by Rebecca Rosenblum
Health care workers on a night out unwind, allowing the anxieties and passions they've had to suppress on the job finally uncoil, like tendrils creeping out into the world - and into each other. Written with empathy and panache, this story is a portrait of briefly flaring humanity - of people granted a temporary reprieve from professionalism, and not quite knowing what to do with it.
“At the Bar is Rosenblum at her best - exploring the complicated nature of work and relationships with her trademark perceptiveness, humour, and compassion, and creating characters that will stay with you long after the story is over.”
— Amy Jones, author of What Boys Like and Other Stories
AFTER MRS. DEMETRIOU DIES, long-term care is quiet all afternoon. Not silent, but half volume on the TVs, no arguments about what kind of juice on what meal tray. All the staff walk fast as ever, but nobody razzes anyone about how Docteur Sammy looked at them when they handed over a chart, or how they answered the wrong page, or anything, really. Throwing away a dead person’s pills is sad no matter how many times you do it.
After shift, Cecile comes into the bathroom while I’m trying to brush out my ponytail dent. She starts fiddling with an almost-empty lipstick and looks at me in the mirror. “What are you doing ce soir, Iz?”
“Nothing. Supper. The game’s on, I guess — Judge’ll want to watch.”
“We should go out, cheer up? Il y a un bar not too far, yeah? Docteur Sammy l’aime beaucoup?” She presses the lipstick hard so her lip goes into the twisty thing where there’s still some colour left. It leaves a circle of grapey colour and Cecile smears it around with her finger.
“You should throw that out, eh?”
“It’s expensive; Clinique. I’m trying to make it last.”
I shrug — she’s gotten most of her mouth purple now, and my hair is still dented, so what do I know? I put my ponytail back in.
She finishes, chucks the tube in the garbage, and hitches her hip against the sink. “Cesoir? C’est ok? Sammy will be there.”
“I … don’t know.”
“Is your boyfriend waiting for you at home?”
“Noo … not waiting. He’s just …”
“He will make his own dîner one time, ok? Or maybe we call and invite him to come too? I can’t go all alone. Does he like bars?”
I pick the easiest answer: “I’ll come for one drink.”
THE PLACE IS CROWDED but not packed — you can see between the bodies. Far across the room, Docteur Sammy is leaning back against the bar, talking to someone too short for me to see. He’s sprawling his arm down the rail, taking up standing space for three people. There’s a big flat TV above him, showing the hockey, of course—and another even bigger one on the other side of the room. There are two residents at the pinball machine, fumbling in their pockets and dropping change on the floor. There’s a table of RNs, looking strange and bare in blouses and skirts instead of scrubs, their hair down. When we walk past, they smile a bit more than at work. They don’t talk to us, though, and Nurse Gina cocks her head at Cecile’s tight black top. Cecile made me go to her place and watch her throw clothes on her narrow bed for half an hour. Now we’re getting to the bar later than when I’d meant to leave.
I grab Cecile’s elbow. “Is this all because of Madame Demetriou?”
Cecile looks around slowly. “Non, je pense … non. I think the staff go out together sometimes, and until now they did not invite us.”
about the author
REBECCA ROSENBLUM is the author of two collections of short stories, Once (Biblioasis, 2008) and The Big Dream (Biblioasis, 2011), as well as the chapbook Road Trips (Frog Hollow Press, 2010). Her work has been seen in many journals across Canada and online, and shortlisted for several major awards. She lives in Toronto with her husband and far too few cats.
from the library
Deep Breaths Underwater
by Meghan Rose Allen
June's mother is getting married and there's nothing June can do about it. Counting down the days to the wedding while trapped with a sort-of friend and unwanted family-to-be at their lakeside cottage in the Kawarthas, June searches desperately for a way to make the world - and her life - stand still.
by Richard Rosenbaum
Polly knows what she wants: to be in the greatest band in the world. Oliver knows what he wants: Polly. Together they are The Oughts, a duo trying to attain the unattainable, one basic chord at a time.
“Richard Rosenbaum’s The Oughts jabs its sticky little fingers right into your heart and swirls them around in there for a long, long time. Its characters unfold in pitch-perfect awkwardness and tender apathy, and readers will be struck by the surreal hinges and twitching imagery that Rosenbaum flawlessly weaves in. Writers in the audience should take note: Rosenbaum has created a writhing work of fiction that any scribe would aspire to be capable of pulling off.”
— Liz Worth, author of Treat Me Like Dirt: An Oral History of Punk in Toronto and Beyond and Eleven: Eleven
Everything Must Go
by Jeff Dupuis
A man in the throes of a breakup is selling all of his possessions on Kijiji and Craigslist. Greg’s couch, his VHS tapes, obsolete desktop computer, and cow-shaped clock – it all must go. Between pot smoking, pizza eating, and watching Alfred Hitchcock’s Rope, he meets with would-be buyers, taking his old life apart piece by discount piece in order to figure out what went wrong.
Eleven Miles There,
Twelve Miles Back
by Meghan Rose Allen
Deep in the heart of Ontario cottage country, Izza Ingram’s biological family disintegrates when her parents become trapped in a moment Izza can barely remember. Lost to their parents, she and her sister Paulie form an unlikely family unit under the guidance of their parents’ friend Doug. In this trio of their own making, Izza, Paulie, and Doug try to navigate the differences between the families we are born into versus the families we choose.
by Naomi K Lewis
As a boy, Timmy (Sir Timothy Brian F. the Fantabulous) tells tall, tragic tales to get attention from the adults in his life - particular his busy mother and Dr. Bass, his nerdy-cool neighbour. As a young man, his escalating lies destroy his relationships, alienate his loved ones, and land him in hot water with police; but that doesn’t stop him from crying wolf again and again.
by Kelsey Robbins Lauder
A small-time internet scammer is shaken from her somewhat safe new life when an investigator arrives with questions to do with her erstwhile "period of moral decline" — specifically, the whereabouts of a young woman whose brief, bright friendship nearly steered her from the stability she now craves.
by Andrew Forbes
An electrical engineer who has lost almost everything - his marriage, his job, his father - retreats to his garage to re-evaluate and reorganize the various loose ends of his life, and ends up assembling a thermonuclear device instead.
by Lana Storey
Some time after the incomprehensible death of his son, Joan Miró has settled into his new job working the overnight shift at a Hasty Market in Toronto. He has plenty of time to think beneath the fluorescent lights of the convenience store: of ghosts and late nights, of downtown living and dying, of customer service and self-preservation, of the beauty of the night sky, and of the attempts people make to connect with one another despite seemingly insurmountable distances. These fragments of life prove as difficult to make sense of as any code—until one night, when an extraordinary series of events suddenly teases a pattern from the dark.
“In this graceful, dark, and nuanced piece, Lana Storey reveals a private man unhinged by grief. These are events—and this a narrative—that will stay in my mind for a long time. Never one to shirk from difficult truths, Lana Storey writes in the tradition of George Saunders: an original, at times disturbing, but ultimately transformative worldview.”
— Carolyn Smart, author of Hooked: Seven Poems and At the End of the Day
“Cross Yourself is Lana Storey’s gorgeous swirling image constellation, a story about a man becoming unhinged from the universe and finding redemption in a downtown Hasty Market convenience store. A vibrant, beating heart of a short fiction, Cross Yourself is a vortex worth being pulled into.”
— Kathryn Kuitenbrouwer, author of the 2005 Amazon.ca/Books in Canada First Novel Award finalist The Nettle Spinner