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
by Nancy Branch
In the rugged Nepisiguit River region of northern New Brunswick, two hunters face off. One is local sports lodge employee Danny Knockwood, a Mi’gmaw guide with a withered hand. The other is Mui’n, a one-eared black bear battling his inexorable hunger. When Danny is charged by the lodge owner to hunt down the bear that is frightening guests at the salmon pools, his personal values come into sharp conflict with his commitment to the task. The resulting confrontation tests both his physical strength and his beliefs, as Danny begins to recognize a kindred spirit within the fiercely determined bear.
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 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 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?”
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.
by Richard Rosenbaum
Polly knows what she wants: to be in the greatest band in the world. Oliver knows what he wants: Polly. Together they are The Oughts, a duo trying to attain the unattainable, one basic chord at a time.
“Richard Rosenbaum’s The Oughts jabs its sticky little fingers right into your heart and swirls them around in there for a long, long time. Its characters unfold in pitch-perfect awkwardness and tender apathy, and readers will be struck by the surreal hinges and twitching imagery that Rosenbaum flawlessly weaves in. Writers in the audience should take note: Rosenbaum has created a writhing work of fiction that any scribe would aspire to be capable of pulling off.”
— Liz Worth, author of Treat Me Like Dirt: An Oral History of Punk in Toronto and Beyond and Eleven: Eleven
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
Hansel, Gretel and Katie
by Seyward Goodhand
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.