The Walrus Blog

Dreaming of Zenia

The Walrus Books launches with an original short story, the author’s I Dream of Zenia with the Bright Red Teeth
Exclusive excerpt

Long ago, when they were all a lot younger, Zenia had stolen a man from each of them. From Tony, she’d stolen West, who did however think better of it — or that is Tony’s official version to herself — and is safely rooted in Tony’s house, fooling with his electronic music system and getting deafer by the minute. From Roz, she’d stolen Mitch, not exactly hard, since he’d never been able to keep it zipped; but then, after emptying not only his pockets but what Charis called his psychic integrity, Zenia had dumped him, and he’d drowned himself in Lake Ontario. He’d worn a life jacket, and he’d made it look like a sailing accident, but Roz had known.

She’s over that by now, or as much as a girl can ever be over it, and she has a much nicer husband called Sam, who’s in merchant banking and more suitable, with a better sense of humour. But still, it’s a scar. And it hurt the children; that’s the part she can’t forgive, despite the shrink she went to in an effort to wipe the slate. Not that there’s any percentage in not forgiving a person who’s no longer alive.

From Charis, Zenia had stolen Billy. That was perhaps the cruellest theft, think Tony and Roz, because Charis was so trusting and defenceless, and let Zenia into her life because Zenia was in trouble, and was a battered woman, and had cancer, and needed someone to take care of her, or that was her story — a shameless fabrication in every part. Charis and Billy were living on the Island then, in a little house that was more like a cottage. They kept chickens. Billy built the coop himself; being a draft dodger, he didn’t exactly have a steady job.

There wasn’t all that much room in the cottage for Zenia, but Charis made room, being hospitable and wanting to share, the way people were on the Island in those days, and in the dodger communities. There was an apple tree; Charis made apple cakes, and other baked items as well, with the eggs. She was so happy, and also pregnant. And the next thing you knew, Billy and Zenia had gone off together and all the chickens were dead. They’d had their throats cut with the bread knife. It was just so mean.

Why had Zenia done it? All of it? Why do cats eat birds? was Roz’s unhelpful answer. Tony thought it was an exercise in power. Charis was sure there was a reason, embedded somewhere in the workings of the universe, but she wasn’t sure what it could be.

Roz and Tony each ended up with a man in residence, despite Zenia’s best ruination efforts, but Charis didn’t. That was because she’d never achieved closure, was Roz’s theory. She couldn’t find anyone ditzy enough, was Tony’s. But less than a month ago, who should turn up but that long-lost schmuck of a Billy, and what did Charis do but rent him the other half of her duplex? It’s enough to make you tear your hair out by its tiny grey roots, thinks Roz, who still gets hers touched up every two weeks. A nice chestnut colour, not vivid. The complexion can get washed out if you go too bright.

I Dream of Zenia with the Bright Red Teeth is available only to new and renewing subscribers of The Walrus magazine’s print, digital, or tablet editions. Ms. Atwood will sign and number the first 100 of the 2,000 copies in our limited edition print run. Visit to get yours today.

Margaret Atwood is the author of more than fifty books of fiction, poetry, and critical essays. The Year of the Flood (2009) is a follow-up to her 2003 novel Oryx and Crake. Her most recent publication, In Other Worlds, was published in fall 2011. Her books have won numerous awards, including the Giller Prize, the Booker Prize, and the Premio Mondello in Italy. Ms. Atwood lives in Toronto with writer Graeme Gibson.

Tags • , , , ,
Posted in Chapter and Verse  • 

  • Writers of Canada

    So … will writers be able to submit to this new imprint? Or will it exclusively be hand-picked aristocrats?

    • Nick Mount

      It’s just for hand-picked aristocrats. We have reserved comment space for the peasants. Thanks for observing protocol.
      All best,
      Nick Mount
      Fiction Editor

  • Marie Better

    Got the book, loved the story, and anxiously awaiting the magazine.  Great promotion, folks!

  • Pingback: Curse of The Avid Reader Card: A “Fifty Shades” Parody Already? | Prose Nylund

  • BoGoWo

    is there a ‘pay what you can version’ forhomeLess “e”readers?

Canada & its place in the world. Published by
the non-profit charitable Walrus Foundation
The Walrus SoapBox
The Walrus Laughs
Walrus TV
Archived Blog Posts
  • August 2012
  • July 2012
  • June 2012
  • May 2012
  • April 2012
  • March 2012
  • February 2012
  • January 2012
  • December 2011
  • November 2011
  • October 2011
  • September 2011
  • August 2011
  • July 2011
  • June 2011
  • May 2011
  • April 2011
  • March 2011
  • February 2011
  • January 2011
  • December 2010
  • November 2010
  • October 2010
  • September 2010
  • August 2010
  • July 2010
  • June 2010
  • May 2010
  • April 2010
  • March 2010
  • February 2010
  • January 2010
  • December 2009
  • November 2009
  • October 2009
  • September 2009
  • August 2009
  • July 2009
  • June 2009
  • May 2009
  • April 2009
  • March 2009
  • February 2009
  • January 2009
  • December 2008
  • November 2008
  • October 2008
  • September 2008
  • August 2008
  • July 2008
  • June 2008
  • May 2008
  • April 2008
  • March 2008
  • February 2008
  • January 2008
  • December 2007
  • November 2007
  • October 2007
  • September 2007
  • August 2007
  • July 2007
  • June 2007
  • May 2007
  • April 2007
  • March 2007
  • February 2007
  • January 2007