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
THE LAST TIME I saw all of them together, they stood in their beige, marbled vestibule: Jackie, clouded in Givenchy, and Richard, in a charcoal suit, bending to kiss the baby, Suzette, who was sitting in the crook of my arm as if it were a rocking chair.
I wanted them to go. It was always the same: my regret that Richard was leaving, and my eagerness at becoming the mistress of his house.
But Richard turned to me. “I want to show you something,” he said.
“Richard,” said Jackie.
“Un petit moment. Come, Catherine.”
Jackie looked at me and rolled her eyes, as though to confirm that we both knew how Richard could be. Back then I liked her pretty well, though I disdained her a bit, too. I felt she didn’t have much control over her husband. It was only later that I realized that really, where Richard was concerned, she had always been more powerful than me.
I gave Suzette to her mother and she protested but then turned placid. She was an easy baby, which I only appreciated once I had my own kids a few years ago.
I followed Richard up the stairs. Richard was tall and had a kind of middle-aged professorial handsomeness. He had a lick of untamed hair on the top front of his head. He wore wire-rimmed glasses and expensive suits. He was a diplomat who’d landed in diplomacy by accident because his father had been in the business. He didn’t like his work, but he was good at it: he had an attitude of respect for his elders in the job, a stance that bordered on subservience but didn’t quite make it there. He was a political man, too, and he could, when required, become rapidly dissembling.
We went into the spare bedroom, which was cluttered with the things the family no longer used. It was where Richard kept his stash of videotapes. They were stacked haphazardly, on bookshelves, on dressers, and on the floor. Some of their boxes were open, with cassettes peeking out like turtles from their shells.
On a stand, the VCR radiated heat from having been on for some time. Richard reached for a remote. “Look,” he said.
He showed me a clip. “It’s a film about Artaud. The playwright.”
Onscreen, Artaud and a friend ate soup while a woman in peasant clothes watched. “That’s the friend’s mother,” whispered Richard.
As I watched, the friend talked about what seemed to me to be an obscure philosophical point. But Artaud ignored him and slurped the soup, which was the colour of frog skin. “What is in this?” he asked the woman. “It has a velvety texture.”
Onscreen, the woman smiled.
Richard turned to me. “You see,” he said, “his friend wants to make abstract conversation. But Artaud is showing him the appreciation of the moment. He wants to savour every particle of that soup.
“Here,” he said, shutting the film off, ejecting the cassette, and handing it to me.
about the author
LAURE BAUDOT is a Toronto martial artist and writer. Her work has appeared in publications such as Prairie Fire, Existere, and The Fertile Source, a literary ezine. She blogs about martial arts and motherhood at pregnantladydoeskarate.com.
from the library
The Snake Crosses
the Tracks at Midnight
by Daniel Karasik
People grow in dimensions other than those we perceive. The teenage narrator of award-winning author Daniel Karasik’s latest story must deal with the fact that his older sister is now a grown woman, and Lucy, his crush-next-door, has become a mystery, with depths beyond his comprehension. Has he been coasting all this time, school and television his life’s only sources of momentum?
by Michael Bryson
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?”
by Caroline Adderson
Coming out of an unhappy relationship and a stint at an artist colony, Charlotte, a writer, takes a job teaching at a private ESL college. There she befriends Renata—audacious, sexy, and as changeable as Proteus. “I have a story for you,” Renata says to her one day over lunch. She doesn’t elaborate further, but Charlotte soon discovers that she has found in Renata an unexpectedly passionate and compelling subject.
“Caroline Adderson is such a graceful and intelligent writer that the work that must surely go into creating her hilarious, prismatic stories is never betrayed in the language. There is no strain on the page, not a bead of sweat. I think of her as a writer’s writer. I envy her talent and learn from her sentences. The short story, Obscure Objects, is, I’m happy to report, Adderson at her glorious best.”
— Barbara Gowdy, author of Helpless and The White Bone
“Obscure Objects, Caroline Adderson’s fierce and affecting workplace comedy, is a deadpan gem: droll, moving, snapping-smart.”
— Meg Wolitzer, author of The Uncoupling, The Ten-Year Nap, and The Position
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 Kelsey Robbins Lauder
A small-time internet scammer is shaken from her somewhat safe new life when an investigator arrives with questions to do with her erstwhile "period of moral decline" — specifically, the whereabouts of a young woman whose brief, bright friendship nearly steered her from the stability she now craves.
by Pauline Holdstock
Inspired by true events, this story by Scotiabank Giller Prize-nominated author Pauline Holdstock tells of the incredible bond between a mother and daughter, and with gut-wrenching poignancy reminds us of the little things that make life worth living.
“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
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.
The Psychology of Animals Swallowed Alive:
by Kirsty Logan
Embark upon these twenty short, scrumptious flights of fancy from the unmistakable pen of Scott Prize-winning author Kirsty Logan, and you will be astounded, titillated, disturbed, amused, heartbroken, and above all, astonished.
“Logan crafts an exquisitely wrought diorama full of tenderly compelling characters; observations about grief, worship, social order, and human nature, and a love that transcends definition.”
– NPR on Logan's debut novel The Gracekeepers