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.
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.
purchase the ebook single
about the author
from the library
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.
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
An imaginative and resonant work of speculative literature from ReLit Award-winning author Darren Greer. Twin brothers, born on an oppressive family farm, discover a miraculous way to escape the dreariness of their lives, charting a course that promises equal measures of wonder and heartbreak.
After twenty years of running, Betty quietly returns to her hometown of Arbford, thinking it a solid place to finally put down some roots. But the adage 'you can't go home again' proves true, as Betty finds that her mere presence is more than enough to disrupt the stagnant lives of everyone around her.
“In this cautionary suburban fairy tale, a big-city refugee searching for home finds herself in a nest of multiple Mikes and Pyrex-wielding vipers. With enchanting style and snort-causing wit, Grace O’Connell does casserole-studded claustrophobia like nobody’s business.”
— Jessica Westhead, author of And Also Sharks and Pulpy & Midge
by Don McLellan
Father Michael, in his final assignment, has been asked by his Order to help facilitate recovery of an Asian country blighted by war. On the long odyssey into the interior, his driver and translator Trang tells him a story set in a once-famed traveller’s refuge known as the Inn of Tender Embraces. What starts as a simple tale of ill-fated lovers becomes, for Father Michael, a familiar beacon that guides him through the mists of an exotic landscape.
“Don McLellan is the kind of wise, well-travelled writer we don’t see much of these days. With Angels Passing he earns the right to be included in the exotic tradition of Hemingway, Maugham, and Graham Greene. Like all memorable writing, his story takes us to another world and holds us there. As spare and subtle as it is powerful, Angels Passing will linger in your mind long after the last page.”
— John Lekich, Governor General’s Award Finalist for The Losers’ Club
Toronto in the twenty-first century: At night, a beacon on a lonely ancient lake, a drainage pond from the last ice age. In the daytime, a bulwark of glass, glinting in the radiant sun. Joe, Mary, and her cat, Sam, sit in a lakeside condo, trapped by a crazed, mysterious sniper. What has become of their lives? What has become of their city? What has become of their century? As the situation begins to unravel, Mary finds herself wondering, “What would Margaret Atwood do?”
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.