Tag Archives: excerpt

Excerpt: Brought Down by Simon Constam

Characterized by the admission of doubt in God’s desire for a better world, and willingness to see Jewish tradition as indispensable, Brought Down by Simon Constam struggles with daily life as a firm believer and continuing pride in Jewish identity. In the great Jewish tradition of holding God to account, and not relenting in anger towards Him, the themes in this book are universal: faith, religious practice, forgiveness, history, and the relevance of belief.

Funerary Blues

As idly as she possibly can, she asks
where we’ll be buried. She says we ought to,
as a couple, even past the end, stay married.
But her long-dead first husband she already has
placed in primary honour in the family plot,
his name is raised on the gravestone.
What place might I take there and which one not?
Perhaps I ought to be in a nearby grave alone.
 
Or should I think about a Jewish cemetery somewhere?
She could remain with her once and greater love.
I am not jealous of a presumed hereafter. 
But oh, what will my children, when they learn of this, be thinking of? 
Alas, she and I, on another matter, we’re also in disarray
as she favours cremation and I favour decay. 

About the Author

Simon Constam is a poet and an aphorist. His poems have been published in various magazines, among them The Jewish Literary JournalPoetica, and the Dark Poetry Club. He has published a new, original aphorism under the moniker Daily Ferocity on Instagram, daily for almost three years. He also has a regular aphorism column at The Miramichi Reader, Weekly Ferocity.

  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Resource Publications (Jan. 13 2022)
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English
  • Paperback ‏ : ‎ 61 pages
  • ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 1666734357
  • ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1666734355

This article has been Digiproved © 2022 James Fisher
Acknowledgements: Simon Constam
Some Rights Reserved  

Excerpt: The Degrees of Barley Lick by Susan Flanagan

The following excerpt is from Chapter 17 of Susan Flanagan’s The Degrees of Barley Lick (for readers 12 and up). Barley’s ex-girlfriend and competitor in the geocaching competition shows up unannounced at his house one evening after Barley had disappeared from the competition. Phyllis has no idea Barley has agreed to help his mother’s new boyfriend, an RCMP Special Crimes investigator, find clues left by a kidnapper to locate a nine-year-old boy.

Barley is particularly disappointed in this turn of events because:

  1. He wanted to win the geocaching competition for his deceased father
  2. He would sooner stick pins in his eyes that see Phyllis win
  3. He despises his mother’s new boyfriend

He initially refuses to help until he learns a boy’s life is in danger.


“As the Mercedes pulled away from the curb, Barley noticed there was someone on the porch. It couldn’t be his mother; when Newton called her to say they were on the way, she confirmed she wouldn’t be home for at least another hour. Plus, it wasn’t her shape. But definitely female. The person stood up, but her face was partially obscured by one of his mother’s hanging plants. He wondered who could be lurking on his porch at almost 9 p.m.; it was the legs that gave her away. Shapely and tanned. Shoot, he didn’t have to look at the long brown hair with blonde streaks to recognize her: Phyllis Henderson. What was she doing here? Come to rub his nose in the fact that he had screwed up GeoFind and that she would win?

Barley gulped. This was the first time she’d been at his house in eight months, the first time since Hallowe’en weekend.

Phyllis was wearing khaki shorts and a plain black top covered by a Reebok jacket. Barley realized he’d never seen her wear pants. He wondered how he could still find her attractive, after what she did to him.

“Hi, Barley. What’s up?”

Barley felt a light sweat building under his arms. “Nothing much.” Thoughts of hair and baseball caps flitted through his mind.

“I didn’t know you had a dog. I saw him in the car when I passed you in Hope.”

Yes, a dog to replace my dead father, Barley thought. He had forgotten all about the fact his mother had brought home a Great Dane. That seemed like a lifetime ago. Barley could see his big hairy face in an upstairs window. A loud woof sounded from above, followed by an unmistakable four-footed thump, thump, thump, thump, thump, as Stanley whipped down the stairs. Poor dog. How long had he been locked indoors? He must be about to burst.

“Barley, I think he’s got to pee.” Phyllis indicated to Stanley’s big mug in the living room window.

Stanley’s massive head disappeared and reappeared in the window in the front door. He whined and rubbed his nose against the glass. He didn’t look like he could last much longer.

Phyllis crouched down and began calmly cooing to him through the beveled glass. “Hurry. He’s in a frenzy.”

Stanley responded with another guttural woof.

“He’s all right.” Barley knew full well he wasn’t, but he was afraid Phyllis might invite herself in.

“He is not all right, Barley Lick. Let the poor animal out, or I’ll report you to the Humane Society.”

Barley looked from the dog who had magically appeared in his life to Phyllis who had disappeared out of it, and debated what to do.

Reluctantly he made a move towards the doorknob. Stanley was beside himself with anticipation. I will die if you don’t let me out soon, he whined. Barley opened the door and Stanley barrelled through like a hurricane. The sheer momentum of two hundred plus pounds of beige fur knocked Phyllis off balance. Stanley beat his way to a rhododendron and relieved himself.

“Holy hankies,” she said, getting up and brushing herself off. “What’s his name?”

Before the word “Stanley” was out of Barley’s mouth, Phyllis had proceeded up the steps and into the house. By the time he caught up with her, she was hanging her jacket on the back of a chair. Stanley seemed disappointed to be going back in so soon. He looked at Barley, lifted a rear leg a second time, this time over the wooden grizzly carving’s feet.

“You can’t pee on Clover?” said Barley. The dog gave him a guilty stare, then resignedly followed him up the steps and back into the house.

Panic turned the juices in Barley’s stomach to acid at the thought of Phyllis Henderson inside his house. He looked at the hardwood floor and wished he had swept it like his mother always pestered him to do. Popcorn kernels were visible under the couch. At least it was better than the orange shag carpet that used to cover the floor back in October. Barley’s father had always threatened to pull up the carpet and expose the hardwood underneath. In January his mother had called some contractors to come in and do just that. She had been given grief time from work. She couldn’t concentrate on reading, so she started to renovate with a vengeance. What a mess it was when the contractors exposed the floor. What his mother assumed would be gleaming intact hardwood was really four- and five-foot square patches of dirty maple covered with the sticky gum of underlay glue. The contractors had to rip up everything and re-lay the whole surface. It had cost a fortune.

Phyllis was talking. “Earth to Barley. I asked you what his name was.”

Barley blinked. “Oh, he’s Stanley.”

“You’ve changed things,” she said, moving past Stanley whose rudder-like tail sent the black floor lamp dancing. Barley steadied the lamp with one hand and removed a pair of grey socks hanging off the rim with the other, praying Phyllis hadn’t noticed. He felt a flush in his cheeks.

“It looks good… looks a lot bigger than the last time I was here,” she said, as if her last visit had been a pleasant evening. She was right about the space though. When Barley’s mother renovated, she hadn’t stopped at the floors. She had the guys take out a few walls to open up the kitchen and living areas. Barley thought the whole ceiling was going to come toppling down, but they must have known what they were doing, because that hadn’t happened yet. For a month that winter, their house was a construction zone. With so much chaos at home, Barley was happy to go to school. The change was amazing though. It hardly looked like the same house. The new living room/kitchen was off-white with dark wood accents and a marble island.

Phyllis stopped in front of Barley’s computer. A framed topo map of the Lower Mainland hung on the wall behind the screen. She examined it before sitting down. He was happy to note that he was a few inches taller than her now. He hadn’t realized how much he’d grown since last year.

She picked up a can of SPAM from next to the monitor and began to read the ingredients. Before Barley could protest, she had pulled the tab, removed the little key and started twisting off the lid. Liquid fat began oozing out. “Got a spoon?” she said.

“You can’t eat that.” Barley looked at her suntanned face. It was always a creamy colour and had tanned to a deep brown in only a couple of days. Her teeth looked amazing without braces, and he wondered what she would do if he kissed her right now. Get that thought out of your mind, Barley. Always remember that Phyllis Henderson is a she-devil.

“Why not?” she asked, moving to choose a small spoon from a jam jar standing on the counter next to the toaster.

“Because…”

“Because why?” It was always like this with Phyllis. He was so intimidated in her presence his mind didn’t work properly.

“I dunno.” He did know. His father had given him the SPAM as a joke about a month before he died.

“Well, I’m half-starved. Tell you what. I’ll pay you for it.” She stepped around Stanley, who had followed her to the computer and moved to the kitchen. She dumped a pocketful of change on the counter and, moving one coin at a time with her finger, counted out $3.50. “That should be enough to get another tin.” She put the rest of the coins back in her pocket, moved to the sink, and poured the fatty liquid down the drain, before installing herself on a stool at the island.

Barley was incensed. He straightened his back and tried to calm his mind. He had forgotten his own hunger. All he wanted was to be alone and eat whatever leftovers he could find. What could he do to get Phyllis out of his house?

Stanley sat at attention in front of Phyllis while she wolfed down the meat. Desperate to get at whatever yummy pork by-products were in that tin, he began intermittently flinging up a front paw.

“Can I give him some?” she said, about to feed Stanley from her spoon.

“No,” Barley almost shouted. “That stuff would make him sick. He’s got a very sensitive digestive system.” Barley knew nothing about Stanley’s digestive system. What he did know was that he did not want Stanley eating his father’s SPAM. Barley couldn’t explain why? It hurt his head to think about it.

Determined not to show Phyllis how upset he was, Barley went to the propane fireplace and flipped the switch. The artificial logs crackled to life. He patted the huge doggy bed his mother had bought. But Stanley wouldn’t budge from Phyllis’s side; a glob of gelatin had fallen on the floor and the huge canine licked it up with his eager tongue.

Phyllis began rubbing her bare feet back and forth on Stanley’s back as she polished off the rest. Stanley tipped over sideways to optimize the foot massage.

Barley’s breath was coming in short spurts. He had to sit down. He made his way across the room to the couch. “Phyllis, what are you doing here?”

Phyllis followed, speaking between mouthfuls. “After I saw you in Hope, you didn’t show up at Colossus to get your next clue.”

“How do you know?”

She paused. “I asked Mr. C. when I checked at the end of the day. He said he had no idea where you were. No one else knew what had happened either. So, I called your mother and she said you were geocaching.”

“And?”

“Well, how could you be geocaching if you didn’t check in at Colossus for your second clue?”

“What’s it to ya?”

“I was worried.”

“Worried? You weren’t worried. You were just keeping tabs on me.”

“I admit I keep tabs on you, just like you keep tabs on me.”

“I don’t keep tabs on you.” Of course, it was a lie. He always kept tabs on her. Stanley looked at him as if to say fess up. There was no way Barley would admit any interest in Phyllis Henderson. “Is that all you came here to say, Syphilis?”

Slowly she laid the SPAM tin on the coffee table and stood up to face him. “I told you to never call me that.”

“Well, Syphilis, I didn’t listen.”

The fist that hit Barley’s nose was as hard as a boxer’s. Barley couldn’t believe it belonged to a girl. It sent him sprawling. Blood poured out, as if from a hose, all over his shirt and pants. Tears spring to his eyes making it difficult to focus. Stanley woofed three times in a row and stood protectively over him.

“You broke my nose!” Barley gagged on the blood running down the back of his throat. He ran to the stove and grabbed a hand towel off the front. He sat on the stool Phyllis had vacated, put his head back, and pinched to stop the flow of blood.

“I’ll break more than that if you ever disrespect me again. Now, tell me why you didn’t go back to Colossus.”


“Grief, geocaching, broken hearts, kidnapping and a Great Dane all combine to make The Degrees of Barley Lick a dizzying helicopter ride through a few extraordinary days in a teenager’s life. … Flanagan has perfectly captured the inner life of a teenage boy in emotional turmoil, bursting with hormones, resentments, and bad decisions. Barley acts first and thinks later. This is an adventure book with a very human hero at its heart, who is navigating an inner landscape that is even more challenging than the wilderness where the geocaches lie hidden.”-– Charis Cotter, author of The Ghost Road and Screech!


  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Running the Goat (Sept. 28 2021)
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English
  • Paperback ‏ : ‎ 248 pages
  • ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 1927917409
  • ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1927917404

This article has been Digiproved © 2022 James FisherSome Rights Reserved  

Excerpt: This is How We Love by Lisa Moore

(Editor’s note: This is an excerpt from the forthcoming novel by Lisa Moore, the celebrated author of February and Caught comes an exhilarating new novel from House of Anansi that asks: What makes a family? How does it shape us? And can we ever really choose who we love? Planned released date: May 3, 2022)


She knew the [pregnant}social worker wasn’t talking about the scratch on the bumper but expressing a solidarity. They were both terrified because they’d found themselves in situations beyond their control.

This would be the way of it for the foreseeable future. The social worker would not lift a hand help Trinity after this moment, but she was here now, they were joined together by the social worker’s grip on Trinity’s hands. They had shared something, the complicated fripperies of fate, the social worker had been brought to her knees in the hard sunshine, spit washing the child’s face, gripping the child’s hands, really looking at her, taking her in.

She was saying they both had to accept their situations.

I’m after ruining my stocking down here on the sidewalk, she said. The social worker was letting Trinity know that she was definitely worth the pair of stockings, maybe all the stockings in the world. But she was also telling Trinity that she was on her own, going forward. No matter what was on the other side of the screen door, Trinity would have to make do. All the social worker could offer was a concentrated moment of mutual sympathy. Then, with sudden vehemence, the social worker slapped her own neck. It was as if, like everything else about her body, the social worker’s hand had acted by itself. The print of her hand on her white neck and there on her palm, a squashed mosquito, which she held out for Trinity to see.

I got it, she whispered. She rubbed the dead insect off her hand onto her floaty dress and got up from her knees. The moment was over. The social worker was rapping on Mary Mahoney’s screen door.

They’d done the tour of the house and Mary Mahoney had sat with her back to the window, so all Trinity could really see was the foster parent’s hands loosely clasped on her lap and a stillness that was unnerving. Out of nowhere, creeping with stealth, a white and caramel cat leapt up onto Mary Mahoney’s lap.

One of the old woman’s hands buried itself in the fur, and her strong bony fingers arched and dove, over and over, in rhythm with the social worker’s speedy, unrelenting monologue about her doctor, whom she was convinced was a drunk.

This is Butterscotch, Mary Mahoney said, speaking over the social worker, who didn’t stop to acknowledge the interruption, although the old woman had already told them the cat’s name upstairs.

Nice cat, Trinity said.

Wasn’t nice when I got him, Mary Mahoney said. With the one eye hanging out on his cheek.

They’d had to take the eye, she said. Didn’t they? What else could they do? It took Trinity a moment to realize Mary Mahoney was addressing the cat. She’d thought at first it was a skill-testing question.

Couldn’t they just stick it back in? the social worker said. Why did it have to come out at all? She sounded plaintive, weary.

Mind you, they did a nice job, sewing it up. Smart, though, this cat. Like the whip. You couldn’t get one over on this old fellow.

They’d each fallen into a kind of stagnant pathos, hypnotized by the scratching hand on the cat’s back, the knuckles too large, rigorous. The social worker had nearly been swallowed by the couch, she was listing to the side and had to put her arm out straight on the armrest to keep from falling over. It was clear the social worker wanted to get going.

This is my last job, she said. Before I go on maternity leave.

You’ll want to get that bath poured, for the birth, Mary Mahoney said. Even at seven, Trinity understood Mary Mahoney was poking fun. It was clear to both of them the social worker was terrified of the birth, and maybe even the motherhood that would follow.

Trinity had never been told about giving birth, as the social worker called it, but she understood motherhood to be an inescapable torment that happened by accident and that “giving” was a euphemism. Doesn’t the baby get taken out of her somehow? What does giving have to do with it?

The cat turned its horrible face into a shadow cast by the armchair, and Trinity saw the cavity where the eye had been.

She thought of the stiffness in Mary Mahoney, the timbre of her voice, when she said the cat had needed privacy

It was the first sign that the new home might be better than the last. The tiers of frozen cookies, way too many for them to eat, was the second good sign. It was about show, and Trinity knew the importance of appearances. The cat’s missing eye was the third good sign. Mary Mahoney cared about appearances only to a point. She could love something no matter what it looked like or how vulnerable it was.

The two of them sat in silence while she social worker continued with her story about the last visit to the doctor. She suddenly rose up out of the couch and wrenched at her dress, pulling it tight against the medicine ball stomach, and approached the cookies, took a chocolate chip cookie in one hand, and held the other like a plate underneath her chin. She spoke through the crumbs on her lips.

I’m after leaving a few papers in the car, she said. That’s all that’s left, the papers. Then I’m done. I just have to get the papers, have you sign them, bring them back to the office, and get this thing out me.

She went out the front door, and they could hear the beep of her keys unlocking her car.

Will you help yourself to a cookie? Mary Mahoney asked.

Trinity said, No thank you. They said nothing more, as if they were in church. Then, the social worker was back. She laid the papers out on the side table. She stood with her hand on the small of her back.

Sometimes I feel like the spine is going to crack right off me, she said.

Mary Mahoney signed and signed. Then she gathered the papers and knocked the bottom edge of them against the desk and passed them to the woman. She picked up a square of paper towel, of which there were three, next to the cookie display, and she stacked three chocolate chip cookies, two shortbreads, and a date square and handed it to the social worker.

I couldn’t, the social worker said. I’m at high risk of diabetes. I’m not allowed to eat sugar.

My guess is that baby will be here in a couple of days. You can eat whatever you like, Mary Mahoney said. The social worker put one of her hands on her belly.

I need more time than that, she said.

Two days, Mary Mahoney said. Not a moment more, I guarantee.

I haven’t packed my bag, my hospital bag.

You best get at it. Tell the doctor that if you feel like it, you’ll be doing handstands or cartwheels or swinging from the light fixtures while you give birth. It’s your birth, you tell him.

He said I’ll be in so much pain I won’t know what I’m at.

Nonsense, Mary Mahoney said. And with a hand on the woman’s back, gave her a little nudge out the front door.


This article has been Digiproved © 2021 James Fisher
Acknowledgements: Lisa Moore, House of Anansi
Some Rights Reserved  

Excerpt: Reversing Time by Charlotte Mendel

Reversing Time: One Boy’s Quest to Change History is the full title of a new work of fiction by Charlotte Mendel. It is being published by Guernica Editions and will be released on December 1st, 2021.

Here are her introductory comments to this excerpt:

“We are all aware of the climate crisis, so why is everyone talking the talk, but not walking the walk? If the message isn’t working, change the message. As so often in history, artists can play a leading role in this change. That was the premise of the inspiration for this optimistic, yet realistic, book—to serve up difficult facts within the context of a gripping fantasy that focuses on what we can do about it. It has already inspired readers to look at their actions through the lens of climate change.”


None of the bullies were in the classroom, so for once Simon could saunter out like a normal student, except his heart was heavy with dread.

Sandra linked arms with him again, but he shook her off. “This isn’t a stroll along the promenade. You’ve got to be ready to run.”

Sandra giggled. “Promenade? Where do you come up with them words?”

Simon didn’t answer; he walked slowly, swivelling his head in all directions as he checked the ground, the sky, behind and to the sides. Sandra sensed his nervousness, and punched him playfully. “Hey, loosen up. I’m with you, remember? I can beat those wusses with one hand.”

“Don’t be ridiculous. There’s three of them, and they’re all Neanderthals.” But Sandra’s compact, muscly body gave him courage; she probably was a much better fighter than him. In any case, two against three was a lot better than one.

They walked slowly, Simon shushing Sandra every time she talked. His 360-degree scrutiny paid off; they had a second’s warning when Shawn and Tyler erupted from behind parked cars on either side of the road. Simon and Sandra spun in unison and started running back towards the school.

Then the bullies’ plan became clear, as Jake leapt from behind a bush, directly in their path. They must have passed Jake’s hiding place, but Simon hadn’t noticed, despite his care.

Two chasing them from behind, one in front: Simon pivoted sideways and began to run up someone’s driveway.

“Let’s fight,” Sandra screamed, grabbing a rock and hurling it at Jake, smacking him right on the chest.

He howled in pain and doubled over.

“Run,” Simon yelled over his shoulder, half-ashamed that he’d already taken to his heels, leaving Sandra to attack alone. From his periphery vision, he saw her pelt past the crumpled Jake, back towards the school. A rock came sailing past his shoulder.

Shit, she’s given the morons a new idea, Simon thought. He could see that both Shawn and Tyler were chasing after him, leaving Sandra to her own devices. He was alone again. A constricted, miserable feeling stained his heart like mould.

He vaulted over the fence separating the yards and raced over someone else’s property. He would probably get lost. He was sick of this. Running, frightened, bullied every day. A sick mother, who was now crazy. She’d probably do something terrible and get locked away. He hated his life.

Simon stumbled over the unfamiliar terrain. There was some type of backyard waterfall coming up. Simon veered around it and headed for the road beyond. He didn’t have to turn around to know the bullies were closing in; he could hear their rasping breath. Two, three? He was sick to death of running. He was sick of his miserable life.

A rock sailed through the air and cracked against the asphalt. Then one thudded against his shoulder, sending a jolt of pain shooting up his neck and jerking him forward. He stumbled, and almost fell; tears rose unbidden to his eyes. How could those morons throw rocks and run so fast at the same time?

I hate my life. I hate my life.

Simon knew the tears would blind him, slowing him down. He wasn’t sure he cared. Let them catch him. Let them beat him up. Maybe the physical pain would alleviate the heaviness weighing on his heart.

The pendant thumped unpleasantly against his chest in time to his strides. He pressed it still with one hand.

I hate my life. I hate my life.

Another rock whooshed over his head.

I wish I was dead.

The ragged breaths of his pursuers seemed to be getting closer, but he didn’t dare look over his shoulder to check. Looking back slowed you down.

I wish I was done with school. Done with that miserable house and my crap parents. I wish I was 18.

A strange whistling invaded his ears. His vision went dark, as though someone had slipped a blindfold over his eyes. The strangest sensation enveloped his body; it felt like a strong wind was spinning him around, lifting his feet off the ground. He opened his mouth to cry out, but before the sound materialized he felt cold tile under his knees, and the darkness fell away from his eyes.

He lifted his head. He was crouching on the floor outside a half-open door. A long corridor stretched in either direction, with similar doors lining it on both sides.

He was alone in the corridor, although many of the doors were half-open, and he could hear a jumble of voices. Music was blaring from a door down the hall. Rigid with surprise and wondering what the hell was going on, Simon watched a girl and a boy, just a few years older than him, emerge from one of the doors in deep conversation and stride up the hallway. He jumped to his feet as they passed him, embarrassed to be crouching on the floor, but they didn’t pay him any attention.

“Excuse me,” he whispered. “What is this place?”

The couple ignored him.

He cleared his throat. “Excuse me!”

They glanced back at him, without breaking stride.

“Where am I?”

“You’re in Clancy Hall,” one replied unhelpfully.

Simon watched the couple disappear around the end of the corridor, and turned back to the half-open door nearest him. He poked his head inside. The first thing he saw was the coloured shag rug that was usually slung across his bedroom floor, except this wasn’t his bedroom. He didn’t recognize the room. It was much smaller than his room at home; there was a single bed in the corner, and the sun blazing through the window on the opposite wall illuminated the piles of books and papers strewn over the floor. A young man sat at a desk in the corner of the room with his back to Simon, peering at a laptop.

Simon felt embarrassed and confused. He was about to clear his throat to announce his uninvited presence, when someone shoved by him, propelling him into the room. Another young man entered, and flung himself across the bed. “Jesus Simon, haven’t you finished studying yet? I told Owen we’d meet him for lunch.”

Simon jumped when he heard his name, smiling uncertainly at the man on the bed. The man looked at him in surprise. “You didn’t tell me you had a little brother, Simon.”

The man sitting at the desk turned around. “Do you mind waiting outside, Chad? I just need another five minutes, and I’ll finish faster if you’re not breathing down my neck.”

“All right, but get a move on. We were supposed to meet Owen ten minutes ago.”

The man strolled out, winking at Simon on his way. As soon as he was gone, the man at the desk jumped to his feet and locked the door. As he did so, Simon looked directly in his face. The cry that had lodged in his throat burst forth.

The man … had his face.

And he was looking right at him.

“This is your first time, isn’t it?” he asked.

“The first time for what?”

The young man laughed delightedly. “I remember it! I remember every detail—those bastards chasing me and throwing rocks …”

Simon felt faint. “Chasing you? Please, what’s going on?”

The young man jerked slightly, almost as though he’d forgotten Simon’s presence. “Damn, I’m breaking the rules. Communication is strictly forbidden.”

“What? You have to tell me …”

“No! There are rules. Ask Mum.”

“My Mum?” Simon asked uncertainly.

Older-Simon laughed uproariously, as though he’d made a joke. “Go on now, scoot. Go back to your own time,” and he snatched his wallet from the table and zipped out the door, apparently forgetting the five minutes of studying he’d intended to do, in his haste to preserve the rule of no communication.

Simon looked after him in consternation. His own time? How was he supposed to know how to get back? He closed his eyes. What had he been thinking when this had happened? He’d been wishing he was older. I wish I was fifteen.

Nope, still in Older-Simon’s room.

He tried to recall his exact actions as he ran away from the bullies. He remembered the pendant thumping against his chest. He had grasped it in his hand, to stop the thumping. Of course, how stupid of him. He plucked the pendant from under his shirt and held it firmly in his hand. I wish I was fifteen.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Charlotte Mendel was born in Nova Scotia and spent three years travelling around the world, working in France, England, Turkey, Israel and India. She is the author of Turn Us Again (Roseway/Fernwood, 2013), which won the H.R. Percy Novel Prize, the Beacon Award for Social Justice, and the Atlantic Book Award in the Margaret and John Savage First Book category. Her second novel, A Hero (Inanna Publications, 2015) was shortlisted for the 2016 William Saroyan International Prize for Writing, and was a Finalist in the 2016 International Book Awards in the General Fiction category. Charlotte currently lives in Enfield with twenty chickens, four goats, three sheep, two cats, two children, one husband and thousands of bees.

This article has been Digiproved © 2021 James Fisher
Acknowledgements: Excerpt courtesy of Charlotte Mendel
Some Rights Reserved  

Excerpt from Tanya Bellehumeur-Allatt’s Peacekeeper’s Daughter: A Middle East Memoir

Peacekeeper’s Daughter parachutes the reader into the Lebanese Civil War, the Palestinian crisis, and the wave of terrorism—including the bombing of the American Embassy—that ravaged Beirut at the height of the siege. This novelistic memoir moves from Jerusalem to Tiberius, from the disputed No-Man’s Land of the Golan Heights to Damascus, and on to Beirut by way of Tripoli, crossing borders that remain closed to this day. It’s June 1982. Twelve-year-old Tanya and her family are preparing to leave their home on the military base in Yellowknife, Northwest Territories, to move to Israel, where her father will serve a one-year posting with the United Nations. While they’re packing up, Israel invades Lebanon. The President-elect of Lebanon is assassinated. Thousands of Palestinian men, women, and children are murdered at the Sabra-Shatila refugee camps in southern Beirut. The Middle East’s relative peace explodes into waves of violence. It is in the midst of this maelstrom that the family arrives in Israel and settles into an apartment. The simple act of walking down the street is fraught with peril. Violence may come at them from any direction at any time. Peacekeeper’s Daughter is a coming-of-age story, as well as an exploration of family dynamics, the shattering effects of violence and war—and the power of memory itself to reconcile us to our past selves, to the extraordinary places we have been and sights we have seen.


At school that Monday, I sat in the library after lunch. My grade seven class was in the basement for band practice, but I had a free period. Since I’d only started at the school in January and didn’t play a band instrument, I was exempted from music class. I spent my free time on the top floor in the reading lounge, next to Mr. Thierry’s classroom. After that, I would study advanced French while my class did beginner, baby French in our regular classroom downstairs. At dinner time at home, I took perverse pleasure in imitating the way they counted to ten with their thick accents.

Suddenly, there was a deafening boom, a sound louder than I’d ever heard before. Everything shook. The room went black. Books fell off the shelves. The chairs next to me rolled over. A window cracked and split, sending shards flying.

After the huge sound of the blast, there was a thick quiet. I sat alone in the darkened library, assessing the damage. What just happened? Was it an earthquake? What should I do?

Tanya Bellehumeur-Allatt by Louise Abbott

A light shone around me. “C’est l’heure du français,” Monsieur Thierry announced. I stood up, eyes blinking, and followed his flashlight beam into the classroom adjacent to the library. For the next hour, we conjugated French verbs by candlelight. “Que je puisse, que tu puisses.” Monsieur Thierry’s lips pushed forward when he spoke, as if all the words were teetering on the edge of his mouth, ready to dribble out. I thought of Richie and how puisse sounded like the English word kiss.

Whether Monsieur Thierry had forgotten about the blast that had just shaken our school or decided that his curriculum was more important, we carried on covering the board with our white-chalked declensions made visible by the candles on the teacher’s desk and the shafts of faint afternoon light coming in from the upper casement windows.

We were a small group, our numbers at the American Community School greatly reduced by both the civil war and the war with Israel. As tensions in the city escalated, most diplomats packed up their families and returned to their own countries. The only new influx of expats to the city were fifteen hundred U.S. Marines sent by President Reagan to man the five U.S. warships anchored a few kilometres offshore.

               After Advanced French, I joined my class on the first floor for grade seven English. Mr. Turner examined us with his one good eye, while his glass eye stared straight ahead. Its fixed look unnerved me. It was like staring at a camera. I imagined it photographing my secret thoughts—a bionic eye with special powers.

               “A bomb has exploded nearby, at the American Embassy,” Mr. Turner informed the class once we had taken our seats. “Fortunately for us, our school remains unscathed.” He paused, but only for a breath. “Please take out your copies of Twain’s The Prince and the Pauper. We will read aloud, beginning at Chapter Three.”

               My hands picked up the paperback and flipped mechanically to the correct page while my mind wrestled to process this new information. I raised my hand. “How close did we come to being hit?”

 Mr. Turner’s glass eye stared at a distant spot behind my head while his good eye looked out the window. “We’ll find out soon enough,” he said.

It was a relief to get lost in the story of a faraway place and forget about what was going on in the city around us.

               “Be careful on the way home,” Mr. Turner said before dismissing the class for the day. “See you tomorrow.”

               Our regular route through the campus was blocked off by red tape marked DANGER. We were shepherded into two lines and made to show our identity cards and hand our schoolbags over for inspection by armed French military police at three different makeshift checkpoints inside the gate, before finally being given permission to exit onto the street. Sirens blared nearby, and traffic on the main street was barred. The empty street was an eerie sight compared to the usual noisy tangle of cars and pedestrians.

               My brother walked a few paces ahead of me. “Did you hear it?” I asked him. I watched the back of his head nod yes.

               “I was in art,” he mumbled. It was hard to hear from behind. I got as close to him as I could, but the passage was only wide enough to walk single file.

“We left class and went there.” He stepped onto the street to avoid a pile of garbage on the sidewalk. In the absence of waste removal services, the citizens of Beirut piled their garbage in huge stinking mounds on the sidewalk. Those nearest to the beach threw it into the Mediterranean. After almost ten years of anarchy and civil war, the city resembled a massive dump.

“What do you mean? Where did you go?” Our school never went on field trips of any kind; it was too dangerous to leave the gated compound.

“Mrs. Gunthrey wanted to see what had happened. Her husband works at the embassy, and she needed to make sure he was all right. So she took us there.”

“Was he okay?” I kicked at an empty sardine can, shuffling it back and forth between my feet like a soccer ball.

“Took a while, but we found him. He was all white. Covered in dust. He thought his arm might be broken. He was holding onto a woman whose face was cut up. Her eyes were full of blood.”

After that, my brother was quiet for a long time. I kept my head down and followed his footsteps exactly, walking in the street to sidestep more garbage and a car parked on the sidewalk, also a common occurrence in this city without traffic lights or police surveillance.

“I saw a car wrapped around a telephone pole,” my brother said in a voice so low I thought maybe I hadn’t heard him properly.

               “What? How?”

               “It’s the force of the blast,” he said. “It picks up anything in its way.”


The Peacekeeper’s Daughter will be released in late September 2021. From Thistledown Press.

This article has been Digiproved © 2021 James FisherSome Rights Reserved  

Excerpt From Stella’s Carpet by Lucy E. M. Black

Here is an excerpt from Stella’s Carpet, coming out in the fall. “Exploring the intergenerational consequences of trauma, including those of a Holocaust survivor and a woman imprisoned during the Iranian Revolution, Stella’s Carpet weaves together the overlapping lives of those stepping outside the shadows of their own harrowing histories to make conscious decisions about how they will choose to live while forging new understandings of family, forgiveness and reconciliation.”


Moerdijk

Tell me, said her father, speaking calmly. Tell me what you saw.

In the park, feeding ducks. I thought, how nice. I watched him. His hand went into the bag of breadcrumbs and came out. He threw the crumbs on the lake. His arm did not bend so good. I watched. Again he put his hand in the bag and pulled it out. He threw the crumbs. And then I knew. I felt it. I was shaking. He felt it. He turned and looked at me and he made a face. A terrible face. A face with hatred. We stared at each other. He walked away very fast. I could not walk. I felt sick.

Are you all right? asked William. Do you need a glass of water? Her father looked at Stella and she understood. She went to the kitchen and returned with a big glass of cold tap water. William held it to her grandfather’s lips and helped him drink. Then he placed the glass on the draped fruitwood table. No coaster. Stella watched the moisture wick from the glass onto the sheet. It would mark the table. She didn’t move. No one else seemed to notice. It would be wrong, she thought, to trouble about such a thing at a time like this.

We were on a one-night leave near Moerdijk in 1944, began her grandfather. All of us. There was dancing in a small place. It was one night. We drank a little beer and we danced a little. The Dutch girls were friendly to us. We had defeated the Germans in Breda and we felt happy. We thought the worst was over.

Go on, encouraged her father. Get it all out, Stan. It’s okay.

He nodded and continued. His hands were braced on his knees. His knees were shaking. William reached across and placed his own hands on top of the old man’s, gently steadying his limbs.

It was nighttime. We were walking back to our camp when we saw the planes dropping paratroopers. Junkers, J52s. Soon the sky was filled with planes and men dropping down. We knew who it was. All around the countryside we could see hundreds of men dropping from the sky. We didn’t know what to do. We were not armed. We ran back to the village and told the Dutch. They hid us in a small kelder. A tiny room half in the ground. They pushed something heavy in front of the door. We squeezed together. The Dutch ran away to their houses.

Grandpa paused. Stella watched him and watched her father tending him. His gentleness moved her. She felt spellbound. Sofia was now seated in a chair, weeping quietly, her hands twisting the fabric of her apron. Stella was trembling. William was the only one in control.

We stayed there overnight. We slept standing up. There was nowhere to piss. We didn’t talk. Through a crack beside the door we saw a little light. That was all. The next day there was noise. The door was banged open with something hard. Boots marched across the floor. We closed our eyes and held our breathing. The sound of a child came too. Crying. I was close to the crack and I opened my eyes to look. There was a girl on the floor with a Nazi on top of her and another one waiting for his turn. They used her and when they were done, they shot her. The sound was so loud. Then they left. We waited until night and we crept out. We covered her. She was very young.

William spoke first. Stan, you can’t be sure it was the same man. You were in a closet.

It was him. I saw. His arm was the same. The elbow works both ways. I saw. You don’t forget such an evil. I was in the right place to see.

Would you like me to call the police?

Pah! The police. What do they know about it? They know nothing.

We should tell someone, Stella offered. I’m sure there’s someone who tracks war criminals. They extradite them.

No! We do nothing. I do not want people knowing where we live. We tell no one.

(Excerpted with permission from Stella’s Carpet (NON Publishing, Vancouver)  ISBN: 9781989689264, $19.95, forthcoming October 15th, 2021)


Lucy E.M. Black is the author of The Marzipan Fruit Basket and Eleanor Courtown, Her award-winning short stories have been published in Britain, Ireland, the USA and Canada. A dynamic workshop presenter, experienced interviewer and freelance writer, she lives with her partner in Port Perry, Ontario. Stella’s Carpet is her latest novel. https://lucyemblack.com


The Great Canadian Lit-Mag Hunt by Nathaniel G. Moore

Excerpt From Honorarium: Essays 2001-2021

Growing up as an aspiring small-press author as I did in the early 2000s, I was of course obsessed with literary magazines and journals. In 2002, small-press author Vern Smith wrote a thoughtful piece called “Pump up The Volumes”in the pages of This Magazine, examining the role of lit mags across the country and urging these creative outlets to consider becoming more diverse: 

Take The Capilano Review. It publishes “the best in fiction, drama, poetry and art from Canada and the rest of the world.” Which sounds something like Grain’s “established writings from Canada and around the world.” Which sounds like “the best of new and established Canadian and international writers” put out by Event. Just in case any of those aren’t your thing, The Antigonish Review has “consistently published fine poetry and prose by emerging and established writers.” The Malahat Review publishes “engaging and contemporary fiction and poetry by Canada’s best writers.” At PRISM International it’s “the best in contemporary writing and translation from Canada.” By defining themselves so broadly, are literary magazines selling themselves, and their readers, short?

Lately, however, I just don’t know. Am I too old? At forty-six, is my time better spent playing a short game—book deals, grants, and take my chances on that level? Or follow the alleged time-honoured tradition of submitting my writing to magazines across the country to accrue some publishing credits to present to a publisher?

“…is my time better spent playing a short game—book deals, grants, and take my chances on that level? Or follow the alleged time-honoured tradition of submitting my writing to magazines across the country to accrue some publishing credits to present to a publisher?”

Or is it a whole new ball game? Online journals, short-run zines, chapbooks, and poetry podcasts have cropped up like satellites in space all across the zeitgeist of our marginalized wasteland of lexical excess. But are these destinations useful tools in the goal of moving ahead in the queue? A lot of writers don’t like to talk about the fact that what we do is, well, sort of a business. It’s not just for the sake of precious art that we’re doing this. And I’m not talking about money—at least directly—but publishing work before it’s in book form. Is that a noble pursuit in this day and age? 

The reason I bring this up is that quite recently, I’ve discovered that many novelists are now getting published without a single publishing credit to their name. That means their very-first-ever publication is a completed novel. (This is never the case for poetry, at least from my vantage point. A poet usually has some obscure credit somewhere before they collapse at the door of their publisher for good).

Early on, I found that sending my work out was part of a ritual that all writers went through. You’d hear about a new zine or magazine at a reading, and someone would suggest you enter a contest, or send a poem for a theme issue. But in the ever-changing world of publishing, with so many different avenues, different geographies, an imbalance of funding, the overall cost to print and distribute, the landscape of literary magazine publishing in Canada is a bit of a wash. As Smith wrote in This Magazine nearly twenty years ago, it’s pretty hard to tell the issues of [insert university-based literary journal here] apart based on design and ads. What is the value, then, of following the path of writers from generations before, when the leaps are so much larger now?

Fredericton poet Jennifer Houle, author of Virga, says the element of surprise is a big factor in the appeal of literary magazines:

You never know what emerging author or new work by a long-time favourite you might discover. It’s easy to fall into ruts where you stop seeking new work, especially if you’re deep into a project or reading jag of your own. Lit mags are the way out of those ruts. I also appreciate the reviews and all the work that goes into reflecting on and considering the immense creative output of writers. It’s an irreplaceable service.

For a long time, the party line was publish in literary magazines; some over the years likened them to the farm system for sports teams. Michael Bryson, a fiction writer from Toronto and editor of The Danforth Review, sees things a bit differently:

I’m not keen on the farm-team metaphor, because it has always seemed to me that literature is a marginal activity. That is, the lit mags and the small presses and the so-called margins of CanLit have always been the heart of literature in Canada. It’s where the innovation happens. The farm-team metaphor works for sports, but the indie music scene is maybe a better analogy. Bands on the margins or coming up do weird, interesting things, but then get a major label and get flattened out (maybe not always, but often). In comedy, even the big comics go back to the small clubs to work on new material, stay fresh. Should we expect the same of big writers?

While completing her debut novel, Daughters of Silence, author Rebecca Fisseha approached literary-magazine publishing with a strategy in mind:

I believed that it was a way to bolster my appeal to agents and publishers. And that was the general advice, something along the lines of have something published elsewhere before you start sending out a full-length manuscript, etc. Whether or not that made a difference, in the end, I’m not sure. Maybe it was the writing practice I got from writing and revising those stories that made the difference rather than having the publication credits.

Fisseha believes that submitting to journals is something she may do in between books, like “sending out signs of life.”  Since publishing her first book, the author feels more comfortable submitting her new work. 

Veteran BC poet Tom Wayman says rejection is part of what defines a writer, as well as preparing them for greater disappointments in their careers.

I think for any beginning writer, being steadily rejected by literary magazines helps them get used to the world not really welcoming their amazing insights and dazzling command of language. Since most novels, like most books, are in effect published straight into the warehouse, i.e., sink into oblivion with astonishing speed, I can imagine someone whose first publication is a novel being stunned and amazed at discovering after publication how little the real world cares about their work. Whereas a rejection-scarred writer, veteran of many submissions to literary magazines, is well prepared for the resounding silence and disregard that is the fate of most publications.

Wayman points out that technology has made it very easy for writers to submit to journals. “Poetry is the worst,” says Wayman, who has heard that a magazine in the Los Angeles area, Rattle, claims they receive 120,000 poems a year and publish 150.

In self-defence, many magazines have set up a screening mechanism consisting of grad students. Since these are often young people who haven’t yet experienced full adult life (the main concerns of a post-secondary student’s life are often far removed from those of a functioning adult out in the world dealing with a  job, family, household, etc.), the danger is that a literary world develops whose main themes are those of interest to students, not the issues that absorb the Canadian population at large. A writer friend in California refers to the people who screen submissions as “the children.” I’d add that the problem is compounded because screeners only know about those literary approaches advocated by instructors whose courses they’ve taken at the universities or colleges they’ve attended—a spectrum of literary possibility that can be quite narrow.

Years ago, Frank magazine characterized the Internet as “the vanity press of the deranged,” and nothing I’ve encountered has led me to doubt this definition. People constantly send me jokes, memes, or funny YouTube postings that they’ve found online. But for the plethora of lit mags that have migrated online due to the dearth of institutional funding, I’ve yet to have anyone—student or colleague—refer me to a piece of writing they enjoyed that they found in an online mag. Whereas people do steadily point out writing in print mags that they’ve found personally meaningful and worthy of drawing my attention.

On balance, I’m grateful that people are willing to do the hard and essentially thankless work of producing print literary magazines. I subscribe at any one time to eight or nine of these, and I continually discover authors and poems and stories that I’m impressed by, even dazzled by, and thus find I can learn from. These are writers I would otherwise not encounter. If literary magazines disappeared, my only alternative would be word-of-mouth recommendations, and since the writers I talk to tend to be those whose aesthetics match my own, I believe that without literary magazines my sense of the possibilities for literature would be much, much poorer.

“As someone who is writing a novel at the moment and has been for the last couple of years, I have to say that I feel screwed when it comes to sending out prose,” says Shazia Hafiz Ramji, author of Port of Being.

There is no space for long form in magazines. Most stories cap at 2,500 or 3,000 words. How are novelists meant to publish without sacrificing the form and length of their work? It’s common for novelists to appear out of nowhere and publish a book without publishing in magazines first, because there is no space for novelists in these venues. Even internationally, first-time novelists often publish a book and then get excerpted in places like Granta, etc.

Having spent a good chunk of time working for both publishers and magazines (sometimes at the same time), Ramji still feels that the vitality of literary magazines is something that should be supported and discussed. “I also think it’s important to talk about contests, which are mostly hosted by magazines. Contests are still a way for a first-time writer to get published. Contests have helped me a lot. Contests often make up a lot of the venue’s income. Without contests, many traditional lit mags could be dead.” 

I think lit mags are anything but dead. Lit mags are moving online and bring their own networks of people with them, which keep them alive and serve more than a magazine function. There is not enough incentive and infrastructure in Canada to have digital lit mags of the kind one sees in the States and elsewhere. We need to be questioning and revamping circulation-based and subscription-based models if magazines want to stay alive in Maple Land.

“I think there’s still some cachet to being published in journals, especially the harder-to-get-into ones like The Fiddlehead,” says poet Ian LeTourneau, who is also managing editor at the Fredericton-based literary journal. “Some publishers still read them to scout for talent. But my experience is mostly with poetry. My sense is that a lot of young writers try to build their resumes up by publishing in lit mags. Of course, young writers have always been in a hurry to publish, so I think lit mags serve a good intermediary step to book publication: you learn how to write cover letters, work with editors, etc.”

Chris Benjamin, editor at Atlantic Books Today, hadn’t published much before his first novel came out. “I’ve always seen lit journals as one route to a book, but not the only one. I’m not sure my novel would have been published if I hadn’t won the Atlantic Writing Competition of the Writers Federation of Nova Scotia. That got some attention from publishers.” Benjamin believes that journals have value in and of themselves. “I have a short story collection coming out, and almost every story was in a lit journal or an anthology first. I think short story collections are like poetry that way. I can’t imagine submitting a collection of short stories without at least half of them having been published in journals or anthologies first.” 

But it’s not so cut and dried: Benjamin does see the fine line on which an experienced writer dangles. “I do also feel weird sometimes submitting to lit journals, knowing that my work will likely be vetted (on first pass at least) by a young person without a lot of lived experience (or published work under their belt), let alone the kinds of experiences I put my characters through. I worry theirs will be a narrow and heavily theoretical lens. By and large, I like the results (as evidenced in the journals themselves), but then again, we don’t get to see what’s rejected. I wonder if there’s gold in them thar slush piles.” And there lies the mystery, the effort, that enigmatic fathom we need to reach deep down and pluck back up for some fresh air.


Excerpted from Honorarium (Essays 2001-2021, Palimpsest Press, Non-Fiction
ISBN-13: 978-1-926794-80-4$18.95 CDN / $17.95 US | May 2021

*The Miramichi Reader encourages you to shop independent! However, shopping at a bookstore is not always possible, so we are supplying an Amazon.ca link. Please note if you choose to purchase this book (or Kindle version) through Amazon using the link below we will receive a small commission at no extra cost to you. If you cannot see the Amazon ad below (if you are using an ad blocker, for instance) here is the link: https://amzn.to/3fJTSdy Thanks! 

This article has been Digiproved © 2021 James FisherSome Rights Reserved  

Old Broad Road by Phyllis L. Humby (Excerpt)

[Editor’s note: the following is an excerpt from the Crossfield Publishing book, Old Broad Road by Phyllis L. Humby. It is reproduced here with her permission. – James]

Synopsis

Sylvia Kramer flees two thousand miles from home and switches out her Jimmy Choos for rubber boots. She stubbornly adapts to the unique culture and dialect of Newfoundland embracing diverse friends and east coast delicacies. In a psychological roller coaster of events, she finally reconciles with her estranged family when a brutal assault shatters her spirit and plunges her back into depression.

Excerpt

Mr. Howard’s vehicle lurched over the mud-packed ruts and my hand gripped the door handle. We slowed to a stop, the ocean barely visible beyond the densely treed lot. Before he turned off the ignition, the muddy driveway was tugging at the soles of my shoes.

“Let’s check the property first,” I said, without a sideways glance at the empty house.

The smell of wet vegetation and seawater created a nervous flutter like butterflies batting against my ribcage. Despite the mounting apprehension, I felt an urgent need to explore. Not waiting for the agent, I hurried to the back of the yard. Seeing the salt-water bay, overlooked by jagged rocks, calmed me in spite of the exhilaration I felt.

The agent’s voice interrupted my thoughts. “Miz Kramer? You’re not dressed for this damp marnin’. Let’s go in, now.”

My stomach heaved with nerves. A fear of being sick in front of this stranger was a growing worry, but there was no turning back. Chapel’s Cove would be my retreat. My refuge. Despite the anticipated backlash of Dan and Darlene, I wasn’t going home to Toronto.

“Yes, this is it. I’m sure,” I nodded toward the view.

His eyes widened and he stepped towards me.

“You haven’t seen the inside of the house. That’s where all the work is. ’Tis fairly isolated here and I don’t think you know what our winters are like.” The representative’s strong east-coast accent made him difficult to understand. “You’d be lonely as a gull on a rock livin’ ’ere.” His considerable weight shifted from one foot to the other, his face wrinkling into a whine.

“If I didn’t know better I’d say you didn’t want to make a sale this morning.” My voice inflected a haughty tone – one I had perfected over the years.

Turning toward the abandoned house, I glanced down at my sodden canvas shoes, feeling the wetness soak through to my socks. The rain had stopped and I closed my eyes and inhaled. The smell of the damp earth aroused a childhood memory of shiny worms inching across a wet sidewalk. Recollections of my life before I became a wife and mother – and grandmother – were rare.

A cool, wet breeze dampened my hair, its mist settling into the deep lines around my teary eyes. I turned back to the magnificent view. During the weeks spent touring Canada’s east coast, I dreamed of living here, though never expected anything to come of it. Pretending was part of my healing process. Pretending to be alone in the world gave me solace. On the beach at night, screaming into the crashing waves, I raged against my fears. Nighttime was when I ranted and cried. That’s when I felt old and unhinged.

The agent ended my wandering thoughts with an attention-getting grunt and a dubious look.

“I plan on checking the house, Mr. Howard.” Jangled nerves added a harsh edge to my tone.

Turning away from the crest of the craggy coastline, I looked up at the weathered frame edifice. Clinging to the back of the house was a wooden deck atop supports from the sloped landscape. Its stilt-like structure appeared to tremble with the strong breeze.

Water-drenched weeds tangled around my ankles like restraints to keep me from entering the house, which at a glance, looked old and unloved − much like the way I felt. The realtor appeared relieved when I moved towards the dwelling. Seeing the decaying bottom step of the raised deck, I changed direction and led the way to the front door.

Mr. Howard followed so closely behind me that I heard his ragged breathing, and smelled the lingering smoke on his clothes. As a reformed smoker, the smell was neither tempting nor revolting, but something my nose immediately identified. A smell that, one day, would signal danger.

Through the open screen door, the battered inside entry with its peeling paint, added to the general tired appearance. I was beginning to understand the realtor’s skepticism.

The house key worked, but not without difficulty.

“This won’t be too good, I don’t imagine, now. The good Lord only knows what we’ll be findin’.”

The portly agent stepped aside and allowed me to enter the enclosed sun porch. My heart thumped with the realization of what I was doing and the finality of it. On my own for the first time and trembling with fright, I didn’t want anyone, least of all this agent, to think I was incompetent. I’d smile until my face hurt if that would make me appear at ease and in control of the situation.

Two mice skittered across the room when the screen door banged behind us. The salesman glanced sideways. I smiled and stepped over the splintered threshold of the screened porch. It would take more than mice to deter me.


This article has been Digiproved © 2021 James FisherSome Rights Reserved