Episode Thirty Nine - Guest Author Anna Bowen

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Guelph is lucky to claim Anna Bowen — writer, editor and community builder — as part of its arts scene. Her writing explores place, ecology, and reciprocity, often through integrated arts collaborations. Her poetry was shown at the Gladstone Gallery and the Boarding House Art Gallery as part of the ReMediate collaboration and at the Spectrum Project Space in Perth, Australia as part of ((Pollen)) InConversation. Anna’s writing has been published in This Magazine, Geez, Taproot, and Rhapsody, among others. She’s been a guest lecturer on poetry and ecology at Ryerson University and the University of Guelph and is the producer of the Eden Mills Writers' Festival podcast where she interviews Canadian authors. You can also catch her as co-host of Bookish Radio with Kim Davids Mandar.

 
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The skier

Her skis swished ahead of her, cutting little edges into the untouched snow beside the forest path.  In another language, she remembered hearing, there were more words for snow. Snow that had a crust, snow that whipped across a field in the wind. It seemed clumsy to have just this one word. She pushed the tips of her skis further along, watching them like fins slicing through the surface of water.

 “Training for the Olympics?” an old man in a bright blue toque yelled as he jogged slowly by, his pompom bobbing from side to side.  She didn’t have time to answer.  

“Reginald, get back here!”  She turned to see a young gold lab bounding across the snow at the full speed of its muscly limbs. Behind it, a middle aged woman in a fluffy, baby-blue jacket was moving less quickly behind it in her heavy boots.  As the dog lunged toward her she could see its training collar, the interlocking metal barbs that could dig into its neck if the leash were attached.  On impact, a hundred pounds of warm bristly sinew pushed against her parka. She fell ungracefully, covering her face with her leather mitts, giving the dog her elbow, feeling it working its jaw against her coat as she tried to ward it off with one pole.  She was like that when the owner arrived.  The woman clipped Reginald into his leash and gave a sharp tug. “Reginald!” she said crossly. The dog gasped and sat back on its haunches. “He’s never seen a skier before.”

(written by Anna Bowen, read by Chioke I'Anson) 

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Episode Thirty Eight - Guest Author Kate Cayley

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Next Sunday, Kate Cayley will be coming to Guelph to read at an event co-hosted by the Eden Mills Festival and Publication Studio Guelph. She’s a tremendous talent — an award-winning fiction writer, playwright, and poet. Her short story collection, How You Were Born, won the 2015 Trillium Book Award and was a finalist for the Governor General’s Award and the ReLit Award. Her first collection of poetry, When This World Comes to an End, was shortlisted for the ReLit Award, and her young adult novel, The Hangman in the Mirror, won the Geoffrey Bilson Award for Historical Fiction. Kate’s currently touring her new poetry collection Other Houses and we’re so pleased to be able to feature an excerpt from it on The Oddments Tray.

 
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Pied Piper: The Children, Leaving, Sing to Their Parents

Why are you surprised?

 

We heard

a singing in the wood.

 

Our eyes are brighter than the rats. We, too,

are built of curiosity and appetite, we vibrate

what we touch, how could we not

follow the man in patches,

 

leaving you excavated,

your streets

quiet as you wished for.

 

We’ve made ourselves now,

following the pipe, the door

that opens in the hill, which you

 

hung back from, cowards. You were made

to make us, nothing else.

 

Write our names in the window each night.

 

Inscribed in churches, and furtively in the kitchen steam

the kettle makes against the glass. Etch us

on the hollow glass of your own hearts.

 

Don’t look for us, though. We don’t look for you.

 

(written by Kate Cayley, read by Chioke I'Anson) 

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We'll be back soon!

 photo by  Ryan McGuire

We're taking a late spring break to power through the end of term. We'll be back soon with more audio microfiction. 

Episode Thirty Seven - The Girls Are Watching

 photo by  Ryan McGuire

The girls are watching Bobby Darin. The girls are watching Paul Anka. The girls are watching Frankie Avalon. It’s a live show and they’ve lined up for hours. The host glides between them and points a spindly microphone towards one. “What a neat hat,” he says. He takes it off her head and parks it, cocked, on his own. The other girls cringe but they’re used to being spoken to like that, like they’re all dimple and no brain. Like their vaginas are on vacation. Like they don’t have teeth.

The one they’re watching steps on stage. He’s buffed almost to a gloss. He sings like a castrated goat. It’s so close to a mating song. It’s so close to what they want. Is it any wonder they howl back? You put a kettle on a stove—what happens?

(written by Claire Tacon, read by Chioke I'Anson) 

That rad music you hear at the end is by Tigerrosa. Buy their debut album here

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Episode Thirty Six - Guest Author Raoul Fernandes - Part Two

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We're back with week two of work by the incredible Raoul Fernandes! Please check out his bio and earlier episode here and pick up his knock-out debut collection at your local independent bookstore. 

 

Everything Must Go

The butcher shop closes down

and cleans out its insides. Everything

goes: cleavers, cutting boards,

hooks. The smell of blood fades,

the ghosts, if any, clear.

 

For a few months it’s only four white walls,

a small chair in a dim corner, and a light bulb

hanging from the ceiling.

 

We gaze through the front windows

coming home from parties

or night-school classes. It’s the nothing

we are drawn to, a kind of snowfall-nothing

or those empty pages at the end of a novel.

 

A month later, the Dollar Store

moves in and fills the room with racks

of glittering key chains and baskets

of toy dinosaurs.

 

We look in there less;

it’s still nothing, but a different kind.

I go in once to buy a broom, and another time

a dozen tea candles, even though

I had stepped inside

for something else.

 

(written by Raoul Fernandes, read by Chioke I'Anson) 

That rad music you hear at the end is by Tigerrosa. Buy their debut album here

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Episode Thirty Five - Guest Author Raoul Fernandes

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This past fall, I was introduced to Raoul Fernandes' writing when he read at St. Jerome's University. The following weekend, I tore through his first collection of poems, Transmitter and Receiver (Nightwood Editions, 2015), struck by the imagery, humour, and pathos. The collection has received some much-deserved acclaim: it won the Dorothy Livesay Award, the Debut-litzer Award for Poetry in 2016 and was a finalist for the Gerald Lampert Memorial Award and the Canadian Authors Association Award for Poetry. Raoul has been published in numerous literary journals and anthologies, including the Best Canadian Poetry 2015. He lives and writes in Vancouver, with his wife and two sons. 

We enjoyed his work so much that we're dedicating two episodes to it. Check back next week for another of his poems and please go pick up his collection from your local independent bookseller. 

 
 photo by  Ryan McGuire

By Way of Explanation

You have this thing you can only explain

by driving me out to the port at night

to watch the towering cranes moving containers

from ship to train. Or we go skipping stones

across the mirror of the lake, a ghost ship

in a bottle of blue Bombay gin by your side.

I have this thing I can only explain to you

by showing you a pile of computer hardware

chucked into the ravine. We hike down there

and blackberry vines grab our clothes as if to say,

Stop, wait, I want to tell you something too.

You have an old photograph you keep in your

bedside drawer. I have this song I learned

on my guitar. By way of clarification, you send

me a YouTube video of a tornado filmed up close

from a parked car. Or a live-stream from a public

camera whose view is obscured by red leaves.

I cut you a key to this room, this door.

There’s this thing. A dictionary being consumed

by fire. The two of us standing in front of a Rothko

until time starts again. A mixtape that is primarily

about the clicks and hums between songs. What if

we walk there instead of driving? What if we just drive,

without a destination? There’s this thing I’ve always

wanted to talk about with someone. Now

with you here, with you listening, with all

the antennae raised, I no longer have to.

 

(written by Raoul Fernandes, read by Chioke I'Anson) 

That rad music you hear at the end is by Tigerrosa. Buy their debut album here

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Episode Thirty Four - Guest Author Andrew Hood

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This week, we welcome Guelph’s Andrew Hood to the blog. Bitingly funny and often absurd, Andrew’s fiction crackles with originality. He’s the author of the short story collections Pardon Our Monsters and The Cloaca, and Who Needs What, a monograph on musician Jim Guthrie. He has been nominated two for the Journey Prize and won the 2008 Danuta Gleed Award.

 

Mother Masks

 photo by  Ryan McGuire

Three years in, the mother masks started to show their age. Mouths and eyes sagged, the colours dulled. Each mask took on an odor general to the material and specific to the wearer. One Mother tried washing out their mask, but one whiff and their child knew something was wrong. What had become offensive to us was familiar to the children.

The podgy redhead became standoffish and was removed. For our own wellbeing none of us dared imagine where he was removed to.

Though intolerant of washed masks, the children weren’t bothered by cosmetic changes. Some Mothers touched themselves up, revivifying sallow skin, re-ventilating hair that had been tugged out by growing grip strengths. Some went the extra mile to affix the drooping eye sockets to their own faces. At three, the children grabbed. The danger of exposure was becoming increasingly clear and present so better attaching the masks made sense. Some suspected, though, that vanity was becoming as important as utility to some others.

Under the guise of longevity, some Mothers started keeping their masks on in the barracks. Donning and shedding accelerated wear. It followed that those Mothers who stayed masked also maintained the maternal personality they affected in the field. Years were passing. The children were needing less from us, getting more from one another. Our own senses of duty and worth became fragile. The unmasked sought out the masked for comfort.

Passing single rooms, you’d see a Face and a Mask in bed together, the Mask stroking, speaking in the soothing voices they had become adept at. The program didn’t last long enough for the taboo of furthering this intimacy to ever be resolved. When a Mask was found strangled dead in their room, mask torn, we assumed the unspeakable act was connected to other acts we still hadn’t decided how to speak about.

After thirteen years, the program ended. The children were reintegrated.

We watched them be approached by children born outside captivity, all feeling the stress of the meeting. There was some of us in those children, which made it all the more difficult to see them turned on, to see their insides brought outside, to see their flesh being torn as our masks might.

In the observation theatre, the horror and the failure registered on our all our faces, except those in their mother masks. Their expressions remained unmoving and stoic as their children were disassembled.

(written by Andrew Hood, read by Chioke I'Anson) 

That rad music you hear at the end is by Tigerrosa. Buy their debut album here

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Episode Thirty Three - Guest Author Pamela Mordecai

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This week, we’re thrilled to present part two from contributor Pamela Mordecai. She's reading from her tremendous debut novel Red Jacket, which was short-listed for the Rogers Writers' Trust Fiction Prize (2015). A prolific author, Pamela has published five collections of poetry, an anthology of short fiction and is well-known for her poetry and stories for children. She's a recipient of the Institute of Jamaica’s Centenary and Bronze Musgrave Medals. She tweets at @Refracting

Please check out her earlier episode here and pick up one of her books from your local independent bookstore. 

 

 
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A Dream (Excerpt from Red Jacket)

So Maisie folds Gracie in her arms like a baby and takes her down the road to Beloved. When she reaches the storefront church, she reverses into the heavy wooden doors, forcing them open with her broad backside, and the two of them go through to see Reverend Douglas, who is waiting. Several ladies make up the congregation and there is even a small choir, a bright blaze of birds the colour of parrots and macaws. Reverend Douglas walks up to receive Maisie and her whimpering charge, arms wide open, big as a baobab tree, and she folds the sobbing Gracie into the great tent of her white robes and takes her up to the altar where Jeremiah is waiting, dressed in red and white, the youngest of seven altar boys who swing gold censers as they wait for Jimmy to begin saying Mass.

            And there at the altar is Gramps, straight and strong, instructing Jeremiah on how to tend the forest of medicine plants that he has set out in rows and rows of pots at the back of the barracks hut in Wentley.

            “Tell her, Gramps,” Ma says, fresh as morning drizzle.

            “You’ve got to get up, Gracie. It’s time to go.”

            Ma walks over quickly, for though she is stout, she moves light as wisps of silk cotton seed. She leans down to give Gracie a hand, but Gracie can’t move, sake of pain. Her entire lower arm is blown up, a fat reddish balloon. The pain inside is hot like boiling water. If anybody offered to cut her arm off, she would let the knife do its terrible work without a moment’s thought.

            She understands. It is Carnival, and the inflated arm is part of her costume, and they are all dressed-up to play mas, a whole band of players in green and white. They wear masks, and their heads are covered with cps like the old-fashioned bathing caps that grandmothers wear at the beach. The party room is tiled green like the birthing room in Geneva where Jeremiah was born. She hates green. She hates this room with green tiles for walls.

There is one very black face that she recognizes, even though he has on a mask. The half moons of his tribal markings won’t let him hide. It is Jimmy, and she can see that he is smiling because his eyes are sideways slits. How she loves his long curling eyelashes! How his touch floods her body with light and movement!

Excerpted from Red Jacket by Pamela Mordecai © 2015 by Pamela Mordecai.  All rights reserved. Published worldwide by Dundurn Press (dundurn.com)

(written and read by Pamela Mordecai) 

That rad music you hear at the end is by Tigerrosa. Buy their debut album here

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Episode Thirty Two - Quiet time

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Mrs. Singh was walking us over the bridge towards the rainbow when Bruce’s sock ended up in my ear. His toe brushed my right lobe back and forth while I lay there, trying not to interrupt relaxation circle. His sock smelled like something my grandfather would pull out of a jar. Mrs. Singh caught me wiggling away and I slid my hand into an arrow aimed at Bruce’s foot. “Settle down,” she said. “Focus on the stillness in your body. Climb up the yellow beam and slide into the warm pool.” This time, when Bruce’s cheese curd toes started poking, I slid my palm along my mouth, picking up a trail of spit. I clamped my hand onto his ankle. The rest of the class floated through purple waves while I stayed glued to Bruce, fierce as a leech.

***

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This episode was read by the phenomenal Cadence Allen. Cady is a versatile performer and director whose many theatre credits include work with Shakespeare by the Sea, Theatre Aquarius and Theatre Orangeville. Some of Cady's television credits include Murder in ParadiseMiracles: DecodedClose Encounters and Canada: The Story of Us. She recently directed the Hamilton Fringe Festival production of Much Ado About Nothing, which took home Best of Fringe honours. In addition to her work as an actor and director, Cadence is the founder and principal of StageCoach Theatre Arts, a part-time performing arts school for kids ages 4-16 in Toronto's East End. She is represented by Alix Kazman at Fountainhead Talent Inc. 

(written by Claire Tacon, read by Cadence Allen)

Episode Thirty One - Guest Author Rebecca Rosenblum

 Photo by Dave Starrett

Photo by Dave Starrett

It's a testament to Rebecca Rosenblum's skill that her words stick with the reader long after they've put her book down. Over the past few months, I keep circling back to a line from her gorgeous debut novel So Much Love, “She doesn’t owe it to anyone—not even her husband—to fan out all that past pain like a hand of cards.” For me, the line magnifies the bravery of the women who have been coming forward to share their stories and is a reminder that not everyone can share their experiences, that no one is entitled to someone else's trauma. 

In addition to being a finalist for the Amazon First Novel Award for So Much Love, Rebecca won the Metcalf-Rooke Award for her first short fiction collection, Once. Her second collection, The Big Dream, came out in 2011 to much acclaim.  

She has been on both sides of the Journey Prize Anthology—both as an author and as a juror. Her work has also been shortlisted for the National Magazine Awards, and the Danuta Gleed Award, and has appeared in numerous literary journals and anthologies. She blogs at http://rebeccarosenblum.com/. We're so happy to present her work as part of The Oddments Tray. 

An earlier version of this story appeared as part of The Litter I See Project, a benefit for Frontier College’s literacy programs. Please spend some time on their wonderful website and consider supporting the cause.

 
 Photo by  Wesley Tingey

Photo by Wesley Tingey

The Wait

He waited at the stop for a while, trying to read a copy of the free arts weekly he’d shoved in with his groceries, but the wind kept yanking at the pages, rattling them until he stepped into a doorway to get out of the wind. He put the bags at his feet, knowing that he was no longer really at the bus stop, that if the bus came he stood a lesser chance of it stopping for him back here, but it was a cold day and he was tired.

The cover story was about a band he hadn’t heard of called the Simpletons. They were local too, started out playing together at some high school on the Danforth, branched out to east end bars, signed to Arts & Crafts. It made his throat hurt, dry and burning like an approaching cold. He didn’t resent their success—god knows, anyone who could escape the Value-Village-sweater life was a good omen for the rest. But the fact that he’d never heard the Simpletons, not at a fest or a showcase, hadn’t run across an EP or had a friend mention them, that felt like a bad omen. Like he wasn’t in the main circles anymore, like the acts who had new sounds were playing at bars he hadn’t even heard of. And who could he even ask about what bars, what neighbourhoods? It felt like everyone he had in his phone had gotten a job in marketing or teaching something, was spending Saturday nights trying to fix leaky taps and taking toddlers to the emergency room because they’d eaten an egg of Silly Putty.

A stronger gust of wind yanked the paper out of his hands—maybe he wasn’t trying that hard to hold on to it. The pages separated: most skittered east in the direction the bus would eventually take him, some flying up above his head until he lost track. When he glanced at the ground, he saw the page he had been reading, the baleful pride in the photo of the Simpletons, but he didn’t bother to pick it up. He saw the blue lights of the bus flash in the distance, and bent to gather his sacks of waffles and salad dressing.

(written by Rebecca Rosenblum, read by Chioke I'Anson) 

That rad music you hear at the end is by Tigerrosa. Buy their debut album here

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Episode Thirty - Guest Author Sheryda Warrener

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Sheryda and her work are impossible to resist. The author of two brilliant collections, Floating is Everything (Nightwood, 2015) and Hard Feelings (Snare, 2010), Sheryda draws her reader in with piercing observations, deep reflection and, often, a wink of humour. Robert Hass, paraphrasing Du Fu, says that "A good image makes something so real, it’s like being alive twice" and Sheryda's poems are brimming over with this double life. Her work has been featured in a recent Believer art issue, and shortlisted for the Robert Kroetsch Award for Innovative Poetry, the Arc Magazine Poem of the Year, the Malahat Review Long Poem Prize, and selected as runner-up for Lemon Hound’s inaugural poetry contest. In 2016, she became the director of the inaugural Artspeak Studio for Emerging Writers, where she mentors students who use language primarily as a material in visual art.

 
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A Temporary Relief

I pay twelve artists good money to live in the pool house for the summer, extra to not to make anything while they’re here. They paddle around the pool, make light of otherwise weighty topics. No intimate details are shared, no recipes for lentil salad or barbequed salmon swapped. Time whiles. I wake to find the back path to the pool house swept, pine needles and whirligigs assembled into the careful undulations of a desperate saga. Someone props the windows upstairs open so the sheer curtains billow out, brush my arm as I walk past. One day the granite countertop is dusted with an intricate mandala devised from cupboard spices, the next day, pool noodles twisted into devastating sculptures are stuck into the lawn. I try to catch them at it, only to find all twelve lounging in uncomplicated ways around the pool, eyes averted. When the gravy boat rains silver liquid down onto my mashed potatoes, I say aloud to no one in particular “I haven’t felt a thing since Murphy Brown sang (You Make Me Feel Like A) Natural Woman to baby Avery, May 18, 1992, 8:30 p.m. Eastern Standard Time, and I’m not about to break now.” I make my way down the path. I knew I would always be alone, but not like this. The underwater vacuum shudders and cleanses in its remote universe. Without my knowing, the prickly stucco of the diving board at this moment  makes an impression on the backs of my thighs. I’ll discover this later and tear apart the house in such a rage the artists will finally flee. Until then, oblivious, I agitate the surface with my toes, and this grants me a temporary relief.

(written by Sheryda Warrener, read by Chioke I'Anson) 

That rad music you hear at the end is by Tigerrosa. Buy their debut album here

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Episode Twenty Nine - Guest Author Lea Marshall

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This week, we are thrilled to present work from Lea Marshall.  Lea is Associate Chair of the Department of Dance & Choreography at Virginia Commonwealth University, as well as a poet and dance writer. Her creative work has appeared in Diode Poetry JournalUnsplendidHayden's Ferry ReviewLinebreak, and elsewhere. Her manuscript has been a finalist for the Crab Orchard Series in Poetry First Book Award and the New Issues Poetry Prize, and her poetry has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize. She writes for Dance MagazineDance Teacher magazine, and Richmond's Style Weekly. She holds an MFA in Creative Writing from Virginia Commonwealth University. 

This story was originally published in Life in 10 Minutes, a wonderful online writing project by Valley Haggard. 

 
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Vine

I kept craving sunset walks, in all this pink gold light and the last of the leaves, in their heart-stopping death-colors. We went out with friends on the Saturday after Thanksgiving, to take a river walk. Four children and three adults made for an ambling, erratic pace. Stop/shuffle/throw leaves/screech/run madly ahead. But we made it to the river and the river slid under a deep indigo sky shot with gold, and didn’t care about us a bit. I listened to it shushing, rippling, as we crossed the pedestrian bridge. I joked that my favorite time over the water is when no one else is there, as we slow-motion dodged among our fellow amblers. On the far side we kept walking, knowing any minute we would turn back. The sunset silently, wildly dark purple and copper behind the trees’ black filigree kept pulling our faces round to the west. Ahead, though, a rope swing with children dangling from it. Our own children, electric, surged ahead and paused. Not a rope – a vine. A vine hung from 30 feet up, and a little line of children waited to take a couple of swings out over the path and back to the steep hillside to which the trees’ roots clung. The perfect, slow glide of that vine kept us all spellbound – the children waiting in line, the parents watching from the path as each one clung, let go, and sailed like the clapper of a huge bell but soundless. Each flight held a magic no one would interrupt. Each child helped the next with the vine. “Will it break?” Parents waited motionless. One more. The purple sky. One more. It’s almost dark. One more. Our daughters, our sons, strangers’ children, each gliding through the dusk. One more. Their faces, concentrated in the bliss of the swing. More children arrive. One more. A half-moon, and the train whistle beckons us. One more. “It hasn’t broken yet.” We turn back to the bridge.

(written by Lea Marshall, read by Chioke I'Anson) 

That rad music you hear at the end is by Tigerrosa. Buy their debut album here

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Episode Twenty Eight - Some Reasons Why People Fail

 photo by  Ryan McGuire

Some reasons why people fail

The lower half of her body was lagging behind the top. As she jogged, she took on the hunched shoulders and curled-up hands of a T-rex.

Her torso had been content with the couch and a laptop. It resented the industry of her legs, this training towards what exactly? 5K, 10K a half marathon? You know what had been nice, it reminded her, the pool.

Earlier this summer, back when she didn’t care, she’d slipped into a neighbour’s backyard after midnight. Her apartment was above three-for-one pizza and had no AC. She was pretty sure they were at a cottage. They had a giant donut-shaped inflatable and she’d floated for almost an hour, feeling the three gradations of temperature—the chill of the water, the heat of the air, the lukewarm, unbreathable plastic. One of the first times in her life she’d been alone, in the dark, unafraid.

At the clinic, they’d made her feel like running was fearless too. You’re a champ, you’re a champ, you’re a champ, she repeated to herself with each footfall. Ignoring the unsaid—control your weight, control your anxiety, control your life. It was such a fine line between running from and running to.

(written by Claire Tacon, read by Chioke I'Anson) 

That rad music you hear at the end is by Tigerrosa. Buy their debut album here

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Episode Twenty Seven - Guest Author Sarah Yi-Mei Tsiang - Part Two

 Photo by Shay Wilson

Happy 2018! We're excited to welcome in the new year with guest author, Sarah Yi-Mei Tsiang. Please check out her bio and previous episode here. And, while you're at it, pick up one of her fantastic books at your local independent bookseller. 

 
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Laundry

Standing on the roof, reeling in the laundry. Each turn of the wheel sings rust. The shirts snap in the wind, come back. I hold the light fabrics in my hand as I unpin them from the line. Drop the clothespins into a plastic bag that hooks onto the wall. Let the dry clothes fall into the basket. They are stiff with the water that’s left. Rigid with wind.

(written by Sarah Yi-Mei Tsiang, read by Chioke I'Anson) 

That rad music you hear at the end is by Tigerrosa. Buy their debut album here

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Episode Twenty Six - Guest Author Sarah Yi-Mei Tsiang

 Photo by Shay Wilson

Reading Sarah Yi-Mei Tsiang’s poetry collection, Sweet Devilry, coincided with the birth of my first son and it felt like a motherhood primer written by your much smarter, cooler cousin. Since then, her picture book A Flock of Shoes has become a favourite of said son. Sarah’s second poetry collection, Status Update, was nominated for the Pat Lowther Award and her work has been anthologized in such collections as Best Canadian Poetry 2013, Poet-to-Poet (2013), and the Newborn Anthology (2014). She is also editor of two poetry collections, Desperately Seeking Susans, and Tag: Canadian Poets at Play. Her work for younger readers (A Flock of Shoes, Warriors and Wailers, The Stone Hatchlings, Breathing Fire, and Night Children) has been published and translated internationally, and she is a professor of Creative Writing at Sheridan College. Despite all these accomplishments and accolades, Sarah Yi-Mei Tsiang is also charmingly honest and self-deprecating, as evidenced by her interview on Sachiko Murakami’s wonderful site www.writingsohard.com.  We’re so chuffed to have her on the blog that we’re bringing you not one but two episodes of her work.

 
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Missing

The river is missing its clarity. It hides like a woman, caught undressing. The shame of it. The river has lost the hot afternoon sun. The wind that stroked it absently, like a lover already thinking of someone else. There is no small shiver, no pleasure, despite. There is only these men, in waders. The mud stirred and sifted through nets. The small child, who lies unmoving. The river moves on and on, away from itself. As though it could empty all it was into the ocean, and forget.

(written by Sarah Yi-Mei Tsiang, read by Chioke I'Anson) 

That rad music you hear at the end is by Tigerrosa. Buy their debut album here

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Episode Twenty Five - Guest Author Jessica Westhead

 Photo by Shay Wilson

Back in 2011, I had the pleasure of hearing Jessica Westhead read from And Also Sharks (Cormorant Books) at Guelph’s amazing local bookseller The Bookshelf. The stories in her collection were sharp and funny, full of striking observations about contemporary life.  To say I’ve been anticipating her second collection is an understatement. We’re thrilled that Jessica was willing to let us have a go at this excerpt from one of the stories in Things Not to Do out now with Cormorant.  

 

Other acclaim for her work includes being nominate or shortlisted for: the CBC Literary Awards, Journey Prize anthology, National Magazine Awards, ReLit Awards, and the Danuta Gleed Short Fiction Prize.

 
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The Lesson (excerpt)

It’s all about wielding influence. People see the name of our company on a wedding invitation—because that’s a clause in our contract, that our name has to appear there—and they immediately think, Whoa, this is going to be a classy affair. So you better make damn sure your shoelaces are tied and you’re not wearing an inappropriate belt buckle. This one guy who used to work for us? He showed up at a reception wearing a belt buckle in the shape of a King Cobra, all coiled up to strike. It was pretty mind-blowing, but I was like, “What the fuck? This is a fucking wedding.” Put that majestic eagle or howling wolf in a drawer for another day. This is an occasion for fragrant blossoms and shit floating in big vases with rainbow-coloured rocks at the bottom.

The next weapon in your arsenal is showmanship. Do you ever have that dream, you know, where you’re supposed to give a presentation, and it’s on something really boring, like sustainable development, but you’ve somehow devised a way to make it interesting? Like maybe you’ve got Powerpoints of Herman cartoons that relate to the subject? I love Herman, he’s so fucking deadpan. But when you arrive, you realize you’ve left the cartoons at home, and all that’s left are the boring parts, like about sharing food with poor people and all that? You don’t know how you’re going to get through this thing, and there’s a huge audience, but you have to do it—it’s your turn. That’s the approach I take with DJ’ing.

Dreams are crazy things, right? Last night I dreamed that I ran into the most popular guy from my high school, and I told him what I did for a living. Do you know what that means? It means I’ve made it. There’s Shane Terpstra, just walking along, and I recognize him but he doesn’t recognize me. I had to tell him, “Dude, it’s me!” And he grabbed my lapels and pulled me in and said, “Looking good, man.” The next thing he said was, “What are you doing with yourself these days?” His eyes were these crazy red slits, like a snake’s eyes, that’s the only thing that was weird about him. I said, “I’m a wedding DJ, Shane. I play music at the best moment of other people’s lives.” And he started to cry these gushy red tears of blood out of his crazy red slit snake eyes, it was pretty freaky actually, and he was so ashamed by what he was doing with his own life that he wouldn’t even tell me. Or maybe he was a vacuum salesman, something shitty like that. Anyway, it was a good dream.

(written by Jessica Westhead, read by Chioke I'Anson) 

That rad music you hear at the end is by Tigerrosa. Buy their debut album here

Subscribe to us on iTunes or wherever else you get your audio fix.

Episode Twenty Four - Get in on the Ground Floor

 photo by  Ryan McGuire

Get in on the ground floor

“You’re terrific,” he tells me. “Your resume is terrific. You never know where you could end up.”

Which is all to say that the internship is unpaid.

“You make it sound like an elevator.”

“That’s the spirit.” He’s wearing a shirt that I suspect his wife picked out—a thin polo, mercerized cotton, different coloured pinstripes woven in at one-inch intervals. After four summers at Parker’s cleaners, I know what an entry-level position looks like.

“Would you consider offering an honorarium?” My friend, Bernice, likes to say If you don’t ask, the answer’s always no. Bernice hasn’t encountered a lot of no. 

“Last year’s intern is now our social media specialist.”

Six months scouring Twitter for good re-tweets, writing service articles for their newsletters, and ghost-writing blog posts for the executive team. Last week, there was a notice with my student loan statement, the government reminding me to report any garnish-able wages.

“What does it say on the label of your shirt?”

“Eddie Bauer?”

“Where do you think the person who stitched it is now? The mezzanine? The basement?”

He looks at me perplexed. He’s just offered me the position and this is not the transaction of gratitude he was expecting.

“That’s the problem with an elevator.” I stand up and collect my clippings folder. “You don’t always know if it’s going up or down.”

(written by Claire Tacon, read by Chioke I'Anson) 

That rad music you hear at the end is by Tigerrosa. Buy their debut album here

Subscribe to us on iTunes or wherever else you get your audio fix.

Episode Twenty Three - The woman blocking the intersection

 photo by  Ryan McGuire

The woman blocking the intersection, the woman refusing to let me in, is driving a red hatchback, her passenger mid-eighties at least, hair cropped like a jellyfish. The passenger stares out the window. A few car lengths ahead, there’s the ding ding ding of the rail crossing, the twin engines shunting tank cars. We’ll be here a long time.

The driver turns up the radio and I watch the emoji pattern on her scrubs bounce along to Bruno Mars. Suddenly she reaches over towards the open window and I think she’s going to ask me what my problem is. Instead, she uses her index finger to scrape the passenger’s teeth. Is she checking to see if the woman’s died? The passenger flares her nostrils but doesn’t bat the driver’s hand away. No, the motion is more like a toothbrush. A salad leaf, perhaps.

A bike courier scrapes by on the right, going the wrong way up the street. Greasy muscles, shorts ripped right up his thigh, a chain that swings towards the car. The hatchback driver throws her hands up, scowling at how close his pedals get to the front hood. He taps her back window, just to piss her off. As if struck by a defibrillator, the passenger bolts upright. She cranes her neck to watch the cyclist pedal off. Grins as if to say, he’s terrific.

(written by Claire Tacon, read by Chioke I'Anson) 

That rad music you hear at the end is by Tigerrosa. Buy their debut album here

Subscribe to us on iTunes or wherever else you get your audio fix.

Episode Twenty Two - With the Same Chipped, Coral Manicure

 photo by  Ryan McGuire

With the Same Chipped, Coral Manicure

The woman had her hand on a loaf of pumpernickel, giving the heel a thick squeeze. The baker, Drayton, had witnessed the ritual before. Each day the customer made two circuits through the aisles, past the thistle-stamped short bread, past the deflated gluten-free bagels, past the tubs of cream cheese. Two figure eights’ appraisal of his wares, then a feverish minute of bread groping. Always fifty/fifty as to whether or not she’d buy. He wondered if he was disappointing her with the store’s sameness. Or if she was worried she’d missed something last time. Perhaps she was just gassy and the loops through the shelves allowed her to relieve herself in slow, unobtrusive wafts. Hot air, disappointment—those had been his mother’s hallmarks too.

That night he switched the pickles with the halva, the hamentashen with the honey sponge, the seasonal napkins with the ceramics. The pumpernickel he placed in a bin by the cash, so the woman would be forced to look him in the eye. He’d made that bread himself. Couldn’t she see it was good enough?

(written by Claire Tacon, read by Chioke I'Anson) 

That rad music you hear at the end is by Tigerrosa. Buy their debut album here

Subscribe to us on iTunes or wherever else you get your audio fix.