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
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.
After an unexpected malfunction, the technology which enables humanity to cross vast distances has separated an interstellar traveler from the love of her life — not in space, but in time. Now, while her companions remain in stasis, she must endure the loneliness of the journey until the moment her lover wakes.
Winner of the 2015 Friends of Merril Short Story Contest, When I'm Old, When I'm Grey imagines the strange — and strangely familiar — forms that fear and longing can take, as we venture forth into the unknown of the future.
Saxophonist Metche Hufu and his band are the talk of Addis Ababa, filling nightclubs and packing dance floors. But the precarious existence of this golden age of culture depends on an emperor’s benevolence - and when his power begins to wane, Metche Hufu's music threatens to be silenced by the sounds of a country torn apart.
“How do you give voice to a sax player silenced by the politics of his country? If you’re a jazz singer like Kurt Elling, you take Dexter Gordon’s solo on ‘Body and Soul’ from his Homecoming album and you turn it into vocalese. If your name is Andrew Forbes and your tenor sax player is Ethiopian and it is Addis Ababa 1973 and his musical idol is King Curtis, you write The Expansiveness of My Sound and what you write is wider, more straight-ahead, stronger with political fervour, sadder than Elling but every bit as smart. Forbes is doing it solo and you have to imagine the quartet behind him. Read it with your fingers tapping and you’ll catch the beat. Read it with your ears open and you’ll hear Metche Hufu’s body and soul. Dig it!”
— T. F. Rigelhof, author of Hooked on Canadian Books: The Good, the Better, and the Best Canadian Novels Since 1984
Toronto in the twenty-first century: At night, a beacon on a lonely ancient lake, a drainage pond from the last ice age. In the daytime, a bulwark of glass, glinting in the radiant sun. Joe, Mary, and her cat, Sam, sit in a lakeside condo, trapped by a crazed, mysterious sniper. What has become of their lives? What has become of their city? What has become of their century? As the situation begins to unravel, Mary finds herself wondering, “What would Margaret Atwood do?”
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.
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.