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
by Marielle Mondon
At Georgetown University, a music student and part-time nude life model becomes involved with the first true passion of her life, a man who awakens her to the weight of experience she already possesses - as well as the ups and downs yet to come.
Mike Mike Mike Mike
by Grace O'Connell
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 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.
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 Matt Cahill
Portraits of people marooned within themselves, trapped by their past experiences, by uncertainty and anxiety — individuals for whom each new situation is a grueling journey towards the present, a place where action and choice are possible. In Second World, Matt Cahill illustrates, with honesty and empathy, how the most important breakthroughs are not the life-altering revelations, but rather the minor miracles that get us through each day.
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
Off the Main Highway
by Courtney McDermott
At the Chickasaw Motel, three generations of the McGuinness clan are led by their elderly and overbearing patriarch. Only little Riley, “the smartest f-ing kid”, is spared the brunt of Grandpa McGuinness’s cruelty; ironically, it is his encouragement that provides her with a way out.
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