by Shannon Alberta
Hannah and Gary married young, before either had a chance to figure out who they were or what they needed in life. Separation and time has given Hannah the opportunity to grow up. Gary, on the other hand, has only grown stubborn, and more desperate to keep up with his ex. By 2016 Lit POP Award winner Shannon Alberta, Operation Chairman of the Board is a twisted, yet heartfelt, story about how some people view love as a journey, and others as a competition.
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I HAVEN'T EVEN TAKEN off my work shoes when Gary calls for the third time in a row. When I finally answer, he says the toes on his left foot are numb and could I come quickly.
“I can’t,” I tell him, parting the curtains in the front window and scanning the street for Eddie’s red Yaris.
“Please, Hannah,” he says, fear coiled tight around his throat like a python.
“What colour are they?” I slide my purse off my shoulder and let it fall, the entry rug absorbing the dull thud.
“I can’t look.”
“I’m not going all the way there if you don’t at least look first.”
“Fine.” He puffs into the phone. “The edges look blue to me.”
“I’m not kidding.” There’s a shuffling sound.
All of this is a movie I’ve seen a thousand times. In this scene, his paranoia stirs him up off the couch. In the next one, he paces his living room like it’s a cage. The finale is the worst. Eddie told me the proper name for it: hypochondria-induced panic disorder. My role? He says I’m what they call an enabler.
“I’m coming now,” I tell Gary.
“I knew this was how it’d go down for me,” he says. “Eventually. I told you. Remember?”
“It’s probably nothing. Just watch TV until I get there.”
I leave a note for Eddie on the kitchen table. It says I’ve gone to Bobbi-Sue’s for wine and chit-chat, and that I love him the way a fat kid loves cake.
BLUE TOES / BLUE TOES / Whatcha gonna do? / Whatcha gonna do when they come for you? I was gonna sing that when Hannah answered the phone, but then she might’ve mistaken my parody for a lack of gravitas and stayed home cuddling with my replacement. I’ve got gravitas coming out the waz. It’s just that my brain knows shit’s about to get real and it’s trying to lighten the mood. Like the orchestra that kept playing as the Titanic went down.
I had more details prepared, in case she asked. I would have reminded her that despite it being August, despite my being under a blanket, the tips of my third and fourth piggies are the colour of those fake tombstones people stick in their front lawns at Halloween. Eskimo toes. Couldn’t have made that joke either; Hannah’s heart bruises so easy.
“It’s probably nothing,” she said. Everyone says that until the day they’re ass-over-brainpan wrong. She has a lot of reason to hope it’s nothing. Me being sick would be the shit-streak in her fancy new white undies. She’s done so much work to get to a place where she isn’t coming around much anymore.
Last time she wouldn’t even take off her shoes. I said to her, “My apologies; I was under the impression our vows still meant something.”
“They do,” she said.
“But not everything,” I said.
And what could she say to that? Nothing. Instead, she held a smile on her face, the kind of grin a five-year-old gives when you ask if they pissed the bed again.
At least she’s coming over.
I text Dennis: Operation Chairman of the Board is a go.
about the author
SHANNON ALBERTA's stories have appeared in: The New Quarterly, Matrix Magazine, and Joyland Magazine. Her story "Perv Jungle" was chosen as first prize winner in the 2016 Lit POP Awards. In 2014, she won first prize in the Eden Mills Writers' Festival literary contest. She teaches at Sarah Selecky's Story Is a State of Mind School, lives in Toronto, and once spent 24 hours with her leg in a bear trap. Visit her at shannonalberta.com.
from the library
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
A recruiter for a Division I college basketball team travels to a town in hopes of finally convincing the year's prize high school prospect to play for his team. Over several days, he reflects on his love of the sport, his respect for the kids, and a job that forces him to sweep sentiment aside in order to get results.
“Andrew Forbes' The Gamechanger is a powerful work from a point-of-view — that of the scout, the talent evaluator — which is not often seen or done convincingly, as it is here. A story about fathers and sons, about fate, and about the implicit savageries that lurk at the heart of the sports we love and the teams we cheer for. This is wonderful, raw writing.”
— Craig Davidson, author of Rust and Bone and Cataract City
“A fascinating look at the relationships a recruiter has to manage, from the sacrifices of being away from their family, to dealing with rival recruiters, prospects and their friends and family ... a very nuanced and layered approach that goes beyond just a man with a job to do at a gym.”
— Alex Wong, stevenlebron.com
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
The anarchic relationships holding together a group of teen girls - whose lines between love and hate, jealousy and loyalty, are not so much drawn as they are furiously scribbled - are put to the test at an unforgettable birthday party. This story captures all the angst and uncertainty of adolescence, with prose as sharp and jarring as a smashed kaleidoscope.
“Rarely an author comes along whose work hits you with the impact of a slap. I have had this experience with the work of Jayne Anne Phillips, with Lorrie Moore and Mary Gaitskill; most recently I have felt this on discovering the writing of Kirsty Logan. Her work is elegant, minimal, and innovative, but underlying it all is a great passion. If the world is a place where talent is recognised—in time, I believe, we may come to say her name alongside the aforementioned.”
— Ewan Morrison, author of Swung
Saxophonist Metche Hufu and his band are the talk of Addis Ababa, filling nightclubs and packing dance floors. But the precarious existence of this golden age of culture depends on an emperor’s benevolence - and when his power begins to wane, Metche Hufu's music threatens to be silenced by the sounds of a country torn apart.
“How do you give voice to a sax player silenced by the politics of his country? If you’re a jazz singer like Kurt Elling, you take Dexter Gordon’s solo on ‘Body and Soul’ from his Homecoming album and you turn it into vocalese. If your name is Andrew Forbes and your tenor sax player is Ethiopian and it is Addis Ababa 1973 and his musical idol is King Curtis, you write The Expansiveness of My Sound and what you write is wider, more straight-ahead, stronger with political fervour, sadder than Elling but every bit as smart. Forbes is doing it solo and you have to imagine the quartet behind him. Read it with your fingers tapping and you’ll catch the beat. Read it with your ears open and you’ll hear Metche Hufu’s body and soul. Dig it!”
— T. F. Rigelhof, author of Hooked on Canadian Books: The Good, the Better, and the Best Canadian Novels Since 1984
If You Waited Here, You Would
See Almost Everything
by Danny Goodman
After Ray collapses on the sidewalk outside a New York coffee shop, the bittersweet vagaries of his long marriage come into focus, one heartbeat at a time. From his new vantage point, flat on his back, all their conflicts are laid out against a canvas of sky, contrasting miscommunications and infidelities against something slower, steadier, and ultimately much vaster than he ever realized.
Having lived a long, eventful life, Charlie Weinheimer’s only regret is that he has no one to carry on after him. After a near-death experience, he resolves to find out whether a secret buried in his past is proof he has a legacy after all.
“Margoshes gives us the life of Charlie Weinheimer: quadruple bypass patient, widower whose children all die tragically young, but not a whiner. In his hospital bed at age seventy-seven, he’s seen it all, right? Well, maybe not. Watch as Margoshes calls upon his raconteur skills to thicken the plot.”
— David Carpenter, winner of the 2010 Saskatchewan Book Award for A Hunter’s Confession