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
by Jack Bootle
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
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.
Deep Breaths Underwater
by Meghan Rose Allen
June's mother is getting married and there's nothing June can do about it. Counting down the days to the wedding while trapped with a sort-of friend and unwanted family-to-be at their lakeside cottage in the Kawarthas, June searches desperately for a way to make the world - and her life - stand still.
by Cynthia Flood
New wife and mother Julie is a woman struggling to find her place. Her dilemmas, while modest, feel harsh, and reflect the ways in which women were once denied control over their own bodies. Her first steps toward independence bring great pain—and not only to herself. With sparing, incisive prose, Cynthia Flood unravels what it meant to be a married woman in post-war era Vancouver, creating an evocative and even unsettling experience for the reader.
“With a precision of language that startles and delights, Cynthia Flood offers glimpses of those moments in which the essence of an entire life is revealed.”
— Nancy Richler, author of The Imposter Bride
“What a great story! Told in terse, restrained sentences, yet opening to a lush and radiant heart, Addresses captures the anguish of a marriage gone off the rails, and the moments of redemption that arrive from unexpected places. Flood’s use of language is uniquely her own–staccato, clean as a knife, and brilliant. Cynthia Flood has done it again.”
— Shaena Lambert, author of Radiance
“The abruptness of the title tells so much about this exquisitely drawn story by Cynthia Flood. ‘Tell the truth but tell it slant,’ Emily Dickinson advised, and that’s always been the approach Flood has preferred for her bone-china fictions, edging into them sideways. Once escorted into the story’s arrhythmic heart, we readers have no choice but to immerse ourselves in a world long gone but still very much with us, to emerge both shaken and stirred.”
— Dave Margoshes, author of A Book of Great Worth
by Nicole Chin
In a world terrorized by a mysterious criminal organization that recruits children as its foot soldiers, a boy reflects on the journey - steeped in a cocktail of friendship and fear - that has drawn his life past the point of no return.
Eleven Miles There,
Twelve Miles Back
by Meghan Rose Allen
Deep in the heart of Ontario cottage country, Izza Ingram’s biological family disintegrates when her parents become trapped in a moment Izza can barely remember. Lost to their parents, she and her sister Paulie form an unlikely family unit under the guidance of their parents’ friend Doug. In this trio of their own making, Izza, Paulie, and Doug try to navigate the differences between the families we are born into versus the families we choose.
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.