by Maria Meindl
Charlotte is on the cusp of adolescence, and her world is being turned upside down. Unable to turn to her distant mother or absent father, she searches for guidance on the streets of downtown Toronto—and discovers God (or some version of Him) in the gutter.
“The Last Judgment is a story that penetrates into the heart of childhood sadness. Charlotte is without tools to fix what is broken, except for the incredible force of her will. The connections she makes between religion, parental failure, sexuality, and love make perfect sense because they are told in her bell-clear voice. This story is warm and tragic and, at moments, grimly funny.”
— Rebecca Rosenblum, author of Once and Road Trips
EVERYTHING IN THE APARTMENT was perfect, except us. My sister was noisy and made a mess wherever she went. Mom looked like me: terrible. She had mousy hair and scaly bumps on the backs of her arms. I had the same arms, the same hair. Everyone else called it “sandy.” We called it “dirty blond.” I had long feet like my mother and long, skinny hands. My hands and feet were huge now. Like my father, Luke, I had blue eyes, not his colour of pure, pale blue, but muddied with flecks of green and brown. My father was gone. In my dreams he looked past me, not recognizing me, and I looked down, ashamed.
It wasn’t really our apartment. It belonged to someone named William, who was going on a trip. William didn’t care that we couldn’t pay the whole rent; he just wanted to make sure his two cats didn’t get lonely while he was away. Mom said we were lucky, with all the inflation, to find anything at all. It wasn’t a big place—the rooms were small and crammed together and the ceilings slanted down almost to the floor—but it was the fanciest place I had ever seen. There was beige carpet in the living room and grey silky wallpaper, and pictures in ornate gold frames. All the furniture was white, even the piano. Even the cats were white. I slept in William’s room. My mother and Lily, my sister, slept in the room he kept for his sons. They were grown up, but their room was a children’s room, with animals on the wallpaper and a shelf of antique toys even Lily knew she shouldn’t touch.
The apartment was at the top of a house, at the top of a hill surrounded by trees. When the wind blew, the treetops dipped and churned, and I felt as if the whole place were moving, as if we were living in the trees, with no house under us. We could be thrown from our perch at any time.
I lay on my back each night, praying so that no one else could see or hear. I waited until the lights were out, until I could tell from the sound of even breathing that the others were asleep. I folded my hands over my chest. They weren’t extended, palm to palm, but clasped urgently. “Please God forgive my sins,” I whispered, and listed them. The first sin was that other thoughts came into my head when I was trying to pray. I made a dark room in my mind where the thoughts were piled like junk in an attic. I took a broom and dustpan and threw the junk out of the room. I swept the floors and walls until the room was empty: nothing but black. I had to hold my whole body still and tense in order to stop myself from falling asleep.
I fell asleep each night saying my prayers and that was a sin. I should get up by the side of the bed and kneel to say my prayers the way other people did—proper, religious people. But I knew that if my mother or Lily ever saw me praying, they’d laugh at me. My mother would say something like, “She’s going through a phase,” and I’d feel small and stupid. My mother must never know. But this was another sin: that I couldn’t risk embarrassment and tell everyone I believed in God and the Bible, that I prayed every night.
The only thing I was allowed to think about at night, besides the Bible, was my father, because my father was somewhere else the way God was somewhere else, and it took hard concentration to make him real in my mind. Because my father was a serious topic, and I felt as bad about his leaving as I did about sinning. I felt so bad about his leaving that I could hurt myself by thinking about it, and somehow make up for all the sin. I kept playing and replaying in my mind the night in July when my father had slammed out the door of our old apartment shouting, “I can’t win with you!” In my imagination, I ended the scene in different ways: reaching the door before he got out, and going with him. Calling him back. Dragging him back. But on the night it really happened, I didn’t do any of those things. I did something I didn’t understand. On the night it really happened, I locked the door behind him.
about the author
MARIA MEINDL’s essays, poetry and fiction have appeared in journals including the Literary Review of Canada, Descant, Musicworks and Queen Street Quarterly. She has made two series for CBC Radio’s Ideas: Parent Care, and Remembering Polio. Her book Outside the Box: the Life and Legacy of Writer Mona Gould, the Grandmother I Thought I Knew was published in 2012 by McGill Queens University Press. Maria is the founder of Draft, a reading series which features new work by established and emerging writers. A Feldenkrais practitioner, she teaches movement and writing classes in Toronto. Her website is bodylanguagejournal.wordpress.com
from the library
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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 Blanche first began singing, she was humble, eager, willing to work, willing to learn. Now she is headstrong, condescending, unprofessional, and just a tiny bit full of herself. She is also the closest to genius that Antoinette, her accompanist, may ever have a chance to work with.
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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
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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
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