Archive for March, 2016


Alrighty then. First stop is Winners. Or rather, HomeSense. Why did Claire get me a lemon zester? Do I look like a person who zests lemons? Have I ever once said anything about zesting a lemon? She doesn’t know me. Never has. Costco is going to be a nightmare, all those restaurant people buying buckets of olives and muffins the size of baby heads. I’ll pick up one of those rotisserie chickens for dinner. Then to Chapters for Conrad Black’s book. I don’t know why Glen wants it. The last thing he read was a Reader’s Digest in 1986. Maybe he’s entering some new stage. The other day, he said he’s going through manopause and roared his face off. I’ll pick him up some panty liners. See how funny he thinks that is. The Conrad Black book better be 40% off. Maybe I’ll get something for me. A mystery. I could use more of that in my life. Oh, right. Don’t forget to look for a glass jar for the chocolate sauce while I’m at HomeSense. Something old-fashioned looking. I shouldn’t have made the sauce. I don’t know what I was thinking. I’ve gained two pounds since Saturday. Speaking of obesity, why can’t Lyn buy her own knee highs? God, my wallet is falling apart. I need an address book, too. Does address have one d or two? My mind is everywhere except where it needs to be. I just hope I don’t lose this list.



Brian Francis  is the author of two novels, Natural Order and Fruit. He writes a monthly advice column, “Ask the Agony Editor,” for Quill and Quire magazine and is a regular contributor to CBC Radio’s The Next Chapter.

He can be found at



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braid“thrill of first touch, mouth to wet mouth…”



Grocery shopping as a child with my mom was usually a let-down.

To a kid looking for her next junk food hit, trips to the supermarket were filled with stonewalled requests to get my mom to stray from her shopping list; to buy me something sweet, something salty — something bad. But she held fast in her German stubbornness that I’d be better off with an apple.

She wouldn’t budge to the beckoning of the cartoonish pink monster on the boxes of Frankenberry cereal. I so desperately wanted to befriend that guy over a bowl and some milk. In a rare weak moment, she occasionally wavered for big-billed Toucan Sam, but I can count those times.

If anything got a pass, it was potato chips, her personal weakness. Salt and vinegar and barbecue secured prime real estate in the snack cupboard until mindlessly munched while watching Miami Vice or The Love Boat. I grew up knowing the Hostess Munchies far better than I would ever know Count Chocula. I also never had the pleasure of winning a battle begging for Kool-Aid. My mom remained unsmiling when faced with Kool-Aid Man’s grin, but she always made room in the shopping cart for the pulpiest, tartest orange juice concentrate she could find.

“It’s real juice,” she told me. “There’s nothing good in Kool-Aid.”

I refused to believe her. Instead I’d get my fix of the Kool-Aid Man’s technicolor offerings at friends’ homes when I’d go over to play with toys I wasn’t allowed to have either… like Barbie (she was the wrong image to be thrusting on young girls) or G.I. Joe (he was too violent).

My best friend, the boy who lived down the street, always had “freshie” in the fridge, Star Wars action figures at the ready and the Beastie Boys ‘Licensed to Ill’ in heavy rotation. His was the coolest house on earth in my world. All I could offer in return was Play-Doh and that pulpy orange juice, so we usually wound up at his place.

As we got older, those play dates became less frequent and more awkward, eventually reduced to going over and checking on his cat when his family went on vacation. I didn’t drink the Kool-Aid that may have been left in his fridge but only because it would have seemed too obvious that I strayed from my task of indiscriminately dumping Friskies into the cat’s bowl.

By the time I got my driver’s licence my mom was happy to send me to the grocery store with her shopping lists. (As it turns out, she’d never enjoyed those trips much either.) Oh, the thrill to be set free in the aisles where my old sugary friends-in-waiting lived! No one to scrutinize my choices. So down the aisle I went, giddy with excitement to visit Kool-Aid Man—and when I was scolded for bringing him home, I already knew what my answer would be. “Sorry, Mom, you just said juice. You didn’t say what kind.”

His perch on the shelf was right at eye level and I wanted to hug him. But after getting through all the formalities of the proper introduction that eluded us so many times before, I studied him carefully. What was so bad about this guy anyway, with his girth and kindly features…?

I turned him over and read the fine print on his back. That’s when I saw it, the part about adding one cup of sugar—one cup of sugar!—when whipping up a pitcher.

My nose wrinkled.

“Oh my god,” I said to Kool-Aid Man as if I’d just discovered the Beastie Boys were lip sync-ers.

I put him back on the shelf and headed for the orange juice.


Tiffany Mayer  is a journalist and the author of Niagara Food: A Flavourful History of the Peninsula’s Bounty (History Press, 2014). Her mom’s grocery shopping tips stay with her to this day. (As does a love of the Beastie Boys thirty years after first hearing Brass Monkey over an illicit glass of grape Kool-Aid in her best friend’s bedroom.)

She can be found at



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francis“I’ll pick him up some panty liners. See how funny he thinks that is.”


My husband is the type of man who consistently abandons loaves of bread on top of the refrigerator, which, as any sane, thinking individual should know, increases the internal temperature of said bread, thereby rendering it much more hospitable to floating mold spores, which thereby render it disgusting.

Furthermore, my husband is also the type of man who will consume all of his wife-and-helpmate’s chips and will then add further unchivalrous insult to grave injury by neglecting to replace those chips, leaving the helpmate desperate and alone with her tormented innards twisting in response to her terrible, unquenched salt cravings.


Jessica Westhead’s  fiction has been shortlisted for the CBC Literary Awards, selected for the Journey Prize anthology, and nominated for a National Magazine Award. She is the author of the novel Pulpy & Midge (Coach House Books, 2007) and the critically acclaimed short story collection And Also Sharks (Cormorant Books, 2011), which was a Globe and Mail Top 100 Book and a finalist for the Danuta Gleed Short Fiction Prize.

She can be found at



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mayer“My mom remained unsmiling when faced with Kool-Aid Man’s grin,”


Her problem with cleaning up clutter was always not knowing how to start.  Should she clean up the junk-laden backyard first?  Clean up the living room? The kitchen?  Maybe the kitchen.  It was always full of stacked and dirty dishes, and whenever she wanted to fix a meal she would wash whatever she needed and re-stack them dirty in the sink or wherever.  For many years she’d had a job as a sales clerk in the basement of the Army & Navy, and what the hell, a girl got tired after a day’s work.  She’d earned the right to put up her feet and have a beer.

Each pile of rubble, each abandoned project, was a monument to failed love.  Whatever smells lingered from the mildewed recesses of the heaps, they were intertwined with the memories of this or that lowlife, this or that con artist husband, this or that reclamation project gone wrong.  Peg’s record player, later her stereo, later her boombox,, moaned, as did the house itself, with the laments of lost love.

Some of her men left gifts behind, a collection of china unicorns, a shelf full of dolls, a large array of fancy candles that never saw a match, dozens of midway prizes in plastic bags in the living room, the basement, the corners of rooms.  The stacks of junk grew so high that Peg and her bewildered boy Jerry had to navigate around them on pathways shovelled out between heaps of discarded things.

Everywhere throughout the house lingered the sad stench of cigarettes, uncertain plumbing, discarded food, cabbage and boiled coffee, soured milk, damp newspapers and rotting wood.  As fast as Peg abandoned the gifts left behind by the brief husbands and boyfriends, young Jerry abandoned the toys they had brought for him.  A set of drums found a special place for several weeks in the living room amid islands of junk and when Jerry lost interest in them, waves of abandoned refuse gathered around them, forming a new atoll.


David Carpenter  has worked as a translator and critic and is the former Fiction Editor of GRAIN Magazine. He is the author of several novels, a collection of poetry, and the award-winning Welcome to Canada (Porcupine’s Quill, 2010). Other  non-fiction books include Courting Saskatchewan and A Hunter’s Confession… and a collaboration with an old Cree trapper and hunter: The Education of Augie Merasty (University of Regina Press, 2015), one of the few books that recounts first hand experience of a residential school. Carpenter recently won the Kloppenburg Award for Literary Excellence. He lives in Saskatoon.



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westhead“much more hospitable to floating mold spores,”


Posted: March 17, 2016 in amy jones
Tags: , , , ,


You thought it would be a good idea to have extras. Napkins, straws, little salt packets strewn all over the car between St. Louis and Oklahoma City. We ate French fries out of cardboard containers stuffed into cupholders, fast-food burgers dripping mayonnaise and pickle juice onto bare tanned legs, ice melting into our fountain pop.

“In America we don’t call it ‘pop,’” you said. I didn’t ask you any questions, I had learned things were better that way. Later I fell asleep and when I woke up we were parked somewhere outside Amarillo, you sitting on the hood of the car smoking a cigarette, staring out into the shimmering Texas twilight.

Six years, four cities, thousands of kilometres. A dozen other lovers and “In America, we don’t call them kilometres,” I can still hear you say. I reach beneath the drivers’ seat feeling for a lost quarter and at first I think my hand has been cut, bloody red gore smeared across my palm, between my fingers, under my nails. A ketchup packet, an artefact excavated from the dry, dusty plains of my past. I touch it and I remember, like an electric shock. The smell of your shaving cream. Your hand on my leg. What seemed like an endless road.

I roll down the window. And I let it go.



Amy Jones  is the author of the short fiction collection What Boys Like and Other Stories (Biblioasis) and the forthcoming novel We’re All In This Together (McClelland & Stewart, June 2016). You can find her on Twitter @amylaurajones.



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carpenter“Some of her men left gifts behind, a collection of china unicorns, a shelf full of dolls…”



The evidence suggests the one

who would not be the martyred slave of Time

was here.


Paul Vermeersch  is a poet, editor, and teacher. He is the author of five collections of poetry including The Reinvention of the Human Hand and Don’t Let It End Like This Tell Them I Said Something. He lives in Toronto, and is the senior editor of Wolsak and Wynn Publishers.



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jones“somewhere outside Amarillo, you sitting on the hood of the car”


My heart. Its two halves hang in a fine balance.

Twenty years ago, my old lover gave me a ceramic heart on a ribbon. Last year when he left, I snapped it down the middle and strung the two halves side by side in the window.

This new lover twines his fingers through mine in public and cups my cheeks when we kiss. His texts contain stickers of lips and hugs and YouTube links to Ain’t No Sunshine and Long Lost Lover.  He teaches me self-defence moves and introduces me to vodka caramel. Somehow, he makes me look good when we dance.

Still, I have wrinkles at my knees and on the undersides of my arms. He is mostly bone-smooth and muscled, except for his face and torso, which he shaves twice a week. After a day, he’s too thorny to touch. And yesterday he asked, Wasn’t Owen Meany a cartoon bully?

So today, in high heels, I avoid a gaping hole in the sidewalk, and dodge drips from overhead drains and skirt several buckled blocks on the road to meet him around the corner, at Marco’s Pizzeria, where I order pepperoni because it’s his favourite not mine and offer him half to eat with his beer. Then I say something about this having been fun, about my heart, and inanely, perhaps even about balance and a crucible.


Pearl Luke is the author of two novels, Burning Ground and Madame Zee. She does freelance editing and mentors emerging writers. She can be found at



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vermeersch“The evidence suggests…”



This is administrative,
a post-it note pulled
off a Trapper Keeper
or maybe an office door;
the office of an artist
who teaches art for a living
who lives hand-to-mouth

There’s a code we use:
symbols scratched into
fenceposts, painted in laneways,
drawn with sharpie on post-it notes
it’s how we let the others know
where the patrons are,
where the skinflints are, at night

we sing it in boxcars, by day
we teach it to the lackadaisical
and the eager alike. The code
defies convention and embraces
conformity, the code busts
stereotypes and sneers at
Millennial angst

it is unflinching
it is timeless, it is electrifying
this artist code—this 4B7.
four bee seven. But.
What does it mean?
If you’re really one of us,
you already know


Carleigh Baker  is a Métis media maven. Her work has appeared in subTerrain, Prism International, and Joyland. A contributing artist at, Baker’s poetry chapbook, The Closest We’ll Get To Neon, chronicles her experiences paddling the Peel River Watershed. Bad Endings, her short story collection, is forthcoming with Anvil Press in 2017.



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luke“…Wasn’t Owen Meany a cartoon bully?”


What’s buried under the ice?

Spring grass

Summer heat

A lucky charm

sylvester-kevdigital drawing by Kevin Sylvester



Kevin Sylvester  is an award-winning writer, illustrator and broadcaster based in Toronto. His books include the Neil Flambé series, Splinters, Game Day, Gold Medal for Weird, Sports Hall of Weird and MiNRs1, a space adventure. MiNRs2 will be released in September 2016. He can be found at



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baker“we sing it in boxcars, by day/ we teach it to the lackadaisical”