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
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
Steve has his own comic book store, a limitless supply of comic books, and all the time in the world to collect them. That should be enough. But eventually, everyone - even Steve - gets lonely. And when his time comes, he too has to learn that (eternal) life isn’t about what you spend it on - it’s about who you spend it with.
“Every time I read something by Kirsty, I think, ‘Damn her, I wish I’d written that.’ She is the kind of writer that you can’t help but read with teeth-crunching envy, broken-hearted admiration, and a realization that your own work is not half as good as you’d hoped it might be. Be forewarned writers and readers: you will never be the same.”
— Shanna Germain, finalist for the 2010 John Preston Short Fiction Award and nominee for the 2008 Pushcart Prize
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