Joyland

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First Women’s Battalion of Death

Catherine’s throat was soft and open to the orange light of the salon. Josie held the back of Catherine’s head in one hand, moving the nozzle with the other, rinsing Catherine’s hair with warm water. Catherine felt herself relax into Josie’s hand, give in, let this other, younger woman support her. She had her eyes closed. The water was loud against her skull and against the porcelain sink and Catherine allowed herself to slip away into her body where it was dark and endless and uncommonly quiet, where the hand holding her head was part of her body going on forever.

Then the water stopped.

The phone was ringing.

“He can fuck off,” Josie said.

Vermin

Jurgen Koch has to be the worst cook in the world. So you wonder why he owns a restaurant, and why he cooks in it. It’s simple; he owns it because it was an easy business for him to buy in Tofino. When he came here on vacation in the '90s and did the West Coast Trail, he fell in love with Vancouver Island and saved up for the next ten years so he could move here from Germany. And he does the cooking because he’s a cheap son-of-a-bitch who won’t pay a real cook. I’d love to tell my impatient customer this, but I can’t. I love living in Tofino, too, and I don’t want to lose this job. Suck it up, sweetheart, I think. You don’t look like you’re starving to me.

The Wrong Numbers

When it occurs to me that I might be having a heart attack, my life does not flash before my eyes. My first thoughts are not of my childhood; they are not of my wife or family. I do not think, “I’m only thirty-eight, why now?” Oddly enough, the first thing that comes to mind is that I’m going to miss my mother-in-law’s Thanksgiving turkey on the weekend.

It’s an odd thought, I think, as far as last thoughts go.

            I’m on the bus, on my way home from work, and I clutch my chest, sit up straight and look around for help. I can feel the fluttering of my heart in my hand. It’s vibrating right through my flesh. I pull open my coat and notice my phone in my pocket. I’d set it to vibrate during a meeting this morning.

Walking Back to Turtle

P.O. BOX 1293

1149 Laurier Place

Edmonton, AB T5H 1P7

Dear Mr. Spotted Plume,

I am writing on behalf of Mr. J. Ahkiskiw, author of the Savage Under Heart series (Plains Romances // Big Sky Press MT). I regret to inform you that Mr. Ahkiskiw is rather upset with your latest review of Savage Under Heart Five: Savage Love on Campus. I am a close friend of the author, and, I must say, he is in pieces over what he feels is a naïve and unfairly biting review. I would like to invite you to meet the author. Please, consider my words a peace offering. Mr. Ahkiskiw and I both admire your publication.

Yours, &c

Mr. Obadiah Miximoo

P.O. Box 25

79 Township Rd S0M 0E0

 

Dear Mr. Miximoo,

Reinventing the Wheel

My next-door neighbours are really bad at fucking. It’s painful; I can hear them every third or fourth night just sort of futilely scrambling around on top of each other. Basically, everything about what they do -- the pacing, the duration, their dismal climaxes -- is wrong. They aren’t even compatible body shapes: she’s a ball and he’s a stick. When I put my ear up to the wall, they seem so furtive and quiet, all I hear is the occasional stifled moan or “Shh, he’ll hear us.” Plus, judging by the creaking, it sounds like they do it on a hide-a-bed; I can clearly picture his gangly marionette limbs flopping off the sides of it, while her back gets jarred against the bar in the middle at infrequent intervals. Sometimes, it’s all I can do to stop myself from busting through the wall and showing them how it’s done. They’re in such sad need of a mentor.

Esperanza

What some call holiness—that hard to measure, out-of-the-blue goodness—can take root in strange places, at unexpected times. Think of that cool Christian miracle of Jesus sashaying over water, the tale of the Good Samaritan, and Mother Theresa’s strenuous dedication to feeding Calcutta’s poor—although in her case, her holiness is rightly contested; she may well have been a Fascist.

The Return

Congratulations to former Joyland contributor Naben Ruthnum, who won the Writers' Trust of Canada $10,000 Journey Prize this week. Here is his most recent story for Joyland, first published in November 2011. 

A week after visiting the hair salon, Michelle saw her blue dinosaur again. She’d had trouble falling asleep, because she was unused to the coolness of the pillow under her bare neck at night. For twenty-three years, she had slept on her back with her long, thick hair as an extra cushion. It was all gone now. Not quite all of it, but the crop-cut the hairdresser had created when Michelle allowed his scissors free reign still looked more like absence than style when she looked in the mirror. And it felt like absence when she lay down, waiting for the blood in her neck to warm the fabric beneath her before she could fall asleep.

The Things They Said

Kelli Deeth's new collection of short fiction, The Other Side of Youth, is available now from Arsenal Pulp Press. This story was originally published on Joyland in 2010.

Courtney peered into the rearview mirror and Michael was gone. She knew he hadn’t abandoned her, that he had only gone in to pay for the gas, but that kind of sudden disappearance grabbed her in a delicate spot in the lining of her stomach. And then just as suddenly, the thunk of the door opening and the huge, firing electricity of his presence. It was early in the morning, and she felt things more.

They had crossed into Colorado in the dark, so she was just beginning to see it, the hardness of it. They were on their way to Michael’s step-father’s funeral in Parker.

War of Attrition

My marriage is ending and it's my fault. In the other room, Andrew is snoring. I’m on the couch. Here is the buttery weight of polar fleece on bare skin, the entire length of my body unblemished by a goose bump. Try not to anticipate the cold. Squint at the dark window, listen for the rain, but only to harden against the inevitable. At five I get up: sweater, housecoat, slippers on the floor within reach. Pull them under the covers first. To turn on the gas fireplace is to risk making inside too comfortable. Kettle on while I dress for work: long underwear, fleece vest, wool sweater. Two layers of socks, even though that's not a good idea. Cuts off circulation, Andrew says.

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