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
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
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 Don McLellan
Father Michael, in his final assignment, has been asked by his Order to help facilitate recovery of an Asian country blighted by war. On the long odyssey into the interior, his driver and translator Trang tells him a story set in a once-famed traveller’s refuge known as the Inn of Tender Embraces. What starts as a simple tale of ill-fated lovers becomes, for Father Michael, a familiar beacon that guides him through the mists of an exotic landscape.
“Don McLellan is the kind of wise, well-travelled writer we don’t see much of these days. With Angels Passing he earns the right to be included in the exotic tradition of Hemingway, Maugham, and Graham Greene. Like all memorable writing, his story takes us to another world and holds us there. As spare and subtle as it is powerful, Angels Passing will linger in your mind long after the last page.”
— John Lekich, Governor General’s Award Finalist for The Losers’ Club
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
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
by Marielle Mondon
At Georgetown University, a music student and part-time nude life model becomes involved with the first true passion of her life, a man who awakens her to the weight of experience she already possesses - as well as the ups and downs yet to come.
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.
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.