefer women, but those days are over.” Herman forced a laugh, as he mused over her proposition. “I suppose I could spank you.” Herman explained, “I have an ex- who liked to be paddled, but that was a while ago.”

Yolanda briefly considered the prospect. “How would you spank me? With your hands?”

“No. I don’t think I could use my hands; that would be too personal and intimate. Anyway, my hands are dirty and need a good scrubbing.”

Herman walked along the beach and found a few sticks and a lengthy rope. “Well, why don’t you bend over the log, and I’ll spank you.”

Yolanda was game, but the stick looked too painful and intimidating, so she told him to use the rope instead. Then she realized that might be a worse choice when she saw him wrap the end of the rope around his hand.

“We’ll role play,” Herman said.

Again, she felt surprised at his word choice; she speculated he was homeless, but at the same time he seemed surprisingly well educated.

“I’ll pretend you’re my ex-wife, and that’ll stir the passion, but I won’t spank you hard.”Yolanda advised him he needn’t worry about being gentle, but then again he looked strong. He even gave her a safe word: “Beach bum.”

Herman spanked and flogged her with the rope.“You bitch,” Herman said, “while I went to prison for trying to support us, you were sucking and fucking every guy we knew. You whore, I’m going to spank you so hard for being an evil bitch.”

And she was carried away by his passion, anger, and words. At first all she felt was pain as she screamed, but then she felt a warmth that grew to a pleasurable heat. She remembered cross country skiing in Northern Ontario. As she skied across the frozen lake, her feet grew so cold she thought her toes and soles were frozen, frostbitten. Her feet burned and ached until the warmth and heat of a woodstove fire, near which she propped herself, in the cabin filled her with relief. She felt aroused and pleasured as the tip of the rope touched the flesh around her genitals. She screamed and finally she orgasmed, gasping, breathing hard.

“Oh, fuck,” Yolanda said.

Herman caught a glimpse of her wristwatch. “You’re going to miss the last ferry, if you don’t hurry,” he said.

“Well, won’t you be coming along?”

“No,” Herman replied. “I’m staying overnight on the island.”

“Overnight on the island? Isn’t that illegal?”

“It’s camping. It’s fun. Who cares if it’s illegal?”

Fair enough, Yolanda muttered. Although Herman protested he did not want her help and insisted he did not need her handouts, she left him with her leftover snacks and alcoholic beverages, although, normally, she did not consume alcohol. She also left him with a few damp copies of The Economist magazine to read.

“What am I going to do with The Economist magazine, except use it to start a fire?” Even then, he complained, the coated papers were not ideal as fire starter since they created smoke and were not as combustible as newsprint. Yolanda also left Herman her beach blankets and towels, since he said he could use a towel for warmth at night as he slept. Herman allowed her to give him a hug. She wanted to give him a hard passionate kiss on his stubbly cheek, but he warned her he had not washed or showered for days. He also urged her to hurry: she needed to catch the last ferry from the dock on the island point, or she would end up spending the night on the island, as intriguing as that prospect sounded. Anyway, he reminded her, work as an engineer for the transit commission beckoned.“You need to keep the trains running on time, right?”

Before she departed from the beach bonfire, she asked him for his contact information. Grudgingly, Herman gave her his Proton email, the address for his secret private encrypted email account, the kind that journalists, whistleblowers, drug dealers, and white-collar criminals used. Now she felt intrigued even more.

As she walked hurriedly along the pathway through the darkness, she felt searing pain on her bottom and thighs, but it was the kind of pain, she realized, she rationalized, that occurred after a good workout at the gym or a long run or bicycle ride for endurance training or cardiovascular fitness.

The following day, at work, Yolanda saw his photo on the local television news channel, which was kept on a wide screen television at the front of the control room, because the transit commission was obsessed with news coverage of itself. A convict had escaped custody during a medical visit following a parole hearing and remained at large. The escaped convict was suspected to be armed, dangerous, and at large in the Greater Toronto area. A former armed security guard, Herman had been involved in a widely reported string of inside jobs, armed robberies of armored cars. Journalists quoted friends and family saying he felt forced to commit the crimes after the government cut off disability support payments to his physically and mentally disabled son, who was caught in the crossfire of a three-way custody battle between his former partner and embattled grandparents. Moreover, his disabled offspring died while he was serving his prison sentence due to the fact, he and his ex-wife claimed, his son no longer had access to the expensive medications and healthcare he required.

Yolanda had a disabled brother who died several years ago at a long-term care institution in Thunder Bay. Her parents and a few relatives believed the reason she never dated men was because she grew up alongside a disabled brother. Yolanda’s relatives and friends also knew she was close to her brother, but she never talked about him. They believed something about her relationship with her sibling, growing up with a disabled brother, had made it difficult, if not impossible, for her to have a normal, healthy relationship with a man. Yolanda, personally, could not see the connection. The only connection she could see now was an even stronger attraction to this mystery man.

Yolanda always felt guilty she had not been involved more in the care of her brother and that she had not visited and spent more time with him. This breaking news development featuring Herman’s picture and name, which he had not even concealed from her, because she supposed he trusted her, only endeared him to her even more. Yolanda sent an email to Herman at his proton email account. She reassured him that his secret—whatever that meant, he thought, rolling his eyes—was her secret; he did not need to worry about her contacting authorities. She revealed to him the back story about her own disabled brother, and he responded immediately.

Herman said he was at a public library near Bloor Street checking his email and pseudonymous social media messages. He asked her if she could give him a place to stay because he worried he might be identified if he took the ferry back to the Toronto Islands where he set up an encampment in the bushes behind Hanlan’s Point Beach. Yolanda messaged him back that he could stay at her condominium. She gave him the address and unit number.

Herman said that he’d meet her at the doors to the street level lobby, at the rear, in a few hours. As they emailed each other back and forth that afternoon, she wondered how he knew the layout of her building. Yolanda figured he had access to some online tools at the library and was experienced in computer use. With a certain romantic image of him, Herman realized, she was building him up into someone he wasn’t and would never be. Afterwards, Yolanda went to the automated teller machine at her bank branch further up Yonge Street. She withdrew the maximum amount of cash she could, seven thousand dollars. Then she worried that might trigger a bank alert since she had never withdrawn anywhere near that much cash before. She planned to give him the money; any man who robbed armored cars for a disabled son was a hero in her opinion. She met him in the lobby of her condo building and brought him upstairs in the elevator.

Meanwhile, Herman eyed the lenses of the surveillance cameras; he was paranoid about being identified. She handed him cash in a brown manila envelope she used for printouts, blueprints, and drawings. Herman asked her what he could do with this much money. Yolanda said she did not know; she only knew that she already, at age thirty-seven, had far more money than she could spend in a lifetime, of frugal living and thrifty habits.

“Do you want me to fuck you?” Herman asked.

“I want you to tie me up and force yourself on me,” Yolanda said.

This is crazy, Herman muttered beneath his breath. “I don’t even think I could spank you, if I tried again.”

Yolanda told him she understood. She said that logically and reasonably Herman should turn himself in; she did not see what hope he had now.

“I need a haircut, a shave, and a change of clothes,” Herman insisted.

Yolanda said she could cut his hair, and she would buy him a change of clothes. She went to Duffer in Mall, while he ate dinner, macaroni and cheese, which she quickly cooked. At the superstore, she bought an electric shaver, razors, and casual men’s work wear for Herman. When she returned, she cut and trimmed his hair, and pleaded with Herman to put on the new clothes, plaid shirts, khakis, slip-on shoes. Then Yolanda insisted on taking him out to dinner at her favorite pizza restaurant.

While Herman scanned the restaurant, with paranoia in his mind, wariness written on his face, Yolanda realized he wasn’t at all enjoying the experience, and that she was probably putting them both at risk. Yolanda figured that if they were stopped by the police she would tell them he was a handsome stranger she met in the food court of the shopping mall downtown.

When they returned to her condo, Yolanda asked him how he planned to deal with this trouble. Herman said he planned to hitchhike across western Canada to Vancouver, BC. He would work for a friend logging in a small remote town in northern BC or contact his relatives, cousins in Kitimat or Terrace and see if he could find work with the liquefied natural gas plant or as a welder on pipeline construction.

Yolanda insisted she would drive him to Vancouver. Herman said she was acting impulsively; the drive across Canada from Toronto would take three days at least.

Yolanda called her boss and project manager, telling these supervisors she needed to visit an ailing relative, a beloved uncle, in British Columbia. The conviction in her voice arose from the fact she did indeed have an aged, ailing uncle in British Columbia, but she had lost contact with him.

Yolanda decided she would drive Herman, her newfound friend, across Canada to Vancouver in British Columbia. She was off on the first true adventure of her lifetime. Herman decided he didn’t see what he could do but accept her offer.


Herman agreed to stay in the hotel room that Yolanda found them in the narrow high-rise boutique hotel in downtown Vancouver, which he insisted be located on Davie Street because he was curious about the gay establishments located in that neighborhood. Herman drank spiced rum and cola from a tall can he shoplifted from the liquor store and smoked pot from the cannabis dispensary on Davie Street. After walking along Granville Street, and searching for a takeout meal, he settled into the hotel room and ate takeout food from the fried chicken restaurant, across the street from the hotel.

After the greys and monotones and bleakness of prison life, Herman simply wanted to watch television, eat fried chicken, and smoke marijuana on the balcony, where he amused himself by listening to the arguments from the gay dance club fourteen floors below and further down Davie Street.

When Yolanda asked him if he wanted to make love to her, he fought and argued with her. When Yolanda asked him if he wanted to walk along the seawall in Stanley Park, he said she simply did not understand that he did not want her, did not desire her, did not love her. Yolanda had invented this romance and love because she needed to escape the mundane and empty and loveless existence that was her life. Herman reminded her he had no true leisure or recreation in prison, nothing else to do but read books. Now all Herman wanted to do was live, like an ordinary person.

While she seethed, he ate fried chicken and French fries. He sent her back to the fast-food restaurant across the street for coleslaw, fresh bread rolls, and condiments and watched a game show, evaluating his knowledge of words and spelling on television.

Then she noticed her wallet was missing from her handbag and the more she thought about her missing identification the more urgent and determined her manner grew. She kept asking him insistently what he had done with her wallet, which was in her handbag and contained her passport, driver’s license, health card, and company photo identification. They continued to argue over what had happened to her wallet, which, she emphasized, contained her driver’s license and health card, which she insisted she required absolutely, and her company photo identification and her passport. Their fight became physical. Herman grew angry, upset all she could think about was sex, and then her driver’s license, passport, and health card. Yolanda had filled Herman with so much anger and rage, with her smug, snug, comfortable life, with no adversity, no challenges, no hardship; he took his folding pocketknife and sliced her beneath her left breast. He cut her beneath her breast with his pocketknife, the tool which had contributed to his survival on the Toronto Islands when he was a fugitive.

As he fled to Wreck Beach, where he camped in the bushes off the main trails beyond the shoreline and ocean, Herman marveled at how calm Yolanda remained afterwards.

Yolanda could not believe Herman stabbed her in the chest. Yolanda reassured herself: Herman did not stab her deep in the chest; he did not mortally wound her; but he had merely administered a superficial flesh wound above her heart, a warning of the danger into which she had put herself. She had asked him to choke her as he took her virginity. He choked Yolanda as he stabbed her.

Herman had not really stabbed her, Yolanda reassured herself. It was a poke, like an inoculation, an immunization, a warning of potential danger. Herman had poked her or sliced her with the tip of the longest blade of his folding knife, which had come in handy while he camped on the Toronto Islands. He jabbed her, just enough to draw blood. Or had he met to cut off her breast, she wondered, as she held up her breasts and gazed at the wound in the mirror. Then she patched the bleeding cut with bandages from the hotel first aid kit.

At first, Yolanda did not want to see a doctor at the emergency department or even the walk-in clinic she walked past on Davie Street, as she headed for a stroll in Stanley Park. She figured she had made a mess of her life. She walked from the hotel around midnight, with a pain in her breast from the slash, or gash, however she might describe it to medical personnel. Finally, she went to the emergency department of the hospital. She was not certain how to describe the injury to the nurse, who noted the cut was more of a flesh wound. The bandages Yolanda carefully applied and her healing flesh stemmed any further bleeding. The nurse insisted on knowing how she had received the injury. Yolanda walked out of the emergency department, only to be pursued by security, who could not locate her as she fled through downtown Vancouver back alleys.

Eventually, Yolanda wound up at a Kahuna Burger on Granville Street that was open all night. Having ordered a coffee, she sat in a stool at a large high communal table, where some patrons stood and some sat, as she read articles in The Economist magazine, which she had picked up from the newsstand of a convenience store, which also served as a cannabis dispensary.

Yolanda sipped the coffee and sat across from Japanese tourists who drank from a quart of vodka, until the manager asked them to put away the bottle, which was prohibited in Kahuna Burger, he warned. The tourists, young men, handsome, vivacious, kept apologizing to Yolanda. They were replaced by a man who fell asleep in the chair. He smelled so earthy the manager called the police, and his physical distress, clutching his stomach, gasping, defecation, gave Yolanda the impression he was undergoing withdrawal from opiates. Two police arrived and roused him from his torpor. He begged the police to leave him alone, pleading he was an addict in withdrawal, in need of a fix, as the police escorted him from the restaurant. Nobody asked Yolanda to leave, as she nursed her third coffee and read through the pages of The Economist. She could not remember the last time she read The Economist cover to cover, one of the singular pleasures of her life.

The addict suffering incontinence and diarrhea was replaced by an older man in a fashionable coat who also fell asleep. He stretched his arms towards her, and she could see he had painted nails. She ordered him a hamburger, since he looked at her with longing and hunger, before he resumed his nap, which she inadvertently interrupted when she pushed the fresh bacon double cheeseburger towards him. After he ate the hamburger, which Yolanda supplemented with fries and a coffee, he left. They never exchanged a word.

He was replaced by a handsome young man and woman, whom Yolanda thought were business travelers from China, but they were financial advisors at the same firm who went out on a date. They talked about clients and risk management and grew excited discussing stocks worthy of investment. After they left, she reached the end of The Economist magazine and sipped the rest of her coffee, which was cold but still agreed with her palate.

Yolanda had not spoken to anyone in the restaurant, where over the course of several hours she drank four coffees, ate a pineapple muffin, and licked a mango soft ice cream cone. Then she ordered a Loco Moco for breakfast, rice, a beef patty, sunny side up egg and gravy, but she only nibbled on the rice, even though she had hardly eaten in the last twenty-four hours. When she finally left the restaurant, Granville Street, which reminded her of Yonge Street, was quiet, although there were still light pedestrian and motor traffic.

As the sun rose, she checked her bandage, beneath her top and her bra, which she had left unfastened. She sighed, as she reveled in the glory of the rising sun through a break in the mist and cloudy skies over downtown Vancouver.

As she walked along Granville Street, she could hear a ping from her smart phone. When she opened her email she discovered she had received an offer of employment from a human resources agency, which was recruiting for Translink, the agency that oversaw the transit system in the Greater Vancouver area, as they continued to expand their ever-burgeoning SkyTrain system. She loved the elevated autonomous trains that wound their way through the mountain valleys; humans did not operate them, no crotchety, irate man or woman occupied the train’s driver’s seat. No noisy, irate drivers complaining over the PA systems about unruly passengers or panhandlers. Yolanda, needing to begin and start her life all over again, felt as if she was off to a good start.