Portal 2014

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Letter from the Editor In the fall of 2013, when the Portal team met for the first time to discuss our vision for the 2014 issue, it was immediately apparent that we all shared the same goal. We wanted colour, talent, diversity, and lots of it. It would be difficult to top last year’s issue, but in this edition we wanted to bring you an even more visually arresting literary magazine to complement the integrity and novelty of the written content. We wanted Portal to be the most beautiful magazine on the newsstand, inside and out. I daresay we’ve done it. Each Portal author, editor, and artist brought a unique point of view to the magazine, visions that assembled into a singularly lucid imaginative work. And oh, that cover! Ellen McCluskey’s class of student designers and photographers gave us 75 unique interpretations to choose from and though the decision was difficult, the Portal team is convinced we made the right choice. For those who judge a book (or magazine) by its cover, we feel that the content lives up to your expectations—it intrigues, captivates, transports—it submerges in the surreal. While reviewing nearly 200 submissions over the winter break, a theme began to emerge. Many of the works conveyed a sense of dreamlike wonderment, yet several were also dark and otherworldly. Why so moody? Our tagline, “Words to transport you,” certainly is appropriate for this pensive issue. Are these feelings of uncertainty introspective reflections common to student writers, or an exploratory look into greater truths of the world beyond? This year Portal takes you from a Hundred-AcreWood quite unlike the one of your childhood, to the philosophical implications of dating robots. You will be repatriated in Slovakia and shoot snow geese with origami props. You will get to know a little bit more about Michael Crummey while collecting bottle caps and pondering other metaphors for a career in poetry. This

year’s call for submissions also included a collage contest that asked students to disassemble and reassemble their text and images to new effect. We think winner Coby McDougall’s “Expand,” is the perfect sentiment for this exercise. Portal 2014 is the culmination of a dedicated 19-person team’s year-long efforts, but so much more goes into creating Portal than choosing and editing the content. This year’s fundraising efforts included bake sales, a burger-and-beer event, and a not-so-silent auction. Portal had a presence on and off campus at the True Story Slam, the Craig Taylor event, and the Gustafson Lecture. Our events team hosted a Hunger Games’ ball, complete with costumes, and all the while kept Portal fans in the know with weekly blog posts. Our website had a major overhaul and our Sound Editor is recording excerpts for online mp3 files as we speak. Many of the talents you will find featured between these covers are being published for the first time, but it certainly won’t be their last. Writers and readers will remember 2013 as the year Alice Munro won the Nobel Prize for literature, proving not only that Canadian writing is worth celebrating, but also that the short story is alive and well as is poetry, non-fiction, scriptwriting and art. We hope you will enjoy reading Portal as much as we have enjoyed bringing it to life. As you explore this issue of Portal ask yourself, are you looking in or looking out? —Heather Gregory Managing Editor, Portal 2014

2 014 W O R D S




© 2014 by the authors, artists, and photographers.

ISSN 1183-5214

Portal is published by students in Vancouver Island University’s Creative Writing and Journalism Department.

Prime words. Compelling art. Momentous beginnings. Portal is your gateway to accomplished short fiction, poetry, creative non-fiction, scripts, interviews, book reviews, art, and photography by Vancouver Island University 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 Vancouver Island University Rm 221, Bldg 345 900 Fifth Street, Nanaimo, bc V9R 5S5 portalmagazine@viu.ca http://mediastudies.viu.ca/portal http://twitter.com/portalmagazine http://www.facebook.com/portalmag http://instagram.com/portalmagviu Portal is printed by Marquis Imprimeur / Marquis Book Printing, 140-2700 Rachel St E, Montréal, Québec, H2H 1S7. Portal has been printed on recycled paper since 1995. Portal 2014 is printed on 80 lb ENVIRO 100 SATIN.

Portal 2014 Team Managing Editor—Heather Gregory

Photo Editor—Brendan Abbott

Acquisitions Editor & Bios—Michelle Balfour, Amy West

Designer—Jessica Reid

Fiction Editors—Michelle Balfour, Lori Shwydky, Heather Gregory, KC Brock Poetry Editors—Francine McCabe, Délani Valin, Lindsay Miller Script Editor—Jillian Ostrand Non-Fiction Editors—Jessica Key, Drew McLachlan, Molly Barrieau

Cover Designer—Reese Patterson Business Manager—Lori Shwydky Production & Ad Design—Trevor Cooper Fundraising & Events—Hayley Rickaby, Stephanie Brown, Natalie Goldbeck Social Media & Blog—Trystan Elvins

Book Review Editor—Francine McCabe

Launch & Publicity Team—Stephanie Brown, Hayley Rickaby, Natalie Goldbeck, Trystan Elvins, Amy West

Feature Writer—Jessica Key

Sound Editor—Drew McLachlan

Copy Editors—Lori Shwydky, Molly Barrieau, Kimberley Kemmer, Délani Valin

Publisher—Joy Gugeler

Art Director—Kimberley Kemmer

Friends of Portal Thrifty’s Double-Up Program

Literacy Central

viu Campus Career Centre

Rhonda Bailey

viu’s Creative Writing Department

The Ralph Gustafson Trust

viu’s Media Studies Department

the Navigator

Leaf Press

Ellen McCluskey and artg 344

viu Bookstore

The True Story Slam

Nanaimo Art Gallery

Kasia Beausoleil


How to Write a Poem for a Girl You Like Non-Fiction Philip Gordon

27 Amber Poetry Samantha Ainsworth


Collecting Bottle Caps: Michael Crummey on Form Over Function and the Precarious Trade that is a Career in Writing By Jessica Key


Collage Contest Winner: Expand By Coby McDougall

33 Murder in the Hundred Acre Wood Fiction Trevor Cooper

36 Knock Off Script Amy West


Recent Canadian titles by &KULV +DGÀHOG 6WXDUW 0F/HDQ 3KLOLS 5R\ 0LFKDHO +LQJVWRQ -RKQ 5HLEHWDQ] DQG Catherine Greenwood


1 6 12 16 20 28 33 44 48 59

About Me Heather Gregory Emerald Cities Kimberley Kemmer Sightseeing Leisel Gerein Bayani Tonia Laird The Elk Jacquie Maynard Darker Things Michael Calvert Murder in the Hundred Acre Wood Trevor Cooper A Walk in the Park Hayley Rickaby Nutcracker Liz Laidlaw Origami Lorin Medley


4 10 23 42 52 56 63

How to Write a Poem for a Girl You Like Philip Gordon Noise Philip Gordon Only Angels Roamed Gisèle Merlet Snakes & Ladders Jessica Key Collecting Bottle Caps Jessica Key A Whale of a Tale: Stories Galore Liz Laidlaw Round Island Drew McLachlan

Poetry 5 9 15 22 27 41 47 64 65

Nothing Good Drew McLachlan Free-Spirited Philosopher at Table 13 Jane Steward Repatriation Helena Snopek Sun in the Cherries Jamie Heise Amber Samantha Ainsworth It’s Been 10 Years Anthony Stevens Charity Jamie Heise Fragile Kelly Whiteside West Coast Baptism Helena Snopek

Script 36

Knock Off Amy West

About Me Heather Gregory


n hindsight, it made sense that she had been a prostitute. What kind of woman would instigate a date with a man whose Plenty of Fish profile identified him only as a non-smoker with an undisclosed body type? He supposed his first clue should have been meeting at the 24-hour Denny’s in the Sandman Hotel. At least now he knew what ‘alternate arrangements’ meant. It didn’t matter now, though. He had made up his mind on the walk home. This wouldn’t stop him. As his mother used to say, “There’s a lesson in this somewhere.” Time to fill out the profile and be more specific.

almost double chin, and the horrifying questioning look he immediately replaced with what he hoped was casual and intriguing indifference. He positioned the camera so he could see himself in the reflection on the tiny screen. This time, he tried to pucker his lips slightly while staring deeply into the camera. It was the kind of look that might say, “Yes, I took this photo of myself, but that is not pathetic, because look at how confident and spontaneous I am.” He took several shots to ensure he would have plenty of good ones to choose from.

The picture had to be the easiest part. During the walk, Stacey had envisioned that a browse through his photos would reveal the perfect profile picture. It would be outdoors, to show his adventurous side, in action, looking away from the photographer. Perhaps he would be laughing with someone outside the frame, unaware of the camera that had captured this carefree and interesting moment.

Upon reviewing them, Stacey decided that now wasn’t the best time to take the picture. The profile would come first; the picture could wait.

That photo did not exist. Well, it might have existed, just not in the pictures he had taken last month of his mother’s favourite jasmine. Its blossoms had filled the whole kitchen with their nauseating, honey-green smell. He didn’t know who to show them to now that she was gone. None of the photos of birthdays or holidays worked either. He would have to take a picture of himself, unless he wanted prospective dates to see him with pumpkin pie halfway to his mouth, or awkwardly holding his new nephew.

These basic questions ensured no sane woman would give him a second look.

There was a problem with the mirror. The reflection wasn’t what Stacey really looked like—it couldn’t be. He closed his eyes and opened them again, trying to find the perfect angle that didn’t show the thinning hairline, the

About Me: What about me? Stacey looked in the mirror again. He was a single, white, non-smoking man, 3035, looking for a friend, but maybe more. This was the part of his profile that really mattered. What could

Follow Me Coby McDougall

He sat staring at the blank description box. A short browse through competitor profiles had told him that every man on the website was more outgoing, possessed of a wider range of interests, and had more hair than he did.

Body Type (Please Choose One): Thin? Athletic? Average? Above Average? What does ‘Above Average’ even mean? Like better than average? Longest Past Relationship: Where’s the ‘No Past Relationships’ option?

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About Me

he say about himself that would set him apart from the confident, charming, successful men also fishing from the same pond? It had to be enough that trolling prostitutes didn’t sense his desperation, but not so much that it turned people off. About Me: I live alone with my cat and—That already sounds lame. About Me: I live alone ever since my mother—No mentioning of mothers. About Me: I think I am here for the same reason everyone else is. I live— The phone rang. It was his sister. Stacey and Savannah had a ritual of talking every 3 weeks or so, but never really saying anything. Sometimes 4 weeks passed, and

complete confusion and slight annoyance. “How would you describe me to a stranger, I mean?” Stacey said. He was practicing poses in the mirror. You look better sitting still. Remember that next time you meet someone—who hopefully won’t be a prostitute. “The way you look? Or the way you are?” “Both.” Don’t I look the way I am? “I would say you are a nice person, and—” She was speaking very slowly. “I don’t know. It’s hard. You’re my brother.” “I know. It’s okay.” She doesn’t know either. Then the baby cried and Savannah really did have to go.

“It would be outdoors, to show his adventurous side, in action, looking away from the photographer. Perhaps he would be laughing with someone outside the frame, unaware of the camera that had captured this carefree and interesting moment.” occasionally even 6, but she always seemed to call at a time that was incredibly inconvenient. Stacey liked it that way. He could answer breathlessly and speak hurriedly, like he was just going out, or just getting in from somewhere. He liked to think it made her feel better too, like he was getting along fine and hadn’t noticed how much time had passed. They did the usual exchange, and were nearing the point in the conversation when she would say something like, ‘Oh the baby is waking up, I’d better go, but let’s talk soon,’ when Stacey blurted it out. “How would you describe me?” It was silent on her end for so long that Stacey checked to make sure he hadn’t hung up on her. “Uh, like ...?” This was not a part of the check-in routine and Stacey imagined the look on her face, a mix of

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“Let’s talk soon,” she said. “Sounds good.” Stacey stared at the ceiling. About Me: A nice person. Am I always this boring? About Me: I’m a really nice person. Am I? When was I? About Me: I’m a really nice person. I always try to do the right thing and I am loyal to the people around me. If you are also a nice person, you will know that niceness is not always a good thing. Too cynical? He went on anyway. About Me: I’m looking for a nice girl, too. Someone who always does the right thing and wants a relationship in which she can be a nice person without someone else

Heather Gregory taking advantage of her. This is getting off track.

for a long time. The ridiculousness of it slowly faded and he realized that was exactly what he was looking for.

But it was true. How could he say that he was looking for the opposite of someone who would steal his wallet over omelets at a Denny’s when she realized he wasn’t going to pay for her time?

About Me: However, as my mother always said, “There’s a lesson in this somewhere.” If you think you can help me find it, send me a message.

He wrote just that. Too risky? Stacey stared at the words

He chose the picture of him eating pie.

Identity Trevor Cooper

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How to Write a Poem for a Girl You Like Philip Gordon


irst of all, don’t. On the off chance you know a girl who likes poetry (you don’t), she will not want someone to write her a poem (not you, anyway). If you think I’m wrong (I’m not), there are several things to consider. Firstly, write it for her, not about her. Writing about a girl means you will be drawn to unflattering comparisons between her body and other objects—flowers, fruit, the lumpy old bean-bag chair in your uncle’s basement. Unless you really know what you’re doing (you don’t), keep any mention of her cursory at best. Use vague terms like “beauty,” “wonder,” “glow,” and avoid words or phrases like “robust,” “curvaceous,” and “dat ass.” Try to write your poem with consistent rhyme and meter. Iambic pentameter was good enough for Shakespeare, and it’s good enough for you. Avoid the temptation to write a sonnet, however, unless you are very confident (you aren’t), and very certain you can avoid Elizabethan allusions to roses, spring, and feces (no really, Shakespeare was a real charmer). I recommend a nice traditional ballad form, alternating tetrameter and trimeter with a simple A B C B rhyme scheme. I’m going to write a poem for you because I like your hair. I know you still won’t like me though, because life isn’t fair. Focus on specific details other than her appearance (or, as it was known in Shakespeare’s time, her “callipygian

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prominence”—a.k.a., “dat ass”). Talk about her smile, her laugh, or her Nightmare Before Christmas pencil case (look, we’ve all made some less than advisable decisions at some point in our lives). Don’t be afraid to be cliché, but don’t be too cliché. Read your poem out loud before you give it to her. If you feel like vomiting from embarrassment, you’re probably pretty close, but you may want to touch it up a little. If you have any female friends (you don’t), have them read it and offer recommendations. Lastly, do not, under any circumstance, write her a poem in free verse. Even if she’s into that, free verse is rife with the trappings of awful poetry. Enjambing (that fancy, pretentious poetry technique in which you break sentences in half) I want to lick the side of your face. will not redeem it (trust me on this). All of that said, you’re best off heeding my initial advice and buying her a Frosty or something instead. If you decide to ignore my advice, good luck. I look forward to your depressing blog post posthaste. Godspeed.

Nothing Good

Drew McLachlan

You taught me a lesson that took two years in heat and more in woe. Nothing good is ever free. You were a lick of flame that glowed, curled into ash caught flight alone. Nothing good is ever free. And so I flee to warm beds but colder women. now that I know Nothing good is ever free. I’ll spend my mornings lighting smokes, and rolling weed, watch embers fade. Nothing good is ever free. I squander light in lieu of you, and things you said I ought to know. Nothing good is ever free. When your heat depletes I’ll leave, scorch heels on fresh snow Remembering Nothing good is ever free.

Tulip Kimberley Kemmer

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Emerald Cities Kimberley Kemmer


e orders a rum and Coke. I order a cosmo, even though I’d rather have a beer.

“So, what do you do for fun?” he asks, his thin lips smiling. A standard enough question, not unlike his standard appearance: 6-foot, dirty blonde, and to my delight, he sports a nicely trimmed beard. Even the plainest can be improved with facial hair. Down tempo beats and the scent of coconut curry hang in the air. The lights are dim with a cool blue hue. This is just the type of place I wanted to end up tonight— trendy, and the perfect backdrop for my black dress with the A-line skirt and delicate folds. His hair is closely cropped and his whiskered jaw wide-

down, she leans over so that we have a clear view of her cleavage. I study my partner. His eyes do not once wander, but remain focused on his drink, a thoughtful look on his face. How sweet. Or perhaps she’s just not his type. Am I his type? We must have been matched for a reason. After the waitress leaves, he takes a sip of his drink and I catch a blankness in his eyes. The emeralds, just for a second, are a little less dazzling. “I like dark rum,” he says. “And I enjoy art as well.” “Really?” I ask, my curiosity piqued. They usually say football and back massages. Art is not a topic that generally comes up.

“‘Anything created is art,’ he says. ‘Everything around you - these drinks, the food, even us.’” set. He’s wearing a brown cable-knit sweater over a white dress shirt. His green eyes gaze at me from across the table, glistening like emeralds. “Well,” I say, as I toss my bangs from my eyes. “I like painting, writing, y’know. I do a bit of yoga.” There is more to me than that, but I think it’ll be enough. “So, you’re socially-conscious then? You enjoy the arts and have an open mind?” “That’s me, I guess.” The waitress arrives with our drinks. She’s wearing a tight silver sequin tank to accentuate her ample breasts— typical for a place like this. As she sets the drinks

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He swishes the rum around in the cup, the ice clinking against the glass. “Yes, and I’d say rum and art are one in the same, wouldn’t you?” “They’re not even related.” His lips rise in a lopsided smile, and I notice the dimples in his cheeks. “Anything created is art,” he says. “Everything around you —these drinks, the food, even us.” “Have you ever been on one of these before?” I taste my drink and wonder why I didn’t just get the beer. “A date?” he asks. “It’s just odd to say something like that on a date. You’re

supposed to talk about, I dunno, work, your favourite foods, where you’d like to travel. Stuff like that.”

Who am I trying to kid? I could never get used to this. “I want something real.” I wince as I say it. “You know?”

If I didn’t know better I’d say he looks troubled, but I know better. I’ve just thrown him off course. I almost feel guilty. “My mistake,” he says, bowing his head. “I thought that was the sort of thing you’d like to talk about.” He takes another quick drink and sighs, closing his eyes. “It’s the sort of thing I like to talk about.” When he reopens his emerald eyes, any sign of trouble is gone. “Would you like to talk about those things then? Please, tell me your favourite food.” He looks at me expectantly.

“Am I not real?” he asks, straight-faced. Of course not. Look at you. Look at your eyes, the way you hold yourself. It’s all calculated. It’s sick. “What do you think?” I ask. I hope I don’t sound as annoyed as I feel. I wouldn’t want to draw the attention of other customers. I’d rather not have an audience. “I’m real.” The emotion in his voice is surprising, as though I’ve done something to hurt him. “I’m here because I was created to be here. Like you.”

My phone beeps. “Sorry, just a sec,” I say, as I rifle through my purse. The message is from my cell phone provider: Just for you, EMILY DROWNING: a free gift from CELCORP for your continued patronage. Please follow the link below to select your personalized gift.

“No, not like me.” I hold my hands to my chest. I feel my heart beat through my fingertips. “I wasn’t created, I was born, and certainly not to be here.”

I look from my phone to his waiting face. The light dims on the screen as it does in his eyes.

“What do you mean?” I ask. I sit back in my seat and cross my arms. “I chose to be here.”

Just for you, EMILY.

“So did I.”

I take in the sounds around me. The restaurant is teeming with life, or so it would appear. There’s a couple seated at the table across from us, looking at each other warmly. I wonder if she’s okay with it.

“No, you didn’t.” I slam my hand on the table. I’ve drawn a couple of looks. “You were programmed to come here. It wasn’t a choice at all.” I wonder if I’m being cruel. I really don’t mean to be. I shouldn’t be taking it out on him. It’s not his fault.

“Listen, I don’t know if I’m really feeling it right now,” I say, and my stomach sinks. “Have I done something wrong?” he asks, concerned. But it isn’t concern. Not really. “I’m sorry. It’s not you.” He won’t mind the cliché. “I don’t know what I was thinking.” His eyes drop from mine to the table, his hands clasped neatly on the glass top. He appears to fade out again. His green eyes gloss over, like he has simply slipped away. He’s not even trying to hide it, not like he’s supposed to.

“But you are here,” he says.

“That doesn’t change the fact that you are here because it’s in your nature to seek intimacy.” He takes a long, deep swig of his rum and Coke and wipes the wetness from his lips before setting the glass down. I dislike the way he’s looking at me. It’s like he can see right through me. I wonder if he’s trying to decode— reduce me to simple ones and zeros. I sift through my purse and take out a $10 bill to slip under my halfempty glass. I get up from my seat and hastily pull on my blazer. His eyes never wander. Perhaps I am his type.

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Emerald Cities

“I can’t help it. I want something—no, someone real. Thanks for trying though.” I grab my purse and with a nod, turn away. I hardly take a step when he says, “It isn’t going to change anything.” When I turn back I’m met with a hopeful face and it looks so genuine. “I’m as real as you’re going to find.” I want to run my hand through his hair and forget all this. That’s why I came here, isn’t it? I can’t recall the last time someone looked at me like that.

“I understand how you feel. I want something real, too.” I look back down at my seat, considering his plea. I don’t know whether or not he’s programmed to try to make me stay or if he really wants me to. I’m no longer sure there’s a difference. What does genuine even mean? He looks genuine to me. “Your dress is nice,” he says. I wonder if he has an ON/OFF switch and if he dreams at night. I wonder if he can taste the rum he’s drinking, or if he wanted something else. I wonder how his breath would feel on my neck.

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The World Inside Me Emily Johnston

Free-Spirited Philosopher at Table 13

• •

Jane Steward

Belief is just habitual thought, no matter how it’s spun. I could tell you a thousand things but you’d only remember one. So sit with us, my friend, and we’ll talk some more, of food, Earth and modesty— what cuts you to the core? Perhaps it’s time you think of all you wish to change. Forget all you’ve known as true, to make the familiar strange.


Belief is just habitual thought, no matter how it’s spun. I’d remember a thousand things perhaps believe in none.

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Noise Phillip Gordon


ails on a chalkboard, the sound of an old car transmission, the scream of a weed-whacker hitting a rock—most people prefer catchy pop tunes or easy listening muzak to these sounds. But I’m not “most people.” In the world of noise (or “noise music”, as it’s branded for those with more conventional listening habits), unpleasant sounds are the building blocks of soundscape euphoria. Dissonance is celebrated; the uncomfortable is desirable. Noise music practitioners have names like Nurse With Wound and Passenger of Shit. Live sets are drones and squeals and groups release 5 albums a year because the recording process is only as complicated as screaming into a microphone over a haze of speaker feedback. Everyone is an enthusiastic amateur “musician.” Young unknowns collect guitar pedals, not to make their solos better (most of them don’t even play guitar), but to see which combination in a loop will be the most grating. Song descriptions contain snippets like “I got the hiss in the middle by touching the tip of the patch-cord to my dick.” Anyway. I’ve only been to one noise show: the Shitstorm Noise Festival in Vancouver. I went with my girlfriend at the time, who must have felt guilty enough to stick out the two-hour show. It was as impossible to ignore the nagging doubts as it was to speak under the fog of static and wailing electronica during the show. Like the video collages playing behind the sets, the show itself was a blur, but here are the highlights: •

A large box of industrial-strength earplugs at the front door with a label that read, “Plugs—GRAB

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EM!” Once they were in and the first peal of sound from the speakers shook the floor, noise could be felt as much as heard. •

The first act was a guy with a buzz-cut, a mixing board wired with cables and pedals, and a microphone used to loop heavily distorted screams into a wordless, cacophonous vortex. I would have bought a tape if he’d had one.

The second act was a duo who fiddled with the knobs on their gear for 10 minutes, but produced no discernible sound other than the faint hiss of an idling speaker system. The crowd still clapped when they went offstage. A technical malfunction, or a John Cage tribute?

Canadian trio Quebec Le Pink handed out rusty saw blades during a sound and video set that was so jarring and hypnotic I was sure the fog machine was pumping out more than smoke.

One performance was loud enough that one of the speakers literally caught fire, whereupon it was quickly brought outside and extinguished. Hysterical cheers ensued.

Finally, there was a noise punk band whose set was a 40-something girl with dreadlocks collapsing onto the floor and crooning wildly while her bass player detuned his instrument behind her.

When it was over we made our way quietly out of this world of black-clad misanthropes and back into a world where “music” was defined more broadly. I’ve tried to

explain why noise is worthwhile, enjoyable listening despite its discomfort. As with anyone who likes spicy food, extreme sports, or bondage, it’s about the transience of random destruction. In a photography class a professor asked a student to destroy the negative of a photo to see what happened when it was developed. The student was upset because his professor refused to let him make a copy of the photo before damaging it. Yet if destruction is less than absolute due to the safety of a backup, the results aren’t the same—it affects the artist’s knowledge and therefore process. There’s something romantic about that fleeting experience, the way a photo will burn in a certain way only once, the way a knob turned just so will make a hiss you’ll never be able to reproduce, the way that all traces of structure and melody can be eliminated to perform one mindblowing set you’ll never hear again. Noise is deconstruction. It’s the human desire to create and rebel blurred together, at once accessible and inaccessible. Lashing out at the world while shaping a tiny part of it in a very careful, beautifully destructive way reproduces the will, the longing, to break apart our lives, to be free or escape. Just as we’d love to quit our jobs, shatter societal restraints, forge our own paths, find our own meaning, chisel away the parts of ourselves we don’t like, we’d like to undo music.

In my hotel room the night of that show, my girlfriend refused my touch until after the dissociative fog of a strong toke had rendered me invisible. I felt distant and alone despite our physical closeness. I wanted to turn up the noise inside me, the sound, the wail, the scream until everything burst into flames.

Catharsis Trevor Cooper

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Sightseeing Leisel Gerein


rains crawl across the landscape on a web of tracks travelled by both industrious and pleasure-seeking people. I am a pleasure-seeker spanning two rails that connect Newquay to London, that connect me to you. You said you would be in London, staying at your aunt’s. You asked if we could meet. What to make of it? Someone else has asked me to marry him; you must know that. My curiosity was piqued, so of course I will come to see you. I didn’t reveal the details of our previous life to Cal as I am a firm believer in “Don’t ask, don’t tell.” Honestly, I am coming to see you with the intention of sightseeing and catching up with an old friend. I have him; I

determinedly toward the exits. A few stop at newsstands for gum or cigs. As I scan the grey mob, there you are, walking toward me. Our wide smiles are reflections as you open your arms and I step inside. Then it’s laughter and, “Oh my God! It’s been so long.” “Let me look at you!” “You haven’t changed a bit!” And it’s true. You are blueeyed, light-haired, 5’10” and borderline skinny. Your face is exactly as I remember it. Troublemaker, that’s what you are. That’s what you’ve always been.

“The noise, the cavernous station, the dome roof, the announcements, the hawkers, everything has faded away. The moment spreads out like the sprawl of the city.” couldn’t hold you. I gave him a hug and a kiss and a “Be home soon.” I grab an Irn-Bru and a packet of prawn cocktail crisps, then return to my seat. A business woman across from me wears a pinched expression that matches her perfectly pressed suit. A little boy is turned around in his seat, spinning through space on his own planet. I wonder what he is thinking about, but can’t imagine—it is impossible to be that young again. I get bored on the train and regret not bringing a crossword or magazine. I open the crisps and lick one. The seasoning is tart and tastes of vinegar. Paddington Station is all hustle and bustle and overcoats. The industrious start walking singly,

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“It’s so good to see you.” The noise, the cavernous station, the dome roof, the announcements, the hawkers, everything has faded away. The moment spreads out like the sprawl of the city. “Well,” I smile, “enough standing around the station staring at each other. Let’s go eat. I’m bloody starving.” At the Underground, we unravel the snake den of lines and find the one we want. The doors to the Tube slide open and the forward press of the crowd pushes our bodies together. When we arrive at Tower Station, we walk the tunnel up to street level. It is strange that the historic landmark doesn’t invoke either a sense of awe or history.

“We don’t make very good tourists,” you say.

“Another round?” you ask, your thin eyebrows raised, a mischievous angle to your mouth.

I laugh and we stroll down the street to The Pommelers’ Rest. We order pints at the bar. I will be enjoying a Flying Dutchmen, reminiscent of a Belgian style witbier and you try a classic, John Smith’s Extra Smooth bitter. I mention that extra smooth bitter must be an oxymoron and you say, “No, you are.” It’s so comfortable being around you. I feel like I’m trying on a slipper. I order fish and chips, but you are “going even more British” and opt for steak and kidney pie with gravy and peas, Cal’s favourite. After lunch, Big Ben seems the obvious choice. On the Tube to Westminster Abbey, I glance over at you while you are people watching. This is going smoothly. I don’t even want to kiss you. I think about Cal. He is into routine, has always lived in Newquay, works a 9-to-5, dinner in the pub weekdays, football on the telly weekends, and supper Sunday at his mam’s. I have been an easy addition to his life. What edition will he be in mine? We spend the day underground, surfacing to see Trafalgar Square, Buckingham Palace, photo with the guards, St. Paul’s Cathedral and Hyde Park. It’s exhausting and around 6 we both agree that it’s time for drinks. “Hey, we should go to The Boar’s Head,” you say.

We don’t arrive at your Aunt Rhonda’s place until nearly 10 and stay up having wine and visiting until everyone’s eyelids are drooping. Rhonda shows us to our room. I think that’s presumptuous until I see the bunk beds. I take the top and then lie awake with my heart pounding for what feels like forever. Listening for your breathing, I eventually fall asleep. I wake early to the sounds of the farm. There are chickens squawking, cows lowing, and horses neighing. It was too dark when we got here last night to do a tour and now I’m looking forward to it. I want to go collect the chickens’ eggs, so Rhonda outfits me with a pair of Wellies. I squelch through the muck to the coop. Rhonda cooks us the eggs for breakfast with bacon, fried mushrooms, toast, and beans. After showers, she sets us up with a bottle of homemade wine and tells us to follow the fence until we hit the lane. It’s wide-open country with rolling hills, sheep, and stone bridges crossing streams. There is tension between us today, lingering looks, followed by averted eyes and hasty smiles. I’ve made reservations for the 6 pm from Paddington and need to make my way back to London. We make idle chit-chat while taxiing to the station, then you hang back while I buy my ticket. You walk me to the platform and I’m glad we only have a minute before the train comes.

“Sure, where did you see it?” I laugh when you point across the street. Settling into a booth in the back, I take a drink as you raise your glass for a toast.

It pulls into the station with a rush and you grab my hand. We kiss a long, slow kiss without embracing. I run my free hand down your face and when I open my eyes you’re looking at me. I know that this is not the lingering kiss of promises, but it’s a sweet kiss. A kiss goodbye.

“To The Whore’s Bed,” you say, grinning at me sideways. I choke and try to keep the beer from flying out my nose.“To The Horse’s Ass,” I reply when I recover. We clank our glasses together.

Portal 2014 | Pg 13

Portal 2014 | Pg 14

Repatriation Helena Snopek

I’d always dreamt of repatriation, de-immigration, but the postcards lied and I’ve arrived at Trenčin station with a suitcase of useless memory-cards, empty albums. Unprepared for the rush and whirr of trains to foreign cities— Praha, Nitra, Bratislava— unprepared for the strangeness of night in a strange language, platform alight by emaciated streetlamps unchanged since 1968. I am a child once more only a tourist, transported to a time when I was not even an idea. Broken railings and “liberty radio,” I am overwhelmed by ancestry. My father floods up at me a long-haired ghost, swigging slivovica. I’m just a child, I cannot measure up to the history. Trenčin, your station is always stalked by migrant ghost-eyes I barely recognize, matrioška dolls and Catholic saints. Europe’s rejects snore on the stairs, sleep weeks away waiting for a train. And then I came, a stranger to your streets, but if this is not home, nowhere is home.

Pondering Perspective Paige Parker

Listen to the station’s ceaseless moan, homeless or high-heeled. Dead pubs where grandpa throws bottles at me, burns on his hands and a molten face, irises dripping down to his chin. Dim light filters through my skin like plague, but I am a baby, don’t know dark from light, dim from bright, can’t possibly know what sickness means. I glower at myself in the communist mirror over an eroded bathroom sink, skin red in the glare, eyes stretched wide as Slavic stars. Bare walls rock back over me— steady, small city, I swore I’d only be a daughter evermore, but I fell sick, because memory is contagious, because I came home.

Portal 2014 | Pg 15

Bayani Tonia Laird


ayani’s tito worked as a cook on an American base near Manila. His mother’s brother, Tito Avelino was a proud bachelor, and because he had no children of his own, he always brought gifts for Bayani whenever he visited. Bayani’s mother said the boy would grow spoiled and lazy if Avelino didn’t stop, but smiled every time her son boasted to friends about the new American trinket his tito had given him. Bayani was 9 when the Japanese left the Philippines. No more having to bow at the side of the road whenever the soldiers walked by, no more having to plead and say, “Tomodachi” if they didn’t like the way you were looking at them. Bayani’s mother said this word meant ‘friend’. Bayani scowled at that; the Japanese were no friends of his. So 9 was a good year. With Bayani’s birthday coming up, he had a hard time believing 10 could be any better, but then Tito Avelino showed up with Dog. Dog was unbelievably huge. He was all black except for a bright, white diamond up his chin and down his belly. When Tito Avelino let go of the leash, Bayani was knocked to the ground and fought to fend off giant, slobbery dog kisses. Tito Avelino and his father laughed as they pulled Dog off a grinning Bayani wiping the slobber from his face with the back of his sleeve. Dog sat on his haunches and panted heavily, his tongue lolling out to one side. Bayani’s mother was not impressed. She grabbed the straw broom she kept behind the door and swatted her brother with it. The dog was too big; they couldn’t afford to feed it. Tito Avelino told her to just wait, the dog wasn’t even fully grown yet. That earned him another swat. With a laugh, he promised he would bring scraps home from the base whenever he could. Knowing she wasn’t going to win this battle, Bayani’s mother turned with a huff and went

Portal 2014 | Pg 16

back into their small house. She was never able to say no to Tito Avelino. “So, what are you going to name him?” Tito Avelino asked, rubbing Dog’s head roughly as his tail thumped against Bayani’s leg. He knew he had his name already. Bayani had a penchant for naming things just as they were. “Now don’t let me see him out wandering alone. Dog is an American, so he doesn’t know our city like we do.” Bayani and Dog were inseparable. They would wander the streets, Dog bounding after the rocks or tin cans Bayani threw for him, or chasing stray rats through the alleys. When summer came, Dog sat at the edge of the rice fields as Bayani worked, never letting the boy out of his sight. At the end of each day, the farmer gave Bayani his share of the rice harvested and Dog would balance the sack on his sturdy back as they walked home. Bayani’s mother hated having Dog around. When Bayani wasn’t home, Dog would dig up her gardens, chew the woven banana leaf mat on the floor, or bark at the house lizards that lived on the ceiling. When he finally tired of that, he would find her wherever she was and lay on her feet, sitting or standing. It made sewing with her new machine very difficult indeed. When Bayani finally returned from school in the evening, Dog was uncontrollable. Three times he smashed through the screen door in his mad rush to greet the boy. The family finally gave up and just propped the door open until Bayani came home. *** One day, during the rainy season, a family friend called Bayani’s mother for help. His wife was 4 months pregnant and she had started bleeding. Bayani’s mother grabbed an

umbrella and rushed out the front gate, forgetting to latch it behind her. That evening, Bayani’s mother waited for him outside the front gate. She stood in the heavy rain, her jacket wrapped tightly around her, but she held no umbrella. Bayani wondered if she had locked herself out of the house, but as he neared she dropped to her knees and pulled him into her arms. Bayani’s school bag fell to his feet. His mother picked up his school bag and led him into the yard. Lying on a tarp, with his mother’s umbrella propped up to keep the rain off, was Dog. He looked as if he were sleeping. His head rested on his paws, his eyes closed. Bayani slowly walked forward and willed Dog to open his eyes, to jump up and knock him to the ground. The boy stopped a few feet away and sniffed, his nose suddenly running. The diamond patch of white on Dog’s chest was smeared with red. Bayani fell to his knees and pulled the animal’s massive head into his lap. *** It was dark when Bayani’s family received their first offer. The boy was sitting on the floor beside Dog’s bed, drinking hot chocolate, wrapped in the blanket his Lola Maria made for him when he was born. Bayani’s father was not yet home. His bus ride from the factory took 3 hours and he finished work only an hour ago. There was a knock on the door and Bayani’s mother opened it to one of their neighbours. “Kamusta, Ate Chesa.” Bayani looked up from his mug. It was Renaldo from across the street.

Green Waterfall Sarah Corsie

Portal 2014 | Pg 17

Vast Natalie Goldbeck

“Kamusta.” Bayani’s mother tugged at her shawl and crossed her arms in front of her. “Sorry to be bothering you so late, Ate.” Renaldo smiled. Rainwater from his hair dripped onto the floor. When Bayani’s mother didn’t answer, Renaldo coughed into his hand. “Well, I was just wondering....I heard your dog was hit by one of the meat trucks today.” “Yes, he was.” “Ah....yes, well....some of the boys and I, we were wondering if you were going to sell him ...” Renaldo said, his voice hopeful.

with it? He’s a big dog and still pretty young. You know how rare—” Renaldo stopped when he spotted Bayani on the floor. “Hoy! Bayani! I remember you talking about buying that red bike from my brother’s store. You want it?” “Renaldo!” Bayani’s mother was angry. “You just let us take your dog for you and we’ll drop the bike off tomorrow.” Renaldo smiled. “Renaldo. Come back when my husband gets home. You can talk to him about it.”

“We haven’t decided what to do with Dog yet, Renaldo. Thank you for stopping by.” Bayani’s mother moved to close their door.

Renaldo knew he had overstayed his welcome, but reached over and tousled Bayani’s damp hair before he turned and walked out the door.

“Come now, Ate Chesa. What else are you going to do

Bayani’s mother followed Renaldo to the gate and locked

Portal 2014 | Pg 18

Tonia Laird it. When she came back into the house, she couldn’t look at her son. When he finally asked why Renaldo wanted Dog, his mother sighed and turned to him. “Bayani, you know how rare a big dog like yours is? They would pay a lot for him. He isn’t like the dogs here, he has a lot of meat on him....” “No!” Bayani jumped to his feet when he realized what his mother had meant. His father hated the taste of dog meat so they never had it, but many of their neighbours

Bayani glanced through the window to see his mother at the washbasin, cleaning the dishes from his father’s late supper. Bayani walked over to Dog and wrapped him up carefully in the tarp. He bit his lip, gathered an edge up in his hands, and pulled. Dog wouldn’t budge. Bayani pulled again, but Dog was far too heavy. The boy collapsed onto the muddy ground, the rain still falling hard and steady. He didn’t know how long he had been there when his mother’s hand touched his shoulder. She looked down at

“But Dog wasn’t just any dog, he was Bayani’s dog. He was American.You can’t eat Americans.” would roast it in their backyards in the summer. It was supposed to go well with beer. But Dog wasn’t just any dog, he was Bayani’s dog. He was American. You can’t eat Americans. “You want to sell him! You didn’t like him, so you’re going to let them eat him!” “Bayani, do not raise your voice to me again or your father will hear about it when he gets home.” Bayani’s mother gently took his chin in her hand and forced him to look at her. “Bayani, I cannot say we don’t need the money, but Dog was yours. It is your decision. I don’t care how much they offer us.” Bayani looked into his mother’s eyes and nodded. He went to the door and pulled on his high boots and the old tarp his mother fashioned into a raincoat. Bayani’s mother said nothing as he walked out into their small yard and began to dig a hole in the mud with his father’s shovel. Two more offers came that night. One from the rice farmer Bayani worked for over the summer, and another from a woman Bayani had never even seen before. Neither visitor saw Bayani when they entered the yard, they only saw Dog, lying on the tarp unguarded. When Bayani’s father returned home, he stopped as he entered the yard. He looked first at Dog’s unmoving form, and then at Bayani digging furiously in the soggy mud. He sighed and walked into the house.

him and smiled before taking his arm and pulling him to his feet. She positioned herself on one end of Dog’s tarp, and nodded to the other. In silence they slowly pulled Dog across the yard to the hole Bayani had dug. With a final tug, Dog’s body slid into the deep chasm. Bayani climbed in after him, and ran his hands along the length of the tarp, feeling Dog’s tail, his hind legs, his belly, his chest, and finally, his head. Bayani patted the tarp lightly before he turned away, taking his mother’s hand as he climbed from the grave. Bayani went to bed that night exhausted. He slept fitfully, images of men with knives following him and Dog as they played in the alley, chased rats, and gathered rice. He woke that morning to the sound of his father yelling. Bayani ran outside to see Dog’s grave partially dug up and his father shouting obscenities at men running down a side alley. Angry, Bayani went into the house and again pulled on his rain gear. In minutes he was back outside, refilling Dog’s grave. For 4 days and 4 nights Bayani sat in the rain, sheltered by his mother’s umbrella as he guarded the grave. By the 5th day, he knew no one would come again. Dog was untouchable now.

Portal 2014 | Pg 19

The Elk

Jacquie Maynard


rchie Woods stared up at the ceiling, following the wood grain on the roof. Downstairs, his father sang along to Fats Domino on the radio. He wondered how long it would be before he noticed Archie was still in bed. He hoped his father might forget about him. He had just started Grade 1, and didn’t like it at all, it meant sneezing from chalk dust and getting shoved around on the playground. The grandfather clock in the living room chimed 8 times. “Archie! Get ‘yer ass down here or you’ll get a lickin’! Yer ma needs some wood for the stove!” Archie hauled himself out of bed and pulled on a pair of tattered jeans and a plaid shirt before plodding down the stairs. His mother was exhausted, a baby on her breast and a belly swollen with the next.

Marie was Archie’s 4-year-old sister. “Go on, get some more. I’ll never get enough hot water for laundry at this rate. Useless child.” His mother never seemed to have much patience for him. Between his father’s constant groping and his four other siblings, she never seemed to have much patience for anyone. He loaded up with as much wood as he could carry and stumbled back to the kitchen. “It’ll have to do,” his mother sighed. “Now hurry along or you’ll be late for school.” Archie brushed the bark and splinters off his shirt and grabbed his books and an apple before rushing out the door. His older sisters, Annie and Marge, were already halfway down the street. “Hey, wait for me!” he said, tripping over his shoelaces. “Don’t you know how to tie them?” Marge sneered.

“C’mon Doll, let’s dance,” his father grinned at her. “Yeah, I do! They just came undone!” He didn’t. “Dancin’ was what got me into this mess,” she said, pointing to her belly. “Aw, come on.” “I said no.” Archie made his way down to the woodpile. There were a few more choice words between his parents before the front door slammed. “Damn kid. Hurry up! Bring that wood in here!” Archie flinched at his mother’s voice and piled two logs into his tiny arms, the rough bark scratching his skin as he struggled up the well-beaten path back to his house. “Only two? Christ, Marie could do better than that.” Portal 2014 | Pg 20

Marge frowned at him as he picked the gravel out of his palms. “Your shirt is buttoned wrong. What’s wrong with you?” Annie smiled at him. “It’s okay Archie, I’ll fix it for you.” While she tied his shoes and re-buttoned his shirt, he scowled at Marge to hide his embarrassment. *** Archie sat at the back of the small schoolhouse, his chin resting on his palm. Mrs. Johnson stood at the front of the room talking about colours. Archie liked to colour, although he didn’t really care what the names were, he just used the ones that looked good together. She talked about numbers and words and letters too,

but Archie didn’t pay attention. He didn’t like numbers and letters because he wasn’t good at them. He didn’t understand them, couldn’t tell them apart. It happened every time. Just when he thought he had them right, and would shout out the answer, Mrs. Johnson would give him a sympathetic look that told him he was wrong. The other kids would laugh at him. Eventually, he stopped trying. After lunch, it was colouring time, finally something Archie was good at. The children arranged their desks in a square in the middle of the room and Mrs. Johnson gave them crayons. Archie knew exactly what he wanted to draw: an elk, just like the picture hanging in the living room at home. Even though his 6-year-old mind didn’t know what majestic meant, he knew that’s what elks were. They were big and powerful, and free, and he bet the elk’s mom didn’t call him useless or yell at him because he couldn’t carry much firewood.

Archie turned his drawing around to face the class. He heard a snicker from the back of the classroom, then the whole class burst into laughter. What’s wrong with it? He wondered. Why are they laughing? He looked to Mrs. Johnson. She had the same sad look on her face, but gave Archie a sympathetic pat on the back. “I think it’s great, Archie.” “It’s green!” they laughed, “Stupid! Why would you make the elk green?” Archie’s heart sank. The elk is green?

He drew the oblong snout first, then the ears. He formed the thick neck and round chest, followed by the long, sleek back and curved rump. How did the legs go, again? He knew they weren’t like people legs; he wondered if they bent forward or backward. He took a guess, then moved onto his favourite part, the antlers. They were so grand and regal. He took his time, trying to match them as best he could to his memory of the picture. He looked around at what the other children were drawing: scribbles shaped like cats or dogs or stick man families. Archie was proud of himself. He was sure his drawing was the best. Finally everyone will see how good I am, he thought. Finally everyone will see I’m not stupid. When the time came to show off their drawings, Archie’s hand shot up. He wanted to be the first. No one would want to show theirs after his; his was the best. “Come on up here, Archie. Let’s see what you’ve drawn,” Mrs. Johnson said, smiling kindly. He shoved back his chair and darted to the front with his drawing pressed face down against his chest. Everyone’s eyes were on him.

Aves Alyssa Johnson

Portal 2014 | Pg 21


Sun in the Cherries Jamie Heise

Four feet of solid excitement bounced in the driveway. We were going for a drive, Just the two of us. No work. No school. No sister. Just my mother and I and all the road we could travel. We sang along with Sheryl Crowe loud and proud. We bellowed out the windows, graceless and exuberant. But sunglasses couldn’t hide the lines made vivid by her smile. A face sculpted by life. Miles from town we bought cherries, fat and lustrous, resplendently red. They glimmered between us. I swear we could taste the sun in them, spat pits from the windows, laughed as we drove to the sea.

Magical Mushrooms Sarah Corsie

Portal 2014 | Pg 22

Only Angels Roamed Gisèle Merlet


armen doesn’t remember if her mother held her hand that day in 1939 she brought her to the boarding school to be educated in the Catholic faith. She was not quite 6 years old. The girls’ private school, which had excellent standing within the community, was situated on Church Street in a working class district of Montréal and was a dignified grey stone building. The scent of wax and the brightness of the glossy floors distracted her and she did not see her mother leave. The nun who walked with her did not hold her hand. They walked up the stairs together—so many stairs! Except for the swishing of the nun’s skirt and the clicking of the rosary hanging from her waist, silence. The tranquility of the hallways did not trouble Carmen until she walked into a room in which what a hundred girls were getting ready for bed in total silence. At the foot of one of the beds, her suitcase waited. “This is the dormitory,” said the nun. In her head Carmen sang a refrain her mother had taught her. Au clair de la lune. Mon ami Pierrot, prête-moi ta plume pour écrire un mot. Ma chandelle est morte, je n’ai plus de feu. Ouvre-moi ta porte, pour l’amour de Dieu. She was a petite girl whose sallow complexion and dark straight hair revealed her Métis origin. She looked fragile in the dim light. Thrilled by the newness of the flowery nightgown, she peeled off the itchy, black wool dress that reached to her ankles. The stiffness of the white collar felt scratchy on her neck. She could feel the soreness,

but not see it. Mirrors were forbidden until modesty had been learned. It took her a long time to untie her boots. She had not quite mastered knotting and unknotting the laces. Carmen grimaced again at the sight of the ugly footwear. “Boots will hold your ankles better than shoes,” she had been told. The garters holding up the black stockings were also new. Her delicate fingers manipulated the clips with difficulty. She looked forward to wearing the black veil during the daily morning mass. But the white embroidered one, reserved for Sunday, would become her favourite. Filling the water jug for ritual evening ablutions would have to wait. Just getting decently into bed after a communal prayer was complicated enough. “Only your face, hands, and feet may be seen. Undress under your nightgown,” the nun had said. At first, the nuns’ floor-length habits, the wimple that framed their faces, and the veil that concealed their hair seemed especially severe to Carmen. Eventually, she saw the white coiffe and the metal flashing cross as romantic. The sisters swooshed and pirouetted along the corridors like black ghosts. In the chapel, the clay statue of the Holy Virgin, set on a pedestal surrounded by votive candles, was dressed the same way, except in white and blue. Mère Sainte-Cécile did not display a starry halo like the Virgin, but her angelic demeanour impressed Carmen so much that she decided, right then and there, to pursue a pathway to sainthood. But first, she needed to learn and follow the rules, all the rules. *** Portal 2014 | Pg 23

Only Angels Roamed

Carmen discovered the pleasure of running as fast as she could up and down the imposing wooden staircase that joined the 5 floors of the convent.

“Mademoiselle, you will be part of the choir. You are to stand to the right in the last row, so your parents can see you on stage.”

“Mademoiselle Nadeau, do not run on the staircase,” said the teacher who was waiting downstairs with her arms firmly planted on her hips. “Go back up and come down again, in silence this time.”

“Thank you Mère,” said Carmen, leaving the music room with a spring in her step.

The rule of silence would prove the most difficult for Carmen. Too many rules. Do not laugh loudly. Do not touch any of your classmates—no hugging, no hand holding. Do not cry when you hurt yourself; offer your pain to Jesus for the suffering he endured on the cross. Do not ask to see your mother. You will see her at the end of each week during Sunday afternoon’s parlour

“Oh, Mademoiselle,” added the teacher, “please do not sing out loud, just move your lips.”

This is where it all begins.

At least in piano lessons and in art classes, Carmen found escape. “You have talent,” said the teacher glancing at her attempt at pastoral landscapes. In theatre classes, the long black pinafore, borrowed from Mère Sainte-Cécile,

“Eventually, rebellion turned out to be a lot more fun than sainthood.” hour. And, should you deserve to go home, you will see her one Sunday afternoon a month after the 11 am mass.

transformed Carmen into a ballerina as she performed a delicate pas-de-deux.

Do not. Do not. Do not. Carmen, who loved to talk, to laugh, to sing, to dance, and wanted to see her mother even more often, quickly understood that it would prove impossible to reach heaven as St. Carmen.

But, there were some setbacks. Madame Saulnier, a lay teacher who came to the convent once a week to teach diction, chose her to recite Emile Verhaeren’s poem titled “The Wind” in front of Mère Supérieure, the assembly, and the parents—a real honour. “That will not do,” said Mère Supérieure, “Mademoiselle Nadeau’s behaviour does not warrant such an honour. Mademoiselle Perron will recite the poem “The Wind,” not Mademoiselle Nadeau.”

At 6 years old, Carmen already knew that she would become a famous singer. She could sing and dance, so every time she found herself in front of a mirror, it was practice time. But, her dancing career would have to wait; there were no ballet classes included in the convent’s academic or artistic curriculum. A singing future was much more accessible. After all, she had talent. No classes needed.The convent choir would be the perfect vehicle to propel her to fame.

That day Carmen stepped, for the first time, on to the path of defiance. ***

Mère Sainte-Cécile, the music teacher, held auditions. Parents expected all of them to make the cut, so this was just a formality. “Mademoiselle Nadeau, Mère Sainte-Cécile would like to see you in the music room.” I made it. I knew it!

Portal 2014 | Pg 24

But there were good days; November 25th was one of them. On St. Catherine’s day the sweet smell of taffy permeated the halls. This tradition, initiated by the founder of the order, elated Carmen and her friends. First, lucky students prepared the sticky mixture; then came the stretching. When it had cooled enough, other

GisÈle Merlet students picked up the taffy with buttered hands and began to stretch and fold it in half and then stretched it again. Eventually the golden taffy faded into a sugary delight! During the winter months, the skating rink also offered a reprieve. Toques, mittens, and skates replaced irregular verbs, double multiplications, and memorized poems. Skating, especially the fancy variety, took over recess. The nuns played “The Skaters’ Waltz” on a phonograph to accompany their artless arabesques on ice—so many Sonja Henies. Tomboys formed into teams and pretended to be Maurice Richard, brooms as hockey sticks and a tennis ball for the puck. Christmas’ Advent activities filled the early days of December. The crèche made up of life-sized statues adorned the chapel. Of course, baby Jesus did not appear in the manger until midnight on December 25th. The scent of real pine trees surrounding the Nativity promised good days ahead. Carmen’s rendition of a frisky elf in the Christmas pageant delighted the audience. Carols meant they would soon go home. Joyeux Noël! Easter Sunday offered Carmen the opportunity to go home and wear a new chapeau. A few weeks later, on First Communion Day, she wore a white embroidered dress, a white long veil, and white stockings, shoes, and gloves to hold the new rosary and prayer book. Her pure white soul was cleansed of all sins after confession—only angels roamed the hallways of the convent. In May, the month of Mary, Carmen had to join the congregation to recite the daily rosary. Fortunately, recess occurred twice a day. By this time, she had hung up her skates and took out her tennis racquet and baseball bat instead. *** By the time Carmen was 13, things started to change at the convent. Mère Supérieure announced, “From now on, the visit to your families will be extended from an afternoon to a full

Sunday. Your parents will pick you up at 9:00 am and bring you back at 8:00 pm.” Carmen was thrilled. Eventually, rebellion turned out to be a lot more fun than sainthood. Books smuggled from the local library, totally forbidden in the convent, made their way to her bed and she read them, with a flashlight, under her mother’s quilt. She also tried smoking. But worst of all, she had not yet been kissed. She was working on solving this problem. She had her eyes on the altar boy who served mass every morning. His blue eyes, blond hair, and special way of waving the incense-boat filled her dreams every night. She did not know his name, so she named him Michel. He was José to her Carmen. But it was not Michel who eventually kissed Carmen. Roger did, but much later. When Carmen was nearly 14 years old, she woke up and felt dampness between her legs. Blood! The worst of the worst had happened. “Do you know what it is?” The nun asked, handing her the necessary supplies. What she knew about it came from rumours and forbidden readings. She knew enough to realize that her life was over. That day, she sat alone in the rose garden contemplating her fate, when summoned by Mère Supérieure. “Mademoiselle Nadeau, at 3 pm Monsieur le Curé will see you in his office,” said Mere Supérieure, her eyes downcast. Five hundred steps separated the back door of the convent from the front door of the presbytery. She counted them, hoping they would go on forever. A board, representing a woman’s insides, loomed in the priest’s office. Carmen wished the floor would open up and swallow her entirely. “Mademoiselle Nadeau, this is a very important day in your life,” the priest said picking up a pointer. The rest was lost on her. *** Portal 2014 | Pg 25

Only Angels Roamed

By 15, Carmen had her eyes on graduation. Besides studying French grammar and composition, Latin versification and translation, geometry theorems, algebra formulas, and the dreaded English language, she coped daily with 3-hour study sessions. But nothing was as tedious as the religious studies and the sacred ritual of morning prayers, grace 3 times a day, recitation of the rosary, evening prayers, all preceded or followed by mass and vespers.

petticoat, she lit a votive candle and made a wish. She recited a Pater Noster followed by three Ave Marias. Her grades in Latin classes were dismal, but she knew all the prayers in Latin. She even confessed to the priest that she had stolen a girl’s change purse containing $1. As penance, he made her give it back, even though it was empty now. But this spiritual interlude did not last.

*** At 16, Carmen accepted with pride the blue sash; she was proclaimed “Child of Mary.” Now, on feast days, she could join in the processions of dignitaries into the church—she had arrived! At each visit to the chapel, she kneeled in front of the Blessed Virgin’s statue, crossed herself, kissed Mary’s clay feet and, if she had a penny hidden in the folds of her

Portal 2014 | Pg 26

After 11 years of oppression, the convent’s routines, and the demands of Science and Letters, Carmen graduated. She was finally liberated from one institution, ready to enter another: university. In her graduation picture, Carmen stands in her black dress, her straight black hair frames a young, unsmiling face. She looks older than 17, a woman. No one needed to hold her hand now.


• A maple shudders— her last contraction urges sap toward a thousand umbilical stems. Clots collect, clog veins arboreal passages. Blades twist, flap in throes. Stalks loosen, let go like incisors from their gums. Sour spit strings into the ether.

Samantha Ainsworth

Weaned in death, her offspring drift. Spines arch, snag on barbed-wire. Ribs rip. Amber flags fill ditches, fuel bonfires, and still she lets them fall.

Portal 2014 | Pg 27

Darker Things Michael Calvert


ou can hide a good many things in a forest. Behind my childhood home, an old grove of cedars, firs, and spindly white poplars sloped downhill for 200 metres. My brothers and I could hide for hours in the gullies and the underbrush, or behind one of the many mossy trees. It was a boy’s dream playground, and it was ours.

ricocheted off an old chicken shed and hit him behind his right ear. Unfortunately, I was using the pointed ammo that meant extra damage for the intended target. There was shock in Justin’s eyes as blood trickled down his neck. He ran home crying, screaming he would get me back.

A huge cedar marked the boundary where the forest ended and the soil degenerated into a swamp of decaying trunks, each one surrounded by a marshy island of roots, mud, and patchy swamp grass. The ancient tree became our command centre, a fort in which a dozen kids could hang around the cedar’s base unnoticed, the tree’s thick limbs providing the perfect camouflage. We found keen lookout spots up in those huge branches.

He was good to his word and a constant parade of noogies, wedgies, and purple-nurples ensued. He’d throw in the odd gut-punch for good measure. I hid my rifle under my bed after that and never took it back into the forest; no good would come of it.

We spent many hours in that citadel, the entire tract of wilderness our childhood turf. The soft forest dirt was the perfect backdrop in a time when Hot Wheels were made of metal and GI Joes still fought the Nazis. Missing soldiers’ arms, legs, and even heads, forgotten childhood memories, and even darker things, are still buried there. Our action figures weren’t the only trigger-happy marksmen in those woods. I shot two things in that forest with my pellet rifle before the age of 11. The first was a tiny robin sitting on a branch. I never told anyone and buried it where it dropped lifeless to the dirt, a pellet lodged in its russet breast. I also shot my friend, Justin, in the head. He was a huge kid who used to bully me, bully everyone. He only befriended me because I went along with whatever he suggested. I was a lackey. I didn’t shoot him directly in the head; I only meant to scare him. The pellet

Portal 2014 | Pg 28

Lucky for me, Justin’s family moved into the city later that year and he transferred to a new school where he found new ‘friends’ on which to ply his trade. I heard he got mixed up with the Hell’s Angels. To this day, I regret killing that robin, but I’ve always been glad I took that shot at Justin. One day after school we came home to find every tree in our forest cut down except the giant old cedar near the swamp. Our wildwood playground had been razed, buried beneath a tumble of fresh-cut progress. We mourned and clung ever harder to our stalwart citadel. I didn’t see the irony then, but 6 months later a loghome manufacturer set up shop. Sunder & Taylor Alpine Cabins was just a small operation with a 4-man crew. There wasn’t much to their business. They had a portable white office trailer with wooden steps, an old crane that had seen better days, a mill with a long, tin roof to keep the rain off, usually a log cabin or two on the go, and a bright yellow Porta-Potty in the corner of their lot, only 10 metres from our fort. On a day we thought the crew had gone, my brother

Sam and I made our way down the dirt slope toward the old cedar. The door to the office swung open. Standing on the small landing at the top of the stairs was Sunder. He was a big man, barrel-chested and square-headed, with an army crew cut that made his head look like a roughhewn block of wood. His hardened face had seen a lot of sun and he always wore a grungy Mackinaw over greasy denim overalls. A Doberman and a German Shepherd were at his feet. The dogs noticed Sam and I right off, drawing Sunder’s attention. Even from where we stood, we could see his face knot up in anger. “Git ‘em,” he yelled from the top of the steps. The dogs bolted toward us. Sam and I scrambled up the dirt toward the safety of home, but we were no match for the dogs. I could feel them lunging at our heels. Sam surged ahead and the dogs were right on me. I was going to be shredded to fleshy ribbons. “Okay, okay, okay!” I said. I raised my arms and stopped, idiotically praying that the dogs would somehow show mercy if I stopped running.

Sam kept going. I cringed and waited for the first set of teeth to tear into a leg. Ignoring my brother, both dogs circled me, snarling and barking. The Doberman bared its teeth, daring me to move. I kept still, my hands raised, afraid to flinch. I scanned our yard for any sign of help, but knew none would come; our parents weren’t home. Sam had obviously left me to die. I didn’t dare turn around, but by his huffing I could tell Sunder was getting close. “Good boys! Good boys. That’s it. Way to git ‘em.” A sudden twist of my ear spun me around. The pain dropped me to my knees and I screamed. I grabbed his thick wrist with both hands, but he had more power in that arm than I had in my entire wiry body. He twisted harder and my head tilted sideways. I was sure my ear would rip off at any moment. Sunder leaned in, his dogs still cheering on their gristle-faced master. “Next time, my dogs’ll chew you to pieces.” Spit flew from between his yellowed teeth and hit me in the eye. I hadn’t cried until then, maybe I’d been too scared, but the sting of spittle in my eye triggered tears. I bawled so loud even his

Ear Forest Coby McDougall

Portal 2014 | Pg 29

Darker Things dogs stopped barking. Sunder gave one last tweak on my ear and flicked me to the ground.

“Get off my property and don’t you come on it again,” he said.

through the swamp, wet up to our knees, and enter the fort through the ‘secret back entrance.’ Often, we’d just spy on Sunder as he got in his crew’s face, belittling them and swearing. Even his partner, Taylor, who was no small man himself, hid from Sunder, usually in the Porta-Potty.

I got to my feet. He kicked me in the ass as I turned to go and I bawled louder. One hand on my right ear and the other on my left butt cheek, I limped home. Sunder’s steel-toed boot left an apple-sized bruise for two weeks.

One Sunday in late fall, it was just Sam and I at the fort. We’d buried some of our paper route money, our rainy-day fund, at the base of the cedar. We agreed there should’ve been $4.35 in the coffers. I took off my heavy

“Trekking back home through the swamp, my mind was on the chocolate Charleston Chew and RC Cola I was going to buy, when I remembered my jacket was still in the fort.” We never did go on his property again. But we didn’t count the old cedar as his property. It was a bit of a trek to get to our fort through the swamp, but we considered the coming and going as much fun as the fort itself. Many Saturday mornings, a bunch of us would march

Portal 2014 | Pg 30

jacket and pawed at the ground with my hands for our purple Crown Royal bag of coins. The dirt was loose, but cold on my fingertips. We heard a truck pull up and saw Taylor get out. Business had been slow down at Sunder & Taylor and the partners had to let their two employees go. Both now worked 7 days a week.

Egress Arthur Fabbro

Michael Calvert I uncovered the money bag and pulled it from the hole—$4.35 exactly. We took $2.00 out for our trip to the corner store and re-buried our savings.

Sunder remained at the top of the steps. “We’re going to keep doing things my way, you hear? Now get that unit for Northrop finished.”

Trekking back home through the swamp, my mind was on the chocolate Charleston Chew and RC Cola I was going to buy, when I remembered my jacket was still in the fort. Sam, being Sam, refused to go back with me. He continued home as I trudged back to the fort.

Taylor hung his head and walked to his truck.

I threw my jacket on and that’s when I heard Taylor. His raised voice cut right through the walls of the trailer. He was finally standing up to Sunder. I climbed to a good vantage point. Things were being thrown around inside the trailer. Sunder bellowed. There was swearing and name calling. No barking, though; Sunder must have left his mutts at home. I settled down securely on my branch.

“Where you going? You better get that Northrop unit done by Tuesday!” I expected Taylor to get into his truck and drive off. Instead, he opened the door and pulled out a rifle from behind the seat, taking aim at Sunder. “Don’t even—” The gun went off. Sunder clutched his leg and toppled down the stairs. In that moment, Sunder was the only thing that moved. One hand clenched his inner thigh, blood squirting from between his thick fingers. Taylor looked on, drained of emotion. I was transfixed, motionless on that branch.

Taylor shoved the door open. “Sunder, you’re a fucking idiot. You’ve fucked us both.” Taylor started down the stairs and Sunder appeared at the door. He kicked Taylor in the back, sending him sprawling into the mud and sawdust. Dazed, Taylor slowly got to his feet. Sunder, from the top of the steps, snorted and said, “We ain’t losin’ shit. My house is in my brother’s name, and you’re the idiot! You’re the only one’s gonna lose big if we go under. You better start putting in some long shifts, partner.” Taylor charged up the stairs only to be met again by Sunder’s boot. Taylor flew through the air and lay motionless on the ground. My breath caught, fingers digging into the rough bark. Finally, Taylor moved. Bleeding from his nose, and wobbly, he got to his feet.

Sunder grunted between clenched teeth. Both his hands were now covered in blood and the entire denim leg of his overalls was stained a dark red. As Sunder’s groans became less emphatic, he slowly released his grip and slumped to the ground. I watched, pressed up tightly against the cedar, as the big man took 4 more heaving breaths and died. Taylor put his rifle in his truck, got a shovel and, tears in his eyes, began digging a grave. In that moment, I ran. Branches grazed my cheeks and scraped my hands. I ran through the swamp so fast it wasn’t until I got home that I realized both of my boots had been sucked from my feet. I’ve never told anyone what happened and none of us ever saw Taylor again. I don’t know what we would have done if we did. Although the others went back, I never returned to that swamp or our childhood fort. I guess I figured Taylor was like that robin, only he got a chance to fight back.

Portal 2014 | Pg 31

Portal 2014 | Pg 32

Murder in the Hundred Acre Wood Trevor Cooper


t had stopped raining by the time Kanga showed me the body. The dame brought me back to the old beech tree where Piglet had lived. He was face down in the mud puddle, just feet from his front door. His body was scratched and bits of fluff spilled out at his seams. All around were small animal tracks fading in the downpour. I hadn’t been back to the Hundred Acre Wood in 3 years. I looked down at Piglet. He was so much smaller than I remembered. What happened to this place? I pulled a candy cigarette from the pack in my trench coat pocket. Tigger opened the door. His whiskers were drooping and there was no bounce in his step. He lived at Piglet’s house, but last night he hadn’t heard anything but the patter of rain.

“Did you know there are rumours they want to sell the Hundred Acre Wood? I hear Gopher is looking to buy it up.”

“My, my, it’s Christopher,” he said, crossing his arms and leaning against the back wall. “It’s just ‘Chris’ now.” “Well ‘Chris,’ what brings you back to the Wood?” “Piglet was killed last night.” “Pity it wasn’t that bouncy pest Tigger instead.” “Were you here all night?” “Yeah, and so were the rest of these animals. My friends and relations come and go, but Pooh and Eeyore haven’t left my sight.” He paused and looked at me with a sly smile. “I think you’ll find this isn’t the Hundred Acre Wood you remember.”

“What makes you say that?” I asked him.

“I can see that. I also see you’re profiting tidily off the appetite of my former friend there.”

“Keepin’ an ear to the ground’s what Tiggers do best.”

“We all gotta make a living, Chris my boy.”

I marched through the Wood to Rabbit’s bar, a dingy little hole in the ground under a stump. It was dark inside, but I could just make out Rabbit cleaning fastidiously behind the bar. The tables were mostly filled with Rabbit’s friends and relations, a shady collection of bunnies, hedgehogs, mice, and insects.

I gave him a sharp look, but he simply twitched one of his long ears and returned to his business.

A morose-looking Eeyore sat by himself near the back. Pooh was passed out in a corner booth, surrounded by honey pots. I hadn’t seen him since our falling out 3 years ago. He was morbidly obese, a pitiful sight. Silly old bear.

He looked at me with those big doleful eyes. “I suppose we all go at some point,” he said in his melancholy monotone.

“You want some honey?” asked Rabbit, automatically. He was scrubbing a sticky spot on the countertop. “No, I never touch the stuff,” I said as I edged over to the bar. Rabbit looked up when he recognized my voice.

Door Brendan Abbott

I walked over to Eeyore and a dozen sets of beady eyes followed me across the room. “Piglet died last night,” I told the grey donkey.

“Yeah, but this was murder.” “Ho hum. As if I needed another reason to worry.” “Do you know anything about it?” “Nobody tells me anything. I may as well not even exist.” Portal 2014 | Pg 33

Murder in the Hundred Acre Wood

I looked over at Pooh, his yellow hair matted with honey. “Yeah, well, seems like it’s rough all over the Hundred Acre Wood.” “To tell you the truth, I’d like nothing better than to leave this place for good.” He looked more miserable than ever. Maybe he was right, maybe we should all just put this place in our rearview.

“Hmmm. Owl, you can read, can’t you?” “Of course I can! What an outrage! Why, it was only yesterday that Eeyore was in here complimenting me on my impressive intellect. He asked for my autograph! Eeyore knows my sharp mind is my trademark. That signature could be worth something someday!” I bet it could. “Did that paper Eeyore had you sign have any other writing on it?”

I left Rabbit’s bar and headed out into the early morning air. A couple of mice followed me out. I headed over to the beech tree where Owl lived and knocked on the door.

“Oh, well yes. It was really just some old yellowing document I had laying around. I assured him he could keep it.”

A great hooting welcome greeted me.

“I gotta run. Owl, you need to get your eyes checked and stop fooling yourself. That’s no property deed hanging on your wall!”

“Hallo, Christopher Robin! I daresay, I heard from Kanga that you were back. Do come in.” “Thanks,” I said. “I just go by ‘Chris’ these days.” “Kanga told me of the horrible atrocity committed in our very Wood last night. Who could possibly do such a heinous thing? And to our little Piglet!” He ruffled his feathers and swiveled his head in concern. “That’s what I’m investigating, Owl. Do you know who holds title to the Hundred Acre Wood?”

I bolted out his front door and rushed back to Rabbit’s bar. In a clearing I found a beady-eyed gang of woodland creatures waiting for me. Mice, rabbits, hedgehogs, and several insects with pincers clicking threateningly; they had me completely surrounded. “Get him!” squeaked a small voice. They swarmed me like angry bees after Pooh’s honey pot. Suddenly, there was a great commotion from the

“I looked over at Pooh, his yellow hair matted with honey. ‘Yeah, well, seems like it’s rough all over the Hundred Acre Wood.’” “Why, yes! You’re looking at him. Some even call me ‘Owl: Keeper of the Wood!’” “Sure they do. So you haven’t sold the title to that enterprising Gopher?” “Oh no, my boy. I would never do such a thing. The Wood is my home! I may have been a little careless, misplacing it from time to time, but this is serious business. In fact, I uncovered it just the other day under this rather large stack of books I’ve been reading. It’s over here, framed on the wall.” Displayed prominently on a wall near the window was an old newspaper announcement for Wednesday meetings of the Hundred Acre Wood Knitting Society.

Portal 2014 | Pg 34

clearing’s edge. A brown figure and an orange one bounded in from the gorse bushes and the rabbits and the rest of the animals scattered into the woods in fear. It was a moment before I recognized my saviours as Tigger and Kanga, little Roo cheering in her pouch. “Am I glad to see you,” I said as I collected my fedora. “I have to get back to the bar and find Eeyore before it’s too late.” I made my way back to Rabbit’s with Tigger and Kanga in tow. The bar was empty except for Rabbit and Pooh. “Where’s Eeyore?” I demanded. Rabbit gave me a cagey look and a shrug. “I’ll handle this, Dear,” said Kanga as she set Roo aside

Murder in the Hundred Acre Wood Trevor Cooper

and pushed past me. She grabbed a startled Rabbit by the furry scruff of his chest and lifted him into the air.

is stolen! Do you have anything to say for yourself, Eeyore?”

“WHERE IS HE?” she boomed.

The back room was even darker than the bar, and the walls were lined with great vats of honey. At a table sat Gopher. Eeyore was already scrambling towards a side exit, but he was too slow. He cursed me.

The sorry sad sack sighed. “Well, I never thought I’d really pull it off,” he droned. “I have always hated how everyone else in this Wood got a comfortable tree to live in, and all I got was a crummy lean-to. When I heard of Owl’s property deed, I tricked him into signing it over to me. Gopher was looking to log and dam up the Wood, and by selling the property to him I would have the money to move out of the bog to a nice villa in Majorca. Of course Piglet saw me take Owl’s deed and guessed what I was up to. So I hired Rabbit’s friends and relations to keep him from squealing.”

Gopher stood up in outrage. “Say, what is the meaning of this?” he whistled between his teeth.

It was hard to believe these were the friends of my childhood.

Rabbit stammered, his ears fell, and he pointed to the back room. Kanga dropped him in a heap on the floor. I made a quick mental note never to mess with a kangaroo dame.

“I’m stopping Eeyore from selling you the Hundred Acre Wood!” “Well, sonny, it’s his right to sell it! It says on this document that he owns it!” he held up the property deed Owl had unwittingly signed away.

“Eeyore, you’re going into the Heffalump pit until we can sort out your punishment. Rabbit, you’ll be helping me track down those crooked friends and relations of yours. You will all have to be held accountable for your crimes.” I pulled a candy cigarette from the pack. “You should be thankful I came back. You all have quite a lot of growing up to do.”

I looked down at Eeyore and said, “Not when the deed

Portal 2014 | Pg 35

Knock Off Amy West


Ghostly music plays. There are unearthly shrieks in the distance. Do we want to go through once more, before the reapers get here? Why? For old time’s sake? It could be a while before we meet again. Don’t tell me you’re feeling nostalgic. How unlike you. Don’t be ridiculous. The music morphs into water lapping against a dock. Cars can be heard in the distance. Gulls cry close by. How long do we have to wait? We don’t have all bloody night. She’s not late yet, man. Have you got a smoke?


She’s pushing it. I have better things to do than freeze on some god-forsaken dock in the middle of the night. Hope you got a light. Forgot mine.


Sorry I’m late, boys.


Both men yelp in surprise. Where in hell did you come from?


You’re late.


My flight was delayed and traffic was hell. But let’s not dally. I have places to go, people to see, things to do.


Have you got what we asked for?


I’m a professional. Fifteen years experience is why you hired me.


Just give it here.


Oh, hey now. No grabbing. Can’t we be civilized about this? I’ll show you mine, if you show me yours.

Portal 2014 | Pg 36


A zipper opens and there is the rustle of cloth. Both men inhale in wonder. Hello, gorgeous.

You can do whatever you want with it once you give me my money. And be sure boys, if you double-cross me, you won’t last a week. So let’s be good lads and hand it o...










I want to hold it. Can I hold it?

Ghostly music fades back in. There is no trace of the dockside noise. Oh, come on. Tir, what are you doing? Stop messing around. It’s not my fault you’re short-circuiting. I am not. You are. Stop concentrating so hard. You’re imposing your present onto your past. It’s messing up the frequency. Sorry. I’m going to try again. Relax. The music scrambles. Static. Tiransiel curses. The water and cars fade back in. Mark is crying.


I’d so love to keep you around, but you’re a liability, Keye.


You attacked me, you moron.


You shot Mark and stabbed me. I don’t think our boss is going to question it when they find your body floating in the Thames.


So this is how you repay me for risking my neck to get that ugly statue? Typical.


Keye coughs, breathing haggard. A horn honks nearby.


You double-crossed us, Keye. Showing up without the idol, and then attacking us.


You morons really think Annette will buy that? She’s not an idiot, and technically that idol now belongs to her, not you. It’ll be front-page news when they discover it’s missing. She’ll know I succeeded, and if I’m found dead, she’ll connect the dots before you can so much as blink.


We could still cut a deal.


Not bloody likely. Portal 2014 | Pg 37

Knock Off


When it comes down to it, no one’s that self-sacrificing. You’ll do as you’re told.


I’d rather rot.



Metal scrapes on pavement. There is a brief shuffling of shoes before a body falls heavily to the ground. Shit! Have it your way then. Gunshot. Long scream that ends on a sharp inhale. Angelic singing fades in. Ow, my head. What? Where in hell... Not quite. Keye gasps and there is a single gunshot. Over here. Who the hell are you? Talk fast, mate, and convince me I shouldn’t shoot you and find someone else to give me directions. Don’t be obtuse. Look at where you are. Shoot me. It won’t do anything. Willing to test that theory? It’s not a theory. Your fireworks toy will do less than nothing. Great. Bugger off. I’m not in the mood.... That is no way to speak to an Angel of the Lord. I’ll keep that in mind if I ever meet one. We have much to discuss, so please, abstain from your shallow insults. You’re confused, understandably. It must be rough getting shot. How’s your head feel, by the way? Want a cup of tea, an aspirin, a cold compress, or whatever it is you mortals use these days? Duct tape usually works pretty well. Now, leave me alone, or I really will shoot you. And I told you, go ahead. Fine. Three gunshots. They echo, slowly fading. Tiransiel laughs. Have it your way. Keye screams. Tiransiel catches her as she collapses. He murmurs to her while she gasps for breath. Last words trigger death pain. That was cruel. I apologize. Get your hands off me! Oh god. Keye gasps for breath.

Portal 2014 | Pg 38

Amy West


High Level Bridge Brendan Abbott

I’m dead? I’m really dead! He iced me? How pathetic is that? Shit. You prepared for just such an eventuality. I did not. Well, it worked out that way. Watch. The sound of the dock fades back in; water, gulls, cars. Did ya really have to kill her, man? She woulda done what you wanted. No, she wouldn’t.

You coulda offered her a nice apartment or something. Hooked her up and treated her good. Girls like that kinda thing, don’t they? She blew half your hand off and you’re defending her? It’s not like it’s my important hand. I liked her, man. She’d have slit my throat the first chance she got. It’s better this way. Now shut up. There’s something weird about this statue.

Portal 2014 | Pg 39

Knock Off MARK:





It’s Egyptian. It’s supposed to look like that. There’s a hollow thud and the sound of something shattering. Tell me, you imbecile. Is it supposed to look like that? Uh...no? Luke screams in rage. He kicks Keye’s body. You bitch! How dare you double cross me? You gave me a fake statue? Where is it? Where is the real idol? Goddamn it. Luke’s rage fades, water fades, sound of music grows louder. Keye laughs. Take that, you son of a bitch. I may be dead, but I still won. Small compensation, given the circumstances. Have you thought about the afterlife? Yeah right. Do I look like pearly gates material to you? Don’t answer that. I was expecting fire and brimstone, Hades, eternal damnation, something like that. That’s not how it works. How was I supposed to know that? Besides, it’s not considered particularly propitious in my line of work to worry about the end. So what now? What do you think?

Catch and Release Natalie Goldbeck

Portal 2014 | Pg 40

It’s Been 10 Years Antony Stevens

Nine, really, if you count the repeated answering machine message. No matter how many times we told them, the phone company kept asking for you. Eventually the grocery list post-it you left on the fridge wore off. It fell to the tile like a child’s bandage, so Mom taped it back on. She wore the you-scented hockey jersey she forgot to throw in the wash, again and again, a residue of you. Nine years, 11 months, 27 days. A month later you became some bullshit elegy, a sideeffect of tinnitus, your name opened the damn on command like shock therapy. You were my tie at the funeral, my noose. You’re a beaded bracelet of blood and exhaustion in each 3 am apostrophe, each accomplishment and common relapse. After a bottle of Prozac, when a waft of northern wind comes through the open window to guide me in the night, I think of a sailor sinking out in the ocean alone, waves lapping at his cheeks, while his dog sleeps soundly at home. You’re the memorial bench laden with white lilies left by ignorant fucks who keep asking, “What happened?” And you...you’re the last goddamn pea under my 10 sodding mattresses.

Portal 2014 | Pg 41

Snakes & Ladders Jessica Key

I have always liked my neck. It is long and slender and I like to wear my hair up to show it off. But when people first heard I needed the surgery, they asked my mom if I’d feel the same with a long scar snaking around it. Some say young people think they're invincible, but I wasn’t one of them. I knew I could die in a car crash, or a fire, or get thrown from my horse and break my neck. I knew that accidents happened, but I didn’t expect to be faced with my own mortality a few weeks before I turned 19.

friend told me she’d been on the phone with my crying mother during the procedure that was supposed to take 4 hours, but ended up taking 6 because I reacted badly to the aesthetic. No one had told her I was recovering.

The surgery posed bigger risks than disfigurement: losing function in my tongue and lips, death. The mass was located between my internal and external carotid artery. I would be lucky to lose feeling in only half my face and neck. I was relieved, obviously, but would I ever get used to that “fresh from the dentist” feeling on the right side of my face? A word to the wise: never, ever, Google your illness.

And then came the flowers, and the Beanie Babies, more than any self-respecting adult should possess. During this hospital recovery period I discovered both truth and betrayal, maturity and abandonment. I felt slighted, bitter and resentful, but also grateful. I was a “victim” of circumstance, but I didn’t want people to cry, or to treat me like a leper.

After the diagnosis, I wore my hair down every day, first to hide the lump on my neck and then the scar. Two years later, if anyone even notices, it’s to exclaim how good it looks, like a wrinkle rather than a river. Not a compliment, but I'll take it. Some people think it’s a hickey so I make up a gruesome story that shocks them into silence. I’ve told nosey old men that that’s why you should never walk down Hastings Street alone at night. I joke I need a barbed wire tattoo around my neck since the faded scar no longer looks bad-ass. Sometimes the memories of being in the hospital are as overwhelming as the stench of its antiseptic: walking away from my mom in the waiting room to get changed into a hospital gown and feeling so alone, the panic welling up in my chest before the anesthesiologist put the mask over my face, the last-minute alarm I felt as I realized I had no idea how to pray. Months after the surgery, when I was finally off bed rest, a

I woke up in the recovery room still intubated and sick, but I couldn’t move my neck to cough or throw up. The claustrophobia of feeling trapped in my own body settled on my chest like a sleeping panther.

I felt jealous listening to friends talk about what was going on in their lives, but I didn’t want to focus on what I was going through either. I wanted them to care, and to ask how I was feeling, but not to pity the details. When people did, I'd always smile, “I could be worse.” A platitude, but useful. Whenever I was praised for “being strong” I felt guilty, less than noble, afraid to admit I was scared and upset. I asked “Why me?” and dwelled on the unfairness of it all. I

Portal 2014 | Pg 42 Black Cat River Kim Kemmer

had wanted to do so much and was able to do so little. I had concocted a script, what I was allowed to say so that my weakness didn’t make them uncomfortable.

and survived the experience relatively unscathed except for an addiction to Cold Case reruns. I’m not afraid to admit that I do, though, own a Snuggie.

Before all this happened I had considered myself a fairly active person. I rode my horse, hiked mountains with my dogs, enjoyed lots of sports. After the surgery, the muscle in my neck had been partially severed so I couldn't lay down in bed for over a month, and instead set up camp in my dad's well-worn grey La-z-boy. I was inoffensive but unremarkable, like an awkward first date.

Now, every year on March 10th—the anniversary of my surgery—we have a bonfire and drink tequila, throw a morbid party to say, “Hey, congrats you didn't die.” Not a funeral, but not exactly a celebration either. I am also an affirmed hypochondriac; if my neck feels sore, or I get sick, or my remaining lymph nodes swell up, I have to reassure myself that it’s just a cold.

I tried to stay positive by catching up on books I'd been meaning to read, but by the second week I would have done even the worst job if it meant I could get out of that damn chair. When it's 3 am and you’re groggy from painkillers, and leftovers, those infomercials seem a lot more tempting. I avoided regrettable impulse purchases

I’m no longer complacent. I no longer let what happened define me. I only want people in my life who better it. I’m feisty—a pain in the neck without a pain in my neck. That’s beautiful too, and so are scars, and letting my hair down.

Portal 2014 | Pg 43

A Walk in the Park Hayley Rickaby


ubert’s brow furrowed as he watched two young people necking on the park bench across the way. They made it look so easy. He sighed as he shuffled

down the stone path, leaning heavily on his walker for support. A mother guiding her reluctant toddler outpaced him. So easy. “As easy as a walk in the park.” Hubert chuckled at this bit of cleverness, startling a young blonde jogger, who gave him a wary look. Around him, couples occupied benches, sipping hot specialty coffees, while children played on the jungle gym. The leaves on the sugar maples lining the walkways shone in a symphony of burnt oranges, rusted reds, and golden browns. It wasn’t a particularly warm day, though beads of perspiration formed on Hubert’s large wrinkled forehead. He could have easily finished his route and gone back home to the Sunny Hill retirement village, but something told Hubert that today was the day he would finally talk to her, no more excuses. Hubert turned his walker down the correct path and slowly shuffled to the south end of the park where he knew she would be. Hubert, at age 79, was proud of his range of mobility and made the effort, rain or shine, to walk the loop of MacMillan Park every day. “Never stop moving,” his Master Corporal had always said. Walking kept him limber, even through the scar tissue. However, over the past month, Hubert’s motive was for more than just exercise. His palms started to sweat as he remembered the day he first laid eyes on her. The day had started like any other, filled with newspapers, cups of steaming tea, and more pills than Hubert could count. A fine mist had hung in the air, which left a light dusting of condensation on his

60 Watt Reta Beirnes

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glasses as he strolled through the park watching the grey and blue underbellies of the pigeons flying overhead. The flock descended upon a pile of breadcrumbs that a woman sprinkled on the ground. Hubert’s breath caught. The woman’s long, white hair glistened like a milky stream. Her face was gracefully rounded, with soft wrinkles surrounding her mouth and eyes, and her purple tweed jacket accentuated long legs and a shapely figure. Hubert was a bachelor, and though he had had many conversations with the old birds at Sunny Hill, he was horribly out of practice when it came to charming the fairer sex. So staring at his black, orthopedic shoes, Hubert had simply walked away.

However, a few months later, the war changed everything. Hubert became an infantryman in the Canadian Army and was shipped out to Korea. Not knowing if he would make it out alive, Hubert had made the painful decision to break off the relationship. So he left, and she stayed, and when he was discharged with a leg injury in 1953, he learned that she had married. Though he had regrets, in times of war nothing was certain, not even love. Since then, Hubert had tried to find an equivalent relationship, but all came up short. Even Joan Seymour,

He could feel the beads of perspiration collecting at the thought of seeing her again. “I’m too old for this,” said Hubert. He carefully extracted a linen handkerchief from his green coat pocket, and dabbed away the sweat. His nerves were shot, his bravery waning. Why now, would he feel that familiar warmth in his chest from long ago for a woman he had never met? It wasn’t like he hadn’t dated before; he had been quite the catch back in the day, and relationships had come and gone. Some had been good, like sweet Norma Jean, who had made the best banana bread. Others hadn’t worked out so well, like Berta Knoxville, who had the tongue of the devil, and drank like one too. He even believed he had found, and then lost, the one —Miss Wilson. They had met at the dance hall back in 1949, a year before the Korean War. She had big, blue eyes, and even bigger dreams of going to medical school to become a doctor. She had been passionate about helping people. Hubert and Miss Wilson had been inseparable, with picnics on the beach, misty morning drives around the countryside, and sock hops on the weekends. As time went on, Hubert learned that Miss Wilson had come from a large family of farmers. She sewed corduroys and pinafores for her siblings, and darned socks for the people at the homeless shelter. But, Miss Wilson grew weary of her small-town life and had ambitions to one day move to the big city. 60 Watt Reta Beirnes

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who had played the violin so sweetly, or the sultry Roxy Croswell, who claimed she could sing her way into any man’s heart, failed to convince him. Hubert shook his head and smiled; he just never knew when to quit. As he rounded the corner, a flock of pigeons flapped wildly overhead. Hubert followed the birds in the direction of the bench, to the feeding frenzy. He stopped mid-shuffle as his heart fluttered. There she was, sitting on the bench. White hair was piled atop her head in a thick bun, and her nimble fingers tore up pieces of brown bread. Hubert took two deep breaths, straightened his shoulders, muttered a short prayer under his breath, and walked up to the bench. The pigeons scattered at his approach, and the woman looked up from her bread, a smile of welcome spreading across her face. “Hello,” she said, shuffling over to make room. “Are you looking to sit down?” Hubert opened his mouth, closed it, then opened it again. “Hello,” he said. His voice sounded nothing like his own. Hubert hadn’t planned his next move. He had already used up his hello, and now, standing in front of her, his mind was blank as a whitewashed wall. “Are you okay?” she said. Hubert nodded slowly, thinking it best to sit before his legs gave way. The woman offered a piece of bread to Hubert with a dainty hand. He noticed a silver bracelet with little, pink charms on her wrist—they looked like pigs. He took the bread gratefully and started to shred. “Have we met?” asked the woman, throwing away her last crumbs. “I feel as though I have seen you before.” She looked toward the sunny sky, her brow knit in concentration. Hubert felt anxiety blossom. Had she seen him walking in the park the past month, stealing furtive glances? Did she think he was some deranged, senile stalker? Taking

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out his handkerchief once more, Hubert stared down at the cobblestone walkway under his feet. It had been a mistake to come to introduce himself. Who did he think he was, believing that an old man like himself could get another chance at love? He felt her soft, wrinkled hand on his sun-spotted cheek. He looked up to see the woman’s big, blue eyes glistening with tears. “Miss Emma Wilson.” The name came as a whisper to his lips.

Charity Jamie Heise Old man in a wheelchair at the bottom of a lawn I hoped was his.

He is inconvenient, could be dangerous, lonely, insane.

His voice shriveled with age, chords hanging loose in his throat like gossamer.

I keep walking.


He does not call again, but I hear his voice and pray other souls are kinder.

Undead Currency Chantelle Delage

Sunset Bre Sherwood

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Nutcracker Liz Laidlaw


here’s the other girl? The first one. She should be here,” Cooper said.

Joseph dropped his fork noisily on his plate. Ellie hesitated, focused on the lemon meringue pie she was carrying. Ellie, Jennie, and Joseph looked at their mother, Virginia, and saw her resolve. She pretended Cooper, her husband of 50 years, hadn’t said it. Joseph picked up his fork, put it back in his mouth, looked at his mother again, then put the fork back on the plate, quietly. “So, how was Kyoto?” Jennie asked her brother, who had just returned from a stint teaching ESL.

Christmas dinner was at Ellie’s this year. They’d been to Jennie’s house last night for Christmas Eve, read ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas, lit the Swedish chimes and let the candles burn down. Virginia remembered Jennie’s lone nutcracker, her sad attempt at decorating. Jennie eyed her sister’s mantle overflowing with nutcrackers, their bright red and navy jackets, their sideburns and moustaches, their fluffy white hats. Ellie had been in the Royal Winnipeg Ballet’s production, played the lead role for years. Eventually, of course, she played the sugar plum fairy and invariably dated the guys who played the Nutcracker, even married one. He

“Ellie had been in the Royal Winnipeg Ballet’s production, played the lead role for years. Eventually, of course, she played the sugar plum fairy and invariably dated the guys who played the Nutcracker, even married one. He turned out to be feckless, so now she was on to number two.” Joseph stared at his father then turned to Jennie. He hadn’t seen this yet, was unsure how to proceed. Jennie smiled encouragingly. She narrowed her eyes; this was the way they were going to play it. “It was…it was…” he hesitated. “It was intense,” he finally said. Virginia examined Cooper at the head of the table, his eyes darting between her and their two middle-aged daughters, Ellie and Jennie, who were sitting on either side of Ellie’s teenaged children, Sophia and Joshua. At 49, Ellie was the oldest, two years older than her sister, Jennie, but she looked younger. Maybe it was all the ballet she did, teaching at her own studio. Boyd, Ellie’s husband, sat across from them, his head shaved to hide his receding hairline.

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turned out to be feckless, so now she was on to number two. Boyd was an RCMP officer and clearly earned more than a dancer. Virginia and Cooper had hosted Christmas for years, first in Winnipeg, and then in Nanaimo. Back when their kids were small, Christmas meant an annual visit from Cooper’s parents who were always travelling in winter. They even drove from Florida one year. Virginia always felt Baba was judging her, that she didn’t live up to her mother-in-law’s standards. Baba (her real name was Pauline and she had wanted to be called Nana, but Ellie could only say Baba as a baby) was Christmas incarnate; she played the piano, sang Christmas carols, and made amazing lemon meringue pie. Raymond, or GG, Cooper’s father, didn’t give a

shit what he was called, and used a sterling silver fork, engraved with the letters CP and pilfered from a cross-country train trip, to whip the egg whites for the meringue. Ellie, Jennie, and Joseph used to have to wait for their grandparents before they could open their gifts on Christmas morning. Baba and GG took their time showering and dressing before coming down. Ellie insisted on making her children wait too. Cooper and Virginia had to drive across town from Lantzville on Christmas morning (they’d never stay over) so her kids waited until 9 am to open their gifts. Ellie thought it was good they learn patience. When Virginia and Cooper moved to Nanaimo 10 years ago to be closer to Jennie, Ellie, and her family, they continued to host. Incongruously, both girls had ended up on the island, Ellie because of Boyd’s posting, Jennie to manage a call centre. Joseph made it home every 3 or 4 years. Sophia and Joshua were playing with the dice and small plastic moustache they got in their Christmas crackers. They read everyone’s jokes, groaning loudly at the punchlines. Joseph’s hat was royal blue and he fiddled with a pair of foldable scissors. Ellie’s hat had been green, but she traded with Boyd, whose was fuchsia, and she got a tiny sewing kit in a silver case. Jennie’s crown was an unflattering yellow; she held a pink-and-yellow plastic whistle, looking for a moment like she might blow it. Cooper was wearing a red hat, which was damp at the edges with sweat. Virginia’s had been orange, but she’d given it to Sophia, who had ripped hers trying to fit it on her head. Joshua wouldn’t wear his. Cooper said it again, louder this time. “Where’s the other girl? You know, the first one? She’s family. She should be here too.” His rheumy eyes focused on Virginia. “Dad, what are you talking about?” Ellie said. “We’re all here.” Virginia got up and slowly made her way to Cooper’s end of the table. “Lemon meringue pie anyone?” Ellie said, putting the dessert down in the centre of the table.

Cooper had slipped further into dementia over the past few weeks. Sometimes he was there, coherent, then he was just gone. During these episodes he’d talk about the craziest things, unreliable memories from a lifetime ago. Virginia fingered the opal dangling on a gold chain around her neck. After all these years, in this state, she couldn’t believe Cooper was bringing up their firstborn. She gave Cooper the evil eye. *** Cooper was walking every day until a few weeks ago. Since he and Virginia had moved to Nanaimo he’d taken to bragging about it. “Can’t walk like this in winter in Winnipeg,” he’d say. He was the type of man who mowed his lawn in February just so he could phone his brother back east and tell him about it. Cooper had come home from his last walk agitated. It took Virginia a while to figure out what had happened. His walks were littered with superficial conversations exchanged with neighbours: the retired bc Hydro lineswoman who was learning to sail; the retired chef who made chocolate and smoked his own salmon; the couple from Ontario who worked in medical imaging at the hospital; Shannon Patrick who over-shared personal details and disrespected his personal space. If she was in her car, she would drive beside Cooper as he walked, talking his ear off. But on this day, Shannon had a new car, and couldn’t figure out how to roll the windows down. Desperate to talk with Cooper, she’d pulled her car up onto a boulevard in front of him and caught him off-guard. Shannon had flung open her car door and come running at him, given him a big hug. She had burst forth in her Irish brogue, her wild grey hair escaping from her bun. “I don’t know how your day’s going, but my toilet’s plugged up and I have to use the friggin’ crapper at my daughter’s house!” Cooper had communicated this part to Virginia when he got home, frightened and shaking. When Shannon asked if she could use Cooper’s toilet, since it was so much closer than her daughter’s, he’d turned and run straight home, hobbling as fast as his 75-year-old legs would carry him. Portal 2014 | Pg 49


Cooper had always been in better shape than Virginia. Her arthritis had been getting steadily worse and her balance was not what it used to be. She’d fallen at the grocery store last month, but hadn’t told anyone. She was picking up a prescription and stubbed her toe on a gold metal plate flush with the linoleum. She dropped her bags and fell on her right knee and hands. A woman and her young son ran to her side, and a man in a motorized wheelchair came near, parked, and watched. The little boy picked up the white paper bag with her pills in it (at the prompting of his mother) and held it while she collected herself. “I haven’t fallen since...I was 10 years old.” She rolled up her pant leg to look at her knee, which was already beginning to swell. With the woman’s help, she got to her feet. She took the bag from the boy. “Thank you,” she said smiling, and, chin up, lurched off. Since Cooper had been begun exhibiting his symptoms, Virginia worried that her own memory was deteriorating. When showering, she forgot to wash her hair, went straight to the conditioner. She boiled the water several times, forgetting to fill the teapot.

Everyone stared at her. “You mean half-sister,” Ellie said, processing. “No. Together, we had a child that was put up for adoption before we were married,” Virginia stated again, remembering her parents’ determination. “Why on earth would you do that?” said Jennie, incredulous. “You sound offended,” Ellie snapped. “I’m not offended!” “You were born offended. You bruise like a peach,” Ellie said. “You were born entitled. You.…” Virginia could see that Jennie was angry that she couldn’t think of a fruit analogy. “But Ellie, this means you’re not the first born! You’re not the oldest!” Joseph said. Ellie glared at her brother. “That’s ridiculous.” “Your father’s parents would have killed him if they’d found out,” Virginia said.

*** Virginia and Cooper had agreed when they gave the baby up for adoption, that they would not allow contact. The records were sealed. She couldn’t fathom revisiting this decision. She had taken pains to convince herself that it had happened to someone else. Cooper was carrying on about the girl. Virginia looked at Jennie and wondered about her having two older sisters instead of one. Would it have made any difference, if the resentment was split, would it have made it less powerful? The family had never seemed enough for Jennie. Ellie was too perfect in Jennie’s eyes, and Jennie wouldn’t compete. Joseph had been independent and obstinate from the beginning. Virginia stood by Cooper’s side, her hand on his shoulder, and something in her broke.

“Don’t you think Dad wants to meet her? I mean, before he....” Jennie waved her hand towards her father. “Before he what?” Ellie asked. “I don’t know.” Jennie put her head in her hands. “How can we bring her in to this?” “Just imagine how she feels,” said Joseph. “I’ve tried not to my whole life,” Virginia said. “Anything’s got to be better than being excluded,” Joseph said, suddenly practical. In a lucid moment, Cooper smiled, imagining all 4 of his children around the table for Christmas dinner.

“Your father is talking about your sister. Your father and I had a child before we were married.” Portal 2014 | Pg 50

Illumination Bre Sherwood

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Collecting Bottle Caps:

Michael Crummey on Form Over Function and the Precarious Trade that is a Career in Writing Jessica Key


t’s a little like saying you want to collect bottle caps for a living.” And so in a few words, Michael Crummey has summed up how many students in Creative Writing feel when asked what they want to do when they grow up. Crummey may prove to be one of the finest bottle cap collectors writing in Canada today. As the 2013 Gustafson Distinguished Poetry Chair, Crummey delivered a lecture entitled “Burn Barrel: Surviving Poetry in the 21st Century” as well as selections from his newest collection Under The Keel. Afterward, he agreed to sit down with me and discuss everything from unexpectedly falling in love with poetry to dating his first novel, whamming his head against the desk and drawers that stick, and making his way home to a new Newfoundland.

JK: What is it about small-town Newfoundland that inspired you to write about it in Under the Keel and your previous titles? Are you writing what you know, or is it more reflective now as a returning ‘native son’? MC: When I was growing up, I had a very clear sense of “real” Newfoundland as a place that once existed, but was going if not gone. I only had access to it through the stories I heard from my parents. I was writing to find my way into that world or to make some sort of a claim to it. I grew up in a mining town in central Newfoundland and then moved to Labrador West, and then eventually to Ontario. I was drifting further and further away from the place that in some ways made me who I was. I moved home about 14 years ago. That was a really good thing for me. Newfoundland’s not the same as

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it was when my parents were growing up, but that’s true of everywhere. Newfoundland is in constant transition. There was a particular set of social and economic circumstances that created a particular character identifiable as Newfoundland character. I am really interested to know how much of that carries forward now that those circumstances have changed. JK: One review of Under the Keel described it as a pageturner, a term usually applied to novels. Do you think having spent 10 years working on novels influenced your poetry, or was it a completely separate process? MC: I don’t think my fiction has influenced my poetry that much. I wrote only poetry for a long time and that process of developing a voice carried over into my fiction. A lot of people who’ve read the book have said, “You know I sat down and I read it in one sitting,” which is not something I can do with poetry generally. I think it’s partly because the poems are very narrative; there’s a narrative arc to the book as a whole.

“With this new book it was as if I was making furniture—I wanted every single join to be perfect and solid, and all the drawers to open and close smoothly, I wanted the thing to be strong enough to stand on.” The poetry I was writing in the past might have looked more or less like a chest of drawers, you could open and close the drawers. But they stuck a little bit, and all the joins were basic.

Most of the poems in this book are rhyming poems, but most people would never notice that. The rhymes are there for me more than the reader, I think. The rhyme forced me to move past my immediate word choice, to push me beyond the obvious, to become a better writer. I think that’s part of what comes across and allows people to keep turning the pages. Maybe. JK: You said you have started to appreciate and embrace the act of revision. Has that helped you create this narrative arc? MC: Absolutely, but it’s been a process since my early 20s. Revision has become more and more a part of my writing. My first book came out when I was 30, which I kind of regret. When that book finally got published I thought ‘It’s about time,’ but very shortly after I thought ‘I could have waited a little longer.’ That’s a book that could have used a really good editor. Every book since then I have paid more active attention. When you’re revising, you’re often cutting out the parts that you like best. As a younger writer, especially, I just couldn’t do it. I thought ‘I don’t need it, but that’s

a good line. That’s a nice image. I’ll just leave it.’ What you have to do is just cut it out. You have to be ruthless. I think the hardest thing for me to learn was to not to be emotionally attached to what’s on the page when I’m revising. If it’s unnecessary, it comes out. If it’s not clear, it comes out. If it’s your favourite thing in the poem, but the poem doesn’t need it, out it goes. Writers find that so hard to learn. You have to learn to kill your darlings. For me, revising is an exciting process. You have a thing in front of you, and you’re sculpting it, making it breathe. Seventy percent of the writing process is revision. JK: What would you say is your least favourite part of the process then? MC: It’s different for different kinds of writing. For fiction it’s the first draft, the physical act of getting the story on paper. Every time you have a scene with two people in a room talking, you have to ask, ‘What does the room look like? What are they wearing? What is the weather like?’ The number of

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Lighthouse Jessica Reid

Collecting Bottle Caps

things you have to consider is exhausting. To me it’s like whamming your head against a desk for three or four hours. So the first draft is always a slog. It’s a lot of work, and often not really enjoyable work. Poetry has always been a more enjoyable process. It’s meditative. Poetry feeds me. I come away from writing poetry energized, feeling better than when I started. Whereas with fiction, once I’ve put my 3 or 4 hours in, I have to do something else because I’m drained. I have a headache. JK: You’ve said that you took the first step toward writing a novel just to prove that you could do it. MC: Well, it was a challenge. It’s a huge undertaking and I wanted to see if I had something like that in me. There’s more of an audience for fiction as well so why not try it and see?

“This is not at all like what happened with poetry, which was more like falling in love.” JK: How did you decide upon a writing career? Did you chose it or did it choose you? MC: I went to university with no idea of what I wanted to do with my life. I took 5 general courses and we did poetry in my first term of English. For whatever reason, I decided I wanted to do that, and started writing almost immediately, in secret, and very badly It felt like a vocation almost from the beginning, although I don’t know if I ever consciously admitted that to myself. There was just nothing else out there that felt like a realistic possibility for me. I was hauled into the guidance counselor’s office every year at school, and every year without fail I was told to be a teacher. I knew very little about myself in those days, but I saw what we did to our teachers and there was no way I was putting myself in that position. I felt totally lost before I started writing. [Poetry] felt right to me right from the start. JK: You are teaching in a way. Maybe the aptitude test wasn’t too far off. Portal 2014 | Pg 54

MC: In a way, maybe. I really enjoy doing readings, Q & As; I’m perfectly comfortable. But doing a workshop, where I’m expected to impart particular information or skills, I’m still uncomfortable. It’s the only thing left in my life at the moment that causes me that kind of anxiety. I do a fair bit of it, but it’s something I have to prepare for. JK: Are you still enchanted with the writing career you’ve chosen? MC: Honestly, I can’t believe my life. I’ve been describing it as semi-retirement. Most of the time, my time is my own. In my wildest dreams, I didn’t see myself making a living as a writer. I think the goal at the start was simply to publish a book, but the goal posts keep being moved. Once you publish a book you want to publish a book that actually sells a few copies. And once you publish a book that sells a few copies, you’d like to have a book that is nominated for some sort of award and sells a few copies. Then you want to be able to take some time off of work to write full time. Then you want to quit your job. I guess the lesson is, you’re never going to be completely satisfied with what you write or what it does out in the world. But I’m pretty happy with where I’ve ended up. JK: Do you feel pressure when working on a new piece? MC: With this poetry book there was no pressure. The audience for it is so small that the fear of failure is a really personal one. Success is also a very personal thing. It was freeing not to think about what this will do once it leaves my hands; I could just write for the pleasure of it. I have been making my living as a writer with the novels. How well a book does out in the world has a big impact on how well I eat. That’s overstating it, but I am married and I have 3 kids. I like being able to write full time. If books don’t do well, then I have to look for a job, so I do feel that sort of pressure. The current situation in Canada is that if a book doesn’t get nominated for a big award then it

Jessica Key disappears. It’s a rare thing for a book that hasn’t made those lists to gain traction and to find an audience. It happens, but it’s rare. So that’s an enormous amount of pressure, because it’s so arbitrary, it’s about who is on those juries. It’s not great for the literary culture because you have one or two books that blow up and sell, and everything else struggles along, not really finding the audience it deserves. I shouldn’t complain because I have been incredibly lucky and I have been working full-time as a writer for the last 14 years. But I worry endlessly about losing that. JK: As a writer working from home, do you struggle with work-life balance? MC: When I was writing my first novel I joked that if the book had been a woman I was dating, all of my friends would have said, “You guys should break up. She’s not good for you. You’re not happy.” And I wasn’t; I was miserable, partially because there was no escape. Now there isn’t that opportunity. I think that’s actually been a really healthy thing for me. My relationship to my books is less fraught. I have another life altogether that is completely separate from the writing and demands equal attention from me. Get married and have kids; I recommend it to all writers. JK: Do you have any advice for writers starting out? MC: “Gird up your loins.” It is a tough thing. The opportunities for humiliation in a writer’s life are myriad. There are rejection slips, bad reviews, and people who know nothing about books, but have an opinion on yours. It’s a very difficult thing to carry on. Early on it can feel like there’s nothing happening. I think the only useful advice that anyone can offer is if that’s what you want to do, then do it. I remember a friend telling me about a woman who taught a 12-week art course. She started the first class by saying, “I’m going to spend this entire course trying to talk you out of being a painter. And if I can’t talk you out of it by the end of 12 weeks, then

you might have what it takes to do it.” The people who end up being writers are the ones who are going to end up being writers regardless, but there are a lot of dark times and in those moments I think it’s really important to just keep swinging.

Poet George Murray called Crummey “the Michael J. Fox of Canlit: you’re gregarious, talented, look perennially young, and no one has a bad word to say about you.” Crummey grew up in Buchans, Newfoundland, and received his ma at Queen's University in 1988. Author of 4 other books of poetry and 3 novels, Crummey has won the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize and the Writer’s Trust Timothy Findley Award for outstanding body of work by a writer mid-career. +H KDV EHHQ D ÀQDOLVW IRU WKH 6FRWLDEDQN Giller Prize, the Governor General’s Literary Award, the impac Dublin Literary Award, Rogers Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize, and the Milton Acorn People’s Poetry Award. His works have been translated into French, Italian, Polish, and Dutch and have consistently been a Globe & Mail Notable Book of the Year. • • • • • • • • •

Under the Keel (2013) Galore (2009) The Wreckage (2005) Newfoundland: Journey into a Lost Nation (2004), written with Greg Locke Salvage (2002) River Thieves (2001) Hard Light (1998) Flesh & Blood (1998) Arguments with Gravity (1996)

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A Whale of a Tale: Stories Galore Liz Laidlaw A story for my father, John Scoates.


arkness has fallen on Granville Island and a storm is brewing. My father is lying at my feet, unconscious, and Michael Crummey is standing next to me. I am trapped in a bizarre Canadian literary nightmare. To celebrate my mother’s 69th birthday, my father and I have taken her to the Vancouver International Writer’s Festival on Granville Island—a mystery writers’ panel, a brunch with celebrated authors, and an evening with Michael. What could be better? Except that my dad hasn’t been feeling well and probably shouldn’t have come. He has been suffering from a lung infection and is on strong antibiotics as well as diuretics. He’s already taken out someone’s bumper trying to park the car. When we check in, the front desk clerk asks if we want the Wifi password.

“No, no, we won’t need that,” my dad says. “Oh, actually,” I say, “I’d like the password.” “See Sir,” the clerk says teasingly to my father, “It’s not always about you.” We all chuckle at that, not realizing just how wrong he will be. After dinner and champagne at Bridges restaurant with my brother and his wife, we make it up the two floors to Michael’s reading in a building on Cartwright Street. We sit in the front row, in front of a huge circular window that feels like a ship’s portal. The rain reflects the light of the streetlamps below. Portal 2014 | Pg 56

Michael reads from Hard Light, a book of stories and poems inspired by his father. Michael’s tone is respectful, even though some stories are hysterical. He is honouring his father, remembering the tales, re-imagining them. Then Michael reads the vivid opening sequence from Galore in which a whale is beached on the Newfoundland coast. The people of Paradise Deep are waiting for it to die so they can butcher it. When they start cutting into the whale, the pale white body of a man falls out of its belly. As they are carrying the body up the stairs to the cemetery, the man graphically comes to. As Michael finishes this section, I look over at my mom, who is holding my dad’s hands and talking to him. “Do you need to leave?” she asks him. Then she turns to me, and says, “I think we need some help here.” My dad’s hands are shaking and his eyes are open, but he’s staring off into the distance. I think he is having a stroke. I get my phone out of my purse to call 911 while Michael asks if there’s a doctor in the house. Within seconds, a woman doctor crouches in front of my dad, talking soothingly. A man swoops down from the back row and announces, “I’m an emergency room physician,” and takes over. He tips my dad onto the ground, puts a coat under his head and covers his body with another one, like a blanket. My dad coughs, gags, and everyone in the audience gasps and recoils. H1N1 has been in the news. Someone pushes a blue recycling bin towards us.

I am transferred to the ambulance line and attempting to give them information. “Do you know the address here?” I ask Michael, knowing he is from an island more than 5,000 km away. He leaves to find a volunteer.

“Later, my father will tell me that as he listened to Michael’s story, his vision started to tunnel, like he was looking through a long telescope.” He has a history as a fainter. As a geologist, he spent his summers in the bush where he occasionally had to deal with bloodied and injured camp mates. He had to fight his reflex to pass out. He tells a story about when his mother cut her finger and told him to fetch the Mercurochrome, he caught sight of her bloody digit and passed out, denting the refrigerator door with his head on the way down. When he came to, the Mercurochrome had spilled all over him, and thinking it was his own blood, he promptly passed out again. My dad has lots of stories. He spent his summers growing up in Musquodoboit Harbour, Nova Scotia, and has begun writing about the home of his grandparents, Ben and Bessie Power. Their house stood on the bank of the Musquodoboit River until my grandmother had the volunteer firefighters burn it down when it was declared derelict in the summer of 1964.

The emergency room doctor takes my dad’s pulse and says, “Vasovagal. Common fainting. The blood should be flowing back to his brain now. He just needs to lie here for 10 minutes.” The audience groans. My dad is as white as Jonah when he slips out of the whale, sweaty but conscious. Someone in the row behind says it was a heart attack. “I power walk everyday,” he says in his own defense. “Seven kilometres.” Eventually my dad gets up with the assistance of the doctor and the audience erupts in applause. We walk towards the door when my dad spots Michael, veers towards him and sticks out his hand to introduce himself. “I’m a geologist and I’ve seen lots of blood and gore, but I think it was your story....” Seeing this, the audience stops clapping and lets out a low moan. My dad has a moment with Michael, then the volunteers move us along. The audience resumes clapping, eventually cheering us out the door. *** Four years later, when I meet Michael at Vancouver Island University as its Gustafson Distinguished Poet Chair, I remind him about that fateful night. “I’m just glad to hear that he’s okay,” he says.

My dad recently found the deed to the house and, wanting to send it to the local Musquodoboit archives, dug up photos and plotted the timeline from the house’s construction to its final days. He discovered a photo dated 1934 picturing 12 people standing in front of the Power’s house dressed in their Sunday best—my great aunt Myrtle, her husband Craigen Young and their children, Craigen’s brothers, my grandmother Ruth, an unknown couple, and Ben and Bessie. My father was intrigued by the photo, eager to identify everyone, figure out how old they would have been, and what they did for a living.

I ask him about how he decided what to write in Hard Light—fiction or non-fiction. “I didn’t get too hung up on that question. I just wanted to get the stories down. It was one of the most satisfying things I’ve ever done as a writer and a nice way to tell my father how much I thought of him.” I know the feeling.

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Origami Lorin Medley


wo hours past dusk and the lights of Vancouver illuminate the clouds above the young poachers a mile out on the estuary. One of the boys is slight, rigged out in hip waders and rain gear, eyes hungry and alert beneath his balaclava. He kneels on the hard sand with his body folded forward and a shotgun across his lap. The other boy, round as the “o” in his name, stands beside him empty handed, chewing gum.

“Down,” says the first one. “Okay, boss.” It’s a joke and not a joke, accepted by both. Tekko, the plump one, hitches up his pants, the cuffs already soggy, and sits on his raincoat. “Down, so they can’t see the whites of your eyes.” Tekko looks down at his rubber boots. What’s not a joke is that snow geese are a whole lot smarter than ducks. Up there in the dark scanning the estuary for food, the flock will vanish at the first glimpse of the unexpected. To prevent detection, Rupert has painted the shiny bolt assembly on his gun black. At 16, unlike Tekko, he is a master of invisibility. “It’s not like shooting a mallard or a greenhead,” he says. “Those you can blast from 50 metres with the right gun

Collage Contest Winner: Expand Coby McDougall

and some dynamite from a bootlegger. It’ll burn the cap in half, but it can be done.” He turns his head to look out across the dark sand. “You can’t see them,” he says, “but they’re out there.” Tekko shifts his weight, still full from a double helping of rice and napa cabbage. Rupert has walked the estuary alone for as long as he can remember. He finds it odd to see a second set of footprints, larger and deeper, pressed into the sand alongside his own. Off-kilter. He knows the tide will wash away the evidence leaving a clean slate, apart from the delicate tracks of sandpipers and the subtle trails of periwinkles and crabs. The night sky casts shadows on Tekko’s moon face causing his irises to merge with the darkness. Although Rupert can no longer see his friend’s eyes, he remembers how their softness offered a different kind of respite than the wide shores and grassy ditches of Richmond. During math class he sometimes stole glances at Tekko like he used to steal candy from Morita’s grocery. At Steveston High he was tripped in the hallways and shoved into puddles at recess. Entire words danced a two-step on the pages of his reader as if they could keep time with his restless foot. No point in ratting, though—Rupert kept his mouth shut when the teacher sent him to the office. That way he could cock a chin at the principal without saying a word. First there was the lecture, next the pacing and tapping of leather strap against a free hand. Then he adjusted his tie, twitching his left eye, and then, as sure

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as a shotgun, the principal would lose control. Rupert placed a few strands of hair in his palm and the strap drew blood; no phone call to his parents that day. Tekko would beg for the blow-by-blow description. After school, he took to walking part way home with Rupert, trotting to keep up with him. “Stinko,” he’d say when the smell from the fish processing plant blew in their direction. It had been enough to gag a maggot. Once or twice, Tekko’s uncle, who had a black belt in Portal 2014 | Pg 60

karate, drove by in his Ford Fairlane and threw gumballs out the window at them. Or Rupert would skip school and spend an entire day at the pool hall and then poke along the ditches around the estuary at night thinking about the sea lions stretched out on far away rocks after pilfering salmon from the fishing lines. Onk huh! Onk huh! Onk huh! Aaink, aaink aaink aainkank. Roll call. Rupert picks out one of the geese from the flock, listens hard. Patient as a cat, he knows how to wait. He understands the habits and language of the geese, the

Lorin Medly difference between a regular call and a feeding call, the slow flap and search as the snow geese fly overhead and circle back, scanning the feeding grounds. He weighs the gun barrel in his hand; it rests against his skin steady and cool. He remembers his first BB gun, a three-quarters regulation rifle with Red Rider lever action, just like the Winchesters every Hollywood cowboy carried across his saddle. Rupert would hoist it up to his scrawny shoulders, close one eye and look down the scope at his target, usually one of the peepers along the shore of the Fraser. He was told to keep him out of trouble. Kid stuff. Now he had a shotgun and something to prove. Buoys Arthur Fabbro

Tonight, only the silent muskrats had witnessed as he and Tekko skirted the ditch knee-high in grasses and tromped across the marshy delta. The cool westerly and 10-foot tide had infused the air with a familiar smell of briny mud and eelgrass. They crammed as many copies of the Vancouver Sun as they could carry into their backpacks. It had taken hours to bring 3 corners of each paper together and push them into the sand leaving the 4th corner up to catch the wind. They folded 250 newspapers into loose bird shapes and tucked them into the sand in a long hook shape. The

perfect decoy: to the geese overhead it would look like a flock of their own feeding. Rupert and Tekko occupy the curve of the display. From a distance they look like a boulder and a stone at low tide. Waveys, Rupert calls them. Waveys because when they fly their white bodies and black wing tips kick up like waves and, right now, there’s a chop of them off the foreshore of the Fraser. Honk uh honk uh honk! right over their heads. Is the bird alone, or does it have company? No way to tell. Rupert calls it in. He and Tekko hear the wings’ slow wow-wumps as the geese spot the decoys. They fly past, circle round, and come back. Whumpa, whumpa, whump. Rupert waits for the birds to join their newsprint flock. The feeding gabble begins. Tick tick, tick tick tick tick tick tick, tucka tucka Quack! diga diga diga. No need to look up now. He can feel them, hear their wing beats slow as they turn into the wind to land. Now. Rupert springs up, clicking off the safety as he rises. Tekko labours to stand and watch as the offended geese rise from the trap, strain skyward, backlit against the clouds. Pow! Rupert pulls the trigger. Pow! Pow! Waiting for the tell-tale flump as the geese hit the wet sand. The flock mills above them as Rupert strides across the dark in his waders. A wounded bird can be dangerous, but when he gets there the goose is still. He grabs it by the neck, swings it around 3 times and then yanks. The poachers trudge as fast as they can across the sand and towards the dyke—through muck, around ditches and over logs with the goose’s long neck flopping against Rupert’s chest. A path opens up between the two roads

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Plane Model Katie Prueter

leading to the dyke and the boys tramp across a primitive bridge and into a potato field. A burst of headlights on their left: the Mounties and the game warden. A searchlight scans the potato field and Tekko freezes. Rupert pushes him forward. Go. Between the sweeps of light, the boys hop through the muck with arms flapping. A quarter mile of mud and, as Rupert had predicted, the Mounties prefer to keep their shoes clean.

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“Scratch your fat arse now,” he says. Rupert and Tekko emerge from the farmer’s field into a subdivision of snug bungalows and flat-roofed garages. The wind drops. Rupert hoists the goose off his shoulders and gives it to Tekko, who will follow the alleys home to cooked cabbage, folded cranes, and fanned rice. Rupert unzips his chest waders. He cups his hands and lights a smoke. The cigarette paper sizzles and the wind carries the fragrant tobacco away from his face. He flicks the ash into blackness, in no hurry to get home and face the gauntlet. Back on the sandy flats, the origami geese feed in the wind until the tide turns.

Round Island Drew McLachlan


dip my oar into the sea and paddle forward with a firm, forceful stroke.

sleeping bags and wool blankets and try to get comfortable. ***

“Don’t paddle so hard,” she yells back from the bow. “It’s fine. We’re almost there,” I reply as calmly as I can. With each stroke I grunt and sweat and Round Island inches closer. Despite the waves, we manage to keep the boat steady. Last time I was here we were 3 boys... in a canoe built for two. Last time I came here we tipped. Last time I came here we were 3.

The 3 boys plunge into the icy water, only one floats to the top. I wake up cold and confused, yelping like a dog. I look around the room, searching for dry land. “It’s okay,” she says placing a warm hand on my back. “It’s okay,” I repeat.

*** The sand scrapes against the oak belly and then comes to an abrupt halt. I plunge my old boots into the cold saline water and we lift each end to bring it ashore. She struggles up the rocks, her bare feet searching for flat stone. I slow down, let her set the canoe on the grass. “Are you hungry?” she asks. “Starving.” We eat on the tiny porch of the cabin. It looks as it did 6 years ago, neglect but not ruin. 6 years ago I was just a boy. I wonder if anything has changed. After dinner we venture in. She sweeps dried leaves and loose ferns from the floor, while I search for rats and spiders and ghosts and anything else hiding in dark corners. On the hard wooden floor we lay down layers of The Shack Islands Emily Johnson

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Fragile Kelly Whiteside

I’m not afraid of your touch, but I flinch when the rain hits.Â

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Blue Water Brendan Abbott

West Coast Baptism Helena Snopek

We believe, when the blue hour comes and we go to bed at the seaside, feathers ruffled, salty-toed, our eyes obscured by sand.

You fling your shoes into the break of cloud and sea, where the red sun sets and I cast my bare body into the deep where I dream myself into a fish.

We believe, then, our hearts are at their purest, intentions most clear. We rush to the waves, not minding the ache in our breath, on our skins.

At noon we rise, fuddleheaded, heavylimbed, sunblind–our eyes snuffed out. The flotsam herring gasp at our feet, and we know the ocean is a lie.

We trust in the catharsis of drowning, think ourselves baptized by summer, every summer, reborn in the brine.

We’ll swear the sea still has our hearts, the Pacific breeze keeping tender lungs throbbing, naked feet cold, forever stumbling into the blue, forever seeking misty shores. I’ll insist that to be reborn is a most sublime intention.

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West Coast Jessica Reid


Book Reviews

$Ă RDW John Reibetanz %ULFN %RRNV 87 pages ,6%1 Reviewed by DĂŠlani Valin

Almost daily, we experience strange juxtapositions of the traditional and the modern, the old and the new. After a yoga class, students flock to their cell phones in order to catch up to the rest of us. Ceremonial tea and aspartame-filled energy potions are served side-by-side in bustling franchised coffeehouses.

Interestingly, Reibetanz maintains his uncanny ability to paint beautiful, crisp images while using more modern influences. Canadian photographer Edward Burtynsky, known for documenting massive-scale man-made projects (and their environmental consequences), is one of these influences.

And yet we usually treat these strange pairings absent-mindedly. In John Reibetanz’s 8th book of poetry, Afloat, one witnesses these types of unexpected collisions manifold, and comes away with a multifaceted understanding of the book’s main muse: water.

But Reibetanz also pulls from a very unexpected place: the poem “Liudong Renkou� features a violent passage reminiscent of popular video games. “It is an art/to swivel the arm so the spray of blood will not blind the screen and cost a penalty but you have to stop/at twenty bodies before the fleshmanglers scent you.� The comparisons Reibetanz creates allows one to toe a line between two worlds.

The heart of Afloat resides in the core section of the book, in a passage about the Three Gorges, a massive hydroelectric dam built along the Yangtze River. Reibetanz’s poem, “Wash,� is influenced by Chuang Tzu, a Chinese philosopher active in 4th Century bc. Here, Reibetanz explores folklore and myth, as the lines from each stanza crash into each other: “the heavenly dragon/ leaps up each/spring from the river’s jade dungeons to race through veins of peach and plum and blossom as cloud-puffs whose breath scatters/dead leaves.�

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The sections adjacent to Reibetanz’s Lament of the Gorges, Waterborne, and Airborne, also display a wide reach in terms of subject matter. These sections seem to ebb away from the vivid, visceral epicenter of Afloat. In this way, even the structure mimics its watery muse. Afloat is a substantial book of poetry that explores many angles while keeping Reibetanz’s strong, consistent voice.

7KH /RVW /HWWHUV Catherine Greenwood %ULFN %RRNV 76 pages ,6%1 Reviewed by Francine McCabe

Emotionally charged, witty, and surprising, Catherine Greenwood’s second published collection of poetry, The Lost Letters, allows the reader to appreciate the long-ago love story of Heloise and Abelard with a modern twist. Greenwood explores the forbidden, separated love of Heloise and Abelard who were driven apart after they were discovered in an unsanctioned relationship in the 12th Century.

Although Greenwood’s diction may seem simple in these lines, she shocks us with her sharp alliteration in the other lines of this poem: “sustained you like a hobo’s dish/ of sautĂŠed boot. As proof/ we were poles apart.â€? Her play on words throughout this poem keep it lively and enthralling: “black and white, hot and cold, day and night, hello and goodbye, yes and no.â€?

The book is broken into 4 sections. The first consists of an epigraph from the first letter written to Abelard from Heloise, “And as most of these songs told of our love, they soon/ made me widely known and roused the envy of many....� The reader has a sense of the agonizing emotions experienced by the lovers.

Greenwood has many lengthy poems in this collection, but each is broken into stanzas that stand on their own. The poem that closes the collection, “The Jar,� is one of the longest, but tells a vivid narrative story about a young couple who buries their tax money for safe keeping over winter only to later realize it’s lost.

This is followed by a single, cleverly titled poem, “Monk Love Blues.� “Got a little thing/ I call the Monk Love Blues. / Heloise and Abelard—/ this kind of thing ain’t new.� Greenwood joins the lovers of the past to a contemporary time in a blues verse that is at once music on the page and a melody.

The poem’s last line, “a message sent by younger selves/ she no longer knew/ how to read� signals the human ability to change and adapt. The narrative arc in this closing poem could have been developed into a story of its own.

Many of the poems include excerpts of epigraphs from Penguin’s The Lost Letters of Abelard and Heloise. Greenwood follows each epigraph with a poem that resonates for present-day readers. In one of the central poems, “Yes and No,� titled after Abelard’s books Sic et Non, Greenwood takes on the voice of Abelard and successfully delivers her take on a modern day love poem: “allow me to admit how deeply/ I regret not kissing you/ hello and goodbye.�

The Lost Letters is a challenging read at first, but if you give the words the time they warrant, you will find beauty in each carefully crafted line. Greenwood’s poetry has been widely published and has received many awards in the past including the National Magazine Gold Award. Her first collection of poetry, The Pearl King and Other Poems, was a Kiriyama Prize notable book. She currently works with bc’s Ministry of Justice and resides in Victoria.

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“This is how the world ends,� he thought, “not with a bang but an emoticon.�


7KH 'LOHWWDQWHV Michael Hingston )UHHKDQG %RRNV SDJHV ,6%1 Reviewed by Kimberley Kemmer

University can be a strange and confusing time and there’s no stranger time than the final semester, when real life begins to come into view. Just when you think you’ve finally cracked the code of the university student dynamic, it’s time to move on and turn that 4-year degree (time mostly spent drinking campus coffee, lounging around the newspaper office, etc), into a stable income. And when you’re certain you’ve found your place among your peers and campus has begun to feel like home, a new student body arrives and with it a whole new culture, one of which you’re no longer a part. This is the reality staring down the characters in The Dilettantes, who decide to tackle it the only way they know how: with cynicism, irony, and detachment. Such is the way of the undergrad. Alex Belmont, an editor at Simon Fraser University’s homegrown newspaper, The Peak, is nearing the end of his tenure at sfu. Alex’s expectations for a quiet exit are shot when The Peak’s life is threatened by the arrival of a corporate national daily, The Metro. Advertisers begin dropping left and right, leaving The Peak staff struggling to stay afloat. As the team desperately tries to maintain its alternative, ironic status, the news story of the century is brewing under their noses— the arrival of a celebrity and sfu’s newest student, Duncan Holtz who is running as the president of student council. Alex and his copyeditor, Tracy, secretly follow Holtz’s rise to stardom, and report on the most bizarre Student Council election the school has ever known.

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As tensions rise and The Metro gains a readership on campus, and as graduation day draws closer, Alex questions whether or not trying to save The Peak is worth it. But instead of simply letting the newspaper crumble, Alex sniffs out the competition and gets the scoop on the biggest story of the year. The Peak’s tireless copyeditor, Tracy, is also growing weary of the campus experience, and the two must navigate their way through the final hurdles of campus life if they are to leave any legacy. With wit and a true grasp of irony, author Michael Hingston, a former Peakie himself, and current books columnist for The Edmonton Journal, excels at conveying the voice of the millennial. In his first book, Hingston affectionately explores his wayward characters and their struggle through the recurring terror of post-graduation. The sights, plights, and people found here will translate perfectly for anyone who has walked through a campus, or has been cooped up inside a dingy newspaper office. Dialogue is as natural as the chatter in the hallways: a constant onslaught of popculture references mixed with musings and “hipsterisms.� Notable scenes involve quick-fire responses from characters hurling obscure references at each other. They sound as though they were lifted from real exchanges in a campus newsroom, or around the table of a student pub. Hingston knows his characters inside and out and is true to them. Some older readers might feel alienated, as references to very specific aspects of current pop culture (such as internet memes and bad websites) permeate the pages, but Hingston’s commitment to the millennial voice is steadfast and true, and culminates in a truly unique campus novel.

If the Life of Pi is one of your favourite novels, then you will love Philip Roy’s Seas of South Africa, the 6th book of the Submarine Outlaw Series. Seas of South Africa is categorized as young adult, but the exotic locale will intrigue readers of all ages. The enchanting voice of the narrator-protagonist takes us on many exciting adventures on the high seas and onto the Dark Continent.


Reviewed by Lori Shwydky

The story is set on the east coast of postapartheid South Africa and narrated by Alfred Pynsent, a young explorer aged 16, who travels the seas by a self-built submarine. His is aided by a quirky 3-member crew—his dog, a seagull, and a parrot. Alfred’s thought-provoking voice is rich in rhythm and lulls the reader into a calm that mirrors the tranquility of smooth seas, then mercilessly thrusts the reader into heart-stopping action. With Alfred’s integrity and sensitive disposition, his love of animals, and the courage he displays in the face danger, Roy has created an extremely likable protagonist. The complementary characters are also dynamic and wellrounded, though the pirates often appear stereotypical and one-dimensional. The action begins quickly off the shores of Mozambique when Alfred encounters a vicious pirate, one of many that plague Africa’s east coast. After being attacked, battered, and bruised, Alfred narrowly escapes, but with the criminal’s stolen treasure in tow and several angry pirates in hot pursuit. Roy is a master at creating suspenseful, nail-biting action: “I started walking towards the water, and he followed me. I kept thinking, maybe I

could run for it. But I also kept imagining the knife sticking into my back. The water was so close, just a run and a jump. But I’d be an easy target for his knife....What were my other options? I tried to think. There weren’t any. I reached the top of the stairs, took a glance over the [cliff] edge, took one step, and flung myself off.� After Alfred decides to tow the pirate’s boat full of guns and drugs out to sea to sink it, he rescues Los, a young African man who crashes into the ocean while flying a small plane he built himself and powers with vegetable oil. Los is an inventor with a brilliant mind and a good heart, and despite his very reckless nature, Alfred invites Los to join him on his travels. The duo’s journey continues undersea by submarine, and by motorcycle on land, through dangerous townships where they encounter a herd of ferocious elephants, vengeful villagers, and more angry pirates. Seas of South Africa is an engaging book not only about travel, adventure, piracy, poverty, and the legacy of Apartheid, but also about the power of friendship and the human spirit. Roy is honest in depicting the contrasting faces of South Africa. His vivid descriptions of the magnificent wilderness and powerful seas are captivating, but he is unflinching in his portrayal of South Africa’s squalor and misery—the best and the worst of humankind. This book is complete and enthralling on its own and can be read as a stand-alone, but to witness a compelling character arc, I would recommend the series as a whole.

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Stuart McLean, one of Canada’s most celebrated storytellers and the author of national bestsellers, has done it again by publishing the 8th book in his widely popular Vinyl CafÊ series. Revenge of the Vinyl CafÊ follows McLean’s beloved fictional family of Dave, Morley, and their two children, Sam and Stephanie, not to mention their neighbours and friends.


5HYHQJH RI WKH 9LQ\O &DIp Stuart McLean 3HQJXLQ %RRNV SDJHV ,6%1 Reviewed by Hayley Rickaby

The title, The Vinyl CafĂŠ, which is also the name of McLean’s show on CBC radio, is taken from the name of Dave’s independent record store. The individual short stories take place in a Toronto neighbourhood and in Dave’s hometown of Big Narrows, Cape Breton Island. The stories in the Revenge of the Vinyl CafĂŠ are all connected by a distinct theme, the exploration of one’s fears. Whether it is childhood fears that are carried on into adulthood, or nonsensical fears that can neither be sourced nor explained, this compilation of stories highlights them all. Dave, for instance, a father in his 40s, is fearful of germs, dolls, and his nosy, overbearing neighbours. His wife, Morley, fears unexpected visitors and judgment of her messy home. One of the stories, “Code Yellow,â€? takes place in a Toronto hospital where Dave, who has been admitted to hospital many a time as a result of his numerous misadventures, visits his friend. Marty, who is on the slow road to recovery after suffering a stroke, needs some cheering up. With the help of a wheelchair and a quick wardrobe change into a hospital gown so Marty won’t feel out of place, Dave springs his friend free for a short stroll to a coffee shop down the road.

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But hospital protocol isn’t as lax as it used to be, so a code yellow, which signals that a patient has gone missing, is sounded. The description of the patient sounds a lot like Dave. Chaos ensues, as well as a near misguided proctology procedure. In the end, Dave’s fear of germs becomes the least of his worries. “Macaulay’s Mountainâ€? takes place in Big Narrows. Dave’s son, Sam, visits his grandparents with his best friend Murphy and together they find an abandoned motorless car on the top of a mountain. The boys imagine dead bodies or a skeleton are in the rusted old car. The boys put their sleuthing skills aside and go on a joy ride, coasting the car down the side of the mountain. After the ride, the boys are overcome with guilt and decide to turn themselves in to the police. But when they bring the policeman to the scene of the crime, the abandoned heap has mysteriously disappeared only to have been put back in its rightful place on top of the mountain. These stories and many more are waiting to be discovered in Stuart McLean’s wonderfully written, Revenge of the Vinyl CafĂŠ. McLean’s unique narrative, a combination of humor and sincerity, will make you laugh out loud one moment and tug at your heartstrings the next. Revenge of the Vinyl CafĂŠ is a quick, easy, and enjoyable read. Though the pieces in this book are entertaining, there is nothing that beats listening to an adventure about Dave and his family on cbc radio by none other than the master storyteller himself.

$Q $VWURQDXW¡V *XLGH 7R /LIH 2Q (DUWK &KULV +DGĂ€HOG 5DQGRP +RXVH &DQDGD SDJHV ,6%1 Reviewed by Heather Gregory

At first glance, the chapter headings of An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth might suggest a self-help book instead of Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield’s autobiography. “Have an Attitude,� “The Power of Negative Thinking,� and “Sweat the Small Stuff,� are just a few that sum up Hadfield’s personal philosophies. The book chronicles Hadfield’s life and accomplishments from watching the moon landing as a boy to being commander of the International Space Station. Hadfield is a typical overachiever. He takes pleasure in being prepared for every eventuality, and suggests anyone with goals do the same. His attitude toward his career is simple; work hard, worry over the details, and never give up. Such perseverance enabled him to live his dreams. But it becomes clear in reading An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth, that Hadfield is an astronaut first, and a writer second. While the book does roughly trace Hadfield’s life chronologically, his account would have been much more climactic without references to his time at the International Space Station in earlier chapters. For example, in Chapter 3 (The Power of Negative Thinking), Hadfield describes staying calm during a false-alarm fire scare. While the account illustrates his point that one should always be prepared for the worst, Hadfield is still describing his training and an example from this time would have been more fitting. He also spends many chapters (PreLaunch, Liftoff, and Coming Down to Earth) imparting advice. However, instead of revealing these stories in context and with subtlety, Hadfield allows them to spill out on the page in a stream of

consciousness. While this haphazard relaying of information might work for some writers, it doesn’t suit Hadfield’s matter-of-fact style. Fans of Hadfield’s popular YouTube videos will find that his endearing personality there does not translate onto the page. A large part of Hadfield’s popularity online was due to his earnest sharing of life’s daily activities in the zero gravity space station. Although Hadfield does touch on drinking recycled urine, the dangers of nail clipping, and sweat globule etiquette in space, it is secondary to his philosophizing. Those looking for more of Hadfield’s anecdotal accounts of an astronaut’s daily routine will be disappointed. However, a self-help reader may find this a truly useful guide to getting the most out of the life they have, or achieving the life they want. Those looking for facts about space and space travel won’t find that here either. In the interest of Hadfield’s younger fans and readers, many technical explanations are oversimplified. Readers hoping to learn more about technology put to use on the space station, or the experiments that take place there, will be left hanging. While Hadfield’s existing fans may be delighted, readers meeting the famous Canadian for the first time will be disappointed. There is nothing particularly shocking or refreshing about learning that hard work will take you where you want to go. Unlike the man himself, An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth is simply uninspiring.

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Contributor’s Bios

Brendan Abbott studied photography at the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology in Edmonton where he received a sports scholarship for his photo contributions to the school newspaper, The Nugget. Abbott is currently a 3rd-year Creative Writing student at viu. Samantha Ainsworth is majoring in Creative Writing at viu. Her poetry, short fiction, and creative nonfiction pieces have been published in Island Writer, Out of the Warm Land, Portal, and Verse and Vision. Her prose was short-listed for Vancouver’s West End Writers’ 2009 contest, and her short fiction piece, “Slack your Rope” won first place in the Victoria Writers’ Society’s 2010 contest. Most recently, she published an article, “The Human Family Tree” in The Malahat Review’s e-newsletter, Malahat Lite. She is also twice the recipient of the viu’s Bill Juby Award. Mariana Barboza was born in Maracaibo, Venezuela, and moved to Canada 4 years ago. She is currently studying Graphic Design at viu. Mariana is the recipient of viu’s World-Wide Entrance Scholarship and the International Student of the Year Award. Reta Beirnes is currently studying Visual Arts at viu, taking directed studies in both Ceramics and Printmaking. She is a painting and drawing work-op student for the Art department and is the Life-Drawing Coordinator as well as Vice-President of the Art and Design Club. Michael Calvert recently graduated from viu with a ba in Creative Writing and is pursuing a Masters of Publishing degree at sfu. His publishing credits include feature articles for Synergy and Canadian Hot Rods, articles for the Navigator, and online for Incline. He was published in Portal 2011 and won the Barry Broadfoot Award for Journalism, the Pat Bevan Award for Fiction, and the Meadowlark Award for Fiction. He is currently working on a stage play and a novel. Trevor Cooper completed a General Arts ba from viu with minors in Visual Arts and Philosophy. He returned to viu this year to work on Portal. He is currently pursuing a career in illustration. This is his first publication. Sarah Corsie is a 4th-year student working toward a major in Psychology and a minor in English. She has been interested in photography for two years, and enjoys capturing simple, natural scenes that are often overlooked. Chantelle Delage is a 2nd-year student in the Visual Arts program at viu and is working toward a career in illustration. Arthur Fabbro is in his 3rd year of a Bachelor of Business Administration degree with a major in Finance at viu. Leisel Gerein is a 2nd-year ba student at viu Cowichan Campus. “Sightseeing” is her first published work.

Tea Time Reta Beirnes

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Natalie Golbeck is a 4th-year Creative Writing major and English minor at viu. She is an assistant to the Events and Fundraising coordinator this year for Portal. Philip Gordon is an aspiring poet, pursuing his ba in Creative Writing at viu. He has work forthcoming in Roundup Zine, and has received 2nd place in the Nanaimo Arts Council Short Fiction Competition. Heather Gregory is a 3rd-year Creative Writing student at viu. She hopes to pursue a Masters in Publishing after graduating, and to never stop writing. Jamie Heise is a Visual Arts student and aspiring videogame concept artist. Alyssa Johnson is currently working toward her degree in the Visual Arts program at viu, and is hoping to join the Graphic Design program in the fall. Emily Johnston is a Graphic Design student at viu. Her artwork was selected as the cover for the book Duck Soup for the Aboriginal Soul in 2010. In 2012, she was shortlisted for a nrgh art contest, and an Aboriginal logo contest in Victoria. She has had artwork displayed on city banners, local restaurants, and at the Port Theatre. She has received an Entrance Scholarship from viu, a Bursary from the Nanaimo Art Council, and is the recipient of the Marilee Christie Memorial Award. Kimberley Kemmer is a 3rd-year Creative Writing major at viu. Her poem, "A Feathered Ghost," and selected artwork was featured in the 2013 edition of Portal. She also contributes to the Navigator, where she serves as Production Manager. She received the Kevin Roberts Poetry Award in 2012. Jessica Key is majoring in Creative Writing at viu. She is currently Portal's head Nonfiction Editor and Feature Writer. She also writes and edits for viu’s online magazine, Incline. Liz Laidlaw has been published in Room, Island Parent, Synergy, and multiple times in Portal. She is a past winner of the Nanaimo Arts Council Short Fiction contest, and was awarded the 2013 Myrtle Bergren Creative Writing Award, and the 2011 Meadowlark Scholarship for fiction. She is a columnist for Relational Child & Youth Care Practice and has published over 20 non-fiction articles. She completed a writing workshop with Richard Wagamese in 2013 and will graduate with a ba in Creative Writing from viu in 2014. Tonia Laird is majoring in Creative Writing and is a mere 12 credits away from receiving her Bachelor of Arts at viu. She has published multiple short stories and has writing credits on aaa games Dragon Age 2 and Dragon Age: Inquisition, as well as mobile game Everlove: Rose. She won viu’s Myrtle Bergen Award two years in a row for scriptwriting and fiction/publishing, respectively. Jacquie Maynard is an English major at viu. She is President and Co-founder of the viu Creative Writing Club. Before coming to bc, she worked as a full-time news reporter and Assistant Editor at The Fairview Post in Fairview, ab. Her articles have been featured in The Daily Herald Tribune, The Peace River Record-Gazette and the Peace Country Sun.

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Francine McCabe is a 3rd-year Creative Writing student with a diploma in Television Broadcasting from Confederation College. She is currently working as Journal Production Assistant for Relational Child & Youth Care Practice. She did audio and editing work for Gamut Productions on their documentary The Immortal Beaver, which aired on the History Channel in 2008. She is the senior Poetry Editor for Portal this year and has written a book review of Catherine Greenwood’s The Lost Letters and plans to do submit others to publications across Canada. Coby McDougall is a 4th-year Graphic Design student at viu. After graduation, she will pursue a career in illustration and design. This is his second year contributing photography to Portal, and she also designed the cover of Portal 2013. Drew McLachlan is in his final year at viu finishing a ba in Creative Writing and Journalism. He served the Navigator as Associate Editor in 2013-14 and has written about fringe theatre, cosplayers, and refugees. His non-fiction piece “Fight Club on Wheels” was published by Portal in 2012, and he has had several pieces featured in Incline. He is a Non-fiction and Audio Editor for Portal 2014. Lorin Medley is a viu Creative Writing major and past Editor of the Comox Health and Recreation Guide. She has attended workshops with Harold Rhenisch and Jack Hodgins and her published works include "Sacred Bells Susurrus" and "Unspooled" in Portal 2013, "Irene Gone," "Coho," and “Pink Lady" in The Island Word, and "On Valentine's Day, where does your heart lie?" in the Comox Valley Record. GisÈle Merlet is a French-Canadian viu student working toward a major in Creative Writing. She graduated with an undergrad degree in Liberal Studies in 2005. This is her 2nd publication in Portal. Gisèle won 3rd prize in the Island Short Fiction Contest 2013 with the story “The Leather Pouch.” Paige Parker is currently pursuing a bfa at viu. She has been the runner up for Nanaimo’s Street Banner Design competition for two consecutive years, has won the Art Recognition Award twice, and won in the Youth category of the Festival of Banners competition. She also assists with costume and set design at Tempo Dance Academy. Katie Prueter studied Floral Design at Kwantlen Polytechnic University. She participated in the 2004 Skills Canada competition and won a Bronze Medalist in Floristry. She has been working as a Kitchen Designer since 2008, and wants to complete additional education in the industry. She is in her 1st year of the Bachelor of Interior Design program at viu and hopes to pursue architecture in the future. Jessica Reid is a 3rd-year Graphic Design student at viu. She was the designer for the 2013 issue of Portal and has received a scholarship for Academic Excellence (2014), the Apollo Award (2013) and the award for Overall Excellence in Graphic Design (2012). She plans on pursuing her Master of Design at nscad in Halifax after graduation next year.

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Yanomami Mariana Barboza

Hayley Rickaby is a 3rd-year ba Creative Writing student at viu. She also plans to earn her Human Services Certificate in the School and Community Support Worker program. This is her first publication in Portal, where she is Fundraising and Events Coordinator. Bre Sherwood is currently studying toward a ba degree at viu, majoring in Graphic Design. She was first place winner in viu’s #ilearnhere photo contest and was runner up for the Painter’s Lodge contest showcasing Vancouver Island. Lori Shwydky is a 4th-year viu student majoring in Creative Writing and Publishing. She has published the short story “Cherry Pie” in the 1998 Arsenal Pulp Press Anthology, Hot & Bothered: Short Short Fiction on Lesbian Desire, and a poem, “The Statement” published in Critical Perspectives on Accounting Volume 8, October 1997. This is her first publication in Portal. She is also the Publisher Liaison for bc’s Red Cedar Award for young adults and is completing an editorial internship at Ronsdale Press. Helena Snopek is in the ba program at viu, majoring in English. She won the 2nd-year English department Essay Competition in 2013 and received the 2013 Morris Donaldson Memorial Scholarship. Antony Stevens is attending viu for a ba in Creative Writing. He earned a scholarship for poetry, and has since been published in the Navigator newspaper. His writing on videogames has been published online. Last year, he was part of viu’s Creative Writing student panel and was a hit at the 3rd annual True Story Slam. Jane Steward is a 2nd-year ba (undeclared English major) student from Duncan. Delani Valin is a 3rd-year Creative Writing and Journalism major and works as a copy editor for the Navigator where she has published several articles and a recipe column. She published the poems “Pillsbury Doughgirl” and “Anna” in Portal 2013 and a review of the poetry title Afloat in this issue. In 2013 she received the Kevin Roberts Poetry Award. Amy West is a 3rd-year Creative Writing major at viu. She is the assistant acquisitions editor for Portal and worked on its website. Kelly Whiteside is a 2nd-year Creative Writing and English student at viu. She is a Copy Editor and occasional contributor at the Navigator. She has taken writing workshops with Kendall Patrick and Robert Wiersema and her fiction has placed 2nd in two contests in Campbell River.

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Faculty Deborah Campbell Steven Galloway Sara Graefe Wayne Grady Nancy Lee Annabel Lyon Keith Maillard

Maureen Medved Susan Musgrave Andreas Schroeder Linda Svendsen Timothy Taylor Peggy Thompson Rhea Tregebov Bryan Wade




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