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
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
Health care workers on a night out unwind, allowing the anxieties and passions they've had to suppress on the job finally uncoil, like tendrils creeping out into the world - and into each other. Written with empathy and panache, this story is a portrait of briefly flaring humanity - of people granted a temporary reprieve from professionalism, and not quite knowing what to do with it.
“At the Bar is Rosenblum at her best - exploring the complicated nature of work and relationships with her trademark perceptiveness, humour, and compassion, and creating characters that will stay with you long after the story is over.”
— Amy Jones, author of What Boys Like and Other Stories
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.
Decades ago, when bands like the Everly Brothers rode the airwaves and vacancy signs shone like beacons in the night, a young man gets his first taste of love, loss, and the ethereal satisfaction that comes with knowing that the world is turning and life is being lived.
In the late 60s, the newest member of a group of all-female pearl divers — the ama — sees her life, and the lives of those dear to her, disrupted by an unlikely force: a James Bond film that sends American men to Japan in search of their own personal 'mermaids'.
Marcel, a sensitive sniper, knew his life was missing something. But he didn't know what until he set his crosshairs on it: Violet Caine. A ginger-headed lover of Thai food, wanted dead simply because her brother messed with the wrong bike gang. It's a story of redemption coming too late, and the ways happenstance can turn a warm man cold. Then warm again. Whether fate wrote his troubled life, or he wrote it himself, he wants Violet Caine to be the end of it - be it figuratively or literally.
In New York City, Ben smokes too much and sleeps with women as a way to deaden his insecurities. With every indiscretion, he fights off adulthood for one more day, until the return of an ex-lover leaves him unsure of everything. Ben’s best friend, Josh, struggles to find the good in his marriage to Maddie, even as he searches for a way to keep from losing her. Ben’s neighbor, Mrs. Aguilera, looks to make peace with those she has already lost. Gripping tightly to one another like the oddest of families, Ben and his friends embody the place in which they live: a city where everything combines, with a touch of perfect madness, into something more than the sum of its parts.
“I love this story because it’s just plain good. The characters are broken and unsure, but the love they have for each other and the humor that carries them along is genuine and lovely to behold. This story made me laugh even while it was hitting me in the gut, and I’d like nothing more than to sit down and drink a beer with everyone in it. Mr. Goodman, thank you for rocking my literary waffle.”
— Lish McBride, author of Hold Me Closer, Necromancer
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.