by Curtis Snider
A woman wakes up in bed beside her ex-boyfriend and is at loss to explain how she got there. Inexplicably drawn to stay, she scours every square inch of the apartment they used to share, noting the traces of her presence that linger on, as well as the empty spots that conspicuously mark her absence. The deeper she digs, the more she understands how imperfect her relationship was – and the less willing she is to come up for air.
I HEAR HIS VOICE through the gauze of bed sheets, asking if I’m awake. Dishes clatter. The kitchen sink is running.
“Hmm,” I answer, approximating yes.
“Are you real?” he asks.
“Real?” The morning light is blinding. I blink and rub at my eyes. “Of course I am.”
“Okay,” he says. I hear him sigh. “Then get out.”
I force my eyes open.
This isn’t my apartment. This isn’t where I live.
I RARELY WAKE UP during the night, but last night I did, if only briefly. It was dark—as dark as night gets—and I was only awake for a moment, but it was long enough to feel his body beside me. My boyfriend’s body. Well, actually, my ex-boyfriend. He was sleeping next to me. It’s been months since we’ve shared a bed.
But this isn’t my bed. It’s his.
"WHERE AM I?” I ask, only to confirm the impossibility of it. I struggle to keep my eyes open against the damned bright light cutting through the window.
“You don’t still have a key, do you?” Half-dressed, he rushes from the bathroom into the kitchen, which is only a few feet away from the bed where I’m lying, and snatches a frying pan from the glowing stovetop. Using a metal spatula, he digs impatiently at two rubber-cement fried eggs. He runs late like this every morning, without fail.
“Did you kidnap me?” I ask groggily, sitting up.
He scoffs, still concentrating on dislodging the overcooked eggs. “Why would I want to do that?”
I gather a fold of sheets around my torso before I sit up. When I lived in this apartment and slept in this bed, I didn’t hide my body from my boyfriend. Ex-boyfriend. Why is that prefix slipping so easily from my mind this morning?
“I have to leave for work soon.” His tone carries an implicit instruction—or more appropriately a demand—for me to do something about this situation. He shovels the last bits of breakfast into his mouth and finishes buttoning his shirt.
Without answering, I retreat into my pillow and pull the sheets up over my head. I ball up, completely covered, the way I used to during our first year when I had no class and he had to work early. I should be considering my next action, but instead find myself lulled by the warmth of my own rhythmic breath. The sheets inflate and deflate around me like a bellows.
I can hear him scuttle around the tiny bachelor apartment, from the kitchen, to the bathroom, to the closet, and back to the bathroom. I’ve always found the “bachelor” part of “bachelor apartment” funny. Just by living here together, we were actively refuting it. Or is a man still a bachelor until he gets married? Whatever he was, we survived. It was cramped, but I didn’t mind it. Not until the end, anyway.
Still enveloped in my breath bellows, I hear the front click door open, creak, then shut. I hear no more breathing or moving inside the room. Just the whir of cars from the road outside. I peek out from under the sheets. He’s gone and I’m alone again.
about the author
CURTIS SNIDER is a writer and creator from Edmonton, Alberta. Growing up in a military family, he moved across the country more than a few times before eventually returning to Edmonton where he now lives with his wife and cat. He received his Bachelor of Commerce from the University of Alberta and when he’s not working or writing, he’s been seen acting, making short films, and performing improv comedy.
from the library
Laws of Flight
by Darren Greer
An imaginative and resonant work of speculative literature from ReLit Award-winning author Darren Greer. Twin brothers, born on an oppressive family farm, discover a miraculous way to escape the dreariness of their lives, charting a course that promises equal measures of wonder and heartbreak.
by Lana Storey
Some time after the incomprehensible death of his son, Joan Miró has settled into his new job working the overnight shift at a Hasty Market in Toronto. He has plenty of time to think beneath the fluorescent lights of the convenience store: of ghosts and late nights, of downtown living and dying, of customer service and self-preservation, of the beauty of the night sky, and of the attempts people make to connect with one another despite seemingly insurmountable distances. These fragments of life prove as difficult to make sense of as any code—until one night, when an extraordinary series of events suddenly teases a pattern from the dark.
“In this graceful, dark, and nuanced piece, Lana Storey reveals a private man unhinged by grief. These are events—and this a narrative—that will stay in my mind for a long time. Never one to shirk from difficult truths, Lana Storey writes in the tradition of George Saunders: an original, at times disturbing, but ultimately transformative worldview.”
— Carolyn Smart, author of Hooked: Seven Poems and At the End of the Day
“Cross Yourself is Lana Storey’s gorgeous swirling image constellation, a story about a man becoming unhinged from the universe and finding redemption in a downtown Hasty Market convenience store. A vibrant, beating heart of a short fiction, Cross Yourself is a vortex worth being pulled into.”
— Kathryn Kuitenbrouwer, author of the 2005 Amazon.ca/Books in Canada First Novel Award finalist The Nettle Spinner
of My Sound
by Andrew Forbes
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
The Last Judgment
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
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.
Off the Main Highway
by Courtney McDermott
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.
by Michael Bryson
Toronto in the twenty-first century: At night, a beacon on a lonely ancient lake, a drainage pond from the last ice age. In the daytime, a bulwark of glass, glinting in the radiant sun. Joe, Mary, and her cat, Sam, sit in a lakeside condo, trapped by a crazed, mysterious sniper. What has become of their lives? What has become of their city? What has become of their century? As the situation begins to unravel, Mary finds herself wondering, “What would Margaret Atwood do?”