judy fong bates

 

Dear Heather,

I went People’s Jewellers and bought those expensive earrings just you.  I thought you liked me. Then I found the gift tag lying on the sidewalk outside your house.  It mustve  fell out of the garbage when the garbage man emptied your can.  You couldnt even wait another day before trashing it.  I don’t know why I fell for you.  Your a selfish bitch and I never want to see you again. Love, Pete

 

Dear Pete,

Don’t be so quick to take umbrage.  I adore the earrings and it was very thoughtful of you.  And by the way, sweetie, it’s “you’re a bitch, not your a bitch.  Your is possessive and you’re is the contraction for you are.  There are a few other minor corrections needed, but we’ll work on them another time.

Thank you again,

Yours,

Heather

 

Dear Heather,

You really are a bitch.  What the fuck does umbrage mean?

Love,

Pete

 

Judy Fong Bates  is thrilled to be adding to The Litter I See Project. Her latest work, The Year of Finding Memory, a family memoir, was a Globe and Mail  Best 100 Book for 2010.

She  lives with her husband on a farm outside of Campbellford. They are both devoted gardeners and enthusiastic hikers.

 

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graham“Jumped on like balloons with quarters in them.”

 

tsabari

 

He built a tent from two sarongs and three sticks. It covered about half of their bodies when they lay down straight. Their calves were showing.

“This is great!” she lied, looking up at the tie-dye sarong stretched between the wooden sticks. When she stretched her head back she saw a row of straw huts between palm trees, and flickering candles lighting up the only restaurant on the beach. Their arms were touching. She was afraid to move.

“Wanna sleep here tonight?” he asked, and she said, and really tried to mean it: “Yeah, totally!”

He was twenty-one and she was thirty. She was on vacation. Her parents thought it would be good for her to clear her head after everything she’d gone through. They even helped paid for it. He’s been travelling for a while, a small backpack, a drum and a didgeridoo. He smoked local cigarettes and smelled like smoked salted fish. He rarely showered, his skin felt like sand paper when she caressed him. Once, in the forest, he pulled out his knife, cracked open a coconut and put it to her mouth; thin white juice dripped on her chin when she drank it. Then he carved her a smiley face on the shell.

Truth was she didn’t like sleeping outdoors. She had rented an air conditioned hotel room most backpackers couldn’t afford. She didn’t take him to her hotel room, embarrassed by her private bathroom, the beauty products she had arranged in a neat row on the sink. She had even brought her blow drier.

In the middle of the night, it started to rain, and then she wasn’t on the beach, but in water, drowning.  The water was dark and she didn’t see a shore. When she opened her mouth to call for help she found herself calling his name. She was swallowing water whenever she opened her mouth, gulps of thick black oil. She started to choke.

“Relax,” she said aloud. She read somewhere that people drown because they panic, and so they start kicking and flailing like a spider in a sink and they waste all their energy and die. She floated on her back and breathed deep through her nose. Her body became lighter until she was a leaf surfing in a stream of rainwater. When she finds him, she decided, she will tell him. “I’m in love with you,” she’ll say. “I don’t want anything from you; I just want to be honest about it.”

When she woke up she saw the tide had risen and water covered their feet. He was curled into a ball, like a kid, snoring lightly. She touched his shoulder, it was sandy and warm, like a seashell on the beach in midday. She stood up and went back to her room.

 

Ayelet Tsabari’s  first book, The Best Place on Earth, won the 2015 Sami Rohr Prize for Jewish Literature and has been published internationally.  Her non-fiction has won a National Magazine Award, a Western Magazine Award, and The New Quarterly‘s in-house Edna Staebler award, and in 2014 she was awarded a Chalmers Arts Fellowship. She is a graduate of the Creative Writing MFA Program at Guelph.

 

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judy fong bates“And by the way, sweetie, it’s *you’re a bitch, not your a bitch*…”

dachsel

Chloe repels others. Hostile,
she peels trees, pelts hotels.
She tries polite. Retches.

She pilots lithe trees to cloister.
Spies the eclipse. Recoils.
(Pls, help her.)

She etches helicopters, her spirit orphic.
So her hope triples: it clips,
it clops, coils, echoes.

Chloe, choose the sprite, the heretic.
Splice politics/poetics. Pitch heroics.
Toil. Steep. Cope.

 

Marita Dachsel  is the author of the poetry collections Glossolalia and All Things Said & Done, and the play Initiation Trilogy. She lives in Victoria where she is at work on a novel and her third collection of poetry.

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tsabari“Once, in the forest, he pulled out his knife, cracked open a coconut and put it to her mouth”

beach

10 AM on a Tuesday the summer of 1980. Outside of the Bank of America, Garnet Avenue, San Diego, California. Stymied, I rattle the double glass doors and peer into the dim interior. Empty. Banks are supposed to be open at 10 AM on weekdays. It’s a rule.

A sign about 18” x 12” is taped neatly to the glass from the inside. Maybe I hadn’t noticed it because the eyeholes in my mask were smaller than I preferred. Maybe I wasn’t in the habit of reading signs on doors that I was about to burst through. Maybe I had other things on my mind. Whatever. I pull off the mask, former President Jimmy Carter, and take a closer hinge at the message. It reads, “ Bank Closed. Signature Day.” I later learn that today is an Official State Holiday marking the date California signed on to the Union. Being a Canadian bank robber, one of the Stopwatch Gang, known for our meticulous planning – this – the bank being closed, seems an important oversight.

I tuck the pistol in my waistband and slouch back towards the getaway car with the bad news. My partners, now that I noticed, were sitting pretty obvious in a dented Ford Plymouth in an almost empty parking lot. I break it to them gently, still there’s a few curses and Three Stooges head slaps.

The Ghost is driving today so we head home, slower than usual. He pulls in next to the drop car, the one we switch to after we throw a bank up in the air, but I wave him on.

“Leave it” I say, “Tomorrow has a 10AM too.”

 

Stephen Reid’s most recent book is A Crowbar in the Buddhist Garden (Thistledown, 2012). The former bank robber turned writer lives on Haida Gwaii.

 

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dachsel“She etches helicopters, her spirit orphic.”

 

 

 

kuipers

 

Although sometimes I think otherwise, there’s something special about me.
I roll, I move; I am not the sea.
I have kaleidoscopic dreams.
The others, they are solitary, silent, deep. Seriously, they don’t say a word.
I rest in the shallows, looking for the world I lost.
Once I was more than this. I was…therefore I am.
I know this is true. I believe it. I have to.
The little guys, the ones beneath me, are silent. I despise them.
I long for colour, light, more.
A way to leave this hateful shore.
You can call it colourful, the grey of ocean.
You can call it life and light.
I dream of movement, the road I lost.
I remember tarmac, kerbs, sidewalks, the dry world.
Let me destroy this wet and dreadful place.
I am not destroyed. Look upon my plastic face.

 

Alice Kuipers  is the author of six books for young adults and children. Her work is published in thirty countries. Find writing tips and advice here: alicekuipers.com/connect or www.instagram.com/alicekuiperswritingprompts/

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beach

“Maybe I wasn’t in the habit of reading signs on doors that I was about to burst through.”

coyote

My gran used to smoke the cheap cigarettes. John Player Specials, Craven A menthols, Number 7s. She’d buy them by the carton and squirrel them away in the closet in her bedroom. My uncles would swipe one from her open pack on the kitchen table, and cough and stare down at the red cherry between their fingertips and say fuck these are awful why can’t you get Du Mauriers? Export As?

She would make that noise with her tongue and tuck the rest of the pack into her purse.

She had one of those little cigarette machines, too, where you buy the filters and tubes and the tobacco in a tin, and her and my aunts would sit around the table and stuff little wads of tobacco into the groove in the machine and slide it back and forth and a cigarette would pop out the end. You had to get just the right amount in there to get it to burn just right, but look how much cheaper it is, they would all say, like they were trying to convince each other of something none of them truly believed.

My gran unknowingly smoked her last cigarette on a Friday afternoon, and broke her hip that night when her foot fell off of the footstool during Jeopardy! and her heel hit the floor on a weird angle. She always said that new hardwood floor was easier to sweep than the carpet ever was to keep vacuumed.  She was hospitalized right away, went into a coma, and died the following Wednesday without ever really waking up again. She was almost ninety years old. It all happened so fast but hey at least she never had to quit smoking, everybody said.

Ivan Coyote  was born and raised in Whitehorse, Yukon Territory. An award-winning author of eight collections of short stories, one novel, three CD’s, four short films and a renowned performer, Ivan’s first love is live storytelling, and over the last nineteen years they have become an audience favourite at music, poetry, spoken word and writers’ festivals from Anchorage to Amsterdam.

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kuipers“I remember tarmac, kerbs, sidewalks, the dry world.”

lav-harris

Early in the morning, in the hour before dawn, the haunting, ethereal squeal of subway trains leaving the Greenwood yard wakes me, and I dress in play-clothes and go quietly down the stairs to the kitchen. There I take twenty-five cents from a pile of change on my parents’ kitchen table and slip out the front door and down the steps to the sidewalk.

Across the street at Mrs. Nosy’s house, no curtains twitch in the gloom, meaning that for another morning I am safe from the neighbourhood voyeur. I am safe, too, from the bantering jocularity of the teenaged Stamatopoulos brothers who live next door and spend their afternoons leaning against cars whose radios play a ceaseless round of “Stairway to Heaven” and “Xanadu.”

The street is still, but the silence is deceptive. Amid the gloom is an entire block’s worth of cats, preening on the sidewalk or posing on porches, and I greet them all as I walk past the darkened houses. Garbage bags spill across the sidewalk, and I greet them, too. Almost always I find something interesting to bring home: on one occasion a huge pile of interior decorating paint and wallpaper samples; on another morning a rusted but working toy forklift; on yet another occasion a giant grey stuffed elephant my parents make me leave on the back verandah.

Down at the corner, where Highfield Road meets Gerrard Street, the morning is already busy with foot-traffic and streetcars. Arriving at the corner is like entering a clearing filled with light. And here by the streetcar stop is a battered, rusted, red Toronto Sun newspaper box with a cascade of bright yellow suns on its side, advertising “the little paper that grew.” I put my sweaty quarter in the slot, hear it drop down into the hopper, crank open the wire-fronted window and pull out a copy of the Sun. I turn and walk back up Highfield, the metallic smell of traffic and the tang of fresh newsprint in my nose.

At this age (I am seven or eight) I do not know that the Toronto Sun is denigrated as a tabloid. I know it mainly for its accessible-to-me news reporting, and for the scantily-clad Sunshine Girl who fills most of the page inside the front cover. I tell my mother I would like to be one, someday, and she never dissuades me, never calls them “trash,” never criticizes the Sunshine Girls for allowing themselves to be objectified and ogled. It is 1979 or 1980, and these words, these concepts, have not yet entered the popular lexicon.

I read the Sun voraciously. I read outraged letters to the editor, which are usually followed by a three or four word take-down from the editors. I read the advice columns, the comics pages, and the horoscope. I read about Terry Fox, whose fund-raising run across Canada is covered almost as breathlessly as his decline and death from cancer. I read about fatal house fires, gangland murders and an abducted girl whose body is discovered in a garbage can.

I read about everything in the city we never learn about at school, but which surrounds us, begging explanation. By reading the Sun I am able to understand things our parents refuse to discuss in our presence, like the forbidden allure of the Zanzibar Tavern on Yonge Street, or the screeching of tires on Walpole Avenue, and an ensuing silence punctuated by the wrenching shrill of a mother screaming her son’s name. I learn about things I have sensed while tiptoeing down my street at dawn: that a city is composed of undercurrents, of hidden things needing to be noticed and given voice.

 

Amy Lavender Harris  is the author of Imagining Toronto (Mansfield Press), which was shortlisted for the Gabrielle Roy Prize in Canadian literary criticism, and won the Heritage Toronto Award of Merit. Her next book, Wild City, explores intersections of culture and nature in the contemporary city. www.amylavenderharris.com

 

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coyote“She would make that noise with her tongue and tuck the rest of the pack into her purse.”