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   PRISM
nternationa
FICTION CONTEST
GRAND PRIZE
"Ms. Pacman" by Josie Sigler
FIRST RUNNER-UP
"The Lights on Canada Day" by Susan Mersereau
SECOND RUNNER-UP
"In the Foothills" by Andrew Forbes
JUDGE    Jessica Grant
CONTEST MANAGER    Kari Lund-Teigen
READERS
andrea bennett
Cara Cole
Erin Flegg
Sierra Skye Gemma
Meredith Hambrock
Jay Hosking
Tariq Hussain
Michelle Kaeser
Anna Ling Kaye
Will Johnson
Gorrman Lee
Ajay Mehra
Jen Neale
Karen Shklanka
Cara Woodruff PRISM   nternati
ona
POETRY CONTEST
GRAND PRIZE
"Self-Portrait" by Susan Steudel
FIRST RUNNER-UP
"Ghazal of Perpetual Motion" by Kyeren Regehr
SECOND RUNNER-UP
'Towards a List of Definitions According to My Scottish Mother"
by Patricia Young
JUDGE    Jen Currin
CONTEST MANAGER    Kari Lund-Teigen
READERS
Jordan Abel
Erin Flegg
Elizabeth Hand
Leah Horlick
Ajay Mehra PRISM
nternationa
FICTION EDITOR
POETRY EDITOR
EXECUTIVE EDITORS
ASSISTANT EDITORS
ADVISORY EDITOR
DESIGNER
EDITORIAL BOARD
VOLUNTEERS
Cara Woodruff
Jordan Abel
andrea bennett
Erin Flegg
Anna Ling Kaye
Leah Horlick
Jen Neale
Sierra Skye Gemma
Rhea Tregebov
andrea bennett
Alison Cobra
Cara Cole
Meredith Hambrock
Elizabeth Hand
Will Johnson
Ruth Johnston
Michelle Kaeser
Veronique West
Selenna Ho PRISM international, a magazine of contemporary writing, is published four times a
year by the Creative Writing Program at the University of British Columbia, Buchanan
E-462, 1866 Main Mall, Vancouver, BC, V6T 1Z1. Microfilm editions are available
from University Microfilms Inc., Ann Arbor, MI, and reprints from the Kraus Reprint
Corporation, New York, NY. The magazine is listed by the Canadian Literary Periodicals
Index.
Website: prismmagazine.ca; Email: prismcirculation@gmail.com
Contents Copyright © 2012 PRISM international for the authors.
Cover illustration: "SOUP" by Mandy Barker (Ingredients: plastic oceanic debris affected
by the chewing and attempted ingestion by animals. Includes a toothpaste tube. Additives:
teeth from animals.)
Subscription Rates: One-year individual $28; two-year individual $46; library and
institutional one-year $35; two-year $55. Sample copy by mail is $11. US and international
subscribers, please pay in US dollars. Please note that US POSTAL money orders are not
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shipping and handling.
Submission Guidelines: PRISM international purchases First North American Serial
Rights at $40 per page for poetry and $20 per page for other genres. Contributors receive
a one-year subscription. PRISM also purchases limited digital rights for selected work, for
which it pays an additional $10 per page. All manuscripts should be sent to the editors at
the above address. Manuscripts should be accompanied by an email address. If you wish
to receive your response by regular mail, please include a SASE with Canadian stamps
or International Reply Coupons. Translations should be accompanied by a copy of the
work(s) in the original language. The advisory editor is not responsible for individual
selections, but for the magazine's overall mandate, including continuity, quality and
budgetary concerns.
For details on how to place an advertisement in PRISM, please visit our website at
prismmagazine.ca/advertise. PRISM occasionally exchanges subscriber lists with other
literary magazines; please contact us if you wish to be excluded from such exchanges.
Our gratitude to Dean Gage Averill and the Dean of Arts Office at the University of British
Columbia. We gratefully acknowledge the financial support of the Canada Council for
the Arts and the British Columbia Arts Council.
July 2012. ISSN 0032.8790
A
?5JIIS"i COLUMBIA ^     Canada Council     Conseil des Arts
^i«.„.SE!v~,:i, <£>   fortheArts du Canada CONTENTS
JUDGES' ESSAYS
Jessica Grant       7      Mad Skillage in Storytelling
Jen Currin      19     Form, Mystery, and the Glass Eye:
The 2012 PRISM Poetry Contest
SHORT FICTION GRAND PRIZE WINNER
Josie Sigler      9      Ms. Pacman
SHORT FICTION RUNNERS-UP
Susan Mersereau     22     Tie Lights on Canada Day
Andrew Forbes     30     In the Foothills
POETRY GRAND PRIZE WINNER
Susan Steudel
21
Self-Portrait
POETRY RUNNERS-UP
Kyeren Regehr
29
Ghazal of Perpetual Motion
Patricia Young
37
Toward a List of Definitions
According to My Scottish Mother
i
ACTION
Alexander Weinstein
57
Migration
1
POETRY
Jared Harel
42
Meeting My Body Double
Meredith Quartermain
43
If I Bartleby
44
A Natural History of the Throught
45
Out of the dark
46
How to converse
Daniel Zomparelli
47
Untitled
Stevie Howell
52
Dead Bird Babies
Nathaniel G. Moore
54
YOU ARE KIND OF A SPAZ //
56
I DID NOT BRING HIM THERE
TO     HEART-STAB ANYONE,
LEAST OF ALL YOU// TRANSLATION
Federico Garcia Lorca     38     Adan / Adam
Translated from the Spanish
by Dan Maclsaac
Rainer Maria Rilke      40     Eva / Eve
Translated horn the German
by Dan Maclsaac
Contributors     68 Jessica Grant
MAD SKILLAGE IN STORYTELLING
In the remarkably clever and winning short story, "Ms. Pacman," mad skillage refers
to a level of proficiency achieved only by the most advanced players of Ms. Pacman. A
player exhibits mad skillage when, e.g., she tricks a predatory ghost into thinking she is
going one direction, then unexpectedly veers off in another. Mad skillage (as I understand
it) requires dexterity, courage, quickness-on-feetness, an appreciation of irony, and a
thorough understanding of how ghosts think—or, rather, are programmed to act. Mad
skillage is a great term and one I plan to incorporate into my everyday parlance.
For instance: Josie Sigler, author of "Ms. Pacman," and winner of the PRISM Short
Fiction Contest, and the authors of the two excellent runners up, "In the Foothills" by
Andrew Forbes, and "The Lights on Canada Day" by Susan Mersereau demonstrate
mad skillage in their storytelling abilities. How often was I, like a hotly pursuing ghost,
surprised by their antics, my expectations confounded! How often did I shake my head
(and my fist, in envy) at the sheer mad skillage exhibited by these three writers.
Or, another example: so enthralled was I by "Ms. Pacman" that, upon reading the
story's final two words, I longed to put my own mad skillage to the test. Thus I downloaded
Ms. Pacman to my iPad. (Yes, she is available. She is even free if you go with the Lite
version.) What I experienced playing her (madly, and badly) was pathos. I think this must
be rare. I haven't played a video game since Mario and Luigi had six pixels each, bur I
don't recall ever feeling pathos. And I doubt most players of the new-fangled games feel
anything close to pity as their avatars steal cars, or dress up in virtual designer clothes that
cost real-world dollars.
But the question is, why did I care so much for Ms. Pacman and her quest (which I was
botching)? Because the story, "Ms. Pacman," had given her depth. Surprising, touching
depth. I knew she had a life outside the game. I knew she had a child. But hang on. I was
conflating Ms. Pacman with the chatacter she metaphorizes. Or is a double for.
The truly powerful metaphors (I find) are those you forget are metaphors. So deftly
are they woven into the narrative, so natural are they, that the two sides of the equation
become fused, inseparable—and forever altered. If that makes sense. So, not only is the
represented object unexpectedly transformed, so too is the representative object. Thus, by
the end of "Ms. Pacman," I could no longer separate the narrator's mother from Ms.
Pacman. But neither, I discovered, could I separate Ms. Pacman from the woman she had
come to represent: a single mother, hungry, hunted, addicted, coy, beaten, sad. Winning
some, losing some.
Anothet way to put it: in "Ms. Pacman," the game becomes an interpretive framework
for the difficult-to-intetpret real world the child-narrator inhabits as she is propelled from
town to town, bar to bar, trying to keep Ms. Pacman, her mother, and herself, alive.
Or, one last way to put it: the story is allegorical. Not just Ms. Pacman but all her
cohorts have real-life (in the story) equivalents; all are brilliantly translated into the child's
reality: the maze, the dots, the ghosts. Tie video game is a surface stoty that carries a
prismmagazine.ca secondary meaning. Beneath the game is another game, a high-stakes, life-and-death
game, played by a child who is mother to her mother, who must learn mad skillage (off
screen and on).
This is why, when I played Ms. Pacman, I found myself deeply moved by the tiny, pie-
shaped, dot-gobbling icon. This is why I loved her.
The story is winning for the depth of its emotion—emotion kept slightly off-stage,
or off-screen, by the game-speak and the pragmatic, instructive tone of the narrator. The
characters (outside the game) remain for the most part anonymous. Thus, we are invited
to further conflate the allegotical characters with their human counterparts.
The second-person point of view is used to brilliant effect hete (not easy to carry off
over the long haul). On the one hand, the "you" of the story is the narrator's childhood
self. The story shifts into the first person just once, I think, when the adult narrator
reproaches, and forgives, her younger self for her inexperience. But the story's "you" is
roomy and contains space for the teadet, too. The narratot teaches the reader the subtleties
of the game. Here is how you head-fake, corner, manipulate, eat, survive on one quarter
a night. Thus the reader becomes a player herself. Might Ms. Pacman be her game, she
wonders. And, after digesting the final words of the story, she rushes to download the
game and keep playing.
Judging a short story contest can make you an anxious, self-conscious reader. You want
to nail down your "winning" criteria beforehand. What makes a story great? How will I
know a winning story when I see it? You will. You do. Here is what I have learned: the best
stories have a surface story and a second, submerged story. I don't mean all stories should
be allegorical. But the best stories often are, in some way, bi-leveled. We are entertained
by the surface story, but we read—we play—for the second story, one level down. This
submerged story is incomplete and requires the reader to complete it. In short, readers
like to puzzle and ponder. The stunning "Ms. Pacman" has three story-levels: one is the
story of the narrator's on-screen mad skillage; another is the parallel story of her off-screen
survival; and a third is the story of her mother, which comes to us refracted through
the child's game-speak and incomplete understanding of the private, very adult "game"
her mother is playing. The effect is dazzling and complex. The story invites multiple
readings—interspersed with quick, disastrous games of Ms. Pacman, during which your
heart breaks anew for the poignant yellow disk, naked but for her bow.
PRISM  50:4 Josie Sigler
MS. PACMAN
7984
JL ou sought her out in every town, at the edges of each rust-belt city whose smokestacks
loomed against the darkening sky. You looked for her everywhere, from the VFW in
Toledo to the Lion's Den outside of Gary to that one decked out in blue neon, Omaha
maybe. Grand Island? Hard telling, given how many towns, how many cities, how many
times your mom pitched your stuff her stuff, and whatevet stuff you were stealing from
the motel into a papet bag and thumbed a semi, a battered pickup, a mid-size sedan
driven by a family man, even a yellow Porsche, once, in a snowstorm, believe it or not,
near St. Louis, Misery. That was what you heard, anyway, and it seemed to suit: Your
mom bartering to get you in on the deal, secure you some butt-space in the car, even
with a guy so rich he could buy more than one woman for life, didn't really need your
mom—your mom, her cheeks aflame, snowflakes in her hair, giving hot debate regarding
the exact price of the ride to the next stopping-over place, near or far, Rolla or Springfield
or Kansas City or Evansville, while your liberated fingets, gloveless and red, ached from
the cold and the residual effects of latching onto the joystick, cornering and head-faking
those damned ghosts.
Once the bargain was struck and the Goodyears were singing or sliding or rumbling
over miles of highway, there in the roomy leather interior or smashed against a door
without a handle or up in the bunk covered with a green sateen spread, you closed your
eyes. You put your fingers in your ears, conjured the opening music, the first maze. You
moved her through with ease, elbowing ghosts from your path. You dreamt up patterns
that might get her free.
THE MONSTER PEN
But here she is again in The Wagon Wheel. The Rusty Nail. The Dusty Dagger. The
Hard Hammer. The Broke Saddle. The Mad Hatter. The Mine Shaft. The Man Hole. The
Stagger Inn. Devil's Den. Final Score. Rattlesnake Lounge. The Snake Pit. Blue Butterfly.
Hillbilly Heaven. Le Bar. Pietown. Tigertown. Tasseltown. Elbow Room. The Cougar
Club. Tomcat's. Alley Cats. Fat Cat's. Rosie's. Shelby's. Larry's Lounge. Sam's Swimming
Pool. Hobnobber Ray's. Elmer's.
They stand at the bar. You can feel the buzz—they're anxious to play the floor.
You walk through the haze of smoke, your eyes peeled for the yellow cabinet. In
the pictures painted on it carnival-style, the ghosts have thick mustaches, five o'clock
shadows. Some shake their fists at her. One raises his eyebrows in appreciation. She runs
from him, but she's looking back at him, too, fluttering her long lashes. The ghosts have
sheets that cover their bodies. Meanwhile, she's all lipstick and legs, hairbow and heels.
Outside of that, she's naked.
You never notice that she's naked. I see it right away. In fact, it's all I see. But you are
prismmagazine.ca 9 young. You will always be young. Of course, you are me. Or, you were me until I drew a
line in time and stepped over it, became someone else. I can only tell these stories when
I imagine we are not the same person, when I disregard the fact that the line I drew is
scraggly, smudged, half-erased. And most of the time, I've got one foot on either side.
ACT I — THEY MEET
The first time you played you were six. It's one of the few early memories located in
a precise place, an exact year: '81. You sit under the edge of the bar in a VFW hall in
Livingston, Michigan.
Wait right there, your mom says, and nods at the bartender so he'll watch you, which
he doesn't. She leaves, and you curl yourself into a ball, knees to chin, eyes closed.
Hey, a voice says, and you know it's talking to you, but you don't respond.
Hey!
When you open your eyes, the man is bent down, holding out a quarter. You love the
jukeboxes in these places, their sad songs, but you tighten your arms around your body.
Go on, he says. It don't bite.
You teach out for it.
He pulls it back. Laughs.
Yout eyes smart. You aren't used to it yet, the way they tease.
Seriously, he says, pointing at a machine that is not the jukebox. I'll show you how, be
says.
He leads you over, drops the quarter in.
That's her, he says, The hungry gal herself. In a second, she's gonna start to move, he
explains.
He puts your hand on the joystick.
Wherever you go, she's gonna follow. She's gonna eat the candy.
You push to the left, then down. She swallows bite after bite. And it's true: you're in
charge. You feel this down to the soles of your feet. You come to believe in your power so
quickly.
You haven't yet brushed up against your first ghost.
BLINKY
Also known as Shadow or Chaser, he's the most aggressive ghost. His programming is not
subtle. In gamer-speak: his target is the tile she occupies. Before the game even begins, he
hovers above the Monster Pen, ready to spting upon her.
Just outside of Marion, Indiana: You stand in the door of The Wabash Cannonball,
dripping with rain. He's on his feet before the door has closed behind you. It's as if he can
smell her. But he doesn't seem to notice you. You are behind the scenes. You tug on her
shirt. She slips a handful of quarters in your pocket and pushes you toward the machine.
You slot a quarter, try to focus on improving your game. But he's gotten to her already.
He's the ghost most likely to force her to gobble one of the power pills in the corners of
each maze. These turn her into a ghost-eating machine. And when she's blissed-out, not-
quite-herself, she needs to hit all the ghosts in order to make a real killing numbers-wise.
Gamers call this grouping. Sadly, due to Blinky's ability to go Cruise Elroy, or triple his
hunting speed, you may not have time to group. Then she'll end up getting just him.
10 PRISM  50:4 After they've danced, after she's got him hooked, she brings him over to make the
unexpected introduction. He blinks at you. He's played this game for years, prides himself
on having seen it all, but you sense he's not seen the likes of you.
Staring problem? you ask, shoving the joystick.
He nods, understanding what he's gotten himself into, squeezes her arm.
The fact is, whether or not it's fair, your behavior affects her. This is why your resistance
weighs on me so heavily. Sometimes I think you're better off because you never take it
lying down. Other times, I wish you'd take a more subversive approach. But you are new
at this, so I forgive you the bluntness of your tools.
EARLY STRATEGIES
Don't rush, but don't hesitate. Don't get cornered. Don't be tempted by the fruit, but
certainly take what you can get. The ghosts have three basic behavior patterns: Chase.
Scatter. Scared. When they're scared, they get blue. When they flicker, they're about to go
back to being their normal asshole selves. When they scatter, it won't last long. You can
tell what they're after by their eyes. As for your own eyes, keep one on your location, one
on the horizon. And never, no matter how much you've lost, let her just curl up in a ball
and wait to die.
HER FIRST LIFE
It's a terrible noise, the loss of a life. The way she just spins, helpless. You sit with her in the
emergency room while they put stitches in the corner of her eye, her lip.
What happened? they say.
Fell against a table, she says.
The two of you lived with him for ten days in that motel. He wouldn't let you leave.
Why do we have to listen to him? you asked. It made no sense to you after all that
travel, staying in one room.
He sipped Wild Turkey, sat on the tailgate of his truck, watching to make sure she
didn't leave. You he didn't care about so much. You ran back and forth to the gas station in
the spring sunlight—or was it autumn?—yes, you shuffled through fallen leaves, marveled
at the wide blue sky, the sun unbearably bright after so many hours in that dim room. He
gave you money to bring her smokes and Diet Coke. Spaghetti-Os and canned tuna. Hot
dogs. But you couldn't get her pills.
She paced the room, wringing her hands. She begged him.
He stated at the television.
Something had to be done. So you walked in front of the TV, stood in front of it
boldly, in fact. God, you were brave.
My mothet needs her pills, you said.
Her pills? he said.
Yes, you said.
Move it, he said, ctaning his neck.
She gets sick without them. We have to go and find the guy who sells them.
Get. Out. Of. The. Way. He taised the back of his hand, his eyes still on the TV.
No, you said.
A guy, he said. He turned toward her. A guy? His eyes widened and he stood.
prismmagazine.ca 11 Come on, now. I ain't left this room, your mom said, her body shaking, uncontrollable.
He caught her around the neck with his enormous hand, tossed her down like a rag
doll.
You realized that you were the instigator. But all you could do was stand by and watch
as he brought his booted foot into her face. Then her terrible noise, a descending scale:
No. No. No. No. No. Blood. The owner of the motel knocking. He was going to call the
cops.
At the mention of cops, your mom's pursuer got into his truck and fishtailed away.
What beautiful strategy.
But that's the irony, isn't it? You only see the solutions to her problems after the fact.
(You could have taken a few of her pills before they ran out and slipped them into his
whiskey. You could have called the cops yourself from the payphone at the gas station. Of
coutse, your mom might have been busted, too, but maybe that's better than a kick in the
face.)
The nurses ask if she's raking any medications.
Nope, she says.
After she answers each question, the nurses look at you. You nod in agreement no
matter what you mom says. You're coming to understand that nurses hear this shit all the
time. They accept the lies because they know if they persist you might be separated, and
she's all you've got. That's what their eyes really ask: Do you want to keep playing? Are you
sure, sweetie?
PINKY
Also known as The Ambusher, he's sneaky, the one you don't suspect. He cuts corners,
misdirects, plays hard ball. Still, he's easy to manipulate, responds more often than the
others to head-faking: jiggle the joystick back and forth rapidly and he can't figure out
where she's going.
Take this guy in the Porsche. He wakes you by reaching into the backseat and tapping
your leg with one finger. He's afraid to touch you. He's young. His hair is slicked back
with gel. He's wearing a pink shirt with a small alligator embroidered on it. In most of the
places you've been, he'd get his ass kicked for that. Faggot. College boy. He's slumming
and you know it. He's not used to this kind of hassle, any kind of hassle from these
bitches, as he calls them when he's playing tough. Kids? They're something he'll discuss
only with girls who come from the right sorority. He doesn't have the skills to negotiate
your exit, and you take full advantage of this chance to make him squirm. You rub your
eyes like a much younger child and say, Mommy?
Wanna give her some change for the video games? your mom suggests. She loves to
play. Don't you sweetie?
She's pretending, old head-faker herself. You can tell she's ripshit at you, but class is
class, even here in the patking lot outside of The Wildcats Club. The worse you make this
guy feel, the more cash he's going to pony up.
He fumbles in his wallet, hands you a twenty. It gives your mom a chance to see how
much he's holding.
Of course, any strategy can backfire, usually due to minot input flaws. Your mom has
lost out on mote than one trick because you fucked with his precious little head. Once in
12 PRISM  50:4 awhile, you're a few frames behind, and a seemingly innocuous or confused ghost turns on
her.
INKY
He's the shy kind—or so they say. In truth, his behavior is erratic, his programming based
on the movements of the other ghosts. At first, you didn't understand that Inky isn't
blue, he's cyan. A seemingly minor distinction, but you kept running her into him and
expecting her to live.
The thing is, once in awhile there's a guy in one of these bars you actually like. Usually,
it's someone who takes a real interest in your playing. After leaving your mom and College
Boy in the parking lot and walking into the decrepit brick building that is Wildcats, you
encounter a dreamboat like this. He sidles up as you're expertly flipping boards, tests his
hand on top of the machine, exposing a tattooed arm. Some of the tattoos are characters
from the Saturday morning cartoons you watch on motel room TVs while you wait for
her to wake up. Some are weapons: on his forearm the dagger in its sheath seems' so real
you could pull it out.
Mind if I watch? he asks.
You shrug, but you widen your stance, get ready to rip it up. You're better at the
game than any kid your age, better than anyone else you've seen play. Sometimes you get
a decent crowd built up behind you, cheering as you push your score higher and higher,
write your initials in over those of locals who are twice your age. By the time your mom
comes in, you and Tattoos are going at it two-player, fighting to the death.
When it's his turn, your mom pulls you aside, winks at you. She fans out the bills she
took from College Boy's wallet and then quickly tucks them into her shirt. It's a lot of
money. Maybe too much. You shake your head, squint yout eyes.
I left plenty. He won't even notice, she reassures. He's on his way home now, anyway.
At least you're getting a real meal tonight, a motel room where you can shower off the
road.
So who's your friend? she asks.
He turns and looks at her then, drops the joystick so that sad music plays. You look at
the screen. That's one less life you'll have to work with when he walks away.
ACT II — THE CHASE
Rather than shaking the joystick immediately and maniacally to fake out a ghost, an
advanced player will simply turn quickly in a false direction, then turn back. Once,
smooth, and final. That's what we call mad skillage.
She says a btisk hello to Tattoos. Then she walks ovet to the bar, orders herself a beer
and a hot pretzel.
He's deflated, offers you another quarter.
No thanks, you say.
Your mom pops her pill, which means she's going to play the floor. The bigger the
wad of cash, the more desperate she feels, just like having a big score makes you want to
keep playing. She always thinks if she can make enough for tonight without cracking into
her big score, the two of you will be able to use it to get a real place, settle down and be a
family.
prismmagazine.ca
13 Tattoos turns away, starts to walk toward the jukebox. Then, he turns, heads to the bar.
She looks at him like he's the only thing she cares about on earth. She'll look at the next
guy the same way. And then the next.
It seems like she likes the chase, I know. But trust me: she's really just trying to eat.
TIPS! PATTERNS & HOLDS
Some players of the original Pacman devised patterns by which they could always clear the
screen without getting killed. Then they played by pattern alone, their satisfaction derived
from perfect execution, not the adrenaline of the chase. But the ghosts in Ms. Pacman also
go through periods of random movement, which in your opinion is the real genius of the
game. Of course, it nevet hurts to have a field of approach in mind—as long as you don't
count on it.
In every Flying J there's a shower stall that locks. It's usually to the left of the bathrooms.
In many bars, you can detour through the stockroom if you watch the tender carefully
to figure out where it is. If you're small enough, you can use the space behind the bar as
a warp tunnel and they forgive you. People just think you ate lost. The ladies room is a
good bet, too, but don't get caught in there alone. Find any older woman to stand near.
Best if she's local. She'll tell him to step off, you're a baby. In most states, fire laws require
multiple exits. If the building is up to code, they're well-marked. But remember that most
of the bars you end up in aren't up to code.
Worst-case scenario, you can always wait in the back alley neat the dumpstet. No one
ever looks there. This is a hold, a rare place in which if you keep still, they can't see you.
That's where you are when College Boy drags your mom out the backdoor by her hair,
Tattoos in hot pursuit.
ACT III   —   JUNIOR
Bitch stole three hundred dollars! College Boy screams in an unexpectedly high-pitched
voice.
Three hundred dollars. She's gone mad, you think. It seemed like a lot when she
fanned it out in front of you, but not that much. Of course he noticed it was missing.
She spits in his face. Score one for her.
He shakes her hard, kicks her legs out from under her. She struggles to get away from
him, but his grip is tight. Mascara runs down her cheeks.
Tattoos cracks his knuckles, gets up in College Boy's spitty face while he's wiping it
and says, I don't give a shit. She's with me, now, and don't nobody—
What? College Boy shrieks in that tetrible cricket voice. You think this whore is yours?
He laughs. Buddy, get real. That's the whole idea of a whore! She ain't never yours.
Tattoos raises his fist to hit College Boy, then pauses. He's heard what College Boy
is saying. He shakes his head, pulls his hand back over his hair, and then tucks it in his
pocket. He looks down at your mom writhing on the ground between them.
Might as well get your money's worth, I guess, Tattoos says.
They meet. They make a sweet lover's romp across the screen. Then, a stork flies over them
and drops a bundle, out of which emerges a baby Pac. They look at this baby in fascination and
awe. A new maze is introduced. Even casual players will tell you that the so-called "junior
mazes" are the hardest.
14 PRISM  50:4 You have to do something. So you wriggle from your position. They don't notice you
standing there clenching your fists as they begin to tear at her halter-top. You aren't strong
enough to stop them with your bare hands. So you search for a weapon. You find a small
pile of bricks that have slid out of the wall near the dumpster. You grab one. You walk
toward them holding it over your head like the goddamned Statue of Liberty. Liberty, my
ass. Every damned thing's a fight.
Hey assholes! you say, letting your voice reverberate off the back of the building.
They look at you, theit faces unholy. They let your fierce form register. Tattoos leaps
back, as if he's caught himself at something he didn't know he was doing. He begins his
retreat.
But College Boy gets on top of your mom and says: Whatcha gonna do, little girl?
Smash me with a brick? Smash us both?
Nope, you say. I'm gonna smash your car.
With that you take off running. His car is easy to find in the parking lot there among
pickups and rustbuckets. You stand before it. You almost stop yourself because it's so
beautiful, so delicate. But you can't let him call your bluff. So you let her rip. The brick
sails thtough the windshield, broken glass spills onto those fine leather seats, and a wailing
alarm fills the night.
He comes running around the building, his face shining as pink as his shirt in the
streetlamp, his mouth open in a scream you can't hear over the Potsche.
You tear down the street with him in hot pursuit. But you're younger and faster. It's
a minor triumph, really, but you'll remember it fondly, your feet pounding the cracked
sidewalks, the graveled alleyways, his panting and footsteps fading. You head back, gathet
your mom. Doubling back to collect what you've missed is a move you've been practicing
for years. It's saved her skin before. You drag her down side streets toward the highway.
You tell her to stick out her thumb.
A FREE LIFE
It's the best noise: the ding! ding! ding! ofhaving earned a free life. Ten thousand points,
and you can finally relax. And the days you spend in that particular motel room are
glorious, filled with Western movies, Big Macs and chocolate shakes, thick sleep. Your
mom takes long baths, pulls herself together. College Boy is two states away now, and in
her life, distance is the time that heals. It's exciting just how free you are, the ways in which
your life is nowhere near average.
But this is also true: the mote lives you have, the longer you stay in the game. The
price of freedom is that anything can happen anytime; there are no rules. Your mom, she's
got a real habit of squandering any kind of windfall. Three days in your thirty-dollar room
and she puts the rest of her hard-won cash in her veins. Then she's off and running for the
next score.
HATE GAME
Every once in awhile you play to kill, crash her into every ghost on the screen, avoiding all
protection. Other players do this once they've already screwed up, as a way to get to the
end faster so they can start again, work toward a high score. You do this to see just how
fast, how often, wanton risk leads to death. Sometimes it takes longer than you think, but
prismmagazine.ca
15 it always happens eventually. It's 1987. Talk of risk and protection has made its way to
the middle of the country. And your mom, well, she's the poster-child for fluid-swapping
fuckups everywhere.
TIPS: CORNERING
You're taller than your mom by the time you'te twelve. You can't watch her as well as you
should anymore because you have to watch yourself, too. When you come into the bar,
they stare at you. You learn to stare back, unafraid. Thanks to your patterning days, you
always feel sure you can escape if you need to. But only some of it's pattern. A good deal
of it is flow.
Here is a key technique: start to turn before you arrive at an intersection. Doing so,
you gain a few frames. This can help you avoid a situation that could cost you a life.
Near New Orleans, you're on your way to find het when he holds up two shots and
juts his chin at you. He mouths: Come here. Talk to me. You roll your eyes, though in all
honesty, you'd love to take him up on the shot. It makes the evening pass faster, but it
makes you sloppy, too.
He looks hurt, mouths Please?
You tip your head toward an empty table, start to walk towatd it. He nods, holds
the shots above the heads of the crowd. He's not blue anymore. He's flickering. You turn
suddenly to the right. He starts to make his way toward you. He's red, now. You turn
again. He narrows his eyes, follows. The difference between you is that you'te looking
ahead but he's just chasing. You wind your way around a table. You'll have to make a sharp
turn to get to the hallway.
By the time he gets to the table, you're in the bathroom, locked in a stall, safe but
miserable because you're going to be playing this game all night. He pounds on the door.
You don't answer.
But he isn't giving up. He waits for his moment. Then he comes in, pounds on the
stall.
SUE
Clyde was the orange ghost in Pacman; in Ms. Pacman, he's Sue. Sue does her own thing.
For this, you admire her. Of course, you're mildly offended that they've given the stupidest
and slowest ghost the gitl name. But whatever. The world is changing some if not enough.
A couple of pixels to acknowledge that women can be dangerous, too. But they didn't
even bother changing Clyde's looks, giving over just a few more pixels to a bow or a pair
of heels.
In the bathroom stall, your heart is pounding.
Go away, you scream. Go away. Go away.
He's yanking on the top of the door, making the cheap metal walls sway. Bitch, he
screams. They have no othet word, it seems, and so you're lumped in.
Suddenly there's a second male voice in that bathroom, saying, What the hell do you
think you're doing in here?
A scuffle ensues. You look beneath the door and see a pair of boots and a pair of heels.
Curiosity gets the best of you. You open the doot a crack, peer out.
A vety tall woman with thick arms has your pursuer by the collar of his jacket. She's
16 PRISM  50:4 shoved him up against the tampon machine. His eyes are wide.
Listen motherfucker, a man's voice threatens from her throat, You keep your fucking
pecker in your pants or I'll cut the fucking thing off. You got it?
Yeah, he says, breathless, confused.
You sure?
Yeah, he says.
She shoves him out the door, fierce.
Then she looks at you, says in a honeyed voice: Jesus. A girl's got to have a place to go
where they can't follow, huh?
So you come to love the drag queens who work alongside your mom. They're like your
mom, aftet all; they have the same sadnesses and smells, but when they hold you, comfort
you, theit arms are both tender and sttong. They help you with yout hopeless hair. You
and your mom stay for a few weeks in this particulat queen's trailer. She stays home with
you some nights while yout mom goes out. She paints your nails and asks you questions
with her beautiful, thick-lined mouth. Then she listens, her red-tipped fingers holding a
Virginia Slim.
One day you ask why she likes to dress up like a girl.
Well, look at them, she says. I wouldn't want to dress like one of them. Would you
want to dress like a boy?
Sometimes, you say. Not for the same reasons, though.
You wish you could walk the floor as a hunter, not a target, for a minute or two.
Alright, then, she says.
She takes you to the closet, roots around in the very back for a minute. She presents
you with a dark blue suit, a white shirt, a tie. You put these on, and she pulls your hair
back in a tight ponytail. You look at yourself. You laugh.
She comes up beside you, places her arm on your shoulder while you camp it up, make
muscles. She laughs, but then she's quiet, brushes your shoulders.
You're handsome, she says sadly. She gazes steadily at you in the mirror.
You look, too, suddenly serious. You see the threat of your body next to hers. You
loosen the tie, begin to strip back down, eager to return to yourself.
You ask why she's so sad.
Her friends are dying. She's dying.
She's the one who first tells your mom to get tested. Girl, she says. You still got a
chance.
PASSING THROUGH
There's a 1 in 100 000 chance that a ghost will pass through her and leave her unharmed.
It's all in how the program defines collision; thete are subtle coding flaws, or serendipities,
you might say, that allow what appears to be a collision to register as a mere close call.
But you're not sure if cells can be tricked like that.
The most circumspect of playets know bettet than to count on something like this.
Moderate risk-takers who pass-through once may actually take more risks for a while.
Players who relish risk will even try to work this miracle into their patterns. Eventually, it
catches up with them.
You warn her.
Everyone warns her.
prismmagazine.ca
17 CRUISE ELROY
But people rarely change. Nor do they vary from place to place much. The only thing
different is that the game speeds up. The ghosts stop turning blue. They're always a threat.
Take as a lesson in speed the trucker at the rest area off 1-70 where the last guy let
you off with just enough for the candy machine. Standing there in the cold—or is it a
dripping August heat that persists well past dark?—eating your melting Whatchamacallits
and Doritos, pressing a beaded can of Coke to your sunburned forehead, you watch him
walk from his rig to the men's room.
Your mom's eating a Snickers and Salt & Vinegar Lay's, which she hands to you. She
digs in her purse for a lipstick, smears her lips red, and goes in. The rest areas are the worst
because there's nothing to do while you wait. But it takes all of thitty seconds. Your mom's
played her cards right. She's convinced him to get her to the next town before she puts out.
He shows you the bunk as if he's performing a public service. As if you might live
under the illusion the ride is free.
Though you appear to simply do as your mom says, take a nap, you stealthily flip the
bedcovers so that what touches yout skin is the side that's never touched him.
You don't watch your mom's hands as they sneak across the valley between her seat and
his. He barrels down the road faster and faster and the lights make you dizzy.
When you arrive in the patking lot of Harem, he flips a dollar bill at you. Of course,
you're so good at the game by now, you never need more than a quatter to keep the game
going all night.
Now get lost, kid, huh? he says, like you and yout mom have nothing to do with each
other.
So you climb over her, get out. Another parking lot. Always a damned parking lot. You
want to give up. But you've known fot years that you can't just stand there on the asphalt
or the gravel in the rain or snow or heat. It's the fitst rule of survival, and if all else fails, it
applies: keep moving.
THE KILL SCREEN
But even if you play the game perfectly, you will inevitably hit a series of screens with bugs
in their programming. First, the board turns upside-down. Then it goes invisible.
You don't know what you expected, but this isn't it. You thought maybe she'd finally
get out of the maze. She'd be able to rest. You've long wondered whether the ghosts would
simply disappear or maybe redeem themselves, start talking twelve-step programs and
making amends, but they don't. They simply begin to chase her in places you can't even
see.
She hasn't been able to shake the cough that rattles deep in her chest. You lie beside her
all night in the motel, your hand on her heart. You call the cab at first light. In the clinic,
her face is pale and she's shaking when they call her name.
You wait, your fingers tight on the edge of the chair.
Finally, she emerges, rhat white slip in her hands like a flag of surrender.
Our mother.
She won't meet your eyes.
Of course, your only recourse is to pretend you can still win, you can still get her
through unharmed. You hang the joystick to the left, navigating her around the chairs and
18 PRISM  50:4 the magazine table. You pull her into your arms. As long as you can hold her, you think,
she's not dying. She can't be dying. But through the prism of your sorrow it comes up red
and flashing:
GAME OVER
prismmagazine.ca 19 Jen Currin
FORM, MYSTERY AND THE GLASS EYE:
THE 2012 PRISM POETRY CONTEST
J_n a talk composed in the 1960s, but never given, the poet Elizabeth Bishop wrote that
the three qualities she admires most in poetry are accuracy, spontaneity, and mystery.
Bishop defines accuracy in terms of imagery: "like something seen in a documentary
movie." Spontaneity is "natural sounding...a good attack, a rapid line, tight rhythm."
Mystery, appropriately, is never defined. However, Bishop gives a clue to what she might
mean by "mystery" in one of the final patagraphs of the talk. She writes:
Off and on I have wtitten out a poem called "Grandmother's Glass Eye" which
should be about the problem of writing poetry. The situation of my grandmother
strikes me as rathet like the situation of the poet: the difficulty of combining the
teal with the decidedly unreal; the natural with the unnatural; the curious effect
a poem produces of being as normal as sight and yet as synthetic, as artificial, as
a glass eye.
Perhaps the "mystery" of the poem lies here: in the gap between the "real" and "unreal,"
the "natural" and "unnatural." Bishop seems to be saying that the real experience the
poem gives the teadet ("sight") is at odds with the artificiality of the made poem, the
words themselves ("the glass eye"). A poem makes a little world out of words, and when
we read a poem, we enter a world. What we take with us when we leave that world is
an experience: the mystery. A good poem gives us an experience that is larger than the
language used to make it.
Perhaps I am taking liberties with Bishop's ideas. Yet, the term "mystery," more so
than the other two terms, begs for one to take such liberties. Still, I am left with many
questions about my own and Bishop's use of the word "mystery" in relation to poetry.
If this mystery is only inherent in the reader's experience of reading/imagining, as I've
claimed above, then how to track the mysterious in the language, the movement of the
poem itself? Mystety must also be part of artifice—mystery must also be the shine of the
glass eye and its roving.
A
Accuracy. Spontaneity. Mystery. The three poems chosen as the winners for this year's
contest all share these three important qualities. Each poem also makes interesting use of
form, whether it is the end-stopped free verse of Susan Steudel's short lyric "Self-Portrait,"
the tightly controlled couplets of Kyeren Regehr's "Ghazal of Perpetual Motion," or
Patricia Young's dictionary entty poem "Towards a List of Definitions According to My
Scottish Mother."
20 PRISM  50:4 In the winning poem, "Self-Portrait" by Susan Steudel, mystery, accuracy, and
spontaneity are all apparent in equal measure. The images in the poem are vividly accurate
("a bust sculpted from the artist's own frozen blood"), and the phtasing is what Bishop
calls "spontaneous" (the "naturaf'-sounding repetition of "My client gets upset.../My
client is sleeping," for example). But what about mystery? While the poem "tells," in that
it is a series of declarative statements, these statements merely leave us with questions—
they do not add up to a final epiphany or a finished narrative. The poem gives us just a
glimpse of the world it speaks of. Rather than using linear logic, the poem leaps from line
to line; why "writing from the hotel bathtub" after "prize for most original pumpkin"? Is
the title telling us that this poem is an ars poetica, or does the title refer to the artist's blood
sculpture? Such guessing is part of the delight of reading: the mystery of a good poem.
Mystety, then, must lie (at least pattially) in what we don't know, in what the writer holds
back—in what the poem makes us wonder about.
The mystery of Kyeren Regehr's "Ghazal of Perpetual Motion" also depends upon the
poem's use of leaps. The ghazal form—a series of seven to twelve (seven being standatd)
couplets—is perfect for this. Each couplet is self-contained, so each reads like its own
mini-poem, while still speaking to the central theme. (In this poem, the central theme
is loss.) Ghazals are inherently nonlineat, and this allows the writer to leap from one
image or statement to the next. In keeping with the ghazal form, Regehr's poem does
not proceed linearly; we jump from "I have no patience for the repetition of history"
to "Even starvation has a period of beauty." As readers, we never know what exactly is
lost—a lover, a child, youth, memory itself? What is the connection between the (possibly
dismembered) arm of the child in couplet one and the broken leg of the cat in couplet
two? Do we need to know in order to appreciate the poem? Elizabeth Bishop atgues
that "the poet doesn't have to be consistent." "Ghazal of Perpetual Motion," like most
successful ghazals, is not bound by consistency: it leaves us, as does "Self-Portrait," with
more questions than answers.
I would like to extend Bishop's term "accuracy" to refer not only to the accuracy of
the image, but to the accuracy of language, as this is a quality all three winning poems
share. Each poem has been carefully crafted: there is not an unneeded or misplaced word.
Brevity and concentration characterize both "Self-Portrait" and "Ghazal of Perpetual
Motion," and Patricia Young's "Toward a List of Definitions According to My Scottish
Mother" is as tightly packed as a dictionary entry. In fact, it is a list-as-dictionary-entry-
as-prose-poem, but tathet than providing one definition, it gives us multiple, interlinked
definitions: we must understand what a "blether" is to make sense of "bletherer." The
mystery of this poem lies in its use of humor: humor always depends on an element of
surprise, and in this poem, each definition leaves dangling threads of a joke. Many of
these threads are picked up later, and we are surprised when we encounter them again in a
different context. Yet, the final "punch line" is not final; it does not tie up all of the loose
threads. We never learn what "haud yet wheesht" means; it is not clear why "bism" comes
after "distillery"; we don't know who the mother (is it the mother?) threatens in the last
line.
prismmagazine.ca
21 Elizabeth Bishop wrote that her grandmother's glass eye "fascinated me as a child, and
the idea of it has fascinated me all my life.. .Quite often the glass eye looked heavenward,
or off at an angle, while the real eye looked at you." In their mysteries, these poems are
able to look away from us and state directly at us at the same time. Read them and blink.
22 PRISM  50:4 Susan Steudel
SELF-PORTRAIT
Into the second bar of Satie you could tell.
Today we visited the national pottraits.
My favourite, a bust sculpted from the artist's own frozen blood.
I took the prize for most original pumpkin.
I am writing to you from the hotel bathtub.
My client gets upset if I'm awake while he's sleeping.
My client is sleeping.
prismmagazine.ca 23 Susan Mersereau
THE LIGHTS ON CANADA DAY
Tt
hat's what Gloria said. She works up at the 'Passage store but they btought her down
here for the ten to six because so many of us were doing the three to eleven or the four to
twelve or the four-thirty to twelve-thirty of the five to one for the fireworks.
I was watching outside through the front windows, it was so dead and so hot in the
store. Gloria was at the dtive-thru. Mary was doing the eleven to seven, so she was out
back on her four forty-five. I said, "Is there an accident? Is it gonna blow?"
It would be hard to tell, you know, if the refinery was really on fire, because it's sott of
going on fire non-stop twenty-four seven all the time anyways. I know because I lived in
Woodside all my life. I can see the stacks up along the harbour from my place, the ones
with fire shooting out and most of the others that just have smoke, and there's one that's
always got the hard black smoke coming out of it. And they're always going, I can tell you,
I've lived here all my life.
Gloria said, "Do you think we have enough hot cups?"
She won't tell us straight to do something because she's not really a supervisor or
anything and she knows it, but we always know what she means and I normally do it
because she sucks up to the management. She's still trying to get ahead or something like
that, I don't know, but Gloria will tell on you to Chetyl.
First I saw three cops running outside over by the refinery. I went out back and got the
cups like Gloria said. With Cheryl gone she technic'ly had seniority, you know, she's been
working here for forever. But when I got back and looked out again, I saw more police
over there, just past the Circumferential. I think four, five cars, plus a big cop van. I was
shocked, like, "What's happening over there?" Cause if it blew, you know, we would just
be gone. But Gloria was too busy wiping her drive-thtu monitor then.
One time Mary said she's seen creatures coming out the stacks, giraffes and things,
from the shape of the smoke. "Some days an elephant," she said. She nearly got fired a
few shifts ago, Cheryl caught her smoking a joint with her boyfriend next to the parking
lot. She told the owner and everything, but then they didn't fire her because technic'ly
she wasn't on shift and technic'ly she wasn't on the store grounds either. Cheryl was mad,
would've fired her if it were up to her, but Cheryl has to do what the uppet management
says. Mary laughed about it, she doesn't care, it's not like she's got kids or any real
responsibilities or anything, you know? What would it matter to a girl like that if she got
fired from the store?
It's not the fitst time I thought about the refinery exploding, but it was the first
time I had a real, you know, physical reason, with all the cop lights and everything all
surrounding it, for thinking it was maybe finally ready to go. And even on a regular day,
to tell the truth, I sometimes think it must be bad, all that stuff going into the air, the
real long pipe with the black smoke and all that. But it's always been there and I've lived
here all my life and I seem fine. No cancer or anything in my family, you know, like they
talk about on the TV. Even when the fog is thick as a cement wall, those fires cut right
24 PRISM  50:4 through, they're just always going steady all the time, night and day and night and day.
There was just the two fellas in the store, practicing again for their Shakespeare play
up at the centre. Nobody else wanted to come in, I guess, it was so hot, you know, with
the sun getting in through all the windows and evetything. When I got on for the three to
eleven, Gloria said that they'd been there since a while after she got on for the ten to six.
"We can't give them more hot water even if they ask for it," she said. "Cheryl said that's
always been the rule; they bought two medium teas at 11 and asked for two refills of hot
water and that's the total maximum they're allowed so they have to buy another tea if they
want more."
"No problem," I said. I figured she would be there for only a couple more hours
anyways, and I wasn't planning to make any trouble with Gloria. Those men didn't notice
what was happening outside at first, either, only I did. They were doing their funny
medieval talk too loud to see, repeating the same words over and over, pretending to tear
up. It was some irritating after a half hour or so, you know what I mean? But no one else
was in the store and I don't like to make trouble with anybody anyways, so.
We get a lot of strange ones in here. All times of day, you know, there's the people
who come down from the NS, we get a lot of those people from up the street. And mostly
they're pretty good, I'm not saying they shouldn't come in. They've got just as much right,
you know, I say. But Gloria, years ago when I was just starting at the store, she had one of
them rob lief. Guy points his finget in his pocket like it's a gun, tells her to take out the
money. Of course he was just off his meds, acting sctewy, but they transferred her shifts up
to the 'Passage after that. It's a nicet store I always heard, though I never been, cleaner and
newer and farther away from all the ones we get here. But mostly they're just a little off,
you know, touched, and you get used to it once you've been at the store long enough. It
could happen to me, I figure, but for the Gtace, you know what I mean? It's no reason to
be going that extra long way, having to take a bus or something, to get up to the 'Passage
store.
The fireworks is always a crazy night. The families come from all over Dartmouth,
they always want their coffees and apple danishes, hot chocolates, you know, fot all the
kids and all that. By eight o'clock it's lined up out the door and around down near to
Pleasant Street almost. Half the years they're cancelled anyways because it's too thick in
the harbour. And the other half when they do them, they say it just looks likes green and
red and blue fog and you can't see anything. But everybody comes out every year just the
same, the kids and the teenagers and the grandparents and everybody all together. They
come to the store and then they go over to find a good waiting spot ovet across along the
water, hoping for the best I guess. Doesn't matter here, anyways, because they're behind,
you know, out of view of the store. We can never see.
But that afternoon it was just real quiet, a couple hours yet before the rush was gonna
come in.
"Gloria," I said. "Come look what's happening over at the refinery."
She looked down at me from the drive-thru with her squished face, she goes, "That's
not how we do the cups. Cheryl said."
Forget the fireworks, I kept seeing burnt out bodies all across Woodside Dartmouth.
"In my mind, you know what I mean, if that thing blew?" She at least came over to the
counter then, saw all the cop cars.
Usually you get promoted up pretty quick. Within the first yeat or two, you know,
prismmagazine.ca
25 wherever you are, that's where you're at. I just got dayshift finally, myself, a couple months
ago. When I saw that Cheryl put me on the schedule to work the fireworks, I figured she
screwed up, so I went to her office and said, "Cheryl, I work dayshift now. I can't just work
'til eleven and then be back in for the six to two the next morning." And she looked at me
for a minute like she didn't understand what I was saying—the way she likes to do. And
then she said she needed me to work the three to eleven because of the crowd that comes
in between seven and eleven when there's the fireworks. And I said, "Well that's okay
then, but the next morning will be hard." And so she looked over the schedule again for
a minute and then she changed it from the six to two to the eight to four. Eight is at least
better than ttying to come in fot six after working the three to eleven fot the fireworks,
you know what I mean?
Cheryl's got a duplex out Westphal way, she and her husband bought it three years
ago. She held a nice holiday party there for us this past Christmas, too, just before he left
her. My place is a little on the cozy side, if you know what I mean, just a few blocks up
near the highway, by the Circumferential there, but at least I don't have to be driving in,
spending all my tips on gas to get into the store every day, you know? Or on a pass like
Gloria, I used to see her though the front windows out there waiting for the number 60
for close to an hour after her six-thirty to two-thirty was over, and me working the three
to eleven back then.
Anyways, I've got Robbie. He comes down to see me a couple times a week, and I
don't worry about him leaving because we're not really together or anything. He's not
into that and he's been really clear about it. I wouldn't want a serious thing with Robbie
anyway, even if he wanted it, because he really likes to drink. And my dad drank, you
know, I don't want anything to do with that. But Robbie's a good comfort a couple days a
week or once a week or every other week or whenever he comes by. We usually get some
fish and chips from up at the store by my place. I'm saving up for my family, my real
husband once he comes along, I want to be prepared. I got my living room all done up,
and my kitchen'll soon be there, there's two more chaits to pay off and I'll have the set.
But anyways, Mary was out back on her break and the others weren't scheduled to
come in until a little closet to the rush, so it was just me and then Gloria who first saw
all the cop cars turning in and starting to line up across the street, right from the ferry
terminal on up to the refinery. We heard sirens further up the road and we put our faces
to the front door and looked up the street and there were like ten police cars over by
the watet there. I really staffed to feat for us, I feared for all our lives. "Because I just
don't know," I said, "how you'd know if it was on fife until the whole thing blew up of
something, you know?"
My neck was so wet, I undid my collat, but Gloria seemed to be trying to close hers
more, you know, and pushing her shirt into hef waist. I didn't know how she could
stand the heat coming in those windows. It's like the Halifax Explosion we learn about
in ouf school days, you know what I'm saying? The refinery would be the same thing,
flattening Woodside away all together, and killing everybody up at the centre and the
mental hospital or wherever, blinding out theif eyeballs and all that.
"If it's got a good thythm coming out," Mary said once, "I've seen a hippo climb out
of the stack and then disappear in the air just as its tail is coming out. And then the same
hippo climbs out fight after it." She just went on, you know. "And then anothef and
anothef, until theie's a whole parade of them up there slowly fading into the sky."
26 PRISM  50:4 I told her, "It's an oil refinery, Mary. And that's just old oil smoke coming out of it."
We were looking and there were like fifteen police cars, plus some vans, three or four
of'em at least. And I was thinking, "If that refinery blows up, we're gone, there's no way."
It felt like a real life and death situation, you know, before we could see what it really was.
He was wearing a trench coat. Just one man. Using it to hide the rod, you know,
'cause you're not supposed to fish down there. You can't get a permit for that area. I know,
because my dad, years ago, he wanted to go down there and they were like, "You can't do
it. You can't get a permit for this area." You have to go farthet up, to the 'Passage, or other
areas even farther away from Woodside. So I guess this guy was wearing a trench coat to
hide the rod, and I heard later that somebody had saw his arms over across his waist like
he was hiding something and they figured it was a shotgun of something and they called
the cops.
The police were maybe especially on guard with it being Canada Day and everything,
I don't know, and maybe there was an overflow of them at the station, you know, just
waiting for the tush like we were at the store. That's why they treated it like a serious and
potential violent situation, crowding all theif flashing lights on him and all that, pointing
all theif guns at that one fool man.
When I have my own kids I won't be working here much anyways. I want to be at
home with my little ones, make their sandwiches for school and everything. I might have
to do part-time for a while, the seven to noon or something, I'm not afraid of a little wofk,
that's not how I was raised. But some day I'll bring my own children in here on Canada
Day and buy them chocolate donuts for the fireworks. Hot chocolate and cherry danishes
and the whole works.
Gloria, though. I don't know what she's gonna do. She's all alone, you know, and
she's already old, at least forty-one or something, and looking even older, forty-eight or
forty-nine. Mary and some of the other girls call her "cat's ass lips" behind her back. I
don't do that, myself, though it's true. They should put Gloria's wrinkled-up mouth on
those cigarette packages if they really want to, you know, defer people from smoking. But
I shouldn't talk. I still smoke a few, myself, just five or seven extfa lights a day, you know,
and I'll quit once I'm not working at the store anymore and once I get pregnant and
everything. It's just while I'm here at the store.
We couldn't see it but we heard it—bang!—a warning shot straight up into the air.
Holy smokes. They were yelling for the man to put his gun down. I wondered if they were
gonna shoot him right there, you know? And we couldn't even believe it. The two theatre
fellas finally saw that something was happening that's more important than theif crying
and bawling in the corner, and they turned to look out of the front windows too.
He wasn't even doing anything, just trying to catch a few fish for his supper. Not that
I'd eat any fish that came stfaight out of the hatbour here, you know, because the flushes
all go directly into it. But I do like the fish 'n chips near my place. Five dollars and you get
two pieces and fries and the coleslaw and the whole works. It's not as good as the Snack
Bar up by the ferry terminal that people all go on about, but that's a five-minute walk away
and where I go is right near my place.
Gloria's buzzer was going off something crazy. Beep! But we had to keep watching
what was going on. And that man. He was on his knees and he put his arms up. Beep!
Beep! He was crying and everything, and his fishing rod fell out of the trench coat when
he came down, begging for his life, you know. You could see it. Gloria and I could see it,
prismmagazine.ca
27 even through that whole mess of fed and blue and white flashing lights.
And I was thinking, "Are they going to shoot that man? Are they gonna shoot him
tight there and take his life out just for tfying to fish without a permit?"
Beep! "Helloooooo!" someone was saying into the drive-thtu speaker, not seeing what
was happening right behind them. But we couldn't move. That man went down right on
his face. We couldn't hear him, but we could tell he was crying like a child and asking the
cops not to kill him. Beep! "Is anybody home?"
The cops started to put theif guns away then, you know, statted to see what was the
teal situation. With the fishing rod and not a gun. And soon after, all the cats turned off
their lights and started making theif way back out onto Pleasant street, back to the station,
down the Circumferential.
I was dripping in my uniform, all that hot afternoon sun on me coming through the
windows, and I pulled out the middle of my shirt to fan some air, just to cool down for a
second, you know? Gloria looked at me, and from her big eyebrows pushed together and
her lips squished even tightef than a cat's behind, I thought she was gonna say something
about what we just saw. But instead she just looked down at my shirt, she said, "We could
be secretly inspected at any time."
Like those two men hollering and pretend-crying over in the corner all afternoon were
really there to inspect our shirts, or the number of rows of hot cups in the cupboard, you
know what I mean? Anyways, she went back over to the drive-thtu window like nothing
just happened at all.
"Welcome to the drive-thru. This is Gloria here."
And I did tuck in a little, since she's technic'ly got seniority and everything, but it was
so hot in the store, you know?
So it was technic'ly hardly nothing at all in the end, nothing compared to what we get
in here sometimes. Like the lady who poured out her coffee all over my till one time for
no reason, I had to talk to the cops that time, Cheryl banned her. I can tell you, too, it can
get some dirty in here with all those fireworks people coming in, and the people from up
at the NS and everything. They do all kinds of crazy stuff in the washrooms, you know,
even on the best of nights. Feces and all that all up on the walls one time—Gloria took
care of it. It was in front of Cheryl and I figure she thought she'd get some extra points or
whatevef for doing it, I don't know, I don't care about that stuff, myself. I keep my head
down, you know, do my job, take my cheque and get home. I'd like to know, though, what
makes people do ctazy stuff like that. You know? Where does it come from?
But I've got no problems with anybody, really. And I don't even want to be supervisor.
An extta twenty-five cents an hour? Fifty cents? It's not worth it, you know, for all the extra
responsibility a supervisor has got on them. But I feel sorry for Gloria because she's never
gonna get what she wants, no matter how many feces walls she wipes up or how fast she
is at getting the dfive-thtu orders, or ironing her shirt and tucking it fight into her pantyhose, you know what I'm saying?
The othet gifls came in all at once, it seemed like, two for the five to eleven, one for
the five to midnight, two for the five to one, two for the six to two.
Gloria said, "Everything is stocked here and clean." And she just left like that.
Soon the store was getting pretty lined up with people, and none of them knowing,
you know, what had just happened actoss the street not an houf ago at quaftef to five,
how the cops came in after that man because he didn't have a petmit, just like my dad that
28 PRISM  50:4 long time ago.
They were lined up here good that night, the kids wete so worked up—"When's it
gonna start? Have they started yet? Are we missing it? We're missing it!"
I heard it was the best fireworks we ever had, the sky stayed cleat for once and
everything. I guess there was even those ones that go up and fall partway down and then
go up again. But fot those fifteen minutes, you know, the store was just a ghost town.
Pow pow—pop! Me and the girls went over to the side windows, tried to see what we
could. But we couldn't see any bit of them from the store. Zip zap. Pow pop! Pish pish
pish. Boop bopp! Our faces were pushed right into the glass, trying to stretch enough to
see further into the hafbour. Pop and pop-pop. Pow pow pop-pow! But you never can see
them from the store, even on a miracle clear night like this one was. For myself, with that
noise, you know, my mind was gone back to that afternoon, all those burned up bodies
and everything, you know? The mothers and fathers and grandparents and the kids and
everybody all messed up and on fire, all across right all the way down Pleasant Street, it
was all I could see.
Quartet past eleven I finally got off, the fog'd finally come in from the ocean of
coutse, and I stafted walking along Pleasant Street. I was just minding my own, you know,
thinking how the store by my place would still be open for another forty minutes and I
could get the fish 'n chips special, just like I used to do when I normally did the three to
eleven.
In the fog the refinery lights always look even bfightei, more spread out, so the whole
sky looks like it could be on fire. I imagine, you know, the pipes would of broke apart
like metal splinters or something and flown over the air and gone right through people
through their chests, with them still sitting right in their cars, you know what I mean? Or
even through the two Shakespeare fellas sitting in the corner there in the store, or even
me or Gloria, or Mary out back on hef four forty-five, you know? If that refinery had just
blown right up.
When I was a little child, I used to follow the stacks to see where they started, there
must be technic'ly a hundred of them at least. But I could never tell, still can't. I end up
just getting dizzy, you know, trying to follow that mess of pipes, all mixed in with each
other and everything. It's a confusing mess of pipes and stacks, I can tell you, makes no
sense to me how it works. So I was just walking home like that when I see the shape of
someone against the lights, sitting on the curb in the dark. It was Gloria sitting there,
almost in the parking lot beside the refinery. Holy smokes, you know, 'cause she must've
been out there for something like six and a half hours—almost a whole shift's worth.
I walked over slow, I said, "Gloria, what's going on?" Because she was crying and I
have never seen her cry, not even after the robbery that time. She was looking up at the
refinery.
"Did you stay to see the fireworks?" I asked her, but Gloria didn't say anything, she
just kept looking. "Everybody said they were real good this yeat. With the ones that go up
and down and then partway back up again."
I didn't even know what to do, you know, and I couldn't leave her there like that, I'm
not like that, so I said, "Gloria, do you want a smoke?" I sat down and lit one and handed
it to her. She took a long dtag and handed it back to me. She started to say something
then. I could hardly make her out, you know, but I knew the words because I had heard
them all afternoon, too.
prismmagazine.ca
29 "O, let me not be mad. Not mad, sweet heaven! Keep me in temper. I would not be
mad! O, let me not be mad."
"Gloria," I said. "You're okay. You're not one of them ones." But it scared me how she
kept looking at those lights.
I said, "Are you working in the morning?"
And Gloria said, "Six to two. Up at the 'Passage."
"You should take a cab," I told her. "It'll be so hard in the morning."
"It don't matter."
We each took another drag from the cigarette.
"Is it any better up there?" I asked hef. "Up at the 'Passage, is it any easief there?"
"No," she said.
"You know, Cheryl had me on the schedule for the six to two tomorrow, too. But I
talked to her and she changed it to the eight to four. Still early but not as bad, you know,
as the six to two. It's hard when they put you on the schedule for three to eleven when
you're on dayshift now and they don't tell you and then they put you on the six to two
oi the seven to three or even the eight to four the very next morning, it's hard, you know
what I mean?"
Glofia said, "Yes, I know." That's what she said. She was looking up at the those pipes,
the ones with fife and all the ones with smoke and one with the hatd black smoke coming
out of it. Just the same stinky old burned-off oil poisoning up the aif and getting into us
every day, you know, through our uniforms our bones, like always. But with her staring up
there, and the lights burning so orange in the fog and all the lights that happened all that
day, I don't know, but I still felt awful afraid. I can tell you, I feared, then, for my whole
life.
30 PRISM  50:4 Kyeren Regehr
GHAZAL OF PERPETUAL MOTION
We toss everything in its path—our eye teeth, the TV remotes,
our amber throats, the tender white arm of a child.
Our calico cat drags its back leg home after a disagreement, again.
I have no patience for the repetition of history.
The garland maker must wipe hef fingers regularly,
or each white flower will be stained with its own pollen.
Lopsided heart-shaped leaves begin to appear on the sidewalks.
One of us should gather these belated yellow valentines.
What I love: decanter it for the snowy months.
It takes time to detect that rusty base note of neglect.
Abscission begins when trees wean their leaves off chlorophyll and water-
even starvation has a period of beauty.
I declare causality, but all that can really be said
is that one event follows another, follows anothef.
prismmagazine.ca
31 Andrew Forbes
IN THE FOOTHILLS
IVlarty came down out of the mountains in early March trailing a string of bad decisions.
He started high up in the Rockies and swept into Calgary, coasting at great speed, almost
like his brake lines had been cut.
I was working in a big sporting goods store, selling skis and running shoes and golf
clubs. I had been thinking about heading back to Ontario, but that would've required
putting my tail between my legs, and I wasn't ready for that just yet.
He'd been married to my sister for a short time, before she cracked up. My mothei
still says Eileen's "taken ill." Most recently Marty had been in Hundred Mile House, doing
I don't know what, exactly. The details were vague. Before that he'd been in Vancouver.
Trouble trailed him like a wake; bad ideas poured off him like a stench. Every time I saw
him he was driving a different car. Not new cats, but different ones. This time it was a blue
Cavalier with lightning bolts down the sides.
Since he and Eileen split and she walked herself into an emefgency room wearing a
nightgown, Mafty has drifted like pollen from place to place, his welding papers in his
back pocket. He'd stay for a time, use up his luck, then move on to the next town. He'd
done like that after he got out of the Air Force at Cold Lake, but then he met Eileen
and they had a couple of years where they imitated nofmal people, settled in one place,
rented a nice house east of the city. They stayed in nights. Then real colours began to show
through and things went haywire, like I'd felt they would.
Since then he and I have kept in touch, in a fashion, and all the while I've battled
feelings of guilt for some sort of disloyalty to my sister. But then again I have since
childhood suspected my sistet to be the cause of all bad things.
Matty is big. Not obese, just large, built on a different scale than most human beings.
He stands about 6'4", and his limbs are like telephone poles. His torso is like the front
of a transport truck, and on his feet he wears a size 13 or 14 pair of boots. When he
dtinks, which he often does, it's usually from something big, a jat or a big plastic travel
coffee mug. He drinks vodka mostly, Russians of Sctewdrivers. Drinks them like watet.
Sometimes the only way you can tell he's on his way down is that his face and neck get
beet red. Eventually he just collapses. Finds a bed of a sofa and you can forget about Marty
for 12 hours or so.
The thing with Matty is, when he comes to stay with you, there's no way of knowing
how long he'll be there. He arrived on a Saturday afternoon and immediately went to
sleep on the futon in the other room, the room that had been empty since my roommate
skipped out on me. Marty stayed there until midday Sunday. I could hear him snoring.
Once or twice in the night I heatd him get up to use the washroom, a bear of a man, a
lumberjack, shaking the whole apartment as he moved, then planting his feet before the
toilet and uncofking a tofrent of piss. Watef running, then slow, heavy footsteps back
down the hallway, the sound of a California redwood being felled as he tumbled back into
bed, and then nothing, just faint sawing, for hours and hours thereafter.
32 PRISM  50:4 A chinook had followed Marty down from the hills, and Sunday was a warm, springy
day, a breeze alive with smells where the day before it had been cold and dead. By Sunday
noon it was a beaut of a day, the sun at its full strength, the sound of watet running off the
roofs, everything slick. I could sit at my window and watch the snowbanks below melting
like ice cubes in an empty glass. I'd opened the windows and was listening to CCR when
Marty emerged from the second bedroom. I always listen to CCR when winter turns to
spring, and even if this was a false beginning, I needed to feel good about things after the
wintef I'd had.
"What in the hell are you doing," he asked me.
"Polishing my boots," I said. I was standing hunched ovef the table where I'd spread
out newspapers, some spare rags, and an old shoebox containing my polish kit: a tin of
polish, two brushes and a shining rag.
"Look at you, youf highness!"
"Sunday," I said. "Every Sunday I polish my boots. My dad used to do it."
"I see," he said, then looked around, sniffed and rubbed his stomach. The smell of
polish in his nose must have reminded him of the smell of food.
"Got any vittles here?" he asked.
"Sure, yeah. Cereal, toast..."
"Eggs? Bacon? Potatoes?"
"Yeah," I said, "though the potatoes might have sprouted."
"Alright then, you do your thing, I'll cook." And he did. He went to work in my
pathetic little kitchen, and with a cutting board, a dull knife and a single fry pan he
beavered away until he had made us a rich spread of eggs and bacon, toast, beans, warm
stewed tomatoes. When my plate was empty he refilled it. Only once I was done did
Marty sit down and eat. He had thirds, finished everything. I had forgotten this about
Marty, that he loved to spend time in the kitchen, and that Eileen nevet had to cook.
By mid-afternoon, still full, we were sitting on the couch sharing my cigarettes, the
sliding doot to the patio wide open to let in the sweet warm breeze. CCR had given way
to Rush in the five-disc changet: Marty's choice.
"What time do you work tomorrow?" Marty asked me.
"One," I said. "One 'til close."
"Good, then you can sleep in," he said, lighting another.
"Why do I need to sleep in?"
"Thete's a bar I think we should close tonight," he said. "Passed it on the way here."
And I thought, why not? What's the worst that could happen to me, in the company
of this man who'd cooked me such a generous meal, on a Sunday night in the foothills
with the watm breath of springtime upon me?
"Let's do that," I said.
We took my truck, the truck I drove out to Alberta from Kingston, the truck that I lived
in for two weeks until I found an apartment. It occurred to me that there was no definite
plan as to what we might do with the truck, how we might get back to my apattment ot,
failing that, where we would stay after this night of drinking. It's something I felt that we
were actively not discussing, a thing floating between us. I kept returning to it in my head,
but deciding that I shouldn't bring it up, because I felt like Marty was daring me to do just
that, to be the responsible one, so that he could be proven, in a single chop, the opposite.
prismmagazine.ca
33 Marty defined himself by these softs of oppositions.
We drove west, stfaight toward the Rockies, which loomed puiple and holy before us,
an unreal painted backdrop. The last of the sun was honey oozing between the peaks, and
through it we moved slowly, lazily. In the middle distance the foothills burped up from
the prairie, little practice runs, junior topography. That's where we were headed, to a place
called the Starlite, located nowhere in patticulat, just a sign, a parking lot and a roadhouse.
We stood in the patking lot, Matry and I, feeling—what? Apprehension? Excitement?
It's likely, given what ttanspited later, that we were not feeling the same thing at that
moment, though it felt for all the wotld that we were comrades, men linked by uneven
pasts and a hope that the near future, namely this night, would prove to be a kind one.
We leaned against the truck and did some damage to a six-pack libetated from my
fridge. The light disappeared and the night came on and we watched two ot three tmcks
pull in, theif drivers making their way to the Starlite's steel door with their heads down.
My hair plastered down and my boots newly polished, I felt like a handsome devil.
Maybe there'd be women inside, I thought. That's why I had come, for drinks and
whatevet interesting faces this evening might invite in. The usual things. I assumed that's
why Marty had brought us out there, an assumption I'd find to be false in due time.
Marty specialized in broken women: those who'd known bad men, bad times, those
who'd become familiar with the youth justice system. That's what drew him to my sistet,
of course. She hadn't yet gone off the fails, but he saw something in hef. Marty would ride
their momentum for a time, have some laughs, then jump off before things completely
fell apaft. He had a knack for it. When you were riding alongside Marty, you would meet
women who quickly began to tell you all about themselves—everything, in one sitting—
and you'd hear some crazy rhings. Then they'd want you to commend them on theif
strength, given all they'd endured. Sometimes I'd say something along the lines of, "Well,
we've all got trouble, sweetness, but we don't necessarily go blabbing it to the first person
we meet in a bar." This stance had, on more than one occasion, hurt Marty's chances with
cerrain women, and he openly discouraged me from adopting it, or at least voicing it. I'd
try to comply, if only because part of me felt that I owed Marty something.
An explanation on that one: while duck hunting with borrowed guns three years
earlier, I broke my tibia galloping down a slope toward the spot we'd selected, on the rim
of a broad marsh. Marty tied a stick to my leg and then put me on his shoulder and carried
me three kilometres back to the tfuck. He let me dtain the vodka from his flask while he
drove me to the hospital. An episode like that can endeat a person to you, even in the face
of theif obvious shortcomings.
I was remembering all this as we stood outside the Starlite. I could hear the wind,
which had taken on a coolness I didn't welcome, and I could hear the bar's sign buzzing.
Far out in the night I could heaf tfaffic on the highway, ttansports moving between
Calgary and the mountains, and Vancouver beyond that, though at that moment the road
in front of us was empty.
"Don't see his truck," Marty muttered, lifting his bottle to his lips.
"Whose truck?" I asked, but Mafty was pitching his bottle across the gritty patking lot
and stiiding towafd the Statlite's front door. If he heard me he ignored the question.
Inside it was dafk and musty with a checkerboard linoleum floor that might once have
been black and white, but had gone grey and yellow many years ago. There were about
34 PRISM  50:4 a dozen patrons scattered about, most of them in high-backed booths, while three men
in plaid shirts and leather vests slumped over the bar. The walls were wood panelled, but
the chintzy variety of wood panelling, the kind your dad might have installed in your
basement. It was warped in several spots. It had been a year or two since they'd got rid of
smoking everywhere, but you could still smell the stale tobacco coming out of the Starlite's
every plank and fibre. I imagined the bar stools' stuffing exhaling it every time another ass
applied pressure to them.
Marty strode to the bat and took a stool, and I followed. The man behind the bat
wasn't very interested in our being there. He was having a conversation with one of the
other men sitting at the bat. But in a moment he came to us and we otdered beers. Above
the bartender's head a small television perched on a wobbly looking shelf played a hockey
game. The Flames were in L.A. The men at the bar were looking up at that through theit
eyebrows.
We slumped over the bar and half watched the hockey game and drank beer for an
hour or so. There wasn't much conversation between us. Just quiet drinking. Then Marty
stood up and excused himself to the men's.
I watched him go in the mirror over the bar. Then a moment later I watched that big
steel doot open and let in a blast of cool ait. Riding it were a strange pair, a man and a
woman, she taller than him, who nodded to the bartender, then walked past me to a booth
in the corner. As they passed me I could smell them: she wore flowery perfume, and he
smelled sourly and pungently of pot. They took off theit coats and hung them on hooks
neat the mouth of theit booth. Then the man came to the bar, chatted with the keeper,
and got them a pitcher of beer and a couple of glasses.
The man wore a knit Rastafarian hat, green, yellow, red, beneath which lay a long,
dark ponytail. He wore an open plaid shirt with a black t-shirt beneath, from the front of
which smiled Mr. Bob Marley.
The woman was tall and thin. If they were to make a movie about this whole incident
they'd probably cast Katherine Heigl to play her, and that could work, but only if Katherine
Heigl was falling apart a bit. The skin of her face was sagging a little, her elbows were bony,
and her hair looked sort of like straw. But she was still pretty, there was no seeing around
that. Probably as pretty or prettier a woman as either Marty or I would ever know again.
She looked nice in her jeans, and she was a good three or four inches taller than Bob
Marley. It was obvious to everyone present that out little Bob was punching well above his
weight.
They settled into their booth and I more or less forgot about them. Matty was taking
his sweet time, I thought, and a moment later I saw the light leak out from the bathroom
door as it swung open. Marty's path back to our stools took him right by Marley and
Broken Katherine, and on the way by he said, loud enough for the whole bat to hear,
"Good to see you again, asshole!"
Why would he have done that? I wondered.
Marty fell down onto his stool and I could smell the drink on him. I realized that he'd
lapped me several times over in terms of consumption. He was close to drunk; if he wasn't
already there, he was on the outskirts. I thought maybe that had something to do with his
greeting to Bob Matley.
"How do you feel tonight?" he boomed at me.
"I feel pretty good, Marty," I said.
prismmagazine.ca
35 "That's good. That's frickin' good," he said. "I gotta say, though, our evening might be
about to change."
"How so, Marty?"
"I might have to beat that little guy to death," he said, and he was smiling broadly. His
face was red, his ears and his neck. Something was facing through him.
"Why's that, Mafty?"
"Oh, that don't frickin' mattef now," he said, and he swivelled around to face the bar.
He was finishing a beer and then he otdered a shot of vodka. Then a second.
"You want anything?" he asked me, but I just tilted my half-full beer glass to show its
contents. "Fair enough," he said.
Aftef a third shot he spun back around and faced the cofner where the couple sat.
He was looking at them over my shoulder and grinning. He watched them a moment
and he moved his mouth like he was looking for something to say. He chuckled to
himself.
"You need a ladder to kiss her?" he shouted.
"Fuck you," someone shouted back, but it didn't seem to me that it was Marley. He
might have a defender in this, I remember thinking.
"How do you fuck her? Marty shouted to the whole barroom.
I wished to hide then in my glass of beer. "Marty," I asked, "do you know those two?"
"I might've ran into them before. Here." Then he laughed like a clown might before
it touches you in the funhouse.
"On the way into town, am I fight?" I asked.
"Sure, sure," Marty said. Then he shouted, "Look at him! Look at you! You look like
her kid brothef!" The couple was ttying their best to ignore all of this. I don't imagine they
were successful. Everyone else in the Starlite had gone quiet, like villagers waiting for a
bombing run to end.
"You don't talk much," he said to me.
"I don't have much to say," I responded. "Not much important, anyway. I don't really
know what's going on here."
"What's frickin' going on here is that I stopped by for a sip on Saturday afternoon,
stopped right here at this establishment, and I was enjoying myself, talking to blondie
there. Seemed to me we were getting on great. Then her fella there comes in and starts
saying some unkind things, and I got agitated because it seemed to me that if he and I
were laid out on a buffet, at best he'd be an appetizer, where I'd be the main coutse. I could
see she might feel that way too, and I was about to do something about it when I was
advised that the gentleman a few stools down was a police officer. That changed my plans
somewhat. So I said I'd come back and we'd finish."
"And you brought me."
"You weren't busy, were you?"
"Suppose not."
Aftef Marty's speech I decided I'd have a double Canadian Club, no ice, and as I
ordered that I happened to glance in the mirror and notice theif booth had gone empty.
Then I heafd a microsecond of shouting. My jaw went electric and the stool I'd been
sitting on was suddenly beside and above me. Marty's head was nearly staved in by the
thick glass bottom of an empty pitchef, whereas I think Katherine Heigl had walloped me
with a plate. There were shattered bits of light in my eyes, on the floot. The linoleum down
36 PRISM  50:4 there smelled of winter and salt.
I was still ttying to move my face when I heard Marty get to his feet and start to shuffle
after our Bonnie and Clyde, who'd retreated to the other side of the room. Bob Marley was
holding a stool in front of him and Marty, whose face was bloody, was headed over their
with his fists loaded. But the baitendef shouted, "Hey!" and when I could see over the
bar I noticed the shotgun in his hands. There wasn't any doubting who it was pointed at.
In fact the whole room of people was lined up against Marty and, to a lesser degree, me.
Clearly the other two had thrown the fitst, but they were local and we weren't. We weren't
even Albertans. And we probably didn't vote the same way eithet. They had their reasons
is what I'm getting at.
"Christ!" Marty shouted, then reached down to yank me up. When we got to the
truck it just worked out that I climbed into the driver's seat, though I had no business
being there. I felt like someone had packed cotton balls into my skull. There was a sharp
pain where my teeth ought to have been and I couldn't speak.
In my dreams of that happier life, things like this were securely in my past. They
weren't adventures to me anymore; they caused my heart to ache. I'd look at myself and
shake my head. Tiat happiet life—the hope of it, the possibility of it—came to me in
sparing moments now, like when I'd eaten that breakfast Marty had made, or when we
stood in the blue twilight in the Starlite's parking lot earlier and it seemed like maybe we
had a good evening ahead of us. But evety time one of those moments spiang up they were
gone again just as fast, and that happy life got further and furthet away, like a thing you
watch blow away in a storm.
It was full-on night now, the roads bare but for my sweeping headlights. I didn't feel
as though I was driving, but rathet that the ttuck was driving me. I felt safe. That's why it
was so surprising to me when that tree came up. I thought, who'd put a tree there? But of
course it was that we'd left the road behind. The truck wasn't saving us, and Marty reached
over for the steering wheel. He was saying something but I couldn't hear it because of the
wind whistling in the hole where the windshield used to be.
There was an interval when I was aware of darkness, but not of anything else. I don't
know if I was conscious or not, or just what state I was in. When I came to and tried to
open my eyes there was a dazzling spray of light. What was interesting was that I couldn't
be sure if the light originated inside my head or if it came from somewhere else. I knew
there was a helicopter, and quickly reckoned that I was in it. The 'coptet's blades sounded
like a series of pops. Pop-pop-pop-pop, in a sort of fast slow motion. With each pop it felt
as though my head might implode. I tried to look at myself but came to find that I was
strapped down. I wanted then to throw up because my feet were above my head and the
level earth was a distant memoty.
I wondered about my truck, and in fact I must have asked aloud, because someone
said it was gone. I thought that was too bad, because I felt a great sense of loyalty to that
blue 1988 GMC, the tfuck that Marty had driven to the hospital after our ill-fated duck
expedition, as I sat in the passenger seat and my head lolled around like a pinball and the
pain felt like it had a centre and a million radiant arms. Our borrowed shotguns rattled
around in the bed. It had been a good truck.
My blood felt milky. The helicopter rose and rose, as though it was going to take me
ovet the mountains, of into the clouds. What happened then was that I had a flashback to
the moment before we'd left the road, Marty and I, in my blue truck. I had been thinking
prismmagazine.ca
37 that sometimes your life isn't the one you want to be living, even if it isn't terrible or dire.
There was nothing I wouldn't mind seeing the end of, I had said to myself. That included
Marty.
Now in the ascending helicoptet, still going up, I didn't know if Matty was alive ot
dead, and I didn't want to ask. I knew he wasn't nearby, in my helicopter, but maybe he
was in his own, thumping similarly heavenward. I wondered if we'd both wake up in the
same ward, a mint-green curtain separating our mechanical beds, and laugh about all
this. But I hoped not. I hoped I wouldn't see Marty on the othet side of this. It was all his
doing; I couldn't see things any othet way. My head was enduring a slow explosion and my
eyes didn't seem to be wotking quite right. The rest of my body was at that moment either
a rumour or a memory and I had to face the reality that Alberta wasn't really working out
for me. And goddamn Marty, I thought. The mountains had sent him, and it was my great
desire that the mountains should take him back.
38 PRISM  50:4 Patricia Young
TOWARD A LIST OF DEFINITIONS
ACCORDING TO MY SCOTTISH MOTHER
1. Blether (noun): person of either gender who talks incessantly about trivial matters.
2. Wee blether (adj./noun): child who talks incessantly about trivial matters, though
not necessarily a child; a wee blether need only be a person of small stature. 3. Bletherer
(noun): inter-changeable with blether. 4. Blethery (adj.): describes a person, usually a
woman named Agnes or Maggie, who talks incessantly about trivial mattets, though may
also be a man named Hugh or Billy, notably in his cups. 5. In his cups (colloquial): state
of having consumed latge quantities of whiskey. 6. For the love of the wee man, haud yer
wheesht! (command; exasperated): given to, usually male, though not necessarily male,
blether who has stumbled into the house in the wee hours of the morning in his cups,
reeking like a distillery. 7. Distillery: (a) place of employment (b) source of rack and ruin.
8. Bism (noun): errant female child. 9. Cheeky bism (adj./noun): errant female child who,
having been reprimanded, attempts to defend herself. 10. Cheek back (verb): defensive
strategy of a bism who has been reprimanded for errant behaviour. 11. I'll smack ye, so
I will (menacing but idle threat): uttered by (a) mother to child (b) blether to bism (c)
bism to blether (d) Billy to Agnes (e) Maggie to Hugh. 12. Wee hen (adj./noun): term of
affection for female child who has apologized for (a) errant behaviour, and/or (b) cheeking
back. 13. Gonnae no dae that nae mare: promise (usually broken) made by a man, woman
or child to no longet (a) talk incessantly about trivial matters (b) consume great amounts
of whiskey (c) misbehave and/or attempt to defend oneself (d) utter menacing but idle
threats {so help me God).
prismmagazine.ca 39 Federico Garcia L
orca
ADAN
Arbol de sangre moja la manana
por donde gime la recien parida.
Su voz deja cristales en la herida
y un grafico de hueso en la ventana.
Mienttas la luz que vine fija y gana
blancas metas de fabula que olvida
el tumulto de venas en la huida
hacia el turbio frescor de la manzana.
Adan suefia en la fiebre de la arcilla
un nino que se acerca galopando
por el doble latit de su mejilla.
Pero otro Adan oscuro esta sonando
neutta luna de pedra sin semilla
donde el nino de luz se ira quemando.
40 PRISM  50:4 Translated from the Spanish by Dan Maclsaac
ADAM
The tree of blood drenches morning
where the woman, newly born, moans.
Her voice leaves shards in the wound
and on the pane an etching of bone.
While the light reaches and overcomes
the pale limits of an oblivious fable,
the tumult of veins escapes
into the fresh mist of the apple.
In a fever of clay, Adam dreams
of a child who looms galloping
through the double throb of his cheek.
But a dark othet Adam lies dreaming
a neutered moon of sterile stone
where the child of light will be burning.
prismmagazine.ca 41 Rainer Maria Rilke
EVA
Einfach steht sie an det Kathedtale
grofjem Aufstieg, nah der Fensterrose,
mit dem Apfel in der Apfelpose,
schuldlos-schuldig ein fur alle Male
an dem Wachsenden, das sie gebar,
seit sie aus dem Kreis der Ewigkeiten
liebend fortging, um sich durchzustreiten
durch die Erde, wie ein junges Jahr.
Ach, sie hatte gern in jenem Land
noch ein wenig weilen mogen, achtend
auf derTiere eintracht und Vetstand.
Doch da sie den Mann entschlossen fand,
ging sie mit ihm, nach dem Tode trachtend;
und sie hatte Gott noch kaum gekannt.
42 PRISM  50:4 Translated from the German by Dan Maclsaac
EVE
See how she stands on the cathedral's
grand face, close to the rose window,
caught red-handed with the apple,
for all time guilty and guiltless—
and that swelling fruit born
after she left the circle of eternity
and in love cut her path
across newly fallen Earth.
Oh, she would have loved to linger
even a moment longet, to savour
the peace and wisdom of the beasts.
But since she found the man dead set
against staying, she followed him and Death-
God she had barely known.
prismmagazine.ca
43 Jared Harel
MEETING MY BODY DOUBLE
I forgot who
you were, yout name
and face,
your place
in my mind
was suddenly
amiss. Forgive me,
I whispered.
This is my pad.
Those are
our siblings. Here
is a .
I reached for you,
yet felt
only wind.
The sky, I admitted,
is terribly blue.
That poodle
you are petting
was probably
You didn't say
a thing. The nattative
forbid it.
I showed you
my penis. I pointed
out trees.
PRISM  50:4 Meredith Quartermain
IF I BARTLEBY
am a copyist, what am I copying? Down or over. From what page to what page. The flow
of ink through the nose of the pen replicating reptilely the tick of a clock turning into
another alley-way of lines or mind running down grammatical streets—ever outward like
a river through all the islands and channels of its delta after hurling itself downward from
mountains and even befote that from glaciets that had oozed fingers into high valleys but
now are said not to be oozing but rather shrinking away from those mountain crags—those
humps and hulks and heaved-up layers of ancient seas jumbled quixotics, masked tectonic
rafts of tock my pen makes into loops and sticks and dots. They shrink from a hot stove,
from an odious task, from dtudgery, from an admittance they're no longer wanted—these
glaciers—no longer loved by the mountains. No. The mountains have had enough, and
these glaciers must leave, must melt away, must sink into sedimentary, metamorphic and
igneous fissures, cracks, and fractals of mountainhood and meadowhood. Slowly, ever so
slowly pulling away the blankets and sheets—inch by inch sliding back the antimacassars
on mountainous couches and chairs once protected from human oil but now gradually
subjected to this pulling away of garments, this peeling back of scarves and coats, this
dtawing down of sweatet sleeves and chemises, this relentless embaring of mountain flesh
despite snatches at collars and cuffs, fringes and hems, despite the pocketing of a sash or
a sock, a garter or culottes that nevertheless melt trickle pour and hurl themselves down
as if under a ttuck. Can mountains think of trucks? Humans think not. Mountains leave
the question open, preferring to send it as a wave of photons from a stat goes out into
the univetse. To end on a distant planet, an astetoid, light-centuries deep in some far off
galaxy of ideas. Mountain thoughts. Could come to rest on a speck of sand in a camel's
eye—an eye that may not look kindly on the camel-kid it has given birth to. That may
not allow the kid to suckle. An eye that curls its velvety camel lips and gazes across the
steppes while the camel's owner walks five miles to the next yutt and brings back the
violinist—the ownet and his wife and theif five children gathering round the camel in a
man-holding-animal-huddle of hoof-stomp and dung and wind-blown hait, the violinist
drawing his bow across his sttings until slowly from the eye of the camel seeps a tear.
prismmagazine.ca 45 A NATURAL HISTORY OF THE THROUGHT
Violet. Opposite yellow on the colour wheel. Also a flower written about by Robin Blasef.
A song says they ate blue, suggesting sky or someone's mood. Can colour be ironic? A
droll black or a meant-to-be-read-two-ways green? If you are a man wearing a pink jacket
or, heavens to Betsy, you dress your baby girl in blue? Je pense que tout le monde should
be addressed Mistef, including baby girls and breast-feeding moms. If everyone wore blue,
according to psychology, our thoughtfulness would be encouraged. We would see a decline
in outbursts of verbiage that leave you wondering, What was that all about? Seeing blue
on our social associates, we'd be inclined to credit them with having the ability to put two
and two together. We'd look before we leapt to conclusions about lack of brain capacity.
I don't really like where this line of thoughtlessness is going. Because in fact I've lost my
train of thought. How indeed does one lose a whole train? Entrainer en francais: to drag
down. My train sunk in a violet pool—no, something fat bigger It's sunk into a violet sea.
A train of camels nose to tail plodding one hoof in front of anothef dragging my thought
across an empty desert of sky and sand. Not to a violet sea but out to the whiteness at
the edge of the desert. Whiteness of page already sliced with lines waiting for the tiain
of camels to make pictures in the eye of a beholder through which a thread is needled.
A simple t separating through and a thinking throught which once rhymed with fruit or
newt, but now fhymes with caught and fraught. Halt. The ones at the edge of whiteness.
Then seriatim stoppages of camel humps detoulant backwatds to my throught's ancestot
and the ancestor of that ancestor. It being not so much a throught-line with an engine
and a caboose as a series of births of reproductions. Camels not actually walking, unless
perhaps the desert moves under them, but camel pasting a camel in front of it and that
camel in turn pasting one in front of it—the "train" getting longet pushes apart whiteness
at eithet end and lets the thinker walk up and down her caravan.
46 PRISM  50:4 OUT OF THE DARK
light returns, seeping through cracks in curtains, even ones firmly yanked togethef—
above and below theit bunched skirts waves of grey grow on ceiling and floor, spinning
away streams of photons to land on sleeping cheeks and eyelids. To prick the skin of a
limp hand. Wake up you cotpuscles of blood. Run away through your tunnels and chutes.
Tell all yout friends we're back. It's time to jump on the bed and have a pillow-fight. Time
to row your boats. Oh I don't know about that, our boats ate tied up, nosing the weeds
of plaid kilts on the men who clean gutters much to the disappointment of crows. There
goes our feeding trough and bathtub, say the crows, get another pine cone, block up the
downspout when the men in kilts take away their ladders. It's enough to remind you of
Hitchock. Watch out. A black wing grazes a kneecap caught out between sock and pleats.
The rowing boats nose into weeds inside the subcutaneous tunnels whose branchings and
forkings, twigging and budding, await the corpuscles. Who now talk with particles of
light, give them a slap on the shoulder. Did you see the Canucks? Five nothing against
the Canadiens. Then they blow it in the fourth period. Should get a new goalie. Where's
the boss? Reading. The inside of her eyelids to download a freighter of REMs into central
processing. Please wait. Sixty percent complete. The photons clear off. Bounce on glass
in a wooden square, ricochet off a silver watch and the handle of a trunk made of slats of
wainscoting behind which a mongoose had lived that had puzzled, when she was a girl,
the woman asleep—was wainscoting a wall of hidden compartments and secret channels
through which a mongoose (a furry bird from Mongolia) ran like a telephone signal? A
friend of a girl in a story. Something her father had put in the attic she wasn't to know
about—and if I catch you in there you'll be. Hef brother in his diamond box—maybe he
was behind the wainscoting. She squashed her face and arms into the slats and dragged
blindly along their ridges and valleys. To a small wet nose poking out of a knothole. In
the central processing unit of the sleeping woman who thought certainly the girl was that
age where she really could fly—just jump off the thitd step, push the aif away with your
arms and legs—float over chairs, tables, window sills—the simple buoyance of thinking.
The cotpuscles in their rowing boats drift back and forth moored to theit kiltish weeds.
Occasionally one or two detach and meandet off on the current.
prismmagazine.ca
47 HOW TO CONVERSE
How does one do it, with or con—together and deception—then re-versal's turning back?
I gaze into my conversant's eyes. Around us triads and pairs with glasses of wine—the
loom bursting with chatter till the walls feel theif seams crack—they groan with the
pressure of vocalizations, and struggle to hold fast this suiging throng of speech—even
thinking of themselves as a pressure cooker and hoping that whoevef is boiling things up
is keeping track of the flame because if they are not, the gauge may fly off the top and
spew volcanic talkativeness into the night. No stopping now—out it must come. I've
been reading your book, I tell him, knowing that the same cannot be said on his part
about mine, but knowing also that by telling him this I will stop his gaze, at least for a
moment, from wandering over to the well published politically active speakef surrounded
by women, near an absttact canvas of grey, pinkish grey and bluish grey squares. Oh, out
it must spew—the paper I've written on innovative language in poetry, and who indeed
is making any claims that reairanging words in challenging conniptions hurled cruelly
at readers in the way of Attaudian theatre would change the will of government to hand
evetything over to globalized corporations? He helps himself to liverwurst though I'm
sure he said at Geotge's party he was a vegetarian. Those poets only write fot othet poets,
he says, making a pumpernickel and ham sandwich. Nowadays, he says, I only read to
latge audiences of analysts. His eye shifts to the female-adored figure against gtey-shaded
canvas. But somehow, I say, shouting over the din, we must live inside this monster—we
have to go on—we have to have other parts of ourselves besides loathing and disgust,
despait and cynicism. Must somehow see, as Olson did, humans in a universe. After all,
we still must love. Critique is love, he says between mouthfuls of mustard-coated ham.
What I love I theorize. I tweak its premises, massage its syntax, arouse its rationale, seeping
into its ctacks and faults, then freezing till it snaps, so everyone can finger its shatds. Why
would I not do that for what I love?
48 PRISM  50:4 Daniel Zomparelli
UNTITLED
I'm not gay, I'm from the future.
—Christopher Nealon, Plummet
Homos shoot photos offootlongschlongs.
—Christian Bok, EUNOIA
/// You keep saying / you're from the futute
but your BMW is a 95. // Used to
fuck in bathroom stalls
and now you do / it in yout
600 square foot condo
before 9pm because / the sttata has been
concerned about
noise levels / and hetetonormatizing. // The token
gay guy on
Big Brother,
never wins. // I'm sorry Ma'am your
Husband
has been / queer / eyed. // Have I
met you before / Dumbledore.
prismmagazine.ca 49 /// I buy Butt Magazine for
the articles. Living in a Gipstets paradise // American Apparel
supports gay marriage and all I got was this lousy shirt. // Beats and boners
over bedding. // Don't quit your
gay job, you will need
that when the gay
depression hits and
you ate left without
a gay penny to
yout gay name. // You might be an overweight / middle aged wife / who gets no respect /
has lost all confidence / can't get a job, lost / a son and can't affotd / clothes, but RuPaul /
will help you at 8pm / pacific standard time.
50 PRISM  50:4 /// Jock strapped
to my work. // We tried to use KY him and her,
but we didn't know who should
use what. // I don't get it.
// I bought this because I wanted to have washboard abs
and the guy in the magazine has washboard abs. //1
think he's hot because he looks like
he would beat me up, and I'm really
into guys who look like they'll beat
me up. // What about
the gays gaze? // Rock Hudson / and a pack of smokes.
// Ginch by Gonch I Calvin Kleined
my way to the top. // Alt + Ctrl + Delete // Me
// Dtag and drop
it into the folder. // Undo drag // I've been
using the
crystal method. // Unfrienimy // Don't worry, I'll just retweet it.
// I'm such a stupid bitch,
I'm a stupid bitch. // Madonna
is sotry.
prismmagazine.ca
51 /// You put the homo
in home ownei. / He had moulds
done of his cock, ass
and mouth. I really
respect his
entrepreneurial nature. / DIY // Poke. / You don't
make friends with Salad.
// Do you think he's sexiet than me? // Carb break! //
I BBM you, you
BBM me, we BBM / each othet.
// Hunting boots
from Brooldyn & co, fishing
pants from Holt Renfrew,
plaid shirts from Armani
beard from time.
52 PRISM  50:4 /// I have a blog.
I have a gay blog.
I have an activist otiented gay blog.
I have a pom activist orientated gay art blog.
I have a tumblt account.
prismmagazine.ca
53 Stevie Howell
DEAD BIRD BABIES
Mothet's migraine,
or her chalky pill,
sublinguates
into an upright snore.
A small white
buttetfly's origami,
abraded of her silk,
she can't fly anymote.
We fluttet outside,
to the steep, muddy hill,
do snagged pitouettes on bicycles
in the backdoor bare bulb's
deepening luminescence.
Never touch the dead bird babies!
They are dirty and will give you scabies!
(until)
Father arrives,
summer lightning strikes,
and blisters beyond the
ebony doot.
Velvet haired girls
migrate, by lightheaded hunger,
past his repellence, to where he performs.
Through spring, I nest
my secret in my pocket,
by fall, I forget
its fragmenting presence,
my curio of eggshell crescents
(and quills)
54 PRISM  50:4 Never touch the dead bird babies!
They are dirty and will give you scabies!
Laundry
embedded
with glassy,
opaque,
lunar
shrapnel;
and we are
thrashed,
pinned still.
prismmagazine.ca 55 Nathaniel G. Moore
YOU ARE KIND OF A SPAZ //
Carla hugged me when I came over she
was wearing a little brown dress
She had invited me to an impromp
tu dinner patty on 29 RUMSEY RO
AD her roommate and I argued about
the value of a GOTH MOM television
show.
Catla's elongated olive-skinned beautifully
sculpted head (high cheekbones,
sleepsunken eyes) looked like a big Egyptian
cat Goddess But Hungarian
and alive TALL sassy electric chair charming
vegan Amy came over brought really
amazing corn and tomato soup Talked
about her experience at the
John Water concert
where she
learned the
Name for an anus that is so very
thoroughly used it is all you know,
altered, stretched—"It's called
blooming," Amy said.
Latet that year Amy went to the Gwar
concert and wore a black lace bra to
the art show I was a maniac always was
a maniac lace bra maniac my maniac
sistet in law all week lone over breakfast:
56 PRISM  50:4 she wore it for you Nathaniel /
she wore it for you Nathaniel /
she wore it for you Nathaniel /
Lauta! Why do you keep saying that Laura?
Because she did
prismmagazine.ca
57 I DID NOT BRING HIM THERE TO HEART-STAB
ANYONE, LEAST OF ALL YOU //
Okay listen: you and I aren't going to
date. Or have sex. But I'm not friend-breaking-up
with you, so then you'll have to
break up with me with vivacity and frankness.
Also, beardo was the only one of the dozens
of friends I invited to the show that actually
showed up. I didn't bring him there to heart-stab
anyone. Least of all you. I was and am very proud
of the event you put on—with vivacity and frankness,
a copper glint of pride fountained from within me.
Please Nathaniel: Don't get coral reef and deep cut,
sad shut-in seaweed salad choke-a-thon.
58 PRISM  50:4 A lexander Weinstein
MIGRATION
<Jhe's wearing knee-high boots and a skirt cut short enough to expose her thighs. She
waits fot the few lagging students to exit then closes the door and crosses the room toward
my desk. There's something different about her eyes today. At first I mistake it fot the
putple eyeliner until I notice the flecks of green superimposed on her brown irises. Her
nose is small and her lips are large, deep red, and enhanced. "Hi, professor," she says,
leaning against the edge of the table. "You were checking me out again, weren't you?"
"You caught me," I say.
"You want to do something about it?"
Through the small pane of glass I see students filing past the classroom. "Here?" I ask.
She puts her lips by my ear and whispers, "Yes, Dad, right here. Don't you want this?"
She stretches her bronzed hand in front of me and shows me the vagina on her palm. "I've
got two other ones for you, Dad." Her lips are by my earlobe, where I've created a very
small penis to resemble an eatring. "Why don't you tty to find them all, Dad," she says.
"Dad?"
"Dad!"
I take off my goggles. Max is in the doorway, wearing the white hockey mask he nevet
temoves. "Dad, I've been calling you for like five minutes!"
Beneath my computer desk, the black rubber of my bodysuit is bulging, revealing
the early start of an erection. I peel off my headgear, place it by the computer, and turn,
keeping my legs hidden under the desk. "Don't intetrupt me when I'm teaching."
"Your class ended ten minutes ago."
"Six minutes ago. Either way, wait till my doot opens; and take off that mask when
I'm talking to you."
My son grunts and drops his shoulders, a kind of inverse shrug that captures his
ennui. There was a time when the sound of my office doot opening would bring the
excited pattering of his feet. Now I can hardly get him to stand near me. He lifts the
hockey mask so it juts ovet his eyes like a visot, casting shadows onto his face. "There," he
says. "Do we have a bike-pump?"
"A what?"
"A bike-pump."
He's sweating, his left hand is shaking, and his pupils are all over the place. The kids
call it spinning, a misnomer. His eyes aren't spinning, they just keep flicking from side to
side like televisions once did when their antennae were crooked. This isn't the time to statt
a fight with him, not while I'm still sitting in my bodysuit with a partial erection. "What
in the world do you need a bike pump for?"
"Our connection's slow."
"And?
"I could use the bike I have."
"No. It's dangerous out there."
Lome on.
prismmagazine.ca
59 "I said no. End of discussion."
"Fine. I'll just be in my room killing zombies like I always am." He flips down his
hockey mask and slams the door behind him. Slasher-punk music starts up and the house
is filled with electric guitats that sound like chainsaws. Then the guitats give way to a
drum solo that sounds like shit. They're not even real drums, just a programmed kit that
makes erratic and purposefully ill-timed licks. Bapbapbap. Bapbapbap. Bapbapbap. This
isn't music.
My computer chimes: an instant message.
Where'dyou go?
Sorry, I type., family stuff Can we meet online tonight? I can set up a room for us. Ten o
clock?
Want 2 fuck u in classroom.
I pause over the keys. Frankly, I feel too old for this. I'm only Visiting Faculty.
/ can set up a site ivith a king bed. Jacuzzi?
Nix. Classroom or nogo.
I let out a sigh.
Make it 11. The room's closed, but I can log us in.
C-ya.
I log off and wonder what the hell I'm doing. If I were smart I'd pay an avatar for a
night, rent a pre-made space, and not worry about sleeping with a student. Of course,
then it wouldn't be Kita. All of which, I suppose, means I'm not yet too old to get excited
by the forbidden. I remove my bodysuit, hang it ovet the back of the chait, and put on
jeans and a t-shitt. Then I go see my wife.
Ann's in her office working.
"I can't stand that fucking music," I say, closing the doot behind me.
She turns away from her computer and lifts her goggles. "It's awful, isn't it? Come here
and give me a kiss."
I cross the room and lean down towards her. The goggles are in the way, so out lips
barely brush before we make a kissing sound. She squeezes my hand, and I feel connected
to her, like she and I are teammates. Then I think about Max and the warmth frosts over
Ann feels the change fight away. "What's wrong?"
"Max is doing drugs again."
"Oh no."
"His eyes were flickering and he said he wanted to go bicycling."
"Bicycling? You mean those bikes yout parents gave us? That's ridiculous. We haven't
been outside in yeats. Where he's going?"
"I don't know, ptobably meeting someone to get more flash drives."
The reality of the situation leaves us silent. When we first had the suspicion Max was
doing drugs I'd snooped into his search history and stumbled onto one of the sites he'd
visited. On the screen a red dot flashed, right then left, upper left-hand corner then lowef
righr, blinking three times, latge then tiny, before switching to blue. Simply following
the dot with my eyes, I felt my mind unhinge. Colouts bloomed on the backsides of my
eyelids and I had the fleeting thought: there are limitless hues within the human heart. My
fingets began tingling as though my veins were connected to a latget network of neurons
criss-crossing cyberspace, and I had the sudden and inexplicable urge to double click an
object that didn't exist. I removed the goggles, my pupils spasming left, right, left, right,
60 PRISM  50:4 as the spectrum of colours receded into the eggshell of out bedroom walls. After that we
put blocks on our home connections but Max still managed to find dtugs. We found five
flash drives beneath his bed.
"Well, he's hete with us," Ann says. "He's not going to leave without us knowing it."
She's always been the rational one. She gives my hand another squeeze then hands me her
goggles. "I'm almost done with the Whole Foods account; tell me what you think."
Ann's landscaped the cotpotate office with a catpet of green grass. Patches of violets
and buttercups brighten the unused comers, and flat hovering stones create a staircase
between the upper and lower level. The floor-to-ceiling windows have been tinted so the
light streaming though appeats the eternal hue of late afternoon: not too bright to squint,
not too dim to read, a perfect radiance that highlights the natural colours of human skin.
Through the windows a tropical coastline spans the horizon, palm trees stretching over the
waves.
"Hawaii?" I ask.
"Philippines."
"Nice touch," I say and take off the goggles. As stunning as Ann's landscaping is, her
work depresses me. Her worlds make the white walls of our home seem all the mote dtab.
We stenciled lilacs around the perimetet, but it can't really compare
I cross the room and sit down on the office bed. Ann's got hef goggles back on and is
dtagging and clicking her fingertips across the design-pad. "So?" she asks from over her
shoulder.
"Did you do Kira today?"
"No," I admit. "We've got plans for tonight."
"Well maybe Rick can meet me then."
Rick is Ann's gardener, a muscular twenty-eight yeaf old Latino avatar who sells her
the palm tiees she uses. She introduced me to him once while showing me the Whole
Foods site. He was shirtless when I'd met him and he was carrying a palm tree under his
arm. He said, "What's up bro?" as a greeting.
"You know he's probably some hairy guy in Kalamazoo, right?"
"And Kira's not?"
"Kira's definitely not," I answer, though I have no clue. I picture a balding middle-
aged man sitting in an apartment somewhere, his floor littered with chips and Coke
bottles as he crafts Kira's avatar. "Are you really okay with this?"
"Are you kidding? I've been okay with this from the start. You're the one who calls it
cheating."
It's true. I'm from the generation who had hook-ups through Craigslist and erased
websites from browsers, a generation who, for a short while, still had time to be idealistic
about what the future held. Ann's eight years younger; her generation lost theif online
virginity in middle school.
"Come on," Ann says, "it's going to be fun. We'll be next to each othet when we get
off."
"Explain to me again how this isn't cheating?"
Ann takes off her headset and crosses the room to sit by me. She puts her hand in
mine.
"They're just avatars," she says, and leans towards me to kiss. It feels good. Admittedly,
non-virtual lips can't bring you to orgasm, but there's something nice to them all the same.
prismmagazine.ca
61 We kiss again, a short one this time, then back down the hallway I go—past Max's music
of groaning car engines and screeching violins—and put my bodysuit on for a walk. Ann
created Autumn for us when Max was five, a Fathet's Day gift. As a little boy, Max and
I would walk the landscape together, he in his bodysuit and I in mine, but nowadays I
just bring up a saved avatat of Max and reach down to take his hand. The aif is crisp and
startling, the type of day that hints towafds the coming winter. The leaves have begun
turning, and they fall from large oaks, covering the ground in a soft hush of yellow and
orange.
"Hi, Daddy," Max says. It's not really his voice. The simulatot gives his child's sweetness
a disturbing digital timbre, but it's close enough.
"Hey," I say and squeeze his hand. Above us, a couple planes cut white trails across the
sky. I hold my son's hand, and we step from the sidewalk into a sea of golden leaves.
Max weafs his hockey mask throughout dinner. He lifts it only to take bites of the
lemongtass tilapia Ann prepared. We've asked him to take the mask off when we eat.
We've punished him, grounded him, taken away the laptop, but there's no victory in
having a mask-less boy who hates us. So we ignoie it. Ann and I talk to one another while
our son silently tends goal at the end of the table. The mask isn't his invention. Some
teenager somewhere found his grandparents' B-grade horror films and decided the mask
was the new vogue for angry anti-tech youth. Indeed, the mask is chilling. The hard,
emotionless white fibetglass covers our son's features, and the hollow, petpetually sunken
eyes create a furious expression. The triangles of red above the cheeks resemble streaks of
blood. When you add in his clothing—a costume based entirely on eithet Hazmat suits
of straightjackets—our son looks essentially like a mass mufderef.
It pains Ann and I to see Max like this, knowing that beneath the darkness of the mask
his eyes are still spinning, his mind high on cybernetics, his heart full of some pain neither
of us understand. Max wasn't always like this. Until he was eleven, he was a sweet child,
with a downy head of hair and cheeks lifted in smiles. He played online games like Club
Koala, where he clung to eucalyptus trees and traded in bamboo shoots for fur upgrades.
Then he entered middle school and statted to get picked on. It was out fault. We'd bought
his school avatat a Club Koala shift to weaf to sixth grade. The othet students made fun
of him, and a group of tech-sawy assholes hacked into his Club Koala account and spray
painted his beat pink. They made his koala say perverse things to the other bears, which
left Max petmanently expelled from the site. That's when he bought the hockey mask and
straightjacket and teamed up with the slasher-punk kids at school, a group that refuses to
streamline their avatais. They wear patches that read No Difference! and appear online in
the same gtuesome costumes they weaf at home.
"I'm done eating," Max tells us. "Can I be excused?"
We let him leave the table, even though Ann and I ate only halfway through our fish,
and Max disappears back upstaits.
"That was pleasant," Ann says. Machine gun noises cut het off, followed by the sound
of jackhammers being applied to a keyboard.
"Max," I yell. No answer. "Max."
"What?"
"Tutn it down. And it's going off in half an hour."
He slams the door in reply, but the music does lower
62 PRISM  50:4 Ann washes the dishes and I otder another shipment of groceries online. Beets, milk,
honey—Chesapeake mussels are on sale. I click them into my cart. I think of the people
wotking out there, transporting seafood across the country, driving mile after mile of
empty highways. The gatbage collectors and gas station guards. There are weekly reports
of truck attacks by those still out there. And then, for the umpteenth time, I reconsider my
date with Kira. I suppose there's always community colleges looking for English teachers. I
click my cart and check out.
By ten the slasher-punk is turned off, and by a quartet to eleven Max is asleep. The
house is quiet again. I sit on our bed as Ann gets het equipment ready. She pulls off her
sweater, then undoes her bra. Her body looks good, srill fit. Admittedly it's not quite as
slim as her avatar. Around the hips she's gained some weight, but then again so have I.
She's at least better at going to yoga classes online.
I try to mentally prepare myself for Kira, but instead can only think about how Ann
and I have a good love life. Aftef fifteen yeais of marriage we still manage to have sex with
each other's avatars two ot three times a week. We've swapped genders, created a third
programmed avatar to have three-ways with, placed genitalia on every inch of our bodies
and had simultaneous multiple-appendage orgasms. It's not for a lack of experimentation.
If that was the case Ann could design a version of herself that looks exactly like Kira. But
somehow that's not the same.
Ann brings her laptop and bodysuit into the bedroom and places the bodysuit beside
me on the bed. She shifts het hips back and forth to slip out of het jeans then pulls down
her panties.
I teach out to her and place my hand against her legs. Her skin feels soft..
"Are you sure you want to do this?" I ask.
"Yeah, baby." She steps into her suit and pulls the zipper up past het navel.
"You look hot," I say.
"You do too," she says, pointing at my boxers. "Aren't you going to get dressed?" She
pulls on her head mask and lowers her goggles.
"I'll be right there." I remove my boxers, slip my bare legs into my suit, secure my
penis in the catheter, then zip myself in. The clock by the bed reads ten fifty-seven. I put
on my mask and goggles and lay down next to Ann.
"I'm going to be fight here," she says, taking my hand.
We log on.
Kira is waiting for me by the door of the classroom. Her hair is dark brown tonight, and
it falls past her shoulders, loose and wild against het trench coat, in constant motion as
though blown by a breeze. She lifts a hand to her face and brushes the hair from her eyes.
"Hey there," she says. She places her hand behind my neck and pulls me towards her,
our tongues tubbing across one another's lip receptors again and again.
I unlock the room for us. Inside, Kira pushes me against the doot, closing it behind
us. My silk shirt is already bulging and Kira tubs her hand along the buttons. Then in one
motion she rips the collar around my shoulders, exposing the erection in the middle of my
chest.
"Get on the desk," she says.
She unties het trench coat, and in the dim light I can see the vagina beneath her right
breast. She places her ribcage against mine. "Oh, God," I say as she pushes me inside het
prismmagazine.ca
63 and begins to rock. I take het hand, looking for the othet vagina in her palm.
"Not there anymore," she says, grinding back and forth.
"What did you do with it?"
"I designed something bettet for you." She pulls her hair aside to reveal puckered lips
on the side of het throat.
"You're so beautiful," I say and push my fingets into het neck. Already I can feel the
hum in het body. My fingets stiffen inside of het. She grabs the back of my head and pulls
me towards her. "You've got one too, don't you?"
"Yes," I say, moving my fingets in and out.
"I want it," Kira says, her voice suddenly harsher. "Tell me where it is."
"My thigh."
Kira unbuttons my pants and yanks them around my knees, fully exposing the vulva
on my thigh. She lifts het leg from the floot, her own erection prottuding from her
kneecap, and pushes her knee into me.
I moan.
Kira grunts, lifts her leg into a horse kick, and drives it into my thigh again. "Don't
stop fucking me," she says. I push my fingers deeper into her neck as she jackhammers her
knee into me. "That's fight," Kira says. She's rocking up and down, her leg kicking back
and forth, her neck nodding in unison as her ribcage begins shaking. "Keep going." And
I want to, but she still has me pinned against the desk and I can barely lift my leg. "This is
it," she yells. Hei neck clenches tightly around my fingets and her ribcage spasms against
me. I squeeze my wife's hand at home as Kira collapses on top of me.
And then het weight is gone. Her avatai pops from above me with the sound of a
computer logging off. The room is quiet, the desks and chairs all lined up in perfect rows,
and the moon outside casts a silvet light across the floor. I'm lying on my desk, my shirt
torn, the silk ruined, and my pants are around my ankles. I pull my trousers back on and
try to button my shirt, but it's no use. I slide off the desk and shut down the classroom,
and log off.
My wife is lying on the bed beside me, her body arches against the mattress. Het lips
are parted and she's moaning. I take a couple of breaths, staring at the lilacs stenciled
around the ceiling. I count them: 23. Then I squeeze my wife's hand. "Hey?" I say. There's
no response, except her lips open slightly wider. "Hey," I say again, but she's too far gone.
I strip off my headgeat then peel off the bodysuit. The sweat makes the suit cling to
my skin, my hairs stick to the rubber as I remove it. My hands are shaking. I go to the
bathtoom and tutn on the water. In the mirror, my pupils are dilated as though in shock.
I sit on the toilet, and take a deep breath. Beneath my bare feet the tiles are yellow, and
my body smells sour from the suit. In the other room, a drawn-out moan. What I want
to do is lay down with Ann, hold her, and go to sleep. But that's not what's happening.
She's kicking her foot up and down on the bed with no indication of stopping anytime
soon. There's nothing to do except log back online, watch something on Vittuview, check
my emails, or buy my avatat a new shirt—none of which sounds interesting. So I take
a shower. Then I put on my robe and close the bedroom door behind me and head
downstaits to find something to eat.
Halfway down the stairs, I hear a thump. I freeze on the last catpeted step. There's
the strained silence of someone trying to be quiet, then a slow tentative squeak starts up,
growing quicker I'm thinking of messaging the police when I recognize the sound.
64 PRISM  50:4 Max is ctouched by the bicycles in out garage. He's still in his flannel pajamas and
his hockey mask is up over his head. Above him the frosted bulb casts light onto our car,
which is buried beneath boxes labeled Christmas Ornaments and Max's Baby Clothes. Max
heats me enter and there's a clatter of handlebars as he gets to his feet, trying to hide the
pump behind his back.
"What are you doing?" I ask.
"Nothing," he says. He's forgotten to pull his mask down, but remembers and lowers
it.
"Show me what's behind your back."
Max brings out the pump. "I found it," he admits.
"You were going cycling at this hour?"
"No," Max says. "Seriously, Dad, I wasn't. I just wanted to get my bike ready. You
know, like to go riding after school or something."
I don't know what to say. Seeing him standing there in his flannel pyjamas, it sure
doesn't look like he's planning on going anywhere. Still, none of this makes any sense.
"Max, tell me what's going on."
"Nothing," he says. "All I want to do is go biking."
"Don't lie to me."
"I'm not lying."
"Where were you going?"
"Nowhere."
"To get more flash drives?"
"No," he yells. "God, you never leave me alone!" He throws the aluminum pump to
the ground where it clatters hollowly.
"Hey!" I grab his arm. It's the fitst time I've touched my son in months, and the shock
of his skin beneath mine suddenly reminds me of what it's like to hold him. My voice
catches. I release my grip on his arm and he's out the door, his footfalls echoing though
the kitchen and up the staits. Only then, as I take up the bike pump and begin inflating
my own tires, do the teats come.
The next morning feels strange. We do our usual routine, get up, shower, eat cereal with
Max, but I don't feel connected to any of it. I stack the dishes in the dishwasher, and think
of Kira's knee inside me
After Max logs into school and we close his doot, Ann wants to talk.
"I've got office hours."
"You promised we'd talk in the morning. Something's wrong, I can tell."
"Nothing's wrong."
Ann doesn't say anything; she stands, an arm's reach from me, in the light of the
hallway, looking like a stranger.
The system logs me on without any Departmental Message pop-ups. My inbox is full
of junk mail, a virtual greeting catd from my mother, and a couple emails from students
asking about the essay that's due in two hours. I hang around my office, waiting fot
students to show up, ttying to keep myself busy with apps. I gaze out the window, flip
through the Seven Wondets of the Wotld, and think about Kira. There's a reality wherein
Kira and I are a couple: a world where I'm eternally thirty, without a wife who's quickly
aging ot a son on drugs. I could move out, get my own apartment, live a new life, alone
prismmagazine.ca
65 and happy with avatar lovers. Then Ann is shaking my body.
When it's time fot class, I lock my office. Students arrive but I'm waiting to see Kira.
When the bell rings her seat is empty. I wait a couple minutes longer, and then, with a
sigh, begin class.
I'm halfway into my lecture on Joyce's "The Dead" when Ann starts shaking my body.
I excuse myself and remove my goggles.
"I'm in the middle of class," I say.
"The gatage doot just opened."
"What?" I ask pulling off my goggles.
"He's outside."
"Shit." I dismiss class and log off to find my son.
Max's bike is gone. The gatage is open on its hinges, letting in the blinding glare of the
world and a cold blast of wind that cuts thtough my shirt. I walk to the bicycles.
"What are you doing?" Ann says.
"I'm going after him."
"It's freezing. You need a jacket." Ann pulls boxes off out cat and onto the ground. I
hear something shatter in our Christmas box. She opens a latge one and yanks the puffy
sleeve of an old coat I haven't seen in yeats.
I put on the jacket, raise the kickstand, and walk the bicycle to the edge of out garage.
"Be careful," Ann says.
My tires crunch against the salted toad and echo across the concrete of our subdivision.
Out here the houses look abandoned. The vinyl sides ate yellowed and the blinds ate
drawn. Some front yards, like ours, are completely ovetgrown: high grasses, stalky and
bone dry, rustle in the wind that blows across rooftops. The world is cold. Cold sucks blue
from the sky, deadens sound, and makes the streets feel desolate. Then I'm off, rolling
wobbly down our driveway into the road, turning down the first intersection, then the
next, a right, followed by a left—surrounded by nothing but darkened windows and
sidewalks—pushing down hard against the pedals as I sweep the empty streets for my son.
My breathing becomes a laboured rasp, my legs ache, and it's only when I stop the bicycle,
my head throbbing and my heart slamming against my chest, that I heat the muted sound
of his tires between the houses. I track the sound down the street, turn down another
street, anothef, and then out past the houses, leaving ouf subdivision for the long flatlands
between the suburbs and the abandoned shopping plazas on the horizon. Far ahead on the
horizon, I see his outline.
Vacant caf dealerships lay fallow along the long stretch of the four-lane road as I
huff to keep up with him, my knuckles putple from the cold. A truck rumbles past,
delivering groceries. Ten minutes, fifteen. I am fat behind my son by the time he teaches
the abandoned shopping plaza. I pull off, behind an ovetgtown pine by the entrance and
scan the lot for Max's drug dealer.
Max slaloms between the metal light posts, stopping by the tinted doots of the
enttance to the mall. He cups his hands against the glass and looks inside. Then he gets
back on his bike and swoops around the side of the building. By the jagged shatds of a
smashed Toys "R" Us window, Max dismounts and leans his bicycle against the brick
wall. He removes his goalie mask and hangs it on the handlebars, then digs around his
coat pocket and pulls out a found green orb. From my distance, I can't make out what
the object is, consider that it may be some sort of virtudevice I've never heard about, until
66 PRISM  50:4 he thtows it. The tennis ball rebounds on the concrete with a delayed echo. Max catches
it. He throws it again. He doesn't seem to be waiting or looking for anyone, he's simply
throwing the ball and catching it, throwing it and catching it. A couple times the ball
hits a cracked patch of concrete and rebounds crookedly, rolling across the blacktop, but
otherwise it's the same monotony fof five minutes, ten minutes, a quartef of an hour.
The day is dying around us. Soon the sun will be gone, the roads dark. I roll my bike
from behind the pine ttee and entei the open expanse of Patking Lot B, where Max is
playing. He doesn't see me until I'm halfway towatd him, and when he does he jumps.
"Max," I call. He stands frozen, holding the ball, and it's only when I'm within three
parking lot tows from him that he retreats to his bicycle to get his mask back on.
The building is cold as I lean my bicycle against his, a chill emanates from the bricks.
"What are you doing here?" I ask.
"Nothing."
"I saw you throwing the ball. What was that for?"
"Just for fun," he says, stuffing the ball in his pocket. He lowers his mask.
"Take your mask off?"
He lifts the mask up like a visor.
"I mean all the way. I want to see your face."
He glares at me, tries to look angty, but the oddity of being out hete together in the
cold has affected him and I see fear in his eyes. He reluctantly takes off his mask. "There.
You happy?"
All the time I was following him, I imagined myself yelling when we got to this point.
I envisioned a fistfight with a slasher-punk drug dealer. Now all I feel is the smallness of
our bodies and a palpable loneliness—the two of us lost in this enormous plaza.
"No, I'm not happy," I say and take a seat on the curb. "Come sit down," I say.
Max looks ovet at our bikes, sees that his is trapped behind mine, but doesn't sit.
"Max, you know it's dangerous coming out here like this, don't you?"
"What's dangerous about it?"
"You don't know who could be out here."
Max gives an ugly laugh. "Rght," he says. "Look at all the people."
"Don't be sarcastic. There could be people out here. Who knows where their tents ate?
Max, look at me. I'm not your enemy. I just want to know why you're here."
Max doesn't respond. He looks down at the ground and kicks a loose chunk of
blacktop with his combat boot, breaking it in half with his heel. "I'm bored," he finally
says. He looks at me. "Don't you ever feel like things are boring? Like colours get boring?"
I undetstand better than he knows. In those brief moments when I'd been watching
the flickering dot, I too had seen long-forgotten colours: the muted yellows of wintet
grass, the brown of tree bark, the rich black of earth. "What about Deathworld?" I ask.
"Deathworlds boring." Max kicks at the pieces of blacktop. "You beat a hundred
zombies, get a golden skeleton bone, and save the girl the zombies kidnapped. I used to be
excited about that, but now it's just like, Great, I get to save this girl and make out with
het for the hundredth time."
"They let you make out with those girls?"
"If you know the codes."
I look at my son. The sunlight highlights a few pale freckles on his cheekbones. His
hair is in bangs around his face. He looks much more like a young man than the boy I
prismmagazine.ca
67 remember "You know, you're a good looking kid."
"No, I'm not."
"Without the mask, I think you'd have a lot of girls interested in you."
"Nobody wants me with ot without the mask. Don't you get it? All they want is some
fake, stylized avatar dude with a six-pack and thtee dicks."
I have no idea how to respond. Max just desctibed my own avatat. I let out a long slow
breath. "I guess I don't know how you meet girls nowadays," I say. I look across the lot at
the lipped awning of Blockbustet. "Max, you're not in trouble, but, I don't get it. Why are
you here?"
Max is quiet, debating what to tell me. He breaks up more of the blacktop, kicking it
into the patking lot. Finally he looks up. "We passed by hete when we drove to Grandma
and Grandpa's."
I try to recall what he's talking about. The last Christmas we celebrated together was
back when he was just a toddlet. Since then we decided it was easier to have holidays
online. "That was ages ago," I say.
"I know. I'd totally forgotten that I'd seen this place. But then I had this clear picture
of someplace real, you know, not just a viituworld." Max looks around. "What is this
place, anyway?"
"You used to have to come here to get stuff, tent movies, buy clothing."
"Really? Was it fun?"
I look at the empty Blockbuster, where the tusted tacks stand like skeletons in the
windows, and I have a brief flash of what the movie rental store once looked like: the
covets of new releases, glossy beneath the lights, the blue carpeting and bright yellow trim.
We watched these stores withet away, the shelves empty, the customers vanish, until the
mall became a wasteland of dollar stores and the few Indian grocers that held out a little
longer. It's easy to forget what things were like. "It was nice in its own way," I say.
Max looks up at me. "You know, whenever I played Tennis the ball always bounced
smoothly and made the same sound. But that's not what happens in real life. It bounces
differently here."
"But nobody's out hete."
"Well, what else am I supposed ro do? I want something different. I want to ride my
bike."
"Okay, I get that," I say. "I get it."
Positioned as we ate, looking at the ground, we don't notice the man until he moves.
He's at the fat end of Lot C, a datk skinny outline of a man clearly facing us. It looks as if
he's wearing some sort of jacket.
"Dad, who is that?"
"I don't know."
The man makes a move in out ditection.
"Come on," I say, "let's get out of here."
Max and I hurry onto our bicycles, looking over our shoulders. Behind us the man has
stopped and is deathly still. He raises a hand as he watches us go, as though waving. Then
the buildings swallow him and we're back on the roads, where a couple trucks are still
making deliveries. We pull far into the shouldet and they roar past. We both keep glancing
behind us as we ride, but the man from the mall is long gone. The sun has disappeared,
and high above, purple spreads across the light blue and the first stars push their way
68 PRISM  50:4 through the sky. There are a few wisps of clouds and snowflakes have statted to fall, laying
themselves softly on the roads and sidewalks. My hands feel frozen on the handlebars. I
bring one at a time up to my lips and blow hot ait across the knuckles to warm them. My
fingers burn with the blood beneath.
It's a couple blocks from home when we see them. Max's btakes screech and his tires
scratch against the salt as he comes to a stop. I, too, am caught by surprise and break
quickly, coming to a whining halt. They stand at attention, theit necks raised, their ears
extended, evety muscle figid beneath their fur. There must be at least a hundred of them,
the herd of deer stretching all the way from the front lawn on the east to the kitty-
cornered marsh grass across the street. A couple in the back step quietly to gain better view
of us, their long black snouts breathing small clouds into the falling darkness.
Max puts his foot down onto the ground and steps off his bicycle. "Wow," he whispets.
"I know," I whisper back. The world is quiet except for the hooves on the concrete and
the hush of my son's breathing. Between the jigsaw of houses, I see another herd migrating
past the rotten swing-set of an English Tudot. Above us, a V of birds crosses the sky, theit
honking close. I shut my eyes, feel the presence of life. I imagine the grid of streets where
my son and I stand, visualize beyond to our house, where Ann is waiting for us alone, and
further still, out far beyond our subdivision to where the geese head towards warmth and
herds make their way beneath the arc of evening sky. In that moment I want to tell my son
that I love him. That he'll always be my son. That somehow evetything will be okay again.
But perhaps that's too far from the truth. So, instead, I put my atm around him, and we
stand together in the falling snow, watching the deer return to their migration.
prismmagazine.ca
69 CONTRIBUTORS
Mandy Barker: SOUP is a description given to plastic debris suspended in the sea, with
patticulat teference to the mass accumulation that exists in an atea of The North Pacific
Ocean known as the Garbage Patch. The seties aims to engage with and stimulate an
emotional response in the viewer, by combining a contradiction between initial aesthetic
attraction and an awareness of the disturbing statistics of dispetsed plastics having
no boundaries, which result ultimately, in the death of sea creatures. All the plastics
photographed have been salvaged from beaches around the world and represent a global
collection of debris that has existed for varying amounts of time in the world's oceans.
mandy-barker.com
Jen Currin has published three books of poetty: The Sleep of Four Cities (Anvil, 2005),
Hagiography (Coach House, 2008) and The Inquisition Yours (Coach House, 2010),
which was a finalist fot several prizes and won the Audte Lotde Poetry Award. Jen lives
in Vancouver, where she teaches creative writing at Kwantlen Univetsity and for Simon
Fraser University's Writer's Studio.
Andrew Forbes has been awatded fellowships from Summet Literaty Seminars and
the Dzanc/DISQUIET International Literary Program and is a thtee-time finalist for
Glimmer Train's awards. His work has appeared in The Charlatan, The Feathertale Review
and Found Press Quarterly, and he has written liner notes for albums by saxophonist
Francois Carrier. He lives in Peterborough, Ontario.
Jessica Grant's first novel, Come, Thou Tortoise, won the 2009 Wintetset Award, the
National Post's Canada Also Reads competition, and Amazon's 2010 First Novel Award.
Her collection of short stories, Making Light of Tragedy, includes a story that won the
Journey Prize. Jessica Grant lives, teaches, and writes in St. John's, Newfoundland.
Jared Harel lives in Astoria, NY. His poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Tin
House, Threepenny Review, The Gettysburg Review, T}>e Southern Review, Ecotone, and
elsewhere. He also plays dtums for the NYC-based rock band, The Dust Engineets.
Stevie Howell is a Toronto-based writer whose poetty has appeared in the Canadian
joutnals Descant, QWERTY, Studio and The New Quarterly. Her poetry book reviews
have appeared in Arc, Matrix, and Quill and Quire, among othets. Stevie is currently
developing a chapbook of poetry called Royal and a full-length volume of work called
Forest of Elders. She is completing a degree in psychology, and works for a mental health
hospital.
Federico del Sagrado Corazon de Jesus Garcia Lorca (5 June 1898 - 19 August 1936)
was a Spanish poet, dramatist and theatre director. Francisco Franco's regime placed a
general ban on Garcia Lorca's work, which was not rescinded until 1953; Lotca's death
is widely considered to be have been murder by homophobic and anti-communist forces
70 PRISM  50:4 during the Spanish Civil War. Involved in Spain's avant-garde "Generation of '27," he
published poetry collections including Canciones (Songs, 1927) and Romancero Gitano
(Gypsy Ballads, 1928), which became his best-known book of poetty.
Dan Maclsaac's translations of the poetry of Lorca, Mistral, Michelangelo, Ovid and
others have appeared in a wide variety of literary magazines, including The Antigonish
Review, CV2 and Rio Grande Review. His original poetry was published recently in
Wascana Review. He has fiction forthcoming in Stand.
Susan Mersereau is originally from Atlantic Canada and now makes her home in
Vancouver, where she is completing a collection of short stories. Her fiction has appealed
in The Nashwaak Review and filling Station.
Nathaniel G. Moore is the author of Let's Pretend We Never Met and Wrong Bar. He
just completed an autobiographical novel called Savage. Follow him on twitter @
NathanielGMoore.
A wtiter of utban spaces and innovatot of form, Meredith Quartermain has published in
7T)e Walrus, Canadian Literature, CV2, Matrix, PRISM and other magazines, and recently
in Best Canadian Poetry. Vancouver Walking won a 2006 BC Book Award and Recipes from
the Red Planet was shortlisted for a 2011 BC Book Award.
Kyeren Regehr's poetry has appeared in Rocksalt: An Anthology of Contemporary BC
Poetry, The Malahat Review, Grain Magazine, Room Magazine, and is upcoming in Prairie
Fire, and the Australian feminist journal Hecate. Other work has been shortlisted for The
Malahat Review's Long Poem Prize, Arc Poetry Magazine's Poem of the Year Award, and
Exile Quarterly's Gloria Vanderbilt Short Fiction Ptize. Kyeten is in the first year of her
MFA in Creative Writing at the University of Victoria and has been interning on the
poetry board of The Malahat Review since 2010.
Rainer Maria Rilke (4 December 1875 — 29 December 1926), was a Bohemian-Austrian
poet. He is considered one of the most significant poets in the German language. Among
English-language readers, his best-known wotk is the Duino Elegies; his two most famous
prose works are Letters to a Young Poet and the semi-autobiographical Notebooks ofMalte
Laurids Brigge. He also wrote more than 400 poems in French, dedicated to his homeland
of choice, the canton of Valais in Switzetland.
Josie Sigler was born Downriver Detroit and grew up in the Midwest. Her book of
poems, living must bury, was published by Fence Books. Het book of short stories, The
Galaxie and Other Rides, is forthcoming from Livingston Press. She recently completed a
PEN Notthwest Margery Davis Boyden Wilderness Residency.
Susan Steudel is the author of New Theatre (Coach House Books, 2012). She lives in
Vancouver where she works as a court reporter.
prismmagazine.ca
71 Alexander Weinstein is the Directot of The Marrha's Vineyard Institute of Cteative
Writing, and works as a professor of Creative Writing at Siena Heights University. He leads
fiction wotkshops in the United States and Europe and lives in Ann Arbor. His fiction
has appeared or is forthcoming in Pleiades, Cream City Review, Sou'wester, Notre-Dame
Review, Rio Grande Review, The MacGuffin, Zahir, and other journals. He is currently
finishing his first short story collection, The Apocalypse Tales.
Patricia Young's most recent collection of poetry is An Auto-erotic History of Swings (Sono
Nis Press). She lives in Victotia, BC.
Daniel Zomparelli is the editot of Poetry Is Dead magazine. His fitst book of poems,
Davie Street Translations was published in the Spring of 2012 from Talonbooks.
72 PRISM  50:4 ••:■;■'■..
"
The Creative Writing Program at U.B.C.
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The University of British Columbia offers both
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of Pine Arts degree in Creative Writing. The
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■  ,  Poetry, Novel/Novella, Short Fiction, Stage
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* Children, Non-fiction, Translation, and Song
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Online Faculty CM.P.A.):
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&? Karen Solie
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Jen Currin
Andrew Forbes
Jessica Grant
Stevie Howell
Frederico Garcia Lorca
Dan Maclsaac
Susan Mersereau
Nathaniel G. Moore
Meredith Quartermain
Kyeren Regehr
Rainer Maria Rilke
Josie Sigler
Susan Steudel
Alexander Weinstein
Daniel Zomparelli
7 " 25274 " 86361 !l 7
Cover Photo:
SOUP by Mandy Barker
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