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.
I TAKE THE SCENIC route even though I'm already fifteen minutes late. A stretch of wetland along Highway 101, south of my home, contains pearlescent-grey tree trunks. Their branches are broken away, none taller than a few metres. Tops jagged and broken. They fascinated me as a kid—still do, but without the mystery. I thought the trees petrified, perhaps turned to stone long ago. I realize now the colour comes from years of exposure to sea salt air and recognize the ghostly hue in the driftwood piled on the beach, but still those trees are granite in my mind, the water that runs through the marsh diseased.
Even now I slow my car as I pass, allow a pile of irritated drivers to crowd behind me. Unchanged. Perhaps it is not a poisoned place but a moment out of time, an error in the universe’s expansion.
Ten minutes later, I reach the outskirts of Depoe Bay and pull into Tidal Raves. It’s off season, still gloomy, so the restaurant’s parking lot is empty. This town is a small dip in highway speed limit, insignificant except for the countless summer rental houses and the stone wall that protects the main strip of shops from battered Pacific waves. It is a neutral ground.
I check the mirror before I get out. My eyeliner has smudged, and the bobby pins to keep my hair intact have fallen out. I rearrange a few and grab the sunglasses my boyfriend, Luke, left in the glove compartment. Cheap tactics run out, and I go inside.
IF I STOOD IN front of my peers, no doubt would they find me innocent of any wrongdoing, though guilty of criminal activity. People don’t mind when you scam insurance companies or steal from the corporate giants that slit our throats Monday through Friday. It’s when you hurt poor, innocent grannies that people burn you. I keep to the Robin Hood side, but truth be told it's too easy. Email some old lady, tell her you're in Mexico, she's already won a grand prize, say a yacht. A week after she pays the so-called border fees, a model boat appears in her mailbox. That's not me, but one piece of advice for anyone: there are bad guys everywhere. Doesn’t matter what it says on their passports.
In fact, I learned how to hustle from a Spaniard. A girl called Alba who came from Barcelona to study. I was in a period of moral decline: broke from a drug habit an ex-boyfriend dumped me with and carrying too much dead weight to clean my life up and maybe find a real job. Alba lived in the pantry of the old farmhouse we rented on the outskirts of Eugene. She would sit on the handlebars of my bike every morning we woke in time for class. We grew close in an instant, I charmed by her European exoticism and lack of sentimentality, she enraptured by my heavy sarcasm and eagerness to jump at anything shady.
The first time we ran the luggage scam, Alba ran point. I thought we should try both legs, but Alba warned subtlety and patience are the only saints of scam artistry. We begged a little cash out of our parents and took separate non-stop flights from PDX to John Wayne for spring break. With brand new credit cards, we shopped luxury names: clothes only, electronics are useless. The next day we’d return the coat or shoes or dress—not without a little heartbreak—but keep the receipt. The rest of the time we snorted lines off surfboards and rode beach cruisers in bikinis through sandy streets lined with million-dollar McMansions. The good life brushed against my fingertips, waiting for me to take hold.
about the author
KELSEY ROBBINS LAUDER is a writer from the Oregon Coast now pursuing her MFA at the University of Victoria. She also has published or forthcoming short fiction in EVENT and Little Fiction, and has served as an intern on the fiction board at The Malahat Review since 2013. She is currently working on a collection of short stories and a novel. She can be found on Twitter at @krlaudr.
from the library
by Kayt Burgess
When Blanche first began singing, she was humble, eager, willing to work, willing to learn. Now she is headstrong, condescending, unprofessional, and just a tiny bit full of herself. She is also the closest to genius that Antoinette, her accompanist, may ever have a chance to work with.
The depredations of a corrupt local government and the ravages of a harsh prairie winter force an ostracized but self-sufficient widow to open her home to innocents with nowhere else to turn. Journey Prize finalist Seyward Goodhand's effortless storytelling allows the humanity to shine through in this grim take on a classic tale.
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.
by Kirsty Logan
Steve has his own comic book store, a limitless supply of comic books, and all the time in the world to collect them. That should be enough. But eventually, everyone - even Steve - gets lonely. And when his time comes, he too has to learn that (eternal) life isn’t about what you spend it on - it’s about who you spend it with.
“Every time I read something by Kirsty, I think, ‘Damn her, I wish I’d written that.’ She is the kind of writer that you can’t help but read with teeth-crunching envy, broken-hearted admiration, and a realization that your own work is not half as good as you’d hoped it might be. Be forewarned writers and readers: you will never be the same.”
— Shanna Germain, finalist for the 2010 John Preston Short Fiction Award and nominee for the 2008 Pushcart Prize
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
Portraits of people marooned within themselves, trapped by their past experiences, by uncertainty and anxiety — individuals for whom each new situation is a grueling journey towards the present, a place where action and choice are possible. In Second World, Matt Cahill illustrates, with honesty and empathy, how the most important breakthroughs are not the life-altering revelations, but rather the minor miracles that get us through each day.
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
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