by Seyward Goodhand
The depredations of a corrupt local government and the ravages of a harsh prairie winter force an ostracized but self-sufficient widow to open her home to innocents with nowhere else to turn. Journey Prize finalist Seyward Goodhand's effortless storytelling allows the humanity to shine through in this grim take on a classic tale.
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I BECAME GUARDIAN OF the Wiebe’s toddler, Katie, right before the war, in the heart of the prairies. It’s a sore, red, infected-looking mouth she’s got, one that in my moments of lift I imagine contains the terror of her family’s end like she’d gobbled it up only for she couldn’t help it, the little witch. Small as it is, it’s a mouth I have to feed.
By the time she came to me, my husband, Derek Pifer, was dead for three years. He’d fallen down a well off in the back sixty and I hadn’t gone to look for him on account of he sometimes did go for days to auction without telling me — he liked to torture me this way, imagine me trapped by worry and impotence. Me who didn’t get an allowance more than exactly what I needed to keep the house running and who couldn’t go to the bank and make a withdrawal without Derek’s co-signature. Not in our town, anyway. We followed Company rules. Fight and fret him all you want, push him down the stairs, skip his meals, swell up before him in a squall of indignation while he sits at the kitchen table hanging his head and afraid — there is no proving you’re his match, Wife, when the facts of the world are against you.
Oh, sure. I did take away that well cover. Years before he fell down it, though, so by the time he did fall I’d forgotten. Still, you can take away a well cover but you can’t make a man walk to exactly the place on the whole two hundred acres where there’s a pit. That was grace delivered me. Then the farm was mine, and suddenly I could go to the bank myself. I know it’s said: how to control a man, give him a plot of land to defend. This might have been true of me, too, were it not such a hopeless time already. I never quite believed the house might not be taken from me at any moment, didn’t feel at home in it on account of it was Derek’s inheritance, really. It was somehow thin for a house, just like he’d been thin. In any case, owning this home has not made me compliant.
By then the Company had already been coming more regular to check on our yields of corn and wheat. They weren’t yet interested in the acre of vegetables we all grew to eat and sell at market on the weekends, really it amounted to trade, all that selling and buying, zucchini for tomatoes, beans for mushrooms, broccoli for cauliflower. We all grew potatoes, onions and cabbage, but we brought them to market anyway for the city people. They’d sit on these old sawhorses around the barrel of fire Rolf Wiebe used to roast corn, playing at country on their harmonicas. What is it like to be them, I’ve always yearned to know. To walk down a sidewalk dressed in the armour of fashion, into a place where I had cause to go and others were expecting me, and I knew exactly what I needed to do and was good at it?
When the Company did take an interest in counting our vegetable yields, we got new contracts we all had to sign — or we didn’t have to, but it was illegal to sell to anyone but them. The weekend markets stopped and what became of the city people I’ll never know. I suppose some of them became the migrants who started coming through. Then children — released into the wilds, at first with something like benevolence, for it was summer — came travelling in their pup packs, ransacking our orchards and berry patches, stealing the odd chicken and bringing it back to the eldest of them who’d set up a sort of camp among the poplars, over in Mustard Woods. We’d all tacitly agreed not to shoot the little scamps, hoping things might rectify themselves when winter came, though people did grumble about their missing stock.
We told ourselves, at the end of the season, come harvest, there’d be some for us to keep just like there’d always been. True, we hadn’t seen that number drawn up in our contracts, but the Company wanted farmers, didn’t it? It wasn’t good business to have all your workers up and die, we said with a degree of self-importance. I suppose living on the prairies we didn’t know how full the world was elsewhere, didn’t share the general population’s dim, panicky impulse to purge itself. No, we were people who conserved, who stocked up. We had no idea how replaceable we were.
about the author
from the library
by Jack Bootle
On an isolated English beach a man looks back on his school days, recalling the joy and torment of a secret love affair with a boy full of strange ideas, a boy obsessed with the language of the King James Bible. Moments from their relationship return to him: the hidden meetings on the beach, the first attempts at sex, the boredom of a school assembly in summertime, the cruelty of a young English teacher. But most of all he remembers the boy’s words. They’re words that, years later, will haunt him as he tries to come to terms with the person he has become.
“Psalm 77 is the type of story that one wants to read over and over, searching for meanings previously unseen. It is laced with the hidden, the secret, the sacred. From the sand dunes and their private longings in school to the verses, the imagery, and the final paragraphs, there is so much to uncover . . ." (Read full review)
— Amanda Miller from shortsundone.ca
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
Memories of a Carnivore
by Julie Dupuis
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.
When I'm Old, When I'm Grey
by Andrew Wilmot
After an unexpected malfunction, the technology which enables humanity to cross vast distances has separated an interstellar traveler from the love of her life — not in space, but in time. Now, while her companions remain in stasis, she must endure the loneliness of the journey until the moment her lover wakes.
Winner of the 2015 Friends of Merril Short Story Contest, When I'm Old, When I'm Grey imagines the strange — and strangely familiar — forms that fear and longing can take, as we venture forth into the unknown of the future.
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
Was More Here
by Danny Goodman
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
by Nicole Chin
In a world terrorized by a mysterious criminal organization that recruits children as its foot soldiers, a boy reflects on the journey - steeped in a cocktail of friendship and fear - that has drawn his life past the point of no return.
by Curtis Snider
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.