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
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
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
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.
A hybrid travelogue and memoir that pieces together the fragmented recollections of one woman’s rocky journey toward vegetarianism. From her rural upbringing in francophone Northeastern Ontario to exotic locations, outlandish adventures, and bizarre meals, Julie relives her struggle to make the right food choices for herself and examines the consequences of her decisions.
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.
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
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
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.
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.
A recruiter for a Division I college basketball team travels to a town in hopes of finally convincing the year's prize high school prospect to play for his team. Over several days, he reflects on his love of the sport, his respect for the kids, and a job that forces him to sweep sentiment aside in order to get results.
“Andrew Forbes' The Gamechanger is a powerful work from a point-of-view — that of the scout, the talent evaluator — which is not often seen or done convincingly, as it is here. A story about fathers and sons, about fate, and about the implicit savageries that lurk at the heart of the sports we love and the teams we cheer for. This is wonderful, raw writing.”
— Craig Davidson, author of Rust and Bone and Cataract City
“A fascinating look at the relationships a recruiter has to manage, from the sacrifices of being away from their family, to dealing with rival recruiters, prospects and their friends and family ... a very nuanced and layered approach that goes beyond just a man with a job to do at a gym.”
— Alex Wong, stevenlebron.com