by Curtis Snider
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.
I HEAR HIS VOICE through the gauze of bed sheets, asking if I’m awake. Dishes clatter. The kitchen sink is running.
“Hmm,” I answer, approximating yes.
“Are you real?” he asks.
“Real?” The morning light is blinding. I blink and rub at my eyes. “Of course I am.”
“Okay,” he says. I hear him sigh. “Then get out.”
I force my eyes open.
This isn’t my apartment. This isn’t where I live.
I RARELY WAKE UP during the night, but last night I did, if only briefly. It was dark—as dark as night gets—and I was only awake for a moment, but it was long enough to feel his body beside me. My boyfriend’s body. Well, actually, my ex-boyfriend. He was sleeping next to me. It’s been months since we’ve shared a bed.
But this isn’t my bed. It’s his.
"WHERE AM I?” I ask, only to confirm the impossibility of it. I struggle to keep my eyes open against the damned bright light cutting through the window.
“You don’t still have a key, do you?” Half-dressed, he rushes from the bathroom into the kitchen, which is only a few feet away from the bed where I’m lying, and snatches a frying pan from the glowing stovetop. Using a metal spatula, he digs impatiently at two rubber-cement fried eggs. He runs late like this every morning, without fail.
“Did you kidnap me?” I ask groggily, sitting up.
He scoffs, still concentrating on dislodging the overcooked eggs. “Why would I want to do that?”
I gather a fold of sheets around my torso before I sit up. When I lived in this apartment and slept in this bed, I didn’t hide my body from my boyfriend. Ex-boyfriend. Why is that prefix slipping so easily from my mind this morning?
“I have to leave for work soon.” His tone carries an implicit instruction—or more appropriately a demand—for me to do something about this situation. He shovels the last bits of breakfast into his mouth and finishes buttoning his shirt.
Without answering, I retreat into my pillow and pull the sheets up over my head. I ball up, completely covered, the way I used to during our first year when I had no class and he had to work early. I should be considering my next action, but instead find myself lulled by the warmth of my own rhythmic breath. The sheets inflate and deflate around me like a bellows.
I can hear him scuttle around the tiny bachelor apartment, from the kitchen, to the bathroom, to the closet, and back to the bathroom. I’ve always found the “bachelor” part of “bachelor apartment” funny. Just by living here together, we were actively refuting it. Or is a man still a bachelor until he gets married? Whatever he was, we survived. It was cramped, but I didn’t mind it. Not until the end, anyway.
Still enveloped in my breath bellows, I hear the front click door open, creak, then shut. I hear no more breathing or moving inside the room. Just the whir of cars from the road outside. I peek out from under the sheets. He’s gone and I’m alone again.
about the author
CURTIS SNIDER is a writer and creator from Edmonton, Alberta. Growing up in a military family, he moved across the country more than a few times before eventually returning to Edmonton where he now lives with his wife and cat. He received his Bachelor of Commerce from the University of Alberta and when he’s not working or writing, he’s been seen acting, making short films, and performing improv comedy.
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.
by Pauline Holdstock
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
by Matt Cahill
Portraits of people marooned within themselves, trapped by their past experiences, by uncertainty and anxiety — individuals for whom each new situation is a grueling journey towards the present, a place where action and choice are possible. In Second World, Matt Cahill illustrates, with honesty and empathy, how the most important breakthroughs are not the life-altering revelations, but rather the minor miracles that get us through each day.
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
of My Sound
by Andrew Forbes
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
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
by Cynthia Flood
New wife and mother Julie is a woman struggling to find her place. Her dilemmas, while modest, feel harsh, and reflect the ways in which women were once denied control over their own bodies. Her first steps toward independence bring great pain—and not only to herself. With sparing, incisive prose, Cynthia Flood unravels what it meant to be a married woman in post-war era Vancouver, creating an evocative and even unsettling experience for the reader.
“With a precision of language that startles and delights, Cynthia Flood offers glimpses of those moments in which the essence of an entire life is revealed.”
— Nancy Richler, author of The Imposter Bride
“What a great story! Told in terse, restrained sentences, yet opening to a lush and radiant heart, Addresses captures the anguish of a marriage gone off the rails, and the moments of redemption that arrive from unexpected places. Flood’s use of language is uniquely her own–staccato, clean as a knife, and brilliant. Cynthia Flood has done it again.”
— Shaena Lambert, author of Radiance
“The abruptness of the title tells so much about this exquisitely drawn story by Cynthia Flood. ‘Tell the truth but tell it slant,’ Emily Dickinson advised, and that’s always been the approach Flood has preferred for her bone-china fictions, edging into them sideways. Once escorted into the story’s arrhythmic heart, we readers have no choice but to immerse ourselves in a world long gone but still very much with us, to emerge both shaken and stirred.”
— Dave Margoshes, author of A Book of Great Worth
Deep Breaths Underwater
by Meghan Rose Allen
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.