by Shannon Alberta
Hannah and Gary married young, before either had a chance to figure out who they were or what they needed in life. Separation and time has given Hannah the opportunity to grow up. Gary, on the other hand, has only grown stubborn, and more desperate to keep up with his ex. By 2016 Lit POP Award winner Shannon Alberta, Operation Chairman of the Board is a twisted, yet heartfelt, story about how some people view love as a journey, and others as a competition.
purchase the ebook single
I HAVEN'T EVEN TAKEN off my work shoes when Gary calls for the third time in a row. When I finally answer, he says the toes on his left foot are numb and could I come quickly.
“I can’t,” I tell him, parting the curtains in the front window and scanning the street for Eddie’s red Yaris.
“Please, Hannah,” he says, fear coiled tight around his throat like a python.
“What colour are they?” I slide my purse off my shoulder and let it fall, the entry rug absorbing the dull thud.
“I can’t look.”
“I’m not going all the way there if you don’t at least look first.”
“Fine.” He puffs into the phone. “The edges look blue to me.”
“I’m not kidding.” There’s a shuffling sound.
All of this is a movie I’ve seen a thousand times. In this scene, his paranoia stirs him up off the couch. In the next one, he paces his living room like it’s a cage. The finale is the worst. Eddie told me the proper name for it: hypochondria-induced panic disorder. My role? He says I’m what they call an enabler.
“I’m coming now,” I tell Gary.
“I knew this was how it’d go down for me,” he says. “Eventually. I told you. Remember?”
“It’s probably nothing. Just watch TV until I get there.”
I leave a note for Eddie on the kitchen table. It says I’ve gone to Bobbi-Sue’s for wine and chit-chat, and that I love him the way a fat kid loves cake.
BLUE TOES / BLUE TOES / Whatcha gonna do? / Whatcha gonna do when they come for you? I was gonna sing that when Hannah answered the phone, but then she might’ve mistaken my parody for a lack of gravitas and stayed home cuddling with my replacement. I’ve got gravitas coming out the waz. It’s just that my brain knows shit’s about to get real and it’s trying to lighten the mood. Like the orchestra that kept playing as the Titanic went down.
I had more details prepared, in case she asked. I would have reminded her that despite it being August, despite my being under a blanket, the tips of my third and fourth piggies are the colour of those fake tombstones people stick in their front lawns at Halloween. Eskimo toes. Couldn’t have made that joke either; Hannah’s heart bruises so easy.
“It’s probably nothing,” she said. Everyone says that until the day they’re ass-over-brainpan wrong. She has a lot of reason to hope it’s nothing. Me being sick would be the shit-streak in her fancy new white undies. She’s done so much work to get to a place where she isn’t coming around much anymore.
Last time she wouldn’t even take off her shoes. I said to her, “My apologies; I was under the impression our vows still meant something.”
“They do,” she said.
“But not everything,” I said.
And what could she say to that? Nothing. Instead, she held a smile on her face, the kind of grin a five-year-old gives when you ask if they pissed the bed again.
At least she’s coming over.
I text Dennis: Operation Chairman of the Board is a go.
about the author
SHANNON ALBERTA's stories have appeared in: The New Quarterly, Matrix Magazine, and Joyland Magazine. Her story "Perv Jungle" was chosen as first prize winner in the 2016 Lit POP Awards. In 2014, she won first prize in the Eden Mills Writers' Festival literary contest. She teaches at Sarah Selecky's Story Is a State of Mind School, lives in Toronto, and once spent 24 hours with her leg in a bear trap. Visit her at shannonalberta.com.
from the library
Bright Lights on Broadway
by Dave Margoshes
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
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
Was More Here
by Danny Goodman
In New York City, Ben smokes too much and sleeps with women as a way to deaden his insecurities. With every indiscretion, he fights off adulthood for one more day, until the return of an ex-lover leaves him unsure of everything. Ben’s best friend, Josh, struggles to find the good in his marriage to Maddie, even as he searches for a way to keep from losing her. Ben’s neighbor, Mrs. Aguilera, looks to make peace with those she has already lost. Gripping tightly to one another like the oddest of families, Ben and his friends embody the place in which they live: a city where everything combines, with a touch of perfect madness, into something more than the sum of its parts.
“I love this story because it’s just plain good. The characters are broken and unsure, but the love they have for each other and the humor that carries them along is genuine and lovely to behold. This story made me laugh even while it was hitting me in the gut, and I’d like nothing more than to sit down and drink a beer with everyone in it. Mr. Goodman, thank you for rocking my literary waffle.”
— Lish McBride, author of Hold Me Closer, Necromancer
Laws of Flight
by Darren Greer
An imaginative and resonant work of speculative literature from ReLit Award-winning author Darren Greer. Twin brothers, born on an oppressive family farm, discover a miraculous way to escape the dreariness of their lives, charting a course that promises equal measures of wonder and heartbreak.
The Last Judgment
by Maria Meindl
Charlotte is on the cusp of adolescence, and her world is being turned upside down. Unable to turn to her distant mother or absent father, she searches for guidance on the streets of downtown Toronto—and discovers God (or some version of Him) in the gutter.
“The Last Judgment is a story that penetrates into the heart of childhood sadness. Charlotte is without tools to fix what is broken, except for the incredible force of her will. The connections she makes between religion, parental failure, sexuality, and love make perfect sense because they are told in her bell-clear voice. This story is warm and tragic and, at moments, grimly funny.”
— Rebecca Rosenblum, author of Once and Road Trips
The Snake Crosses
the Tracks at Midnight
by Daniel Karasik
People grow in dimensions other than those we perceive. The teenage narrator of award-winning author Daniel Karasik’s latest story must deal with the fact that his older sister is now a grown woman, and Lucy, his crush-next-door, has become a mystery, with depths beyond his comprehension. Has he been coasting all this time, school and television his life’s only sources of momentum?
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