by Amanda Leduc
In the face of the unspeakable, a family find their relationships irrevocably altered. How can one trust, when even the blameless can be blamed? How can one forgive, when what one needs to hear will never be spoken?
JEFFREY IS IN CHARGE of the dog now. Karen used to be in charge of the dog but she can’t do it anymore because the dog talks too much. So Jeffrey’s the one who calls Owen, and the day before he and Karen are supposed to leave for their week at the bed and breakfast, Jeffrey’s little brother drives up to the house in his new Toyota and loads Tusker into the back.
“Hey buddy,” Owen says. He muscles a hand across Tusker’s cold nose; the dog barks, lunges his face forward into Owen’s shoulder. The dog loves Owen. The dog loves everybody.
“I’ll put the food in the truck,” Jeffrey says. They’re in the driveway, talking. The air is cold and crisp. “One scoop in the morning. Half a scoop at dinnertime.”
“I remember,” Owen says.
“He might not eat much the first day,” Jeffrey continues. “He doesn’t like it when we’re gone. He should be fine by the second day, though.”
“We’ll be okay,” Owen kneads another hand around the golden’s jaw. The dog growls happily in response. “Max and Ellie can’t wait to see him.”
“What about Tina?”
Owen shrugs. “Tina doesn’t mind the dog. You know that.”
Jeffrey thumps a half-full bag of food up onto the truck bed. “I know. But it means a lot.”
“Jeff, it’s not a problem. Really.” Owen claps him hard on the shoulder. “If you keep saying that I’m going to get annoyed.”
“How’s Tina?” Jeff asks. Tusker has left Owen and is standing back by Jeff now, subdued, quiet. He knows the truck. He knows what’s coming.
“She’s fine. Worried about you.”
“We’re okay,” Jeff says automatically. “Karen’s booked a suite. It’ll be fun. Relaxing.”
“Sounds like it.” Owen claps him on the shoulder again, and then whistles. Tusker looks from Jeffrey to Owen, cocks his head.
“It’s okay, buddy,” Jeffrey says. He bends down—his knee cracks loud enough that you can hear it on the driveway—and scratches the skin beneath Tusker’s collar. “We won’t be long. And you’ll see Max and Ellie! Lots of fun.”
Tusker puts a paw up against Jeffrey’s heart, looks at him. The throb of Jeffrey’s guilty blood strong under his paw. He doesn’t say anything, not to Jeffrey. Then he turns and jumps into the truck.
“Jesus,” Owen says. “You’re not dying.”
“He’s a soulful dog,” Jeffrey says. They close the truck cover together. “He believes the best in people.”
about the author
AMANDA LEDUC's stories and essays have appeared or are forthcoming in The Rumpus, The Puritan, Found Press, Big Truths, PRISM International, Prairie Fire, Crossed Genres, ELLE Canada, Tincture Journal, Little Fiction, and other publications across Canada, the US, the UK, and Australia. She was longlisted in both Fiction and Non-Fiction categories for the 2014 edition of CBC's Canada Writes. Her novel, THE MIRACLES OF ORDINARY MEN, was published in 2013 by Toronto's ECW Press. She lives in Hamilton, Ontario, where she is at work on her next book.
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 Pauline Holdstock
After undergoing a cosmetic treatment to recover her lost youth, a middle-aged woman finds herself reconnected to her alienated daughter - a young woman still searching for her own path in life - in an unexpected and incredible way. A modern-day fable from two-time Scotiabank Giller Prize nominee Pauline Holdstock.
“Hers is the kind of prose you get lost in.”
— National Post on The Hunter and the Wild Girl
“Holdstock’s writing manages to be both heartbreakingly poetic and densely detailed ... sad passages, ghostlike recollections, written almost from the vantage point of the present, establish the book as a great work of fiction.”
— The Globe and Mail on Into the Heart of the Country, longlisted for the 2011 Scotiabank Giller Prize
“Holdstock, with a few deft strokes, pulls the reader into the tumultuous life of an alluring rabble of characters: painters, sculptors, patrons, fools, and slaves . . . In Beyond Measure, she proves herself a master of pacing. Her lively, macabre plot trips lightly along in spite of its dark elements.”
— The Globe and Mail on Beyond Measure, finalist for the 2004 Giller Prize and the 2004 Commonwealth Writers' Prize
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
Trigger Finger Blues
by Chad Pelley
Marcel, a sensitive sniper, knew his life was missing something. But he didn't know what until he set his crosshairs on it: Violet Caine. A ginger-headed lover of Thai food, wanted dead simply because her brother messed with the wrong bike gang. It's a story of redemption coming too late, and the ways happenstance can turn a warm man cold. Then warm again. Whether fate wrote his troubled life, or he wrote it himself, he wants Violet Caine to be the end of it - be it figuratively or literally.
At the Bar
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
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
of My Sound
by Andrew Forbes
Saxophonist Metche Hufu and his band are the talk of Addis Ababa, filling nightclubs and packing dance floors. But the precarious existence of this golden age of culture depends on an emperor’s benevolence - and when his power begins to wane, Metche Hufu's music threatens to be silenced by the sounds of a country torn apart.
“How do you give voice to a sax player silenced by the politics of his country? If you’re a jazz singer like Kurt Elling, you take Dexter Gordon’s solo on ‘Body and Soul’ from his Homecoming album and you turn it into vocalese. If your name is Andrew Forbes and your tenor sax player is Ethiopian and it is Addis Ababa 1973 and his musical idol is King Curtis, you write The Expansiveness of My Sound and what you write is wider, more straight-ahead, stronger with political fervour, sadder than Elling but every bit as smart. Forbes is doing it solo and you have to imagine the quartet behind him. Read it with your fingers tapping and you’ll catch the beat. Read it with your ears open and you’ll hear Metche Hufu’s body and soul. Dig it!”
— T. F. Rigelhof, author of Hooked on Canadian Books: The Good, the Better, and the Best Canadian Novels Since 1984
by Jessica Westhead
In this unexpectedly dark character study, Jessica Westhead puts you in the shoes of an apprentice forced to listen to a seasoned wedding DJ as he lectures on the tricks of the trade. Emboldened by the captivity of his audience, the DJ's 'humorous' observations and grievances claw deeper and deeper, betraying ugliness at the core.
“In the still-frothing wake of And Also Sharks, here’s another sadly hilarious and hilariously sad Jessica Westhead story with bite. The self-deluding wedding DJ in The Lesson is a perfect addition to Westhead’s bent gallery of sympathetic sad sacks blustering their way through work and love ever after.”
— Zsuzsi Gartner, author of All the Anxious Girls on Earth and the 2011 Giller Prize–shortlisted Better Living Through Plastic Explosives