by Chad Pelley
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.
HER HAIR WAS THE colour of sunshine hitting pennies. There was a sheen. He’d been moving in, closer and closer, and saw it in detail: how it looped five times, in lush copper curls, before resting on her collarbones. They were violent collarbones, the kind you’d see on an anorexic, poking up through her skin like they might tear it. But her hair was the striking detail, because it was different than it was in the photo he was given; in the photo, it was jet black and shorter. Watching her through his scope, he zoomed in to her freckles to confirm she was a natural ginger. The freckles were as big and wildly cast as cookie crumbs, and he imagined each had its own topography. He imagined that a lover could map a constellation of her face, and the thought felt obsessive and strange, and he wondered if that’s what love was—strange affection—or if there was something aberrant about his thoughts.
Everyone else had cooking classes or book clubs or children with their own schedules to memorize. Everyone else at least had a cat or a weird hobby that gave their lives meaning. There was one guy in Sackville who had a train set in his basement, and he’d watch the thing spin around ‘til his eyes went dizzy. Violet didn’t even knit or have a Facebook account or play Solitaire. Throughout his career, Marcel had noticed that people as lonely as Violet tended to find company at church. God’s invisible companionship had worked for one old man he’d killed in Halifax in 2007.
Seven years now, he’s been a hit man. Bang bang. Nothing to it. He puts a single bullet into the hearts of his targets, to allow their families an open-casket wake. They’re perfect strangers, these people, and they deserve that measure of respect. He lost sleep over his first few victims; he stalked their families to be sure they could carry on without their loved ones. Mostly, they could. Except for the good mothers. They loved beyond the anatomical breadth and bounds of their own big red hearts. There’d been one woman in Saskatchewan. She’d gone grey before her son’s wake. Marcel couldn’t believe it, looked twice and a third time, squinted his eyes. He hung back in the crowd, staring at her hair as she wept on her daughter’s pudgy shoulders. The woman’s hair had gone from pavement black to sidewalk grey in three days.
But he knows, first-hand, how resilient people can be in the face of lost loved ones. He was a teenager when his own mother and sister died in a subway mugging gone wrong. There was a tug on his mother’s purse, they all turned around, and there were three gunshots. They sounded like the cracks he’d hear at the batting cage downtown, except these rumbled like earthquakes in the subway, and they slowed time way down. And he swears to this day that he saw his sister’s soul leave her body. It was nothing ghostly; it was like something gaseous distorting his vision, temporarily, as if he was looking through a Ziploc bag. Then, poof. Gone. Hers was the headshot, presumably a mistake, a stray bullet. His mother took two in the chest, and her lungs fought like hell but failed. It looked like she was drowning on dry land: gasping and gurgling for air, swimming around on the pavement. Marcel remembers crying so hard that the people walking by looked like they were on the other side of a kaleidoscope. They were dropping their jaws and coffees, and gulping air and staring at this helpless, heartbroken little boy, covered in his mother’s blood. He remembers one shocked-white stranger hugging him and rocking back and forth with him on the dirty ground. Cigarette butts and worse clinging to their hands and clothes. She was getting red blood all over her white Lawton’s Pharmacy work shirt just to comfort this kid because the scene broke her heart too. That kind of human kindness haunts him whenever he points his gun at a person. He always thinks, What if the person he’s taking aim at is that nameless woman from the subway? or, What if she was going to be that woman for some other kid?
THE MAN WHO’D HIRED Marcel to shoot Violet was some kind of biker-gang guy. And the prick was pushy, impatient. He had an unkempt and asymmetrical moustache—it drooped past the lower lip on the left but not the right, like a tipped bow tie—so Marcel didn’t take him seriously.
“Do it yet?”
“I told you, twice, that talking on phones makes me paranoid. I know I did.”
“Too bad. Fifty grand is too much money to trust someone with.”
“How’d you get this number?”
“Same way I get whatever I want, like that bitch dead. I’m watching you. I’d do it myself, but we’re under police surveillance lately, twenty-four seven. All week long.”
“I have a method. I’ve got to stalk these people before I do what I do. Learn habits, scan neighbourhoods for bored little kids, nosy old neighbours—”
“You’ve got five days. The idea is you kill her before she grows old and dies of natural causes.”
about the author
CHAD PELLEY is an award-winning author, songwriter, and photographer from St. John’s. His debut novel, Away from Everywhere, was a Coles bestseller, was recognized by three awards, has been adopted by university courses, and a film adaptation is underway. His second novel, Every Little Thing, was released in March 2013. His short fiction has been published in journals, textbooks, anthologies, and recognized by several awards. Chad is the founder of Salty Ink and President of the Writers Alliance of Newfoundland & Labrador.<
from the library
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.
Inspired by true events, this story by Scotiabank Giller Prize-nominated author Pauline Holdstock tells of the incredible bond between a mother and daughter, and with gut-wrenching poignancy reminds us of the little things that make life worth living.
“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
A woman wakes up in bed beside her ex-boyfriend and is at loss to explain how she got there. Inexplicably drawn to stay, she scours every square inch of the apartment they used to share, noting the traces of her presence that linger on, as well as the empty spots that conspicuously mark her absence. The deeper she digs, the more she understands how imperfect her relationship was – and the less willing she is to come up for air.
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.
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
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
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.
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