21 Slices
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

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 9781552452677

Operation Smile

Spencer Gordon Coach House Books ePub

OPERATION SMILE

 

 

 

This is authentic, Crystle thought. The turquoise scrubs, the sky-blue smock. The military watch and the brush cut. The man spoke slowly, deliberately, gestured emphatically with his hands. She noted the fine polish of his fingernails, his trimmed cuticles, the skin softened by constant scrubbing. This is a man who cares about his appearance, she thought. That’s refreshing; I could talk to this man.

It was significant that Commander Kubis didn’t seem nervous. Most men were nervous or jittery around her. It didn’t matter that they fought wars or made policy or saved lives, worked with living tissue, bore immense responsibilities. When confronted by all that beauty and poise, most were reduced to stammering, wide-eyed children. The only men who weren’t usually nervous were the actors and millionaires, because for them, she assumed, beauty was simply functional, like furniture.

‘Take a look around you,’ Kubis said, smiling. ‘And don’t be afraid to get a bit close and cozy. Even on a day like today, there’s lots of work to do.’

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Medium 9781552452585

Impossible to Die in Your Dreams

Heather Birrell Coach House Books ePub

Impossible to Die in Your Dreams

Eliza: Soup out of Stones

When my granddaughter Annie was ten, she started talking like a wrestler from a fable. I regard you as a nail in the eye and a thorn in my muscle, shed say. I will trounce you, shed shout, with her arms raised, fists clenched. That was after the three-month period when she insisted on watching As the World Turns standing on her head with the backs of her knees propped against the recliner. She said it made more sense that way. Theres no contesting the wisdom of children. Now, there she is, all dolled up to the nines and tens, ready to wed. And in such a place! Im not one for religion, but still, a brewery tugs at the old constraints of credulity. And her sister Samantha, always the ornery one, scowling in the corner. Went and got herself a P-H-D and traipsed around the world. Places herself above weddings and other normal human interactions. Thinks tripping through a rice paddy in Vietnam lends her some smarts inaccessible to the likes of me and Bea.

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Medium 9781552452677

Lonely Planet

Spencer Gordon Coach House Books ePub

LONELY PLANET

 

 

 

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Ryan can’t remember his dreams. It’s been this way for two and a half years. He used to have so many beautiful, exciting nights – charging with elephants across marshmallow fields, fucking childhood friends in the stands of enormous monster-truck rallies, even dipping into libido-charging bouts of lucidity, wherein he could suddenly fly, melt time, be happy. Now, though, there’s nothing – not even the faintest, most ephemeral glimmer. But Ryan’s done his reading on nighttime emissions. He knows perfectly well that if you sleep, you dream; knows that he is no exception. And thus he figures these curious memory gaps can mean only one thing: that some seriously malevolent shit must be running amok in his subconscious.

Ryan guesses that if he could remember his dreams, he would call them nightmares. He feels he has good reason: despite the gaping dissolves in his memory, each morning is marked by a sense of dread so acute that he whimpers. He whimpers before he opens his eyes, before he is aware of himself as a being, distinct from his sticky mattress, the rattle of his ceiling fan. Whimpers as the sensation of waking life, consciousness, Ryanness, materializes in the slow, plodding minutes of awareness.

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