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.
WHAT HAD HAPPENED WAS that I more or less accidentally assembled a thermonuclear device in the garage. I mean, I guess I knew what I was doing, but it wasn't some grand master plan, it was just, And what if I put this here? Sure, there may have been instructions downloaded from the Internet, a couple of library books checked out, but it wasn't my intent to have it become a big deal. I certainly didn't have a List of Demands, like they kept asking me.
In the moment, I had several main concerns, but one of the biggest had to do with the damage their Mobile Command Centre—really a tricked-out RV—had done to my lawn when they rolled up. I was thinking about the levelling and reseeding I was going to have to do.
It was embarrassing, too, I have to say. It felt like an unwarranted level of scrutiny. They'd managed to evacuate the neighbourhood, but not before that awful half-hour or so where all the neighbours were standing around in a tight arc that cut across the street, which I guess they'd closed, and onto the sidewalk in front of Jerry's house. There was a whole lot of milling about and, I don't have to guess, gossip. They were probably saying this had to do with my being laid off, but it really didn't. Springer Electric had dumped a nice severance in my lap, and I was kind of enjoying my time off. It gave me time to putter, fix a few things that had been bothering me, reorganize the tool room, and, yes, okay, to build the thermonuclear device, which I had nicknamed Fat Albert for the sake of avoiding clunky monikers like “The Device.”
My only motivation, if I had one, was to prove to myself that it could be done with simple household materials and a well-stocked toolbox. And guess what?
When I realized that I'd done it, I began to think that I ought to write it down somewhere, so I didn't forget how I'd done it. Then I thought, This might be useful, or at least impressive, to others. Maybe I should start a blog?
There was no cause. No Cause. No political statement, save my belief in self-reliance, a can-do, DIY streak that is related to changing your own oil, performing your own renovations with or without the proper permits, and not expecting government handouts to see you through life's rough patches. That, and the feeling that what happens in my garage is really only my business and nobody else's.
But one stray comment to the mailman was all that was required to let the world in on my secret, as it turned out. I was working one warm, spring morning with the garage door open, just putting some finishing touches on Fat Albert, a bit of paint, and he came by with a handful of junk mail. He usually doesn't say much, just a curt hello, but he saw the box and the wires, and he stood puzzled for a moment, that floppy hat on his head, his twin saddlebags full of envelopes and flyers bulging from his sides, and he said, “What on Earth is that?”
And I, feeling prideful, had to boast, “It's a bomb. A nuclear bomb. Crazy, right? I just figured I'd give it a shot, and Fat Albert here is the result. Just a thing to see if I could do it.”
“Jesus,” he said.
“Yeah. A thermonuclear device.” I said thermonuclear kind of slow, like ther-mo-nu-clee-yer.
“Really?” he said. “Like, really?”
“It was pretty easy, actually. You could do it yourself, I'd bet. With stuff you have lying around the house. Old smoke detectors, for instance. And a couple hours on Wikipedia.”
“Right,” he said, and he kind of laughed, a thin, nervous laugh.
“I mean it,” I said, but he was already halfway across the lawn to Mrs. Gale's house, and, I'd bet, by the time he reached the corner, by the time he figured he was out of earshot, he was digging his phone out of his pocket and notifying the relevant authorities.
At that same moment, here's what I was thinking: It's the kind of thing he'll laugh about later.
about the author
ANDREW FORBES was born in Ottawa, Ontario and attended Carleton University. He has written film and music criticism, liner notes, sports columns, and short fiction. His work has been nominated for the Journey Prize, and has appeared in publications including VICE Sports, The Classical, The New Quarterly, and This Magazine. What You Need, his debut collection of fiction, was published by Invisible Publishing in 2015 and was nominated for the 2015 Danuta Gleed Literary Award and the 2016 Trillium Book Award. He lives in Peterborough, Ontario. www.andrewgforbes.com
by this author
In a suburb that is nowhere and everywhere, Jorgen deals with the feelings of alienation and frustration from his collapsing relationship by getting into his car, putting on Patti Smith, and searching for meaning and belonging anywhere he can — regardless of whether he is welcome or wanted.
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
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
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Having lived a long, eventful life, Charlie Weinheimer’s only regret is that he has no one to carry on after him. After a near-death experience, he resolves to find out whether a secret buried in his past is proof he has a legacy after all.
“Margoshes gives us the life of Charlie Weinheimer: quadruple bypass patient, widower whose children all die tragically young, but not a whiner. In his hospital bed at age seventy-seven, he’s seen it all, right? Well, maybe not. Watch as Margoshes calls upon his raconteur skills to thicken the plot.”
— David Carpenter, winner of the 2010 Saskatchewan Book Award for A Hunter’s Confession
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.
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'.
A hybrid travelogue and memoir that pieces together the fragmented recollections of one woman’s rocky journey toward vegetarianism. From her rural upbringing in francophone Northeastern Ontario to exotic locations, outlandish adventures, and bizarre meals, Julie relives her struggle to make the right food choices for herself and examines the consequences of her decisions.
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
Marta is a human resources employee at a grocery store chain. She moves through the days passively, always taking the path of least resistance, until a case at work - that of a hijab-wearing woman, in defiance of a strict no-hats policy - awakens her to the injustices of her own life.
“This Is a Love Crime by Lee Kvern is a cunning and intensely human look at one of the central issues of our time. It negotiates the space between belief, racism, liberty, and sexuality with curiosity and compassion.”
— Todd Babiak, bestselling author of Toby: A Man and The Garneau Block
“Lee Kvern paints with a scalpel. With characteristic unflinching honesty, she peels the relationship between Marta and Corbin back to quivering nerves in This Is a Love Crime and juxtaposes it against veiled assumptions about cultural oppression. The narrative leaps crackle with energy and empathy. When I read Kvern’s stories, I’m seduced by exquisite detail and—love or loathe them—left with the scent of her characters long after the last page.”
— Betty Jane Hegerat, author of Delivery and The Boy
“In This Is a Love Crime, Lee Kvern uses the intricately drawn characters of Corbin and Marta to explore the charged topics of ethnicity and Western modes of submission and control. Written in Kvern’s distinctive, poetic, and multi-layered style, the story leaves us with warm insight into all the characters—and challenges our hearts and preconceptions.”
— Barb Howard, author of Whipstock, Notes for Monday, and The Dewpoint Show
A woman wakes up in bed beside her ex-boyfriend and is at loss to explain how she got there. Inexplicably drawn to stay, she scours every square inch of the apartment they used to share, noting the traces of her presence that linger on, as well as the empty spots that conspicuously mark her absence. The deeper she digs, the more she understands how imperfect her relationship was – and the less willing she is to come up for air.