by Tim Beckett
She appeared on an old style woman’s bike with the heavy iron frame and the wide handlebars, her backpack so heavy she almost fell over as she came to a stop. I was drinking beer on Bill’s porch with Bill and a dozen other people and I watched her as she came up the stairs. She was striking, with high Indian cheekbones and olive skin and long brown hair she’d tied back in a ponytail with an Indian braid, and an athletic dancer’s figure which she’d wrapped in a ankle-length leather greatcoat. As she said hello in turn to everyone on the porch, I noticed that, unusually amongst Bill’s friends, she was French.
She’d noticed me as well, because she stopped right in front of me, taking me in with amazing diamond eyes. Up close, she looked familiar though that didn’t mean much: in the month I’d been back in Montreal, every street, face or overheard conversation – whether in French or English – contained some association with a set of vaguely remembered persons or memories. For this and other reasons, I didn’t like to go out much, but that afternoon was special: Bill and his wife Sarah were having a baby shower for their daughter Gisele, who had just turned one.
Sarah, just two years off heroin.
by Philip Quinn
I’d beg for a cup of coffee, a stale bun. The
merchants chased me from their doorsteps. I made
note of their thick accents.
I thought after the last war, I would make my way
as a painter. But my art fed me nothing.
Now I listen for the guns. Each day their thunder
comes closer. A dog when it is fed cyanide
straightens its legs out. Marriage — the last
desperate hope. I owed her that at least.
I always said my prayers like a good boy. Did the
honourable duty towards those that expected it.
Some had to die before me of course. Even the young
Do you know what it is like to hear your name
shouted out and to feel the love of thousands?
Occasionally I lifted my hand and smiled.UG
Philip Quinn lives in Toronto and online at www.philipquinn.ca.
Dis Location, Stories After the Flood (Gutter Press 2000)
The Double, a novel. (Gutter Press 2003)
The SubWay (BookThug 2008)
The Skeleton Dance, a novel (Anvil Press 2009)
That Was All That Happened
by Celia Farber
Judging from her feet, she was no princess. Size 9, with toes that were long, one shaped like a tennis racket, bunions, bones adrift. They hurt, in all shoes except sneakers. She walked fast and hard, up and down the streets of Manhattan. She could clip 20 blocks in 15 minutes, easily. Thinking, thinking, thinking. People remarked on her gait, often, friends who saw her barreling around, from a distance. “Like a boxer,” said one. “Like a bloody gorilla,” said a British boyfriend, years ago. A kind of lunging. Her shoes always got the same quarter-sized hole drilled straight through the middle of the sole, first left, then right. Her mother, sister, father, all had the same big bony troubled feet.
by Kenneth Radu
After initially appearing online in Urban Graffiti with his short story “Oxygen” — subsequently published in his most recent collection of short fiction, Earthbound (DC Books, 2012) — I am quite pleased to publish Kenneth Radu’s transgressive short story “Latrine Duty”, excerpted from his series of linked short stories, that follows the main character, Billy, into his own personal heart of darkness upon his return from his tour of Afghanistan. Enjoy. ~Editor
A scorpion flicking its stinger inside his anus, his face bloated and red, Billy grunted on the bowl. His wife Maggie shrieked in the cell, demanding he fork a hundred bucks for the girls. Where the hell was he going to get a hundred bucks? After paying rent for this dinky hellhole of an apartment and buying hamburger and beans, he had only a few dollars left for smokes and beer. His job paid shit which he’d give a cool hundred to do at this very moment. Just let it break free of the dam and splat out. Everything blocked, bowels constricted, nothing moved except for that frigging scorpion. He had left the door ajar, giving him a good view of Isaac grunting and banging the woman on the bed.
by Willow Verkerk
Why Jolene picked this rusty little town was something she had given more thought to than she let on. She would say that she liked the antique shops and the lake, that she had an uncle (not the blood kind, the family friend kind) who had lived here when she was young. It was the nature of the place and the quiet way of living that made it so special. It was a good place to get away from a city life that had turned rancid, she thought, but she didn’t say that.
The most difficult question at first was how to set up the school right. She had to make sure it sounded professional but not snobby, somewhere fun for kids, special to suit the town. Jolene knew her looks could be eccentric, but that it could work for her as long as she seemed friendly, humble, even a bit homely at first. She stopped wearing makeup, pulled her hair in a bun and wore those wrap-around ballet shirts that look very ballet-like.
She had certificates made up and pulled some photos together from jazzercise and aerobics. Old photos of her with her younger cousins playing dance were useful too, then her classy headshots from the acting gig and a couple pairs of used point shoes made the place feel official. She advertised in the local newspaper. The signs at the schools and community centre helped, but the biggest help was the ladies book club. One of the members, Angela, was a former beauty contestant who praised the discipline and fine breeding of ballet. Jolene winced inside when she met her, swearing that she was one of the working girls from the city. But, when Angela convinced five mothers to sign up their daughters during their first meeting Jolene decided it was a foolish case of paranoia. The girls she knew were never that nice.