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Monthly Archive: June 2012

We Are All About Wendy Now, Pt. V

The office cat lady reluctantly joins her fellow employees’ crusade to cheer up their dying co-worker
cstoriesWe Are All About Wendy NowClick cover to purchasePt. I · II · III · IV · V

Download short fiction for any digital device. Visit walrusmagazine.com/cstories to learn moreGet Into Our Shorts Contest

JOHNNY WAS DEAD WHEN I got home.

I opened the door, and do you know what? I knew. I couldn’t feel him anymore, is the only way I can describe it. You might think that’s crazy, but that’s the way it was.

After a while, I found him in the coat closet, curled up in the back corner. He hardly took up any room — he was the smallest I’d seen him since he was a kitten. I crawled in there with him and took one of his tiny paws between my fingers, and I thought of little Andrew Lloyd Webber all alone in Wendy’s empty apartment. And I started to cry. I cried for him, and I cried for all the cats in the world who don’t have love, and at least that’s one thing Johnny had. You can take everything else away, but at the very least he had love.

THAT NIGHT MY PHONE rang, and it was Sherry, which is funny because I couldn’t remember ever giving her my home number.

“I’ve been calling everyone.” She sounded out of breath. “Something awful’s happened.”

“Oh, no,” I said. “Is it Wendy?”

“Oh, Eunice,” she said, and that’s when I heard the catch in her voice, and a second later, she was sobbing.

“Shhh,” I said. “It’s okay. Let it out.”

By this time, I’d taken Johnny to the vet. I’d said goodbye to him, and the nurse had given me a big hug, and then I’d come home to my empty apartment.

“Wendy, she —”

“I know. I know it’s hard. Shhh.” (more…)

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We Are All About Wendy Now, Pt. IV

The office cat lady reluctantly joins her fellow employees’ crusade to cheer up their dying co-worker
cstoriesWe Are All About Wendy NowClick cover to purchasePt. I · II · III · IV · V

Download short fiction for any digital device. Visit walrusmagazine.com/cstories to learn moreGet Into Our Shorts Contest

THE NEXT DAY WAS a Friday so I had my reports to do, and I was also preoccupied with thinking about the night before.

The clinic had been decorated with garlands and plastic holly, and the vet had poked and prodded Johnny, and he didn’t complain — he never was a complainer — but I could tell he was feeling anxious. Before we left, they recommended lots of rest, and I told them he’d been doing that already, and they said that’s good, but then I caught the vet and the nurse exchanging a glance that they didn’t think I saw.

I was also feeling bad for how short I’d been with Sherry the day before, because all she’d really wanted was my company, and all she wanted us to do was help a sick friend — a dying friend — together. I was planning on saying something nice to her when I went to deliver my reports, but she beat me to it.

She walked by on her way to lunch and stopped in front of my desk and smiled at me. “Eunice,” she said in a very sincere voice, and I knew she was going to ask me about Johnny because Sherry is the type to look to the future and let bygones be bygones. “Eunice,” she said, “how is your day going?”

“Oh, Sherry,” I said and heard my voice catch, “he’s not doing very well.” Then I realized she hadn’t asked about Johnny at all.

Sherry made a sad face where she stuck out her bottom lip and sort of folded it over her top lip, and she stared at me for a good fifteen seconds before I mustered up a smile and said, “Thanks for asking, Sherry.”

“Well,” she said with a wink, “you know me!”

I nodded and switched my gaze to the Grand Canyon. The way the edges of my computer screen framed that natural wonder, it humbled me to see it. Johnny and I are specks, I thought to myself. We are teeny-tiny specks, the two of us. (more…)

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We Are All About Wendy Now, Pt. III

The office cat lady reluctantly joins her fellow employees’ crusade to cheer up their dying co-worker
cstoriesWe Are All About Wendy NowClick cover to purchasePt. I · II · III · IV · V

Download short fiction for any digital device. Visit walrusmagazine.com/cstories to learn more

THE NEXT DAY, SHERRY and Val and Ruth P. went to visit Wendy on their lunch hour. I could’ve gone with them if I wanted to, but it was a Thursday and my reports are due on Friday, and the three of them were gone for more than an hour, and I can’t afford that kind of time the day before I have to hand in my reports.

They brought Ruth P.’s card that we’d all signed with Ruth C.’s pen (I wrote, “Eat lots of Jell-O!” because I was trying to think of something nice associated with hospitals, and the fact that they often serve Jell-O was the only good thing that came to mind), and Sherry told me later that day that Wendy had been in good spirits. She was sitting up and joking with the gals about not having to do her weekly score sheets for Mr. Vanderhoeven. Wendy’s score sheets are quantitative and my reports are qualitative — there’s a big difference.

“Did you tell her about the kitten?” I said.

Sherry squinted. “No, I don’t think we mentioned the kitten. But Wendy said our card was very thoughtful, and she really appreciated my idea about us keeping up her apartment while she wasn’t there, but she said she’d like to wait for the biopsy results before we started that because she might be going home soon. She said she was hoping for the best.” Sherry took a deep breath. “And then there were tears.”

“Oh, no,” I said. “Wendy started to cry?”

“No, I did. We’ve gotten so close, Wendy and me, and I couldn’t bear to see her lying in that hospital bed wearing that ratty nightgown of hers, surrounded by all sorts of equipment. Not that she’s hooked up to any of it, but it’s there, you know?”

I stood up then, and I put my arms around Sherry. She feels so deeply about her friends, I thought, but who’s feeling deeply about her? So I hugged her and said, “Maybe there’s still good news to come.” (more…)

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We Are All About Wendy Now, Pt. II

The office cat lady reluctantly joins her fellow employees’ crusade to cheer up their dying co-worker
cstoriesWe Are All About Wendy NowClick cover to purchasePt. I · II · III · IV · V

Download short fiction for any digital device. Visit walrusmagazine.com/cstories to learn more

FOR THE NEXT FEW weeks, Sherry came by on her way to lunch to give me the latest on how Wendy was doing — “She’s sleeping better,” or “She threw up six times today, can you believe that?” You could depend on Sherry to have her finger on it.

At the end of each day, I’d go home to Johnny, and we’d sit and watch our shows together, and every so often I’d notice he was a bit lighter than before. I remembered when he used to be big and round and I’d tried to put him on a diet a few times. “To make you svelte,” I used to tell him, but it never worked because he enjoyed his food too much. I petted him and felt his ribs poking me and said, “You’re a svelte kitty now, Johnny. What a handsome, svelte kitty you are.”

ABOUT A MONTH LATER, Sherry came by my desk looking very emotional, and I could tell right away something big had happened because Sherry gets emotional when it comes to her friends.

“Eunice, you can’t imagine what I’ve been through. Yesterday I realized Wendy’s been off for a month — an entire month, Eunice. I called her up and said, ‘This is ridiculous. A person does not miss a whole month of work without something being seriously wrong.’ I said, ‘Wendy, you are unwell, and we need to get you to a doctor. And if it means me driving you to the emergency room and waiting with you until you are seen, then so be it. So that’s what I did.” Sherry gasped suddenly at my computer screen. “Oh God, look at those palm trees. What I wouldn’t give to be there right now, sipping rum punch with the sand between my toes. Right, Eunice? You know what I’m talking about.”

I didn’t, but I stared at my tropical getaway screen saver and tried to imagine the real thing.

Sherry told me she drove to Wendy’s apartment, and Wendy looked about as bad as she’d ever seen her. She was all curled up on her couch in a filthy stained nightgown, and her apartment “looked like a garbage bomb had hit it.” (more…)

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We Are All About Wendy Now, Pt. I

The office cat lady reluctantly joins her fellow employees’ crusade to cheer up their dying co-worker
cstoriesWe Are All About Wendy NowClick cover to purchasePt. I · II · III · IV · V

Download short fiction for any digital device. Visit walrusmagazine.com/cstories to learn more

OUR OFFICE IS VERY community-minded. We hold two food drives a year: the first one at Thanksgiving and the second one not at Christmas, because the poor people get so much food from other food drives at Christmas that we like to surprise them with something extra on a random day when they’re not expecting it.

We also look out for, as Sherry puts it, “our own little community.” People are always asking how everybody is, how everybody’s family is. Personally, I have never had much time for socializing at work. My reports keep me busy all day, right up until five o’clock when I would go home to Johnny.

Every so often, Sherry would come by my desk, sometimes after one of her vacations, and ask me how my day was going. That was about the extent of my socializing. I couldn’t even tell you how many places Sherry’s been; I know she’s been to China and Australia, and when you go that far away you have to go for at least three weeks because of the jet lag. I only know that from Sherry. The farthest I’ve ever been was to Florida with my family, and it wasn’t even all that warm when we went.

“That Wendy’s not right,” is what Sherry said to me when she came by my desk that October noon hour, and I honestly had to think for a minute before I could picture who she meant.

“Wendy who?” I was eating my ham sandwich, and the polar ice caps were on my computer screen. Apparently they’re starting to melt, if you can believe that. I gazed at that big stretch of white and I thought, Winter is coming. Then my wheat field scene came on, with the environmentally friendly windmills, and I felt reassured.

“Wendy, who sits next to me!” said Sherry. “Haven’t you seen her lately? She looks awful, and she smells awful because she’s throwing up all the time. I think she’s sick with something.” (more…)

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Sharp Corner, Pt. V

A homeowner witnesses three separate, brutal car crashes on his front lawn, and doesn’t want to admit that a part of him craves the rush each brings
cstoriesSharp CornerClick cover to purchasePt. I · II · III · IV · V

Download short fiction for any digital device. Visit walrusmagazine.com/cstories to learn more

The latest crash was, without a doubt, the best story yet. John could tell the first time he told it. He could tell by the way his listeners’ faces fell, everyone standing in a small circle holding their drinks while the last barbecue of the year heated and smoked behind them, steaks forgotten. It was late in the year, the evenings already sharp and suddenly cold, the sky grey with impending sleet. There was always someone, John thought, who just couldn’t let go, who had to keep the summer going. So there were steaks and burgers, sweaters and jackets pulled around tight, and blue smoke blowing sideways away from the barbecue while John held a beer and talked gravely about the latest accident.

“So he cut the wheel back — and that was the right thing to do, cut the wheel back, and get out of the skid — but he went too far with it, and there was this dump truck,” John said, listening to himself as he talked.

Tone it down, he told himself, pull back — not so preachy.

“Not survivable,” saying it like a judge delivering a verdict. “I could tell that right away. You didn’t even have to run — nothing anyone could have done anyway.

“Crushed them right there where they were sitting, even the kid in the back seat. Hard to even tell what parts belonged to which body.”

John hadn’t even seen the bodies — the police had come and taped off the scene after the firefighter had pushed him back, closing the road and holding up tarpaulins when the firefighters started cutting the car into pieces — but nobody knew that.

John thought about throwing in a resigned shrug, then thought better of it. He caught a glimpse of Mary’s eyes, and they looked sharp and beady and black like a crow’s.

Afterwards, when they’d left for home in the car, she started talking, her voice low, her face fixed and straight ahead so that she was talking to him without ever looking at him. “You enjoy it too much,” she said. “All these horrible things that happened to other people.” Her hands were working in her lap as if desperately trying to find something to do, he thought, or as if she was afraid he might hit her. (more…)

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Sharp Corner, Pt. IV

A homeowner witnesses three separate, brutal car crashes on his front lawn, and doesn’t want to admit that a part of him craves the rush each brings
cstoriesSharp CornerClick cover to purchasePt. I · II · III · IV · V

Download short fiction for any digital device. Visit walrusmagazine.com/cstories to learn more

The third crash was different — not quite in their yard this time, but caused by too much speed on the same familiar straightaway, and by the same sharp curve just before the house. A car had swung its way almost into the ditch, one front wheel over onto the loose stones of the shoulder, but this time the driver had cut the wheel sharply, in time to get his car back onto the road. He was successful in that, but in the process he flung his car across the centre line and straight into the path of a dump truck heading in the opposite direction. Neither driver had a chance to react after that, and the accident was awesome in its sheer brutality.

There were no pieces travelling around the car in their delicate prescribed arcs, finding their way to a new position along explainable lines. This was all hard, full, spectacular stop, the car crumpling abruptly underneath the huge engine of the truck, the back of the car accordioning into the front as it kept moving forwards.

Inside the house, the head-on impact sounded like an explosion. John jumped off the couch, knowing immediately what had happened. As he ran for the door, Mary threw the book she had been reading at him, the pages whiffling and fluttering, but she missed.

John could see how serious the accident was as soon as he got out the door. It was the way the dump truck was crouched over the crushed car like a cat over a small and absolutely dead mouse. The driver’s door on the truck was open, the driver running around the car from one side to the other, trying to see inside. The roof, what you could see of it, was crushed flat down to the tops of the doors, so the vehicle looked more like a sheet-steel tank than anything else.

There was an absolute absence of sound, everything startled into silence.

John could see that other cars were stopping, people piling out in a rush until they got close enough to the car to take a good look. Then they were simply slumping away, leaning on their cars as if they needed the support, as if their bones and muscles had suddenly developed an inexplicable weakness. (more…)

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Tanis Rideout and the Lure of Mount Everest

Presenting episode 10 of Quillcast
Tanis RideoutTanis Rideout

In this episode, Quill & Quire web editor Sue Carter Flinn discusses the lure of Mount Everest with Toronto author and poet Tanis Rideout, whose debut novel Above All Things recounts the ill-fated final expedition of adventurer George Mallory, intertwined with a day in the life of Mallory’s wife, Ruth.


“A love story, a tale of adventure, and a study in obsession all at once, Above All Things is simply breathtaking. With Tanis Rideout’s debut, a major new voice in Canadian fiction arrives.” — Joseph Boyden, Scotiabank Giller Prize–winning author of Through Black Spruce

Above All Things has it all: adventure, tragedy, mystery, and a deeply moving love story. It’s gorgeously written and beautifully paced. I could not put it down. Prepare to be dazzled.” — Alison Pick, author of the Man Booker Prize–nominated Far To Go

(more…)

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The Trillium 25 Interview: Nick Thran

A Q&A with the author of Earworm
Nick Thran
Earwormnightwood Editions

The Walrus Foundation joins the Ontario Media Development Corporation in celebrating the twenty-fifth anniversary of the Trillium Book Award, Ontario’s leading literary prize. At walrusmagazine.com/trillium, we’ve grouped the finalists for the 2012 Trillium Book Award and the Trillium Book Award for Poetry alongside a select collection of past winners and Walrus contributors, including Margaret Atwood, Austin Clarke, Thomas King, and Karen Solie.

Here on The Walrus Blog, we are publishing a series of written interviews with this year’s English-language contenders. Yesterday, we completed our conversations with finalists for the Trillium Book Award; today, we are hustling through finalists for the Trillium Book Award for Poetry, which is given to “emerging” poets who have published a maximum of three books. Both awards, along with their French-language equivalents, will be announced this evening in Toronto.

Last in our group of three: Nick Thran, who is nominated for his collection Earworm.


Joseph MacKinnon: How did you react to this Trillium nomination for Earworm?

Nick Thran: I reacted with a mix of elation and temperance. With a celebratory spirit, then a long hard look in the convex mirror.

Joseph MacKinnon: The poetry award is designated for new and emerging artists, though it is evident from this and previous work that you’ve clearly set out a distinct style and voice, which I imagine took some time. That being said, do you feel as though you’re still a new and emerging writer?

Nick Thran: I am always new to the task of the poem at hand. I am also emerging into the concept that one may spend their whole life writing in a state of perpetual but rigorously inquisitive uncertainty — both about the kinds of work one wants to write and the tools one chooses or ends up with in order to bring the final product (ink) into existence.  (more…)

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The Trillium 25 Interview: Jacob McArthur Mooney

A Q&A with the author of Folk
Jacob McArthur MooneyMike McPhaden
FolkMcClelland & Stewart

The Walrus Foundation joins the Ontario Media Development Corporation in celebrating the twenty-fifth anniversary of the Trillium Book Award, Ontario’s leading literary prize. At walrusmagazine.com/trillium, we’ve grouped the finalists for the 2012 Trillium Book Award and the Trillium Book Award for Poetry alongside a select collection of past winners and Walrus contributors, including Margaret Atwood, Austin Clarke, Thomas King, and Karen Solie.

Here on The Walrus Blog, we are publishing a series of written interviews with this year’s English-language contenders. Yesterday, we completed our conversations with finalists for the Trillium Book Award; today, we are hustling through finalists for the Trillium Book Award for Poetry, which is given to “emerging” poets who have published a maximum of three books. Both awards, along with their French-language equivalents, will be announced this evening in Toronto.

Second in our group of three: Nova Scotia–born poet Jacob McArthur Mooney, who has lived in the Greater Toronto Area since 2006. He is nominated for his collection Folk.


Joseph MacKinnon: How did you react to this Trillium nomination for Folk?

Jacob McArthur Mooney: I was excited to be on a really good, really interesting list. Nick [Thran] and Helen [Guri] are wonderful, exciting, public poets. Prizes are great and all, but it’s really about who else is in the group with you, the shelf your book is placed on. And this is a really good shelf. It’s rewarding for Folk to be shelved alongside [Helen’s] Match and [Nick’s] Earworm. And there were so many other great eligible books this year, too. Aisha John’s The Shining Material and Robin Richardson’s Grunt of the Minotaur and others. Luck of the draw, sometimes.

Joseph MacKinnon: Do you feel as though you’re still a new and emerging writer?

Jacob McArthur Mooney: It’s such a weird expression. I feel like, in poetry, there’s two types of poets: emerging and deceased. But I’d like to think I’m always growing, emerging, rolling out. Improving maybe? But that one’s hard to define. And I’m a young guy, in poetry terms. So I don’t mind the word. Everyone wants to qualify you with something, and “emerging,” as an adjective, is at least adaptive. It’s something that you can evolve with.  (more…)

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The Trillium 25 Interview: Helen Guri

A Q&A with the author of Match
Helen Guri
MatchCoach House Books

The Walrus Foundation joins the Ontario Media Development Corporation in celebrating the twenty-fifth anniversary of the Trillium Book Award, Ontario’s leading literary prize. At walrusmagazine.com/trillium, we’ve grouped the finalists for the 2012 Trillium Book Award and the Trillium Book Award for Poetry alongside a select collection of past winners and Walrus contributors, including Margaret Atwood, Austin Clarke, Thomas King, and Karen Solie.

Here on The Walrus Blog, we are publishing a series of written interviews with this year’s English-language contenders. Yesterday, we completed our conversations with finalists for the Trillium Book Award; today, we are hustling through finalists for the Trillium Book Award for Poetry, which is given to “emerging” poets who have published a maximum of three books. Both awards, along with their French-language equivalents, will be announced this evening in Toronto.

First up: Toronto poet Helen Guri, who is nominated for her debut collection, Match.


Joseph MacKinnon: What first prompted you to start writing?

Helen Guri: God, I have no idea. I have written ever since I was a really small kid. By the time I reached the choose-a-career-path part of high school, I was already so committed to the idea of being a writer that I completely ignored the advice of the careers questionnaires (one of which, if I remember correctly, told me I should be either a teacher or an air weapons designer).

Joseph MacKinnon: What was the first work you published?

Helen Guri: Grain magazine was generous enough (cruel enough?) to accept the very first piece of work I ever sent anywhere, when I was eighteen. It was a poem about a house robbery. (Please, for your own good, do not look this up.) (more…)

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Sharp Corner, Pt. III

A homeowner witnesses three separate, brutal car crashes on his front lawn, and doesn’t want to admit that a part of him craves the rush each brings
cstoriesSharp CornerClick cover to purchasePt. I · II · III · IV · V

Download short fiction for any digital device. Visit walrusmagazine.com/cstories to learn more

With the second crash — dry, clear roads, right in the middle of a sunny Sunday afternoon — John felt he’d gotten better at grasping the important details. At cataloguing them more carefully. This time it was a pickup truck with a load of freshly cut fir logs. It didn’t so much leave the road as trundle in a straight line off hard into the ditch, the truck stopping faster than its load of wood did.

The top layer of logs slid through the window behind the driver, with one log, slightly more than a foot in diameter, striking the driver right at the base of the skull before smashing out through the windshield and coming to a stop on the hood. John stared through the side window at the driver for ages, amazed at the fact that the man’s dead hands were still holding on to the wheel, waiting fruitlessly for a signal to let go.

The passenger, a man in his fifties, was turned in his seat, caught as if looking at the driver, staring across “stone dead,” John would say later, as if killed by the tableau of sheer horror sitting next to him.

When the ambulance crew arrived a handful of minutes later, they yanked the passenger out of the truck roughly and spread him flat on his back on the ground, surrounded by John’s freshly cut grass, futilely pushing on the man’s chest and pumping air into his lungs with a ribbed plastic bag. John watched across the hood of the truck, smelling both the crisp smell of the fir sap and the brassy sharp tang of the fresh blood. He watched as the fire crew unloaded their gear, cut the roof away with the tools and lifted the log off the mangled driver.

This time, he had a better idea about everything the firefighters were doing, and when the police arrived, he realized that their investigation was more involved than he had given them credit for the first time. The whole process was quick, sure, but more calculated than he had realized with the Suzuki. They measured the short skid that lipped over the white line at the edge of the road and down into the gravel shoulder, and one policeman took photographs from every conceivable angle, stopping the firefighters at one point so that he could record the pattern left in the glass where the logs had marked and sprung through the back window. They unrolled a long yellow measuring tape and measured from the back wheels of the truck to where the skid started, and one officer climbed the tailgate and photographed the logs, too. (more…)

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