by Michael Bryson
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?”
AFTER THE CONDO WAS built they moved in: Joe, Mary, and her cat, Sam. They had been together seven years (Joe and Mary) and twelve years (Mary and Sam), respectively and respectfully. Seven years. Were they committed now or what? Seven years and neither of them had ever thought of being with anyone else. At least Mary hadn’t (Sam neither). They’d met in the final year of university in a poetry workshop, and now they were property owners. Members of the petty bourgeois. Politically compromised. Or they would have been, if they still thought that way. Which they didn’t.
The condo tower (sixty-five storeys) was made of glass. So it seemed from the sidewalk out front, rear, or side, looking up. So it seemed as one drove past it at a hundred kilometres an hour (or faster) on the Gardiner Expressway, hugging the curve of Lake Ontario, swerving past the SkyDome (Rogers Centre) and the CN Tower.
Lo. Behold. A building made of glass.
But it wasn’t, of course. The base architecture was concrete, driven deep, seven storeys of underground parking, then a spine of iron, a dozen, two dozen, three, four, five dozen storeys tall. The rest of the guts fitted out with drywall, wood trim, copper wire, plastic plumbing, synthetic carpet, a hundred carcinogenic chemicals—you name it. Dog hair, dust, and fluff.
But the outside, it gleamed like titanium. A phallic mirror reflecting all light that reached it. The scorching sun. The weak, luminous moon. The LED street lamps reflecting off the rain-drenched motorway. Toronto in the twenty-first century: at night, a beacon on a lonely ancient lake, drainage pond from the last ice age. To the north, the crust of the city, the suburbs, malls, and highways, fields fallen fallow, children in basements, plugged into electronic devices. Explosions echoing. Raccoons digging. Commuter trains rumbling.
Joe sat by the window, his laptop on a thin aluminum table, his fingers placed gently, stationary, on the keys, and gazed across the light-filled landscape, shards of brightness competing for dominance, slicing and defining the sky, the corridors between buildings, the entire space and shape of all that Joe could see.
about the author
MICHAEL BRYSON has been writing short stories, book reviews, and essays since the early 1990s. He grew up in Toronto’s east end, wandered the earth, then returned to live within blocks of the Danforth with his wife and stepchildren. He founded the online literary magazine The Danforth Review in 1999, interviewed dozens of authors, and published four collections of short fiction. He blogs at The Underground Book Club and sometimes tweets. Visit his website at www.michaelbryson.com.
from the library
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.
This Is a Love Crime
by Lee Kvern
Marta is a human resources employee at a grocery store chain. She moves through the days passively, always taking the path of least resistance, until a case at work - that of a hijab-wearing woman, in defiance of a strict no-hats policy - awakens her to the injustices of her own life.
“This Is a Love Crime by Lee Kvern is a cunning and intensely human look at one of the central issues of our time. It negotiates the space between belief, racism, liberty, and sexuality with curiosity and compassion.”
— Todd Babiak, bestselling author of Toby: A Man and The Garneau Block
“Lee Kvern paints with a scalpel. With characteristic unflinching honesty, she peels the relationship between Marta and Corbin back to quivering nerves in This Is a Love Crime and juxtaposes it against veiled assumptions about cultural oppression. The narrative leaps crackle with energy and empathy. When I read Kvern’s stories, I’m seduced by exquisite detail and—love or loathe them—left with the scent of her characters long after the last page.”
— Betty Jane Hegerat, author of Delivery and The Boy
“In This Is a Love Crime, Lee Kvern uses the intricately drawn characters of Corbin and Marta to explore the charged topics of ethnicity and Western modes of submission and control. Written in Kvern’s distinctive, poetic, and multi-layered style, the story leaves us with warm insight into all the characters—and challenges our hearts and preconceptions.”
— Barb Howard, author of Whipstock, Notes for Monday, and The Dewpoint Show
by Andrew Forbes
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
by Andrew Forbes
In a suburb that is nowhere and everywhere, Jorgen deals with the feelings of alienation and frustration from his collapsing relationship by getting into his car, putting on Patti Smith, and searching for meaning and belonging anywhere he can — regardless of whether he is welcome or wanted.
Memories of a Carnivore
by Julie Dupuis
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.
by Kelsey Robbins Lauder
A small-time internet scammer is shaken from her somewhat safe new life when an investigator arrives with questions to do with her erstwhile "period of moral decline" — specifically, the whereabouts of a young woman whose brief, bright friendship nearly steered her from the stability she now craves.
by Andrew Forbes
An electrical engineer who has lost almost everything - his marriage, his job, his father - retreats to his garage to re-evaluate and reorganize the various loose ends of his life, and ends up assembling a thermonuclear device instead.
When I'm Old, When I'm Grey
by Andrew Wilmot
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.