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
The Last Judgment
by Maria Meindl
Charlotte is on the cusp of adolescence, and her world is being turned upside down. Unable to turn to her distant mother or absent father, she searches for guidance on the streets of downtown Toronto—and discovers God (or some version of Him) in the gutter.
“The Last Judgment is a story that penetrates into the heart of childhood sadness. Charlotte is without tools to fix what is broken, except for the incredible force of her will. The connections she makes between religion, parental failure, sexuality, and love make perfect sense because they are told in her bell-clear voice. This story is warm and tragic and, at moments, grimly funny.”
— Rebecca Rosenblum, author of Once and Road Trips
In the Afternoon
by Laure Baudot
Catherine wants what Richard has: a richly decorated house, and a perfect, lavished-upon baby. Catherine also wants Richard: a disaffected diplomat whose true passion is for cinema. But Catherine is only the babysitter, and her envy—and its fallout—come to the fore when Richard is accused of a crime, and she must decide whether to help exonerate him.
“Laure Baudot’s prose is exquisite, patient, and sophisticated. In the Afternoon immerses you in the fascinating and complicated mind of a babysitter who is wise beyond her years, yet dangerously impulsive at the same time. This story is irresistible and heartbreaking.”
— Sarah Selecky, author of the 2010 Giller Prize–shortlisted collection This Cake Is for the Party
by Kirsty Logan
The anarchic relationships holding together a group of teen girls - whose lines between love and hate, jealousy and loyalty, are not so much drawn as they are furiously scribbled - are put to the test at an unforgettable birthday party. This story captures all the angst and uncertainty of adolescence, with prose as sharp and jarring as a smashed kaleidoscope.
“Rarely an author comes along whose work hits you with the impact of a slap. I have had this experience with the work of Jayne Anne Phillips, with Lorrie Moore and Mary Gaitskill; most recently I have felt this on discovering the writing of Kirsty Logan. Her work is elegant, minimal, and innovative, but underlying it all is a great passion. If the world is a place where talent is recognised—in time, I believe, we may come to say her name alongside the aforementioned.”
— Ewan Morrison, author of Swung
Toronto in the twenty-first century: At night, a beacon on a lonely ancient lake, a drainage pond from the last ice age. In the daytime, a bulwark of glass, glinting in the radiant sun. Joe, Mary, and her cat, Sam, sit in a lakeside condo, trapped by a crazed, mysterious sniper. What has become of their lives? What has become of their city? What has become of their century? As the situation begins to unravel, Mary finds herself wondering, “What would Margaret Atwood do?”
At the Chickasaw Motel, three generations of the McGuinness clan are led by their elderly and overbearing patriarch. Only little Riley, “the smartest f-ing kid”, is spared the brunt of Grandpa McGuinness’s cruelty; ironically, it is his encouragement that provides her with a way out.
by Don McLellan
Father Michael, in his final assignment, has been asked by his Order to help facilitate recovery of an Asian country blighted by war. On the long odyssey into the interior, his driver and translator Trang tells him a story set in a once-famed traveller’s refuge known as the Inn of Tender Embraces. What starts as a simple tale of ill-fated lovers becomes, for Father Michael, a familiar beacon that guides him through the mists of an exotic landscape.
“Don McLellan is the kind of wise, well-travelled writer we don’t see much of these days. With Angels Passing he earns the right to be included in the exotic tradition of Hemingway, Maugham, and Graham Greene. Like all memorable writing, his story takes us to another world and holds us there. As spare and subtle as it is powerful, Angels Passing will linger in your mind long after the last page.”
— John Lekich, Governor General’s Award Finalist for The Losers’ Club
In Our House
by the Sea
by Kirsty Logan
Romance is candlelight on cheekbones, blurring gazes and the press of heels on strange sheets. But what happens a year later? You’re sharing bath towels and bickering over who forgot to buy a light bulb. There is beauty in a familiar hand on the nape of your neck. There is love in waking up under a shared blanket. This story is about the romance of domesticity.
“Kirsty is one of the best and brightest . . . when I read her stuff I feel like I could taste it, chew it, roll it around on my tongue, the language is so delicious and sturdy and musical. She also has a knack for getting relationships exactly right in her writing, whether between parent and child or lovers or friends.”
— Amber Sparks, Fiction Editor at Emprise Review