JANNINE GRANT gets social and makes a case for Ministry AARON KOCH sets sparks ﬂying in the combustible Gasoline Heaven JENNY HELGREN is a poor girl’s Hepburn Learning to Read with Albert Camus ROSE MCQUIRTER’S Portent winner is a tall tale with teeth to Bump and Strike KAIN STEWART & PATRICK WILSON ask Gregory Scoﬁeld to deﬁne On Our Own Terms
© 2020 by the authors, artists, and photographers issn 1183-5214 Portal is published by students in Vancouver Island University’s Creative Writing and Journalism department. email@example.com portalmagazine.ca/ twitter.com/portalmagazine facebook.com/portalmag instagram.com/portalmagviu Portal is printed by Marquis Imprimeur Inc., 2700 rue Rachel Est, Montreal pq h2h 1s7. Portal has been printed on recycled paper since 1995. Portal 2020 is printed on 70 lb fscsilva enviro.
We are privileged and grateful to be allowed to work and study on the traditional territories of the Snuneymuxw First Nation of the Coast Salish people and pay respect to their rich cultural heritage and natural environment each day we live and learn on viu’s Nanaimo campus. Prime words. Compelling art. Momentous beginnings. Portal is your gateway to accomplished short fiction, poetry, creative non-fiction, scripts, interviews, art, and photography by viu students. Enter Portal’s literary universe and discover worlds and futures ready to unfold, language and images— provocative, passionate, or playful. What makes Portal so portentous? It is “of ourselves and our origins”—a contemporary portrait of literary talent in the making, a portable guide to the viu from here. Portal, viu, Rm 133, Bldg 345 900 Fifth St., Nanaimo, bc, v9r 5s5
Tla-o-qui-aht Totem Pole Kashmir Lesnick-Petrovicz
LETTER FROM THE EDITORS
In these moments, when we step into someone else’s world, true or created, and bask in the escape or pause to reflect, we are reminded that all these writers began where we are standing now—on the precipice of their careers. They too must have had peers who pushed them to excel as this year’s inspiring, imaginative, honest, and vulnerable submissions pushed us. We are confident the words in this issue of Portal will transport you in the same way, offering wonderful, magical, heartbreaking stories that are a testament to the student talent found at viu. As you’ll see below, each piece connects to the next like a puzzle of pages clicking into place, as does the art and the photography that vivify the scenes between their lines.
Veronika B. Kos:
One of the reasons I have been drawn to stories, both reading and writing them, is the thrill of slipping into another life. As readers, we walk the path of another character, see into the minds of others, and experience someone else’s day, real or imagined. In choosing my own The fiction in this issue explores themes of identity and struggle, educational and career path, I’ve often whether a small lie that poisons every future relationship, gradually wanted to do this for my shadow-self, leeching under the skin of the teller until she too believes it as in “Bump that other me who chose a different and Strike,” or a stolen secret locked in a dark cellar that summons its owner route, an alternative school, a to explore other depths in “Of the Land and the Sea.” Identity is donned like diverging area of study. Of a mask in “Lost and Found” where a homeless man adopts a new persona in course, we’ll never know what recognizing signs from God in the street debris and dumpsters of his former family’s that might have rendered, neighbourhood, and in “Daisies and Anemones” it is a disguise as a small-town but books and magazines murderer slips easily among its unsuspecting residents to pose as a local. can deliver a parallel experience, and that “Those We Hold” seamlessly blends the real and imagined when a trickster otter speaks to is part of their a man torn between two cultures only to reveal the dream and nightmare of a sister in the magnetic appeal. woods. A childhood hideaway burns in “Heat of the Moment” as the innocence of a complicit teen’s youth goes up in flames. While “Out of Bounds” alludes to something sinister on the periphery of a backyard birthday party, “C’est La Vie” plays a game of a different sort, changing the rules of Life for childhood friends who are now something more. From these many selves and challenges our own individuality is forged. The poetry in this issue explores another dichotomy, the potent sites of union and separation, as in the presences and absences of “In the Space Between Love” and “Foreign Policy,” which maps emotional territory both as a body and the empire it guards. We feel the loss of familial love and grief through each season of “Who Winter Left Behind” and perch on a hospital bedside as the soul of a lonely patient longs to take flight in “Butterfly Wings.” Ties that bind and strain animate the magic of an oceanside childhood when the sea’s visceral and vulnerable inhabitants are seen through the eyes of a child in “Under Their Heels.” Similarly, “Nest” draws us into the refuge of the forest as we lift our eyes to the sky for nature’s spectacle. Leaving the rural for the urban, “We Southenders” roams local haunts on the wrong side of the tracks as two friends revisit the landmarks where they transformed from obedient children to defiant men. “Gasoline Heaven” ignites the intoxicating fumes of first love as a couple puts match
Slices of a Sunset Chantelle Calitz
to flint and submits to the fiery draw of chemical attraction. Whether involving family, friends, or lovers, unions and separations are the emotional territory poets probe to reveal the truths of our existence.
Like Veronika, I’ve felt the irresistible pull of stories, though sometimes the tension has been between This February we were honoured to have Gregory reading for school versus Scofield as our visiting Chair for the Gustafson reading for myself. When Distinguished Poet’s Lecture and he likewise spoke to the two worlds collide and I am the responsibility of witnessing, experiencing, writing, and able to choose books to review I’ve speaking truth to power. His own literature is political and farbeen meaning to pick up or texts assigned for reaching in its testimony to his life and Metis culture. His poetry class were titles on my list, I get a glimpse is both healing and ceremonial in his own words, drawing upon his of life after graduation when my literary Cree language and teachings to honour the world he sees and strives world will expand. From the historical to transform. His visits to Shq’apthut, classes, and his interview here Don Quixote to the contemporary are enticement for any poet to return to the form to speak their truth and Educated, this is the first school year enter our Portent poetry contest before this October’s deadline. I’ve read for myself. Writing on The theme of healing and transformation informs this year’s script as well, as deadline can often feel prescribed, a social worker defies expectations by revealing her own brokenness to a young but this also changed this year client who turns the tables in offer of an unanticipated shoulder to lean on, despite when I found joy and creative his own struggles as a victim of racial profiling. release in penning my own words. I like to think From the inner city we venture to the cities of Europe and north Africa, as Portal’s Portal was part of that non-fiction spins the globe to transport readers to 1970s France where a naïve graduate transformation. is surprised to learn that mastering the romantic language may require cleaning toilets in “Learning to Read with Albert Camus.” In “A Brit Walks into a Bar” we drop in to a pub in the Isle of Man where a barmaid battles her alcoholic father’s legacy while taming rowdy clientele. Cross-cultural communication is as “Clear as Mud” during an awkward but hilarious visit to an ancient Moroccan bathhouse. We return to Canadian soil on Gabriola Island as a local walks the trail of petroglyphs that tattoo its rocky shores “In the Shade of Towering Cedars.” “Spotless” goes north to Prince George where a young boy stages a dentist office heist to share the wealth of toys with less cavity-free schoolmates. Our final piece, “Careful of the Bones,” traverses this same provincial territory as a tree-planter overcomes her risk aversion to face blisters, bears, moose, and her mother’s ghost only to find her future under the forest’s canopy. We are thrilled to have put this issue together with the indispensable talents of our exceptional team of writers, editors, and artists and to promote, record, fundraise, and advertise it with our 18 enthusiastic and inexhaustible classmates. Like Portal’s monthly Portfolio series at the White Rabbit Coffee Co. that this year hosted Adriana Dagnino, Ken Hagan, Amanda Hale, Kayla Czaga, and Julie Chadwick, the pages within offer the opportunity for intimate discovery of new voices, new worlds, and new perspectives. We hope you lose yourself in them between these covers only to find yourself inspired to write more, read more, and to connect more deeply with one another.
Desire Ashley Barill
MASTHEAD Managing Editors—Veronika B. Kos, Jade Vandergrift
Acquisitions Editor—Kain Stewart
Reading Series Coordinators—Caileigh Broatch, Gabriel Villasmil
Fiction Editors—Ashley Barill, Ashley Smith, Dave Flawse, Giovanni Ralaisa Poetry Editors—Kain Stewart, Jannine Grant, Lauryn Mackenzie Script Editor—Gabriel Villasmil Non-Fiction Editors—Margot Fedoruk, Brooklynn Hook, Lisa Kremer
Fundraising and Event Coordinators—Patrick Wilson, Kendra Lowe-McCarthy, Kim Hunter Social Media Team—Brooklynn Hook, Kim Hunter, Joshua Kind Ad Managers—Brooklynn Hook, Giovanni Ralaisa, Kim Hunter
Feature Interview—Kain Stewart, Patrick Wilson
Audio-Visual Editors—Lauryn Mackenzie, Sabrina Mudryk, Joshua Kind
Book Review Editors—Sean Desrochers, Ashley Barill
Web Editors—Jannine Grant, Margot Fedoruk
Copy Editors—Jade Vandergrift, Lisa Kremer, Ashley Smith
Art Director—Sean Desrochers
FRIENDS OF PORTAL virl chly viusu viufa ubc mfa viu Theatre viu Bookstore viu Foundation viu Media Studies viu Graphic Design Windowseat Books Western Edge Theatre Gabriel’s Gourmet Cafe White Rabbit Coffee Co. sfu Masters of Publishing viu Arts & Humanities Colloquium viu Creative Writing and Journalism Gustafson Distinguished Poet’s Lecture Series
Room Geist Event Freefall The Nav subTerrain Fiddlehead Pacific Rim Broken Pencil Fig Clothing Red’s Bakery Brechin Lanes Rhonda Bailey Mike Calvert Caitlin Press Touchwood Editions Prism International
Starbucks Mambo’s Pizza Coal City Cycles Serenity Salon sis Propane Ltd. The Port Theatre Sunstone Pottery The SheepSpinner Romela Bocancea Tara Qua Designs That 50s Barbershop Old City Station Pub Shoppers Drug Mart Black and Blue Tattoo The Pantry Restaurant Starfish Soap Company Huong Lan Vietnamese Restaurant
Cloudy Existence Kirsten Reedel
TABLE OF CONTENTS 13 21 28 34 45 54 60 63
8 17 24 31 37 42 67
Fiction Bump and Strike Rose McQuirter Of the Land and the Sea Veronika B. Kos Lost and Found Brooklynn Hook Those You Hold Patrick Wilson Out of Bounds Jade Vandergrift Daisies and Anemones Bailey Branscombe Câ&#x20AC;&#x2122;est La Vie Tessa Bunz Heat of the Moment Claire Manning
12 20 27 40 53 59 62 66
Poetry In the Space Between Love Kiara Strijack Foreign Policy Aaron Koch Who Winter Left Behind Kain Stewart Under Their Heels Emily Gain Butterfly Wings Kain Stewart We Southenders Miles Hayes Gasoline Heaven Aaron Koch Nest Dave Flawse
Non-Fiction Learning to Read with Albert Camus Jenny Helgren Script Clear as Mud Jade Vandergrift 48 Ministry Jannine Grant A Brit Walks into a Bar Leah Kelly In the Shade of Towering Cedars Margot Fedoruk On Our Own Terms: Gregory Scofield on Why Indigenous Literature Matters Kain Stewart and Patrick Wilson Spotless Patrick Wilson Careful of the Bones Margot Fedoruk
Chinatown Glenn Mathieson
Book Reviews 70 Fatboy Fall Down by Rabindranath Maharaj Reviewed by Ashley Barill
73 How She Read by Chantal Gibson Reviewed by Jannine Grant
71 Shut Up You’re Pretty by Téa Mutonji Reviewed by Veronika B. Kos
74 Power Shift: The Longest Revolution by Sally Armstrong Reviewed by Jade Vandergrift
72 Dunk Tank by Kayla Czaga Reviewed by Sabrina Mudr yk
75 Th’owxiya: The Hungry Feast Dish by Joseph A. Dandurand Reviewed by Patrick Wilson
LEARNING TO READ WITH ALBERT CAMUS Jenny Helgren
in dirty toilet water when Madame Fradin came into the bathroom. was up to my elbows
“Are you nearly finished, Mademoiselle?” She flicked a piece of lint off the sleeve of her brown pantsuit. I leaned back and looked down the row of cubicles. “Deux autres, Madame.” Two more.
“Très bien,” she said, adding a long, complicated sentence that I didn’t understand. “Pardon?” She sighed and mimed scrubbing the floor. “This floor?” I point to the tiles. “Non, non,” she said. “The big room downstairs. The big one.” She spread her arms wide. “S’il vous plaît, finish this quickly and go mop up the mud.” La boue. Mud. This wasn’t quite what I’d imagined when I decided to spend a year in France working and learning to speak French. Three months before the end of Grade 12 I still had no idea what I wanted to do with my life. A chance encounter with a handsome French exchange student, and an ongoing quest to find myself, convinced me my destiny lay in France. After all, wasn’t there a family story claiming we were descended from French Huguenots forced to flee France for England in the 17th century? I left Vancouver right after graduation and enrolled in a French summer school in Quebec City. At the end of Mystery Woman Mary-margret Degraaf
August 1972, two days after my 18th birthday, I flew to France with $25 in traveller’s cheques and a job offer. Room and board and a little pocket money, what more did I need? On the long journey from Montreal to Melun, I daydreamed about my new job at Le Rocheton, a ymca camp and conference center 50 kms south of Paris. I pictured myself holding a clipboard and pen, greeting guests in perfect French. My faded corduroy pants, baggy sweaters, and desert boots were transformed into the elegant suits and high heels that Audrey Hepburn wore in Charade. Mud. La boue. Soon after Madame Fradin left, I finished scrubbing the toilets. The bathroom was in the old part of Le Rocheton, nicknamed Le Château, where summer staff and travelers on a budget stayed. I lived in one of the rooms on the third floor and Madame Fradin lived with her cat in a suite on the second floor. The rest of the rooms were empty. The summer staff had all gone home and the building had to be cleaned. I didn’t mind the hard work. I just wanted to talk to someone. After dinner that evening, I dug out a copy of La Peste, by Albert Camus, that I’d picked up in Quebec City. Since I couldn’t practice speaking French, I might as well learn to read it. However, despite drinking strong coffee and chain-smoking Gauloises every night, I could hardly keep my eyes open long enough to get past the second sentence. Three weeks after I arrived in France, I was promoted from chambermaid to kitchen helper, where I learned swear words from the cook and useful phrases such as “Grate these carrots,” “Peel those potatoes,” and “Scrub that pot.” The cook drank a lot of wine mixed with mineral water. It wasn’t just because of me, but I did make a few mistakes. A week later, I was put in charge of le bar, a tiny alcove in the corner of the activity room. There were a dozen chairs scattered around, a ping pong table, a dart board, and an archery poster from the recent Olympic games in Munich. I stood behind the polished wooden counter in charge of a six-cup espresso machine and a small fridge full of bottled water and Heineken beer. To impress the guests with my intellect, I placed La Peste on the side of the counter.
“How do you like it?” “C’est très profond.” And it was. So profound that I had no idea what it was about. Something to do with a plague, judging by the title, but I spent so much time looking up new words, I never seemed to get past page one—being constantly interrupted by guests wanting coffee didn’t help. By the time I’d reached the bottom of the page, I couldn’t remember what had happened at the top and I’d have to start over. Conference guests headed down the stairs for coffee three times a day, and there I was with my six-cup espresso machine. The smell of coffee clung to my clothes. I washed hundreds of coffee cups every day, and at night I washed them again in my dreams. One day, a guest asked, “Mais pourquoi Camus?” Why Camus? I told him how we’d read The Stranger in a high school English class, how much I’d enjoyed it, and how I wanted to learn to read French with another book by Camus. “But, Mademoiselle,” he said, “No matter how much you like Camus, this is not a good book to begin with.” He pulled out a small notebook from his suit pocket and jotted down a title: La Maison dans la Dune by Maxence Van der Meersch. “You will like this one, Mademoiselle. It’s very exciting.” As soon as I finished washing the coffee cups that afternoon. I borrowed an old bike and pedaled the six kms into Melun. The book was a third the size of La Peste and had plenty of dialogue. Even if I skipped a dozen words on every page, I could still figure out what was going on—sort of. The main character, Sylvain, sold contraband cigarettes on the Franco-Belgian border. He wasn’t a very nice person at first, but he changed after he fell in love with a young woman who lived in a house on the dunes.
( Good, I thought, a happy ending. Then he was shot. )
“So, you’re reading Camus?” they’d ask me.
I was pretty sure it was a customs agent who shot him, but it might have been an old friend, or possibly the head of a criminal gang. Anyway, he died, which kind of ruined the book for me.
I returned to La Peste, only this time, I decided to write
Learning to Read with Alber t Camus
down every word I looked up, along with its meaning, in a little notebook. “Five words a day,” I told the lady who worked in the office. “I’m going to memorize five words a day. I’ll have a 150 words memorized by the end of the month.” Twelve hours later I gave up. It just seemed too much like high school.
“Won’t you come in my dear?”
At the end of October, I quit my job and started work in Paris as a nanny for a 14-month-old toddler named Nathalie. Monsieur and Madame Martin lived above their electrical shop, in an old apartment building on the corner of rue St-Dominique and avenue Bosquet, two blocks from the Eiffel Tower. The wallpaper was dark, there were no pictures or knick-knacks and they didn’t have a living room, only a dining room with a china cabinet, a table and chairs, a portable record player, and a wooden highchair. They didn’t even have a sofa, just a couple of fancy wooden chairs with red velvet upholstery that no one ever sat on. From Monday to Friday I looked after Nathalie and did the housework, cooking, and shopping from 8:30 am until 7:00 pm while the Martins worked in their shop.
There were no lengthy narratives and no need to wonder who was actually speaking or ponder hidden symbolism. All day, I kept going back for more. Read. Flush. Read. Flush. My neighbours must have thought I had the runs.
It was strange to think that I’d been too busy working in France to learn to speak the language. My halting, broken French continued to stagnate. I did pick up a little baby talk and some handy phrases like, “These shirts need ironing,” and “Rinse the diapers before you put them in the diaper pail,” but I don’t think Madame knew how to have a regular conversation. At lunchtime, she and her husband either talked about the shop or argued with each other. Sometimes Monsieur carried a small radio with him from room to room and turned it up louder whenever his wife spoke. I gave up trying to read La Peste. Instead, I took night classes and studied every afternoon at the dining room table while Nathalie took her nap. I learned to write beautiful letters in French, but I still couldn’t understand the man in the green apron at the vegetable stand on the corner, and he couldn’t understand me. Luckily, I didn’t live in the Martin’s apartment. It wasn’t a happy place. I was better off in my own tiny room six flights up, even though there was only one toilet for everyone on the floor. It had a round sink the size of a dinner plate with cold running water, and a hole in the floor with a place to plant your feet on each side, so you wouldn’t slip when you squatted down. Instead of toilet paper, the concierge hung old newspapers from a nail in the wall.
One Sunday morning, just before Christmas, I discovered something new hanging from the nail: the glossy pages of a romance magazine. It was filled with black-and-white photographs of real people speaking in short simple sentences that drifted from their mouths in cartoon-like bubbles.
“Oh, yes, my darling. I’ve missed you so!”
On my way to class the next evening, I stopped at a kiosk to buy a pack of cigarettes and there it was, a rack filled with copies of the toilet paper magazine. “Nous Deux, s’il vous plaît,” I whispered, looking around furtively, as if I was Sylvain buying contraband on the Franco-Belgian border. It featured a short modern version of Madame Bovary, which I read without opening my dictionary more than half a dozen times. Like my own personal Rosetta Stone, Nous Deux was my key to unlocking French literature. After a few weeks of reading Nous Deux cover to cover, I found a library on rue de Grenelle and picked out three new books every Saturday morning.
( It was cold outside, but I stuffed a rag in the broken window of my room and spent hours curled up on my bed, portable electric heater cranked up to high, reading mysteries by Simenon, novels by Colette, and poetry by Guy-Charles Cros. ) And finally, one rainy afternoon in February, I sat down in my favourite café, the one with the nice toilet. The murmur of conversations surrounded me like a warm cloak. I took a sip of coffee, strong and bitter, just how I liked it, opened La Peste and turned to the first page. “Les curieux événements qui font le sujet de cette chronique se sont produits en 194-, à Oran." Maybe I didn’t look like Audrey Hepburn, but I was sitting in a café in Paris reading Camus, in French. ( )
2 Cool 4 You Mary-margret Degraaf
In the space between
phone numbers on coffee cups, rum and coke, walks through sweet cemeteries dressed in dusk, blinking boats in hushed harbours, beds, bellies open, gelid and empty. In the space between
reticent glances across hazy rooms, hands reaching for long-gone fingers, rivers at the bedside of sleepy highways. In the space between a Nootka rose.
hy did you break up?”
Noel doesn’t reply. She’s staring at the soap, the slimy lime bar stuck to the lip of the bathroom sink. It’s fastened to the coffeecoloured porcelain. To tug at it would be to tug at skin. She reaches for it.
They’re in Julian Tanner’s bathroom. The walls are as brown as the filthy shower, stained with the stench of cold sex. Noel turns the tap. “Shark attack,” Noel says. The water runs clear over her hands, but does nothing to rinse the patches of green toothpaste from around the drain. The party upstairs trembles. It’s all Noel can hear besides Ben’s breathing. Ben? Or was it Brick? “What?” he asks. Noel turns back to him. He’s seated on the edge of the tub, pinching a joint between two long fingers. His face is one she’ll forget. “My last boyfriend,” she says. “He was swimming and a shark came up under him.” Ben’s grin collapses. He shifts uncomfortably and glances down at his thighs.
( He’s so shocked she almost tells him the truth. She almost spells it out on the grimy mirror. ) “In New Jersey. They didn’t find him, but there were witnesses. They saw him go down.”
Balance Miles Boulton
Noel returns to staring at the soap. She considers washing her hands of him, of the lie, but Ben chucks his joint in the tub and steps toward her. His fingers trickle down the sides of her jeans. “I’m sorry,” he says. His hands seem sympathetic. “Did you love him?” Noel stays quiet. Ben is shiny like fish skin up close. He glints like he’s underwater, damp hair and glistening cheeks. She knows it’s only the sweat from the party. His skin probably tastes like Kokanee. He looks sorrier when the silence stretches and his hands start to test her thighs. They probe to make sure her legs are still there, to make sure the memory of the shark didn’t take a chunk out of her. “I don’t swim,” he tells her. She pretends to be comforted. She leans in. His mouth is as cold as the bathroom tile and his neck reeks of another girl’s perfume, the scent of a different shark. Upstairs, the party crashes and shouts and somewhere there’s a boy yelling about his legs. My calves, he keeps saying. My shins. Noel keeps thinking, What a lie. What a lie. She draws circles on Ben’s shoulder, waiting for the moment to bump and strike. “It was your first boyfriend right?” Mick asks from his beach chair. His skin is rosy in the Hawaiian sun and his cheeks, chin, and belly are caked with sunblock. Noel realizes the only thing he managed to maintain is his teeth. His cutting grin is as ivory as it was the day he proposed. “Yeah.” Noel nods. Her tongue twists the name before she thinks it. “Johnathan.”
Better Than Before Miles Boulton
Rose McQuir ter
“Ah, right.” Mick’s smile flickers in the tropical sun. He pats her leg and returns to flipping through Motor Trend. Noel hadn’t considered the lie for a long time. It grew out of her like a leg or an arm. It was always there: when she graduated from college, at her job interview for Editor-in-Chief of One Woman, when she met Mick. She’d bat wet lashes and say how the sea looked that day. People would spot her gaping anguish and think: Poor Noel. First love feasted upon by a Great White. Poor Noel. What a story. She was treading water. Telling the truth would be an amputation of her arms. “You know I loved you when you told me.” Mick glances up from his reading with an easy, bleached smile. “Not for the story, but for the way you described it.”
( She’d told him they found Johnathan’s swim trunks, torn, brown-bloody and washed up. ) Mick led her out of the bar and down the street to Dairy Queen, where he ordered her a Blizzard and asked if he could see her again. “Genuine,” Mick adds. Everyone seemed to think so. The people who signed Noel’s paycheque and that woman who found them a house in Point Grey. Noel was honest. Noel lost love to a shark. “Should we go for a dip?” Mick tosses his magazine aside. He’s already looked at all the pictures. Noel shades her eyes and looks hard at the water. It flickers and winks, but she sees long shadows in the dark, dark blue. She could lose a leg or an arm. She won’t risk it. Noel shakes her head. “Suit yourself,” Mick says. He waddles down to the water and wades in. It’s not long before it’s just his shoulders and the rest of him is swallowed. “Noel!” Mick gestures to her. “It gets deep, fast!”
Noel rubs her face and breathes shallowly. If she presses her eyes hard enough, she can almost see the waves coming in red. “Oh!” the waitress utters. Her eyes bulge as if she was the one who saw the boy die. “I couldn’t fathom,” Noel murmurs. “He was just... yanked down.” “Yanked!” The waitress echoes. She touches Noel’s shoulder. Noel apologizes and sniffs. She glances across the table. Mick gazes down at his Motor Trend, but she has the feeling he’s looking right at her. “I’ll have the Alfredo,” he interrupts. His smile glares like the ocean midday, teeth as pearly as whitecaps. Noel orders a salad. She can fib easily on a light stomach. “The boutique is next,” she tells him when the waitress drifts away. Mick smiles and shakes his head. “You’ve told it so many times I can almost hear poor Johnathan,” he muses. The waitress reappears and pours wine, rushing in red like the sea. “On the house,” the waitress says. She pats Noel’s shoulder and floats away again. “I’ve always wondered why that big fish didn’t strike you.” Mick starts bending his napkin, folding it into something aquatic. He lays it gently on the table. Noel watches as the cloth unravels. “Luck,” she murmurs. She takes a sip of her wine and for a moment it tastes of salt, like seawater stinging the back of her throat. “Lucky me.” Mick winks, but he’s looking past Noel at a view of the beach, a short stretch of sand and then blue for ages. “We’ll have to get you in the water sometime.” Mick tears through his pasta while Noel barely swallows. Her fingers trace circles on the tablecloth.
He smiles and his face goes under. “And then he started yelling ‘My legs! My calves!’” Better Than Before Miles Boulton
She runs to sweat out the lie. It’s too early for the tourists to be stirring so Noel’s alone, jogging along thick sand.
Bump and Strike
The sunrise peeks through a wound in the clouds, bright and fiery. She was tempted this morning. She searched the hotel room drawers for a pen and tore a page off a pad of paper. She started to scratch out what really happened to Johnathan and mid-letter tossed the pen off the balcony. “Ow.” Noel feels a stab between her toes and sees a bloody split in the skin, so she backtracks to see what bit her. She runs her fingers over the sand and finds a blunt tooth hiding between pale grains. She wonders if there are 49 more, scattered across the beach. She’s imagining the fat tooth in Mick’s smile when a voice calls out to her. “Hey!” She drops the tooth. There’s a bobbing head way out in the water. It’s so far she can’t see a face. She’s about to say I’ll get help, but the words roll back down her throat and she finds herself dashing in. “Hey!” She can’t tell if it is man or a woman as the sound gets further away. Noel tries to ignore the quick transition from deep to shallow. She forces herself through the water—right arm, left arm. She remembers her swim meets in high school when she was more motivated to get out of the water than in it. Salt stings her nostrils and her lips, but she’s almost there. She can see the head bobbing, but why is the voice getting further away? “Hey!”
Then her eyes and her mind adjust. It’s a black ball riding the morning swells, a toy some kid lost. When she listens again, she realizes the voice is from the beach. “Noel!” Mick is waving to her from the shore. She swears she can still see his teeth. A current tugs at her legs. “Noel, I found a tooth!” It’s too late; she’s already felt the bump. Johnathan struck the beach umbrella into the sand again. This time it stayed. “Perfect.” Noel reached for his hand, but Johnathan busied himself with the cooler. It was their third day at the beach and always he had something in his hand—a drink, a textbook, a phone. She tried many times to hold his hand, to show him she loved him. Every day after high school they swam along the shore, bobbed in the clear two-foot shallows where all that could pinch was the crabs. Johnathan kept looking at those dark spots in the water and at a woman who went far out to sea, only to paddle in circles. Now she approached their towel and bumped their beach umbrella. She apologized and introduced herself as “Haai.” “It means shark. In Dutch,” Haai said, and smiled with her too-big teeth. Johnathan went to the beach the following week, but not with Noel. Noel stayed home. And when her friends called to see how her summer was going, she said, “My Johnathan, pulled down by a shark….” ( )
buses from Malaga to Algeciras, a long ferry from there to Tangier, and now a train to Fez and all I could think about was skin. Mine was bathed in Sprite and sweat, the train was rickety and hot even with all the windows open, and the sticky compartment grew more claustrophobic with each grind of the gears. Esther and I sat with our knees pushed against the back of the seat in front of us. Families crowded on and off the carriage, babies slept on laps, and girls giggled across tables. Between dusty plains and abandoned towns people got off at remote stations and walked into the distance.
hree hours hopping taxis and
I had been traveling in the south of Spain when I met Esther—Swedish, studying Arabic, and 21— we hit it off from day one, but after two months in the coastal city of Malaga we were ready to hop across the Strait of Gibraltar to Morocco. We reached out to the language centre in Fez to find a host family to billet us for our week-long visit. We were set to leave on October 24th. Esther liked to use every opportunity to practice Arabic, so she waited in line to buy our tickets, fidgeting with the pockets on her long cardigan and quietly rehearsing key phrases. In Spain we wore shorts and crop tops, but we knew long sleeves and loose pants were more appropriate Moroccan attire. I wandered over to a vending machine to get a cold drink and when I turned around, Esther was right behind me, tickets in hand. “It leaves soon I think. We should find our deck,” she said. I twisted open the bottle of pop and it sprayed both of us.
“Good thing I brought two shirts!” she said. “Good thing you told me I should only bring two shirts,” I said and Esther grinned. I followed her out the doors to the train platform; it was going to be a three-hour ride. “Do you think we’ll get there on time?” she asked. I shrugged. “I don’t even know what day it is anymore.” I had fallen asleep to the sound of the rails and woken up twice during the six-hour marathon, so the sun was dipping below the medina when we arrived in Fez and spotted a lanky Moroccan man leaning against an 80s-era taxi. He held up a sign with our names on it. Esther introduced us in Arabic. He smiled and nodded and loaded our backpacks into the trunk while we slid into the back seat. The streets were a maze that narrowed as we ventured deeper into the city. They all seemed to be one way—that is, whatever way a car happened to be going. Twice we came head to head with another car and our driver had to back out until the road was wide enough to pass. The drivers flashed headlights to determine whose turn it was to advance. Our host family was multilingual and generous in the extreme. Both parents spoke Arabic; their daughter spoke Arabic, French, and some English; and their son spoke Arabic, French, and some Spanish. We communicated with facial expressions, hands, arms, and whatever language came to us first. We talked mostly with the daughter, Amira, and her mother Umi.
Misunderstandings and long-winded attempts to tell simple stories usually devolved into laughter. On the first night they gave us a quick tour of their cozy apartment. There was a thick curtain pushed to one side of a large window where streetlights illuminated an ornate red rug that covered the living room floor. The walls were lined with stiff built-in couches with a similar design. The only other pieces of furniture were a boxy tv on a rolling stand and a round table they pulled into a corner where the couches met for meals of steaming couscous and lamb and carrots piled high in a tajine. There was an arched doorway that led to a room with one long rug and a Quran on a small table; their prayer room. Our bedroom had two tall single beds that required a step stool to climb into, both were layered with heavy flowery blankets to keep out the brisk October night. Out of courtesy, we waited for the rest of the family to use the single washroom and go to bed before we took our turn. Esther and I gathered our toiletries and walked across the dark living room to the washroom. I pushed the door open and we both stopped. “Just go in,” Esther whispered and gave me a nudge. We shuffled in and closed the door behind us. “So…no shower,” I said. “That’s fine. We’re only here for a week.” “Maybe it’s in a different room?” she said.
throaty noise, but to our ear it sounded like hobs. Esther tried to ask about a shower. She fumbled in Arabic and mimed washing her underarms before Amira understood. “Ah, hamaam,” Amira said, nodding. We sighed and nodded back. We knew the word for bathhouse. “When?” Esther tapped her wrist. “Four day,” Amira said and held up five fingers. “We take you.” Monday through Friday we lost ourselves in the twisting medina—Fez is one of many walled cities in Morocco, buildings stacked on top of each other and endlessly narrowing roads twisting toward the centre. Esther and I climbed tall, winding staircases to spectacular views. We drank the sweetest mint tea at every opportunity and visited ancient buildings turned into museums with green-and-blue mosaic floors.
( Arched entryways, domed rooms, and intricately painted Moorish doors rounded every corner. ) We were surprised to make it home all, but we did each evening before dark, never by the same route.
The washroom walls were concrete with a small barred window and barely enough room for the toilet and sink. Esther brushed her teeth while I washed my face despite the dripping water pressure. I looked at the palm-sized mirror above the sink as I tried my best to wipe away the grime of travel. Next to the toilet was a bucket of water to assist in flushing.
By the time Saturday arrived, my hair was wet with grease and sweat and my underarms were caked with deodorant. My feet were a different colour than the rest of my body and I couldn’t tell what smelled worse: me or my clothes.
The next morning, Umi poured milky coffee out of a thermos into frosted plastic cups and drizzled honey on thick Moroccan bread called khobz, pronounced kh with a
“I don’t remember what I look like naked,” I said. Sometimes I was grateful our host family didn’t always understand us.
“I’ve never been more grateful for a headscarf in my life,” Esther said. “It’s one thing to go without washing my hair for a week, but the rest of me is another story.”
Amira handed each of us a set of folded flannel pyjamas, a flimsy brush with no handle, two sandcastle buckets and something green and squishy like mud wrapped in plastic; she called it saabon. All four of us proceeded to walk three blocks to the bathhouse, an ancient grey stone building with two archways, but no doors. We walked into the blackness of the women’s archway and down a wide stone stairwell. “Just like The Count of Monte Cristo,” Esther whispered. “One can only dream,” I said. The four of us rounded the corner to a change room. There was a thick pillar in the middle with wooden benches along the sides. Esther and I both wore bathing suits underneath our clothes since we had no idea what was appropriate. Amira and her mother stripped down to nothing and we followed suit. They put the green squishy saabon and their hairbrushes into their buckets and motioned for us to follow. The main bathhouse was a large, dimly lit square room, not so steamy we couldn’t see two covered stone troughs built into the wall across the room. Mothers laughed while groups of girls chatted, the sounds reminding me of a public pool back home. Most of the women were sitting on upside-down buckets with another filled with soapy water in front of them. Umi talked with a Moroccan woman and pointed to us. She came back and said something to Amira. Amira looked at us and made a pinching motion with her hands. “Massage,” she said happily. The Moroccan woman walked over to us and plopped down on the wet stone floor, indicating we should do the same. She said something in Arabic and another woman came over with two buckets of water. Esther and I sat next to each other and the two women sat cross-legged on either side of us. They pointed to our buckets so we handed them over. They unwrapped the
saabon and swirled it around until the water became sudsy. We later learned this was an olive oil soap widely used throughout Morocco. Each took a loofah, dipped it in the bucket, and began rubbing our legs.
( Esther and I had to stifle our laughter despite being scrubbed raw. ) I was almost in tears—pain and hilarity a lethal combination. The woman slid me around on the soapy stone floor so she could get my back. She held my arms up one at a time and scrubbed my prickly underarms. Our bodies were unaccustomed to going a week without a shower; dead skin rolled off my body in worm-like strands. She picked up one four inches long and wriggled it in the air. “Spaghetti!” she shouted. The room roared with laughter. Esther and I could do nothing but laugh along with them. Moroccan massage was tear-inducing, bizarre, unlike anything we could have imagined. Last was our hair. The women sat behind us and brushed the olive oil soap through it, rinsing it with fresh water dumped over our heads—three times. We met up with Amira and her mother in the change room and put on the flannel pyjamas, wrapped our wet hair in scarves, and walked outside under a moon high in the night sky. Amira and her mother talked softly and walked ahead of us. The cool air felt fresh in my lungs. “I’m never going a week without a shower again,” Esther said. “Maybe we had to get that dirty to get that clean,” I said. She put one arm around me and dangled her other hand in front. “Spaghetti!” ( )
Elaboration Angela Yarham
Dark Pines Amber Morrison
FOREIGN POLICY Aaron Koch I am a landlocked nation, my body is harsh terrain: mountainous, arid, and impenetrable. My frontier reaches for miles, so vast, no envoy could breach its border no matter how intrepid. There are no cities, citizens, citadelsâ&#x20AC;&#x201D; just a lonely marble throne that dwarfs its tiny regent. I don my fear like a shroud, no laurels here, and create a realm that refuses collapse.
Veronika B. Kos
before he went to sea. Mama looked longingly out the window to the ocean on these stormy winter days, consoling herself with stories of what lay hidden beneath its surface. I pretended not to see her tears in the firelight. apa always locked us in
Mama had tried to escape many times. She would bolt out the door, run to the shore, and disappear in the waves. Papa always dragged her back, kicking and screaming, bloodied scratches on his face. Each time he would lock her in her room and retreat to the underground cellar behind the house, the key around his neck. I stayed by Mama’s door and hummed our lullaby until her sobbing stopped. When the winter days held little light, she could not see the sea from our house. On those days, I became her anchor and she held me to her, rocking and grasping my small frame tight against her own. By touch alone, I kept her tethered to our home. I knew that if she let go, she might never come back. I longed for the sea the same way Mama did, but it called to her more fiercely. She knew the feel of the water while I had yet to experience its power. Mama knew where he kept her secret, so the few times he forgot to lock us in, she would claw at the cellar door until her fingers bled. I watched from the window, frozen in fear, unable to leave our house. The desperation in her song could not unlock the door. Her melodic refrain waned to hopeless keening. I tried to shift it to the lullabies Mama used to sing me to sleep, but Mama’s sorrow was stronger. Her escape attempts grew more frequent and more desperate, until she risked leaving one final time, without her secret, and never returned. Why had she wanted the sea more than she wanted me? She had broken free from my anchor and plunged beneath the ocean’s stormy surface.
Matrix Jason Duong
Months passed and the days grew darker. Winter frost crept up the cliff sides and the bright aurora lights loomed in the night sky. Papa was always angry now. I stayed out of sight but within earshot when he called. It was better to face his anger toward Mama’s abandonment, than risk disobedience and feel the arrow of his rage myself. He needed me home, but I needed to know why Papa forbid me from going to the shore.
( The worst part was the front door was unlocked; Papa trusted me to stay. ) One day when he was out fishing, I broke that trust and ventured down the rocky path I’d seen Mama take. It was steep and jagged and the sandy shore widened to a scream. I walked to the edge and saw the storm clouds gathering, swallowing the sky. Flashes of lightning illuminated distant boats on the horizon, battling against the pounding waves. My toes touched the freezing water and those soft lullabies summoned me as I hummed in response. I closed my eyes and took another step. More voices joined mine, familiar, inhuman. Home. I opened my eyes, and the song died on my lips. I saw them coming closer. Lightning flashed again and illuminated their bodies. Selkies. I walked in to waist height, the waves nearly knocking me off balance, and reached out to them. One of the smaller ones came closer and nuzzled my hands. I looked into her near-black eyes. When I looked up, a woman stood among the seals. She had the same unruly black hair as I did, but different eyes, and the same freckles as I had across my face and arms. She smiled, wary, but curious. “Mama went to you, didn’t she?” I asked. “What is your name, child?”
Of the Land and the Sea
“Muirín,” I said. “Your mother named you of the sea,” she said. “She must have loved you a great deal.” “But she wanted to be here more.” I hated how my voice shook. “Síofra was strong, but she was forced to resist the call of the sea for too long. When we are without our coats, humans think we are like them. They don’t know we cannot live without the sea for long. We heard her songs from afar, but we could do nothing without endangering more lives. If one human could capture us, then more could follow.” I swayed in the water as the tide pulled me. I felt its power, its pull. I had heard many stories of the dangers of open water, but in this moment, none of them could quell my desire to follow. The storm grew closer, lightning more frequent, and thunder echoed as raindrops pelted the water. The others looked up, uneasy as the fishing boats drew back to harbour and the storm rained down upon them. “Oh, my dear child. Your captor took her from all of us. He wanted our protection on the water and knew we would give it so long as he had one of us locked away.” I shook my head. “Then why is he still safe?” She looked at the boats quickly approaching. “He still has something of ours. He has kept it far from your mother’s reach, and we cannot risk another one of ours to find it. We wouldn’t even know where to look.” Mama’s coat, I thought. I gripped the edges of the woman’s selkie coat, the pelt was soft and warm compared to the freezing water. “What if I knew?” I asked. “Well, child, you are both of the land and the sea, just as you are both your mother’s love and your father’s daughter. It is a choice only you can make. They are coming quickly, so go now. You will know what to do,” the woman said before she dove into the water. A seal resurfaced and I shook, partly from cold, partly from fear. I raced back up to our house on the hill, stripped off my sodden dress, sprinted to Papa’s room and took the key from the desk drawer where I’d watched him hide it, then ran outside to the cellar door. I didn’t have long. There would be no going back if what the selkies said was true.
soon. If I saw him now, I didn’t know if I would have the resolve to do what I knew I must. It took all my strength to pull the trapdoor upward toward me.
( Stairs led down underground; I sang Mama’s favourite lullaby to ward off fear as the damp earth swallowed me in darkness. ) Everything about it made me want to run, but I forced one foot after another until I reached the bottom. It was a small space with three walls of shelves: cans of food, bottles of alcohol, and wooden crates in the farthest corner. The tune I hummed changed slightly and power flowed through the melody. It guided me in ways of which Mama spoke. The song carried the magic of the sea. I closed my eyes and walked where it led me. The wordless melody was so loud in my mind I didn’t know if my lips were still moving. I reached out as it rose to a crescendo and pushed open the lid of the centre box. I reached instinctively; my hands met the comforting warmth of the pelt. It smelled like Mama and the sea. I dragged it outside into the light to see the spots freckling its grey coat, the same as Mama had mapped on her face. I tugged it over my shoulders and felt its heavy coat drag behind me as I started to run. I knew the others waited for me, calling me home. I added my voice to theirs. The thought of them leaving without me was unbearable. Instinctively, I dove into the water, and Mama’s skin stretched and stitched around me, both foreign and familiar. Underwater, I saw the others—more than a dozen. The woman I had spoken to greeted me and guided me into deeper waters, my body unused to its new form. Their anger surged in song; the waves grew fierce. Papa’s boat had stayed out while the others surrendered and returned to shore. His skiff was right above us, his face looking down into the water, urgently searching. He saw us and reached out too suddenly, too far. The boat overturned and his leg caught in the netting. As he was dragged down, he flailed for help, desperation, not recognition, in his eyes. This would be my secret: I watched as he sank. ( )
The key turned in the lock easily, but I hesitated. The boats would be in the harbour, and Papa would be back
The Lighthouse Erinn Sturgeon
Veronika B. Kos
f you are british, there
are three fundamental rules: always offer a visitor a cup of tea (and a Rich Tea biscuit if you’re feeling fancy); roast dinner on Sunday is compulsory, vegans included, no exceptions; and stories preferably start with “So I was at the pub….”
It’s also no secret that Brits often manage stress with this tea-heavy approach as well, but a pint at the pub is a close second. I am a Brit, suffer from stress in the extreme, and have found tea a helpful alternative to swearing, gorging on custard creams, overplucking my eyebrows, or drowning in g&ts. I learned what drowning in alcohol looked like at an early age. Until I was seven, I swam with my father every Saturday morning, but from that age onward I was told he was “still sleeping” when our regular outing came around. I soon learned this was code for hungover and began to question why drinking was more fun than spending time with me. This was especially heartbreaking as I got older and started to understand what alcohol did. I saw first-hand how it escalated a “friendly” family argument over a football match, say Chelsea vs Everton. Soon my father was throwing a plate at my brother’s head. My father’s regular mid-week pub crawls only made things worse. As a result, I didn’t try spirits until I was 19 and at university in Hertfordshire, which is unheard of in England. The peer pressure finally got to me and I wanted to see what all the fuss was about.
( I wanted to test the appeal of the substance that fueled my parents’ divorce. ) In any case, my first drink was a vodka at Prism Nightclub in Dartford, followed by a hotdog under a nearby bridge. I didn’t have to turn into my father, something I had worked tirelessly to avoid, I could just drink for fun, and other people could too.
The summer after that I returned home to the Isle of Man in desperate need of cash. My mother said to me, “Once you can pour a pint, you’re set for life.” I took this to heart and applied at the pub down the road. I got the job despite my sweaty handshake and had my first spiced rum as The Mitre’s newly appointed barmaid. Its walls were a horrific yellow, the bar was brown panel, curtains a painful red, and the floors padded with green carpet. The Mitre wasn’t pretty, but she was sturdy and reliable. I was apprehensive my first shift. How was I going to tell a grown man he had reached his limit? How was I going to remember six cocktails and execute them perfectly? What if this customer changed his mind and wanted four Guinness and two Bushy’s Export instead? Being obsessive made me a punctual and reliable employee, but if I accidently got a drink order wrong, that mistake would haunt me for hours. I tried to follow my friend’s advice: “Take each shift as it comes. Breathe. One day is only 24 hours long. It will end.” I got ready to take on the challenge. I was a month in and thought the job was going well until my manager, Gemma, asked to speak with me. She was impressively authoritative and rumoured to take down a full-grown man with the arch of her eyebrow. It was a quality I admired. “Right, we need to have a chat,” she said. I’m being fired. I served someone on the banned list. I accidently gave someone the wrong change and now I owe 300 quid. “When can you work tt?” she asked. Oh, bollocks. The Tourist Trophy races are the biggest motorsport event in the world, bringing in 40,000 visitors during the two-week event. Brilliant. “Put me down for whatever you need,” I said, relieved that I wasn’t being fired. On Mad Sunday my shift began at 10:00 am. I was
exhausted 30 minutes later. The pub was filled with hungover bikers and I was a conveyor belt: pour a pint, take money, pour a shot, wipe the bar, pour a round of drinks, eye roll, sigh, pour another pint. By midday, the beginning of the Sunday roast service, Gemma and I were at stress level 10. A few sly shots of rum got us through the day, but by 4:00 pm I was knackered. Finally, I thought, it’s over. “I’ll see you in an hour. Selena’s gonna be in the kitchen prepping for tonight if you need anything,” Gemma said as she left. Why they would run evening meals on the busiest day of the year was beyond me. When all was said and done, I’d spent 11 hours in an inferno full of sweaty, leather-clad men. Gemma and I sat down to a free alcoholic beverage of our choosing. “You deserve it. You did well today,” Gemma said as we cheered on empty stomachs. That was the moment that changed my mind. If I could handle the busiest day of the year and not end up having a cry in the cellar, then I could handle anything. By the end of the fortnight I’d worked 88 hours. Now, on those days when the gin bottles aren’t quite in the right place, or a customer gets a bit too forward, I reach for a Rich Tea biscuit and a Yorkshire Brew and remind myself it doesn’t matter how many times you clean the shelf and reposition the bottle, it will be dirty again tomorrow. Like managing stress, my relationship with alcohol and with my father is still a work in progress. When he comes into the bar, he gives me a stilted greeting before talking casually to the other barmaid as if I am just another employee taking too long to serve his drink. At least it doesn’t hurt as much as it once did.
( If I have to be the bigger person and exchange pleasantries with his new family while serving him the same Carling that destroyed mine, then so be it. ) That’s another fundamental rule Brits live by— always take the high road. Given all this, it comes as no surprise that the majority of my stories now begin with “So I was at the pub….” I used to question people who claimed, “My job changed my life!” Now I’m starting to see the truth in that statement. ( ) Full Moon Ruby Hopkins
WHO WINTER LEFT BEHIND Kain Stewart Summer picked daisies for Winter’s grave because I said Winter loved them. Daisies are my favourite now too; how many shall I pick? Because I said Winter loved them, Summer wore daisies in her hair. How many shall I pick? Father tucked a daisy behind my ear. Summer wore daisies in her hair for her first visit to Winter’s grave. Father tucked a daisy behind my ear. I’ll keep it pressed between pages of her photo album. Before her first visit to Winter’s grave, Summer slept wild and troubled. I’ll keep it pressed between pages of her photo album, counting its petals, love by love, on sleepless nights. Summer slept wild and troubled while I wept through the night. Counting its petals, love by love, on a sleepless night I pretend not to hear Father’s tears. While I wept through the night, Winter stirred my every waking thought. I pretend not to hear Father’s tears— too many months have passed without Winter here. Winter stirred my every waking thought, yet am I alone if she’s forever on my mind? Too many months have passed without Winter here. I can tell Father is trying to be brave. Yet am I alone if she’s forever on my mind? Her voice hoists my heart and calls me forward. I can tell Father is trying to be brave. He still wears his wedding ring each day. Her voice hoists my heart and calls me forward into the golden warmth of her glow. He still wears his wedding ring each day, I need to believe Winter knows. In the golden warmth of her glow, Summer picked daisies for Winter’s grave. I need to believe Winter knows daisies are my favourite now too. Camouflage Ruby Hopkins
Vertigo Ruby Hopkins
ert johnson didn’t want to
be responsible for collecting things no one else wanted, but someone had to do it. Besides, he had a gift. He saw, and followed, signs from God.
Bert started his morning as usual with a free coffee and bagged lunch from the employment office where he overheard someone recite a phone number: 778-1102. He knew then and there he would find himself at 7-Eleven. It was God’s will. Bert visited the convenience store’s gated trash bin often; he felt comfortable there. His tall slim frame pressed up against the cold metal crate. His stomach was exposed below the hem of his too-short shirt as his arms reached into the pile. He sorted through the dumpster and eventually he found what God had sent him. Bert hummed a tune as his hands turned over a red running shoe with a white shoelace. A black lace yesterday, a grey one the day before, and now a white one. That’s the holy trinity, he thought as he pulled the shoelace out of the eyelets. He carefully coiled it in his palm like a snake before placing it in his pocket and folding himself over the rim again. “Hi, Bert,” a police officer said from behind him. “What are you up to?” Bert straightened and turned around. He recognized the tall man with dark hair and kind eyes. “Hello, Officer Perkins. I’m just looking.” “Oh yeah? What for?” “Well, I don’t know yet.” Bert looked at the items he’d piled on the ground around him. “I might have found it already,” he paused. “It’s hard to know when I’m not sure what I’m looking for.” “I imagine it would be,” Officer Perkins said. “Listen Bert, do you remember what we talked about last week?”
Bert looked at Officer Perkins blankly. “The no trespassing sign means you can’t be going through this garbage. I gave you a warning last week.” “Oh, yeah. Hang on, I need to show you something.” Bert pulled the shoelace out of his pocket. Three years earlier Bert’s compulsion to follow signs had gotten him arrested. He was walking along Main Street and he kept seeing arrows: off-colour bricks in the sides of buildings, leaves on the sidewalk, an arrangement of plastic straws that had fallen in the gutter. They all pointed in the same direction; God works in mysterious ways, he thought. He ended up at a three-storey walk-up, building #333. Not only was the number half the devil’s number, and therefore holy, but someone had propped the front door open. God wanted him to go inside. He climbed the seafoam green carpeted stairs to the third floor and twisted the handles of each door as he walked along the corridor. The knob to 301 was locked, so was 302, but the knob to 303 turned all the way. It opened inward and to Bert’s left was a small kitchen with dishes drying in a rack on the counter. In the living room he stopped to watch tv for a moment. Bert didn’t recognize the show, but it reminded him of the shows he used to watch with his kids. He continued to explore the apartment and found the bedroom. The bed was unmade so he decided to straighten it up. As he was smoothing the corners of the comforter, the front door opened. The woman who entered with her laundry didn’t understand he wasn’t there to bother her. He tried to explain how he followed the signs right to her apartment, to let her know God wanted him to help her, but her neighbour overheard her screaming and called the cops.
Bert didn’t spend long in jail that time, but there were several other short sentences over the years. Officer Perkins asked Bert to move along and reminded him that if he trespassed again, he’d get a fine. He put his shoelace back into his pocket. Bert trusted Officer Perkins because he spoke for God, he had told Bert that himself. Officer Perkins waited by his car until Bert moved on, but he didn’t know which way to go. There were no further signs. He walked toward the gate until he saw a Tim Horton’s paper cup poking out of the weeds. Bert swooped down, picked up the cup, perfect for holding his gems, and walked on. “Just forgot this,” he said passing Officer Perkins and waving the cup above his head. “Have a blessed day.” Bert made the mistake once of telling a social worker he was God. Sometimes he was God and sometimes he just talked to him, or her—God came to him as both a man and a woman. He had gotten a referral to the social worker from his probation officer because Bert thought it would be nice to have his own place instead of sleeping under the bridge out by the old highway, to have somewhere safe to store the things he found. The social worker was kind, was trying to get him a room, and he thought he could tell her about his gift. “I find stuff,” he told her when she asked him his occupation. “Oh, what kind of stuff?” “Well, holy things mostly. See these rocks?” He pulled a handful of stones and fake gems out of his pocket. “I found this one in a dumpster behind the church. I was looking for food, but this rock was drawn to me. Holy things come to me when I’m God.” He held up a palmsized blue crystal. Two days later, he was in a psychiatric ward. It was quiet and lacked the serendipitous signs he’d become used to finding. The devil was trying to prevent him from doing important work. No one would believe him. He steadfastly explained his gift to the doctors, but they only nodded and wrote things on a clipboard. He was scared until the meds kicked in and then he felt dazed and hollow. Bert spent 48 hours in the facility under the care of doctors and a psychologist who told him he was sick, gave him pills, and then let him go. He could no longer hear God, he didn’t know where to look for anything, no holy objects were attracted to him, and he felt awful. He could feel the cold wind in his bones and tried to curl up against the breeze. His old aches and
pains returned—arthritis in his ankles, throbbing in his fingers, sores on his feet. Worst of all was the pain of no longer having a purpose. He spent that night under the bridge. He knew some people he met at the employment office slept nearby; one of them gave him a ham sandwich and showed him a covered spot where he could sleep. Bert cried out to God for hours until the pills kicked in and then he fell asleep, tears drying on his face.
( The next morning his gems and medication bottles were strewn about him. ) He dumped the remaining pills, and kept his gems safely in their empty bottles. He knew the meds were from the devil and he wept again, grateful they had been removed from his life. He didn’t go back to the social worker or the psychologist or the doctors. For the rest of his probation, he was listed as ‘No fixed address’ and stopped by the office Monday to Friday as required. Three months after he found the white shoelace, Bert woke up on the snow-covered ground and shouted, “Such a beautiful morning!” at the top of his lungs, rousing others who had slept nearby. His nose was starting to drip; he only had one blanket. After he picked up his coffee and bagged lunch from the employment office, he walked to a gas station where he bummed smokes from truck drivers. While he waited, he dug through the trash closest to the door. It was mostly empty fast food containers and he was about to move on when a woman in a small red car pulled off the highway, stopping long enough to throw a bag of trash into the bin. She ignored Bert and sped off again. He ripped open a crumpled chip bag, an empty cigarette package, and then saw a black-and-white striped toque. The toque was unravelling from the bottom, but it fit. God always gave him what he needed. A truck driver exited the gas station, “Got a smoke?” Bert asked. Before Bert discovered his gift, he had had a wife, two children, and a dog. When he first started telling people about his life, they always assumed his wife had left him and taken the kids, and that was how he “got sick.” In truth, he had started to hear God after he was fired, but that was just God’s way of revealing his new calling. One day Bert’s wife, Kate, came home from an overtime shift at the grocery store carrying shopping bags. Their daughter and son were watching cartoons in the living room. Kate hesitantly peeked into the kitchen, hoping she would find Bert putting the finishing touches on
dinner. Instead, the kitchen was empty. Breakfast dishes were stacked in the sink, the garbage was overflowing, and the dog had chewed a hole in her bag of food—Bert had forgotten to feed her again. She placed the bags on the kitchen table and when Bert returned with a shopping cart filled with lamps and abandoned appliances he discovered on the side of the road, Kate, the kids, and the dog were gone. So Bert left too. That winter, Bert spent most nights on the street and in temporary shelters. The shelter staff didn’t believe God spoke to him. He would test them to see if they were ready to hear his message, but they always failed; they never had time to listen to his prophecies. No one should be too busy for God. He couldn’t emphasize it enough, “The End of Days are coming,” he warned them. Bert’s last day on Earth started out like every day for the last six years, with a free breakfast and bagged lunch from the employment centre. That night he sat by the city centre fountain—it was a place for people with no place to go. It was Canada Day; people were dressed in red and white and shared their beer and cigarettes more freely than usual. Bert washed his stones in the fountain. Three of them were black, one had gold speckles so he suspected it was actually a gold nugget, and the rest were small, flawless diamonds. While he washed them, he told anyone who would listen how he had found the diamonds on the sidewalk next to the record store. In the middle of telling a woman with a floppy red hat his story, there was a loud bang and a flash of coloured light. Bert screamed and jumped back, sending the stone he was polishing into the fountain. Another one went off and he threw his hands over his head as if something was raining down on him. The people nearby stared as he hopped around. A man sitting on the fountain’s ledge saved Bert from falling in as he tripped on an untied shoelace. “The end is nigh!” he shouted as he faced the crowd. Each time a firework went off he said gleefully, “It’s God. It’s me. I’m doing this. We’re all going to heaven.” He stumbled off the sidewalk and into the street. A car narrowly missed him as it sped past and he caught his reflection in the side mirror. A light from behind him gave him a holy glow—he saw himself in his natural form. He spread his arms wide and gazed at the spectacle of light in the sky. Swaying with dizzy jubilation, Bert fell over the yellow line as a truck rushed through the light. He flew through the air and landed on the other side. ( )
Spin Away Jade Vandergrift
SHADE OF TOWERING CEDARS IN THE
Sandwell Provincial Park with my youngest daughter Chloe, who has lived on Gabriola Island for most of her 18 years. We are heading toward an ancient Snunéymuxw burial cave near the cliffs. I used to carry her on my back down this same trail when my legs were young and strong. Her eyes were wide, taking in the scenery. Today, she reaches out her hand to help me up the incline. am walking a trail in
We are surrounded by green so dark it soaks up the sun and the moist air condenses to a damp layer on my skin. In the shadows, we see what looks like hip bones, burnished with age.
( At the bottom of the trail, we pass ancient middens, remnants of shellfish feasts. ) For nearly two decades my family and I have walked this 800-metre trail—bath towels carelessly slung over our shoulders, our fat dog Stella poking behind. Passing the moss-covered trunks of the Bigleaf Maples my husband Rick often remarked, “Look at those burls. I could make something great with those.” We have mason jars filled with beach glass worn smooth, reminders of meals on damp sandy towels in the heat of summer. If you lay in the sand and position your body facing the marsh, you can imagine a time when the Snunéymuxw canoed here to harvest clams. This was before the Spanish arrived, bringing smallpox with them. Though the Snunéymuxw couldn’t know their fate, they likely found solace on this stretch of sandy beach, mothers and fathers pulling their children in close, breathing in the cool ocean air, watching a kingfisher dip its head into the sea. When the tide is low, we take the shortcut back along the crescent-shaped shore, leaving footprints in the cold hard sand, past pitted sandstone boulders, barnacles and purple starfish clinging to their sides. In the shade of towering
cedars, two rock carvings—petroglyphs known to locals— stand guard. One carving is of a stick figure with an arrow, possibly inauthentic, and the other is a faded round ‘face’ looking up at the sky. Gabriola Island is also known as Petroglyph Island, with over 70 rock carvings scattered across the island. The best spot to view them is behind the United Church off South Road, especially if wet weather has darkened the petroglyphs’ grooves. On these rainy days, Rick and I watched as Hailey and Chloe ran ahead of us; now I bring my walking stick to maneuver the trails despite arthritic knees and Stella perks up from her week-long nap to join me. Although her gait is slowing with age, she rallies to sniff the salal-lined path and ancient ferns. I stop to read the large white sign at the trailhead, erected by Parks bc to explain it is difficult to date rock carvings that could be 100 to 3000 years old. There are many petroglyphs in the clearing at the end of the path, including one that reminds me of the plumed head of the local Belted Kingfisher. I am impressed by its smooth curvy lines. Petroglyphs were made with handmade tools called hammerstones that pecked lines into the rock. I fight the urge to scrape back moss on flat surfaces to check for more underneath. Gabriola’s forests, flat bedrock, and honeycombed sandstone along the 15 km length of the island were ideal for capturing the local flora and fauna, or carvings otherworldly and intentionally unrealistic. The most impressive is a sea serpent or ‘lightning snake’ that resembles the Indigenous Haietlik, a mythical creature with razor-like teeth ideal for the whale hunt. Explorers noticed the Haietlik images painted onto the sides of local canoes. I also recognize salmon similar to those in Jack Point’s Petroglyph Park in Nanaimo. With the decline of the Snunéymuxw population due to outbreaks of disease, the meaning of the carvings has largely been lost, but some stories remain and have been told to nonIndigenous audiences and recorded.
Reach for the Sky Non-Fiction Veronika B. Kos
A traditional story about the Jack Point petroglyphs explains that a dog salmon took the form of man to steal the Chief ’s daughter. She would be his wife and return with him to the sea. The dog salmon and his wife swam upriver leaping out of the water together. The Chief went north to search for his daughter, but was told she would return only once a year to Nanaimo, and could not go home with him. During the yearly salmon run, only the Chief and his descendants in their village were permitted to touch the salmon, roast it, and eat it whole. It could not be cut up for drying or smoking until the shaman performed a ceremony in front of the salmon petroglyphs. He painted a male and female dog salmon with red ochre sprinkled with eagle down, shook his rattle, and sung over the fish as everyone joined in. Now, once a year on the south end of Gabriola, islanders join together for a giant salmon barbecue at the community hall. We spread blankets on the grass and eat slabs of salmon with potato salad and a wedge of watermelon. Local musicians play on stage while children chase each other and dance barefoot on the grass. Ice cream and beer sales raise money for the hall and playground, where we once found a nest of baby garter snakes writhing in the sun. Now that our daughters have left home, Rick and I trek the easier sandstone shore of the beach where I held my father’s memorial four years ago, releasing his ashes into the sea on a hot August day. We had set out blankets beneath the spreading branches of a maple tree to eat stuffed figs and chicken wraps.
Both Hailey and Chloe had taken the day off from jobs at local restaurants and my sister Kristin and her two children, Daphne and Thomas, took the ferry from Vancouver. Thomas found a flat piece of driftwood to balance the fancy cardboard box. Dad was born in Winnipeg, yet he asked to have his remains released near the shore where he took his grandchildren to catch fish in rocky tidepools. We played drumming music from a cd player while Kristin placed colourful dahlias in the water. I read from a crumpled piece of paper.
( It took only minutes for the water to overturn the piece of wood and lap my father’s ashes out to sea. ) I have learned young men on spirit quests laid prone on the petroglyphs to receive the power of these symbols. This landscape echoes their stories, the stories of the Snunéymuxw, but also my father’s story, and all those who once walked these trails. Today, Rick and I stop to rest on the wooden bench overlooking the ocean and I imagine the day we will walk here with grandchildren who’ll play below on the rocks. The smooth head of a seal dips under the silver-grey water and I think of all those lost to us. In the heat of summer, in the wind or pelting rain, I am compelled to visit these paths lined with Garry Oak and echoing with the prehistoric voices of sea lions from across the strait. I will stand here, watching in the mist for canoes, for a couple of leaping salmon, for my father, and I will listen for their stories. ( )
Waterfall GlennNon-Fiction Mathieson
THOSE YOU HOLD Patrick Wilson
he trees spoke to travis.
The forest swayed gently southwest and moonlit their silhouettes as darkness crept into the campsite. He didn’t scare easily. The teachings of his Tseets-yu grandfather wouldn’t allow it.
“Are you alright?” asked a muffled voice that sounded like…Sophia.
The dark clouds overhead would mean scattered rain the next morning. He removed the collapsible buckets from his backpack and set them where he could catch water to wash his face. He could see the lights and smell the smokehouses from the reservation eight km away.
( Her blue jeans were torn; stained with dirt and huckleberry juice. )
Two bloody weeks I’ve combed these hills without a sign, Travis thought.
Her red-and-black lumberjack shirt was peppered with pine needles. Her shoulder-length hair stuck out beneath her trucker hat. He closed his eyes, struggled free of the rocky debris.
The two-hour Westjet flight from Vancouver to Smithers had been worth it. Leaving mid-semester in his third year was worth it. The moment he found out, he felt obliged to come.
He couldn’t feel his legs and reached for his knees, the circulation returning in a rush of pins-and-needles. Travis rose to his feet, but she was gone.
He made a bed of moss on the rocky ground. If she was in this area, she should have seen the lights of the reserve. The stars blinked on and off as he fought sleep.
The sloshing and bubbling of the water nearly drowned his thoughts. He scooped a handful from the surging flow and washed his face. The creek level is high for this time of year.
Travis set his back against a giant hemlock when a muffled voice caught his attention.
She stood on the opposite side; blood-red maple leaves surrounded her.
“There you are! How’d you get over there?”
He lifted a large overhanging branch and tilted his head to the side as if it would amplify the sound. He wasn’t sure, but he thought he heard something and walked toward it.
“I walked across.” She pointed at the creek.
“Sophia! Sophia, where are you?”
The whisper grew louder.
“That water is five metres deep. There’s no way you walked across. You’re not even wet.” The creek seemed to widen and when he lifted his gaze, she was even farther away.
“Dun here…down here…down here!”
“Didn’t you come here to find me?” she asked.
The voice echoed, vibrated, and swelled in his eardrums. He dropped to his knees. The ground beneath him gave way and he slid toward the creek 15 metres below. He grasped for a handhold, but fell onto the tumbling rocks until the earth began to settle. Where am I?
“Of course, I did.”
Travis opened his eyes. Standing over him was the thin, delicate frame of his sister.
“Then why won’t you cross the creek?” She dove into the creek toward him. He tried to track her through the water, but she vanished.
“Sophia!” The creek bubbled and churned.
“Are you sure? Over.”
Upstream an otter stuck it’s head out of the water. It nibbled at something in its hands and playfully splashed the water.
“Very sure. Over.”
“Watch your head,” her voice said. He whipped his head around and then it went black. Travis jolted awake in a cold sweat. He rekindled the fire and recalled the stories Tseets-yu had told him. “Otter cannot be trusted, you know. He’s a shape-shifter and he can turn himself into those you hold in your heart.” Tseets-yu once said. “He will take you into the river and you will never be seen again. Do not let your eyes deceive you and you will be safe.” All the hours of television wasted on Shark Week and not one morsel of information on river otters. Damn you, Discovery Channel. From his vantage point on the ridge, he traced the path he had taken in his dream to where the ground had collapsed beneath him. He could see a landslide near the bend in the creek downstream. He pressed his hands together to give thanks. He hoped this meant the spirits were helping him. “Travis, do you copy? Over.” A voice screeched over the orange-and-black radio, tucked in his backpack. “Travis? Come in Travis. Do you copy? Over.” He edged his way around the campfire and took out the radio. “Hello. This is Travis. Over.” “Hey Travis. How are things going? Over.” “I still haven’t seen any sign. Over.” “Robert and Vern decided to come back in. What’s your plan? Over.” “I’m heading to the south ridge of the mountain. I’ve been held up, but I should be there by tomorrow night. Over.” “Are you coming home when you’re finished? Over.” “Negative, Heather. I’m not leaving this mountain until she does. Over.” Once In A Blue Moon Kirsten Reedel
“Aunt Alice said she wants you to come home. She doesn’t want to lose you too. Over.” “I can’t leave her here. I’ll be fine. Over.” “ok. You know your limits. Be careful. Love you Cuz. Goodnight. Over.” “Love you too. Goodnight. Over.” Travis lay back and drifted off. The next morning, Travis opened his eyes and rolled over to get the sun off his face. A shot from a .303 British Enfield rang through the air; it was Robert’s gun. Travis knew the sound. He hurried to a lookout and through his binoculars spotted Robert on his quad with Vern in chase, both in pursuit of a wounded deer. The thrill of searching for Sophia had clearly faded for them.
( Back to bingo, bannock, and beer. Those boys didn’t have what it took to be out here for long. ) Travis didn’t bother to tell them he was close by. Since returning home from school, everyone in the community treated him like an intruder. He trekked to the bend. On the other side of the bulging creek, a section of the bank had slid into the water and created a dam that blocked most of the down-flow. This explains the height of the creek. He examined the ledge where the earth had come down, lifted a fallen tree that had broken in half, and laid it across the gap to cross. He climbed the hill to investigate and as he neared the top, he saw her white-and-blue bucket glistening in the sun next to her shovel. Nearly $200 worth of Matsutake mushrooms were inside. He hopped down the hill, bucket and shovel in hand. He started to dig and didn’t stop until the sun hit the treeline. He wiped the sweat from his forehead. His stomach rumbled, hands swelled, and the sun set. “Whatchu diggin’ for bro?” Sophia’s voice broke the silence. “I’m diggin’ for you!”
Those You Hold
“Well, you can stop. I’m right here.” “No. I don’t believe it’s you.” “Who else would I be?” “No,” he dug farther. “I know what you are.” “So, what am I?” she asked. “I saw you in a dream.” He tilted his head back. The sky was alight with stars. “Always the dreams.” He turned and took a headlamp from his pack and continued to dig.
on scraps instead of what is rightfully ours only to be told we’re living on handouts. Is that why you left?” She is staring at him. “You’re right, but I also went to school to learn to write. What I really learned is that the outside world is no place for “Indians,” not the ones who want to remain traditional. I thought I’d come back here to save the stories of our Elders before it all disappears, but instead I’m an outcast. There is no place for me here. I’m as lost as you are.” He walked over to some tinder he’d piled earlier. He dug around in his pocket and pulled out a lighter. Grandpa left me this five years ago. He peered at her to see if she would respond to his thoughts. She remained still.
“I’m your sister.”
“Hey, isn’t that the lighter Grandpa gave you?” she asked with a devious smile.
“ok, then tell me something only you or I would know.”
Travis lit the pile and it burst into a quick fire.
What did we nickname Aunt Claire after she came back from Hyder?”
“Can you come closer?” he said.
“Too easy. Ever-Claire,” Travis said. “Do not listen to him, Grandson. It is not the one you know who speaks to you.” Tseets-yu’s voice said. “Remember what I taught you. Otter can see your thoughts and will use them against you.” “Why did you leave me, Travis?” she asked. “I didn’t leave. I went to…. Just fuck off and let me find her.” “Why don’t you believe it’s me? I’m tired of the world. I know you’re tired of the way we’ve lost touch with who we are. I know it makes you furious to see our people living
She stepped toward him and he kicked the fire at her. The embers singed her and she slipped into the water. “We never called him Grandpa, and Sophia bought me this lighter before I left for university,” he said. The otter swam away and did not look back. Travis continued to dig until he hit something springy—the soles of Sophia’s brown Columbia hikers. He buried her in a circular rock grave, with a prayer, and left the two-way radio gps tracker with a letter in a plastic bag at the foot of her grave. He walked north, away from civilization. ( )
Sunset Summit Miles Boulton
ON OUR OWN TERMS:
GREGORY SCOFIELD ON WHY INDIGENOUS LITERATURE MATTERS Kain Stewart and Patrick Wilson
delivered the Ralph Gustafson Distinguished Poet’s Lecture on February 13th at viu, a student event at Sh’aqput on campus, and an exhilarating public reading. All three events drew from his books of poetry, interspersed with anecdotes that spun stories and vivified verse. Scofield dances his poems, the lyrical movement of his words, Cree and English, flowing through his body with a musicality that mesmerizes.
ecorated metis poet gregory scofield
Scofield grew up in Maple Ridge, British Columbia, and is a Red River Metis of Cree, Scottish, and European descent whose ancestry can be traced to the fur trade and to the Metis community of Kinosota, Manitoba. He has taught Creative Writing and First Nations and Metis Literature at Brandon University, Emily Carr University of Art + Design, the Alberta University of the Arts, and Laurentian University, prior to taking the post of Associate Professor at University of Victoria in the fall of 2019. He has also served as writer-in residence at the University of Manitoba, the University of Winnipeg, and Memorial University. Scofield won the Dorothy Livesay Poetry Prize in 1994 for his debut collection, The Gathering: Stones for the Medicine Wheel, and has since published seven further volumes of poetry including, Witness, I Am. He is the recipient of the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Medal and the Writers’ Trust of Canada Latner Poetry Prize. His memoir, Thunder Through My Veins, was republished last fall. Scofield is a skilled beadworker, and creates traditional Metis art. He is assembling a collection of mid-to-late 19th century Cree-Metis artifacts. We had a chance to sit down with him to talk about the art and craft of writing Indigenous literature that matters. pw:
In a 2016 interview with cbc you said your poetry collection Witness, I Am was a testimonial for those who cannot speak. What role does “witnessing” play in Indigenous literature?
Witnessing is one of the most important things we can do. It serves many different purposes. One of the greatest is being able to articulate—either through writing or through traditional art, music, painting, dance, sculpture, beadwork—to honour and celebrate our history and our contemporary individual or collective experiences as Indigenous people. There’s a responsibility to tell the stories that others aren’t able to tell.
Reconciliation is a central theme in your work. Has your view of reconciliation changed over the course of your writing career?
I’m skeptically watching what Canadians are doing about reconciliation. We have a very long way to go to reconcile the injustices perpetrated against Indigenous people in this country. At the moment we’re dealing with what’s happening within Wet’suwet’en territory. I made a post on Facebook this morning that said if Canadians feel inconvenienced by the Wet’suwet’en land protectors, imagine how Indigenous people feel after 500 years of illegal occupation in these territories. Reconciliation is very much a concept right now, rather than a tangible action.
My own poetry is therapeutic and helps me clarify my identity. Your books Singing Home the Bones, Witness, I Am, and Thunder Through My Veins also suggest the healing power of words. Has writing these
On Our Own Terms
books helped you get a clearer sense of your own identity or healed emotional wounds? gs:
Writing in your language with intention, for me, is an act of decolonization.
Absolutely. I’ve always approached my writing from a place of ceremony and of healing, trying to find healing through storytelling. That’s changed over the years, but each poetry collection is different from the one before. Whether I’m looking at historical issues related to my own family or looking at contemporary issues related to larger communities, I’m always looking at ways of creating a sense of healing for others, providing some kind of path.
What are the protocols of writing and publishing in your Cree language?
If you’re writing in an Indigenous language you want to make sure you’re using the language correctly. If there are teachings embedded in the words you’re using, you must present those teachings in an accurate and respectful way. There are some teachings that are not meant to be recorded, so you have to respect that.
Many of your poems use the Cree language and include English translations. Is your goal to instruct readers so that they acquire the language as you imply in your poem “I’ll Teach You Cree”? How important is it to you that this culture is learned through engagement with your poetry?
It is almost impossible to find information about my own ancestral history. Where and how have you gathered information about your own history?
Western Canadian Metis people are very fortunate because a lot of our ancestors worked with the Hudson’s Bay Company who kept meticulous records on the people in their employ. A lot of the historical grandfathers that either came from the Orkney’s or came from places like England, are documented—their names, ages, parents’ names, what year they entered service, what ship they sailed over on. The unfortunate thing is there wasn’t much information on the women they married. It says, “married Sarah, Cree woman.” Sometimes it would say where they were from, but most of the time that information was not recorded. Then it would list their children.
Do you think it is important Indigenous people move from oral history to written history?
If I begin writing and the poem starts coming to me in Cree, I honour the spirit of that poem by using the language. I think Cree is a beautiful, soft-spoken language. There are, like the majority of Indigenous languages across this globe, teachings embedded within words. When I’m writing something that is speaking about those teachings, then I’ll use Cree. It’s a way of celebrating and introducing the language to readers who wouldn’t normally have the opportunity to read Cree. When I’m reading other Indigenous writers, I always like to read things in their language, to look at how their language is written, to read the translations of the words, and to make comparisons between Cree and other languages.
Bibliography The Gathering: Stones for the Medicine Wheel (1993) Native Canadiana: Songs from the Urban Rez (1996) Thunder Through My Veins (1999/2019) memoir Love Medicine and One Song (2000) I Knew Two Métis Women (2000)
Kain Stewart and Patrick Wilson
You have to keep in mind that for hundreds of years other people told our stories. We had ethnographers, anthropologists, scholars, folklorists, and those interested in our culture and stories came into our communities and mined those communities for stories, took them, and edited them in a way that they thought would be good for a non-Indigenous readership. Basically, they took the spirit out of those stories and then almost fictionalized them. Of course, it’s important now to use technology to take those oral stories and histories and be able to document them in an ethical, honorific, and celebratory way that follows the protocols of that community. This is to be able to have those stories for our young people, so they never forget where they come from and who they are. Residential schools and the 60s scoop severed people from their families, communities, ceremonies, and from their stories. We’re coming out of that time and we need to be able to do the work on our own terms, ensuring the next generation doesn’t deal with that loss of identity, culture, sense of self. It’s important we do that work.
Why did you choose to become a writer? Was there another career you wanted to pursue?
I first wanted to work in Corrections and was enrolled in a program in northern Saskatchewan, a Native human justice program. There was a shortage of Indigenous people working in Corrections. I started my practicum at SaskPen and got about half way through when I realized I didn’t want to work in Corrections. So, I dropped out of school and continued to pursue my passion for writing. The first thing I had published
was a 15-minute cbc radio drama called “The Storyteller,” which was about a Cree grandmother and her two granddaughters. The cheque from cbc was for $948.17. pw:
What do you read both for leisure and for your education as a poet?
I’m always very excited about new works that are coming out from emerging Indigenous writers. Lately, we’ve had some great books by people like Joshua Whitehead, Billy-Ray Belcourt, Jordon Abel, Cherie Dimaline, everything from experimental poetry to graphic novels.
What advice do you think has served you best over the course of your career as a writer?
I think one of the best pieces of advice I received was in my early 20s. I was getting involved with Metis politics, I sat on boards, and travelled to Ottawa. There was a special Metis roundtable discussion and I was primed and ready to be a politician, to start doing political work. I remember an older Metis writing mentor said to me, “Whatever you do, don’t get involved with politics. You can do more political work, and reach more people, by writing your books than you can by sitting at political tables.” Of course, my work is very much about politics. It’s about advocacy and activism. I guess I’m a politician. My advice to new writers is work as hard as you possibly can to find your unique voice and then honour and celebrate that voice. ( )
Singing Home the Bones (2005) Kipocihkân: Poems New & Selected (2009) Louis: The Heretic Poems (2011) Witness, I Am (2016)
UNDER THEIR HEELS Emily Gain
Benjamin gingerly scoops translucent tentacles into a flimsy net, watches as the jellyfish plunges and bobs in a cool bucket of water, exploring infinity along an endless circular wall. We gently extend our own fingers into its bulbous mass, watch it recoil and expand in salutation. Hours pass until the sky turns and Mother calls. Saltwater stings our blistered hands as we return our ally to the sea, waddling in our life jackets, back to shore. Grip over grip, I pull up slimy rope until the crab trap breaches the choppy surface. Benjamin beside me, small fists shaking, awaits our catch, shunning the algae that clings to the dripping line. His eyes widen at the creatures inside. Father says: “That one’s big enough to eat” and Benjamin looks at me, his fearful eyes jellyfish, crab, human. With summer heat new boats arrive. Outsiders, with bloody knees and pocketknives, grind mussels under their heels, making jellyfish stew. Sea scum and fishy innards grey the water with mourning. Gulls feast and tear at the spill on the dock. Mother shakes her head: “Boys will be boys.” I sit patiently at her feet, questioning what it means while she braids my hair and tsks at their warfare. Fisherman’s children, Benjamin and I, soft as jelly, quick to shed our shells, too young to see how wonder hardens but fails to protect.
The Trial Julian Merkle
SPOTLESS Patrick Wilson
n the spring of 1984,
my mother took me to my annual dentist check-up with Dr. Whitley in Prince George. I was nearly seven and happy to go; I had a spotless record—my teeth were cavity-free so I was fearless. It didn’t hurt that a special prize awaited at the end of each visit.
My excitement was irrepressible. When he opened the filing cabinet drawer, I saw contents inside so valuable they needed their own key. It was teeming with army men, bouncy balls, sticker collections, rings, marbles and hair elastics. Mom nudged me to make a decision; I stood in awe and wanted them all. She told me I could only choose one, which seemed unfair. I wanted to distribute the wealth and make sure everyone shared in the bounty from “the treasure chest of plastic wonders”—surely there was enough for everyone. A week after my appointment, I was playing behind the dentist’s building watching people drive in and out of the underground parking garage. What caught my eye was a green button that opened the gate. All I had to do was get inside. I cased the building and waited until the last doctor left, hiding behind a wall as he exited the garage. I walked through the gate unnoticed; I was so short, he didn’t see me in his rear-view mirror. The muffler on his car dragged across the speed bump and the sound of his car faded—the garage grew uncomfortably silent. My heart raced. One Friday a month earlier, my cousins and I had pulled off another job. We were roaming the streets while our parents drank, prowling around for something to keep us fed and occupied. My older cousins, Dwayne, 17, and Louie, 16, discovered an entry to the Dairyland compound. They scouted the area before they snuck me in through a hole high up in the fence. I was the smallest, didn’t talk much, and would follow instructions, so Dwayne picked me to break into the small yellow booth and press the green button.
“Okay little man. You see that yellow building?” he asked. I nodded eagerly. “I need you to go in there and press the green button. Do you know what colour that is?” I nodded again and pointed to the dumpster below our feet. He gave me a thumbs up and grabbed me under the armpits. He ducked me through the hole in the fence and I dangled from his vice-like grip until he let me go. I ran across the lot and opened the door to the yellow security hut. I pushed the button and the gates yawned open. We fanned out and raided the crates of 2% and chocolate milk. That night, we gathered in my darkened living room, chocolate moustaches, solid bellies, until one-by-one we dozed off to the white noise of the tv. The door from the garage was difficult to open due to the suction, but I managed, spurred on by thoughts of that drawer filled with toys. Counting the floor numbers engraved on the faux-brass plaques at each landing, I took the stairs two at a time until I came to the familiar floor. I snuck stealthily down the hallway. On the opposite side of the building, a vacuum rumbled loud as a jumbo jet. Confident I had time, I tip-toed to the dentist’s office and found it unlocked. I got right to work. The key that unlocked the filing cabinet was obvious in the receptionist’s top drawer, along with $20 that made its way into my pocket. I stuck the key into the filing cabinet and sprung the locking mechanism, just as I heard footsteps approaching. Panicked, I slid under the reception desk and covered my mouth. The office door slammed tight with a bang and a
Reststop Natasha Rozmarniewich
click. The footsteps continued on and echoed into silence. The rumbling vacuuming continued; the cleaner had gone back to work. I returned to the filing cabinet and the drawer popped open and knocked me to the floor. How embarrassing. I hurried to cram my backpack with everything that would fit, closed the drawer, locked it, and returned the key. My exit strategy was to leave the same way I came in. On the last flight of stairs, I froze in my tracks. The heavy door to the garage was propped open with a chair. Someone might be waiting for me to show myself. I peeked around the corner and saw a man in blue overalls throwing bags in a dumpster at the end of the lot. He wasn’t looking, so I made a break for it. I’d reached the sidewalk when he noticed me. I calmly walked by him, but felt his gaze. “You shouldn’t be out here by yourself. Where are your parents?” he asked. I increased my pace and didn’t reply. It was easier to run away than to explain. I circled round the bike park to make sure I wasn’t followed.
( Dwayne had devised ways to lose the police or social services (who chased us like dogcatchers) by doubling back and staying within the tree line. ) It was dusk before I got home. Nobody noticed my return. I carefully opened the door, tip-toed down the stairway to the basement, and turned the lights on. To calm myself down, I took out my favourite 45, David Seville’s Witch Doctor, and played it at one and a half times the normal speed. This always made me laugh. Most of the time I fell asleep down there until my mom or older sister found me in the morning and woke me up for school. That night, uncharacteristically, my mother came down after I’d fallen asleep, shook me awake, and spilled the contents of my backpack on the floor beside me. I pretended not to notice and rolled over. When I woke up the next morning, she was sitting on the bottom step wearing her red flannel nightgown, gigantic pink curlers in her hair. She looked at me through the smoky haze of her cigarette. “I want you to tell me the truth. Where did you get the toys?” she asked. Non-Fiction
“I took them.” I said sheepishly, unable to lie. “Where did you get them? Did you get them from school?” she pressed.
I shrugged my shoulders defiantly and answered, “I walked in and took it.”
“No. I got them from Dr. Whitley’s office,” I said.
“I don’t know what to do. We can’t tell anyone, or they’ll try to take the kids again,” my mother said looking to Gordon.
“You mean you stole all of this from the dentist’s office?” she asked.
“Throw it all away!” he said glaring at me before trudging back up the steps.
I nodded. She laughed and pulled me in for a hug.
I didn’t throw them away and my mother didn’t ask me to. I packed them back into my bag and hid it behind the furnace, where nobody else could fit.
“My boy, you can’t do that. You aren’t allowed to take things that don’t belong to you. Gordon! Gordon! Come down here.” My stepfather was a hulking man at six-foot-four and 280 pounds. Each stair strained in agony under his weight as he thumped downstairs. His light brown Bob Ross hair grazed the ceiling. “What is it, Darling?” he asked. “Look at what Patrick did,” she said. “Have you ever seen anything like it?” “What am I looking at?” he asked surveying the stash. “He broke into a dentist’s office and stole all of this… this junk.” “How’d he do that?” Gordon asked before he turned his attention to me, “Hey Peckerhead! How’d you do that?”
After breakfast I grabbed the loot and walked to school, the toys jostling in my bag. I was hungry and had already eaten my lunch within blocks of our house, but I knew I’d have no problem acquiring another; all I had to do was make a trade. At recess, I lugged the backpack to the concrete playground and opened it up. Scotty, my best friend, was in on the big unveiling and had told the girls, who naturally invited their friends. Soon we were surrounded. I told them to pick a toy, free of charge. I had leveled the tooth discrimination playing field; kids, spotless record or not, could now enjoy all the toys their short attention spans could handle. I was the youngest in a house of cat burglars. We lived on our own terms when pickings were slim. We lived for each other. ( )
Eco Villain Laura Antonia Sahr
the cool siding and lowered her gun. The sun beat down and the air was thick. She didn’t stand a chance out here. She glanced around the corner from her shaded safe zone. It was too risky to make a run for it. She sighed and looked to her left where the tall wooden fence separated her from freedom. If she hid on the other side, they’d never find her. The grass felt cool as she crept along, lifted the gate’s latch, and slipped through. The air felt fresher and the sound of screaming dimmed with each step.
and his swim shorts were dripping onto the grass. His wet black curls hung heavy past his ears, shining in the sun.
Bethany was small for 11. Her thin blonde braids made her seem younger still. Her older brother, Jordan, was 13 today and his friends were rampaging the yard with Super Soakers and an endless supply of water balloons. It was against the rules to go into the house, so her mom was sitting on the back deck to make sure no one did. The front yard was out of bounds too, but she had made her escape and now had an unobstructed view of their quiet street.
“I wasn’t having fun,” he mocked.
ethany rested her back against
She lay on her back in the middle of the lawn and could feel the sun tightening her already tan skin. She squirted her water gun into the air trying to catch the spray in her mouth. It splashed onto her face, but her skin was so warm she welcomed it. She tried a couple more times. The buzz of insects grew loud around her. She propped up on her elbows and squinted up at the sky. A silver suv approached the house. The driver waved. Bethany waved back to be polite. The suv slowed and the driver waved again. Bethany didn’t wave a second time. He disappeared down the street and she turned her mind to the orange-and-blue butterflies flitting above her. She got up and started pulling daisies and dandelions just as the gate to the backyard burst open and Marcus, Jordan’s best friend, burst in on her. His chest heaved and he locked eyes with Bethany. His red shirt was soaked
“I’m not going to shoot you,” he told her. He blinked hard and shook his head in an effort to dry off. His face was streaked with sunscreen. “Well, what are you doing out here?” she asked. “Well, what are you doing out here?” he replied. Bethany put a hand on her hip. “I wasn’t having fun.”
Bethany turned away from him and pulled up another daisy. “What are you doing?” Marcus asked. She didn’t turn around. “What are you doing?” He sprayed her. Bethany arched her back and shrieked. She threw her fistful of daisies to the ground and whipped around. “You said you wouldn’t shoot me!” Marcus laughed and sprayed again so she ran toward the front door. “You’re not allowed in the house,” Marcus said. She turned to face him. “Don’t tell me what to do. I live here! Leave me alone!”
( He aimed his gun at her again and her bottom lip began to quiver. ) “Whatever. You’re no fun,” he said. He shot his Super Soaker into the air and walked through the gate to the backyard. Bethany laid out on the grass again, this time on her
Out of Bounds
stomach so the sun could dry her back. The same suv came down the street again, but Bethany ignored it and put one cheek to the cool grass. The vehicle stopped in front of her house and the driver put one elbow out the open window and leaned his head toward her. “Hot day, hey?” Bethany did not answer. She pretended she didn’t hear him. “Could you help me?” the man asked. “Do you know where Dolphin Lane is?” She took her time, but pushed herself up off the ground and squinted at him. “Yes.” “Which way is it?”
( Bethany walked to the edge of the yard, closer to the man in the suv, and glared down the street. ) “It is down there. I can ask my mom if you don’t believe me.” “No, no that’s ok. I believe you. I just thought you could help.” Bethany looked down at her feet. “ok. I’ll show you, but I need my shoes first.”
Bethany shut one eye and looked at him suspiciously. He had blonde hair like her and his skin looked like he worked outside a lot, or was just dirty. “At the end of this road.” She pointed in the direction he came from.
“Hop in. We’ll just drive over, you can point it out, and I’ll bring you right back.”
“I just came from there. I didn’t see it,” the man said. He leaned further out the window and tried to lock his green eyes with hers.
“You can sit in the front,” he said.
“It’s right there.” She pointed again. “My friend Melanie lives on that street.” “Are you sure?” “Yes. I go there all the time,” she answered. “Just turn around and go back that way.” “I promise you, I was just there,” he said. “Could you show me? I couldn’t find it.”
She looked down at her fingers and picked the dirt from under her nails. Without looking up she said, “You can probably even see it from here.”
Bethany stared at her toes.
“Charge!” hoarse voices yelled as a crowd of boys rushed through the gate, Super Soakers aimlessly spraying into the air. Bethany ran to the other side of the suv for cover and she crept around the corner to watch the chaos. Bethany’s mother came running after the boys, her thick brunette hair escaping from her ponytail elastic. “Everyone to the backyard please! The front yard is out of bounds.” She looked out over the crowd of kids and saw
the suv. Her gaze was locked on the driver. The boys kept spraying each other, not listening. “Kids. Backyard. Now.” She pointed behind her, gaze unflinching. All the boys lowered their weapons and filed obediently through the gate.
up at the sky. “I don’t even know who you are anymore.” Bethany walked around the back of the suv, hoping they wouldn’t see her, and headed straight for the gate, but barely made it onto the lawn before her mother saw her. “Bethy, what are you doing out here?”
She waited until it shut before walking up to the driver.
Bethany stopped in her tracks and turned to her mother. Her mother looked at the man she called Neil.
“Neil,” she said, “What are you doing?”
“Leave. Now,” she said as her blue eyes blurred with tears.
“It’s his birthday, Shannon,” the man said.
Neil put his hand on the key in the ignition and leaned his forehead against the steering wheel.
“How long have you been here?” “Not long.” “You need to leave. Now.” “Shannon, please.” “You chose this. I didn’t want it to be like this, but it is.” “I wasn’t thinking, ok? Please, can I see him?” “No.” “Well. Can you give him this for me?” He turned to the passenger seat. “No. I’m not giving him anything from you. He’s fine without you. We’re all fine without you.” He held a gift bag in his lap and looked into it. “Neil, please go. You can’t just show up,” she said. “They have a stable life. We have a stable life.” Shannon looked
Shannon knelt next to her daughter and hugged her. She faced Neil and waited. The vehicle started. She watched him leave, staring down his license plate as he drove away. Once he disappeared, she released Bethany. “Did that man talk to you?” she asked. “Do you know him?” “If he comes back, you don’t talk to him. ok? You come and get me right away.” “Are we having cake soon?” Bethany’s green eyes looked up at her mother. “Yes, I was pulling it out of the freezer when the boys ran to the front yard.” She took Bethany’s hand in one of hers, and locked the gate behind her with the other. There would be no more invasions. ( )
MINISTRY Jannine Grant
(jules is late for work at the Child Save Ministry. Her boss marcus is waiting for her by the elevator as she gets out. Elevator muzak plays as doors open.) MARCUS: JULES: MARCUS: JULES: MARCUS: JULES: MARCUS: JULES:
Gotcha! According to my calculations you are 14 minutes late. What the—Sorry Marcus, but you scared me, lurking by the elevator. You’re like a boss/stalker. Stalking is a very serious allegation Jules. Joke, Marcus. That was a joke. Boss/stalker is like a job category, get it? Are you on drugs Jules? I mean prescription of course. If you need an accommodation, I will put you in contact with the Human Rights Office. No thanks Marcus, I’m fine. (under breath) I’m just a little hungover. Good, I will see you in my office in five minutes, seeing as it is Monday. I have a new case to assign you. Yes boss. (Moments later jules knocks on marcus’ office door.)
You may enter. (jules opens door. marcus is standing sharpening a pencil at his desk. They both sit down.)
JULES: MARCUS: JULES: MARCUS: JULES: MARCUS:
ok, tell me who it is. File number 90567—Jackson Bruce, a 14-year-old. Served time in Burnsdale Youth Detention Centre for trafficking e-tabs. Released last week. His mother can’t handle him and wants him on the youth allowance program so he can live on his own. She has a prior for possession of firearms and restricted animals. His father od’d two years ago. Poor kid! Sorry, can’t do it. Too complex for my workload. Are you filing a workload grievance? Really Marcus? You know that does nothing. I insist you take this case Jules. We need good numbers for the annual report and I know you’re the one to get them, just don’t tell me how or I’ll have to file an incident report. (Under breath) Are you on drugs Marcus? Because if you aren’t, I think you should be. Ha! ok, great. Here’s the file. You may go now.
Rainbow Falcon Erinn Sturgeon
(jules takes the file, gets in the elevator, same muzak playing. jules leaves the building on the first floor, walks to the parking lot, and gets into her car, starts the engine and the radio comes on.) RADIO ANNOUNCER:
Another tragic death occurred this weekend in Burnsdale. Charlie Grant was a youth in the care of Child Save Ministry and his death has invited many questions from families entrusting their children to government care. (jules stares out the window for a few seconds, then changes radio station to a pop song with happy lyrics and starts humming along.) (jules arrives at a nightclub, live rock band playing. The lead singer is screaming into the microphone while members of the audience hoot. She sees her boyfriend tyler at the bar and joins him.)
NIGHTCLUB ANNOUNCER: JACKSON:
Welcome to Shooters. Tonight features the music of Boyz Toyz followed by an open stage for aspiring rockers. ok, next up is Jackson Bruce performing his original song Give a Little. (Singing and playing acoustic guitar) “Just give a little. You just gotta give me a chance. In time, you’ll see what makes a lotta sense to me. To get a little bit of me, you gotta take it easy on me, and I’ll take it easy on you.” (Audience cheers and claps.)
(Clapping) Wow, that kid has talent! (Grabbing her from behind) Hey babe, let’s go to outside for a smoke. (jules and tyler step outside.)
TYLER: JULES: TYLER: JULES: TYLER: JULES: TYLER: JULES:
So, you wanted to talk, about…? I’m pregnant. No way. We took precautions. We’ve been taking precautions for two years, nothing is 100%. Babies just happen. That sounds like shit you’d say to clients. Are you sure it’s mine? Who else? You spend a lot of time at work! Yeah, well someone has to make money. Marcus? You think I’d screw my boss? Fuck you! (tyler glares at jules, shoves her hard and storms off.) (jackson walks into the smoking area after seeing jules get pushed)
JACKSON: JULES: JACKSON: JULES:
Are you ok? Did he hurt you? Want me to call the cops? No, cops won’t help. Yeah, same here. The cops and social workers say they wanna help but…. But they can’t fix what’s broken—a broken home, a broken family.
Hallucinate Sierra Mimeault
A broken heart. I’m Jackson Bruce, by the way. Jules Landry. I heard your song. You have a great voice and your lyrics really ring true.
Thanks. I guess writing songs gives me the freedom to say what’s otherwise too hard.
Kind of ironic, you feel safer sharing your stuff with total strangers than with friends or family.
JACKSON: JULES: JACKSON: JULES: JACKSON: JULES/JACKSON: JULES:
I guess, but if you knew how screwed up my family is you would get it. As for friends, they don’t always stick around. Yes, sometimes an audience of strangers listen more intently than those supposed to love us. Hey, you sound like a shrink, or a social worker. Guilty as charged! I am a social worker. Even more ironically, given how we met, I am your social worker (extending her hand). (shakes Jules’ hand) You’re a social worker who needs… (in unison) a social worker. I need to get out of here. (jules walks away from the nightclub. jackson follows carrying his guitar case.)
JACKSON: JULES: JACKSON:
Hey! Wait up. I’ll walk you home. Home? I’m not going home. I need to clear my head. Yeah, me too. (jules and jackson walk until they find a park nearby and sit on a bench.)
Sorry for running off like that. It’s embarrassing. I’m supposed to have my life together—and now I have a baby on the way. (jules rubs her small baby bump.)
JACKSON: JULES: JACKSON:
Are you keeping it? Her. I’m keeping her. I had a scan already. So, you know. Do you have a name picked out yet? (jules shakes her head.)
JACKSON: JULES: JACKSON: JULES:
Hey, how about Jackie, the girl version of Jackson. Too close—one of you is enough. (Smiles) I suppose you can’t find me a foster mom either. I know, I’m the wrong colour. I will try—I’m not giving up on you. (Police siren and flashing light. cop approaches the bench from stage right. cop looks at jules, holding notepad, points pencil at jackson.)
Evening Ma’am. Is he bothering you? Oh, no. Not at all. (cop flips open notepad, squints at jackson, smacks chewing gum.)
What’s your name and address, Son? I’m not your son. What’s your name and badge number? (cop flips notebook closed, points pencil at jackson.)
That’s it. We’ll get your details down at the station if that’s the way you want to play it. Hold on, this is escalating needlessly. Everyone stop and take a deep breath. (cop flips open notebook, points pencil at jules.)
Your name and address please, Ma’am. (jules stands up, motions to cop to follow her a few steps away from the park bench.)
Help me out here. This kid is on my caseload. I’m his social worker. I’ll take responsibility for him. ok, Ma’am. He’s your problem now. (cop blows his bubble gum, pops it, and walks away. jackson takes his guitar out of the case and strums softly.)
JACKSON: JULES: JACKSON: JULES: JACKSON: JULES: JACKSON: JULES: JACKSON:
Hey, thanks for getting that cop off my back. Does that happen a lot, getting hassled like that? Yeah, apparently I’m the type. Don’t I look like trouble to you? I’ve seen worse. Much worse. Jackson, from what I’ve seen tonight you’re a smart, sensitive, and talented kid who has had some tough breaks. I read your file. Oh yeah, the file. You got my case number. I know—it is dehumanizing—but we have so many youth under the protection of the Ministry that we need a tracking system. Oh God, I sound like Marcus. Who’s Marcus? My boss. Mr. Marcus Smythe. Mr. Stats. (Singing) Oh yeah wait a minute Mr. Statsman, wait and see. Mr. Staaaatsman, you can’t put a number on me. (Sings and strums guitar to the tune of The Marvelettes 1961 song Please Mr. Postman. jules and jackson laugh.)
fade to black ( )
BUTTERFLY WINGS Kain Stewart
Mr. _____ is too tall for the hospital bed; when I deliver his dinner, his feet hang off the edge. I place a bowl of Irish stew on his tray, set a spoon in his arthritic hand. He talks of his day while I inspect fluids that flow in and out of protruded veins. I sit in an empty chair at the foot of his bed; Mr. _____ wonâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t eat without company. Between mouthfuls of potatoes and peas he says his grandchildren will visit soon. Each night he says the same. Each night his feet dangle over the edge. Tonight, he wears a pair of lilac socks. His heels touch one anotherâ&#x20AC;&#x201D; wings of a butterfly waiting to fly.
Veiled Jade Vandergrift
off the translucent flesh of the corpse as they haul it aground through the reeds and mud. It’s Kassie, nude except for the trail of flowers tattooed up her left arm. They place her on a tattered blue tarp snatched from the back of a pick-up truck, her lean body laid out for all to view, the inexperienced deputies unsure what to do next. rops of lake water trickle
Barren Lake is a quiet town for retirees, former teachers, loggers, and truck drivers. Now they are all drawn to the shoreline in their gumboots. The early morning crackle of the police scanner alerted the deputies and soon everyone knew. They huddle together, shoulder to shoulder as their whispers fade into the dense fog hovering above the lake. Some stand alone, fists plunged deep in pockets. Only a few raise their heads when I muck through the sodden grass to join them. Diana is one of them. The rain pelts her green Sheriff’s jacket. Strands of blonde hair stick to her forehead and cheekbones. There’s an uncomfortable distance between her and the body; a repulsion. Her eyes find their way to me. Only then do I see the familiar swelling, the redness, the vibrancy that comes to blue irises when tears are shed. It’s not what I expect from Diana. There’s a tug on the sleeve of my jacket and raindrops cascade from the seams of my black umbrella as I turn to Margaret pinching the fabric between her pruned fingers. Today her hair is permed apricot and tucked neatly beneath a plastic bonnet tied under her chin. She frequents the library on the same days I do. “Jane? Who is it?” she asks. My name is Jillian, but I answer her anyway. “I think it’s the coffee shop girl.” “Kassie?” The name is mournful. “Oh no. Her mother will be devastated.”
I’m sure she will be. The mothers always are. As I turn to leave, Diana’s gaze says later tonight she will knock on the door of the house I rent on Cypress Street. This is our arrangement. The house reeks of mildew and old cigar thanks to Tom, the now absent landlord. I burn cinnamon candles when I’m home. As I only go to the library, grocery store, and coffee shop where Kassie worked, I burn through quite a few. Cypress Street is a short uphill walk from the crime scene. I open the dilapidated gate to the garden and head for the rear entrance. The floor creaks as I step into the kitchen from outside and flick on the yellowed lights, years of dead insects encased in glass. I slip out of my leather boots and place them on the shoe rack by the door. There’s a muddy imprint where Diana’s shoes lay earlier this morning. We met two months ago, on a trail behind the fire hall. She was out of uniform, in a thick flannel coat. Her golden retriever ran off leash, ducking in and out of the trees before barrelling back onto the path. She pegged me as a visitor and offered a tour of the town. “Barren Lake’s not usually a place people move to. It’s one they leave,” Diana said as we veered off the trail, up a smaller path and onto the cracked asphalt of Main Street. “I like small towns,” I replied.
( “People think they know their neighbours. But they don’t.” ) I let the contemplative silence rest for a moment. Then I asked, “Would you like to come over for dinner?” We opted for chocolate chip cookies and tea in front of my fireplace instead. We sat on either end of the loveseat. She told me about being a female police officer in a small town and I told her I thought she was brave. Her eyes took in my features and I could tell she wanted me. Reststop Natasha Rozmarniewich
Daisies and Anemones
Daisies and Anemones
She squared her shoulders to me, and I brushed her arm when she made a joke. She smiled and I smiled back. Her blue irises begged me closer. I shuffled in and placed a gentle hand on her thigh. Her hand fell on mine and she squeezed it.
“I didn’t know that.” The words hang in the air as I rub her back in comfort.
“Nobody can know.”
I bunch the quilt up over my body as the night’s cool air drafts through the single-pane windows. “Were you close?”
“Nobody has to.” Since that first encounter, we’ve made a weekly habit of it. I expect her to arrive soon and I put the kettle on the gas stove then ignite the flame. Rain pelts the tin roof as I strip off my wet socks and clothes, and head upstairs. In the guest bedroom, I shimmy into black leggings, a dry T-shirt, and an old college sweatshirt. The daisy necklace falls from its pouch and clunks onto the hardwood floor. I scoop it up and run my fingertips over the silver petals that dangle from the heavy chain. The morning I arrived in Barren Lake, I visited Lakeside Coffee House for the first time. Kassie was behind the counter, dusting the white topping of a steaming drink with cinnamon. She had a natural beauty that hinted at Mediterranean heritage in her olive skin and sharp features. Her hair was dark, the bridge of her nose freckled. She greeted me with a smile, then served me Earl Grey. When I went back a few days later she told me she used to rent the house I had just leased. “Watch out for Tom,” she said. “I’m glad I’m out of there.” The scream of the kettle reminds me to grab a mug and I drop in a sachet of chamomile. Kassie said herbal tea is great for soothing and relaxing. I cut the heat to the burner, pour the scalding water into my cup, and wait in the living room for Diana. As the last light disappears behind the mountain range to the west, Diana knocks on the door. I see her through the windowpane before I turn the deadbolt. Exhaustion seeps from her pores. She comes inside and I hang her jacket on the hook above the shoe rack. She kisses me all the way up the stairs and into the hot stream of the shower. The bed is covered with a pink quilt. Diana’s skin still tastes of lavender soap. The numbers on the clock tick over and I weave my fingers through her hair, holding her against me. She begins to weep. “She was my cousin.” My body involuntarily jerks. “Kassie?” She nods against my chest.
Not long after the sobbing stops Diana rolls off of me and begins to dress, her movements fragmented.
“We used to be,” she says. “When we were kids. I went to college so I could join the Sheriff’s Office, and she went hitchhiking across the country. She always wanted what she couldn’t have, hated hearing the word ‘no.’ I just figured she’d taken off again. I didn’t think….” “I’m sorry.” Diana pulls her jeans up over her thighs and fastens the button, tucks in her shirt, grabs her coat, then leaves.
( I slide farther beneath the quilt, remembering how Kassie showed off the flowers on her arm over tea the week before. ) Daisies and anemones, she had called them. She kept a vase of imitation flowers on the counter of the coffee shop, next to the tip jar. Real ones died too quickly. The streets are empty when I open the curtains. Frost coats the lawn and treetops, and the driveway glistens with last night’s rain. On Main Street everything is closed except the grocery store. I pick up some fresh buns and chocolate chip cookies. The aisles are quiet, the cashiers somber. One girl sobs behind her till. “Everyone knows everyone here,” says the older woman scanning my groceries. “I don’t know how anyone could murder one of our own.” Flowers line the sidewalk outside the Lakeside Coffee House. Photographs of Kassie have been taped to the windows, love notes too. The bells of St. Catherine’s and the United Church ring across town, almost in unison. Diana’s suv pulls up. She reaches across the console and opens the passenger door. We drive for 20 minutes down a logging road behind Barren Lake. Diana says nothing and has the police radio turned off. We take a side road and park in front of a rusty, padlocked gate. I wait for her to compose her
thoughts. Her sleeves are pushed up and the soft hairs on her forearms stand tall. She nibbles at a fingernail, shifts and fidgets in her seat. “Kassie was murdered, wasn’t she?” Diana reaches across and opens the glove compartment. She removes a file folder and begins to flip through the pages inside.
( I watch her eyes scan the documents, see the change in her breathing as she lands on Kassie’s autopsy photo. ) My own heart’s rhythm mimics hers. “Yeah,” she says. “They found ligature marks around her neck. Figure she was strangled.” I glance at the photo again and notice the red marker circling the obvious bruising on Kassie’s neck and chest. “Should you even have these?” Her face hardens. “I have a right to know. Even if I can’t work the case.” “Why would someone kill Kassie?” I ask. “Everyone seems to love her.” “Not everyone. Any idea where your piece-of-shit landlord might be?” I know where he is, but I don’t tell her. She takes us back into town and drops me off at the end of my driveway before church lets out. I dash past the freshly tilled garden and into the house. I rush up the stairs and empty the dresser drawers and the bathroom of my personal effects and shove them into my suitcase. Outside, his grave mocks me. Kassie didn’t believe me when I told her it was an accident, said her cousin was a cop. Diana is supposed to come for pot roast tonight. When she arrives, she’ll find the daisy necklace she gave Kassie for Christmas laying on the oak dresser. I thought she’d want it back. ( )
Highway To Atlantis Kiara Strijack
WE SOUTHENDERS Miles Hayes
Let’s walk down Commercial, Nicol, and Hali, the brisk night air energizing two queer kids heading home on the wrong side of the tracks. We’re southenders, We’re rough kids. Let’s roam the aisles of Value Village buying boys’ sweaters, pants, a discount Bowie album— affirming we can purchase gender off a rack. Let’s sink into that worn back seat, laugh along as the cab driver takes our addresses, says “Shit part of town.” Let’s lurk at the Princess Royal, listen intently to lectures on sti prevention over chickpeas and yoga. Let’s steal a flipbook on condoms, pamphlets on how gay trans guys fuck—
Let’s relive that night we ran through the gentrified playground, lost in a marijuana haze as we danced in the dark. Let’s collapse stoned on the grass as you tell me about your boyfriend, a prick Dover Bay cis boy, and how he hurt you. I said I’d kick his ass if he ever came down to this end of town. Let’s calm down you said, agreeing cis boys ain’t shit and t4t is the way a transsexual’s got to be. Let’s smoke in the parking lot of the school that never gave a damn, that tried to hurry us through to avoid the threat our bodies posed. Let’s stay— we can’t shake this part of town no matter what— we’re southenders, we’re rough kids.
Sonder Natasha Rozmarniewich
C’EST LA VIE Tessa Bunz
over rolling green hills. The tiny pink and blue pegs that occupy the front seats of the vehicles obediently take turns following the predetermined path toward happy retirement. rightly coloured minivans are scattered
Since Kindergarten, we’ve said goodbye to summer by sitting around Vi’s dining room table playing games and eating junk food. It’s the night before freshman year, high school is only a sunrise away, and here we all are. The idyllic order of The Game of Life is surrounded by our teenage chaos; chips, candies, and soda are scattered on the table, readily tossed into mouths not otherwise occupied with chatter and banter. Caleb picks up a Life card and reads it out.
There are groans around the table. Erica throws a barrage of skittles at Jaxon, but he defends himself by shovelling them into his mouth proudly. The image of Vi “getting cozy” at the movies is ludicrous. I’m about to laugh until Vi looks at me with a mix of worry and apology in her eyes. “Leave her alone, man.” Caleb takes his turn. His cheeks are also red.
Under the table I tap out a text, each letter buzzing gently under my thumbs.
My stomach flips. I have one hand hovering over the wheel, about to begin my turn. My phone vibrates, still clutched in my lap.
A playful elbow nudges me. “Your turn.”
“Uhm—just skip my turn guys.”
The rainbow on the wheel blurs as I spin my fate. My phone buzzes as my own minivan—yellow—drives to its next stop. A blue and a pink peg sit primly in the front seat. “Ugh, property taxes.” Everyone laughs and Erica spins her turn.
( She gives birth and is rewarded with a little blue peg to place in the back seat of her minivan. )
“My brother said you were getting pret-ty cozy at the movies,” Jaxon continues, spinning the wheel. He makes kissy noises for the duration of his turn, moving his van forward.
Sweat is condensing between my phone and my palm. It’s dark in Vi’s closet, but it’s the only place that feels safe. I couldn’t think of anywhere else to go when I left the dining room; I didn’t want Vi’s mom to ask me what was wrong, and I didn’t want to go home, where my mom would do the same. When we were kids, Vi and I escaped the world in this hideaway.
Vi looks up from her phone, smiling, and moves to begin her turn.
We had so many memories here. In the dim light that leaks in through the crack under the door I can make out the edges of our old drawings, still taped to the wall. My fingers caress the relics of crayon and paper. I feel the wax on the page, trying to decipher each image through touch alone. Vi’s texts are left unanswered on my screen; I can explain! Where did you go? Come back. We’ll talk later.
“Who’re you texting Vi? Your boyfriend?” Jaxon teases.
If this closet feels safe, why am I still suffocating?
She rolls her eyes at him and intones a mocking “hawhaw” as she pushes her own van farther up the road, cheeks a searing red.
A single tap on the door. I tap back. Vi’s face appears amid a cascade of light from the room behind her. As soon as she sees me, she starts to cry.
“Get in here, you loser.” My voice cracks as I tug at her skirt. She closes the door and sits down between my legs, her back resting against my chest. My arms easily fold around her shoulders and she clutches at one of my hands with both of hers. I can feel the wet of her face on my arm. “So, Caleb? Really?” She sits up and looks at me over her shoulder. “How did you—?” “Oh, please.” Leaning back into me she rubs her hands over her face. “I just wanted to know what it was like to go on an actual date—not that I’m sure it was a date.” Her hands are back on mine, her fingers worrying the skin between my thumb and forefinger. “Harsh.” I pull my hand away and run it through my hair, clutching my scalp. “Do you…. I guess we’re done then.” “I don’t know.” Vi shifts away. She is kneeling now, facing me. “I like Caleb. He’s nice. Going out with him was boring, but it was easy, y’know?” “Hey, I thought I was pretty easy.” She shoves me. “You know what I mean.” “You’re not ready.” A crease forms between her eyebrows. I press my thumb into it. She laughs, a sob burbling out as she does.
( Grabbing my hand, she pulls it away from her brow and down to her lips. ) “I know we had this plan,” she mumbles into my fingers. “We were going to come out together. Be together.” “It’s ok.” I am the last one to go home. Vi hugs me goodbye and presses something into my hand. “See you at school tomorrow,” she says, waving from the doorway as I head toward the sidewalk. I wait to turn the corner before I tearily unfurl my palm to reveal the yellow minivan, two pink pegs nestled behind the wheel. ( )
Beam of Light Catherine Arnold
GASOLINE HEAVEN Aaron Koch
In the flush of August, I found you in my driveway, arms draped like fallen timber over your steering wheel. Your eyes were trained on my door, waiting for me to emerge like a spark in search of the wild. Friction, the language of summer, is your mother tongue. We drive in the aimless blue-orange of dying twilight, our faces showered with shadows as we pass. There are brief moments of white-hot clarity and brilliance, streetlight flames that lick our faces and then fade. We stop for fuel and I watch you stand with spout in hand. I inhale your gasoline scent. You linger in the air like a solvent, dissolving the tinder at my core. This tenuous paradise between us is fragile, new, and bathed in diesel. Iâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;m tied to a pyre, helpless to watch, as you light a match. I wait for you to snuff that thin flame in your hand, or throw the torch. Either way, Iâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;m immolated for you, and you only.
Rural Heaven Miles Boulton
he stood, unmoving, among the
trees, but the world would not let her be still. The wind twirled the ends of her red hair in a lazy dance. Her lips quivered unconsciously in the sharp November cold.
Her friends nudged her from behind. The boy she liked made a crude joke about the cold and blue balls, the words spitting from the soft bow of his lips. She had a moment of doubt until he smiled at her and her heart flipped. She would do this. She stepped forward and guided the group toward the clearing. It felt like years had passed since she’d last walked this way, though it had only been a few months. Her hair flamed behind her, a flash of autumn the bare winter trees remembered. For 15 years the forest had watched her grow. It had rustled concern when she skinned her knees trying to scramble to the highest branches, and waved joyously when she reached the top. It had dropped its most delicate leaves in her path to be collected every fall and unfurled tiny vermillion buds each spring. She had been nine when she found the clearing and dragged the forgotten branches from hidden corners of the wood, collected fallen pine boughs, and built a shelter from these discarded limbs. The trees loved her for that.
( Now she led these near strangers into the very centre of her private world. )
and the words burned her tongue, but the boy laughed, the sound echoing across the still night. He tilted his head back in a way that made his teeth glint in the light of the moon. He pulled off the first branch. Now that the spell had been broken, the others surged forward and began dismantling the structure, chattering excitedly. She joined them, nervous and elated to be involved for once; she did not try to block their reckless advances. The wind howled mournfully. The red woolen mittens her great aunt had made her last Christmas snagged on a spear of holly and were caked in wet, sticky snow. She peeled them off and laid them on a nearby log. When she looked up, the destruction was complete. The fingers that had scrabbled over the branches of her tree house were bright red and numb; she rubbed her palms together like she could start fire with just her hands. The boy winked at his friends and sauntered over to her. He took her hands between his and exhaled hot breath over them. The other girls eyed her meaningfully, grinning, and she fought the urge to recoil. His breath seared her skin. He had started the fire to keep them warm, he said. She and the trees watched as they fed the pyre with the remains of her hideaway.
She thought that sharing this part of her might bring them closer; make them understand her, like her even. She was too old to play alone in the woods.
A girl passed around a half mickey of vodka pilfered from her older brother. She felt the same flames within as the drink fuelled rather than smothered her regret. She said a silent goodbye to her once-safe fortress and swallowed her tears with another swig.
He was the first one to approach the little tree house. Her stomach lurched—too close. The forest held its breath. She made a disparaging remark about “that old shack”
The fire quickly melted a ring in the snow and puddles soaked through their boots and socks. They were getting restless and cold, the excitement of their nighttime
venture wearing off. With liquor in their veins, the others retreated along the path.
( He reached for her handâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;it was like being touched by a corpseâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;but she let him anyway. ) She smelled the smoke first. It burned the back of her throat and pricked her eyes with tears. Then she saw the fire and her throat burned with the resurgence of vodka as she was sick. One of the girls yelled something unintelligible and chaos reigned as people scrambled for their phones. These were not the gently curling flames of a crackling campfire. This was angry, unconfined, and wholly destructive. She watched in horror as the fire engulfed the tree limbs, destroying everything in its path. The forest screamed, popping, hissing, and spitting embers at her feet. When the firefighters eventually arrived to extinguish her mistake they shuffled the onlookers taking videos behind a barrier. By then he had let go of her hand and stopped trying to shake her into compliance. She sat in the wet snow, surrounded by smouldering bits of charred forest, and did not wipe away her tears. At that moment she was the trees, and the tree house, and the fire, and then nothing. ( )
Crimson Chantelle Calitz
NEST Dave Flawse
Step into the forest … Breathe the loamy aroma of fallen leaves turned fertile, an earthy fragrance pushed deep, embraced by burled roots. Feel the warmth of the sun’s rhythmic pulses carried by breezes into whispering branches fat with seeds. Spot the eagles’ tender talons clinging to an aerie padded with soft curled moss, a womb to lives yet unlived. Hear their call —chattering song sired on far-off branches and fed through the ages beak to beak. Watch them soar a relentless spiral above a landscape hugged by streams and curved sprouting trunks bearing the fruit of tidal blooms.
the Prairies, a place where winter temperatures are often colder than Siberia. I was afraid of everything as a child: getting frostbitten toes, swimming in the deep end of the pool, cats in heat. I didn’t learn how to ride a bike until I was 10. I was fearful of choking on the pale sharp bones in fish. “Careful of the bones!” my mother warned me. Fear always held me back. Yet, somehow, I found the courage to apply for a job as a tree planter in northern bc.
was born and raised on
An ad on a bulletin board at the University of Winnipeg read: tree planters wanted in northern bc. I furtively ripped off the tab with the number on it and stuffed it into my pocket. Later that night, I sat on my Russian grandmother’s (Baba) plush red velvet couch and dialed the number. The owner of Mudslide answered, and then spent 45 minutes drilling me while I did my best to convince her I was the perfect person for the job. I fidgeted with the gold tassels on Baba’s lamp, the base in the shape of a Spanish flamenco dancer. She tried to warn me of the hardships: “It’s physically demanding. You need to be on your feet 10 hours a day.” I told her it sounded wonderful. I got the job. I started tree planting in the middle of April, days after graduating with a degree in Environmental Studies. In school I had learned about morality and theory and I picked up the phrase “victim of the sensual pleasures.” I would pull this out at parties to impress my friends while we were hot-knifing hash over someone’s electric stove.
( I would put the back of my hand to my forehead and say, “Oh, I can’t help myself. I am a victim of the sensual pleasures.” ) When our mother had died of ovarian cancer, my 16-yearold sister, Kristin, and I had moved in with Baba. We couldn’t bear to live in the same house with our stepfather. Our biological father lived in Edmonton, too enmeshed in his own addictions to be of much help. Baba moved down Peaceful Civilization Kirsten Reedel
the hall into the guest room so Kristin and I could share her larger bedroom. Every night we would fall asleep on her waterbed to the voice of Daniel Lavoie singing soulful French songs on a cassette. We had to hang onto the wooden sides of the bed to keep our bodies from rolling into each other. To cheer ourselves up, we fantasized about getting an apartment and a kitten; I would support her with my waitressing tips while she finished high school. I worked a lucrative job at a popular bar called The Marble Club. I served Sex on the Beach and Slippery Nipples in a smoky room until 2:00 am. I made enough in one month to pay for my whole year’s tuition. It was 1989. I went out dancing to the same kinds of clubs on my nights off, wearing pink-fringed cowboy boots. When drunk enough, I would admit out loud that what I really wanted was to live on a farm and make my own soap. My friends would look at me, incredulous, and laugh it off, but deep down I craved a rugged life. I said goodbye to Kristin on a cool day in April, promising to return with tons of money. After a three-day bone-rattling bus trip across the country, I arrived at the parking lot in Prince George, my huge backpack at my feet as I nervously looked around at the odd assortment of men and women sporting work boots with red striped wool socks folded over the top. We piled into trucks called Crummies and were driven to a logging camp about 50 km away. We were assigned small rooms in long trailers with army-style cots. Camp cost $18 a day and included three huge meals. Tree planters are a different breed of people. There were a lot of French-Canadians: swarthy men in red bandanas with strong jawlines, mirrors of the Zig-Zag icon of roll-your-own tobacco. They played hacky sack with tiny colourful bean bags, lit cigarettes dangling precariously from their lips. I was drawn to their wild freedom.
Careful of the Bones
On the first day, Carol, our crew boss, strapped a white vinyl planting bag on my shoulders and showed me how to use the shovel I had purchased the day before. I wore my new heavy-duty cork boots with spiked soles so I could jump from log to log while planting up steep mountainsides. All the newbies went with Carol. She drove us up to a cut block, a vast tract of land that had been logged with the debris burned into what looked like an impenetrable layer. This was called slashand-burn. We were instructed to put the small seedlings in our bags into moss to keep them cool. We were taught to walk in a rhythm: walk walk walk, screef screef. Screefing was the word for digging duff until you found actual soil. You then sliced the earth with your shovel, plopped in the tree, and stomped the dirt around the hole. You repeated this until they picked you up eight hours later. I was a slow learner. At 18 cents a tree, I would have to plant a lot to cover camp costs and pay for my equipment. Some days I only planted 300 trees. It took me a few years to get up to 800 trees, but I was never a “high baller,” planting 1000 trees a day. I was too careful, too worried my little trees would get kinked “j roots” if I didn’t tend to them. My desire to create and nurture a new forest was not the right mindset for making money. Mornings I woke up with my hands clenched, bones bruised. This was known as “planter’s claw,” the painful result of clutching the shovel’s wooden handle all day. Before heading out, I ate a bowlful
Fog Traveller Kiara Strijack
of oatmeal with sweet canned peaches and packed a lunch from a table piled high with fixings. I was vegetarian and ate hummus and pickle sandwiches on the move, to escape the relentless mobs of mosquitoes. At the cut block, I was alone. I savoured the cool morning air, breathing it in deeply. I clipped my yellow Sony Walkman to my planting bag, put in my earphones, and turned up Vivaldi’s Four Seasons. The energetic sawing of the violins seemed like the perfect background for striding over logs and planting trees. Each day I felt stronger. I savoured the isolation. I allowed myself the time for quiet contemplation to ponder my mother’s death while working alone on the side of a mountain, breathing in the fragrant scent of crushed roots. It took a moose thundering past me—too stunned to move, my sandwich in mid-air—to shake me from my reverie. Each night we were driven to the logging camp for a shower and dinner. At 8:00 pm, I crawled into my sleeping bag exhausted, too tired to think about the death of my mother, or Kristin waiting at home. Slowly, I got to know the crew and all their foibles, particularly the men. A tall French-Canadian ate mushrooms hoping for a psychedelic experience, but instead spent the day vomiting. A number of the crew members were fresh out of jail. Clearly, they would take anyone; I was a cocktail waitress from Winnipeg. Jakob was a small dark-haired Hungarian who had recently been released from jail only to learn he had cancer. His face was round and childlike, and he sang and danced until he passed out. Sometimes he was unable to get up for work. He found a tribe of caring people in our unlikely assortment. He had bad eyesight and no money for glasses, so the crew boss had to mark his whole section of the cut block with neon yellow flagging tape to help him space his trees properly. His gentle nature compelled people to protect him. We all had copies of Screef magazine, which held contests inviting us to enter our best bear stories for $50. At the back of the magazine there was a list of all the planting companies listed in alphabetical order: Cariboo, Evergreen, Golden Spruce, Green Trees, Hawkeye, Nechako, Nu Growth, Roots, Silvaram, Silverado, Summit, and Zanzibar to name a few. Most were run out of Prince George. Mudslide was quite large and well run, except for the time they left a couple of English girls on the planting block with a grizzly. No one noticed they were missing until
a few hours after dinner. We drove back to the planting block and were relieved to find them hiding under a tarp, chain-smoking cigarettes and singing. We had a short break after the spring plant and then we moved to a site near McBride, bc for a summer plant. I pitched my tent on the side of a hill. Another woman took out the seats of her vw to sleep comfortably with her dog. She loaned me books by Leon Rooke. I read Shakespeare’s Dog and Fat Woman at night by flashlight.
( After a long hot day of planting we waited in line for our turn in the shower tent. This is where I met the man who would father my children. ) He was fishing for a scrap of muddy soap someone had dropped beneath the slats of wood. I could see his pale naked backside—I turned my head away in disgust. Years later we would tell our daughters this story around the dinner table and laugh. At the time, Rick did not look like someone who would change the entire course of my life. He drove an orange vw van with a picture of a scowling Sid Vicious taped to the window. “This is my off season,” he explained, “I’m an urchin diver.” I had no idea what an urchin diver did. He had a little kitten the colour of toffee that climbed up his arm as he drove. He called it Screefer. Later, I would learn it was Rick’s nature to rescue. He would bring home arthritic kittens and pathetic dogs and I would be left in charge of them, along with squalling children, while he was away diving. When planting was over, Rick offered to drive me to Edmonton to visit my father. We kept in touch by postcard and letter and the odd phone call. Back in Winnipeg, my sister had poison ivy thanks to being a camp counsellor, so I made her wrap herself in a sheet before we inevitably touched in the dent of the waterbed. We needed our own apartment. I got a job at a nightclub to add to my savings and we made the move. Two years later I returned to tree planting. This time I drove shotgun in Rick’s vw van, not Screefer. I realized I was drawn to the kind of people who take risks, who find solace in the outdoors, joy in a crowded star-filled sky, and aren’t afraid of a fish full of bones. Now, I am one of those people. ( )
BOOK REVIEWS boss, Wally, admits his name is “short for Walrus.” The story’s structure is a circular play on Orbits’ name, returning to his retirement as a politician, the novel’s opening scenes, only after revisiting his youth and moving forward to end where he began. This career choice comes after many quirkier roles in numbing office jobs where his study of meteorology impresses with weather predictions he gleaned from the radio reports.
Fatboy Fall Down Rabindranath Maharaj ecw Press, 2019 266 Pages isbn: 978-1770414525 $19.95 Reviewed by Ashley Barill
Fatboy Fall Down presents as a story about a man’s resiliency in the face of traumatic bullying as a child, the title being one of the taunts he endures, but this characteristic is not as pure, and its incidence not as limited, as we might think.
When he is given a job he likes, loses weight, and starts dating his future wife, things look up, but life never goes to plan. Orbits’ younger brother, Starboy, favoured by his parents, commits suicide on the same day Orbit’s daughter is born. In the wake of this tragedy, he struggles to move past sadness and pain, with only fleeting moments of relief and insight. “A year earlier, Orbits had fallen into the habit of counting his footsteps to convince himself he was alive and everything was real; now, he saw all that he has missed and avoided.”
Maharaj’s stream-of-consciousness style for Orbits’ inner monologue is engaging and though there are only text breaks in lieu of chapters, the narrative pace hums. His use of the third-person narrative creates a healthy distance from Orbits’ character, The novel’s main character, Orbits, foreshadowing to build tension or to earns his nickname because, “Boy, summarize: “He felt helpless in his your head always in the cloud. room, his bereft mother in another You have to come down from room, his father gone, his daughter that orbit.…” Orbits’ parents are gone, the storm raging outside. He Mamoose and Papoose, his brother considered his life from the time he Starboy, his wife Teapot, and his had gazed at his mother fretting over daughter Dee, as in chickadee. Friends his younger brother and had assumed include Skullcap, Cascadoo (the name that his life would be one struggle of a fish), Moon, Halligator, Rabbit (a after another.” man with large incisors), Baby Rabbit (Rabbit’s son), and Mona (who Maharaj’s novel is an emotional read, moaned to her parents)—even Orbits’ best completed in one or two sittings,
and demands your full attention. Though Orbits is routine-driven, compartmentalized, and given to drinking too much rum in Trinidad’s pubs to drown his post-divorce sorrows and forget his affair, the pace of the work moves forward on the momentum of Maharaj’s observations and in pursuit of an elusive happiness. Fatboy Fall Down is a sad yet surprisingly inspiring story of a man who is not perfect, not favoured by his family, but soldiers on only to realize the significance of early events with the sobering hindsight of his later years. “He had gone along as he had always done. Throughout his life, he had done nothing, made no effort, showed no determination. His mood matched the fickle storm: he felt within minutes guilt and relief, shame and satisfaction. He fell asleep with these conflicting feelings, but when he awoke the following morning, they had merged into something less oppositional: the idea that he had survived.” The hauntingly beautiful final line alludes to larger human mysteries that often escape us, that: “bigger, more impersonal story to which [Orbits] was still connected.” Maharaj is the award-winning author of: Adjacentland; The Amazing Absorbing Boy, winner of the 2010 Trillium Book Award, the 2011 Toronto Book Award, and voted a CBC Canada Reads Top 10 for Ontario; A Perfect Pledge, a Rogers Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize and Commonwealth Writers’ Prize finalist; The Lagahoo’s Apprentice, a Globe and Mail and Toronto Star Notable Book of the Year; Homer in Flight; The Picture of Nobody; and the short story collections The Book of Ifs and Buts, The Writer and His Wife, and The Interloper, nominated for the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize for Best First Book.
Shut Up You’re Pretty Téa Mutonji vs. Books/Arsenal Pulp Press, 2019 176 Pages isbn: 978-1551527550 $17.95 Reviewed by Veronika B. Kos
unfiltered glimpses of a CongoleseCanadian’s life growing up in the Galloway housing projects of Scarborough. The story collection was a finalist for the 2019 Rogers Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize. Over time, Loli learns about love, heartache, death, grief, and the gnawing need to escape while craving connection with her lovers, her friends, her roommates, and her family. Her strength and sense of self are two constant companions on her journey.
her characters’ experiences. “You go through life being touched. You go through life being looked at, you go through life with an uncle commenting on your breasts, or your brother’s friend giving you a condom for your birthday then denying it, you go through life being called a cunt on public transportation, you go through life being followed at midnight, you go through life being told you’re pretty, you’re pretty, you’re so fucking pretty—it gets complicated.”
In 18 short stories, a young girl transforms over and over again, trying to piece together identities until they amount to a woman in her own right. She learns the implicit constraints of femininity, accepts heartbreak, and lives a life both gritty and real.
Loli’s narration reflects self through her connections with other people. Her actions and ability to see people for who they are allow the reader to understand the nuances of every person with whom she interacts. Loli forges a tenuous relationship after a chance conversation in the waiting room of a women’s clinic. She gives these strangers time and thought, maintaining respect for the women who are there out of desperation. With her friend, she waxes philosophical about the labels men give to women and the responsibility they are expected to bear without complaint.
During her eight months working at a spa with a rotation of women who all have their own stories to tell, she realizes, “We were actually safer working in a place where there were so many of us, and so few of them. But it was the knowledge that we were opening ourselves to that possibility that made us so kind to each other. Every good morning sounded like I’m here if you need me.”
“I was surrounded by women who had been destroyed by their own imprisonment.”
Mutonji effortlessly weaves Loli’s narrative from girlhood to womanhood, exploring both the choices she makes, and the ones that are forced upon her. Mutonji’s characters endure trauma they must normalize as a means of survival. She vividly traces the nuances of feminine social expectations, from admiring a more physically mature and worldly cousin to the impossible beauty of a best friend whose lethal combination of street smarts and desire is enchanting yet dangerous.
Shut Up You’re Pretty, Toronto writer Téa Mutonji’s debut collection of linked short stories, shares raw,
Mutonji’s gritty prose is also peppered with surprising quick-witted humour that offsets the emotion and pain of
Loli finds herself falling for strangers and friends alike, caught up in relationships that are often wretched and unhealthy. Yet Loli lands on her feet; she is always able to find another home, and another love. Loli’s story is a cycle of sorrow, a struggle to stay afloat amid all the misery, but even in the darkest moments, Mutonji shows unwavering humanity as she rebuilds after every loss. Loli’s recklessness still allows for forward motion and the strength to forge her own path. Mutonji’s voice is a unique and powerful addition to Canadian literature, and her debut collection entrances. So shut up and read this book.
Imagine you are sitting above a pool of water you have been looking at your whole life. You think you understand how the water will feel when you jump in. Now, imagine submerging only to realize it is colder, darker, more suffocating, and disorientating than you thought. You emerge from the water with a whole new perspective. Kayla Czaga delivers this raw and honest experience in her sophomore poetry collection Dunk Tank, suspending you above adolescence, plunging you into teen life, and allowing you to emerge as an adult.
Dunk Tank Kayla Czaga House of Anansi, 2019 94 pages isbn: is 978-1487005962 $19.95 Reviewed by Sabrina Mudryk
Much of Czaga’s poetry is bittersweet, at once playful, clever, and strangely dark. Czaga grew up in Kitimat, bc and now resides in Victoria. She is a self-described “smart girl” who has dropped from this safe perch, dunking into the confusion and loneliness of adulthood in a big city only to learn that the pool of people she encounters is not at all what she thought it would be. Dunk Tank is full of black comedy, at once relatable and wise beyond its years. Czaga’s poetry is divided into four parts. The first explores a loss of innocence and disappointment in high school when peers endlessly discuss their cookie-cutter futures over the phone. Naïve childhood images are interwoven with harsh truths that come with the hindsight of later years. Czaga follows the debut poem with “Drunk River,” in which a girl finds herself in a situation gone awry. The scene pays homage to Kristen Roupenian’s viral short story “Cat Person,” and Czaga puts her own spin on the stunning narrative twists that take us on a wild and unexpected ride. She exposes the darker sides of life with insight and quirky originality while managing to effortlessly communicate maturity, however hard won. The second part transitions into adulthood, including being jealous
of successful friends who are ‘liking’ their lives on Instagram. Her heartbreak results in tissues piled like “inedible popcorn/pieces.” The third section grapples with hardships of daily relationships, looming loneliness, money struggles, and existential uncertainties. To offset these darker thoughts, she dreams of beautiful passing strangers. Here she describes her confusion and guilt over her own sexuality: “In Gaelic, Kyla means strait./Sometimes I think I need a kind/of buoyant craft to navigate you/but it’s only my not-sostraight self/I can’t handle.” Finally, the fourth section toggles between the cynical and surreal. The mundane becomes strange as everyday clouds become testicles, books are used as napkins, Winona Ryder has the deadliest pores, and a grandmother grows cancers “the way a bush/bursts with blackberries.” Czaga is the author of a debut collection of poetry For Your Safety Please Hold On (Nightwood Editions, 2014), which was nominated for The Governor General’s Award for Poetry, The Dorothy Livesay Poetry Prize, and The Debut-litzer and awarded The Gerald Lampert Memorial Award. She has also published the chapbook Enemy of the People (Anstruther Press, 2015) and her poems have appeared in numerous literary journals and anthologies, including The Fiddlehead, The Walrus, ARC, and The Best of the Best Canadian Poetry in English. She holds a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing from the University of British Columbia. Czaga takes you on a journey that is both unique to her and relatable to your own youth. Her brand of quirky wisdom, dark humour, and clever metaphor make Dunk Tank a must-read.
How She Read Chantal Gibson Caitlin Press, 2019 100 Pages isbn: 978-1987915969 $20.00 Reviewed by Jannine Grant
Chantal Gibson’s first collection of poetry, How She Read, speaks to her experience as a Black woman and the not-so-distant racism embedded in Canadian culture past and present. From her mother’s 1950s textbooks to Harriet Tubman’s rebel role modelling, from the homogenous white beauty of Tigerbeat to the tyranny of cursive writing and grammar in the 1948 Coloured Girls Writing Handbook, Gibson unearths colonialist and sexist artifacts to unleash the proud and rebellious Black voices buried within.
version of events that suggested Tubman followed the men in her life rather than being a leader in her own right. Tubman looms large in Gibson’s poetic imagination and in ours with her 2019 big screen appearance in Kasi Lemmon’s biopic Harriet.
The collection’s title is a riff on the 2008 hip-hop film How She Move, but invites multiple interpretations as Gibson examines how she read “official” histories, present and past tense of that verb. She remixes references to hip-hop, making her collection both sophisticated and accessible.
Chantal Gibson is a Vancouverbased visual artist and poet who teaches Arts and Technology at Simon Fraser University. Her art blends visual and literary practice to explore and confront colonial images and textual presentations of Black women in Canada. She has roots in the Maritimes and writes across the Canadian cultural landscape. How She Read decolonizes the page, inventing verse rich in the iconic Canadian images and cultural touchstones for Gibson’s generation: this collection will change how you read and you’ll be richer for it.
She looks to another iconic Black heroine in “Cease and Desist: From the Desk of Viola Desmond,” to call out the Government of Canada in a letter Viola might have written: “Please stop/calling me the Canadian Rosa Parks. Can’t a good Her poetics call out agents of woman/be Black here.” Gibson discrimination—slave owners, the prompts us to re-examine our Government of Canada, authors of constant reference to the American school curriculum, art critics, and other bastions of white privilege—and Black experience as if it were the baseline from which we measure her artful blending of historical data and modern pop cultural iconography our heroines and in so doing erase or dilute them. belie her skill as a visual artist.
Historical photographs of Black women and girls trouble the viewer as we look upon them, most as nameless as the schoolgirl on the cover. Colonial images are critiqued in the words of the captured, and in doing so she sets them free, giving them the agency and voice they had been denied. In “Don’t Call Me Minty: A Revisionist Heritage Minute,” Gibson pairs a portrait of Harriet Tubman with a reimagined caption in the heroine’s own voice: “I did not follow someone/I did not follow Barrett’s slave/I did not follow Barrett’s overseer.” Gibson adopts Tubman’s point of view to correct Historica Canada’s
was recorded mostly by men about men. In fact, for millions of years, men and women had equal status. Then they didn’t.”
Power Shift: The Longest Revolution Sally Armstrong House of Anansi Press, 2019 304 pages isbn: 978-1487006792 $19.95 Reviewed by Jade Vandergrift
Power Shift takes the reader from ancient Mesopotamia to an 1100s feminist nun, from Malala Yousafzai to the #MeToo movement. Sally Armstrong’s career as a journalist, documentary filmmaker, and human rights activist reporting on women in conflict zones—she has been dubbed “the war correspondent for the world’s women”—perfectly equips her to address the evolving role of women on the international stage. Armstrong offers a brief history to get readers up to speed and set the record straight: “Here’s what we know now: Man the Hunter is bogus. There’s no evidence to show that a woman was not right there hunting beside him. Women’s history is a flawed account: the ancient past
Power Shift drifts from these prehistoric handprints painted on cave walls through history until arriving at the first of four waves of feminism, the latest in 2012. “Both men and women experts in the field are re-examining the theories about the artefacts from prehistory and adding a new layer of knowledge— the gender layer.” Armstrong uses first-hand experiences and interviews from her time spent in Afghanistan and Kenya to write candidly about how feminism has spread, evolved, and escalated. She attended a film premiere in Afghanistan put on by Young Women for Change intended to bring awareness to taboo issues around sexual violence and the consequences girls and women suffer in the aftermath. Armstrong noted that half the attendees were young men. She asked a young man why he was there and he responded, “We’ll never get to the finish line unless we walk together.” She tells the story of a group of Kenyan girls who sued their government for not doing everything (or anything) in their power to protect them from rape and the societal consequences they suffered as rape victims. They won, and their movement has allowed more girls each year to attend school and finish their education. Armstrong explores how different societies have handled sexual assault, rape, child marriage, and polygamy and includes stats from developing countries, Canada, and the us. She explains how women in conflict are always networking; they understand they are stronger together. “A strong woman stands up for herself, a stronger woman
stands up for all women.” Armstrong references the Indigenous talking stick that gives everyone in the circle the chance to speak and be heard. “[A] tapestry of catastrophe [has and is] affecting Indigenous women in Canada, the us, Australia, New Zealand, and other parts of the colonized world [that] fits with so many notions of women that have led to wrong conclusions throughout history.” Power Shift reminds us how far we have come, and how far we have to go. Armstrong writes, “Some say this improved status quo for women cannot last… I disagree. I believe the emancipation movement is beyond that.” She also tackles recent developments in the gender pay gap and women in professional positions to make her case. Power Shift was the 2019 cbc Massey Lecture, broadcast over five nights on cbc Radio’s Ideas and published in print by Anansi Press. Armstrong is also the author of Ascent of Women, Veiled Threat, and Bitter Roots, Tender Shoots. Armstrong wrote for Canadian Living, Homemakers, Chatelaine, MacLean’s and was the recipient of the Amnesty International Media Award, and the Order of Canada. She is a member of a un group working to bring peace to the Middle East. Armstrong’s trademark documentary voice packs centuries of truth into these pages. The essays reward rereading and beg to be used as a herstory text in History and Gender or Global Studies classes. In a world where “We’ve gone from goddesses who give birth to the object of derision, from chastity belts to rape kits, from flirting to sexting…” standing tall on the shoulders of those who came before us is a source of pride. Armstrong reminds us we should never underestimate what it cost them to carry the torch. The story of female empowerment is as fascinating as it is unfinished.
Joseph Dandurand is a member of the Kwantlen First Nation and manages the Kwantlen Cultural Centre. “Kwantlen” in English is “Tireless Runner.” Here he weaves the mythical oral history of his people as a means to explore respect, courage, loyalty, honour, and environmental ethics. This light-hearted play revolves around the titular Th’owxiya, a feast dish magically embodied by a malevolent spirit with a voracious appetite and a penchant for eating children. Th’owxiya: The Hungry Feast Dish Joseph A. Dandurand Playwrights Canada Press, 2019 91 pages isbn: 978-0369100238 $17.95 Reviewed by Patrick Wilson
The feast dish comprises worldly foods maintained by Sasq’ets (Sasquatch), Th’owxiya’s servant. When Kw’at’el (Mouse) steals food from Th’owxiya and is caught, Th’owxiya punishes her by threatening to eat her family if she is unable to find two children to eat instead. Kw’at’el must pay the price for her disrespect and ignorance. Kw’at’el sets out on a journey to find the children required to save her family. She meets Sqeweqs (Raven) teaching two Spa:ths (Bears) to survive in the forest. Sqeweqs asks the Spa:th if they should eat from the earth. They say yes. Sqeweqs warns: “We must not eat too much. We must save some for the next generation.” Environmental sustainability and honouring Mother Earth is a Kwantlen teaching. The scene reveals that animals, unlike humans, have a symbiotic relationship with the planet.
offering, Sqeweqs says, “I will help you, but not by sacrificing my young friends.” Sasq’ets prepares the feast while Th’owxiya flaunts her power. The four creatures cower, but rather than leave Kw’at’el to her fate, the trio show courage and help despite their fear. Sqeweqs and the Spa:ths hatch a secret plan. Sqeweqs fools Th’owxiya by entering a dream state and preventing the moon from rising. She summons the sun and a rainbow. Kw’at’el offers the rainbow to Th’owxiya, knowing she will want it. Th’owxiya decides not to consume Kw’at’el’s family and holds a feast for the creatures. Th’owxiya is a symbol of volatility and our unhealthy detachment from Mother Earth. The play teaches language, culture, and morality and is a timely reminder of the perils of our own arrogance, greed, and power. Th’owxiya premiered at Vancouver’s Axis Theatre in the summer of 2016, 25 years after Dandurand had written it. He was the 11th Indigenous Storyteller-in-residence at the Vancouver Public Library. He attended Algonquin College and the University of Ottawa before interning at the Museum of Civilization writing First Nations stories for the interpretive centre. His plays, including Please Do Not Touch the Indians, have been performed in Chicago, Los Angeles, and Toronto. His 12th book of poetry is Sh: Lam (The Doctor) about a Downtown Eastside heroin addict.
Kw’at’el explains her plight to Sqeweqs. The pair conclude that they need to trick the malevolent spirit into freeing Kw’at’el’s family, but Kw’at’el is not confident Th’owxiya can be fooled. When Kw’at’el requests that Sqeweqs give her the two Spa:ths for the
CONTRIBUTOR BIOS Catherine Arnold is a first-year student at viu working toward a Bachelor of Design in Graphic Design. This is her first published work. Ashley Barill is a fourth-year student majoring in Creative Writing and minoring in English. Her primary focus of study is fiction and poetry. She is Book Review Editor and Fiction Editor for Portal 2020. Miles Boulton is in his second year of Business at viu and has played soccer for the viu Mariners. He was born in London, England and is currently running a business. Bailey Branscombe is a fifth-year Creative Writing student with a penchant for murder mysteries, young adult fantasy, and science fiction. She was a recipient of the Meadowlark Award for fiction in 2019. Tessa Bunz is in their final year of a ba, majoring in English. They are one the leaders and founders of Slow Couture, an initiative at viu to promote textile sustainability. Although they dabbled in fiction in high school, “C’est la Vie” is their first foray in the genre in nearly a decade. Chantelle Calitz is in her third year at viu pursuing a ba in Graphic Design. Her photography “Slices of a Sunset” and “Crimson” appear in this issue. This is her second publication in Portal and her second time designing the magazine. Mary-margret Degraaf is a second-year Graphic Design student at viu pursuing a ba in Design. Her pieces “2 Cool 4 You” and “Mystery Woman” are minimalistic digital portraits. This is her first publication. Jason Duong is from Vietnam and a second-year student in viu’s Graphic Design program. He speaks Vietnamese, English, Cantonese, and Mandarin and has worked summers for a publisher since he was 18. Margot Fedoruk is majoring in Creative Writing with a passion for creative non-fiction. Last year she received the Barry Broadfoot Award for Creative Non-Fiction/Journalism. Her writing can be found in The Ormsby Review, bc Booklook and The Globe and Mail. Her story “Doris Day and a Cup of Lemon Tea” was published in Portal 2019. She is currently writing an island memoir called Cooking Tips for Desperate Fishwives. Her two non-fiction works “In the Shade of Towering Cedars” and “Careful of the Bones” appear in this issue.
Tree Door Glenn Mathieson
Dave Flawse is a third-year student at viu where he focuses on writing and editing fiction and poetry. He volunteers for Fat Oyster Reading Series in Fanny Bay, and his freelance non-fiction work has appeared in cv Collective and the Comox Valley Record. His poem “Nest” appears in this issue.
Emily Gain is a third-year student in the Creative Writing and Journalism program at viu. She specializes in fiction and poetry. “Under Their Heels” is her first publication in Portal. Jannine Grant is a fourth-year student pursuing a double minor in English and Creative Writing at viu. She has been on the Dean’s list twice and her publications include: “Dear Mr. Christianson” in The Navigator and her poetry chapbook Fantasy Island in viuSpace after her performance at the 2019 Create conference. Her script “Ministry” appears in this issue. Miles Hayes is a playwright whose one-act play Public Intoxication was produced by Western Edge Theatre as part of the New Waves Short Play Festival. It was also performed as a part of 2019 Comox Valley Pride Nite. He is currently a ba student at viu. “We Southenders” is his first publication. Jenny Helgren has a Bachelor of Education from McGill University and has taught in Quebec, British Columbia, Nunavut, and Alberta. She has contributed articles to That High Lonesome Sound and a poem to Beyond Bad Times: An Anthology of North American Poetry. She is working toward a ba with a major in Creative Writing at viu. Brooklynn Hook is a fourth-year ba student completing an English major and Creative Writing minor. She graduated from sfu with a ba in Criminology and Sociology. She has been nominated for the English Department Essay competition three times and is now working on her honours capstone project looking at the representation of the legal system in J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series. She is Fiction Editor and Social Media Manager for Portal 2020 and her story “Lost and Found” appears in this issue. Ruby Hopkins completed the post-baccalaureate Bachelor of Education program at viu and has a Bachelor of Arts Honours English from the University of Victoria. She was an editor for University of Victoria’s English undergraduate journal The Albatross and her academic writing appears in the post-secondary textbook The Active Reader: Strategies for Academic Reading and Writing. This is her second publication in Portal. Leah Kelly is finishing a ba in Journalism and Creative Writing at the University of Hertfordshire, but completing a year abroad at viu. Her work has been workshopped by playwrights Simon Vinnicombe and Jason Hall. She has written and edited articles for the magazine Trident and is working on a made-for-tv drama, as well as a travel memoir about a Cockney navigating the Canadian landscape.
Kashmir Lesnick-Petrovicz is completing a ba in Visual Art with a minor in Global Studies at viu. She transferred from the University of Guelph in 2018. She enjoys working with oil paint and photography. Her work has been exhibited in student shows at viu, including Progressions in 2019, and at the University of Guelph in 2018. She has received various awards for painting and won the Photography Award of Excellence in 2019. This is her first publication in Portal. Claire Manning is a second-year Creative Writing student at viu. She has taken classes with Susan Juby, Robert Hilles, and Sonnet L’Abbe, among others. She hopes to develop her portfolio of short stories for a collection and is working on a young adult fantasy novel. Glenn Mathieson will graduate this year with a ba major in Creative Writing. He was a Poetry Editor and Web Editor for Portal 2017, was published in the 2014 issue. He was Web Editor for The Navigator 2013-2014, interned at Watershed Sentinel 2013-2014, and was a Production Assistant at ig Design and Publishing from 2006-2007. He intends to pursue a Bachelor of Education. Rose McQuirter is a fourth-year English major and Creative Writing minor. Her story “Bump and Strike” won the 2019 Portent Fiction Contest and her stories “Child’s Play” and “No Castle” were published in Portal 2019 and “The One Who Knew Us Best” in the 2018 issue as well as the 2016 edition of In Our Own Voice. She is the recipient of the Meadowlark and Pat Bevan Awards for fiction. Julian Merkle is an exchange student at viu, majoring in Game Design at Macromedia, Germany. An aspiring concept artist, this publication marks the first time his work appears in a printed format. His art can be found on Instagram @jul.merkle and artstation.com/snobird. Sierra Mimeault is a first-year Graphic Design student at viu and new to photography, though she has always loved to paint and draw. She draws portraits in pencil and enjoys portrait photography. This is her first publication. Sabrina Mudryk is a third-year student completing a ba with a Psychology major and a Creative Writing minor. She writes her own poetry and reviewed Kayla Czaga’s poetry collection Dunk Tank in this issue. She was an Audio-Visual Manager and Advertising Manager for Portal for one term. Kirsten Reedel is in her third year at viu studying Astrophysics and photography and has a passion for combining the two. You can find more of her work @reedelphotography on Instagram.
Aaron Koch is a third-year student at viu pursuing a Bachelor of Arts with a major in Creative Writing and minor in English. “Prairie Baptism,” “Gasoline Heaven,” and “Foreign Policy” have been published in Portal 2019 and 2020 respectively.
Natasha Rozmarniewich is a first-year Graphic Design student at viu who has worked primarily on painting and fine art, but has begun to expand her portfolio through photography and typography. This is her first photographic publication.
Veronika B. Kos is in her final year at viu, pursuing a double major in Psychology and Creative Writing. It is her second year on the Portal team and she is one of the Co-Managing Editors for the 2020 issue. Her photography appeared in Portal 2019. Her current obsession is retelling traditional folklore through a variety of media. “Of the Land and the Sea” is her first publication.
Laura Antonia Sahr is a German international student and environmental activist. She is in her fourth year of the Media Studies program and is the social media coordinator for the environmental non-profit Vision. Her work “Eco Villain” was displayed in Vision’s 2019 exhibition to raise awareness of plastic waste.
Kain Stewart is a fourth-year Creative Writing student at viu. His poetry has been published in The Navigator and a book review in Portal 2019. This is his second year editing poetry for Portal where he is also a Feature Writer, Acquisitions Editor, and published poet for “Who Winter Left” and “Butterfly Wings.” Kiara Strijack writes fiction and poetry and is in her fourth year at viu, pursuing a major in Creative Writing and a minor in Psychology. She was the Art Director and Fiction Editor for the 2019 issue of Portal. Her poems “E v i c t i o n” and “Global Summer” were published in Portal 2019, and her poem “Little Succulent” was published in The Navigator. Her poem “In the Space Between Love” appears in this issue. Her photography has been published in both Portal and The Navigator. She has received the Meadowlark Award for fiction and the Pat Bevan Award for poetry. Erinn Sturgeon is a fourth-year Creative Writing and English student at viu. She was on the 2019 Portal team as a Poetry Editor, Launch Coordinator, and Feature Writer, where she interviewed Canadian poet Lorna Crozier. Currently she is the Arts Editor for The Navigator. Jade Vandergrift is a fourth-year ba student majoring in Creative Writing and minoring in Language & Culture. She is an intern at Edible Vancouver Island and is a multimedia journalist and incoming Associate Editor for The Navigator. This year she is a Co-Managing Editor and copy editor for Portal. Her travel piece “Clear as Mud,” fiction “Out of Bounds,” and book review are published in this issue. In 2019, she had her fiction “Piece of Work” published in Portal and received the Pathfinder Award. Patrick Wilson was born in Smithers, bc in the heart of Wet’suwet’en territory. He is in his fourth year of a ba in Creative Writing. His non-fiction work “Spotless” and fiction “Those You Hold,” as well as a book review appear in this issue. He is the coauthor of the feature interview with poet Gregory Scofield. He is working on a tv film series about Canada’s missing and murdered Indigenous women, a memoir, and hoping to document the stories of his Wet’suwet’en Nation. Angela Yarham is completing a ba in Visual Arts at viu and was awarded the EJ Hughes Memorial Award in 2019. Her art is influenced by Surrealism and Cubism, and stylized by her own motifs and line work using incandescent gold and silver. She is the author and illustrator of a children’s book series called The Adventures of Being Me.
Mantis Glenn Mathieson
Up the Tower Veronika B. Kos
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CONTRIBUTORS Catherine Arnold Ashley Barill Miles Boulton Bailey Branscombe Tessa Bunz Chantelle Calitz Mary-margret Degraaf Jason Duong Margot Fedoruk Dave Flawse Emily Gain Jannine Grant Miles Hayes Jenny Helgren Brooklynn Hook Ruby Hopkins Leah Kelly Aaron Koch Veronika B. Kos Claire Manning Glenn Mathieson Rose McQuirter Julian Merkle Sierra Mimeault Sabrina Mudryk Kashmir Lesnick-Petrovicz Kirsten Reedel Natasha Rozmarniewich Laura Antonia Sahr Kain Stewart Kiara Strijack Erinn Sturgeon Jade Vandergrift Patrick Wilson Angela Yarham
Image by Miles Boulton Design by Chantelle Calitz