Portal 2019

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2019

© 2019 by the authors, artists, and photographers issn 1183-5214 Portal is published by students in viu’s Creative Writing and Journalism department. Acknowledgement: We are privileged and grateful to be allowed to work and study on the traditional territories of the Snuneymuxw First Nation of the Coast Salish people and pay respect to their rich cultural heritage and natural environment each day we live and learn on viu’s Nanaimo campus. Prime words. Compelling art. Momentous beginnings. Portal is your gateway to accomplished short fiction, poetry, creative non-fiction, scripts, interviews, art, and photography by VIU students. Enter Portal’s literary universe and discover worlds and futures ready to unfold, language and images—provocative, passionate, or playful. What makes Portal so portentous? It is “of ourselves and our origins”—a contemporary portrait of literary talent in the making, a portable guide to the VIU from here. Portal viu, Rm 133, Bldg 345 900 Fifth Street Nanaimo, bc, v9r 5s5 viuportal@gmail.com portalmagazine.ca twitter.com/portalmagazine facebook.com/portalmag instagram.com/portalmagviu Portal is printed by Marquis Imprimeur Inc., 2700 rue Rachel est, Montreal pq h2h 1s7. Portal has been printed on recycled paper since 1995. Portal 2019 is printed on 70 lb fsc-silva enviro.

Fan Tan Alley Jesse Miller


LETTER FROM THE EDITORS CS Broatch: A close friend recently asked me to recommend a book, any book. I was stumped despite interning at Nanaimo’s newest and expertly stocked independent bookstore, Windowseat Books. I wanted it to be a good one, something that demonstrated my deep, calculated understanding of the publishing world. I hummed and hawed until she said, “What’s the book that’s most influenced you?” My answer changes, depending upon who asks it, but usually it’s The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry, a novel about a man who owns a bookstore, by Gabrielle Zevin. It’s an ideal book for unrepentant bibliophiles, an affirmation of the love of stories. I read it when I was 21, and it was the first time I had ever considered doing what I loved as a career—reading. Unwittingly, Zevin’s protagonist became my guiding light, a north star by which I have steered ever since. At the end of the work he says, “My life is in these books. Read these and know my heart. We are not quite novels. We are not quite short stories. In the end, we are collected works.” A favourite story can reflect society or recreate the innocence of childhood, or a memory or circumstance you thought was unique. Characters capture your heart; stories become family. I hope that within Portal ’s stories you are able to find family, find youth, find love. For those whose writing enriches its pages, whose art and photography beautifies them, whose efforts published them, it is a remarkable, influential collected works. Megan Johnson Barr: I’ve never identified as a writer, though growing up I always appreciated stories. I read every night before bed and I made up worlds we populated on the playground at recess. At a young age, I fell in love with the art of storytelling.

Nearly two decades later, I still may not identify as a writer, but I do, more than anything else, identify as a storyteller. In a way, we are all storytellers. We express ourselves in different ways, but we inevitably share pieces of ourselves with others. Stories make us feel. They teach us lessons. They give us something to which others can relate, something in which to find comfort. They make us realize we are not alone. In this issue, our 13-person team has chosen a stellar collection of works from poets, writers of literary fiction, personal non-fiction, and scripts, and from artists working in a variety of media from collage to photography. They too, share personal tales that are deeply felt, teach us, invite empathy, and offer comfort. In reading them we are less alone, joining a narrative bigger than all of us.

The fiction in our 2019 issue ranges from the quietly wistful yet regenerative peace of “Of the Earth and the Vine” to the allure of the forbidden exotic and stormy retribution of “The Grace of Mozambique;” from love damned to love yearned for in the tender but fleeting brush of an eyelash in the half-world of stolen “Saturday” basements to the agony of shared kitchens with undeserving roommates in “Piece of Work;” and from the raving wild child whose art haunts a vindictive sister in “No Castle” to the eerie cautionary tale of regressing immortals condemned to gradual infancy in “Child’s Play,” these short stories promise a one-two punch that could only swing for a knockout worthy of the “The Pugilist.” The volume’s poetry is equally heavy-weight from the deceptively bucolic metaphor of “Butterfly Milkweed” to the Old World’s sensual allure in “Global Summer;” from the smouldering crucible of love forged in heartbreak in “The Ocean is a Dead Thing” to the chilling numbness of love longed for in “She Was Hanged” and “Cold Sheets,” or dismissed in “Eviction,” or evasive in “Overwatered Love;” from the glorious benediction of a summer pool in “Prairie Baptism” to the slick and damning sheen of “Howe Sound Spills” these poets describe worlds foreign, interior, natural and unnatural, until there is nowhere to drift but outer space, untethered and free when “nasa Says” we must return to terra firma. This year we are also thrilled to double our script publication with two contrasting performances for


the stage, “Time of Your Life” and “The Terms of My Transition.” The former is a humorous philosophical reimagining of the nature of time, the latter a deeply personal and affecting monologue that charts the vocabulary of gender used to both hurt and heal. Finally, the non-fiction works gathered between these covers explore the fascinating and complex demands of being a mobile and dutiful global citizen in the enchanting and humble “Doris Day and a Cup of Lemon Tea” and the wrenching choice of “Fight or Flight.” Our childhoods are comical fodder for the genre, and the droll antics of pre-teen moviemakers in “Summer Flick” are both risible and bittersweet, as are the telling recollections of a six-year-old more mature than her reckless caregivers in “Peanuts.” “Finale” concludes the non-fiction in the issue as its title implies, not just with the drama and spectacle of the Survivor episode at its centre, but with another quieter ending that irreversibly alters and diminishes a close family. A work of non-fiction annually showcased in Portal’s pages is a revealing and illuminating interview with the Ralph Gustafson Distinguished Poetry Chair, this year held by an irrepressible national treasure, Victoria’s Lorna Crozier. The award-winning poet delivered a lecture at viu in October urging, in no uncertain terms, that writers take risks and create from a position both vulnerable and intimate. Her advice, not just for poets but for all of us, is to “Be Full of Dread, But Do It Anyway.” We are offered the opportunity to reinvent some aspect of the magazine every year, and this year we have risked two exciting new projects. Like the interview, we hope awarding of the Portent Prize to the winner of our writing contest, open to the public across the nation each summer, will become an annual tradition.

Shake Spenser Smith

This year we awarded it for a work of non-fiction, the winning risk-taking memoir “On Your Left” that took Crozier’s advice and related a day-in-the-life of a recovering addict whose ascent from homelessness is due in no small part to the unwavering support of a quiet hero.

The second undertaking was the launch of a monthly reading series called Portfolio at Nanaimo’s hip downtown night spot, The White Room. It features a high-profile writer Shine reading from one of the four Spenser Smith genres we publish following an opening act of three of our strongest student writers in that category. The Thursday nights have been gaining support online and off and giving the talented writers here a chance to hone their public-speaking skills prior to the fanfare of the April launch. The 2019 masthead would like to thank the creative, academic, business, and student community who continue to support us on this journey—first and foremost our authors, instructors, loyal advertisers, donors, and peers who have attended our monthly fundraising and cultural events and cheered us on. We are forever grateful for, and motivated by, our faculty and student body at viu and by the creative entrepreneurs on Vancouver Island. This thanks of course extends to you, our intrepid reader. Like the stories, scripts, poems, and photos that make Portal so colourful and distinctive, our cover image by Ruby Hopkins is an assemblage of different forms that create a unique and utterly original whole. We are privileged to debut writers here, adding to the pages of their portfolios, and immersing readers in the work of tomorrow’s emerging talents. Like our diver on the cover, there is much to explore in these depths, a place populated by unlikely porters and the fruits of literary labour. Submerge, coming up for air only long enough to invite fellow enthusiasts to take the plunge. CS Broatch and Megan Johnson Barr


MASTHEAD Managing Editors—CS Broatch, Megan Johnson Barr

Art Director—Kiara Strijack

Acquisitions Editor—Veronika B. Kos

Designer—Chantelle Calitz

Fiction Editors—Nicola Kapron, Kiara Strijack, Braedan Zimmer

Reading Series Coordinators—Nic Ismirnioglou, Braedan Zimmer

Poetry Editors—Nic Ismirnioglou, Kain Stewart, Erinn Sturgeon

Launch and Event Coordinators—Kiara Strijack, Erinn Sturgeon, Jade Vandergrift

Script Editor—Darian Nickerson

Social Media Team—Nic Ismirnioglou, Nicola Kapron, Kain Stewart

Non-Fiction Editors—Veronika B. Kos, Jade Vandergrift, Raymond Wade

Ad Managers—Darian Nickerson, Kain Stewart

Feature Interview—Erinn Sturgeon

Audio-Visual Editors—Dirk Plante, Raymond Wade

Book Review Editors—Veronika B. Kos, Jade Vandergrift

Web Editor—Nicola Kapron

Copy Editors—Jade Vandergrift, Braedan Zimmer

Publisher—Joy Gugeler


FRIENDS OF PORTAL viusu viufa viu Theatre viu Bookstore viu Student Pub viu Foundation viu Media Studies viu Liberal Studies viu Graphic Design viu Creative Writing and Journalism viu Arts and Humanities Colloquium The White Room Western Edge Theatre sfu Masters of Publishing The Centre for Experiential Learning The Gustafson Distinguished Poet’s Lectures

Geist Event Freefall The Nav subTerrain Fiddlehead Pacific Rim Broken Pencil Room Magazine Capilano Review Prism International Dairy Queen Javawocky Café Windowseat Books Touchwood Editions Newfoundland to Nanaimo

virl chly ubc mfa Wordstorm The Well Pub Rhonda Bailey Mike Calvert Jesse Wilson Ashley Mann Shanon Sinn Chynna Moore Alicia Shalapata Zachery Cooper Alasdair Robertson Chantelle Nazareth

Size Seven and Three Quarters Jade Vandergrift


TABLE OF CONTENTS

Fiction 12 24 38 40 48 58 64

Of the Earth and the Vine CS Broatch The Grace of Mozambique Alasdair Robertson Script Saturday Aaron Koch Piece of Work Jade Vandergrift 16 Time of Your Life Maria Elsser No Castle Rose McQuirter 52 The Terms of My Transition Lys Morton Child’s Play Rose McQuirter The Pugilist Tyler Lynch Non-Fiction Poetry

11 27 28 33 35 36 37 51 57 61

Butterfly Milkweed Ally Mehl Global Summer Kiara Strijack The Ocean is a Dead Thing Nicola Kapron Prairie Baptism Aaron Koch E v i c t i o n Kiara Strijack Cold Sheets Maggie Woytowich Overwatered Love Maggie Woytowich She Was Hanged Laura Mota Howe Sound Spills sb. smith NASA Says Conar Rae Harris

8 Doris Day and a Cup of Lemon Tea Margot Fedoruk 20 Fight or Flight Alasdair Robertson 29 “Be Full of Dread, But Do It Anyway”: Lorna Crozier on Risk-Taking and Embracing the Strange Erinn Sturgeon 42 Summer Flick Raymond Wade 46 Peanuts Cher yl Folland 54 On Your Left Zacher y Cooper 62 Finale Braedan Zimmer


Book Reviews 32 God of Shadows by Lorna Crozier Reviewed by Kain Stewart 66 The Luminous Sea by Melissa Barbeau Reviewed by CS Broatch 67 Women Talking by Miriam Toews Reviewed by Megan Johnson Barr 68 Foe by Iain Reid Reviewed by Kiara Strijack

69 Beau Dick: Revolutionary Spirit by Darrin J. Martens Reviewed by Shanon Sinn 70 Nobody Cares by Anne T. Donahue Reviewed by Raymond Wade 71 Wisdom in Nonsense: Invaluable Lessons from My Father by Heather O’Neill Reviewed by Jade Vandergrift

Touch It Chantelle Calitz


AND A

DORIS DAY CUP OF LEMON TEA Margot Fedoruk

I

WALK TO THE GARBAGE UNIT,

suddenly aware of my slouchy pants hastily tucked into muddy rubber boots, my hair windblown and unwashed. I hope my neighbour isn’t peering through the curtains.

When I first saw the Iranian family of six move into the townhouse next door, including a woman covered head to toe in black, I became instantly self-conscious of my pyjama bottoms and plaid jacket thrown over my tattered tank top. This was my usual attire for daily errands, from walking the dog to juggling the recycling. My husband, Rick, and I had moved to Calgary from Gabriola Island three years earlier with our daughter, Chloe, and the transition to city life had been difficult for all of us. I was used to gardening naked in my backyard and I still had to be reminded to keep myself in check. On the rare days I saw my neighbour outside, I couldn’t help but note the contrast in our attire and was mesmerized by her long black skirt sweeping the driveway as she moved. Her hair was always covered, so I only saw her face. I didn’t know the appropriate name for her clothing in her language, but I had seen many Muslim women wear these robes in the city. They made me think of nuns and period costumes. Perhaps the extra time it took her to cover up kept her from outdoor chores, as she often set the garbage bags just outside her front door rather than make the trip to our shared garbage unit only steps away. Today, though, when I walk by my neighbour’s small back deck parallel to ours, she invites me in for a visit. She tells me her name is Ayesha. I am grateful for her company, as city living has been isolating. For most of our 25 years together, Rick has worked as a commercial urchin diver away for weeks at a time, yet I still haven’t gotten used to the loneliness. We had moved to Calgary at my insistence, but it had been a mistake. Rick had been miserable and missed the sea; he’d been a diver since he was 18, so it had been foolish to believe he would be happy laying utility lines in the barren

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Non-Fiction

landscape of Calgary’s sprawling suburbs. I thought being with his family would be enough for him, but I was wrong. Now he’d gone back to work on a dive boat in Prince Rupert. He only flew home every three or four weeks and I never knew when to expect him. He was happy during these visits, building a wooden kayak in the garage or preparing huge gourmet meals for the family. When I tell Ayesha I have a cold, she offers to make me a special lemon drink. Inside the privacy of her home, I am surprised to see she is wearing yoga pants, a clean white long-sleeved blouse, and bare feet. Her black headscarf has slipped down so I can see the part in her hair. As I sit on one of her sofas, I can’t help but compare our rental units. Their house is an exact replica of ours, but in reverse. I admire a painting of trees on the wall and see their furniture is colourful, but well worn. I glance at the carpet, and my feet, and notice white dog hair stuck to my black socks. I uncross my legs and tuck them under the couch. She boils water, opens and closes cupboards. She answers her cell phone and begins to talk in a low voice, in a language I presume is Persian. She hands me a delicate saucer supporting a china teacup of hot liquid. As she speaks, she cradles the phone between her shoulder and ear, dragging a small table in front of my knees. I want to help her, but the full teacup in my hands renders me powerless. The table is decorated with an ornate gold cloth with tassels. As she pulls on it, the back legs get stuck. They begin to roll up the end of the carpet, so she tamps it down with her foot. Her hands are disproportionately large compared to her fine facial features and I wonder if this is from years of manual housework. I am reminded of my Ukrainian grandmother who hand-scrubbed all her clothes on a little washboard with a bar of Ivory soap. She hung them to dry outside her house in the north end of Winnipeg. Every winter, she showed me her cracked fingers, chilblains she called them.


Author

When Ayesha finally settles into the sofa across from me, I try to sneak another look under her black headscarf. I am surprised to see she has dyed blonde hair in a braid that runs along her neck. She plays with her scarf constantly, adjusting and pulling it back into place. In the 80s, I fidgeted the same way, hiking up my nylons when the crotch slid to my knees. Now I wear only long pants and short black ankle socks, advice I picked up from Canadian Living magazine: Simplify your life! Always buy the same coloured socks to eliminate having to sort them. I take a sip of the hot drink carefully, so as not to burn my tongue. I was expecting an exotic lemon drink, perhaps an ancient family recipe handed down from generations of women in the old country. To my surprise she has served me NeoCitran. She tells me it was her husband, Yoosuf, who called. “He is scared,” she says. “He is having a medical problem.” She pauses, struggling to find the English word for sinuses. “He has had an operation already, but may need another one.” I think of Rick’s power tool accident and the subsequent emergency surgery on his hand. I nod in understanding. Ayesha’s oldest son, Amir, and Chloe go to the same high school, which is a 40-minute bus ride into the centre of the city. We talk about their trouble adjusting and making friends there.

( She says, “Why aren’t my children happy in Canada where it is so easy? There is no war. There is electricity.” ) She tells me her husband doesn’t like to talk so she has to call her cousin all the time instead. We complain about the condo management, wishing we had a garden to work instead of an endless green lawn watered every morning and pumped with chemical weed killers every spring. Ayesha tells me their last home in the northeast of the city was noisy with traffic. She could smell people smoking drugs through the screens in her windows. Having only lived in this part of Calgary, I just nod and smile. We are lucky to be in the good part of the city, but the rent is high. We had to take on a boarder to help pay the bills, a young woman from Toronto who answered our ad on Kijiji. She shares a tiny bathroom with Chloe, down the echoing hall from out master bedroom. She likes to start her laundry at 10 p.m., the sound of heavy zippers rattling in the dryer keeping me up for hours. Sometimes she doesn’t leave her room for days. Day Trip Ruby Hopkins

Non-Fiction

9


Doris Day and a Cup of Lemon Tea

I can tell Ayesha only understands half of what I say. She also keeps repeating the word Inshallah, a term I have heard many times here. I believe it means, “It is all up to God.”

( I am nervous she will discover I am a godless person, and won’t think highly of me when she sees me drag Rick’s old dog Stella around the block every day. ) Usually, I am picking up after her with the pink plastic snow shovel we keep propped against our wooden deck solely for this purpose. How slovenly I must seem to her. I long to tell her of my complicated Jewish heritage, but I don’t. I only associate it with my childhood and no longer think of myself as Jewish, or even half-Jewish. When I moved out west to raise a family, this part of myself disappeared. I recite a few lines of a Hebrew prayer on special occasions as kind of a party trick: “Barukh Ata Adonai Eloheinu, melekh ha'olam.” My Jewish grandfather —my Zaida—sung those words over our holiday meals as a prayer of thankfulness. My husband and I have deliberately raised our children in a home without any religious practice. I get up and thank my host for the drink, anxious to get the dog walked before work. Standing at the door, we smile and nod, agreeing life is hard. Ayesha says, “What can you do? Inshallah.” “Yes, what can you do?” I reply, protesting as she presses the opened cardboard box of NeoCitran into my hands as I leave. At home, I frantically throw the ingredients for chili into the crock pot before my shift at the Calgary Public Library. When Chloe gets home from running practice, I

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Non-Fiction

want her to have a hot meal. The library closes at nine, so I won’t see her unless I get up at seven before she catches the bus to school. I wonder what it would be like to have only one job; my messy soap business in the basement makes two, landlady to the boarder makes three, just to make ends meet. Would I feel happier? Less rushed? More fulfilled? I think how hard it must be for Ayesha’s husband to support their family of six on one salary, and I wonder how he does it. Sometimes I hear them quarrelling through the thin walls that separate our townhomes, their voices rising. Rick and I fight quietly, simmering with long-held resentments. We would be embarrassed to let our neighbours hear us at our worst We have decided to move back to bc. While I am disappointed to leave my job, I know we aren’t making a go of it here, financially, or as a family. Chloe misses her friends. Rick’s commute is too far. His plane tickets are racking up credit card bills. The day before we leave, Ayesha’s two oldest sons, Amir and Muhammad, help us move our heavy furniture into the moving van. They hand me a box of Purdy’s chocolates. I know Ayesha rarely leaves her house, so I drop by to give her a bar of my homemade soap and thank her before we leave the city for good. I remember a song by Doris Day my mother used to sing in her Volkswagen Rabbit as she drove my younger sister and I to swimming lessons. She sang constantly, despite my father choosing his addiction over her. I don’t think my mother ever forgave him. She raised us on her own by working as a secretary at her local bank, a short drive from our two-storey home near the Rosh Pina synagogue. As she drove, she sang, “Whatever will be, will be, que sera, sera.” Singing is a habit I inherited from her. I may not believe in a god, but I truly believe whatever will be will be, the future’s not ours to see. Inshallah. ( )

Venneburg Dirk Plante


BUTTERFLY MILKWEED Ally Mehl

They didn’t mark up any signs to say: attention! Entrance into Canada requires surname change. Insert “Smith” here. Generations pass; our Polish diversity is cobbled into a shoebox, a lineage of not-so-Polish Canadians. I spent 10 months in Bayern searching for traces of us. I see our name penned in German baking books. Here is blood evidence that marks my existence. Gemütlich barely slips from my lips and I am reminded. My tongue roars: property of canada. The Dominion of Canada is an overcast shadow, hogweed over butterfly milkweed. Settler feet mark Indigenous soil, like footprints in concrete. Then settlers searched for a new world. Today settler-Canadians trace maps to grasp heimat. Hogweed can’t overgrow this map when we rise up together, mit viele liebe.


OF THE

EARTH

AND THE

VINE

CS Broatch

HE CHURCH WAS ABANDONED, BUT

the gardens covered acres of land, unfurling in every direction from the sanctuary at its centre. The plants were overgrown and untended, but the chaotic grounds were still vibrant green speckled with wildflower blue. It wouldn’t be long though before everything was washed in white, replaced by the monochromatic colour of winter. Everything, that is, but the church, whose steeple stood imperial in all seasons.

T

The narthex opened onto the orchard, which had been rich with fruit and ripe with promise, but the oncebountiful maze of trees was now reduced to rotten fruit and neglected bramble. Inside, the summer sunlight filtered through worn stained glass caked with layers of dust, so its earlier magnificence now felt muted and hazy. At the front of the church, there were deep grooves in the wooden floorboards where the old piano had been dragged off. Maggie vividly remembered the day they took it away. Its ivory keys had always brought her joy. As a child, she’d spent many Saturday nights tinkering with them and watching her father pace back and forth. After he had gone, they’d wrenched it from the room, scratching and thumping against the aisle, and tossing it into the bed of an old truck. Now, with the pulpit empty, it felt a violation to stand where her father had once stood. Instead, she sat in the pew with her ankles crossed and her hands resting on the book in her lap. She swore she could hear the voices in the congregation, like echoes of a memory, just out of reach. After sitting for some time, Maggie stood with the help of a polished cedar cane. The old floor groaned under her weight, her knees groaned with her shuffle, the church even seemed to groan as she pushed through the back door for a view of the hills. Many years had passed since her father’s death, yet every time she returned to this place it seemed to grow emptier. Maggie was often surprised to find it was still standing,

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Fiction

as she’d long ago abandoned the upkeep and suspected a warm breeze might be its undoing. Behind the church was a simple cemetery, just a handful of headstones, and a sloppily painted white fence. The gate yawned as she passed through it, emitting a rusty screech. There were two rows of five crosses, and at the back a rounded black boulder. Maggie knelt before it, skirt fanning out on the dry grass, and picked at the weeds. “Hi, Dad,” she began. It wasn’t long before the chill from the earth crept into her joints, forcing her to rise. Once she was back on her feet, she surveyed the graves that had become overrun by dandelions and the thistles that crept up the fence. There was a time she had visited every day, to sweep and scrub and tell her father the town gossip, but the old man who ran the general store retired, and the young families fled to the city where there was more to entertain them than harvesting and reading. It was as if, once their pastor died, some greater force drew them away, leaving the town an empty husk. She passed back through the gate to the church. At university, she had learned the origins of the word ‘spirit’ in Latin Translation. It had been her father’s favourite, but, try as she might, it never held the same weight for her. Only now did she begin to perceive its importance. Breathe. Something benevolent and invisible moved through, around, her like sunlight through her hair. Breathe. As she stepped forward, she heard voices carrying through the hall. She lingered in the door, remembering how she’d peeked around the corner as a child, pressing her nose against the wall, one eye on her father as he spoke of rivers that flowed with blood, frogs and lice and fleas, boils and sores. When he spoke of the death of every first-born male, her mother had wept. She had felt deceitful then, although she didn’t know why. She felt the same now as she watched the men enter.

Tintern Abbey Kiara Strijack


Author

Fiction

13


Title

She thought they might be ghosts, swaying in unison as they did, moaning and completely in black, though her father would not have encouraged such misbelief. Before she could stop herself, she was searching for her father’s face among them. It occurred to her, seconds later, that they could be angels.

“It was years ago, now.” She waited for him to continue, to explain. Instead, he turned to survey the orchard. He wore silver-rimmed glasses that gleamed in the sun.

There were 10 of them. The language wasn’t one she recognized, and the chant wasn’t something she had heard before, yet both felt familiar. When they sang, their voices seemed to reach every rafter. Her father had raised the church as he had her, so from her infancy she and these walls had been constant companions.

“It’s overrun with weeds,” Maggie snipped. The words seemed rash and angry, but it was too late to bite her tongue before she spat them out.

( The pew was her cradle, the stained glass her mobile, the sermon her lullaby. ) She left when the chant ended, absorbed into the wood, yet lingering long after they dipped their heads in prayer. Their tune even accompanied her to the cemetery. “Hello.” Maggie spun, as much as the cane allowed, to face one of the men she’d just seen. “I wanted to introduce myself. I’m Brother Maurice.” His hand engulfed hers, the tips of his fingers resting on her pulse. She was suddenly aware of her heartbeat, startled and uneven. He was taller than she was, the hem of his habit grazing the ground. She wished, for a fleeting moment, that she had worn her Sunday dress instead of an old knitted sweater. She pulled her hand away, shoving it deep into her pocket. “Why are you in my father’s church?” His eyebrows arched. “Your father was Daniel?” “Yes. This is his church.” “He left it to Father Harold in his will. They met in Belize, at a monastery.” His eyes, green, settled on her father’s tomb behind her. “I’m sorry for his passing.”

14

Fiction

“It’s a beautiful place to pray,” he said, “in the morning especially, with the sun cresting the hills just there.”

He laughed, rather than taking offense, and carried on as if the outburst was a brief amusement. “I had thought to plant strawberries, just under here.” Maggie looked to where he pointed, resisting an eyeroll. “There’s not enough sunlight. You’ll want to plant them over there.” She redirected his gaze east, toward the lone tree cast in sun, only then noticing the pruned vines. “We’ve had a busy week.” He seemed to read her mind, nodding toward the shed, bursting with tools. “So I see. Ora et labora.” Pray and work. When she’d returned home from her Latin studies, sure to impress her father with her prowess, the church had still looked like four walls and a steeple, filled with memories, to be sure, but nothing more. He was not moved to reward her efforts with acknowledgment or to draw her closer. “Idleness is the enemy of the soul,” Brother Maurice said. “What’s the plan, then, strawberry wine?” He smiled, patronizingly, coy in the face of her skepticism. Maggie wondered again where he had come from. Who was this man, really? She visited the church every day for the next few weeks. At first, she wanted to check in and make sure they weren’t tampering, that they didn’t varnish the cross,


or cut the lawn too short. She visited again when they bought the strawberry plants. Juicy, red berries had started to grow, and Maggie supervised the transfer from pot to soil. They planted straight, even rows up the hill to prevent root rot, careful not to bury the stems. “Maurice,” she said, near the end of the week. He was crouching among the plants, pulling weeds and humming a hymn. “Maurice,” she said again, clearing her throat. “Yes, Maggie?” “Let’s take a break.” The sun was high above them, unyielding even this late in the season. Maurice stood, wiped a hand across his brow. He surveyed the plants and, beyond them, the hills. Her father had often stood like this. He sighed and stretched his arms over his head. He wore a plain white T-shirt now smudged with earthy fingerprints and crumbled leaves stuck in his hair. “Yes. Why don’t you go sit under the tree, and I’ll grab us some iced tea?” She shuffled through the rows of strawberries. As she went, she picked a handful and tucked them into the pocket of her skirt. They were Albion strawberries, a variety that grew all summer and into the fall. The warmth lingering in the berries suggested they’d grow for a few more weeks.

Autumn’s blazing red and orange leaves littered the ground, and increasingly sparse branches would soon be naked in the growing cold, stretching out against the sky. She looked across the hills, knowing their history, and felt grateful the monks had moved in.

father’s church, that was all she’d ever wanted for him. ) Maggie laid the strawberries in her lap. She plucked them up one by one, rolling each in her fingers, shaking off the occasional ant before bringing them to her mouth. She started with the ones whose deep reds were speckled with paler patches, saving the ones wrapped in uniform red and without bruises for the end. The seeds tickled her dry lips. She broke the skins between her teeth. Juice rolled down her chin. She had felt faint before, a side-effect of getting old, she supposed, but now the sweetness danced on her tongue, sending a reinvigorating shiver down her spine. A chorus came from the church, rolling over the gardens and lingering in the branches above her. The chanting rose and fell with her breath. It steadied her and lulled her. The tree’s canopy danced like a mobile with the breezy tune.

Maggie sat with her back against the oak tree, the one her father had planted when she was born. He called it his thinking tree and would often sit below its branches before a sermon.

It occurred to her that the weight she felt in her chest may be the presence of God. Her father had often described what called him to worship. He had never joined the church to be happy, he had joked, but rather to quiet God. She had never achieved that state, but the warmth of the soil, the creak in her bones from a good day’s work, the monks’ choir...she wondered what her father would make of all this.

She remembered sitting under it herself just after her mother left, hoping it would provide her the same clarity it seemed to give her father, but the only gift it ever bestowed on her was shade.

The berries rolled from her lap, her lids fluttered shut, and what remained in her mind was the invitation of red thriving amid the greenery as the golden sunlight bathed the healthy gardens. ( )

Fiction

15


TIME

OF

YOUR LIFE

Maria Elsser

(old man and young man sit on a bench, waiting for a train. young man is reading a newspaper.) OLD MAN: YOUNG MAN: OLD MAN: YOUNG MAN:

Hello. Hello. Were you speaking to me, Sir? No. I was merely saying hello. Oh, hello. (young man checks his watch.)

OLD MAN: YOUNG MAN:

That face won’t do you any good. Pardon? (old man taps young man’s watch.)

OLD MAN: YOUNG MAN: OLD MAN: YOUNG MAN: OLD MAN: YOUNG MAN: OLD MAN: YOUNG MAN: OLD MAN: YOUNG MAN: OLD MAN: YOUNG MAN: OLD MAN: YOUNG MAN: OLD MAN:

16

Script

I’m sure you believe that little device of yours controls time. No sir, it doesn’t control time. It merely tells me what time it is. And what time is it? Half past 10. Now, do you believe it is that time because that’s what your watch tells you or because it is that time? I’m not sure I understand. Am I correct in assuming you wouldn’t know it is half past 10 if you did not look at your watch? I wouldn’t know without looking. And you won’t know what time it is later, unless you look again? Well, I know it would be after half past 10 . . . Not necessarily. I don’t understand. What if nearly a whole day were to pass before you looked at your watch again? Would it then show it was before half past 10? I’m really sorry Sir, but you aren’t making any sense. You are right in thinking we don’t control time, but what if I told you time controls us? What if I told you that once you are aware of this, you can actually manipulate time in your favour?

Ten-Hour Tunnel Jade Vandergrift


Chynna Moore

Script

17


Time of Your Life

YOUNG MAN: OLD MAN: YOUNG MAN: OLD MAN: YOUNG MAN: OLD MAN: YOUNG MAN: OLD MAN: YOUNG MAN: OLD MAN: YOUNG MAN: OLD MAN: YOUNG MAN: OLD MAN:

But how can you do that? Why are you here? I, I’m waiting for a train. And how long do you feel you’ve been waiting? Don’t! Don’t look at that watch. Don’t look at it. Just tell me what you feel. Well Sir, I feel it’s been about 20 minutes. Now tell me how long it’s been since you said that. Just a few seconds. How old do you think I am? I’m sorry? I said, how old. do you. think. i am? Well, um. Maybe…67? Ha! I’ll be 178 this spring. But that’s not possible! Ah, but it is! Now look at your watch. (young man looks at his watch.)

YOUNG MAN: OLD MAN: YOUNG MAN: OLD MAN:

18

Script

That’s odd, my watch must be broken. It still says half past 10. No my friend, your watch is not broken. What do you mean? It hasn’t moved. We’ve been talking for at least 10 minutes. Have we?


Maria Elsser

YOUNG MAN: OLD MAN:

YOUNG MAN: OLD MAN: YOUNG MAN: OLD MAN: YOUNG MAN:

At least, I think we have.... Your watch hasn’t moved because you are waiting in time, waiting for a train. When you are finished waiting, your train will arrive. According to my schedule, it arrives at a minute past half past 10. Sir, you are not making any sense. Now, if you would kindly let me finish reading my paper. Are you tired of waiting? Yes! And I’m tired of you! I don’t understand why you’re even talking to me about this garbage! I’m inclined to believe you broke my watch! (young man goes back to reading his newspaper. The train arrives a moment later.) Well, this is my train. (old man rises and begins to walk away. young man tries to get up, but old man places a hand on his shoulder.)

OLD MAN:

YOUNG MAN:

I’m sorry my friend, but this is my train. Remember, your train does not arrive for another minute. If you look at your watch, you’ll see it’s only half past 10. I would simply hate for you to get on the wrong train. My watch is broken you old fool! (young man tries to stand, but can’t. old man pulls a tobacco pipe out of his pocket and tosses it to young man.)

OLD MAN:

Something to help pass the time. You’re going to be here for a while I think. (Exit old man.)

YOUNG MAN:

Wait! Wait! Come back! Don’t go! You can’t just leave me like this! ( )

Script

19


FIGHT

OR

FLIGHT

Alasdair Robertson BOOKED A ONE-WAY FLIGHT home. It was last minute and we couldn’t afford the price, my indefinite break from work, or how long I’d be away from the family, but this was a trip I had to make.

I

When I said goodbye, my eldest son Eadan, seven, gave me a hug and told me he loved me. I leaned in to hug and kiss his younger brother and sister, but they shrugged me off. “You’re too spikey,” said Callum. He flashed his trademark grin. He’s quite a comedian for a five-year-old. “You’re yucky. I only kiss Mummy,” said Eilidh, three. She was tired and pouty and didn’t quite understand what was going on. “You better get going,” said Christy. “You’ll miss your flights. Don’t worry about us. We’ll be fine. It’s your mum. Go.” I’d boarded the seaplane at Nanaimo harbour, then a flight from Vancouver to Aberdeen via Toronto and London. I’d spent 11 hours flying, and 12 hanging around in airports.

( My teeth felt furry. My muscles felt like early-onset rigor mortis, and my eyelids twitched. ) Yet when my father met me in Aberdeen’s Arrivals, I was shocked at how tired he looked. “Your mum will be so glad to see you,” he said into my shoulder as he hugged me. “She’s awake?” I said. “I heard you collapsed too. Are you ok?” “I just needed some rest. It was the shock of it all.” His arm trembled as he reached out to help me with my bag. “We can talk in the car, before we go in and get her,” he said. “They’re letting us take her home tonight. They’ve changed her drugs again. She seems more stable.” This surprised me. I boarded my flight under the impression that Mum might never be leaving the hospital. We were still two hours drive from the family home in Forres.

20

Non-Fiction

Mum’s initial symptoms had suggested a stroke, but months of recurring seizures gave the doctors pause. Her most recent scans showed a large tumor spreading over one side of her brain, too large to be operable. It was this news that had caused Dad’s collapse. When I walked into Aberdeen Royal Infirmary, the disinfectant smell and the fluorescent lighting were an assault. I was surprised to see Mum sitting up in an armchair. “Hello Mum,” I said. Nobody had told her I was making the trip. She did a double take then tried to stand, but stumbled. I closed the distance between us to catch her in an embrace and lowered her back into her seat. Her mouth was now only capable of half a smile, but what her mouth could not say, her eyes did. We developed a routine at home over the next couple of weeks that revolved around Mum’s medication, and regular trips to Maggie’s Centre in Inverness, the cancer clinic. The name seemed apt, given that Mum’s name was Maggie. We took turns sitting with her. Her illness was as inconsistent as it was cruel. Some days she’d be entirely blind, but could manage two or three clearly spoken words. Other days she could see, but was unable to speak at all. Most days my younger sister Aileen and I helped Mum out of bed and down the hall. On nice days, she liked to sit in the sunroom before returning to bed. One day we sent Dad to the golf club with friends to destress. He was reluctant, but he clearly needed a break so we insisted. While he was out, Aileen and I helped Mum to the bathroom. She mumbled and leaned heavily into me on her weaker side. I had no idea what she was trying to say. When we got to the door, Aileen turned on the shower, took her from me, and closed the door. I put on the kettle for coffee and was washing a mug at the kitchen sink when Aileen appeared behind me. “Your phone is making noises in your room,” she said.


Author

Dark Pines Amber Morrison

The Right Direction Non-Fiction Veronika B. 21 Kos


Fight or Flight

“It’s probably just Christy. It’s still early in Canada. I’ll get it in a minute….” I put instant coffee into the mug I’d sent Dad the previous Christmas, the one with a photo of the boys, Callum grinning, and Eadan with a finger up his nose. “Aren’t you supposed to be helping Mum wash?” “She’s managing ok. She made it clear she doesn’t want my help.” “Shout for me when she’s done, so I can give you a hand getting her back to bed,” I said over my shoulder as I headed toward the beeping in my room. Even with my possessions liberated from my backpack and spread out on every surface, the room bore no resemblance to the one that had been mine when I lived at home 15 years before. My parents had recently downsized and this new house was strange to me. I had missed several calls. Clearly something important was happening in Canada. Suddenly, there was a thud and a clatter from the bathroom across the hall. Aileen and I reached the door at the same time and flung it open to see the glass shower door swung wide, the shower head swinging wildly and soaking the walls and floor, and Mum lying prostrate, impossibly still. Her skin was still soapy and pink from the warmth of the shower. I froze and then my sister’s experience as a nurse kicked in and I followed her lead. We lifted Mum into the hallway and put her in the recovery position. Her breathing came back in a gasp, but continued weak and laboured. Her eyes rolled back in her head. I fetched her bathrobe and a warm dry towel while Aileen stayed with her. She wiped soap from her forehead and calmly said, “We’re here Mum. You’re going to be ok. We’re going to phone an ambulance.” I pulled my phone from my pocket and dialed 999. “My mum has collapsed. It’s a medical emergency. We need an ambulance.” I explained what was happening and gave the address. They said they’d be about 20 minutes. I jammed the phone back in my pocket and stood by helplessly. I wasn’t sure I could bear to see her like this: her dull, unfocused eyes, her once-radiant skin now irradiated by weekly nuclear blasts of chemo, her dancing legs now immobile, her singing voice silenced.

22

Non-Fiction

My phone buzzed again. I assumed it was the ambulance. “Hello.” “Thank god you finally answered.” It was my father-inlaw, Ken. “Everyone’s been trying to reach you.” “Sorry, it’s been crazy here, I’m kinda busy right now. We’re just waiting for an ambulance for Mum. She’s collapsed.” “Did you get my messages?” “I saw there were some.” “Well, you might be able to speak to Christy later. They went in a helicopter to Children’s Hospital in Vancouver.” “Wait, what? Who went on a helicopter?” My knees almost gave way and I felt bile rise in my throat. “Tell me what’s going on.” “It’s Eilidh. She got hit by a car on the road in front of the house today. Christy saw it happen. They airlifted them straight to the mainland. The boys are fine. They’re with me.” “I’ll call her as soon as I can. Tell the boys Daddy loves them, and…thanks.”

conscious at my feet, and my three-year old daughter…well I just didn’t know. ) My hand clasped my chest and I reminded myself to breathe. I felt light-headed and began to tremble. I would have given anything to be in two places at once. My sister looked up at me. “What is it? Are you okay?” “No. No I’m not.” When the ambulance arrived, the paramedics carried Mum to her bed and checked her over, would wait until the doctor arrived. It didn’t appear she had broken anything, but she was still out of it. The doctor was a friend and so made house calls. I told Aileen about Eilidh. Mum was in good hands and Dad was on his way home. I needed to get some air. As I walked through the nearby park, I left a voice message on Christy’s phone: “Hi Darling, it’s me. I don’t know what to say. This is the worst day ever. I can’t imagine what


Alasdair Rober tson

you’re going through. Give Eilidh a kiss from me and call me as soon as you can. It’s been real shit here too. I’ll talk to you soon. Love you. Love you all.”

Vancouver. This time she answered. Eilidh was there, playing and smiling, in a neck brace with lots of bandages around her tiny skull.

I found myself walking to The Red Lion on the high street. I would try my sister in half an hour to see how things were once the doctor had examined Mum. I hoped he could give her something to make her sleep and that she hadn’t done any more damage, internally or externally, in the fall. I wanted to give them space, but also claim some of my own, just a short reprieve to gather my thoughts, or drown them.

“It’s amazing she survived,” said Christy. “I felt sure she was…it was going to be much worse. I was right there and there was nothing I could do.”

I sought the comfort of old habits. I played pool and pumped coin after coin into the jukebox. One drink led to another as the bar slowly filled with familiar faces. I spoke to Ken again, but there wasn’t much he could tell me. The combination of the time difference and the fact that Christy wouldn’t have any way to make international calls, or internet calls, from the hospital until her mum got there meant I wasn’t going to reach her until the morning. “Sorry to hear about yer mum,” said a guy I knew, but hadn’t seen in over a decade. “Maybe another pint would perk you up?” “I’d rather have a bottle in front o’ me, than a frontal lobotomy,” I said. It was an old joke, one that suddenly seemed in poor taste. That night, my alcohol-induced sleep was far from restful. I dreamt the last 15 years had never happened. My whole life had been imagined, my wife and kids merely fantasy. I awoke half believing the nightmare to be true.

“But she’s going to be fine, right?” “They say she’s lucky she’s so young. Her skull is still soft and her ability to heal is so much better than ours would be….How’s your mum?” We filled each other in on all the details of the previous 36 hours. We both cried. “I love you,” I said and we both hung up. I climbed out of bed and went to the same bathroom where hours before my mother had nearly died. I vomited. I washed. I brushed my teeth. I went to Mum’s room. She was propped up with pillows, dozing. An episode of Colombo was playing on the tv in the corner of the room. I climbed onto the bed and lay there for a while, holding her hand. She squeezed it. Her eyes were open and I caught a glimpse of that old sparkle as she gestured toward a picture of Christy on our wedding day. Prophetically, it was the only picture in her room. Mum managed the word, “Beautiful.” I leaned over and kissed her on the forehead. “ok,” I said. I tore my soul in two and I left her son on the bed beside her; father and husband booked a flight home. ( )

I grabbed my jeans from the floor, found my phone in the pocket and video called Christy at the hospital in

Non-Fiction

23


THE

GRACE

OF

MOZAMBIQUE

Alasdair Robertson scent of cedar and salt, the green waxy leaves of the arbutus sparkling where they reflected the sunlight. Crooked red branches made a crown above a black rock-face that disappeared below the sand, only to erupt from the jade water. Martin knew his photographs would never do justice to the beauty of the cove. He didn’t want to taint his memories of the spot with images of lives broken upon the stones, blood spilled, and screams drowned by the ocean. Still, he listened to the tour guide to avoid provoking Jenny’s wrath.

settlers encountered the local people. Violence and mistrust gave way to trade and mistrust. The first winter brought hardship to the group and many of them died. This included women and children. Eventually De Vries, who had lost his first wife on the African voyage, became enamoured with one of the local girls, and she felt the same about him.”

“The first European settlers that came to this remote spot sought shelter in the natural harbour for their ship The Grace of Mozambique, named after a family treasure,” said the guide. “The first group came ashore in a small boat seeking fresh water and provisions. They scoured the beach looking for cockles, mussels, crabs, and edible seaweed.”

“I don’t know,” the guide said to Jenny. “Her death is a bit of a mystery.”

T

HE SOFT BREEZE CARRIED THE

As he listened, Martin ran a hand through his damp, salty hair and brushed sand from his paddle vest. He surveyed the small group. There were five of them, including himself and his wife Jenny. From their dry bags, they produced sandwiches, tubs of blueberries, and yoghurt. The guide had everyone’s attention except Anita’s, who was exploring the cove and doing her own thing. She was travelling alone, probably in her mid-20s; Martin wasn’t sure yet. She was only a few years younger than Jenny, but seemed younger still. Martin’s gaze followed Anita as the guide continued his story. She was picking up spiral shells and pebbles made shiny in the surf. “The ship’s captain, Daniel De Vries, decided that the 63 passengers and crew who had not succumbed to scurvy and fever should settle onshore. They needed time to gather their strength and bury the dead. In late summer, a storm caused the ship to break from her moorings and The Grace of Mozambique was scuttled upon the rocks on the eastern side of the bay.” “Is there any evidence of the wreck left?” asked Martin. “Not that I’ve noticed,” the guide said. Jenny scowled at Martin. “Don’t interrupt him in the middle of the story, Martin. It’s rude.” “That’s ok, Jenny,” said the guide. He flashed her a smile and she blushed. “It wasn’t long before the

24

Fiction

“What happened to his first wife?” asked Jenny. “Now who’s interrupting,” said Martin.

“I think that’s so sad,” Jenny said. “Can you keep going?” asked a middle-aged lady from Boston. She had finished her blueberries and was tucking a Tupperware tub back into her yellow bag. “The chief refused to give the union his blessing, but in an act of defiance the local girl eloped to the European settlement and was married to De Vries in a Christian ceremony. De Vries gifted his bride with a ring of rare beauty.

( "It’s said that the band was made of African jet set with a single diamond that “Is this a true story?” asked Martin. “Well, it truly is a story,” replied the guide. “I’m not just making it up, if that’s what you mean. It’s part of the local oral tradition.” “Good,” said Jenny. “Please continue.” “Certainly,” said the guide. “The chief was so angered by the defiance of De Vries and his new wife that he descended on the celebrations with a war party. The entire settlement was rounded up. They dragged the bride down to the shoreline and braided her hair into the seaweed. Members of the war party placed boulders on her limbs and chest. The tide came in gradually. Her frantic screams became sobs as the water rose. Her sobbing was replaced with an eerie silence, but for the shrieks of gulls and the gentle lapping of the surf. The fury of Captain De Vries


Author

Drop Achor Fiction Chantelle Calitz 25


The Grace of Mozambique

gave way in an instant to total despair. The captain was a broken man and by the end of another harsh winter, the entire settlement was lost.” “That’s a horrible story!” said the woman from Boston. “Well,” said the guide, “sometimes the most horrific things end up happening in the most beautiful places.” He got up off the driftwood where he’d been perched. “Some people say the captain was cursed.” Martin raised his camera to take a shot of Anita. The lunch break was over. It was time for the tour group to gather up their things and get back into their kayaks. Anita stretched her legs and explored the beach for souvenirs. She found sand dollars that were too fragile to survive the paddle back. Instead, she stuffed a couple of pretty pebbles inside the zip pocket of her lifejacket, along with a sunbleached oyster shell. She picked up a large mother-of-pearl spiral and shook it. Inside it, something rattled. “Are you guys ready to set off?” said the guide. “ok at the back there, Anita?” “Sure. Let’s go,” Anita said, dropping the shell on the sand. Flashes of sunlight danced across the surface of the water, luminous spiderwebs torn in the wake of the kayaks as they pushed out across the bay. It had been six months since Martin and Jenny had gone on a holiday in an attempt to save their marriage. The effect had been quite the opposite. She’d abandoned him at every opportunity to spend money on expensive souvenirs and her time in the company of strangers.

“Anyone would think you’re trying to get me drunk,” Anita teased. Martin had been uncharacteristically nervous all night, but sweet. After the meal, he suggested they drive to the harbour. They had picnicked there on their first proper date, just over a year ago. She hadn’t been sure what to expect when he’d called her out of the blue. He and Jenny were separated and he was staying in a nearby hotel. Now Martin parked in the layby and turned off the engine. The fall night was warm and calm. With the windows rolled down, they could hear the lapping of the ocean below them. The lights of town danced with the stars on the water. Martin removed his seatbelt to reach inside his coat pocket. “Jenny finally signed the papers,” said Martin. “I feel like I’ve been waiting a lifetime to offer you this.” He held out an unusual-looking ring. It was a band of black stone with a single blue-tinted diamond. It seemed ancient. “You wouldn’t believe where it came from,” said Martin. “I found it inside the shell you left on the beach the first day I met you.” “It’s so beautiful! I’ll wear it all the time.” Anita put on the ring and, even in the dark, the diamond captured enough light to imitate blue fire. A horn blared. A logging truck swerved behind them. Brakes screeched and headlights tore through the darkness. The crash of metal on metal accompanied an explosion of wood. The truck, car, and cargo were a landslide, an avalanche into black water. Martin was thrown hard against the inside of the windshield, then violently back, disappearing into the backseat.

He came home from work one day, not long after returning from the vacation, to find the front door bolted. His backpack had been stuffed with some essentials and left on the front porch. A few hours later, Martin was sitting on a hotel bed going through it when his hand found the shell in its side pocket. Something inside it rattled. Martin looked good, donning a fresh haircut and new suit. The restaurant was nice, but not over the top. Martin had the steak with cream pepper sauce. Anita had plate envy until she tasted her seafood linguine. She couldn’t remember a meal ever tasting better. They shared a bottle of sauvignon blanc and a sticky toffee dessert. He stopped after one glass.

26

Fiction

Anita, frozen with shock, grew colder as the car filled with icy water. Her body struggled free through the open window. She treaded water, but her limbs were too heavy. No pain, only cold. Anita’s frantic screams became sobs as the water took her. Tentacles of seaweed rose to envelope her limbs and chest. Her sobbing subsided. There was silence, then the shriek of gulls and the gentle lapping of the surf. Through the murk, Anita’s hand, still outstretched, reached for the surface. The Grace of Mozambique was a band of black-and-blue fire around her finger. ( ) Modra Veronika B. Kos


GLOBAL SUMMER Kiara Strijack Ballinasloe

Rognes

He hops between ancient gravestones framed with moss. His ruby breast disturbs purple clover. Jackdaws judge him quietly as he cocks his head, considers men spilling out of pubs and blinking in the light.

She flits from lavender lover to lavender lover Snæfellsnes

Dozza

The sun won’t set. Instead of falling, it flies

Chickens pilfer the weeds for apricot

past sheep climbing with phalarope and tern—

dripping lazily from sun-baked branches.

above fields of purple lupine nodding,

A hen takes respite in the shade of a lemon tree

their faces bowed against an icy gust.

and naughty goats plunder courgette and aubergine.

and drinks deeply from their purple mouths. Moth goddess imitates the hummingbirds, teasing fate as her belly brushes the bright pool water.


Title

THE

OCEAN

IS A

DEAD THING

Nicola Kapron

The ocean is a dead thing, but you put down your hooks and pull up buckets teeming with life. Without bait or hesitation, I rise toward your hook. You look at me your eyes flickering embers, skin black with soot, and put your tackle away. You carve out ice floes and listen while I sing of Cambrian fossils anomalocaris and ottoia prolifica and other things long-dead

28

Poetry

until you slide into the water and rest in my arms, between my teeth, torn apart and drowning. Is this what you want? Am I what you want? No, you say, the words like smoke behind your lips where anthracite coal will burn for another 300 years, But it’s a good first try.

Soothing Cerulean Kiara Strijack


“BE FULL OF DREAD, BUT DO IT ANYWAY”: LORNA CROZIER ON RISK TAKING AND EMBRACING THE STRANGE Erinn Sturgeon

C

delivered the 2018 Ralph Gustafson Distinguished Poet’s Lecture on November 8th at viu and a student session on campus as well as an inspiring public reading. All three events drew from her 17 titles to date to provide insightful writing advice and riveting performance of her work.

always been an interesting space to occupy for me as a writer, that somewhere-in-between space that is not definitely one thing or another. So, I thought let’s flip that coin—what’s on the opposite side of concrete objects? That would be the most abstract thing I could think of, and that would be God. So how can I make God, or several gods, palpable and concrete and imagistic? How can I bring the whole idea of God down to earth?

ELEBRATED VICTORIA POET LORNA CROZIER

Her readings made clear the 2018 George Woodcock Lifetime Achievement Award-winner is as humorous as she is brilliant. Convinced the world is in need of poetry now more than ever, she spoke passionately about the creative imperative to take risks, her new other-worldly collection of poetry, God of Shadows, and the experience of reading for Queen Elizabeth, among other things. Crozier hails from Swift Current, Saskatchewan, a prairie girl who “never once thought of being a writer.” Now, as professor emeritus at the University of Victoria, she conducts readings and poetry workshops across the country, particularly at Wintergreen and Naramata, and has taught at the Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity. She is far from ordinary, though she may often write about what is.

ES:

Your new collection of poems, God of Shadows, pays tribute to, and casts a holy light on, ordinary things we encounter in our daily lives. What inspired this approach?

LC:

It was actually the writing of another book. A few years ago, I published a collection called The Book of Marvels: A Compendium of Everyday Things, and they’re all prose poems. I looked at everyday objects–poems called “Bowl,” “Knife,” “Fork,” “Spoon,” “Fridge,” “Ceiling,” “Doorknob,” “Chair.” I really loved the form of the prose poem. It’s that wonderful oxymoron right away. It’s not prose; it’s not poetry. It falls somewhere in-between. That’s

ES:

How does the title speak to its larger themes?

LC:

When you think of God, usually you think of light. God occupies the great heavens, however you conceive heaven to be, and usually we don’t think of heaven as a dark place, as a shadowy place. It was going against one’s expectations, taking you into a different realm. I like dipping into the shadowy world. I think it’s a world that suggests the unconscious, a world of darkness where I think poetry tries to shine a light.

ES:

Your lecture will be talking about writing and the risk writers take whenever they publish. Namely, they leave themselves open to interpretation by strangers. Do you have any advice for new or aspiring writers with regard to overcoming this fear of vulnerability?

Non-Fiction

29


“Be Full of Dread, But Do It Anyway”

LC:

Flannery O’Connor, the American fiction writer, said something like, “Be full of dread, but do it anyway.” Nadine Gordimer, a South African writer, said, “Write as if you’re already dead.” I like these two quotations a lot; they’ve held me in good stead in my writing life. I think if you’re going to write about anything that matters—if you’re going to write things of significance—you have to be full of at least some dread in order to do it. You’ve got to go to a place of danger. It could be personal danger, it could be danger having to do with craft and form, it could be danger having to do with critical response. You have to walk into that territory. If you stay safe and complacent, then why bother doing it? You might as well write Hallmark greeting cards and make some money. You have to hazard yourself, you have to hazard the language, and be open to the possible responses and repercussions if you’re going to write anything that will mean something in this great world with too many words.

ES:

When you conceived of the topic for the Gustafson lecture, were you thinking specifically about risking a story you might not have experienced personally?

LC:

What I am interested in is the appropriation of a story that may belong to someone you’re intimate with, for instance a family member, and whether you have the right to tell that story.

ES:

In 2005, you gave a command performance for Queen Elizabeth II, which sounds like a risk. Can

you tell us about that experience? What poem did you perform? LC:

Yes, it was both a risk and an honour! Not only was it supposed to be for Queen Elizabeth, but they were predicting that two million people were going to watch it live on television. It was in a huge arena in Saskatoon that held hundreds of people and I had to recite the poem; I couldn’t read it. I had to recite it and walk across this big stage while I was doing so, with a symphony orchestra behind me, and I only had about half an hour of rehearsal with the orchestra. I was asked to read something that had to do with Saskatchewan, because it was Saskatchewan’s centenary, and they were bringing home Saskatchewan artists like Joni Mitchell, Buffy Sainte-Marie, and Colin James. I was asked to read something that would not insult the Queen. It was very, very difficult to find a suitable piece! I decided to read one about God inventing light. The first day God said, “Let there be light,” and on the second, and the third…. He kept creating light and the sky got bigger and bigger. His wife admonished him and went on to visit God’s mother, and when she got back, he had created still more light. I suppose it is slightly blasphemous, and definitely a feminist poem and response to Genesis, but I thought, the Queen’s been married to Prince Philip for years, so I think she’s going to understand something about male arrogance and forgetfulness and power, and it really being up to women to make sure the world is going to be ok. My understanding is that she enjoyed it, but who knows?

Bibliography God of Shadows (2018) What the Soul Doesn’t Want (2017) The Wild In You: Voices from the Forest and the Sea (2015) The Book of Marvels: A Compendium of Everyday Things (2012) Small Mechanics (2011) Small Beneath the Sky (2009) The Blue Hour of the Day: Selected Poems (2007) Whetstone (2005) Bones in their Wings: Ghazals (2003)

30

Non-Fiction


Erinn Sturgeon

ES:

Before being a published poet, you worked as a high school English teacher and guidance counsellor. How do you think these experiences influenced your poetry and perhaps your perspective on risk-taking?

LC:

There were poems I wrote when I was a high school teacher I would not have liked my students to have read. Sometimes your professional life and your artistic life don’t merge; they’re contradictory to one another. So it was a job I only did for five years. I enjoyed working with people that age; I find teenagers fascinating, because they’re on the cusp of so many different things. They’re so open, and cool, and naïve and yet they’re know-it-alls. I find it a very charming age and it was fun to turn them onto literature. It has always been my goal to make people excited about reading and writing. When I got a job at university, I could be much more open, much more outrageous as an artist. It felt like a better fit for me.

ES:

LC:

On your website, you mention your poem “Cucumbers” was hailed as one of the “Eight Strangest Canadian Poems You Should Read” by TheCultureTrip.com, while your poem “Carrots,” from the same collection, was called one of “Canada’s Most Memorable Poems” by the Literary Review of Canada. How do you feel about these labels? Is there such a thing as a “strange” poem? I hope all my poems are strange! The American poet James Dickey said that “poetry happens when the utmost reality and the utmost strange collide.” I think that’s a wonderful definition of

Apocrypha of Light (2002) What the Living Won’t Let Go (1999) A Saving Grace: Collected Poems (1996) Everything Arrives at the Light (1995) Inventing the Hawk (1992) Angels of Flesh, Angels of Silence (1988) The Garden Going On Without Us (1985) Humans and Other Beasts (1980) No Longer Two People: A Series of Poems (1979) with Patrick Lane Inside Is the Sky (1976)

poetry and I hope that all my poems do that. The Sex Lives of Vegetables, where those two poems are from, has probably been my most famous series. Thirty years later, they’re still shocking people, they’re still tickling people’s funny bones. I get letters from kids saying, “I didn’t know poetry could be so funny and sexy, and now I’m going to read more poetry books.” That’s a thrill. ES:

Strangeness is a good thing.

LC:

It is. In Books of Objects, I wrote a poem about a ceiling that began to snow on the person reading, as if to say, “Are you finally going to pay attention to me? Do I have to snow on you to get you to look up?” Well, that’s strange too, isn’t it? But I find it plausible. I think you have to be a little mad to be a poet, a little crazy, a little bit off-centre. It’s one of the few places you can be rewarded for being a little bit different, so why not go for it?

ES:

If you had to define the quality you draw upon most as a poet, what would it be?

LC:

I think an affection for the world. I’d like readers to see that in everything I write is a deep and abiding affection and appreciation for the creatures and landscape around us, the people I care for, that transfers into a love of words, of language too. ( )


Lorna Crozier’s 21st poetry book, God of Shadows, is a masterful work with powerful language from its opening pages. In “Prologue: And God Said” the reader is given Crozier’s conceit: the gods speak to us even if we do not listen.

God of Shadows Lorna Crozier, McClelland & Stewart, 2018 ibsn: 978-0771073137 96 pages $25.00 Reviewed by Kain Stewart

She goes on to introduce the first of three sections/books that structure the collection: “God of Arithmetic,” “Her Words,” and “His Words.” Numbers are this god’s life, but not every facet of it. “Thou shalt carry the one” is his commandment, reminding the reader that the math our children learn in elementary school is not the full story. Had we been given a glimpse of the larger picture, “It would have changed the world. It would have made us kinder.” God of Shadows implies trickery. What is said is hidden beneath a layer of darkness. The “God of Sex” isn’t gloating about the best sexual experience ever had; its Crozier’s argument that sex happens everywhere: “Darwin described the mad proliferation of flowers in the Cretaceous period as ‘an abominable mystery.’ Abominable because the flowers blithely destroyed his notion that nature doesn’t make a leap. The unknown perpetrator of his distress, which lasted until his death, was the god of sex.” Crozier imagines a god who creates only to bear witness to his unexpected results. In “God of Hateful Things,” the reader learns this god is not hated by other gods, he rules those who are hated. Other gods love him because they’re grateful they don’t have his job.

32

Book Reviews

“He has a hard time of it, as does his paraphernalia. Slugs, cockroaches, vats full of the muck that become weiners, bunions, and liver spots, the grimy carpet in the lobby of a cheap hotel. What did I do to deserve this?” The “God of Water” deserves everything, after all, humans rely on her for life, but we may not deserve her. Rivers are treated like prisoners, pawns to those who dam their waters. Shades of blue are named after bodies of water, but these waters are not blue. Gods deal with abuse despite their power. “That crow sent out to find dry land? It saw no end to water. It landed on her wrist as if it were Bedouintrained, then went off again. Praise to her ears is the beat of its wings.” The “God of Last Resort” is a metaphor for war and for the weak. “Right now she is sitting on the brown ground of a farmyard, holding the head of a dead horse in her lap. To escape the soldiers, a boy has slit its belly and, with his little brother, crawled inside. Flies, usually leery of her scent of immortality, have lost their fear. They swarm from the horse’s torn flesh and settle in her hair.” God of Shadows doesn’t pull any punches. The gods, who once may have controlled their domain, are replaced now by blind and deaf humans who cannot see where they are going, nor do they listen. If you are a fan of mythology or a playful wit that challenges cultural and gender norms, God of Shadows is a pantheon you won’t soon forget for you will suddenly see her deities everywhere.

Queen Spenser Smith


Author

PRAIRIE BAPTISM Aaron Koch

When we dove into the inflatable pool we were a spectrum of skin, my salt to my sister’s cinnamon. Our heads poked up like gophers, sleek and soaked and gasping for air. We preened in the heat. Mother read kingly novels, watching as we held each other’s heads underwater in tardy baptisms. The Catholic in our lineage was born and reborn many times before it abandoned us, so we became gods instead, anointing each other with daylight until our complexions matched, finally blessed. Bathed in summer, our skin pruned and turned to gills until the sun fell. Then we slipped inside to pour over vhs tapes in a chilly basement, ignoring our altar outside slowly filling with drowning mosquitoes. No gods, no mortals, only the wind whisking street lamps, those wiry man-made trees cascading a hollow glow.

Poetry

33


Title

34

Poetry

Coast Alasdair Robertson


Author

EV I CT I O N Kiara Strijack

I shuddder againstt the r u t h l e s s c o l d d. Leaves crackle under f o o t t.

Mine leans forward like it forgets i t w a s e v i c t e d d— atoms still codedd t o h i s.

Blackbirdd pecks t h e g r o u n d d, s t a r e s a t m e, t h e n h o p s, flying low a c r o s s t h e b e a c h c h.

Our fingers t o u c h c h. M i n e t t r e m b l e. His are perfectly s t i l l.

Cheeks tturn peachch t h e n p l u m. The chill d d r i l l s i n, but it is nott t h e r e a s o n I s h a k e.

J a w l o c k s s, t e e t h c l e n c h c h. My legs bounce a nervous s t a c c a t o, a n u r g e n t s o n g.

M y b o d y s a y s d a n g e r.

H i s b o d y k n o w s h o w t o s i n g.

My hands sttuttter as they guide me t o t h e b e n c h c h. The stone is frigidd a n d u n f o r g i v i n g.

It is my lips I lick t h i s t i m e. He hasn’t openedd h i s m o u t h.

My jackkett is useless a g g a i n s t t t h e c o l d d. It hangs off m y l i m b s. I a m a s c a r e c r o w.

W h e n h e d d o e s, the words are bittter though there is nothing sour in their l e t t t e r s.

His presence m a k e s h e a r t – m u c k, m a k e s s p i n e s t i f f e n, makes ache in a place I d d i d n’t k n o w w a s t h e r e.

I watch his tongue and pretendd it was someone else’s that knew m i n e.

H i s b o d y s a y s h o m e.

My body does nottt know h o w t o b e s t i l l.


Title

COLD SHEETS Maggie Woytowich

You and I are perfect —a wolf and sheep— yet we don’t devour.

You sing my praises, even when we are not in harmony.

Still, I lie curled in bed alone, sipping tea from a stained mug, and cannot help but think of you.

Your kindness is honest, like honey and lemon tea; it fills me with warmth.

I have known this absence from several hearts, and yet you are the first to feel so possibly close.

But are you like this with everyone you meet? Am I no exception?

There is something in your speech that beckons you nearer to this untouched country

I want you. I tell myself we are not meant to be, but my heart pounds fiercely

or to the girl planted on its soil. I do not know which; I can only hope you do.

against my ribs and I want to fling back these cold sheets just to reach you.

String You Along Kiara Strijack

36

Poetry


Author

OVERWATERED LOVE Maggie Woytowich

I will always remember when we first met. You stood in the rain and shoved soggy fliers into strangers’ unopened arms. Your eyes dripped as you recalled names of lonely animals needing homes.

I ran into you next, on a bustling street. You looked at me, eyes red, rain running rivers down your face. When I asked if you were hurt, you shook your head and laughed.

We spoke for an hour, the sky falling like me for you. You glanced at your weathered watch and apologized. Time had slipped away like the rivulets of water around our feet.

“It’s stupid,” you sighed, and pulled out a picture of a wilted fern, leaves curled and brown. You had watered it every day, afraid it would be parched like mine. We parted ways and you slipped through my fingers.

I didn’t get your number.

I didn’t get your number.

A week later, we saw each other in a café. Our eyes locked despite the crowded room. We spoke briefly, and I said the store’s plants looked healthier than mine. I always forgot to water them.

And though we haven’t met since, I will always remember you, as the one who couldn't stop giving.

You handed me a crumpled card from your purse. “Thank you,” scrawled in curly pen. We spoke again and you were gone. I read your note, but I didn’t get your number.

Nature Disrupted Megan Johnson Barr


Title

SATURDAY Aaron Koch

back porch every Saturday. It was a long-standing tradition begun in our childhood. He would race over at daybreak so we could watch cartoons together in my basement. He had a tv that worked perfectly well, but he said it was different watching them in someone else’s basement. I thought he only came over to see me, but the way he talked about the characters for hours afterward—the knights with their swords, and the soldiers with their guns—had discouraged me from this line of thinking.

B

RETT MET ME ON THE

The weekly ritual was now in its 12th year, yet it was almost a secret. Both of our parents knew he came over, but no one ever mentioned it. These meetings between night and day, in the blue hush before sunrise, was when I felt safest.

38

unlock the back door for Brett. He hated when I was late. I had only lapsed a few times over the years, and every time I heard the pout in his voice as he stepped into the house. This week was special because it would be our last for a while. Brett had enlisted. My first reaction when he’d told me a few weeks ago had been surprise. Part of me, a big part, wanted to talk him out of it. This was my last chance to make things right, to set him straight, but so far, I hadn’t found the words. I rose, finally, reaching around in the dark for clothes. I slid on my cotton pyjama bottoms, the pair I had worn for the past month. I wasn’t a pyjama person, except on Saturday.

This week was no exception. I didn’t set an alarm. I slept like the dead and well past midday Sunday through Friday, but on Saturday I woke up at seven. It confounded my father, who spent his time nitpicking and complaining.

When I was dressed, I hugged the wall to the bathroom and didn’t bother to turn on the light. Most Saturdays, I didn’t bother to brush my teeth. It felt like our meetings happened before the day really started, so it never crossed my mind. Today was special though. My gums ached from having brushed too hard, and the faint taste of blood filled my mouth.

I shifted in bed. I usually liked to lay there for a while and think, but I had 15 minutes to get to the landing and

The stairs were steep, so I took them slowly. Going up wasn’t a problem for me, but going down so early in the

Fiction

Climb Jade Vandergrift


Aaron Koch

morning could be precarious. I gripped the railing like a lifeline and counted the steps downward. Backwards from 12, I knew I was halfway down when I felt the familiar creak of the hardwood beneath my feet. My house was an upward climb, a suburban Everest. I opened the backdoor slowly because the hinges had an awful squeak to them, and I still believed meetings between Brett and I were secret. I reached forward, turned the deadbolt, and waited. The door opened 15 heartbeats later. Usually it only took 10. Brett was late. That was ridiculous given that we had no appointment, but the thought lingered. The air out on the porch was suddenly the damp cold of September. “Hey,” he said, breathless. “Hi,” I said, arms crossed. I was suddenly acutely aware that it was the last time he and I would meet like this. I was tense, and he could tell. I could hear it in his voice. “Wanna go down?” he asked. I nodded and we descended the stairs. My basement was uninsulated, like a cavern. The concrete was cold against my bare feet, and the air wet in my nose. For a moment, I imagined the earth opening up and swallowing the two of us. I felt the area rug beneath my toes and the image dissolved. In the far corner of the basement sat the tv, a plush rug, and a couch whose cushions were worn from years of use. No one ever came down here except the two of us. Brett settled onto the couch next to me and it groaned under his weight, threatening to buckle. Brett turned the tv on and the familiar sound of cartoons filled the room. “What are you doing?” I asked. “What do you mean, what am I doing?” he said. “We’re hanging out.” I nodded my head in the direction of the tv. “I meant with the cartoons.” He paused. “It’s tradition,” he said finally. “Shouldn’t we—you—I don’t know.” I stopped to gather my thoughts. “Brett, this is the last time, you know? Shouldn’t we say something?” “Why not one last time for the road?” he asked.

“You just want something to fill the silence,” I said. I faced the sound of the cartoons and waited. “Do you know what I look like?” he asked me, finally. “Don’t ask stupid questions.” “I’m just curious,” he said, “if you’ve ever thought about it.” “You look like your parents,” I said, and felt his eyes on my face. “Do you know what they look like?” he asked. “Why are you asking?” “I’m just curious,” he repeated. “I’ve always wondered if you cared.” “About what?” I asked. “Here,” he said, the springs of the couch wheezing as he shifted closer to me. He held my hands in his and guided them to his face. The pads of my thumbs rested against his cheekbones, and I could feel him blinking against my fingertips. “What are you doing?” “Just humour me. I’m leaving tomorrow.” “I know that,” I said, and tried to pull away, but his grip shifted to my wrists and held my hands in place. It was an odd feeling. Brett was motionless beneath my grasp, like I was holding onto a statue, but then his skin crinkled beneath my hands and betrayed his smile. “What do you think I look like?” he asked. “You’re handsome,” I said. I knew that much. “What else?” “You’re handsome,” I repeated, “and you’re leaving me.” He didn’t have an argument for that. “I’m sorry,” he said. His grip on my wrists loosened and I heard his hand fall against his knee with a limp slap. My hands stayed in place, pressing a little harder into his flesh. I read his face like braille. “I wish I could see.” “I know,” he said. “Me too.” ( )

Fiction

39


PIECE

OF

WORK

Jade Vandergrift my fingertips. “Perfect,” I say to the steady stream, measuring it into the bowl. The yeast immediately reacts and turns a creamy brown, like my grandmother’s English tea. I brandish my whisk and catch a whiff of the mixture’s fermented breath. The flour, sugar, and salt are already mixed so I organize the rest of the ingredients: plump Roma tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, Italian prosciutto, and arugula. My stomach grumbles in anticipation of something more appetizing than the soggy-spinach-and-rancid-nut salads that have been my last-minute lunches every day this week.

T

HE WATER IS WARM AGAINST

My phone vibrates on the counter. I glance at the screen and see Nina’s face smiling at me. Her contact photo is a few years old and she’s wearing my favourite sweater. I haven’t seen it since. To this day, she swears she returned it. I can only imagine her next demand: a ride to the ferry, perhaps? Someone to empty her cat’s litter or spot her laundry money? I’m not answering it. I don’t regret living with her yet, but I’m close. I switch the oven to broil and glance at the yeast and water; cloudy bubbles have risen to the surface.

rivers in the dry terrain, and begin to coax the two together with my hands. ) The shapeless mass resists at first, then succumbs swirling around the bowl in a lumpy mess. I rinse my hands and start chopping up tomatoes. The phone buzzes again. If I answer, Nina will corner me into another favour. She has this way of asking for things that makes you feel like it was your idea in the first place. I have this way of saying yes, with the proviso that she returns the favour, but then talk myself out of asking because she’s so unreliable. I let it go to voicemail. I chop the tomatoes, then mash them into a thick sauce before tearing the mozzarella to shreds. The dough is damp out of the mixing bowl and warm against my skin. I splash the ball with extra virgin olive oil and moisturize my palms, two birds with one stone, before I seal the glass bowl tightly with a plastic lid. The dough will suffocate until it’s doubled in size. I turn to the latest issue of Bon Appétit and page through, getting lost in the bread recipes before stumbling upon

40

Fiction

a mouth-watering photo of an extravagant brunch: eggs three ways, flavoured waffles, fresh lox, baba ganoush. I make a grocery list on my phone of all the ingredients I don’t have, then create a group chat for tomorrow’s brunch. Nina’s face interrupts, but I swipe it away and wait for the replies from my friends. Tonight is my night. I squint at the bowl through water droplets. It’s a tiny sauna. The dough is ready. I heave a slick cast iron pan into the hot oven and the oils squeal. I pinch a handful of flour from the crumpled bag (which has been patched with tape since Nina knocked it from the top shelf reaching for my box of Ghirardelli chocolate) and sprinkle it over the countertop, then drop the dough onto it. My hands fall into a rhythm, one pushing and the other rotating until the ball is flattened into an even disc. After flipping it over to coat the other side, I pick the dough up in my right hand and throw it onto my palm-up left. I toss it back and forth until I can see it taking shape through the cloud of flour. With the dough hanging limp over my left fist, I slip my free hand into an oven mitt, retrieve the cast iron pan from the oven and flop the dough onto it. It’s a near perfect fit. I set it on the stovetop and wiggle out of the oven mitt, which falls to the floor. The bottom of the dough is already cooking against the hot pan as I smother it in tomato sauce. Prosciutto ends up in a pile in the center, but some strips reach the edge. Now the mozzarella, lifeless and rubbery. I grab a tea towel and pop the whole thing on the top rack. I stand up straight, stretch my arms above my head, and take a deep breath. Minutes later, I turn the oven light on and squat to check on it. The cheese has melted and the crust is bubbling brown and orange. I will eat the entire thing in front of the tv. I take a bottle of malbec to the living room and pour a full glass, leaving the bottle on the coffee table as I queue up Mad Men. Tonight, I will find out, for the 11th time, if Peggy will switch ad agencies or stay loyal to Don Draper. Dinner’s aroma brings me back to the kitchen. I take the masterpiece out, slide it onto a cutting board, and slice it into six perfect pieces. I hear the front door open and people coming through the living room; above the shuffling and laughter is Nina’s voice. “It smells like we quit studying just in time,” she says entering the kitchen and leaning on the counter with a heavy sigh. “We didn’t get a break all day.” Her friends murmur their assent. She winks at me. “I’m glad you got my message. We’re starving.” ( )


Author

Precarious Fiction 41 Chantelle Calitz


SUMMER FLICK Raymond Wade

LRIGHT, CUT. GAVIN, COULD YOU

just stick with what I told you to say?” I said, tapping the red record button on my Canon camcorder, frustrated by yet another halt in production. Gavin was sitting on my bed propped up against the wall, looking sleepy. Don’t give up on me now, man, I thought. I readjusted the zoom to capture the World War II fighter-plane wallpaper on his right and the edge of my Felicity Shagwell, cia poster on his left. It was a subtle, but deeply considered contrast. Gavin moved and his bushy light-brown hair left the frame.

A

“I said everything you told me to,” Gavin replied. “Yes, but not how I wanted you to say it. This has to be serious. It has to look good.” The video would be seen by administrators at the St. Albert Youth Centre. It had to be perfect. Gavin kept stalling the production. He’d laugh midway through sentences and make jokes an eighth-grader would make. Though we were in Grade 8, I still expected professionalism. “Kay. I’ll do it seriously this time. Can we get more Pepsi first?” he asked. Ugh, again with the Pepsi. My friends were amazed by the quantity of Pepsi my parents kept in the fridge. I hated the stuff. “Sure. It might be good to have some different shots, anyway. Maybe outside? What do you think?” I asked my business partner, genuinely interested in his opinion. Before Gavin could answer, my dad’s deep baritone interrupted from downstairs to ask what time my friend would be “needing a ride home.” Translation: “What time can I completely thwart your ambitions and dismantle your social life?”

42

“I didn’t say we had to leave this minute, Easton,” he said, pulling keys out of his pocket. He would never admit it, but my dad didn’t like me having company over. The problem was, my voice carried.

( At 14, my conversational volume was louder than a downstairs neighbour with a bagpipe addiction. ) “Man, we’re not even close to being ready,” I said to Gavin from the front seat of my dad’s truck. “The meeting’s on Friday. The way I see it, we still have time,” he replied, sipping his Pepsi contentedly. He was right. The pitch was two days away, and the video was optional, not mandatory. I wanted to sell our idea—a month-long reality tv competition—to the St. Albert Youth Centre. In this ground-breaking game show, we’d lock two groups of kids in separate rooms and have them compete in games of cunning that actually required minimal mental effort. ok, so it was somewhat derivative of Survivor. Fine, a complete Survivor rip-off. We would film the competition and make vhs tapes for everyone involved. It would be called Roomies. The winner would be awarded a prize we hadn’t decided on yet, mainly because we had nothing to offer. Ideally it would be money, preferably someone else’s. “I guess tonight I’ll make those parent permission slips,” I said as we pulled up to Gavin’s house. “They’re practically the most important part.” “I thought that was my job?” Gavin replied, unbuckling his seatbelt.

Gavin shrugged and waited for me to lead him out the door. I don’t blame him. My dad could be incredibly intimidating.

“Well, uh, let’s both do one. We’ll combine the best parts,” I suggested, even though I knew we’d mostly end up using mine. Gavin and my dad gave each other a knowing smile.

I grabbed a blue can from the fridge. “One for the road,” I said and handed it to him. My dad was waiting at the door.

“Great idea,” Gavin said, laughing. “Anyway, thanks for the ride Mr. Grey.”

Non-Fiction

Flickers of Flame Veronika B. Kos


Raymond Wade

Non-Fiction

43


Summer Flick

“Any time,” my dad said. Yeah sure, I thought, ‘any time’ he wants you out of his house, it’s no problem. About halfway home, my dad mentioned the Roomies permission slips. “You know, Easton, people aren’t going to let their kids do that,” my dad said. “Parents don’t want their 12-year-olds away from home for a month.” “I spent the entire night at the Youth Centre for the Wakea-thon. There were, like, 150 kids there,” I spat back. The event I was referring to was a fundraiser with maybe 30 in attendance. To participate, you had to “pledge” some arbitrary amount of money. Most kids got their parents to pay, including Gavin and me. When formulating our sales pitch for Roomies, the Wake-a-thon’s success was our precedent. Besides, Joel, the administrator who said he was “very intrigued” by my idea when I pitched in on the phone, had voiced no objection.

( Despite a few minor logistical concerns— a group of pubescent tweens for a month with no plan for food or security—I still thought it could be pulled off. ) Surprisingly, my tenacity usually got the job done. In Grade 6, I got an 8mm Canon camcorder for Christmas from my dad. Little did he know he had inadvertently spawned my directorial career. He couldn’t have anticipated how ambitious—or neurotic—I would become. It started with basement-league wrestling, hosted by parents deaf enough to ignore the thuds, screams, and general debasement of their children. I then moved on to g.i. Jerry Springer, then naughty phone-chat advertisements, seductively wearing a couch’s arm sleeve on my head as hair. My friends loved the camera and it granted me access to parties and sleepovers where we’d film depraved puppet shows with interspecies breeding. People flocked to me. By summer, I had advanced to mature, respectable motion pictures like a 3-hour Legend of Zelda movie with no script. The film featured my skinny legs beneath my dad’s large green T-shirt pulled down to my thighs. A belt held it tight. Production ended when I tripped over a wire that pulled the Canon off our tent-trailer, breaking its tape ejector. Roomies was my comeback after a two-year

44

Non-Fiction

creative recovery; my spark of imagination had returned. “Gavin’s still allowed to come over today, right?” I asked my dad the next day, blocking his view of the tv. “Easton, I have to work early tomorrow, and your mom is sick,” he said curtly. When my dad said no, it meant no. It was the day before our Roomies pitch. There would be no “promotional” video. Instead, he offered to pay for us to see a film at Grandin Theatres. Before he dropped us off, we had already decided on Castaway starring Tom Hanks. It was the obvious choice, since the film’s desert island theme yielded Survivor comparisons from critics. I became immersed in the film, feeling a sudden desire to connect with nature. By the time it was over, Gavin and I were talking about camping in the woods. “I’ve got matches. We could start a fire someplace,” he suggested. We both had a habit of carrying them around, striking them randomly for the satisfying sound and smell of burning sulphur. Flick, scrip, fizzzzzz. We both called our parents from the lobby’s payphone, each of us lying about spending the night at the other’s house. We left the cinema and followed the nearby train tracks that led into the woods. It was time to rough it. We were just two bold men and a book of matches in the wilderness. We sat on the tracks. “Easton, you make so much extra work for yourself, man,” he said with a laugh. “I’m worried you’re going to have a heart attack.” I couldn’t help but laugh too. “We don’t need a freakin’ promotional video.” Gavin could get real with me without setting me off. Our excursion into the wilderness lost its charm quickly. The popcorn at the theatre wasn’t much of a dinner and neither of us had jackets. These would-be mountain men wouldn’t last an hour outdoors. Defeated, we followed the tracks back to the mall, striking matches and letting them burn out. It was almost dark when we got back and I lived at the other end of the city. I begged Gavin to call his parents instead of mine, but he insisted. “My parents are worse than yours. Yours buy you cookies, cameras, and Pepsi.” Before I could tell him to shut up about the Pepsi, a police car drove up. We looked at each other, worried. Before I approached the car, a cop barked at us from the passenger window. In Summer Ruby Hopkins


Raymond Wade

“You two. Over here now,” he commanded. We obeyed. “What are you doing out here so late?” he asked. “We’re about to walk home.” My voice waivered. “From the theatre,” Gavin added. “The theatre closed hours ago. You weren’t up by Grandin Pool were you?” He stepped out of the car. He was a burly man with a moustache and a buzz cut. I felt like I was hallucinating. The driver got out too, towering over Gavin. We provided detailed accounts of our night, keeping it together surprisingly well. After all, we truly had nothing to hide. Honestly, it was a relief to have a ride home, even if it was my first time in the back of a cruiser.

( The police called my parents who were waiting for me at the door. My mom was worried. My dad was pissed. ) “What were you doing on the train tracks?” he asked, unleashing his anger after the officer left. “People get killed on those!” The tracks hadn’t been used in years, but I held my tongue. “Did you even go see the movie?” “Yes!” “What was it about, then?” he asked. My mom crossed her arms expectantly, but we all knew it was a silly question. “Well, Dad, it was about being alone. Something you clearly want to me to experience,” I said dramatically. I had to come clean about my lies, but as I did, the ridiculous story sounded made up, even to me. “Well, you’ll certainly be alone in jail, won’t you?” he said, concluding my second interrogation of the evening.

Actually, my dad’s questions turned out to be far more intensive than the rcmp’s. “They’re coming to pick you up tomorrow at 10 a.m. Be ready,” he said, pointing at the door. Our meeting with Joel was scheduled for the same time, but it hardly seemed important anymore. The police had told my parents we were being questioned for “suspicious activity.” I barely slept. The same cop, not in uniform, picked me up the next morning. I was terrified and he could tell. He seemed to like it. At the station, he put me in a tiny room and told me to write my testimony. I wondered how Gavin was doing. I also wondered how his parents were doing. They probably thought I was a criminal. It took me five minutes to write everything down, but I ended up waiting alone for over an hour. By the end, I wasn’t terrified anymore, just bored. Finally, the door opened and the cop reappeared. “Easton? You’re clear,” he said, putting his leather jacket on. He wasn’t any friendlier on the drive home, but he did tell me we were picked up for suspected arson. Apparently, someone had burnt down the clubhouse next to Grandin Pool, minutes before the rcmp spotted us blocks away from the incident. I clenched my jaw. I was wearing the same jeans from the night before, a book of matches still in my pocket. For whatever reason, we were never searched. It was noon by the time I got home. My dad greeted me with a hug and had prepared a lunch for his favorite “suspect son.” With mouths full of bacon, we laughed about my brush with the law. Gavin and I had missed our meeting, but I didn’t bother calling. We both agreed the project was on hiatus…indefinitely. I was tired of my films going up in flames, especially from fires I hadn’t even started. ( )


Title

PEANUTS Cheryl Folland

N THE FIRST WEDNESDAY OF every month my mother brought my brother and I to a giant sleepover with her friends. We packed a bag with our pyjamas, our toothbrushes, and clothes for school the next day, and headed off. My brother, Wesley, was nearly eight, almost two years older than me, so he was excited to be with kids his own age. They treated me like a baby or ignored me, especially the oldest who were 12. The only children who were younger than me were babies and I was not playing with them.

O

The adults segregated the children under five in a room with one of the teenage daughters to babysit. She smoked cigarettes and had purple hair. The rest of us were organized in a heap of sleeping bags, couch cushions, and pillows in front of Uncle Mike’s giant tv and vcr. Uncle Mike wasn’t my real uncle, but he had been with my mom’s best friend, Cindy, forever. Mom had been friends with Cindy since she was a kid and they were closer than Mom was to her own family, so Cindy was my aunt and Mike was my uncle. The grown-ups were in the kitchen where they had pushed tables together in a circle surrounded by folding chairs. Classic rock was on the radio, mingled with heavy smoke and bawdy humour. Each adult had a glass jar filled with coins and cards were flying around the table. There was a baby gate blocking the kitchen from the living room. Uncle Mike had said it was to keep the dogs out, but I think it was to keep the kids in. “You don't need to come into the kitchen, Cheryl,” Mom said, handing me a bowl of ketchup chips. “But Mom, I’m bored,” I said. I wasn’t really bored. The other kids were watching Pet Sematary and I was as scared to watch as I was to tell on them. “I won’t be noisy.” “You know the rules. No kids in the kitchen. Find a colouring book or something. It’ll be bedtime soon.” I watched my mom walk back to her seat in her faded

46

Non-Fiction

jeans and a Guns N' Roses T-shirt. I didn’t know what guns had to do with roses, but the shirt looked nice. Her curly red hair was down, and she had put blue stuff on her eyelids and wore red lipstick. I didn’t understand why sometimes she put stuff on her face and other times she didn’t, but every sleepover she did. She was sitting next to a man I’d never seen before. He was older than my mom (who had 25 candles on her last cake) and he had grey hair and a beard. He had on a leather jacket with lots of silver studs on the shoulders and had a moustache that looked like my handlebars…and tattoos. Whatever they were talking about was making her laugh and I liked to see her happy.

( I sat next to the baby gate, eating chips and watching grown-ups blow smoke rings. ) After a while, Uncle Mike saw me and said he needed a beer from the fridge near where I was sitting. I couldn’t see them, but adults had walked past me empty-handed and come back carrying refilled glasses or shiny brown bottles all night. “Hey Kid,” Uncle Mike said. “Hi, Uncle Mike,” I said. I stood up and leaned on the baby gate. “Can I come and pet the dogs?” He looked at the table, then at me, his eyes shining. “Sure Kid. You’ll have to sneak in though, and be real quiet. No kids allowed.” He winked, then lifted me with ease over the gate. “I’ll be super quiet,” I said. My heart was pounding. I felt like a ninja or a secret agent. If anyone caught me, I would get beat for sure. Uncle Mike would let me do things the other adults wouldn’t. He knew I wasn’t a baby anymore. I just had to be good and no one would notice me.


Author

( I followed him like a tiny shadow in my hand-me-down Hot Wheels jammies. ) Once we reached the table, I dropped down to my hands and knees and crawled under it. The dogs were huddled together below, catching spilled snacks. There were more snacks the longer I waited. They were very excited to see me, and I returned their affection with cuddles and belly rubs. “Psst,” someone said. I looked around at all the knees and spotted Uncle Mike’s hand reaching under the table. “Psst.” He wiggled his fingers and I scooted over, collecting dog hair on my bum, and grasped his large hand between my tiny fingers. He released candied peanuts into my hands. In our house, we never had candy except on Christmas or Halloween, and even then Mom kept it locked up in a cupboard and only gave us one or two a day until it ran out. She didn’t have money to buy us treats and wanted them to last as long as possible. My brother called it “cruel torture.” I counted them in my hand. Five. They were hard, shiny, reddish-purple, and had bumps all over them. I slowly sucked the candy before chewing. Crunching would give me away and I’d get a spanking. “Psst.” Uncle Mike slid his chair back and looked down at me. “You want to come up here and play with us?” I wasn’t sure. I sat there silently. He must’ve sensed how scared I was. “Your mom went out for a bit. You won’t get in trouble. Come help me play.” “I’m coming,” I said. I scrambled over the smelly dogs and Uncle Mike hoisted me onto his lap and explained the game. He said it was called Rummoli, but I called it ravioli. I wasn’t really listening, there was too much to see. Each person had piles of coins in front of them next to their bottles or cups. One adult I didn’t know passed out cards and each person pushed coins to the middle.

Sometimes one would push more coins than the rest and either get them all or it would start all over. Once everyone had placed the same amount of coins, something would happen, and one person got them all. People would yell and laugh. It seemed like math, which I hated. “Can I have more peanuts, Uncle Mike?” “Sure,” he said and slid the bowl in front of me. I sat there for hours eating peanuts and watching them lose coins. I woke up the next morning to the sound of my mom coming in the front door. I was in the living room with the other kids, my face sticky with candy. Each of us sleeping in that living room belonged to a parent who fell into at least one of three categories; they were on welfare, an addict, or a dealer. Second-hand pot smoke and drug vapours had filled the house, and though the heavy partying went late into the night, we learned to sleep through anything. The man my mom had disappeared with was Jim and he became one in a long line of abusive boyfriends. She left us that night, not for the first time and not for the last, in the care of intoxicated adults. At the time, I was oblivious, but before I was 13 I’d learned to steal the dregs of coolers and beer cans only to end up drunk in the living room watching Pulp Fiction. We modeled the behaviour we saw and in turn were violent and sexually explicit, but it wasn’t until my late teens that I learned none of this ‘kid stuff’ was healthy, normal, or appropriate. Over the next few years, I became a mother to my peers, feeling the need to keep my friends safe. Now, I think fondly of candied peanuts when I pass them in the bulk food section, but then I turn the corner. ( )

Candy Land Non-Fiction Shanon 47 Sinn


NO CASTLE Rose McQuirter

I

KNOW WHAT YOU DID.”

Tara points at me. Her chin is stained the color of fake blood, remnants of a cherry juice box she drained earlier. Her twisted curls, knots as red as flame, seem tinged pink as though she leaned too far over her finger paintings.

“You took my colours,” she says. The playground is quiet except for the groan of swings and some boy running rocks through his fingers. January snow erases everything, turns the world a blinding white. It’s snow that suffocates, that smothers the brush and weighs down trees. The only sound is the world being buried. “Maybe,” I reply. I couldn’t take any more of Tara’s painting. She used Catherine’s paint on the windows and floors, orange footprints meandered in and out of my bedroom. Her paintings themselves were alive: tall figures of yellow, brown, and red, slathered onto the back of bedroom doors and hallway mirrors. I dumped the acrylics she was using in a corner of our backyard, pressed every tube empty. “I’m telling.” Tara’s eyes glow with threat. She’s only five and her rage is more fiery than her brightest paints. Catherine, her mother but my stepmother, would buy twice as many colours if she told. I’d find my sheets soiled with yellow and blue, handprints stamped over my drawings. There’d be figures looming in my closet, dominating my walls and lampshades all over again. “I’ll tell you about the castle if you don’t tattle,” I insist, gesturing toward the woods. The frustration in Tara’s face subsides. She’s too young to resist a story. There is no castle. Ms. Schneider, the Grade 3 teacher, calls the stone building a “kook zoo,” a concrete box tucked in the forest, housing people whose screams echo out the windows. It’s said they sometimes climb the

48

Fiction

fences, earning barbed wire cuts and scars on their arms, and wander the paths like lost cattle. Holding branches to their foreheads, they’re deer with human faces. Holding ferns to their tailbones, they’re foxes with human grins. “There’s a castle back there,” I tell her. “An old stone one way past the trail. They say it breathes like people do.” I leave out the important details. I don’t say that it’s intended to drain the crazy out of criminals. “There’s no road in,” I explain, “but if you find it and go inside, well….” Tara’s determined face is the one she wears when she paints over my crafts, over the words in my journal. The snow comes down heavily, muting the air so that I don’t hear the next thing she says. Other kids wander away. They know the winter dark is dangerous, an unknown filled with wounded animals, bloody creatures that sound like people. Although Tara’s mouth is wide open, she isn’t speaking. She’s clicking her tongue, clicking like she does when she wins. I turn and head back toward the street, listening to the sound of my own footsteps in deep snow. Tara doesn’t follow. The painting looks like hers, but it can’t be. I spot it from across the gallery, a towering dark canvas. One look and I can see smudged figures, lean and glaring from their fortress of tree trunks. It’s odd to see them on a canvas and not on my bedroom wall. “Everything alright?” The attendant at the front desk went to primary school with me, knew Catherine as an exhibitor, the whole family. He watches me carefully. I wasn’t sure if he recognized me. “Yeah. Great,” I say, but my voice is still caught somewhere in the barbed wire of my thoughts. I sound agonized. Yellow Ghost House Kiara Strijack


Author

Tara disappeared with the snow when she was five. I expected her to wander into the playground one day, still stained with paint and fruit juice, maybe a little bloody from running through the brush. Yet the woods gave up nothing. They breathed calmly like they’d never eaten anything alive. She stayed gone and I stayed afraid. I couldn’t stand forests anymore. The fallen branches reminded me of antlers. I had moved to the city to be with my mom shortly after the police stopped looking, after my father…. “It’s a good one.” The attendant follows me as I wander toward the painting. “It has a childlike appeal.” He means that it looks like a finger painting. The scene is set in the woods, featuring a circle of tall ghouls. They surround a small white figure who curls towards the earth, trying to dig itself into hiding. My father had chosen the only job he could think of after Tara vanished. He painted interiors for a local company and came home for dinner smelling toxic. Every evening he’d tell Catherine he was going to paint our walls. “Then we’ll be alone,” he’d say. But Catherine refused. The figures on the walls and on the back of bedroom doors were her daughter. She couldn’t paint over them. “You’re Catherine’s step-daughter right? We were in Ms. Schneider’s class together? Tara’s…I was sorry to hear about your dad…” the attendant trails off. “Yeah.” For a moment he looks uncomfortable, like he’s reviewing her disappearance, my father’s death. We both see my father open a can of paint-thinner in a closed room, lock the doors and windows so he could breathe it all in. Those last few days I spent in that house, it reeked of paint, although Catherine still hadn’t painted over anything. She sat at the dining table with a jug of cranberry juice, flipping through decorating magazines.

Fifteen years later, her shelves are still weighted with them. “I’m visiting Catherine for a few days,” I tell the attendant. He nods. Catherine could’ve painted it in the time I’d been gone, but she hadn’t said anything. She was the one who lived in rooms with alien figures scrawled on the mirrors and slathered onto the back of kitchen cupboards. “It’s a local artist,” the attendant says, gesturing to the information label. “I can give you her card.” I read the title of the piece: There was no castle. I hadn’t thought of the “kook zoo” in years, but when I dreamt, I saw people on fences, stuck in barbed wire, wearing animal facepaint: raccoons, deer, lions, their teeth gleaming as they smiled. I persuaded myself that it never existed, that it was the snow that buried Tara. No creature led her to the place where criminals dragged their nails across windowpanes. On the way to the artist’s I see a plaque at the gates of her suburb, honouring the institution that had been demolished to make room for this new housing. It’s pictured on the sign, an old grey structure with narrow windows. The photograph might’ve been produced in colour, but the hues seem water-damaged, running together in a mess of green and grey. From a distance, it’s not a photo at all, but a runny finger painting of a dull, dark castle. I turn away and drift down the sidewalk. The address on the card the gallery attendant gave me is down the road past the twinning homes, beyond bland greys and straight concrete walkways. They’re all new houses, and yet their windows are dark and empty. for sale signs rock and whine in the wind as leaves tumble across brown lawns. The neighbourhood has only a few naked trees.

Fiction

49


Title

I am becoming convinced if I pried open the manholes in the street, I’d find eyes staring through the abyss, painted faces with missing teeth, low voices humming in the tunnels of the sewer. “Can I help you?” a young woman standing on her porch calls out like she’s expecting someone, as though she’s practiced this. “I’m looking for Diane,” I reply. She stares at me for a moment, her arms crossed tightly. She waves me in.

“I was inspired by my son’s finger paintings. He has nightmares about the woods.” Now that I’ve had time to watch her, I see that she’s different from Tara. Her hair doesn’t look as red as I believed, and in this light her fingernails are clean. The figures in her paintings aren’t alive, they aren’t looking out like hungry undead. I’m seeing things.

“Paintings bring dreams to life. You know?”

“Your work reminded me of someone else’s.”

We’re seated in her modern kitchen, dark countertops and stainless steel. I’m dragging my fingers against the underside of the table, trying to prevent myself from trembling.

“I get that a lot,” Diane shrugs. She gestures to the back door. “I have more paintings in the back if you’re interested? We converted the shed into a studio.”

It is Tara. I know because of the way grey light hits her face, illuminating a quiet rage in her eyes. I swear I see paint in her hair, maybe a little bit of yellow and red beneath her fingernails. “It’s my son’s birthday so there’s a party in the back,” she says as we both listen to the sound of laughter drifting in through the cracked kitchen window. From my vantage point, I see nothing except overcast sky. “How old is he?” I ask. “Five,” she says, “but he’s already painting.” So far, I haven’t seen paint. The surfaces shine. I wonder how Tara resists. The Tara I know used coffee tables as her paint pallets, used the reds as lipstick, as rouge, as fake blood leaking from her chin. Yet it can’t be her. This woman looks clean; she’s wearing jeans and a knit sweater, sleeves pushed up to her elbows to reveal faded white scars. She’s an adult with a home and a child. She didn’t climb out of a snowbank. She didn’t dig herself out of frozen soil. “It was cold,” Tara announces. “What?” My fingers dig into the lip of the table. “It was cold today, but we still held the party.” She smiles. She asks me if I want to see her paintings.

50

She leads me to one in the living room. It’s another giant canvas leaning into the wall, featuring trees with branches like cracked limbs. This piece lacks a small white figure and instead focuses on the blurry silhouettes, shadows looking with human eyes and animal bodies.

Fiction

I politely follow her out to the back porch where the deck overlooks the backyard and her son’s modest birthday party. The kids are turned away, noisily painting a white banner and staining the grass around them with yellows and blues. Diane says she’s going to refill the iced tea before we look at her work and vanishes into the house. I move slowly down the back steps toward the children. “What are you painting?” I ask over their squabble. Quiet falls upon us and for a moment I think I’ve startled them, but none of them drop their brushes. They all slowly turn to meet my eyes, as though they’ve been expecting someone. Their small faces, painted crudely with the markings of deer, foxes, and raccoons, watch me blankly. Their hair and their clothing is bathed in red paint and their bare feet are smudged with the filth of forest soil. Cranberry juice drips from the corners of their mouths. And then I know that the woods did not kill Tara. They adopted her, preserved her rage in the stiff cold. While her flesh went to rot, her anger remained in the red of the poison berries. She was always deep down in the dirt, in the high scream of the wind. The children are the faces from the playground that day, the girls on the swings and the boy running rocks through his fingers. I look up and see what the children have been painting. The banner reads: I know what you did. ( )

Grim Reaper Sam Wharram


Author

SHE WAS HANGED Laura Mota

Oh no, no, she is not dead. Her lungs still fill with air. Blood runs through her veins. She blinks. Why is she suspended, a limp coat in a wardrobe? Far from his body, she feels meaningless. How can she protect him from cold if unable to warm herself? She will not live long waiting for his winter to come.

Hanging Laura Mota

Poetry

51


The Only Moll For Miles

TERMS OF MY TRANSITION THE

Lys Morton (speaker stands centre stage. The spotlight has a pink hue that gradually changes to blue as the piece progresses until it is fully blue by the final term “Son.” Each term is projected on the wall behind speaker, matching the dialogue.) GIRL (NOUN): A female child from birth to full growth.

SPEAKER:

The announcement the doctor makes at the ultrasound. My father comes from a family of men. Can he be man enough to raise me? TOMBOY (NOUN): A girl whose behavior is more typical of boys than of girls.

SPEAKER:

The term a babysitter uses to describe my hatred for anything feminine. “It’s for girls who pretend to be boys.” IT (PRONOUN): Used to represent an inanimate thing.

SPEAKER:

Six-year-old me trying to go to the school bathroom, blocked by kids three years older who say, “It’s not a boy or a girl.” TRANNY (NOUN):

A contemptuous term. SPEAKER:

The first time I hear it is in Grade 3. It is the answer to my frequently asked question: “What are boys who pretend to be girls?” SHE-MAN (NOUN):

Another contemptuous term. SPEAKER:

So commonly used to refer to me in junior high that a substitute teacher mistakes it for my name. “Is it pronounced Shemen or She-Ma…?” TOP SURGERY (NOUN):

The removal of breast tissue. SPEAKER:

A way to free myself from the mounds on my chest that never felt a part of me. “Can I get my boobs off when I turn 13?” CORRECTIVE RAPE (NOUN): A hate crime in which one is raped because of their perceived sexual orientation or gender identity.

Hypnotised Script Tara 52 McGinn


Lys Mor ton

SPEAKER: The trauma of hands hauling me into the boy’s bathroom of my high school, pinning me to the floor, stripping me of more than clothes is the thought that dominates when I ask myself if I'm "one of the boys." AGENDER (ADJECTIVE): A person who does not have a specific gender identity.

SPEAKER: The term I choke out one night when a little boy asks me if I am a boy or a girl. Lying one more time had become too much. “I’m not a boy or a girl.” FREAK (NOUN): Any abnormal phenomenon or product or unusual object.

SPEAKER: The word my father uses the night I come out to him. “You’re going to spend the rest of your life looking like something with tits and a beard.” DYSPHORIA (NOUN): A state of dissatisfaction, anxiety, restlessness, or fidgeting.

SPEAKER: The ever-present shadow that cloaks depression, anxiety, sensory issues, teenage angst. “I never had a name for it, so I couldn’t distinguish it from the struggles I knew.” TESTOSTERONE (NOUN): A hormone that stimulates the development of male secondary sexual traits.

SPEAKER: A weekly injection that brings on a second puberty I didn’t realize I desperately wanted. “Hi, my name is Lys and this is my voice after two months on t.” FEMALE-TO-MALE (VERB): Assigned female at birth then transitioned to male.

SPEAKER: The easy way to explain my transition during mix-ups. It feels odd because I don't remember a time when I was “female.” ACCEPTANCE (NOUN):

The act of assenting or believing.

SPEAKER: The slow process of understanding the man I’m becoming, understanding all the ways my past shaped me, learning to be better than the men before me, “starting with the man in the mirror.” TRANSGENDER (ADJECTIVE): A person whose gender identity does not correspond to the biological sex assigned at birth.

SPEAKER: The word that gave me a future. “Dear eight-year-old me, you won’t hate yourself forever.” A male child or person.

SON (NOUN):

SPEAKER: The option my mom selects on Facebook after searching everywhere for how to change it from daughter. We both end up crying on the couch, tears of relief finally replacing tears of grief. ( ) Script

53


ON YOUR LEFT Zachery Cooper

I

HANG A LEFT ONTO VICTORIA Crescent and cross Nanaimo’s busy Island Highway to Discontent City. My Corolla creeps closer to the encampment on Front Street. A police car precariously straddles the curb, red-and-blue lights flashing. The constable talks to someone at the gate. The camp is a sea of coloured tents; orange, blue, purple, and gray vinyl flaps wave in the light summer breeze.

I signal left, pull into the Port Place mall, and park facing the camp behind the fenced-in area. Some residents walk over to the mall, sharing a cigarette and a can of soda. One looks familiar, but he wouldn't recognize me now. Tracing the circumference of the steering wheel with my index finger, I wonder what help would look like? Every case, every one of their situations, is unique. Tonight is rock bottom. My mother asks me to leave after months of tolerating my heroin use. I call Daniel in a state of despair and panic; there is nobody else. I know him from 12-step meetings. When Daniel pulls up to my house, I look at my mother, but no words are exchanged. I descend the stairs with nothing more than a backpack stuffed with clothes and a tiny bit of heroin. I imagine this is her worst nightmare, watching her son descend into addiction, wondering if she’ll ever see him again. I wait outside the door, anticipating it will fly open and my mother’s arms will pull me back inside. I hear heavy footsteps from the stairs followed by uncanny silence. The door locks. Daniel, a tall middle-aged man, works at the cold weather shelter in Nanaimo. When temperatures plummet to well below freezing, Nanaimo opens a temporary relief shelter for the homeless. I am hoping he will take me to his house and let me crash on his couch until I figure out my next move, but he doesn’t. “This is you,” says Daniel, pointing to an army-green cot next to a white pole. I met Daniel at a meeting a few months ago. He came up to me after it was over and gave me his phone number, telling me to call if I ever needed anything. He drops a rough wool blanket on the cot and puts his hand on my shoulder. “You'll be ok here. I can see you from the office.”

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Non-Fiction

I climb onto the squeaky cot, my legs quivering from withdrawal. Cold droplets of sweat run down my back like condensation on a window pane. I lie my head on the pillow and take in the aroma of the cot’s previous occupant. This is what it’s like, I think while pulling the wool blanket close to my face. The shelter has five rows of 10 cots. Across from me, a man lies bundled up in a parka under on his cot. It sounds like he is sleeping. I can’t tell if his eyes are open or shut in the blackness of the room. I switch to my other side and see an elderly man sleeping on the floor while a frail-looking woman sleeps on a cot beside him. When Daniel opens the office door, a thin beam of light cascades onto them. They’re holding hands. I shut my eyes, thinking of my mother, how many nights she must have slept next to my crib waiting for me to wake, how she used to lay beside me when I was sick. My stomach churns from opiate withdrawal, but I refuse to use here. I refuse to spit in Daniel’s face and disrespect his kindness. This is the only shred of self-respect I have left and I'm not letting it go. In the morning, someone nudges my shoulder. The white fluorescent light stings my weary eyes. “It’s time to get up,” a man says. It’s not Daniel. “Where’s Daniel?” I ask. “He was off at four this morning. It’s seven.” I’m alone and like a wandering sheep; I’ve lost my shepherd and am now a part of a lost herd. I follow another man into the washroom. He shuts the stall door behind him, and I hear the distinctive flick of a lighter. He clears his throat. I walk to the sink and splash icy water on my face. In the mirror, my pupils are dilated and I watch them expand, like small melting black holes. Something falls to the floor from inside the stall as I open the door to leave. A lighter or small metal cooking pan, I presume. There’s another deep, guttural throat clear as the door shuts behind me. I grab my bag from a Costco-sized shopping cart and find my shoes with the others by a bench at the door. Out the Take A Pic Shanon Sinn


Author

Non-Fiction

55


window fat globs of slushy snow fall as I put my hood up, turn the doorknob, and walk out looking for a warm place to do my next fix. I want to drown my feelings in a liquid pool of opium, but my tiny stash will have to suffice. What do you do when you’re homeless? You wander. You move to stay warm. I only packed a few pairs of socks, sweatshirts, shirts, pants, and a raincoat.

( How do you pack for homelessness? What do you leave behind? ) Motion helps alleviate the constant chatter between my ears. Like an open dial tone, it’s there everywhere I go. I wander over to Nicol Street and take refuge in the McDonald’s bathroom. I stare at myself in the mirror, a small bag of heroin clenched in my fist. My eyes close and I break the trance. The stall door locks behind me. The flick of a lighter echoes through the empty bathroom. Much of the time I kill before going back to the shelter is a blur. I lie supine in my cot, my eyelids heavy from the long day behind me. Daniel kneels beside me. “Are you ok?” I shut my eyes tightly, pretending I’m asleep. Daniel grabs the blanket at my feet, unfolding it and spreading it across me as if he were tucking in his son. He puts his hand on my shoulder. “You’ll make it through this.” I turn the key in the ignition and pull out of the mall parking lot. The sun is slowly setting; the clock on my dashboard reads 7:00 p.m. I know where I need to be. A few minutes later, I’m sitting in a circle at a meeting. An addict is sharing his riveting tale of riding the winding, rigged roller coaster of addiction. He speaks of his spiraling plummet down to a dark and shallow existence on skid row, his temporary climb to a false high. I try to focus on his story, but I can’t concentrate. I think about having watched Captain America: The Winter Soldier the night before. I recall a scene in which Steve Rogers and his ally, after surviving a heroic battle against Hydra, are recovering in a hospital room. Rogers wakes from his coma and says three words: “On your left.” I remember the long talks with Daniel in the office at the shelter. I remember him praying for me. I remember him holding me, saying, “I believe in you.” There’s a shuffle in the empty chair beside me and Daniel takes the seat on my left. I put my hand on Daniel’s shoulder and whisper, “Thank you." ( ) Walking Spectre Veronika B. Kos

*Daniel's name has been changed to protect his identity and preserve his anonymity.


Author

HOWE SOUND SPILLS sb. smith

Barge sinks, fuel seeps into the sea where herring swim and orcas feed beneath glittering diesel sheen. Herring die, float to the surface— their bodies: light, scaly planets in the slick, silver galactic. Mars-red eyes bulge from orca skulls, lungs choke on droplets through blowholes— cracked-skin comets crashing ashore. The coast guard, a hurtling skim; a spill of dark, greedy business soaking from sea to shining sea.

Lake on Fire Non-Fiction Poetry Robertson 57 Alasdair


CHILD’S PLAY Rose McQuirter

I

AM ALREADY DEAD. REBECCA SCRATCHED

into her journal over and over, her withered hand shaking.

Her suffering was worst at daybreak. She watched from her hospital bed as the city blinked its neon lights and the shuttles began their trek between towers. Her private room had a wide window that stared out at sleek buildings. The lights of youth dappled the sky in pastel hues. Nadia was the last city alive since the planets began to slow. All the faces in the buildings below were young, unravaged by nature. Rebecca was dying. She was 86, heavily lined and very ill, the oldest woman in a city of millions and the only mortal. Her peers had opted for endless youth. She watched them crowding into the painted streets. Rebecca had been 76 when her older sister, Mira, arrived at her door as a 21-year-old, her years erased.

( Mira had sold her home, left her husband, and spent her life savings for the dose. She had bought “forever,” like everyone else. ) Rebecca closed her journal when a nurse entered her room. She kept her eyes on the city. The nurses filled her with resentment. “Mira is here,” the nurse announced from a few feet away. She appeared no older than 15 and seemed to think Rebecca’s age might infect her. “She is?” Rebecca shifted uncomfortably. It had been a month since she last spoke with her sister, who seemed to regress further into youth each visit. “Yes, with a gentleman friend.” Rebecca pulled her sheets closer and nodded sharply. Her sister had always been strong. When they found a dead bird in their yard one childhood summer, Mira had been the one to assure her that, “Death is a part of it. It’s expected.” The nurse took the elevator down and Rebecca watched the one opposite rise. Shuttles cruised across the sky,

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flawless faces staring out their windows. She tried to imagine what they were doing with their youth, where they were going. “Hi, Beck.” Mira stood closer than the nurse had, but still left a considerable distance between them. She looked closer to 19 now, dressed fashionably and overly eager. “How are things?” Rebecca asked, glancing beyond her to a man dressed cleanly in a light blue suit. She assumed he was yet another boyfriend. “They’re wonderful,” Mira responded. “I’m taking some courses with Jeanie and we’ve been going to the east towers.” She caught Rebecca’s gaze and added, “I want to introduce you to Dr. Jeffrey.” They had lined up for his treatments, for immortality. She remembered his name now, from the headlines, and from the signature signed at the bottom of the summary of her condition: Molbyixcan is not compatible with cells infected by the V99 virus. Molbyixcan’s functions will not reverse the deterioration of patient C7’S cells or improve the condition of the patient’s infection. Not even the smartest man in the city could fix her. “Hello, Rebecca.” Dr. Jeffery smiled, stepping past Mira and offering his hand. “You have the best view of the city.” Rebecca could not raise either of her hands due to the tubes and monitors. She couldn’t find words, either. Instead she focused on people leaping from a tower at the edge of town, parachutes unfurling in silhouettes against a smoggy sun. She so badly wanted to join the living. “Maybe you can find a nurse and ask for some coffee?” Dr. Jeffery suggested to Mira. Her heels clicked down the hall a moment later. Rebecca knew she would not be gone long. There were no other sick patients in the hospital. Rebecca’s illness had taken others before her, though she hadn’t met them. She was the last of the sickly. Today people only came and went for shots to defer mortality.

Baby Behind Glass Tara McGinn



Child’s Play

“You must see many things from this window,” Dr. Jeffrey continued, pushing a chair over to the edge of her bed. Rebecca didn’t answer. “We have a proposal for you,” he said finally. She flinched. It took the air out of her. “We’ve designed a new body, something less fragile,” Dr. Jeffrey began. “Something less human?” Rebecca’s voice was quiet but firm. “Yes. Something less breakable and entirely ageless.” “But aren’t they already ageless?” Dr. Jeffrey sighed. For the first time, he looked uncomfortable. “We’ve discovered that while Molbyixcan prevents aging, it does not prevent regression. When people select an age, they age backward from that point. Their brains are getting younger.” Rebecca stilled. She thought of Mira, how mature she had seemed for her age when she was little. “So, they aren’t immortal?” He shook his head. “They are slowly becoming babies. Their experiences are being erased.” “A city of infants?” The ridiculousness of it. “We are offering…” Dr. Jeffery tugged a paper from inside his suit jacket and placed it on the bed, “a new body, free of illness, age. We are offering you a new future.” She opened the paper slowly and read it over, excitement cutting through the anger. She thought of all the hours she’d spent waiting for her body to cave in on itself. “They only had tea.” Mira returned with a tray, placing the cups neatly on the side table. Rebecca slipped the contract into the pocket of her gown as Dr. Jeffrey toasted her with his cup of tea. The operation room had snake-like cords spilling from the ceiling and walls, cables ran like veins from her small body. The room was crowded with the most capable doctors in the city, each shifting with nervous energy.

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The technology would permanently prevent aging. It would transfer her consciousness to an artificial, immortal body. Dr. Jeffery reassured them this would correct the error of eternal childishness, increasing immaturity. Not everyone would be transferred, but doctors would be, surely. The murmurs subsided at the sight of a stretcher gliding in with the artificial body until it came to rest beside the old woman. Past and present, side by side. The woman’s new shell was tall, bald, and a polished grey. The body’s hard glassy skin glinted beneath the spotlights. It had a strength no human flesh could and reflected the onlookers as a mirror.

( The physicians gazed lustfully at it, impatient to win the war against time. ) Many of those who had spent all their funds on renewed youth, would be too poor to purchase forever, but patient c7 did not have to pay. She was disposable; she had nothing to lose and they had everything to gain. The doctors flipped switches and watched screens. They cut and removed and transferred. They thought of how horrible it would be to be old. They thought of nothing else. “Mira, not so close to the edge.” Rebecca pulled her older sister away from the drop and guided them back to the shuttle shelter. Today, the rain fell lightly, and clouds cast a quiet shadow across the city. “Where’s the bus?” Mira asked, her voice muffled under the hood of her raincoat. “It will be here soon, don’t worry,” Rebecca assured her, reaching for Mira’s small hand. She looked out on a city overpopulated by children. “It’s been forever,” Mira insisted, squirming in her rain gear. Mira was forgetting more lately, unlearning things. She appeared to be seven-years-old, while Rebecca looked the same, invincible. Yet her mind was not. She felt ancient, tired of passing time, missing the past. What would she see? Rebecca watched Mira kicking puddles. She thought of the bird, the reassurance of its death, and of everything of which Mira had told her it had been a part. ( )


Author

NASA SAYS Conar Rae Harris

It takes nine months to reach the Red Planet. Only nine months. In that time, cancer turned Opa into an astronaut. His shuttle, a single hospital bed. A nurse installed his breathing apparatus and liquid feed. Side-effect of prolonged weightlessness: his skeleton leeched for rocket fuel.

His eyes blazed red like the planet’s distant surface. Loss of vision to follow. His quadrapod spacecraft touched down in an eye-socket crater on impact. He dragged the rustrich landscape with his limping left leg stiffened by childhood tb.

Olympus Mons anchors to his horizon, the sky aglow with God’s ornaments.

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Title

FINALE Braedan Zimmer

F

can remember, my parents watched Survivor at eight o’clock on Thursday nights. During elementary school, I lay awake in bed an hour past bedtime, straining to hear Jeff Probst’s voice and my parents’ whispered reactions. Thanks to persistent negotiations, my bedtime was finally extended, and my brother’s a year later.

OR AS LONG AS I

In the several years after he joined us, Survivor grew into more than just a Thursday evening tradition—it became the anticipated weekly event in our household. We each chose our favourite contestants, living vicariously through

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them in their struggle for power. After each tribal council and the elimination of another teary, hot-headed, or bravely deadpan contestant, the four of us would remain in our living room, plotting each alliance’s next move. Everything led up to the season finales, which were longawaited and invited a feverish excitement that rivalled even our own birthdays. This particular finale, though, was the most anticipated of any—we would all be gathering around the tv again. My mother, who’d been living in palliative care for weeks, had arranged to join us at home.


Author

At the three o’clock bell, I deposited my English books in my locker and charged out the door, squinting through the wet flakes that whipped my face. Inside, I kicked off my shoes and tossed my gloves aside, skipping every second stair. I dragged one of the worn kitchen chairs to the living room window and sat watching the road, flipping through the channels and settling on reruns of The Simpsons for background noise. I had only left my post once—to pee—when, hours later, headlights finally appeared through the flurries. My whole body trembled as I watched the ambulance make a reluctant three-point turn between the crusted snow banks and back into the mouth of our steep driveway. A hulking man with thick arms and a matching paunch lumbered down from the driver’s seat and circled around the back of the vehicle.

( He wheeled Mom down the ramp and my dad ran out in jean shorts he’d ripped himself. His spatula was still in his hand and bits of scrambled egg tumbled into the snow. ) Once inside, I listened to the two of them grunt as they carefully carried her, chair and all, up the stairs she’d walked for 15 years. When she reached the landing, I skittered across the hardwood and dove into her lap. I looked up to see that she was wincing, and unwrapped my arms from around her waist. The driver retreated, promising to return in three hours. Dad sat on the recliner, my brother and I laid out on the couch, and my mom sat in the middle of the room in her wheelchair. The theme music started and the camera took us across wide-open, sun-dried savannahs, and tracked a black tarantula with orange-ringed legs up the pale, acned

bark of a palm tree. Then we were plunged underwater, circled by sharks. Probst would soon deliver his live address to the fans. The familiarity of the moment was intoxicating. We all fell silent, a habit formed well before the pvr allowed us to rewind and decipher the conspiratorial whispers between contestants. Silence was something only the four of us truly appreciated, and the ability to record came in handy when Grandma used to watch with us: she would pipe up mid-scene and get a look from my Dad. He was lenient, and her first warning was usually a sigh. If it happened again, he might give her a subtle “shh,” or even, “Save it for the commercials.” Grandma brought out the chatter in Mom, and Mom in her, but when it was just the four of us, things would be deadly quiet. Sometimes I would even forget I wasn’t alone until an advertisement for a truck with “best-in-class fuel economy” broke the spell. I was in a similar trance that night, but as my excitement boiled over during the final tribal council, I glanced at my mom. She was slumped to one side and her eyes were closed. Her pink beanie had tumbled onto her lap, exposing the few ragged tufts of hair that still clung to her head. She was sleeping through the Survivor finale. Then I knew. There was a thickness in my throat and in the silence that settled over the living room just before the vote, a sour tinge under the scent of my dad’s burnt popcorn. It was in the way the loose skin hung off her sharp, jutting cheekbones. I could no longer ignore it. When the winner was crowned, we woke Mom up. She apologized, but fell back into a dead sleep by the time the driver returned. My dad helped him roll her up the driveway and into the ambulance as my brother and I stood shivering on the porch. The three of us headed back inside once its fading lights were extinguished by the darkness. ( )

Ruby Non-Fiction Ruby Hopkins 63


THE PUGILIST Tyler Lynch

T

HEY KNEW HIM AT THE bar and wouldn’t let him in, so he sits on a bench and leans into what's behind him.

His ears, large and simian, have fleshy, wrinkled lobes; their seashell whorls have long since buckled into cauliflowers. Grey hair rings the back of his head and temples in grass-rough tufts, uncut for too long. The top of his head is bald. His wrists rest on his pyjama legs, hands limp at the ends of the wrists. They have knuckles like vertebrae, the warped backbone of a broken animal. His fingers twitch in empty air. He looks at these big, broken hands and wishes they were still wrapped in five feet of cotton, over the wrist and through the fingers, tight as wads of money. He still remembers the feel of 16 ounces of leather and horsehair, his fists looking cartoonish. He wishes his plastic dentures were biting into rubber, hugging his upper jaw. Sometimes they had fought without a mouthpiece. When they called and said, “Sal needs you down at the casino,” they’d bring him in on an hour’s notice, because he could bruise. He could brawl like a mad dog, throw leather without making it look pretty, and someone usually ended up unconscious. The crowds loved that. He got called often. He thinks about every fight he’s ever had, every single gym scrape, every dance in the ring, every time he met fists with another man. His record was 47-42 in the end, 36 by knockout. It was a right hook, flush, a counter off a jab, that took down Sean “The Bully Kid” McCorkle in the fourth round. He never answered the 10 count. It was a jab-overhand, right that dropped him against Moses “Money Man” Lattimore—the jab stunned him, the overhand made it all go white for a second before it all went black. Moses was a pot-shotter, had nothing for the old boxer but that one combo, jab-overhand right, all night long. That’s why he bullied Moses for eight beautiful rounds, making him eat one-twos, making him swing at air, until Moses managed to finally hit that

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sledgehammer right and it was lights out baby, with Tony standing over him going, “Come around big guy, it ain’t nothing but a mosquito bite.” A young lady walks up to the bench and takes a seat as far from him as possible, practically hanging off the end. She’s so blonde his tufts of grey hair look shabbier just by vicinity. She is dressed in a crisp grey pantsuit. His slack pyjamas and soup-stained shirt become evidence not just of age, but decrepitude. He looks at her, fingers quivering, sitting hunched on a sidewalk bench.“What’s your name, Sweetheart?” he asks, cocking his head. She glances at his broken nose, crooked as a dented fender. She sighs heavily.

( She’s been through this a million times— these old men, gently bullying, shambling with the ignorance of age, as if they felt they could still pull the ladies. ) He probably remembers a time when they called him “Irish Ken” or “Italian Stallion,” when he stood six feet tall with a head of dark hair. “Rosemary,” she says quietly. “Rosie is it? I know a Rosie!” He has established a rapport. “Where you from, Rosie?” “Boston,” she says, with the same flat tone. “Boston is it? Why, I know Boston! I’m a Bostonian myself! Do ya like boxing, Rosie?” “Not really,” she says. “Dawww, why not?” The old man paws the air in her direction, smiling. “Say, did you know I was a boxer once, Rosie?” He curls his liver-spotted hands into fists and says, “Pah, pah,” lightly punching the air. “They called me the ‘Boston Bomber!’—47 wins, 36 by Dust Ruby Hopkins


Tyler Lynch

knockout! Once I fought George Foreman, y’know? I hit him with a good one in the first. Left hand it was.” Rosemary looks down; the Boston Bomber looks at her. “You have a good memory,” she says. “Oh, my memory is sharp as ever. You can rattle this thing, but inside it ticks like a brand-new clock. I remember every punch, Rosie! The Boston Bomber…. Pah, pah, pah,” he says while miming a three-punch combo. Jab, straight, uppercut. “That one was Luis Rodriguez, the guy they called ‘The Mexicutioner.’ Heh, heh, heh! Pah, pah, pah pah pah pah.” He mimes a sixpunch combo this time. “That one took out Joe Lester, ‘Chocolate,’ they called him. He trained out of old Sam Hunt’s gym on the southside.” “Grandpa,” Rosie says. “Pah, pah, pah pah pah. Just a bunch of haymakers for Sammy ‘Ugly’ Wilkins. Mick bastard he was. Heh, heh, heh. He had a chin on him, could eat punches like kisses!” he croaks, tilting his head back.

“Pah pah, pah, pah pah!” The old man knocks out another sweaty, wiry opponent with rubber in his mouth. Someone crashes to the canvas and the ref starts his 10 count. “I called Dad, and he’s coming from work,” she says. “How’d you get out this time?” The Boston Bomber’s fists fly through the air. “Grandpa, it’s Rosie. Remember?” “Sure, Honey.” His voice is like crushed rock. “I remember every single punch.” He feels like a boxer again, separating mind from body with his fists, making men into meat. Sure, he’d be the one on the ground just as often, blood from his nose pooling in his eyes, horse kicks on his temples, rung like a bell. That was just part of the game. He remembers every punch. He’d do it all again. ( )

“Grandpa, please,” Rosie says. She puts her hand out, close to the old boxer’s knee. She seems afraid, but he doesn’t notice.

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BOOK REVIEWS in the water, catches a creature that is unlike anything she has studied before. It is injured by a hook through its cheek, so Vivienne returns to town with her carefully concealed find tucked away in a fish box. “[The creature] lies on the hook embedded in her face and as she struggles to breathe it presses more deeply into her flesh. Petals bloom from beneath her cheek suffusing the water with colour. Vivienne thinks it is like watching a teabag stain the water in a cup of tea when you press on it with a spoon and she wonders what would happen if she pressed down the same way with her foot on the creature’s face.” The Luminous Sea Melissa Barbeau Breakwater Books, 2018 237 pages isbn: 978-1550817379 $19.95 Reviewed by CS Broatch

The Luminous Sea is a love letter from author Melissa Barbeau to Newfoundland, to the ecosystems that dwell in the depths of Canadian bays, to the magic that enriches and nourishes our lives when we embrace tenderness and adventure. Her debut novel explores the lives of those in a small, isolated coastal community in eastern Canada and enchants readers with captivating characters. Full of mystery, the ocean and its inhabitants cast a mesmerizing magical spell over an otherwise true account of the close-knit lives of those who inhabit Canadian outports. While in Newfoundland collecting samples, Vivienne, a university researcher studying phosphorescence

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Having brought the creature back to shore, Vivienne becomes emotionally divided between getting over her ex-girlfriend in St. John’s and her work. Vivienne is an emotional, thoughtful, and reserved character and in every way the complementary opposite of her boss Colleen, and Colleen’s supervisor Isaiah. “A scowl. Colleen is not used to taking orders from anyone, even Isaiah. She is the one that has been hunched over a microscope in this draughty shack, stuffing fish into freezers, while he has been eating shrimp cocktail and knocking back drinks and pushing himself onto grad students in wetsuits. She has no intentions of being told what to do.” Each is unique and invested in the creature’s welfare, but for different reasons. Despite the creature’s declining health, after only a few days in the lab, Colleen and Isaiah continue to examine it, sure that the results will be critically acclaimed among academics regardless of the consequences. Vivienne might be able to save it; but not on her own.

“A noise that is almost a squeal floats from the fish’s throat, the sound is almost too faint to hear. Vivienne bends to place her ear beside the mouthful of barbed teeth. The sound is brief and then gone, replaced by a gurgling deep within her chest that sounds like water over the landwash. It is the sound of the ocean and Vivienne feels a sudden desire to be underwater, to dive into a cool and moving ocean, to be submerged under the waves, the sun shining somewhere overhead. A spasm coursed through the fish. Vivienne hears herself whimper. Colleen looks at her sideways and frowns.” Apart from the painstakingly beautiful story of recovery and discovery, The Luminous Sea encompasses a range of subtly different and bitter concepts, sweetened by the sugar of Barbeau’s prose. It is subtle in its exploration of sexual relations and environmental threat, so much so that they are the quiet heartbeats of the story without losing substance or becoming distracting. “We’ve finally found the way to immortality, found a way to keep company with everything ancient down there, and it’s through trash.” For all the strange and mystical elements in the book, the story never strays too far from the physical world; it is moored in scientific precision, lavish detail, fervor, sensitivity, and insight. It questions how we approach scientific exploration in the name of knowledge and compassion for our natural cohabitants. Barbeau accomplishes a lot with her tale, but most impressively she invites us to wonder at, and revere a world underwater. I’ll wait with baited breath for Melissa Barbeau’s next novel.


men of the colony are off in the city, attempting to raise bail funds to free the rapists and bring them home. The narrator of this story is August Epp, a harmless, formerly excommunicated member of the colony (his parents distributed contraband books) who has experienced the outside world as a school teacher and protestor in London. He’s therefore literate and speaks English rather than low German. Because of his ability to translate, he is chosen to take the minutes of the women’s secret meetings. The novel consists of these minutes, interspersed with thoughts and backstories from the introspective Epp, the only “good” man at the heart of this tale. Women Talking Miriam Toews Knopf Canada, 2018 240 pages isbn: 978-0735273962 $ 29.95 Reviewed by Megan Johnson Barr Between 2005 and 2009, a group of more than 100 women, old and young, from a Bolivian Mennonite colony believed they were being attacked by demons while asleep in their beds. Later, it was discovered that the attacks were actually by local men who were drugging and sexually assaulting the women. Eventually, years into the attacks, the men were found out and convicted for their crimes. Beloved Manitoba-born novelist Miriam Toews, an excommunicated Mennonite herself, features these horrific events in her new novel Women Talking. It takes place primarily in the hay loft of the Manitoba colony of Mennonites where the eight women raped have just two days to decide whether they stay and make peace with the men, stay and fight, or leave the only society they have ever known or in which they’re equipped to live. While these secret meetings are taking place, the

As the title implies, the novel features eight women talking, four from each of two families: Greta and her two daughters Mariche and Mejal, and Mejal’s daughter Autje; as well as Agata Friesen, her two daughters Ona and Salome, and Salome’s niece Neitje, whose mother has committed suicide. Ona is pregnant with her rapist’s child and Salome has a three-yearold daughter who, after being raped several times, is denied treatment for a sexually-transmitted disease because Peters, the colony bishop, believed doctors would gossip. This is a bleak, horrifying dystopia that deserves to inspire fury, but also, strangely, and with often unexpected humour, invites contemplation of thornier philosophical and moral issues to do with faith, parenting, raising good men, pacifism, violence, freedom, and duty. Toews doesn’t wring out the trauma, but rather emphasizes the survivalist instinct inherent in these women despite a desire to preference the community over their own needs, even in the face of its unthinkable betrayal. Women Talking is the perfect title for this novel as it brings women’s voices to the forefront, something happening in the #MeToo movement

on social media, a world so far from this analogue one. While a novel told entirely through the minutes of meetings in a hayloft may not seem like an entertaining plot device, Toews brings these characters to life in a narrative almost entirely in dialogue and in the voices of characters angry, resilient, feisty, quiet, and thoughtful. Their arguments are an overview of the pressing issues of our day and are hyper-contemporary despite their anti-modern origins. Toews’ most notable works include her novels All My Puny Sorrows, A Complicated Kindness, Virma Roth, The Flying Troutmans, Summer of My Amazing Luck, A Boy of Good Breeding and Swing Low. She has won the Governor General’s Award for Fiction, Canada Reads, has been a two-time winner of the Rogers Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize and a two-time finalist for the Scotiabank Giller Prize, and is the recipient of the Writers’ Trust Engel/Findley Award for body of work. Women Talking is a brave, heartwrenching, and intelligent successor to works that continue to try to make sense of a religion that has peace as its anthem and violence and inequality in its practice. It does justice to the very real events that spurred its origins and does not shy away from dark truths. It parallels the news stories of sexual assault and violence against women all too prevalent on airwaves and Twitter feeds today. This is not an easy read, but not one that requires your elbows on the table either; it is as inspiring as it is enraging. We care for these eight women forced to make a terrible choice after living a terrible injustice, but they are not victims and they are far from stereotype. We champion their unflagging spirit in part because we want their debates and courage to ultimately help us make a stronger argument of our own.

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endings in an exceptional work of psychological suspense.

Foe Iain Reid Simon & Schuster Canada, 2018 272 pages isbn: 978-1501103476 $26.99 Reviewed by Kiara Strijack

This book is best read in one sitting at night, in the dark and alone. Reading it is like walking into a room and sensing something’s been moved. Foe is well and truly a mindbender, and just as beautifully desolate as its cover jacket. Iain Reid deliciously unsettles the reader in an intimate setting, investigates raw and relevant themes, and delivers the gold standard of twist

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Film rights for Foe have already been acquired by Anonymous Content, with Reid himself as executive producer. Ottawa-born Iain Reid won the RBC Taylor Emerging Writer Award in 2015. His internationally bestselling first novel, I’m Thinking of Ending Things, published in 2016, is being adapted into a Netflix movie and has been published in over 20 countries. Both novels explore themes of identity and relationships and are set in rural locations. Reid has also written two award-winning works of non-fiction: One Bird’s Choice and The Truth About Luck. In the near-future, Junior and his wife Henrietta live a contented life in the remote countryside. They never get visitors, not out there. That is, until the arrival of two green headlights and a stranger named Terrance who seems unusually familiar. Junior’s world is turned upside down when he learns that he has been randomly selected for a program that will take him far from his home and his wife and that Hen will have “familiar” company while he’s gone. Hen is acting strange and things are not as they seem, but Junior notes that “(a) shock, no matter how potent, always wears off with time.” Junior and Hen become accustomed to their new reality, even if they’re unhappy about it. Years pass and life goes on. “Unease becomes ease.” But if they grow too comfortable they may be at risk, as Terrance warns: “(h)abitual, comfortable activity is the worst kind of prison, because the bars are concealed.” Foe has no chapter titles or numbers so the reader is never taken out of an intimate and immersive experience. Seeing the world from Junior’s firstperson perspective makes it very

easy to empathize with him. Junior’s quote-free dialogue is initially jarring, but it doesn’t take long for it to feel completely natural. This foregoing of traditional chapters and quotation marks, combined with Foe’s uncanny atmosphere, is reminiscent of Cormac McCarthy. There are only three characters in the novel, the setting is isolated, and the narrative rarely ventures outside the house or surrounding property. Junior escapes to the barn when in need of a change of scene: “In the barn, I share the space with the chickens only, and they are non-inquisitive. They are easy to please.” The close quarters create a claustrophobia that starts to box you in and make you feel trapped. Reid creates the eerie feeling that there is no world outside Hen and Junior’s house and barn. The prose is crisp and riveting and the recurring presence of beetles creates unease and develops character. The novel is separated into three acts: Arrival, Occupancy, and Departure. But do these refer to the foe—or someone else? As if this question isn’t enough, there are two twist endings. Foe touches upon marriage, identity, isolation, artificial intelligence, and what it is to be human and proposes the astounding idea that “(y)ou can hold beliefs and not always believe in them.” Foe is captivating from the first sentence to the last and delivers an utterly unexpected conclusion. The characters will engage you and make you question your own ideas about marriage, identity, and humanity. This is the kind of book you will want to be trapped in, though not for too long. Watch out for Foe in theatres. In the meantime, let Iain Reid’s compelling writing transport you to a farmhouse in the middle of nowhere, where nothing feels quite right. Sit back, dim the lights, and crack the spine.


on display at the National Gallery of Canada. A documentary about his life called Maker of Monsters: The Extraordinary Art of Beau Dick, was in production at the time of his death and was released in November of 2017. In it, Beau Dick is described as the greatest Northwest Coast artist since colonial contact.

Beau Dick: Revolutionary Spirit Darrin J. Martens Figure 1 Publishing, 2018 160 pages ibsn: 978-1773270401 $40.00 Reviewed by Shanon Sinn

Beau Dick: Revolutionary Spirit introduces us to a complex and otherworldly man, known best for his mask carving and activism. A biographical chapter about his life by Darrin J. Martens titled “Revolutionary Spirit,” is further divided into sections called “The Man,” “The Mentor,” “The Activist,” “The Artist,” and “The Legacy.” Through these, we learn more about the artistic Chief who became a household name in 2014, after he marched across Canada to break an ornate copper slab on the steps of parliament—a traditional Kwakwakawakw way of shaming another chief after being mistreated. As a former addict who once lived in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside, Beau Dick stood up against many injustices in his life, including social inequality. “Revolutionary Spirit” honours the lesser-known sides of Beau Dick as well, such as his roles as father and friend, by providing multiple antidotes and photos throughout.

Kwakwaka’wakw artist Beau Dick passed away in 2017 at the age of 61. One year later, the Audain Art Museum in Whistler published Beau Dick: Revolutionary Spirit while his work was simultaneously displayed at their gallery. Beau Dick’s art has been exhibited all over the world and is permanently

“He struggled financially, as many do, and sought solace and camaraderie in live-work studios with other artists in the city’s Eastside. One day, Dick discovered a young woman in a back alley. She was dishevelled and unconscious and exhibited signs of addiction. He helped her to his studio, where he fed her and offered her a dry place to sleep. A few hours later, Dick sent the young woman on her way with money in her pocket.” Also included are the “Director’s Foreword” by Brianna Beacom, a tribute poem called “Raven’s Son” by

Beau Dick’s daughter Linnea Dick, and a funeral note titled “A Letter to Beau Dick” by Peter Morin. Morin’s chapter is a scanned handwritten letter with accompanying images of it being burned. This is a traditional Kwakwaka’wakw means of sending a message to a deceased loved one. Most of Beau Dick: Revolutionary Spirit is dedicated to images of his art. Though he was primarily a carver of masks, his work crossed many media: rattles and puppets, headdresses, aprons, and totem pole carving. The images are stunning and otherworldly. The collection holds samples of Beau Dick’s work with brief explanations of the pieces in a cultural, often supernatural, context. A Dzunukwa mask adorns the cover, for example, which is further described within: “The ‘wild woman of the woods’ is a familiar figure for many Kwakwaka’wakw. These masks illustrate her narrative as both provider of wealth and cannibal of miscreant children. The accentuated facial features and tousled hair are defining features, as is the position of the lips, which suggest her defining ‘Hu’ call.” In an otherwise perfect book, the one thing that’s unclear is why the only name on the cover is Martens’ when Justin Barski, Linnea Dick, Peter Morin, Brianna Beacom, and Wayne Alfred are also listed as contributors. It’s a strange oversight in an age where Indigenous art and appropriation are often part of the same conversation. Beau Dick: Revolutionary Spirit is well designed with high-resolution images and high-quality paper. Like Beau Dick’s art, the book is somewhat dark, taking us on a visionary cultural journey of activism and into the spirit world. For those interested in Indigenous culture and contemporary Canadian history, Revolutionary Spirit is essential reading.

Book Reviews

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Cosmopolitan, Nylon, and CBC’s q, combines elements of memoir, humour, and self-help in this selection of accessible, often hilarious essays. Covering her failures, careers, crushes, and quirks, Donahue embraces her faults to find purpose. The essays have a youthful tone that is both introspective and instructive, with a vernacular well-suited to audiences immersed in social media. In many ways, the book is actually similar to social media; there are lists, snapshots, musings, and pop-cultural references throughout.

Nobody Cares by Anne T. Donahue ecw Press, 2018 196 Pages isbn: 978-1770414235 $21.00 Reviewed by Raymond Wade

On first impression, the title of Anne T. Donahue’s debut work, Nobody Cares, might seem a little defeatist. However, much like the comedic author herself, there is more than meets the eye. Donahue, a popular online personality and writer who has contributed to Esquire, Playboy,

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Book Reviews

The chapter “Things I Have Not Failed (But Quit Proudly)” provides an amusing rundown of Donahue’s varied abandoned pursuits, while “In Case of Emergency” poses self-care questions designed to aid in dealing with anxiety. Although these different elements can make Nobody Cares feel somewhat scattered, its thematic consistencies give the collection a cohesive quality. Independence, mental health, and acceptance are all topics Donahue explores. Her more serious obstacles, while assigned the gravity they deserve, are padded with dark humour that reflect her neuroses: “I toyed with officially announcing I had a Drinking Problem, but dismissed the notion when I realized that going public with that would mean I’d have to stop drinking.” At its funniest, Nobody Cares capitalizes on the current zeitgeist of disenchanted adults who don’t quite feel adult. Donahue looks back on her admittedly ordinary upbringing. North American hobbies and conventions endured in her youth are torn apart with scathing specificity, but also with universal appeal. Of her early piano lessons, Donahue writes: “I hated that playing Aqua’s ‘Barbie Girl’ on piano made it seem like a song you’d hear at a funeral for a person you hated.” There is no shortage of personality on any given page. Donahue’s brand of

humour is sarcastic and referential, often using films to emphasize the absurdity of her circumstances. In most cases, her pop-culture plugs are mainstream, but her comedic comparisons can sometimes be too reliant on the reference alone. If you don’t know the movie, you won’t get the joke. This usually isn’t problematic, but for anyone who isn’t familiar with movies like Blue Crush, the humour occasionally falls flat. Kathy Bates in Misery might be a clever one-liner when talking about anxiety, but the technique gets tired. Still, this collage of culture and self-deprecation is part of Donahue’s charm. Her essays tell a relatable story of someone aware of her potential, but inconsistent in channeling it. The vibe of the book occasionally veers into “advice” fodder, but the revelations justify its cadence: “... you still have to go to work and eat your meals and be alive, but you are also allowed to exist in a realm where You Are Fucking Dealing With Something, So Fuck Off, Please and Thank You.” For the casual reader, Nobody Cares provides inspiration in unlikely places. An entire chapter is dedicated to her fantasy relationship with Leonardo DiCaprio, yet eventually reveals itself as an essay on infatuation and disillusionment. Surprisingly, Donahue’s chatty anecdotes of teen angst and rites of passage manage to avoid self-importance, making the essays succeed unexpectedly. The title of the book perfectly reflects both the author’s cynicism and advice. Given Donahue’s philosophies, the message is more about owning your own struggles than it is about alienation. As such, Nobody Cares feels like it was a cathartic endeavor for its author, and for any reader learning to embrace life’s catastrophes, it’s nice to know that somebody does actually care.


Wisdom in Nonsense: Invaluable Lessons from My Father Heather O’Neill University of Alberta Press, 2017 64 pages isbn: 978-1-77212-377-7 $11.95 Reviewed by Jade Vandergrift

Heather O’Neill’s Wisdom in Nonsense is part of a Canadian Literature Centre Kreisel Lecture Series, but don’t let that scare you. It is a brief autobiographical account of how O’Neill was raised by a single dad who gave her questionable advice. She writes about strange scenarios she found herself in as a girl and showcases her father’s unsavoury character. She writes, “I feel that I need to pause for a moment—just in case you’re getting the idea that my dad was this wonderful guy. Full disclosure: he was an asshole. There’s no way around it. His behaviour was pretty shocking.” O’Neill begins the work when she was seven, the moment her mother put her on a plane from Virginia to her father in Montreal, where she still lives today. This is not an enviable fatherdaughter relationship, it is one in which a man tries to be a decent father despite shortcomings, and fails as often as he succeeds. He stole, he lied, he was financially irresponsible, and he invited some strange people over. He told her “a family is a group of trusted associates,” referring to the misfits who passed through their home. He told her “learn to play the tuba,” so she would have a niche skill and would always be able to find work. He said stealing wasn’t wrong if you did it for the right people. He stole expensive cheeses for her so they could have fancy dinners in front of the tv. She wasn’t allowed to keep a diary, in case she wrote anything incriminating about him, but she did it anyway. The last chapter is titled “Sometimes There is Nothing to be Learned.” Accepting this gives O’Neill a sense of peace. She realized her father had good intentions despite his poor and unusual parental oversight. His advice was rarely applicable to typical situations. Perhaps it was advice

he wished he could have given his younger self. He tells her to be friends with the Jewish kids on their block because the Jewish neighbours from his childhood grew to be successful. She should surround herself with people who will inspire her to be more than what she has been born into. O’Neill’s mother is even worse, an absent parent who doesn’t make it past the prologue to this brief memoir. O’Neill doesn’t expose her father as a villain, or let anyone look down on her. He was a single dad with no outside help and was making it up as he went along. “[His rules] gave me a sense that everything I did was important, and I have carried that notion through my life.” O’Neill’s style of writing is conversational and witty; she is clear and to the point. She doesn’t condone how she was brought up, but she does see that it made her the woman, and the writer, she is today. She writes from pure experience and brings humour to each chapter. In a world where many children are raised in split homes by blended families, this is a breath of fresh and honest air. It’s clear she has come to terms with her difficult childhood, using her life to date to become an award-winning author of a novel released each of the last three years: The Girl Who Was Saturday Night, The Daydreams for Angels, The Lonely Hearts Hotel. Her debut novel in 2006 was Lullabies for Little Criminals, which won Canada Reads and the Hugh MacLennan Prize for Fiction as well as the Orange Prize, the Governor General’s Award, the Giller Prize, and the International Dublin Literary Award. She has made contributions to The New York Times Magazine, The Guardian, This American Life, Rookie Magazine, Elle, Chatelaine, CBC Radio, The National Post, The Globe and Mail, The Toronto Star, and The Walrus.

Book Reviews

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Hunt Spenser Smith



CONTRIBUTOR BIOS CS Broatch won the Pat Bevan Scholarship for Fiction in 2018 and her short story “Shucked” received honourable mention in the Islands Short Fiction Contest. Her work has appeared in Incline and The Navigator, and her stories “Eden” and “Horology” appeared in Portal 2018. She is the Features Editor for The Navigator and Co-Managing Editor for Portal 2019. Chantelle Calitz is a second-year Graphic Design student at viu, pursuing a ba in Design. Three abstract acrylic paintings—“Touch It,” “Precarious,” and “Drop Anchor”—appear in Portal 2019. This is her first publication and first time designing the magazine. Zachery Cooper is the Arts and Entertainment Editor for The Navigator and won Portal’s 2018 Non- Fiction Portent contest with his piece “On Your Left.” He received an honourable mention in the Islands Short Fiction Contest. His work has been featured in The Navigator and Incline and his story “Grand Theft Auto” appeared in Portal 2018. Maria Elsser received the Barry Broadfoot Award for Journalism/Creative Non-Fiction in 2018 and won 2019’s story slam. Her poem “A Tree Falls” was published in Portal 2018 and others in The Mitre and her fiction has been featured in The Navigator. Margot Fedoruk has a degree from the University of Winnipeg and is currently pursuing a Creative Writing degree at viu. She has been published in the Ormsby Review, the The Globe and Mail, and Island Parent magazine. She also received an honourable mention in the Islands Short Fiction contest. Cheryl Folland is in her final year of a ba in Creative Writing at viu. Her poems “Interview,” “Wind,” and “You’d Be 12” were published in The Pointed Circle in 2018. Her non-fiction work can be found in The Mighty, The Navigator, and Meetinghouse online publications. Her first chapbook Family Portrait is available from Amazon.ca. She worked for two years as the Arts and Entertainment Editor at The Navigator. She received the Gisele Merlet Award in 2017 and is currently working on her first full-length novel and freelance editing. Conar Rae Harris is a fourth-year Creative Writing student at viu and has had two feature stories published in The Navigator. This is his first publication in Portal. He is from Prince Rupert, bc. Ruby Hopkins is completing the Post-Baccalaureate Bachelor of Education program at viu and has a Bachelor of Arts in English from the University of Victoria. She was an editor for uvic’s English undergraduate journal The Albatross and her academic writing has been published in the third edition of Eric Henderson’s post-secondary textbook The Active Reader: Strategies for Academic Reading and Writing. This is her first publication in Portal. Megan Johnson Barr is a Co-Managing Editor for Portal 2019 and a fourth-year Media Studies major and Creative Writing minor. She has had her documentaries shown on Shaw tv and at several on-campus events. This is her second year as part of the Portal team. Nicola Kapron is a fourth-year Media Studies major while minoring in Creative Writing. She is the web editor and a fiction editor for this year’s Portal. Aaron Koch is a second-year student at viu, pursuing a Bachelor of Arts with a major in Creative Writing and minor in English. “Saturday” and “Prairie Baptisms” are his first two published pieces. Creeping Onwards Veronika B. Kos

Veronika B. Kos is in her fourth year at viu, pursuing a double major in Psychology and Creative Writing. In 2014 she received an Award of Merit from the Sears Ontario Drama Festival (Peel South District) for her set design


work on A Letter for Darius. Her current obsession is retelling traditional folklore through a variety of media. Tyler Lynch is a second-year student pursuing a ba with a major in Political Studies at viu. He was the winner of the 2017 Islands Short Fiction competition in the youth category and his winning story, “Waiting in the Wings,” was published in the anthology In Our Own Teen Voice 3. Lynch performed a live reading of the story at Word Vancouver literary festival. Lynch’s non-fiction essays have also been published in The Navigator. His short stories, non-fiction, and poetry can be found on his website, tylerlynchwriting.weebly.com Tara McGinn is a fourth-year Media Studies student at viu focusing on video. This is her first published work of photography. She self-published a comic book titled The Cursed Throne that is no longer in print. Most of her work can be found at Tara Fye Media. Rose McQuirter is a third-year English major and Creative Writing minor. “The One Who Knew Us Best” was published in the 2018 edition of Portal and also appeared in the 2016 anthology In Our Own Voice. Ally Mehl is a second-year Creative Writing student at viu who performed a series of poems, “Coming into Ecofeminism,” at viu’s create conference. She also performed “This Dress” at the Nanaimo Women’s March in 2018. She spoke “Message to our Mother,” a poem about global warming, at viu’s Got Talent and read at Rise Up for the 16 Days of Activism. Jesse Miller is a portrait, landscape, and lifestyle photographer for viu, Tourism Nanaimo, and Tourism Vancouver Island working on digital curation projects. He has collaborated with Tourism Victoria, Tofino, Ucluelet, and Urban Outfitters Vancouver. He is pursuing a degree in Media Studies with a minor in Marketing. His photos “Fan Tan Alley” and “Wanderlust” appear in this issue of Portal. Lys Morton is the News Editor for The Navigator and is featured in the upcoming Just Trans Things anthology and Rebel Mountain Press’ upcoming Disabled Voices anthology. His piece “I’m Just Trying to Use the Bathroom” won the 2018 Mike Matthews Humorous Rant award and highlighted the struggles of trans and gender non-conforming individuals using binary bathrooms. You can follow him at Lys Writes Now on Facebook. Laura Mota is a second-year student of Anthropology and Creative Writing. Her photography has been published in The Navigator and on PhotoVogue Italy. Her poem “Sashimi” was published in Portal 2018, and in Pseudocasos, a poetry collection in Brazilian Portuguese with illustrations by Jarlan Félix, published in 2018. Alasdair Robertson is a fourth-year student at viu working toward a ba in Media Studies and Creative Writing. He scripted the play The Icehouse and produced short films and the audio play Séance featured on Storynook.ca. He has had his photographs, poems, and short stories published in The Navigator, and now Portal. He won the viu awards scholarship for academic excellence, and in 2018 received an honourable mention in the international Writer’s Digest Writing competition for his short story “The Damnable” that he is currently expanding into a novel. Shanon Sinn is the author of bc and Amazon bestseller The Haunting of Vancouver Island. He’s been published in The Victoria Times-Colonist and The Navigator, as well as in Nelson’s Canadian Corrections textbook. As a Creative Writing student at viu, he’s received the Barry Broadfoot Award for Journalism/Creative Non-Fiction and the Gisele Merlet Creative Writing Award. He is writing a memoir about being a Canadian veteran of the war in Afghanistan and his battle with cancer.


sb. smith is a Creative Writing and Sociology student whose work has been published in The Navigator, Sad Girl Review, and Portal 2018. They work for The Navigator and at The View Gallery, and are an editor for Rebel Mountain Press’ forthcoming Disabled Voices anthology. Their activism archival work, Crip Tax Project, can be found at their website, sb-smith.com. Spenser Smith is in the last semester of his Creative Writing and Journalism ba at viu, and his work has been published in Maclean’s, The Malahat Review, The Puritan, Prairie Fire, The Maynard, and others. During his studies at viu, he’s been awarded the Mary Garland Coleman Prize in Lyric Poetry, the Kevin Roberts Poetry Award, the Pat Bevan Poetry Scholarship, the Barry Broadfoot Award for Journalism/Creative Non-Fiction, and the viu Scholarship for Academic Excellence. He’s also been awarded words(on)page’s Blodwyn Memorial Prize in poetry and two bc Arts Council Scholarships. He’s the Associate Editor of The Navigator and owner of Birds and Bark, a wildlife photography business. He was Managing Editor of Portal 2017 and has had several poems, stories, and photographs published in the last four issues. Kain Stewart is a fourth-year viu student studying Creative Writing and English. He is also a five-time lacrosse provincial gold-medal winner. His poetry has been featured in The Navigator. He is currently a poetry editor for Portal 2019 where he also serves as a member of both the social media and advertising teams. Kiara Strijack is the Art Director and a fiction editor for this issue. She is in her third year at viu, pursuing a major in Creative Writing and a minor in Psychology. She has been published in The Navigator, and her photography has been published in Portal 2018 and 2019. She received the Meadowlark Award for Fiction in 2018. This is the first time her poetry has been published in Portal. Erinn Sturgeon is a third-year English and Creative Writing double major with her sights set on the mfa in Creative Writing program at ubc. She interviewed Lorna Crozier for Portal 2019 and is also a poetry editor. She read poetry for Rise Up, an event recognizing the 16 Days of Activism. Jade Vandergrift is a second-year ba student pursuing a double minor in Creative Writing and Spanish Language and Culture. She is a non-fiction editor, book review editor, copy editor, and launch co-ordinator for Portal 2019. She previously studied Culinary Arts at tru and has volunteered with ngos across the globe. Raymond Wade is a Creative Writing student, musician, and restroom critic. His blog The Latrine Scene takes an investigative approach to reviewing public bathrooms all over bc. He writes tip articles for School Finder and contributes a variety of humorous content to The Navigator. Sam Wharram is a photographer, dramatist, and writer. They are working toward a ba in Theatre and received an award for Best Lighting Design in 2016. They are going to the bc Provincial Drama Festival, as well as competing on the national stage for the Canadian Improv Games. Maggie Woytowich is a first-year ba student who has been published in The Navigator as well as this issue of Portal.

Wanderlust Jesse Miller

Braedan Zimmer is a fourth-year viu student pursuing a major in Liberal Studies and a minor in Creative Writing. He has received the President’s Award, the Meadowlark Award for Fiction, and the June Jeffries Award for Liberal Studies. In 2017, he became an editor of The Compass Rose where his essay “An Appeal to Moderate Patriotism” was published. His story, “Giving Grief a Name” was published in Portal 2018 and he is a fiction editor, copy editor, and Portfolio reading series coordinator for this issue.



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