by Dave Margoshes
Decades ago, when bands like the Everly Brothers rode the airwaves and vacancy signs shone like beacons in the night, a young man gets his first taste of love, loss, and the ethereal satisfaction that comes with knowing that the world is turning and life is being lived.
THE YEAR I WAS nineteen, I was in love with a girl for the first time, but it turned out badly. This was years ago, when things were different between boys and girls, men and women. Were they simpler then, or more complex? I don’t know.
There had been other girls I’d dated or liked or mooned over, but this was something else, adult love or something close to it, that transforming love they show us in the movies.
Her name was April. She was a desk clerk in a pink sweater, pleated grey skirt and black flats at the summer hotel in Pennsylvania’s Pocono Mountains where I was a waiter. My mother had sewn a black satin stripe sewn along the outer seam of my black chinos to make it official. April was blonde, brilliantly blue-eyed, always smiling. Her face poured out light. She was as different from me as day is from night, but she made me shine like a new penny. We didn’t get together until late in the season, just a week before she was to go home to Long Island early. Her parents had promised her a quick tour of Europe so she could decide if she wanted to spend her third college year there. It should have been a summer romance except that already it was something more.
At night, the basketball and shuffleboard court below the patio outside the bar became a dance floor, propelled by the music of bands on the weekends, crackling, hissing records the other evenings. We danced, the Everly Brothers and Dion and the Belmonts and the Five Satins tinny through the loudspeakers, then wandered down the moonlit path to the dock, the strains of “The Great Pretender” still in our ears. We walked along the lake, where night birds called from the bordering trees, to a sandy beach. We kissed and I put my hand on her thigh. She said “I don’t” or “I won’t” or perhaps “I can’t.” She was speaking so softly I couldn’t be sure, but without her actually saying so I understood she was a virgin, and I hesitated, drew back. “It’s okay,” I said, kissing her again, and in my hesitation—in that moment between things—something happened I wasn’t familiar with. The arc of my desire rose and rose and was transformed into something else. It surprised me, the feeling that welled up, not just then but later, as if my lungs had rapidly inflated with pressurized air and were bursting, a sensation I couldn’t put a name to.
In the fall, back at school, me in Vermont, she at Penn State, we wrote to each other, almost every day, and phoned, once a week, our letters and calls filled with news, trivial and urgent, and sweet talk. Neither of us had said the word, but I understood I loved her, and that she felt the same. The fact that we were apart, that there was so much distance between us, and that hesitation stood between us like a wall, made it all the sweeter.
At Christmas, my vacation began a few days earlier than hers. That timing allowed me to go home, just outside New York City, talk my parents into loaning me the family car, an old Chrysler, and drive to Pennsylvania. It was a long trip, through New Jersey on one Interstate highway to the Delaware Water Gap, then straight west on another halfway across Pennsylvania to State College. She lived in a dormitory and she was waiting in the lobby when I drove up—I’d called from a rest stop an hour or so away and said I would be there at three.
“Hurry,” she had said, and the briefness of our exchange struck me, yet it seemed in every way authentic.
The sun was still shining brightly in a blue sky that was clouding over as I began the last leg of the drive. The first flakes of snow started to fall only as I took the freeway exit. I followed her directions and found the building quickly and pulled the car up beside a sign that said “10-minute loading zone only” and got out, shaking my stiff legs. April came running out, an oatmeal wool cardigan over her shoulders, a yellow skirt swirling around her bare legs. It was certainly not an outfit for winter driving. She would have to change, slowing us down, but I understood that she had dressed for me, that it was a gift. We kissed and held each other in the gently falling snow, our cheeks growing wet, but we didn’t feel cold. No, we burned.
about the author
DAVE MARGOSHES' books include three novels, five volumes of poetry and a biography. God Telling a Joke and Other Stories will be his seventh collection of short fiction. He's had stories and poems published in dozens of magazines and anthologies in Canada and the United States (included six times in Best Canadian Stories), had work broadcast on CBC, and given readings and workshops across the country. He was a finalist for the Journey Prize in 2009. Along the way, he’s won a few awards, including the Stephen Leacock Prize for Poetry in 1996, the John V. Hicks Award for fiction in 2001 and the City of Regina Writing Award twice, in 2004 and 2010. His Bix’s Trumpet and Other Stories was Book of the Year at the Saskatchewan Book Awards and a finalist for the ReLit Award in 2007, and his poetry collection, Dimensions of an Orchard, won the Anne Szumigalski Poetry Prize at the 2010 Saskatchewan Book Awards. His A Book of Great Worth was one of Amazon.Ca’s Top Hundred Books of 2012.
by this author
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
from the library
Off the Main Highway
by Courtney McDermott
At the Chickasaw Motel, three generations of the McGuinness clan are led by their elderly and overbearing patriarch. Only little Riley, “the smartest f-ing kid”, is spared the brunt of Grandpa McGuinness’s cruelty; ironically, it is his encouragement that provides her with a way out.
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.
by Jessica Westhead
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
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 Lana Storey
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
Eleven Miles There,
Twelve Miles Back
by Meghan Rose Allen
Deep in the heart of Ontario cottage country, Izza Ingram’s biological family disintegrates when her parents become trapped in a moment Izza can barely remember. Lost to their parents, she and her sister Paulie form an unlikely family unit under the guidance of their parents’ friend Doug. In this trio of their own making, Izza, Paulie, and Doug try to navigate the differences between the families we are born into versus the families we choose.
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?
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