21 Slices
Medium 9781552452677

Last Words

Spencer Gordon Coach House Books ePub

LAST WORDS

 

 

 

The doctor points to an X-ray of my lungs, circles an area near my trachea. The office air goes queer – pressurized, headachy – as she opens her mouth to speak. Tumours, she says, delicately, as if invoking the name means invitation. Here and here and here, tapping the photograph, signalling the first signs of a cancer that may spread from my lungs to my throat and to my brain. Or not, she adds, careful; we can’t predict the process of the disease. So, they might otherwise head south, passing through my capillaries to leech into my stomach, my liver, my pancreas. They may shrink, or they may just stay put, grow to the size of ripe plums in my chest.

Who knows? Once you’ve got a weed, I’m thinking, the whole lawn is lost. I’ve spent enough time gardening, knees and hands stained with soil, to know how the whole grisly show operates. One arrogant yellow bloom pokes its tufty head out of so much healthy green, and then there’s a legion. But these weeds aren’t happy yellow dandelions, won’t fade to spidery white filaments that blow to bits at the end of summer. And I can’t simply rise and retire, put away my tools and abandon the manicured fight. No, the next few months will be shadowy, elusive, spiked with the brooding talk of tumours: morbid entanglements of humour and tomb.

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Medium 9781552452585

Dingbat

Heather Birrell Coach House Books ePub

Dingbat

DAD DIED IN FEBRUARY of my seventeenth year, in the backyard, while feeding the birds. Mum found him flat on his back, looking for all the world as if he were napping on the soft pile of snow he had just cleared from the space beside the feeder. When I got home from school, the ambulance had not yet arrived. Mum would not let me in the front door.

Go back to school, she said, her face white as bone.

When I kneeled beside my father, I was cheered by the fact that his eyes were closed. Dead people stared blankly into some unfathomable beyond. I laid my hand against his face. The skin was not warm, but it had a tender elasticity to it. I pulled his toque down over his forehead. There was a tiny curlicue of wax sitting like a hardened spot of Dijon mustard inside his ear. He was not dead.

Dad? I said, and leaned down close, so that he could hear.

A paramedic shoved me to the side.

Mum and I sat on the steps of the back porch and watched the uniformed men work. And it was work. They pushed and prodded at him, blew into his lungs, shocked his heart. We could see our breaths in the air, but sweat soaked their baby-blue shirts into navy. They did all that they could do. Still, they could have done more.

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Medium 9781552452677

Jobbers

Spencer Gordon Coach House Books ePub

JOBBERS

 

 

 

Amid a pile of paper plates, pizza boxes and the crumbly remains of breakfast, I stare down at the July ’91 edition of WWF Magazine. Jake ‘The Snake’ Roberts glares back from the glossy cover, his cocked brow just oozing evil. WWF Magazine is a regular sight in our house. Eddy, my eight-year-old brother, saves all his change to run down to the convenience store every month to grab the new edition. He has me read the articles to him. On this month’s cover there’s a headline about The Ultimate Warrior – Eddy’s favourite wrestler – and his ongoing feud with The Undertaker, who’s one of the most feared heels in the World Wrestling Federation. To Eddy, wrestling is literally life and death, especially when the Warrior is involved. Of course, as his big sister, I know better – I know it’s absolute horseshit.

From where I sit at the table, I can hear Gorilla Monsoon – black, hyperactive poodle, bought for forty bucks two weeks ago from a retired steelworker on East 22nd Street – whining non-stop in the spare bedroom. Gorilla isn’t properly housebroken. Mom and Uncle Keith (not really my uncle – he’s Mom’s boyfriend, most recent and longest lasting) are throwing a party tonight. They want Gorilla locked in the bedroom because if we let him run around the house he’ll piss and shit all over the floors, and for now it’s just too hot to keep him out back, especially with all that black fur. Gorilla’s so spastic that neither of them wants to deal with his jumping and barking, so his prison sentence extends until the end of the bash. Knowing Gorilla, and knowing Mom’s parties, the puppy will be yelping until three in the morning.

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Medium 9781552452677

Frankie+Hilary+Romeo+Abigail+Helen: An Intermission

Spencer Gordon Coach House Books ePub

FRANKIE+HILARY+ROMEO+ABIGAIL+HELEN:
AN INTERMISSION

 

 

 

By Frankie, I mean, of course, Francisco James Muñiz IV (1985– ), son of Francisco ‘Frank-a-hey-ho’ Benjamin Eugene-Wallace Tyler Muñiz III (a Cuban-born restaurant owner of Puerto Rican descent), and Denise (ex-nurse of mixed Irish and Italian heritage), now divorced. The particular Frankie who, after watching his older sister Christina’s sterling performance in her Knightdale, North Carolina, high school musical, decided to pursue a career in acting, and who first got his chops as Tiny Tim in a local theatre production of A Christmas Carol. The home-schooled Frankie who slogged through several no-budget productions (The Sound of Music, The Wizard of Oz, etc.) and commercials and made-for-TV movies (e.g., To Dance with Olivia, 1997, starring Louis [or Lou] Gossett, Jr.) until his role in the David Spade/Sophie Marceau romantic comedy Lost & Found (1999), which, though roundly panned by critics, raised him in the eyes of Hollywood casting agents and facilitated his first big splash at the awkward age of fourteen in the Fox sitcom Malcolm in the Middle, a mid-season replacement in which Frankie played the eponymous leading character with such aplomb and earnestness that he was nominated for Golden Globe Awards in 2000 and 2001, an Emmy Award in 2001, and was awarded the Hollywood Reporter YoungStar Award for his overall performance in the series. Malcolm in the Middle being the long-running comedy series detailing the antics of a middle-class family modelled after a sort of ‘dysfunctional American post-nuclear’ (perhaps best epitomized by The Simpsons), lauded and known to push specific target-audience envelope thresholds and known as the vehicle that enabled Frankie to star in several feature-film productions through the early to mid-2000s, such as My Dog Skip (2000), Dr. Dolittle 2 (2001), Big Fat Liar (2002, matched with actress Amanda Bynes), Agent Cody Banks (2003, alongside actress, singer and activist Hilary Duff), Agent Cody Banks 2: Destination London (2004) and Racing Stripes (2005, voice only), as well as to make numerous cameo appearances, such as in the films Stuck on You (2003), Stay Alive (2006) and Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story (2007). The Frankie who, over the last few years, has been transitioning out of traditional Hollywood acting roles, experimenting with various producing gigs (for example, producing in 2006 the film Choose Your Own Adventure: The Abominable Snowman, an interactive animated feature based on the popular ‘Choose Your Own Adventure’ novels, for which he also provided voice-acting alongside actors William H. Macy and Lacey Chabert) and expressing a desire in print and online media to do some ‘growing up’ outside the limelight. The Frankie who has decided of late to pursue an exciting and rewarding career as a professional race-car driver (ever since gaining his driver’s licence in 2001, Frankie has been consumed with a powerful love of driving and of cars [no doubt influenced by his father, Frank-a-hey-ho, who similarly indulges in car adoration but has publicly expressed fears regarding Frankie’s safety behind the wheel] – a love which has led to the purchase of several exorbitantly expensive automobiles [a total of nine in Frankie’s first year of licenced driving], such as the white 1995 Volkswagen Jetta from the film The Fast and the Furious [2001], a 2002 Cadillac Escalade previously owned by Penny Hardaway of the New York Knicks and a 1950s Porsche Speedster). The Frankie who, after more or less committing himself to the sport, took first prize in the 2005 Pro/Celebrity Race at the Long Beach Grand Prix and promptly signed a two-year contract with Jensen Motorsport, allowing him to race between the years 2006 and 2008 in the Formula BMW U.S.A. Championship, the Champ Car Atlantic Series (including the Las Vegas Grand Prix), the Sebring Winter National SCCA race, and drive for the PCM/USR team, finishing in the top ten in three races and completing the 2008 season in eleventh place (also bringing home the 2008 Jovy Marcelo Sportsmanship Award for his gracious and honourable conduct during the year’s competitions). The particular Frankie who, in 2005, was briefly engaged to hairdresser Jamie Gandy (a woman who bears a passing resemblance to Frankie’s ex-co-star Hilary Duff and whom he met on the set of the film Stay Alive) – an engagement that was swiftly called off due (in part) to Frankie’s hectic racing and travelling schedule, which left him a grand total of only forty days at home in 2007. The Frankie who is also currently engaged to Hollywood unknown Elycia Turnbow, aka Elycia Marie (a five-foot-four vintage clothing store-owner [standing one inch shorter than Frankie] tagged by many bloggers as ‘super hot’) who, in early 2011, reputedly assaulted Frankie and damaged numerous expensive artworks and pieces of furniture around his mansion in Phoenix, according to a 911 dispatch call made by Frankie himself, who was reputedly embroiled in such relationship stress and drama that he was pushed to hold a pistol to his head and threaten to commit suicide. The resilient Frankie who is currently mending his relationship with Turnbow/Marie and denying any ongoing suicidal urges, and who, among other appearances and racing projects, is currently playing drums for the rather middle-of-the-road, radio-friendly rock band You Hang Up.

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Medium 9781552452677

The Land of Plenty

Spencer Gordon Coach House Books ePub

THE LAND OF PLENTY

 

 

 

Date: February 9, 2005

To: Szychszczecin, Gary ‘gary.szychszczecin@subway.ca’

From: LNC ‘l.c.royale@sympatico.net’

Subject: Re: Advertising Arrangement

Dear Gary,

I’ve been considering your offer. It’s a deal, man. You’ll be helping me more than you can fathom. Sincere thanks to you (and your father) for thinking of me in my time of need.

So how about we jump right in. How’s this, for instance:

If I decide to buy the small veggie subs (and by small, I mean the modest six-inchers), and I politely refuse those thin bricks of processed cheese (American cheese, they’re called in happy commercials) or even the smallest dollops of mayonnaise or oil (called ‘sub sauce’ by those in the know) or other fatty and high-caloric sauces (Chipotle Southwest, say, or Sweet Onion, light of my life), and I have this assembled and rolled in Nine-Grain Bread with its roughish, earthy exterior and thin particles of flax seeds, then I can begin a new life – not necessarily a longer or more worthy one (for who can foresee the stupidities and vagaries of time: public transit dragging, falling ice, penis tumours, high-profile legal betrayals), or even a life remembered by a generational fetish group, or one preserved in pigeon-shit-splattered iron and bronze or in the pages of rotting, useless books that stand with jutting chins before the last fire or storm wipes away their synthetic inks, but a life that is now and then touched by beauty, and goodness, and occasional mercy, because SUBWAY, you obviously know the secret – that life is shit.

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