by Dave Margoshes
Decades ago, when bands like the Everly Brothers rode the airwaves and vacancy signs shone like beacons in the night, a young man gets his first taste of love, loss, and the ethereal satisfaction that comes with knowing that the world is turning and life is being lived.
THE YEAR I WAS nineteen, I was in love with a girl for the first time, but it turned out badly. This was years ago, when things were different between boys and girls, men and women. Were they simpler then, or more complex? I don’t know.
There had been other girls I’d dated or liked or mooned over, but this was something else, adult love or something close to it, that transforming love they show us in the movies.
Her name was April. She was a desk clerk in a pink sweater, pleated grey skirt and black flats at the summer hotel in Pennsylvania’s Pocono Mountains where I was a waiter. My mother had sewn a black satin stripe sewn along the outer seam of my black chinos to make it official. April was blonde, brilliantly blue-eyed, always smiling. Her face poured out light. She was as different from me as day is from night, but she made me shine like a new penny. We didn’t get together until late in the season, just a week before she was to go home to Long Island early. Her parents had promised her a quick tour of Europe so she could decide if she wanted to spend her third college year there. It should have been a summer romance except that already it was something more.
At night, the basketball and shuffleboard court below the patio outside the bar became a dance floor, propelled by the music of bands on the weekends, crackling, hissing records the other evenings. We danced, the Everly Brothers and Dion and the Belmonts and the Five Satins tinny through the loudspeakers, then wandered down the moonlit path to the dock, the strains of “The Great Pretender” still in our ears. We walked along the lake, where night birds called from the bordering trees, to a sandy beach. We kissed and I put my hand on her thigh. She said “I don’t” or “I won’t” or perhaps “I can’t.” She was speaking so softly I couldn’t be sure, but without her actually saying so I understood she was a virgin, and I hesitated, drew back. “It’s okay,” I said, kissing her again, and in my hesitation—in that moment between things—something happened I wasn’t familiar with. The arc of my desire rose and rose and was transformed into something else. It surprised me, the feeling that welled up, not just then but later, as if my lungs had rapidly inflated with pressurized air and were bursting, a sensation I couldn’t put a name to.
In the fall, back at school, me in Vermont, she at Penn State, we wrote to each other, almost every day, and phoned, once a week, our letters and calls filled with news, trivial and urgent, and sweet talk. Neither of us had said the word, but I understood I loved her, and that she felt the same. The fact that we were apart, that there was so much distance between us, and that hesitation stood between us like a wall, made it all the sweeter.
At Christmas, my vacation began a few days earlier than hers. That timing allowed me to go home, just outside New York City, talk my parents into loaning me the family car, an old Chrysler, and drive to Pennsylvania. It was a long trip, through New Jersey on one Interstate highway to the Delaware Water Gap, then straight west on another halfway across Pennsylvania to State College. She lived in a dormitory and she was waiting in the lobby when I drove up—I’d called from a rest stop an hour or so away and said I would be there at three.
“Hurry,” she had said, and the briefness of our exchange struck me, yet it seemed in every way authentic.
The sun was still shining brightly in a blue sky that was clouding over as I began the last leg of the drive. The first flakes of snow started to fall only as I took the freeway exit. I followed her directions and found the building quickly and pulled the car up beside a sign that said “10-minute loading zone only” and got out, shaking my stiff legs. April came running out, an oatmeal wool cardigan over her shoulders, a yellow skirt swirling around her bare legs. It was certainly not an outfit for winter driving. She would have to change, slowing us down, but I understood that she had dressed for me, that it was a gift. We kissed and held each other in the gently falling snow, our cheeks growing wet, but we didn’t feel cold. No, we burned.
about the author
DAVE MARGOSHES' books include three novels, five volumes of poetry and a biography. God Telling a Joke and Other Stories will be his seventh collection of short fiction. He's had stories and poems published in dozens of magazines and anthologies in Canada and the United States (included six times in Best Canadian Stories), had work broadcast on CBC, and given readings and workshops across the country. He was a finalist for the Journey Prize in 2009. Along the way, he’s won a few awards, including the Stephen Leacock Prize for Poetry in 1996, the John V. Hicks Award for fiction in 2001 and the City of Regina Writing Award twice, in 2004 and 2010. His Bix’s Trumpet and Other Stories was Book of the Year at the Saskatchewan Book Awards and a finalist for the ReLit Award in 2007, and his poetry collection, Dimensions of an Orchard, won the Anne Szumigalski Poetry Prize at the 2010 Saskatchewan Book Awards. His A Book of Great Worth was one of Amazon.Ca’s Top Hundred Books of 2012.
by this author
Bright Lights on Broadway
by Dave Margoshes
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
from the library
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
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
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.
This Is a Love Crime
by Lee Kvern
Marta is a human resources employee at a grocery store chain. She moves through the days passively, always taking the path of least resistance, until a case at work - that of a hijab-wearing woman, in defiance of a strict no-hats policy - awakens her to the injustices of her own life.
“This Is a Love Crime by Lee Kvern is a cunning and intensely human look at one of the central issues of our time. It negotiates the space between belief, racism, liberty, and sexuality with curiosity and compassion.”
— Todd Babiak, bestselling author of Toby: A Man and The Garneau Block
“Lee Kvern paints with a scalpel. With characteristic unflinching honesty, she peels the relationship between Marta and Corbin back to quivering nerves in This Is a Love Crime and juxtaposes it against veiled assumptions about cultural oppression. The narrative leaps crackle with energy and empathy. When I read Kvern’s stories, I’m seduced by exquisite detail and—love or loathe them—left with the scent of her characters long after the last page.”
— Betty Jane Hegerat, author of Delivery and The Boy
“In This Is a Love Crime, Lee Kvern uses the intricately drawn characters of Corbin and Marta to explore the charged topics of ethnicity and Western modes of submission and control. Written in Kvern’s distinctive, poetic, and multi-layered style, the story leaves us with warm insight into all the characters—and challenges our hearts and preconceptions.”
— Barb Howard, author of Whipstock, Notes for Monday, and The Dewpoint Show
Everything Must Go
by Jeff Dupuis
A man in the throes of a breakup is selling all of his possessions on Kijiji and Craigslist. Greg’s couch, his VHS tapes, obsolete desktop computer, and cow-shaped clock – it all must go. Between pot smoking, pizza eating, and watching Alfred Hitchcock’s Rope, he meets with would-be buyers, taking his old life apart piece by discount piece in order to figure out what went wrong.
by Star Spider
In the late 60s, the newest member of a group of all-female pearl divers — the ama — sees her life, and the lives of those dear to her, disrupted by an unlikely force: a James Bond film that sends American men to Japan in search of their own personal 'mermaids'.
by Jessica Westhead
In this unexpectedly dark character study, Jessica Westhead puts you in the shoes of an apprentice forced to listen to a seasoned wedding DJ as he lectures on the tricks of the trade. Emboldened by the captivity of his audience, the DJ's 'humorous' observations and grievances claw deeper and deeper, betraying ugliness at the core.
“In the still-frothing wake of And Also Sharks, here’s another sadly hilarious and hilariously sad Jessica Westhead story with bite. The self-deluding wedding DJ in The Lesson is a perfect addition to Westhead’s bent gallery of sympathetic sad sacks blustering their way through work and love ever after.”
— Zsuzsi Gartner, author of All the Anxious Girls on Earth and the 2011 Giller Prize–shortlisted Better Living Through Plastic Explosives
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