Excerpt: Ain’t Nothin’ But a Stranger in This World by Bruce Sudds

“A book peopled with vivid, stricken souls, each carrying the jagged fragments of the same long ago tragedy, each inexorably moving toward healing. A strangely mystical and yet direct exploration of how love lifts us and sets us back on the road.”

Valerie Mills-Milde, author of The Current Between

Bruce Sudds is a graduate of York University specializing in Creative Writing. He has worked as a journalist, speechwriter, and social entrepreneur.

Bruce does most of his scribbling on an island near Kingston, Ontario, Canada, where he lives with his wife, Carrie, and their three daughters.

Ain’t Nothin’ But a Stranger in This World is published by AOS Publishing.

Page 14 – Ain’t Nothin’ But a Stranger in this World

He entered the bar looking weathered. As though he lived a life outdoors. It made sense. When I knew him, he was happiest in the wilds.

There was athleticism and a well-worn quality to him—a bit like a baseball glove used for quite a few seasons. He was in his thirties, with a muscular build, around six feet tall, dark blonde hair, and a slightly tanned complexion. 

I had been two days alone in the backcountry of southeastern Ontario and decided I needed to see people. Here, the Canadian Shield dips down to the south, and a series of lakes and rivers form in the valleys offered between the worn remnants of mountains. I travelled those waters by canoe.

I could fish, read, swim naked day and night, play guitar and not bother or be bothered by anyone. I loved to lay on the warm granite, covered in pine needles and moss. The waters were sweet and black but held no secrets other than smallmouth bass and lake trout.

At night, alone by the fire, I would gaze into it and find the faces of those I’ve known and scenes from my life. It would make me miss these people. Wandering away from the flames, I watched the animals out here with me gather together to face the night—families of geese, deer, and raccoons. And here I was: standing alone in the dark. Singing to myself, sharing stories with no one, and sleeping alone. Even the raccoons knew what I still hadn’t figured out. 

In the morning, I packed up the camp, paddled back to the mainland, loaded the car, and left the wilds behind me.

There was a tavern that I liked to visit that rested along the St Lawrence River. It was an old house transformed into a restaurant with a bar. The place was a home for generations of smugglers, loafers, tourists, and a few drunks. This disparate crowd allowed me to fit in. And I liked them.

He took the stool beside me at the bar. The staff seemed to know him. He had an ease about him that could not be ruffled. A placid pond immune to wind or any other sort of turbulence. He was always smiling to himself, it seemed.

 “So, what brought you back here?”

 “I’m just getting away.”

 “From what?”

 “The city. People. Myself.”

“How’s that working out?”

“Poorly. But I’m trying something new today.” 

“You sound like an artist.”

 “I’m a writer.”

“Would you like a story? A tale that will grant you peace?”

I paused.

 “What sort of story?” 

He laughed.

“You’re suspicious. That’s fine. How about I tell you a bit, and then you decide if I should continue? I can stop at any time. It’s up to you.”

“Fair enough.”

“Let’s find a quiet spot.”

He nodded towards a table in the corner of the bar. We took our seats.

“First a drink.”

 He turned to the bar and requested two Jameson, neat.

The bartender brought the drinks to the table. My new companion nodded and smiled at him and then lifted his glass. His face grew solemn as he turned to me.

“To absent friends.”

Our glasses clinked.

“Let me begin with something that happened about eighteen months ago. Two people, named Diana and Devin, who hadn’t seen each other in nearly thirty years and were separated by thousands of miles, had the exact same experience. This was an intrusion, or echo, of something that occurred when they met as young people.

“In a small studio apartment above Technosolucions Florez, an electronics store in Carepa, Colombia, Diana Glendon lay doubled over in bed. She was overcome with physical pain and sorrow. She had lost her colleague, likely to a violent death, and she was gravely ill herself. She writhed on the mattress, gasping for air.

‘Ooooohhhhh, Victoria, Victoria… I’m so sorry,’ she moaned.

“Diana had an athletic frame, tall and sturdy. Even now, sweating on the bed with her dark blonde hair splayed across the pillow, she looked more spent than ill.

“Sobbing, she continued, ‘I didn’t know, Victoria… I didn’t know this would happen… Sean.’ Who is Sean, she thought. Bewildered. Memories formed. Why… Sean… now? And then it happened. She saw it. She was driving a truck, and two boys were travelling along a road. One was on a bicycle. The other was walking beside him. She was getting closer.

“‘Oh, my God! No!’

“She could hear voices in Spanish out on the street and the sound of the traffic. The air was hot, stale and humid.

“She continued to weep. Not out of pain or pity for herself but from a deep shame that she could not speak of, not to anyone. She rolled over in her bed. She wrapped her arms around a pillow. She felt something.

“She pulled it out. It was a bag of jelly beans.

“What the hell?

“Some four thousand kilometres away in Toronto, a man ran out of a conference room into a bathroom, and finally into a stall. He sank onto the floor, leaned against the wall, and then repeated the same name, ‘Sean.’ Moments before, he was leading a discussion in the conference room, when the same strange scene that appeared to Diana, appeared to him. However, the perspective was different. He saw the truck coming towards the two boys. He knew what would happen next. He sank into his chair, stunned and terrified. He couldn’t speak. He started to fall out of his chair, then got to his feet and managed to make it out of the room, before sprinting to the only place he knew he could be alone.

“He stumbled from the stall to the bathroom mirror. He thought he looked pale. His dark blonde hair was so slick with sweat that it had matted to his face. ‘I look struck,’ he thought. ‘As though I’ve seen a ghost.’ 

“At six feet and one hundred and ninety pounds, he wasn’t a small man, but he looked somehow weak and vulnerable in the mirror. He didn’t want to face anyone like this. He tried to gather himself so he could return to the world waiting for him. He washed his face, tidied his hair, and straightened his clothes. When he touched his pants, though, he felt a lump in his pocket. He reached in and pulled out a bag of jellybeans.”

  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ AOS Publishing (April 12 2022)
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English
  • Paperback ‏ : ‎ 260 pages
  • ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 1990496032
  • ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1990496035