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
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
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.
When Blanche first began singing, she was humble, eager, willing to work, willing to learn. Now she is headstrong, condescending, unprofessional, and just a tiny bit full of herself. She is also the closest to genius that Antoinette, her accompanist, may ever have a chance to work with.
A recruiter for a Division I college basketball team travels to a town in hopes of finally convincing the year's prize high school prospect to play for his team. Over several days, he reflects on his love of the sport, his respect for the kids, and a job that forces him to sweep sentiment aside in order to get results.
“Andrew Forbes' The Gamechanger is a powerful work from a point-of-view — that of the scout, the talent evaluator — which is not often seen or done convincingly, as it is here. A story about fathers and sons, about fate, and about the implicit savageries that lurk at the heart of the sports we love and the teams we cheer for. This is wonderful, raw writing.”
— Craig Davidson, author of Rust and Bone and Cataract City
“A fascinating look at the relationships a recruiter has to manage, from the sacrifices of being away from their family, to dealing with rival recruiters, prospects and their friends and family ... a very nuanced and layered approach that goes beyond just a man with a job to do at a gym.”
— Alex Wong, stevenlebron.com
In the late 60s, the newest member of a group of all-female pearl divers — the ama — sees her life, and the lives of those dear to her, disrupted by an unlikely force: a James Bond film that sends American men to Japan in search of their own personal 'mermaids'.
In New York City, Ben smokes too much and sleeps with women as a way to deaden his insecurities. With every indiscretion, he fights off adulthood for one more day, until the return of an ex-lover leaves him unsure of everything. Ben’s best friend, Josh, struggles to find the good in his marriage to Maddie, even as he searches for a way to keep from losing her. Ben’s neighbor, Mrs. Aguilera, looks to make peace with those she has already lost. Gripping tightly to one another like the oddest of families, Ben and his friends embody the place in which they live: a city where everything combines, with a touch of perfect madness, into something more than the sum of its parts.
“I love this story because it’s just plain good. The characters are broken and unsure, but the love they have for each other and the humor that carries them along is genuine and lovely to behold. This story made me laugh even while it was hitting me in the gut, and I’d like nothing more than to sit down and drink a beer with everyone in it. Mr. Goodman, thank you for rocking my literary waffle.”
— Lish McBride, author of Hold Me Closer, Necromancer
Decades ago, when bands like the Everly Brothers rode the airwaves and vacancy signs shone like beacons in the night, a young man gets his first taste of love, loss, and the ethereal satisfaction that comes with knowing that the world is turning and life is being lived.