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
IF I WAS A vampire,” says the Count, “I’d vampirise a different hot girl every day.”
“Night.” Steve doesn’t look up from the stack of comics he’s pricing.
“Night. If you were a vampire, you wouldn’t do anything in the day.”
Steve rifles through the pile and hands the Count a plastic-bagged comic: Vampira, issue 112.
“Yeah, big whoop.” The Count clomps down the aisle and puts Vampira on the rack between Vainglory and Varsity Hit Squad. “Real vampires aren’t like that, you know.”
“No?” says Steve, rearranging his stack. “No leather basques and red lipstick? Shame.”
“Don’t be an idiot. They don’t need lipstick. They have the blood of mortals to make their lips red.”
“That’s a good money saver.”
“God, Steve. You just don’t get it.” The Count turns, his heavy velvet cape knocking over a life-size cut-out of Xena Warrior Princess, and stomps into the back room. Steve takes the moment of peace to shelve the comics he’s priced. He squints down at the titles as he walks to the front of the shop.
Steve’s only problem with sunlight is its effect on the comics: it warps the cover and fades the colours, making the edges curl into spirals that get torn when careless customers shove the comics back onto the racks. Steve tries to keep the comics in plastic bags, but there’s always some annoying kid who wants to flip through all the pages. Sometimes Steve lets them unbag the comics; sometimes he doesn’t. It really depends on which side of lunch he’s on.
The door to the back room bangs open, and Steve jams a comic on the rack harder than he means to. He hears a tearing sound and sighs.
“What’s this? Can I have some?” The Count is holding up a see-through travel mug full of viscous red liquid.
“It’s ...” Steve thinks quickly. “It’s prune juice. Go ahead, help yourself.”
“Ew. God. Gross.” The Count holds the travel mug at arm’s length and disappears into the back room, his cloak billowing.
IT’S BARELY LUNCHTIME AND already the Count is pissing Steve off.
“I’m on a break!” he shouts through the back-room door.
Steve lifts his travel mug and sips from it, letting the liquid heat on his tongue. Then—
Muttering obscenities, Steve puts his travel mug next to the kettle and walks onto the shop floor.
The Count is standing behind the counter, arms akimbo and cape thrown over one shoulder. In front of the counter stands a boy: tall, sandy haired, with a swollen red spot on the side of his nose. Steve ducks behind the counter, trying not to stare at the spot. The Count is already mid-flow.
“... and I told him that we don’t take Superman, but he insists that this one is special, but I’ve never seen it, and I don’t think ...”
Steve rifles through the stack of comics on the counter. Some newish superheroes, some noir crime stuff, some cutesy anime: not Steve’s taste, but it might sell.
“Tenner for the lot,” says Steve to the Spot.
“But, Steeeve!” The Count flips his cloak around to the other shoulder, knocking over a pile of invoices. “He’s got Superman and you said never to take Superman and ...”
Steve smiles apologetically at the Spot, then turns to the Count. He pretends to listen for a few seconds, nodding and smiling. The Count is infuriating, but he does know more about Golden Age comics than even Steve does. Steve turns back to the Spot, pushes a £10 note into his sweaty fist, and hands the stack of comics and a pricing gun to the Count, who is still talking.
“ ... take Superman every time now or just when you specifically say or ...”
Steve walks through to the back room, closing the door on the Count.
It takes five gulps from the travel mug before the rage subsides.
about the author
KIRSTY LOGAN is a fiction writer, literary magazine editor, and book reviewer. Her fiction and poetry has been published in over 80 anthologies and literary magazines, and broadcast on BBC Radio 4. She is the author of two story collections, A Portable Shelter and The Rental Heart & Other Fairytales (winner of the 2013 Scott Prize for Short Stories), and a novel, The Gracekeepers. She lives in Glasgow, and has a semicolon tattooed on her toe. Say hello at kirstylogan.com.
by this author
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
by Kirsty Logan
The anarchic relationships holding together a group of teen girls - whose lines between love and hate, jealousy and loyalty, are not so much drawn as they are furiously scribbled - are put to the test at an unforgettable birthday party. This story captures all the angst and uncertainty of adolescence, with prose as sharp and jarring as a smashed kaleidoscope.
“Rarely an author comes along whose work hits you with the impact of a slap. I have had this experience with the work of Jayne Anne Phillips, with Lorrie Moore and Mary Gaitskill; most recently I have felt this on discovering the writing of Kirsty Logan. Her work is elegant, minimal, and innovative, but underlying it all is a great passion. If the world is a place where talent is recognised—in time, I believe, we may come to say her name alongside the aforementioned.”
— Ewan Morrison, author of Swung
In Our House
by the Sea
by Kirsty Logan
Romance is candlelight on cheekbones, blurring gazes and the press of heels on strange sheets. But what happens a year later? You’re sharing bath towels and bickering over who forgot to buy a light bulb. There is beauty in a familiar hand on the nape of your neck. There is love in waking up under a shared blanket. This story is about the romance of domesticity.
“Kirsty is one of the best and brightest . . . when I read her stuff I feel like I could taste it, chew it, roll it around on my tongue, the language is so delicious and sturdy and musical. She also has a knack for getting relationships exactly right in her writing, whether between parent and child or lovers or friends.”
— Amber Sparks, Fiction Editor at Emprise Review
from the library
At the Bar
by Rebecca Rosenblum
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 Snake Crosses
the Tracks at Midnight
by Daniel Karasik
People grow in dimensions other than those we perceive. The teenage narrator of award-winning author Daniel Karasik’s latest story must deal with the fact that his older sister is now a grown woman, and Lucy, his crush-next-door, has become a mystery, with depths beyond his comprehension. Has he been coasting all this time, school and television his life’s only sources of momentum?
by Nancy Branch
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.
by Lana Storey
Some time after the incomprehensible death of his son, Joan Miró has settled into his new job working the overnight shift at a Hasty Market in Toronto. He has plenty of time to think beneath the fluorescent lights of the convenience store: of ghosts and late nights, of downtown living and dying, of customer service and self-preservation, of the beauty of the night sky, and of the attempts people make to connect with one another despite seemingly insurmountable distances. These fragments of life prove as difficult to make sense of as any code—until one night, when an extraordinary series of events suddenly teases a pattern from the dark.
“In this graceful, dark, and nuanced piece, Lana Storey reveals a private man unhinged by grief. These are events—and this a narrative—that will stay in my mind for a long time. Never one to shirk from difficult truths, Lana Storey writes in the tradition of George Saunders: an original, at times disturbing, but ultimately transformative worldview.”
— Carolyn Smart, author of Hooked: Seven Poems and At the End of the Day
“Cross Yourself is Lana Storey’s gorgeous swirling image constellation, a story about a man becoming unhinged from the universe and finding redemption in a downtown Hasty Market convenience store. A vibrant, beating heart of a short fiction, Cross Yourself is a vortex worth being pulled into.”
— Kathryn Kuitenbrouwer, author of the 2005 Amazon.ca/Books in Canada First Novel Award finalist The Nettle Spinner
by Richard Rosenbaum
Polly knows what she wants: to be in the greatest band in the world. Oliver knows what he wants: Polly. Together they are The Oughts, a duo trying to attain the unattainable, one basic chord at a time.
“Richard Rosenbaum’s The Oughts jabs its sticky little fingers right into your heart and swirls them around in there for a long, long time. Its characters unfold in pitch-perfect awkwardness and tender apathy, and readers will be struck by the surreal hinges and twitching imagery that Rosenbaum flawlessly weaves in. Writers in the audience should take note: Rosenbaum has created a writhing work of fiction that any scribe would aspire to be capable of pulling off.”
— Liz Worth, author of Treat Me Like Dirt: An Oral History of Punk in Toronto and Beyond and Eleven: Eleven
Everything Must Go
by Jeff Dupuis
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.
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
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