Rebecca Sherratt is a English with Creative Writing student at Nottingham Trent University, in the process of transferring onto a Masters degree in Gothic Literature and the Imagination. She specializes in discussing gender and sexuality in Romantic literature.

When she isn’t drowning in volumes of Angela Carter and Ann Radcliffe, she is a freelance writer and artist, designing book covers, writing short stories or perhaps a blend of both.

Her artwork is based upon Japanese manga art, taking great inspiration from creators such as Arina Tanemura and Matsuri Hino.

Most of her work revolves either around silly slapstick comedy or the ghastly Gothic.

Rebecca has illustrated several short stories/poetry on this site: Hobby Farm, Mimes, Mindful Melody, and Road Trip. You can check out the rest of her work here:




We always left when it was dark

When the punishing sun’s heat was doused and the night’s cool breath was released

When most were asleep in readiness for the following days work

Where there were no speed demons to avoid, no road rage to curtail

The car crammed full, every nook and cranny

With food, books, games…..

Prepared for whatever lay ahead and more

Our little shoes kicked off for comfort made us giggle in delight, such a small thing but yet…

Swallowed up by pillows all around us, warm blankets cocoon us

Stars were out with a pock face moon to study and mesmerize us

Dotted throughout the dark horizon were many singular lights, farmhouses perhaps

A few gathered here and there in clusters of small, unseen communities

As we passed through a town, there was a lone blinking caution light

Surrounding darkness, warm blankets, cool night air, and car motion lulled us to sleep

Morning brought a much-anticipated breakfast at a diner, gas fill-up, and bathroom break

The car was cleared of garbage to make way for new snacks and drinks

The day time illuminated the landscape, to occupy us

Cars representing every colour of the rainbow; provided us with hours of amusement, counting

Punch-buggies added a physical aspect to the game

A van full of kids, yelling, making faces at us as their parents yell at them

A motorcycle with a leather-clad driver roared by, the picture of adventure

Glimpsing inside a horse trailer delighted us all; we had owned horses throughout our lives

Moving trucks prompted questions of their origin and destination, and who was moving

Trucks delivering farm animals, mostly cattle and pigs, made our noses wrinkle at the stench

Flat-bed trucks hauling cars, pipes, machinery; held on with chains or belts flapping wildly in the air

Closed transport trucks, a mystery with just the company’s name on it to hazard a guess of its contents

Signalling the truck driver to honk hello, we felt compelled to do it every time; it made us smile

Farms skirted the highway; some had weathered buildings and equipment, while others shiny and new

Glances of huge machinery collecting crops in the fields and storing it in enormous, metal silos

So many rolls of hay to count, pointing out cattle and horses grazing in the fields

When the farms gave way to trees it was a welcomed change; we scanned for deer, anything wild

Despite our lack of success we kept searching but were presented with road-kill instead

In the day, the small towns looked desolated and rundown; the odd one was charming though

As night drew close, a swarm of lights rushed upon us signalling the approach of a large city

An assault of noisy vehicles, impolite drivers, and smog filled air greeted us

Tired and stiff from that day’s journey; we needed a goodnight sleep in a bed

Ah, only day one of our vacation and miles of road still ahead of us

And then there was the return trip…

Illustrated by: Rebecca Sherratt




She never went anywhere without her I-Pod. It was like another appendage non-detachable you could even shower with it. In fact to Melody the device was more important than say her nose, the sense of smell was overrated anyways. The young woman came from generations of music lovers. Throughout their Genealogy family members sang, composed music, or played a wide variety of musical instruments. Melody was blessed with all three venues in fact her relatives said she was a prodigy, muse, or savant whichever term you’d prefer to use. She played every type of instrument there was even some ancient ones such as a Harpsichord, Lyre, and Pan Flute. And Melody’s voice had the complete range of notes from the lowest of 8 hertz sounding like a man-toad to the highest of C-sharp in the 8th Octave surpassing piano keys and angels alike. When Melody listened to music it was climatic starting first at her feet in a tapping motion, progressing to her legs thumping, her hips swaying, her arms waving, and finally her head bobbing. Inside she felt the music inch up her body filling up each limb until it reached her brain pleasure center releasing a wave of Dopamine that emanated from her body.

One day as she sat on a park bench soaking in the music and sun a young boy accidently kicked his ball onto the road and with earplugs in his ears he didn’t hear the oncoming car and by the time he saw the vehicle he froze like a deer in the headlights. Melody was listening to some intense music and saw the drama unfold she was too far away to help the kid but her mind screamed no and a bolt of music  exploded from her shoving the kid out of harm way. Now an on-looker would say the kid suddenly snapped out of it and dodged the car just in time but Melody’s instincts told her it was more than that she felt the release of energy from her very soul and she didn’t hesitate to test her theory.

It wasn’t long before another opportunity presented itself and when a guy pulled a gun on her at a bank machine she listened to heavy metal and her anger ripped the gun right out of the creeps’ hand. He stood looking shocked and confused at first then bent over to retrieve his weapon but it slid away just out of reach and no matter how many times he tried the outcome was the same. The crook stumbled backwards trying to escape her screaming Diablo and disappeared into the night. If there was ever proof of her new-found ability that was it.

Melody tried out her gift like someone would test out a new car with all of its’ gadgets. She made all the leaves tumble off a tree at once and it wasn’t Fall and there was no wind whatsoever. In her bedroom she cut open her feather pillow and floated out the feathers one at a time until she tired of the game. But for the most part Melody used her skill to firstly help others in danger, and secondly help those are more in need like the elderly and children, and thirdly she gave a hand to those who should get a break like the homeless man who needed help with his levitation act on a street corner to make money who she’d visit once a week or a cat stuck in a tree she’d float down to safety when the coast was clear.

No-one noticed what she did because it wasn’t obvious it was always accredited to luck, magic, god, or a freak of nature which was just the way Melody wanted it. She tried a few times to move objects without music similar to anyone else who dream of telekinesis but it fell flat like a sour note. Not that Melody minded music was her life and it filled her soul so much so that she had it to share and that contribution was her gift to the world.

Illustrated by: Rebecca Sherratt




My older sister Kristen, my mother, and I were shopping at the mall for school clothes. I got jeans with rips, patches, and even lace on it, anything unusual was exciting to me and I liked being different. On the other hand Kristen went for the understated fashions, solid colors, plain jeans, nothing unique. I had talked my mother into letting me get my ears pierced in the mall and true to form Kristen wasn’t interested. It hurt like hell but I thought it was worth it. The mall was packed with other families doing last minute shopping like we were. We were near the end of the ordeal when through the crowd I managed to get a glimpse of a young blonde boy in a uniform giving out pamphlets and I purposely maneuvered toward him.  When our mother noticed too she pushed us to approach the three boys and see what they were distributing and although I was embarrassed by my mother’s loud persistence I did talk to him. The cute blonde explained that they were trying to recruit new teens between the ages of thirteen to eighteen into their air cadet squadron. I hardly heard a word he said but I giggled, took his pamphlet and bounced away a promising we’d go and check it out. The boys used their charm and good looks catching us hook, line, and sinker. Whoever said females were the only ones that could play that game were wrong.

I just started at high school in Grade 9 and Kristen Grade 10 when we joined air cadets thanks in large part to the cute boys we saw in the mall but also my dad Frank was in the Air Force in June 1944 he was a Wireless Operator trained in Calgary, Alberta and then an Air Gunner trained in Mossbank, Saskatchewan at the Bombing and Gunnery School. His Flying Log Book for Aircrew other than Pilot first entry was June 9, 1944 and his last entry was June 6, 1945 being in the air cadets not army or navy felt right. Cadets started the same time school did and on the first Monday night at six p.m. Kristen and I took the bus downtown to an old military “H” hut barracks. Nervously we entered the old building and straggled along the hallway until someone directed us into a long thin room that was occupied by a handful of people. No one said a word so I finally broke the ice and went up to a small group of girls to introduce Kristen and myself. There was Hope a very pretty blonde, two sisters Keisha and Kaitlin who looked like Laurel and Hardy, Violet a slim shy blonde and of course Kristen and I. There were four new boys one was Violets brother.

Suddenly a steady stream of uniformed cadets began to fill the room making us shuffle quickly towards the back. The uniformed males whispered and stared at us like we were a rarity. No wonder! Out of the whole squadron there was only one female and she was at the front yelling at them to form up. She brought them to attention as another cadet marched into the room and they saluted each other. The two leaders smartly began pacing up and down the rows of cadets commenting on their mirror shiny boots or railroad tracks, double creases, in the uniform which seemed to be a definite no. The male leader welcomed us commenting that the number of female recruits was the largest ever had. I vaguely thought I didn’t say I would join yet, it was an assumption on their part, not that I really minded I was willing to give it a try.

The female cadet approached us and led us to the closest classroom for a briefing. There she wasn’t as formal, she was really friendly. She stressed that while in uniform everyone in the military addressed each other by rank and last name before explaining the details about the squadron. Selena went over the rank structure: Cadet, Leading Air Cadet, Corporal, Flight Corporal, Sergeant, Flight Sergeant, Warrant Officer 2nd Class, and Warrant Officer 1st Class. Selena was a Sergeant and she told us that she had three brothers in cadets, Quentin the oldest was a Flight Sergeant who we saw heading the dress inspection, Stewart was a Flight Corporal and Rodney was a Corporal. I wondered why brothers and sister joined together and guest for the same reason Kristen and I did, we were chicken. We learned that Monday nights were mandatory and included inspection parades, drill practice\instruction, as well as classroom instruction on general cadet knowledge, citizenship, community service, leadership, effective speaking, Canadian Forces Familiarization, Canadian Aviation (i.e. airframe structures, aircrew survival, aircraft identification), Aerospace and Aerodrome Operations Familiarization, Radio Communication, Aviation Activities, Aerospace Activities, and Aerodrome Operations Activities. It sounded hard not fun and well it was not nice to say but the classes sounded boring. Wednesday nights the cadets went to a local school gym for sports. That sounded more like it. Sunday nights we were encouraged to join the drill team that practiced in a large hangar at the Ottawa International Airport to compete against other squadrons. During canteen break I learned the cute blonde boy I saw in the mall was a Swedish named Sven and his best friend was Joseph.

We met the reserve squadron captain who welcomed us to the squadron and gave us a speech about how our membership in it would be an asset. He was a very soft-spoken slender man, quite different than what I had expected. Before the night was over Selena took us to the squadrons clothing outlet to get our kit. “One size fits all” the stores man joked loudly. It wasn’t quite that bad they did have different sizes but of course the same blue uniform. Each recruit received two pairs of pants, jackets, shirts, one beret, and one pair of boots. These boots weren’t shiny at all and I immediately knew there was a lot of work ahead of us to get our uniforms up to par with the rest of the squadron. With very little time left we hurried back to the classroom to receive instructions on how to prepare our uniforms for the next meeting. Selena showed us different ways to shine the boots. You could use spit and polish which the guys liked but I cringed at or you could use a lighter to melt the polish and a little cold water to rub it into the leather which I preferred. The beret was the worst having to soak it, put it on your head, and pulling it over to one side with a crease in front with the cap badge. As far as ironing the jackets, shirts, and pants it was left up to us to figure out at home but she showed us hers as a guideline.

Wednesday night was our first gym night what a farce. We played volleyball but there was more flirting going on than anything else. The guys tripped over themselves to get our attention. It was the first and only time I was ever popular and I felt weird. There was such a divide between school and cadets I felt like I was at odds with myself because I was introverted at school but out-going and confident at cadets. It was amazing but I learned over time that many of the people that joined cadets were outcasts at their school too maybe that was a big part of the organizations attraction. Friday night was a special initiation that all the new recruits had to go through. We were warned to bring a towel and a change of clothes. We crawled under a row of metal chairs while cadets cracked eggs on our head, sprayed whipped cream at us, and at the end of the line threw a cloud of flour at us. I was thinking that I’m sure it was nothing in comparison to a college or the military Army initiation. The whole thing was over before we knew it and in the end there was food to eat not to wear. On Saturday we had a welcome dance at the barracks. It was so juvenile, absolutely terrible the boys stayed on one side of the room and the girls stayed on the other no one dance.

Sunday afternoon we met the girls at the airport hangar to join the drill team. What really made me want to go is that I learned that Sven was one of the drill instructors. The other girls giggled and whispered to me that they had the same reason for coming, the boys. For two hours we learned and practiced how to come to attention and dress off, left and right turns, about turns, and finally how to march together as one. I loved it, I don’t know what I like about it but the organized sharp movements were cool. Even though it took two buses and a two hour marathon to get there I felt the trip was worth it. Violet and I loved drill so much that we practiced on Saturdays in the parking lot of her family’s apartment complex and sometimes her brother Geoff joined us.

Monday night the inspection parade went off with most of the new recruits passing with flying colors. Keisha was told to work on her boots more and a guy had double creases in his pants but other than that the instructors were happily surprised with the turnout. My boots already shined like glass and my uniform creases were sharp which I got good comments about so I took time during a break to help Keisha with her boots. That night we began to learn the military rank structure for cadets and regular military, we had to have them memorized by the following Monday.

At the end of the night Sven and Joseph his best friend asked Kristen and me on a double date. Sven explained that he didn’t have a car but Joseph did so they asked us to a movie. I wasn’t thrilled by the idea of going on my first date with my sister there and I’m sure she wasn’t either but we said yes.

Friendships in cadets were fickle because we all went to different schools and lived in different neighborhoods but we girls met in a mall several times to hang out and talked on the phone. Unfortunately the two sisters Keisha and Kaitlin had extremely strict Jewish parents they couldn’t wear makeup, stay out past 7:00 p.m., or talk on the phone just to chat. Because of those limitations we didn’t get as close to them as we would have liked. Hope talked about her mother’s drinking habit, infidelity, and her parents’ divorce. When her mother got drunk she hit Hope. I was really angry and told her that there were groups out there that could help her, like maybe social services but as soon as I mentioned social services she turned pale and stopped talking. Violet and Geoff also had a bad home life. They never quite told me the whole story just that their mother was attracted to losers. The last jerk beat up their mother and Geoff and when the three of them took off for a few years he stalked them and now that he found them he forced himself into their lives again. I asked her if her mom tried going to women shelters or calling the police and Violet said they did but nothing helped.

Kristen and my home life wasn’t perfect neither. Kristen was born in Halifax, I was born in Toronto, and our brother was born in Caesarea, Ontario. My father was my mother’s second husband so we had a half-sister and brother. We met our half-sister once for supper. When she married for the second time our mother abandon us for nine months when we were around five she took off with a guy had a baby and came back. After having another affair with her boss and getting pregnant she got a divorce and my sister and I were adopted by our step-father, husband number three. Then she had many lovers over the years even bringing them home for supper. One night our mother took us out of bed and went to one of her lover’s home but luckily dad talked her into returning. I always considered our dad the knight in shining armor protecting us from our mother and her men.

As the end of fall was approaching the cadets arranged a picnic at Vincent Massey Park located in Ottawa’s west end. The park had huge sports fields, grassy picnic areas with barbecues, and an outdoor amphitheater. We played soccer and baseball and at lunch time the guys puffed up their chest and strutted as they cooked the hot-dogs and hamburgers. We had to do girly things like set out the salad. With full bellies we sat around under a large maple tree unmotivated to move until an explosion of ice-cold water splashed around us. The water fight lasted for two hours drenching every last one of us. All of the girls were flirting with the boys in a game of cat and mouse. We dried off in the sun and walked along the park’s winding pathways through brush to a scenic view called Hogs Back Falls. Many kids used to jump into the falls, and get propelled at great speed from pool to pool levels and finally spat out at the bottom. If they made it without a broken limb, they did it again. It was so romantic and although I didn’t hold Sven’s hand he was quietly walking right beside me. We returned to the picnic area and started a roaring fire. I stared at the flames and fought the heaviness of my eyes. Before I knew it I drifted off for a minute. Sven woke me with a nudge and a smile. It was the end to a perfect day.

Sven and I talked more and more at cadet meetings, the gym, and at drill practice as did. It wasn’t long before Sven asked me to go steady with him. The same night Quentin the lead cadet asked Kristen to go steady and Emile asked Hope. Did they do it together on purpose for moral support? It seemed a little immature to me. As the weeks passed Sven never called me at home and I suddenly realized that I didn’t even have his phone number and wondered if he had mine. It didn’t feel like we were boyfriend girlfriend. We couldn’t cuddle, hold hands, or kiss at cadets because of the rules of conduct while in uniform and we went to different schools which didn’t leave our relationship much time, if you could call it a relationship. Finally Sven asked me to meet him at the mall near his home to talk and for hot chocolate. I learned that he didn’t have the perfect home life either. His mother was addicted to alcohol and gambling and couldn’t pay the bills so creditors kept calling. He had to find money in her purse to buy groceries. I told him bits and pieces about my mom but kept it short. That was only the second time that I saw Sven outside of cadets he didn’t hold hands or try to kiss me and I still didn’t get his phone number even though I gave him mine. Maybe he was worried his mom would find out that he had a girlfriend and give him a hard time or maybe he was embarrassed by his mother’s drinking and didn’t want her to cause a fuss on the phone. It wasn’t that I didn’t empathize with Sven but I felt frustrated because we really didn’t have a relationship at all and I decided that after Christmas I was breaking up with him. After the holidays Sven missed a few weeks of cadets and school I heard, due to pneumonia. The first time I saw him again was during a Wednesday gym night and he looked terrible. I told him that I wanted to breakup and he begged me not to but after he left Hope told me that  Joseph asked two sluts from their school over to his house when his mom was out; Sven joined them and they all got drunk and had sex. Angered and embarrassed I tried for weeks to breakup with him but  he didn’t go to gym or drill practice and he avoided me on Monday nights. Finally one night he walked up to me in the parking lot and said it’d be better if we went our separate ways. I told him it was fine by me since I knew what he did at Christmas and that we didn’t have a real relationship anyways the look of shock on his face was marginally satisfying. That same night Quentin broke up with Kristen and Emile with Hope, how childish. They didn’t have the guts to do it by themselves. I really lost respect for them all because they were eighteen and nineteen they should have handled things better. Kristen was very upset because her friendship with Quentin’s sister Selena stopped because of the breakup. After I wasn’t going out with Sven anymore many of the guys asked me out. I thought about it but realized being in different schools, far apart in the city, and having a hugely busy schedule between cadets and school there wasn’t really any time to date much less handle a relationship. I had learned my lesson with Sven. Besides Sven was two years older than me and he wasn’t mature enough to have a proper relationship so I didn’t trust guys my own age to fare any better.

I thought Hope was better off without Emile because they fought like cats and dogs but she was heart-broken. One night she really got him mad when she called him crying and asking to stay at his house because her mother hit her giving her a black eye. Maybe he felt she was too much trouble so that was why he broke up with her. But he hadn’t seen the last of her because Hope needed rescuing once again when her drunken mother beat her even worse and she herself was smashed; that was twice now. This time Emile and his mother called Children’s Aid and Hope was taken from her home and sent to live with her aunt in Toronto. Kristen and I were devastated because we didn’t even have time to say good bye. We could only hope she was in a safer happier home.

The first year of cadets was almost over and it was nearly summer, cadets closed down for the season because many people went on vacations including the instructors. We were busy with the final exams, our promotion to leading air cadet level one; and our participation in the drill contest which we won. We got a certificate “Completed Elementary Cadet Training”. Emile was presented with a retirement plaque because you couldn’t stay a cadet when you turned nineteen. I won the Best Female Cadet of the Year Award which was presented to me at the parade. It was a four-tier trophy that was kept in the display case in the barracks but I did get a miniature one. My father took pictures and my mother fawned all over me making me feel uncomfortable and concerned about Kristen’s feelings.






During the second year of cadets we would study the intermediate levels of courses from the first year as well as new subjects such as the principles of flight, propulsion, radio communication, and leadership. We were no longer the rookies; we smiled at the handful of new recruits. This time there were no girls. Kristen and I felt a little depressed because Hope wasn’t there anymore and on top of that Kristen lost the company of Quentin and Selena. And to top it all off Keisha and Kaitlin were forbid to go out with us outside of cadets. Well at least I still had Violet but my poor sister didn’t mesh with her very well and became a bit of a loner. Kristen was now sixteen and got a part-time job at fast food place so she didn’t go to gym on Wednesdays any more now to think of it not many people attended there weren’t enough to play volleyball, basketball, or floor hockey. How can you play team sports with only five people? Then Kristen quit the drill team after Christmas so with her and Hope gone it wasn’t the same it made it harder for me to motivate myself to take the long trip in the freezing temperatures out to the hangar when once again attendance was at an all-time low. Also having Kristen’s and my ex-boyfriend as drill instructors didn’t help matters. If I didn’t know better Quinte and Sven acted aloof and smug and Keisha and Katilin expressed how sorry they were to hear about the breakup. I didn’t care about the guys dirty looks and I didn’t need anyone’s pity I almost quit right then but I held on.

In the spring Violet, Geoff, and I began practicing drill in her parking lot once again. Geoff made a sexual advance one day when Violet was too sick then Violet ignored and avoided me that following Monday. She even gave me the cold shoulder at drill practice. Did Geoff tell her what happen and blamed it on me?

At the year-end ceremony, awards and promotions were announced as usual. This time Violet won the Best Female Cadet Award and I couldn’t help but feel sorry for Kristen. We didn’t have a big drill competition this time because it was held every two years. All of the second year cadets advanced another rank. Kristen, Violet, and I had all applied for two spots to go to a three week summer camp for air cadets in Bagotville, Quebec that brought everyone from Quebec and the Ottawa Valley squadrons together. There was also a six week camp for older cadets.  The army cadets had a summer camp in Valcartier while the sea cadets actually spent their time on the HMCS Quebec. I was happy to be chosen but when I heard Violet’s name too I groaned. She was still not talking to me even though I had finally cornered her and asked her what was wrong. She just gave me an icy stare and walked away. I had gotten to the point that I was mad and just ignored her back. What was summer going to be like with her there? On top of that yet again Kristen came in third.

I got my parents to sign the camp consent form and I followed the checklist they gave us of what to bring. A bus with other cadets already seated pulled up to the barracks to pick up Violet and I, we nodded at each other but that was it. We didn’t even sit together on the bus. When we finally arrived in Bagotville I saw streams of cadets getting off of other buses and tried to see the different squadron cap badges they were wearing. The instructors quickly quieted us down and separated us into four large squadrons. Like normal females were out- numbered by the males so we were all put in the same squadron.

The head instructor handed out a copy of the daily schedule so we couldn’t use any excuses for being late. Every morning at o-six hundred hours we would have barracks and kit inspection then off for breakfast. After that we would have morning parades to practice drill because at the end of the course there would be a drill competition and our graduation parade. When lunch was over we’d be in the classroom to study Canadian government as well as military history, customs, and traditions. I moaned and sighed thinking how we already learned that so it would be super boring. Just before supper we’d have gym. After we ate we’d be given time to study and work on our kit. We had very little free time before lights out at twenty-two hundred hours (ten o’clock). For two days they’d teach us marksmanship using an air rifle and we’d also learn range safety procedures. That was something to look forward to; something new. We’d also be treated to a glider flight which would also be fun. And to top it all off was a twenty-four hour over-night survival training exercise. I wondered if it would be fun like a camping trip or cold and miserable. In the end a graded report would be sent back to our squadron captain. A groan rose from the crowd as the schedule was read aloud but that was the way the military was, even cadets.

I hated getting up so early but I always passed inspection with flying colors. The drill portion was easy and enjoyable for me because of being on the drill team but some cadets had trouble with it so I helped them practice after supper. Classroom studies were long and boring. The physical training portion was tough ranging from track to team sports. I hated running and always was exhausted after a run while Violet seemed to find it easy with her long legs, but I excelled at the team sports like volleyball. The squadrons competed against each other for bragging rights. When it came to the marksmanship I sucked, even though the guys tried to give me pointers on how to aim. In our sparse free time there was a canteen with food for sale, a couple of dart boards, a shuffle board, a few tables, and a dance area. I never saw Violet there but I went several times to be sociable despite her dirty looks. I was tired of her crap.

The majority of the cadets were really thrilled to have the opportunity to go up in a glider. A pilot gave us instruction on how the glider worked so we’d be a little familiar with it and enjoy the flight more. The small tow plane’s engine noisily covered most of the flight instructor’s explanation of what we’d be doing and as I clumsily climbed into the glider behind him I wished that I had heard more. My heart was beating like crazy! The plane lifted us up and then let go leaving us in the peaceful beautiful sky riding air currents and listening to the wind whistle by. When we began to descend I was jolted back to reality as a down draft caught us. It all happened so fast that I wanted to back up again.

The twenty-four hour over-night survival training exercise was actually cool. We learned how to tie knots and lashings, construct a shelter, build and start a fire, be safe while boating (using a canoe), and identify regional wildlife. I found it interesting and fun and was happy to be active outside. During the night we all sat by the roaring fire cooking hot dogs and marshmallows while singing and telling stories. On the down side, we weren’t happy with the sleeping arrangement. We all had a terrible night sleep because of the hard bumpy ground and cold temperatures. In the morning the runny porridge and long march back to barracks didn’t improve our mood either. I thought if only we got to sleep in cabins.

When we returned we had a full day long sports competition, the drill competition, and the graduation parade then it was all over. The three weeks flew by and before I knew it we had all said our good-byes and I was home again. A course report was sent back to each cadet’s squadron captain and our captain said that Violet and I both had excellent reports. He never did say if one of us did better than the other; I was curious why not. Was there no grade or score for the course or did he not want to cause competitiveness between us?

In the third year of cadets we learned intermediate and advanced levels of the same courses we took the last two years but we were also taught new subjects such as navigation and instructional techniques. Kristen was seventeen and I was sixteen. I was thinking about applying at a fast food place but was freaked out about giving back the correct change because my math was so bad but my dad helped my practice until I was comfortable enough to apply as a cashier. While Kristen began her second year at work there were no job openings so I applied at different fast food place and was hired so Kristen quit and got hired there too. The workplace opened up a whole new social network that overshadowed cadets a little and was part of the reason that I didn’t rejoin the drill team. It was the new job, Kristen quitting, and Violet being on the team that made me decide to quit. Now Kristen and I only attended cadets on Monday nights so cadets and work were fighting for our time.

As a treat for the cadets our captain arranged a special outing for a small fee from each person who wanted to go, to pay for the bus. It was the 1979 World Series Baseball Game between The Toronto Blue Jays and Philadelphia Phillies. The slogan had been “O.K. Blue Jays let’s play ball” for the whole season leading up to this exciting climax. Kristen and I both went and loved the whole experience of the first and only professional ball game I’d ever attend. The smell of hotdogs, the roar of the fans, and fresh air in the open stadium was quite amazing. Not that either Kristen or I knew any of the game rules we were just enjoying the experience. The Blue Jays won on a thrilling home run by Carter in game six; I had no clue who he was but I saw his home run and protected my ears from the deafening sound of the fans.

The biggest news that quickly became known in cadets was that my sister Kristen had decided not to return to school in the fall and applied for a trade in the regular military instead. Quentin and Selena told her it was a mistake to quit which only fuelled her resolve even more. I could see the anger in her face as she told me that they weren’t her friends any more, they dumped her, so they weren’t allowed an opinion. Our mother on the other hand encouraged Kristen to join because she wanted us kids to leave the nest so she could divorce our father. As it turned out Kristen did have to wait nine months for an opening in her trade so she could have completed another grade. In May as the cadet year neared to a close Kristen finally won the Best Female of the Year award.

When Kristen finally got the call to go to boot camp and left I really had to decide whether or not to go back to cadets in September. I felt like I was deserted and realized that it just wasn’t the same anymore without Hope or Kristen, Keisha and Kaitlin were casual friends I saw once a week, and with Violet not talking to me I felt abandon. I came to the depressing conclusion that I was going to keep working part-time while in school but cadets was over for me.



When I turned seventeen in the spring my mother gave me a boot in the ass to leave the nest by applying for the military, she wanted her freedom and a divorce. Because I was under age she had to sign her consent, but after what Kristen went through I was staying in school to finish grade ten. As my mother and I entered the recruitment office a large poster with their most recent slogan “There’s no life like it” was pinned to the front counter so you couldn’t miss it. I picked up all the forms and booked the dates for the medical exams as well as aptitude tests. From Kristen’s experience we had record of the last ten years of all our schools and addresses on file at home that we could just copy. It was hard for Kristen to figure out all our homes over the years because my mom made us move a lot.

The military personality profile form asked a lot of personal and sensitive questions such as: Are you a lesbian or gay? Have you ever been part of the communist party? Have you ever been part of a demonstration? Have you ever taken an illegal substance? Have you ever committed a crime that you spent jail time for? Wow, I was shocked! What business was it of theirs a person’s sexual orientation? And as far as the other questions went it was a farce! Only an idiot would answer yes to any of them. If you wanted a chance in hell to join you answered no to all.

The physical was easy, just a hearing and eye test as well as a general check-up. Well every-one thought the physical was just a formality but one poor guy found out he was partially color-blind and was denied entry. I wasn’t sure how you wouldn’t know you were color blind so was it that or was he hoping to slip by? The other part of the interview process wasn’t so easy. There was a battery of math, English, science, and general aptitude tests that I took with a small group of applicants and it took all day. Most of the tests were multiple-choice which freaked me out, I had test anxiety, and I hated tests. I was so scared of failing. Surprisingly I still got A”s in school. Only two weeks after the military tests I received a call for an interview. At the interview I wasn’t surprised to find out that I was weak in math and science but strong in English and social studies. I was given a choice of support trades to pick from like administration clerk, finance clerk, transportation driver, supply technician, or military police. Typing bored me so admin was out, math scared me and I sucked at it so finance was out, and I had no clue how to drive and the huge trucks looked dangerous so that narrowed the choices down to supply technician and military police. At the actual interview the recruiter provided me a detailed description of both trades. He also told me that military police had it rough because they arrested other military members so they didn’t socialize with anyone but their own. As I thought about it I realized that M.P.’s (military police) had to study and know military law which also sounded boring and complicated, on top of that was the social issue so I picked the supply trade which was basically warehousing. At least in warehousing you could work in many departments with a variety of stock so I shouldn’t get bored. Next the recruiter asked me what branch of the armed forces I wanted to belong to. Having been in air cadets and the idea of playing war with the army in muddy trenches beside the guys, or being in a claustrophobic tin can in the navy it wasn’t a hard decision, the air force of course.

While waiting for an opening I took the recruiter’s suggestion and began to exercise in order to be more prepared for boot camp. I jogged every crisp, cold morning at exactly six after and I forced myself to do as many push-ups and sit-ups as possible. Even though I groaned and complained it was my stubborn streak that made me keep up with it, that and the fear that I could fail the physical tests if I out of shape. Females had to do thirty-five sit-ups, fifteen female push-ups, and ten chin-ups within a minute as well as the mile and a half in less than fifteen minutes. At first I could barely meet the required limits but it wasn’t long before I surpassed expectations. Now all I had to do was keep it up until boot camp!

Over the summer I worked full time while I heard from Kristen once in a while. Kristen had to go through boot camp twice because she got pneumonia the first time and couldn’t finish training. They kept her there until she was better and put her on the next course. Kristen came home to visit for a few days before she was whisked off to Borden, Ontario for her trades training. She looked in great shape and her uniform was pristine. Just as my sister left for Borden I received a call to let me know that I was to be in boot camp at the end of the summer. Quickly I called my boss at work and gave her two weeks noticed and I also got a hold of our cadet captain to give him the news. He said he was happy for me and wished me luck. My mother was happy as a clam. She didn’t care about Kristen or me she wanted her freedom even if it was at the cost of our education. I couldn’t help but wonder what she would have done if we stayed in school until we finished grade twelve and it dawned on me that she would have divorced our dad and left anyways. The military was a safe haven for both Kristen and I. The only thing I had left to do was officially sign the forms and swear allegiance to the queen on a bible. My mother and father came to the recruiting office with me and took pictures once again embarrassing the hell out of me! What the hell; things had changed a lot for me. There was nothing left in Ottawa for me with Kristen gone, cadets over, being a school nerd, and I wasn’t into the drugs and party scene at work, I didn’t fit in anywhere. Maybe this was for the best. I was about to begin a whole new adventure in the Canadian Armed Forces in August 1980. Look at world here I come!



Cornwallis, Nova Scotia located off the cold Atlantic Ocean on Canada’s east coast was the location of the military basic recruit training base. It was situated on the southwest end of the province in the Annapolis Valley, along the shores of The Bay of Fundy. The moment the plane landed in the town of Greenwood, Nova Scotia and I stepped into the terminal a young master corporal told us to hurry up and get our gear. As soon as we got outside we were assaulted by a red-faced sergeant swearing and cursing the day we were born. “You sorry looking son of a bitches, what did I do to get stuck with such a useless bunch of degenerates!” he bellowed. “Form up into three ranks, stand to attention, and when I call your name yell sergeant” he yelled. Everyone froze not knowing what to do until the sergeant placed a few bodies into position and told the rest to line up beside them in a straight row. Still it was mass confusion. When role call finished we were shoved onto five buses for the hour drive to the base. “Here we are girls, welcome to C.F.B. (Canadian Forces Base) Cornwallis your home away from home for the next thirteen weeks” the sergeant chuckled as if he said something funny. The line of buses stopped in front of the mess hall and I was unlucky to be on the last one unloaded so I had five minutes to scarf down my food. “Times up ladies, let’s move it, move it, move it” the sergeant berated.

Our next stop was the supply clothing stores. Everyone was weighed and measured to get their three types of uniforms; number ones, work dress, and combat gear. Number ones was the uniform used for fancy affairs, work dress for office and drill, and the combat gear was utilized on the weapons range, obstacle course, gas hut, and when camping. We got head-wear, foot wear, and uniforms for all three styles, even two of an item for reasons we didn’t know yet. We also were thrown bedding, a gas mask, tin camping dish set, water canteen, and a duffel bag to carry it all in.

When everyone was finished we were split up into a male and female platoon. “You didn’t think you’d be staying in the same barracks as these lovely ladies did you now?” the sergeant chuckled. We were marched to the female barracks which was the exact same style of structure as my old cadet building; it was an “H” hut. There were so few females that we occupied just a half of one wing. We were surprised to learn that the other half of the building housed guys that were being RTU (returned to unit) because of physical, emotional, or educational failings. Even though the connecting door was locked, outside we could and did easily mingle after the instructors were gone of course. Two scowling corporals split the females up alphabetically into two squadrons one on the main floor and one for the upper floor. Then we were assigned bunk beds, barrack boxes, and lockers. Our corporal called us into the lounge and told us she expected many of us would fail and be kicked out because we couldn’t handle it that she was here to weed out the ones who don’t deserve to be here. She took role call by last name and hesitated when it came to me and asked if Howard was my sister and when I said yes she said Kristen was lazy and couldn’t cut it so she dumped her but my sister got re-coursed and snuck through. The corporal glared at me and promised that she’d make sure that doesn’t happen again that I don’t slip through. I felt the bottom of my stomach churn. If my squadron leader was gunning for me she would make boot camp twice as bad for me and maybe I wouldn’t make it. Sharply she ended the discussion and told us we had ten minutes to get to bed. We all threw our kit into our lockers and slept on top the sheets.

The next morning after breakfast the corporal marched us across the highway to the M.I.R. (military inspection room) at the base hospital to get an array of needles. Afterwards we were marched to the base hairdressers for haircuts. She warned us that the female’s hair was not allowed to touch your collar or if you decided to keep your hair long you’d better put it in an immaculate bun with nary a bobby-pin visible.  All of us except for one girl got a short haircut to be safe. We didn’t blame her though because she had beautiful long hair half way down her back and she was determined to keep it. We watched a few of the guys get their hair buzzed to crew cuts with white walls around their ears, poor them! It was the first of many haircut parades to come.

Next both the male and female platoons were marched to the base theater for a lecture from the base commander. First the colonel welcomed us to the base; then he lectured us about disciplinary rules and regulations on base such as drugs, drunkenness, and fraternization. He stressed about the seriousness of going AWOL (absence without leave) and informed us that no-one would be given leave passes to go off the base until week five.  We were promised that the consequences of breaking any of these would result in you being RTU. He ended with the phenomenon of boot camp romances which resulted in shot-gun engagements and marriages.

When we got back to our barracks our corporal showed us the board where our station duties such as cleaning toilets, bathroom sinks and mirrors, the showers, laundry room, lounge, as well as sweeping and mopping which would be posted and changed every week. She also told us that each of us would take turns being assigned the fire picket duty which was empty ashtrays and butt cans and walking in the barracks watching for any fire hazards. We all agreed that it was a stupid unneeded task that was enforced just to add more pressure on us. You had to stay up all night for the shift so you were like a zombie the next day.

The corporal then told us to bring our kit out into the middle of the floor and gave us detailed instructions on how our locker, bed, and uniform was supposed to look for every inspection. She demonstrated how to shine our boots, form our hat, and showed us where the creases were supposed to be in our uniform adding the more starch the better. All the uniforms had to be completely zippered and buttoned up, hanging on the hangers facing the same direction. Underwear, socks, head-wear, and footwear had to go on particular shelves in a certain order, at a certain measured distance from the front ledge of the shelf, and a measured space in-between them.  The socks were made into boats and underwear folded as per shown. Five inch name labels were to be sewn on all articles of clothing exactly where we were told to. It was so anal! Now we knew why we got two of the same item, one was to keep in pristine condition in your locker for inspections and the other was to actually wear. The steel foot locker at the end of our bunk beds was for our personal clothes and there were only two rules for it. No food or beverages were allowed to be kept in it at any time and as long as it is kept lock the corporal would not go into it. If you leave it open it was fair game for inspection. Of course last but not least was how our beds had to be made. The sheets had to be clean and starched. We were told how to precisely fold and where to place the grey wool and red fire blanket. The corners of the sheets and blankets had to be made with hospital corners at a determined angle that the corporal would actually measure. Even the pillow had to be just so.  Our corporal warned us that despite what we may have heard she better see signs that we’ve actually slept in our beds. Still recruits slept on the floor or on top of their barracks box, but I slept on top of my bed pinned in a corner, moving as little as possible.

That night we stayed up helping each other until the sun rose getting everything ready for inspection. I showed them the different ways they could shine their boots, another girl who was good at sewing helped the ones that struggled, and ironing was shared by everyone. Despite our best efforts the corporal tore apart our lockers, threw uniforms on the floor, and even ripped the sheets off of my bed. I knew it was all part of the psychological game but when we heard that the other squadron upstairs passed with flying colors we had to question the fairness and difference in treatment. The other girls acted snobby towards us because their corporal told them that we were a lazy bunch of pigs that never even put in an effort! Every day after the first inspection our corporal just got meaner and more vocal. One day after she tore up our kit as usual we threw it back in our lockers and went to classes prepared to spend the night redoing it. When we entered the barracks we were shocked to see our kit was all over the floor. Many of the girls myself included called home and cried to mommy if you want to put it that way but boot camp was much harder than we thought and extremely exhausting with little to no sleep at all. It was physically and emotionally fatiguing and the other female platoon upstairs didn’t see that because their kit wasn’t torn apart every single day and they didn’t have to go days without sleep.

That was it! We finally cracked and asked for a meeting with the master corporal. We told her of all the things the corporal said and did; and voiced how we weren’t being treated the same as the other squadron. The girls spoke up for me and told her that our corporal had it out for me because of my sister and was the worst with me which I appreciated. We were up all night fixing up our lockers and in the morning instead of our corporal the master corporal walked in to do the inspection. She explained that she was going to be our new squadron leader and that the corporal had gone on leave. The other corporal upstairs was really angry that we got her co-worker and friend in trouble so she bad-mouthed us even more to the girls. We didn’t care at that point, we were just happy the corporal was gone!

cfb cornwallis


in workdress uniform





boot camp barracks 1

boot camp barracks 2

inside barracks

inspection locker



In addition to daily inspections we had physical fitness but despite preparing for gym it was tough! The P.E.R.I. (physical educational recreation instructor) made us practice sit-ups, push-ups, chin-ups, running, rope climbing, the six foot wall, fireman’s carry, and swimming; all the things we’d be tested on and have to pass. One day we had to get dressed into our combats and jump off the diving board into the pool to simulate having to cross a river during combat. If you said you couldn’t swim like some recruits lied about you were sent to the shallow end and splashed around with an instructor. They smiled and chuckled at us having to do the exercise! I was terrified like many of us were when the heavy combat boots made us sink like a stone. Somehow I fought to the surface of the water and tried to tread water until the P.E.R.I. stuck out a metal hook that I grabbed for. We also put on our combats to tackle the dreaded obstacle course. All the recruits tried to act all gung-ho and macho about it but it wasn’t easy. First there was the handle bar rope you used to cross a ravine. Then a network of tires, hurdles, walls, nets, and trenches. We were timed to see how long it took us and you were embarrassed into trying to improve your time when we went back through a second, third, and even fourth time.

We also practiced drill every day doing all the moves I already knew but I had to be patient because the majority didn’t have any experience. Doing three hours of drill was tiring for anyone. My feet had huge blisters even though I wore black socks under my grey ones because of the itchy wool. Despite my exhaustion I’d still help the girls with their drill out in front of the barracks.

In the following weeks we had sports competitions such as capture the flag, tug-a-war, floor hockey, volleyball, and basketball. I signed up for floor hockey because I never played before and had a lot of fun until one recruit lifted his stick high to slap shot the puck and hit my eye. I yelled out in pain and dropped to the floor holding my eye as blood streamed down the side of my face. I was driven to M.I.R. and they cleaned the cut and put a small tension bandage to hold it closed. I a few days I just had a small red scar but it wasn’t that obvious because I had a black eye!

Finally the day came when we had all the physical fitness testing. I did the mile and a half in just over thirteen minutes and it seemed that none of the girls failed but we heard a couple of guys had to be retested. Then although I breezed through the sit-ups, the push-ups were a little harder, and I just managed to do the required chin-ups but was really shaky on the last one. I was unlucky for the fireman’s carry and got a huge guy three times my size but I did it anyways even though I felt like I was going to collapse before I got him over the finish line. When it came to climbing the rope I was tired by then and didn’t have much strength left in my arms but I cursed and swore at the thing and surprisingly that gave me the strength to get to the top and ring the bell. Unfortunately I had had no strength left in my arms or legs to control my decent and got painful rope burn. Still I was proud to be the only female to make it to the top and back. The last challenge to tackle was the six feet wall. Like the rope I hadn’t managed to do it yet but I just rose to one challenge so I hoped to overcome the wall. I watched the P.E.R.I. give recruits a little boost to get over and disappointed I was no acceptation when I tried. It was impossible to get any kind of grip with your hands or propel over it with your legs because your foot slipped on the smooth surface. I did get a huge bruise on my leg from trying though. In the end everyone amazingly passed the wall challenge.



Our first classes were about military knowledge, history, behavior, and leadership; yet again cadets had already somewhat taught me this but there were differences. Still, I was bored to tears and with very little sleep I like others fell asleep in class. One day the instructor’s ruler slamming down on my desk jarring me as he told me to stand in the back of the classroom with the others for a few minutes. It wasn’t just the material but we recruits were always exhausted so sitting in a classroom just made us pass out.

In another class we were shown and had to practice knot tying. There was a wall of ropes that hung from wood that we had to tie while timed and tested. I hated it because there were so many different knots that we were taught and I got mixed up. The instructor went by each one and tugged onto it to see if it was secure. If it was tied correctly and was tight you passed. I held my breath so uncertain if I did any of them right mine were quite loose but I still passed. Despite passing I had to wonder if the instructor let me slide by because I had no clue how to do half the knots but I figured that the navy would use knot tying a lot more than the army or air force.

Not surprisingly we received St John’s Ambulance First Aid training. We had to watch gory films about maimed soldiers, bomb causalities, and burn victims, I adverted my eyes. What I did enjoy and find informative was the practice we had in the classroom making a sling for a broken arm, a splint for a broken leg, wrapped an injured head, and even learned to bandage eye and ear injuries. We also made a sled to move an injured person to help and safety.  Each of us learned CPR on a dummy which wasn’t a class favorite. We were tested on everything and received our first aid and CPR card when we passed.

One of the classroom courses was weapons familiarization using the FNC-1 Rifle, FNC-2 Rifle, a nine millimeter pistol, and the sub-machine gun.  The first day of class we were assigned a rifle with a serial number that we were never to leave unsecured or you’d be criminally charged. You either locked it away or you took it with you even to the bathroom! We learned all the parts, how to assemble and disassemble them, and the care & maintenance of the weapons. During class we practiced these tasks to prepare for a timed test of stripping them down and putting them back together. We spent a lot of time using oil, a bristle brush, and a rag to clean inside the barrel. We took them back to the barracks to clean. I was shocked when some girls had the nerve to pass their rifle out the window to injured male recruits to clean for them that were housed in our barracks in a different wing. I guess they didn’t take the sergeant’s warning too seriously! Then a girl left her weapon unattended at the mess hall, someone handed it in and the sergeant traced the serial number to her. She got the usual punishment plus was charges a fine which would be reflected on her report. What shocked me even more was that the girls still passed their rifles through the barracks windows despite the incident the stupidity of it all and the danger of being caught would get them sent home but no-one ever got caught.


9 mm pistol


FNC-1 rifle

We also learned about range safety because we were going to go out to the range to qualify on the weapons. We learned to check the chamber for ammo, how to clear it, how to put on and take of the safety, when to pick up and put down the weapon, and last but definitely most importantly we had to declare; “There are no rounds or live ammunition in my position sir!” The instructor told us that recruits liked to keep ammo as a souvenir but because of safety reasons it just wasn’t tolerated. If you were found with one you’d be RTU (return to unit). We were only firing the pistol and sub-machine gun at the small on base range. When I fired the pistol I burned my hand because I held it by the chamber. I loved the sub-machine gun though. It was light weight and exciting to fire off the spray of bullets.

What I hated was when we began to practice drill with our rifles! Shoulder arms meant you picked up your rifle by gripping the barrel and slamming it into your shoulder which resulted in painful bruising for me. Present Arms meant holding the rifle in front of your chest and general salute meant lowering it back to the ground and put it on an angle. Drill was tiring, heavy, and painful with the rifle. When I tried to shoulder arms I was afraid I’d drop it like a few recruits did and then get yelled at followed by doing push-ups. We heard that if you used a couple of fingers under the rifle’s sight it helped you lift it but the instructor knew that trick and promised he’d punish who-ever was caught doing that. Still we used it whenever we thought we could get away with it. Even presenting arms wasn’t a walk in the park; holding a heavy rifle out in front of you was shaky.

The most disturbing course we took was NBCW (nuclear biological chemical warfare). We watched videos of bomb tests and historical footage of the effect fallout had on humans from the pictures of the aftermath of the nuclear bomb that was dropped on the Japanese after Pearl Harbour. We had discussions about what military personnel were expected to do in case of a nuclear threat. Each base had a NBCW squadron that were supposed to set up for the decontamination and organization of base personnel. Military members were to meet at a designated safety zone, dropping everything. Afterwards we wondered if you could really leave your family behind to die. In class the instructor would do surprise gas drills. “Gas, gas, gas” he yelled and we had to get the gas mask out of the bag and put it on so it was airtight and reply gas, gas, gas within thirty seconds. I could smell the odor of gas on my assigned mask realizing they cleaned then reused them. He smiled and seemed to enjoy pointing out the people who weren’t fast enough and died. On top of that we practiced a simulation of giving ourselves this huge horse needle which was used to combat nerve gas. I was freaked out about having to actually go through the gas hut and stab myself with a needle of saline solution. As it turned out we didn’t have to inject ourselves with that big horse needle it turned out to be just a scare; but the gas hut was real.

The morning that we had to go to the gas hut we wore our combats of course and the whole platoon, males and females were marched to the location. We were formed into ranks and about five people went in at a time. I watched as the first few groups went in and came out the back sputtering, spitting, with their eyes and skin burning. The instructor told them not to rub their eyes and get their asses back to the barracks and shower in cold water. When my turn came and the instructor came by to check the next five’s gas mask to see that it was airtight I expressed concern that it felt loose on the sides so he tightened it. Inside the hut you had to keep your mask off until you recited your name and social insurance number to the instructor then you don the mask and ran in a circle until the whistle blew and then you could leave. To my horror I couldn’t get my gas mask on; it was too tight! Even the instructor in the hut couldn’t get it on for me. Seeing my distress he grabbed my arm because my eyes were tearing so profusely I couldn’t see a thing and he threw me outside through the door. My skin stung, my eyes watered like crazy and my nose ran I was so embarrassed and although Jack and Noreen ran over to help me when the wind blew the gas off of me into their faces they had to back off. Another instructor outside helped me off the ground and got a recruit who had just left the hut steer me back to the barracks because I couldn’t see. I hit the cold shower still wearing my combats except my boots and I stayed in for a long time letting the cold water flush out my eyes and sooth my skin. As each girl came in the stink of gas came with her until she showered. Our uniforms were all washed several times in cold water together. That smell lingered no matter what we did! One thing we did notice was that the girl with the long hair wasn’t with us that day and no-one saw her go through. Later we learned that she had slept with a P.E.R.I. and got pregnant so couldn’t go.




gas hut

Going into the gas hut