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
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
Eleven Miles There,
Twelve Miles Back
by Meghan Rose Allen
Deep in the heart of Ontario cottage country, Izza Ingram’s biological family disintegrates when her parents become trapped in a moment Izza can barely remember. Lost to their parents, she and her sister Paulie form an unlikely family unit under the guidance of their parents’ friend Doug. In this trio of their own making, Izza, Paulie, and Doug try to navigate the differences between the families we are born into versus the families we choose.
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.
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
“Holdstock, with a few deft strokes, pulls the reader into the tumultuous life of an alluring rabble of characters: painters, sculptors, patrons, fools, and slaves . . . In Beyond Measure, she proves herself a master of pacing. Her lively, macabre plot trips lightly along in spite of its dark elements.”
— The Globe and Mail on Beyond Measure, finalist for the 2004 Giller Prize and the 2004 Commonwealth Writers' Prize
In the Afternoon
by Laure Baudot
Catherine wants what Richard has: a richly decorated house, and a perfect, lavished-upon baby. Catherine also wants Richard: a disaffected diplomat whose true passion is for cinema. But Catherine is only the babysitter, and her envy—and its fallout—come to the fore when Richard is accused of a crime, and she must decide whether to help exonerate him.
“Laure Baudot’s prose is exquisite, patient, and sophisticated. In the Afternoon immerses you in the fascinating and complicated mind of a babysitter who is wise beyond her years, yet dangerously impulsive at the same time. This story is irresistible and heartbreaking.”
— Sarah Selecky, author of the 2010 Giller Prize–shortlisted collection This Cake Is for the Party
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
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.
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