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.
MODERATO. A-FLAT MAJOR. SIX/EIGHT time. Piano, delicate, a Victorian music box, but supportive. Staccato both hands, no flippancy in the bass. Light pedal.
I note it in my sheet music.
Blanche won’t be pleased. Singers like the reverb. Mine says it makes her feel more resonant, gives the impression of feedback non-existent in these rehearsal rooms. Always straining to hear herself but never listening. If she listened, she’d hear that, when I use this pedal, her music is boue.
My hands are cold. So are my feet, but they don’t matter, especially if I’m not using the pedal. And I’m not, even if Blanche complains. And she will. Well, not if she doesn’t show up. But she needs to show; the opera opens in less than a month.
She better not be on. I don’t think I can handle her at full capacity today. I shouldn’t have walked by the rehearsal hall this morning. I know better. Two more lessons. By then it’ll be late, and everyone will be gone, and I won’t have to worry.
I need a coffee. I wonder if she’ll bring me one. She hasn’t in a while, but she used to. Back when she listened, she knew I took it strong and black. Always sly, she would ask if she was bringing me coffee or a man. I said coffee because, knowing my luck, anyone she brought me would just need me to play the piano for them.
Quarter past. But I bet that’s her tromping down the hall. If she wore flats, she wouldn’t sound so elephantine. I suppose it doesn’t matter how she sounds as long as her legs look thin.
“Sorry, Antoinette,” says Blanche, my soprano, as she enters the cork-walled rehearsal room in a snow-covered flurry, tossing faux-fur coat and designer handbag to the ground. Her cheeks are flushed with cold, eyes bright, manic. Her blonde bangs stick to her forehead. Coffee? I look to both of her tiny, pale hands. None. As she approaches the piano, she unravels the white angora scarf from around her neck and tosses it on the lid. Stray drops of slush melt on the oak slab, superimposed on old water rings. I hate that this piano will have to live out its long life scarred.
I fold her scarf and place it on the bench. Ice crystals melt against my hands. How long has it been snowing? I don’t remember the last time I saw a window.
about the author
Writer, artist, and musician KAYT BURGESS was born in Manitouwadge, Ontario and grew up in Elliot Lake. She studied classical music at the University of Western Ontario and has a Master's degree in Creative Writing from Bath Spa University. Her novel Heidegger Stairwell was published by 3 Day Books and Arsenal Pulp Press in September 2012. www.kaytburgess.com
from the library
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 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
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
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 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.
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.
In the rugged Nepisiguit River region of northern New Brunswick, two hunters face off. One is local sports lodge employee Danny Knockwood, a Mi’gmaw guide with a withered hand. The other is Mui’n, a one-eared black bear battling his inexorable hunger. When Danny is charged by the lodge owner to hunt down the bear that is frightening guests at the salmon pools, his personal values come into sharp conflict with his commitment to the task. The resulting confrontation tests both his physical strength and his beliefs, as Danny begins to recognize a kindred spirit within the fiercely determined bear.
The Psychology of Animals Swallowed Alive:
by Kirsty Logan
Embark upon these twenty short, scrumptious flights of fancy from the unmistakable pen of Scott Prize-winning author Kirsty Logan, and you will be astounded, titillated, disturbed, amused, heartbroken, and above all, astonished.
“Logan crafts an exquisitely wrought diorama full of tenderly compelling characters; observations about grief, worship, social order, and human nature, and a love that transcends definition.”
– NPR on Logan's debut novel The Gracekeepers