by Matt Cahill
A father, left to raise his troubled young son alone in their secluded country home, must work through his own deep-seated fears and resentments when the boy's ongoing night terrors lead to a confrontation with the inescapable.
“A great piece of writing.”
— Christen Thomas, Executive Director of the Literary Press Group
As implicitly embedded as his voice is in my awareness of things — police sirens, women's screams, Daniel's voice in the night — I can't tell if I've fallen asleep.
For the longest time, I used to wait for Mina to stir beside me, hear what I was hearing, and tend to Daniel begrudgingly while I pretended to sleep. But these last two years have been just kiddo and me. Sometimes I'll wait, hoping he'll become convinced I won't go to his room to hear his ramblings — that I’m not going to listen to him tell me about the things in his room that scare him, sounds he thinks he heard, or did hear but which are in reality not things to be scared of. I don’t always get up.
But tonight there's something in his voice: a pleading tone I can’t recall hearing before. It worries me.
The wind picks up outside. Here, in the middle of the sticks, winter nights are quiet. Always quiet. That’s one of the reasons we moved out here, to keep Mina from going nuts in the city. In the end, the lack of anyone but me and Daniel did it anyways.
I wish she hadn't left us — that I'd found a way to bend time and circumstance to please her, to convince her that moving out here from the city was a good idea. Convince her with more than just made-up stuff to keep her here.
I lie there some more and wonder how much sleep I'll get tonight. Even if I do The Good Dad Thing and go to Daniel, I am probably looking at only four hours until I have to get up and chase him around like a Rhode Island Red to get dressed, fed, and on the bus to school. Then I, the zombie, will go to the office and pretend I have the power and competency to work within logistically impossible project schedules. The only thing in my favour is that I don't make the schedules, so it’s only a matter of senseless due diligence until it becomes clear to the powers-that-be that whatever I’m being asked to do bears no resemblance to anything achievable in reality.
Every time I find myself thinking about this, I recall one of the promises I made to Mina: that I would get a raise, that I would get promoted out of the slacker-slave veal pen I'd been toiling in for years.
Daniel's voice in the dark, pleading. That shy kid. Never gets in trouble. I wish he did. He doesn't have a lot of friends, it seems. It takes every bit of my patience to get him to tell me what goes on in his life. When I ask whether he has friends he'll turn away and look at something else. One time, when I asked Mina if we should be concerned, she did the same thing.
I love him. Don't understand him.
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about the author
MATT CAHILL is a Toronto writer. He writes novels, short fiction, and essays. He's contributed work to Ryeberg, BlogTO, and Torontoist. His short story, Snowshoe, appeared in September 2014 with Found Press. His debut novel, The Society of Experience was released in 2015 with Buckrider Books, a new imprint of Wolsak & Wynn. Matt worked for 20 years in the film and television industry before coming to his senses and training to become a psychotherapist. He now has a private practice and is a member of the College of Registered Psychotherapists of Ontario. Matt reads high-falutin’ books of all sorts, plays intermediate soccer, and occasionally drums. His website is mattcahill.ca
by this author
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.
from the library
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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.
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— John Lekich, Governor General’s Award Finalist for The Losers’ Club
If You Waited Here, You Would
See Almost Everything
by Danny Goodman
After Ray collapses on the sidewalk outside a New York coffee shop, the bittersweet vagaries of his long marriage come into focus, one heartbeat at a time. From his new vantage point, flat on his back, all their conflicts are laid out against a canvas of sky, contrasting miscommunications and infidelities against something slower, steadier, and ultimately much vaster than he ever realized.
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.
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.
After undergoing a cosmetic treatment to recover her lost youth, a middle-aged woman finds herself reconnected to her alienated daughter - a young woman still searching for her own path in life - in an unexpected and incredible way. A modern-day fable from two-time Scotiabank Giller Prize nominee Pauline Holdstock.
“Hers is the kind of prose you get lost in.”
— National Post on The Hunter and the Wild Girl
“Holdstock’s writing manages to be both heartbreakingly poetic and densely detailed ... sad passages, ghostlike recollections, written almost from the vantage point of the present, establish the book as a great work of fiction.”
— The Globe and Mail on Into the Heart of the Country, longlisted for the 2011 Scotiabank Giller Prize
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— The Globe and Mail on Beyond Measure, finalist for the 2004 Giller Prize and the 2004 Commonwealth Writers' Prize
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