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.
LEFT AT THE LAKE, we’d wait for Doug to take us home. Doug, who had told my mother he would love her as long as the integral of ex equalled ex itself, reassured us with his lopsided grin, slathered us head to heel with a vile, cantaloupe-tinged unguent of calamine lotion, bundled us in beach towels, and strapped us to the front seat of his truck.
“You two ever hear the expression ‘all happy families are alike’?” he’d ask Paulie and me on the long drive back to town. Each time we shook our heads no, this conversation being part of the process, part of the ride. “All this is going to make the two of you something special,” Doug told us. “All this is going to make the two of you extraordinary.”
FOUR MINUTES YET YEARS Apart. Underneath the bold newspaper headline sat a grainy, ridiculous picture of us and two nurses, each holding a clock and a calendar. Isabel Elisabeth Ingram, born 11:59 p.m. on December 31, Pauletta Marie at 12:03 a.m. the next day. Forever separated by two hundred and forty seconds of the clock. Further removed by the Kawartha Separate School Board.
“They can’t both go,” a secretary told my mother the first day of kindergarten. “That one doesn’t make the cut-off.” She pointed towards me even though she meant Paulie. “They gotta be five by December thirty-first. She’s not five until January.”
We stood in the office, awkward in the same way we’d been during my mother’s surprise pregnancy with Michael. A year before, we didn’t know how we would manoeuvre around each other’s bodies as a family of five, didn’t know how quickly our time as a family of five would pass. Gone without any physical marker but our new-found inability to return to functioning as the Ingram quartet.
And as we stood there did my mother try to convince her? Did she argue, make a fuss, wave the stamped and approved registration forms in the secretary’s face? Did the unmalleable secretary wheel her chair back to get further away from us, worried that we were contagious, that our bad luck was a disease easily caught by being in close quarters with us? There’s a blank spot in my memory, like an aura of a migraine in my head.
“If I make an exception for you, then everyone will know,” the secretary told us, her voice shrill and clipped. “It wouldn’t be fair to the other children.” There wasn’t another child in the catchment with a January birthday for five years on either side; we’d be long forgotten by the time a similar situation could present itself. But the secretary, convinced of our guilt, was punishing our parents by punishing me and Paulie instead.
As I waved out the classroom window, Paulie didn’t wave back. She stared at me, dragged her unwilling feet back home, and waited for another year.
“The Peterborough Examiner?” Nuala asked me upon seeing the clipping, magnet-affixed to my parents’ refrigerator. “Isn’t that Robertson Davies’s paper?”
“Yeah, like in the fifties. Worst editor the Examiner ever had.”
“Really?” She looked puzzled.
“Sure, ask anyone around here,” I told her. “It’s a known Kawartha fact.”
I RENAMED MYSELF MICHAEL in an attempt to change the narrative of my parents’ lives. I joined groups and went to the clinic, but “They don’t think you belong here,” a nurse explained when my quotidian appointment was cancelled. “You don’t fit the profile.”
Nuala was on the street corner outside as I tried to buy hormone injections, giving illegal clean needles to junkies who shopped the corner block too. Like I was a kitten, she took me home and I gave up pretending. I went back to being Izza, identical twin sister to Paulie, older sister to Michael, long deceased.
about the author
MEGHAN ROSE ALLEN has been a fiction writer her entire life, although until recently she has spent more time writing and reviewing scientific articles than having anything to do with fiction. Perhaps one day she will quit her day job and write full-time. Meghan received a Ph.D. in mathematics from Dalhousie University and she currently resides in Ottawa.
by this author
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.
from the library
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.
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
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 Andrew Forbes
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
If You Waited Here, You Would
See Almost Everything
by Danny Goodman
After Ray collapses on the sidewalk outside a New York coffee shop, the bittersweet vagaries of his long marriage come into focus, one heartbeat at a time. From his new vantage point, flat on his back, all their conflicts are laid out against a canvas of sky, contrasting miscommunications and infidelities against something slower, steadier, and ultimately much vaster than he ever realized.
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
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