Joyland

a hub for short fiction

A Happy Place

The sun rises. As it must. And the sky is cloudless and the kind of blue you want to see in the eyes of a good-looking woman. From real close. Like close enough that you could blow into those blue eyes and she would slap you playfully and giggle and you’d once again be amazed that you were being so intimate and playful with such a gorgeous woman. That kind of blue. That’s how beautiful the sky is today.

And the sun freaks me out. I’m not talking cancer either. I mean, the thing is a star and one day it’s going to die and cosmology or astrology – one of them’s about religion, I’m getting my ologies mixed up here – but the sun’s a big thing and it fills me with big ideas and dread and it makes me feel so small when I think about the reality of the thing. Because thinking likes this opens a hole inside me that lets bad things in, they stream in, and what am I going to do to close it? It freaks me out. When I think about it. So I try not to. I really try.

98 Mothers

David Bishop was driving to his mother’s house for dinner when he checked his cell phone and found ninety-eight messages. Every one was from his mother. After listening to the first seventeen, he discovered that the wording in every message was exactly the same. Only her inflection changed with each message, and this only slightly. Pressing some other buttons, he learned that all ninety-eight messages were sent at exactly the same time. He found this strange.

Jenna On Twitter

Jenna is tweeting when she’s supposed to be painting. Ennui is the religion of my generation. The singer of her favourite band updates his own Twitter feed as she refreshes her browser. She’s in a small white room that smells like oil paints. Apparently, he sits in a Calgary university library with aching lumbar muscles.

Man. Since when did my lower back decide to turn 65 while the rest of me remains 30? Get me a stretcher

Jenna is alone in her studio, unprotected from the summer heat outside. Over the speaker, his pretty male voice coos over a single strummed acoustic guitar and sweet piano triads. She cranks the volume and stands, waltzing with an imaginary partner.

16 Years Gone

March 15, 2010

At the whim of weather I feel like Seattle. Without heroin I can feel the hours. I can feel every molecule of space when I move through it at this pace. There’s something missing. Like a phantom limb. Phantom blood. Phantom junk. There’s something missing. There has to be something more than this. Day in, European tour. Day out, Asian tour. And though I’m clean, I feel sick. More than I’ve ever been. And my veins still shift like the roll of eyes… or dice. There’s a phantom limb but I don’t know where it attaches to my body. It’s somewhere here… or there. I’m not sure. I don’t know. I don’t know reveries too well.

***

I’m gonna smoke. Do you mind if I smoke?

No. Go ahead.

I’m gonna smoke. [Kurt lights a cigarette].

The Malibu

I am in the back seat of my uncle’s BMW in Constantia Kloof, a wealthy enclave in the hills to the west of Johannesburg. We are idling in front of the gate to the development my cousin lives in. It is hot; the kind of dry, baking heat that reminds you that you are in Africa. In Johannesburg you are never outside; there are sidewalks and parks, but the sidewalks are empty of people, and abutted everywhere with tall security gates and spikes that make you feel like you are walking a prison yard. The parks are where the criminals live. So you are in your car, always, and you are sweating.

Craft

I’m parked kitty-corner from Lisa Scoccar’s one-story prefab, squinting into binoculars against the bald May sun, across her open yard of rutted dirt scattered with a few dead saplings, and into the French doors of her side bedroom. I’m watching Lisa put on the clothes her father wore on New Year’s Eve when a semi hauling live turkeys crashed into his car. This is Lisa’s thing. Every morning before work, she pulls on her father’s undershirt that was slit up the front by emergency room personnel, wraps around her waist the jeans that were cut at the seams from his legs, and slips on his white sporty-senior tennis shoes that fit her feet like water skis. Then she stands, paralyzed, clutching the waistband of her dead father’s pants as she stares at her reflection in the full-length mirror until she breaks down crying, looking like a sad rodeo clown coming undone.

Update

http://statusupdate.ca is a website driven by two interwoven databases and two RSS feeds. The primary page of the site, which mimics the appearance of a Facebook status update in terms of color, font, and expression of temporality, is generated live every time someone visits the site, or hit the refresh key on their browser. The contents of the home page consists of the merged results of Bill’s and Darren’s Facebook RSS feeds…after a helpful robot has swapped out all proper names for the names of dead poets pulled from the Wikipedia “names of poets” page. Update is a collection of work generated on the site and is available from Snare Books at http://snarebooks.wordpress.com/books/update-by-bill-kennedy-and-darren-...

The Parable of Bryan Dong

This is the parable of Bryan Dong. It is somewhat parabolic. Back in the day, in a very specific suburb of Winnipeg, specifically Transcona, when Leslie Mackie was an elementary school student, from the age of six, he used to go to Bryan Dong’s house every weekday for lunch. Leslie was a latchkey kid. Bryan was the greatest person in the world. Leslie was perfectly aware that he sometimes annoyed Bryan. It was hard not to be somewhat overenthusiastic in Bryan’s presence. Leslie felt a real sense of dedication to his best friend. Not only was Bryan one of the most popular and physically attractive boys at Harold Hatcher, but his parents, Roy and Deandra, were the Block Parents of Allenby Crescent. Every livable street in Winnipeg had a house that was designated the Block Parent home. If a child were to be in danger of any kind, they could find safety and solace in the arms of a Block Parent. Leslie felt especially lucky that his mom had brokered the lunchtime deal with Mrs. Dong.

Folsom, Survivor

1. MYSELF & THE CITY

My name is Folsom and the most important fact of my existence, as determined by others, is that I survived the Kindergarten Massacre. I am one of eight. My memories of the event are minimal but precise, as I have been made to recount them countless times over the years: Fisher-Price, safety scissors, smell of smoke, exploding sounds, hair flying, bloody carpet, I can’t tell you any more. While the rest of them ran, I managed to climb into a cubbyhole and black out, and so saved my life.

It has always been believed that the only witnesses were myself and the seven others. In the years since, we have been studied and analyzed, but what we recall is truncated and unreliable: no one has been able to surmise the reason for the sudden violence that swept through our classroom. It remains a case unsolved, motives undetermined.

.

A Better Life

The bus accelerates up the gentle slope leading from the wide street on to the small brightly lit bridge that takes it over a branch of the Oker, and no sooner have you caught a glimpse of the murky water, the houses and fences which line the riverbank, than the bus jerks to a halt in the shadow of a building at the Oker Bridge stop. The door hisses open with a sigh, and from here it’s not much further to his street, Spinnerstrasse. As if things weren’t bad enough already, he has to live on Kook Street.

His apartment, a so-called studio, is awkwardly shaped, sort of like a trapezoid, but also curved on one side. A desk, a chest of drawers, a mattress on the floor, raffia mats on top of the linoleum. Hardly any room to move around. But then why would he want to move around?

Eaten

When I was a child, in my backyard, there grew a sapodilla tree. In the summer my parents would send me to collect the ripened chikoo fruit, or to drive away the monkeys who would try to steal them, with their long, curling tails and clever fingers. But now I live as far as possible from that house; the chikoos have become the strings of lights wrapped around my balcony and the monkeys replaced by young hooligans who, at this very moment, are tearing them down. I watch helplessly from the roof of my building as three of them disappear down an alley, leaving a river of coloured, broken glass.

The Green Honda

Archie spotted the scanner at a swap meet one Sunday morning. The hawker evidently concluded that he wasn’t an undercover pig, because he leaned across the pile of swag and said, “It’s your lucky day, man.” The scanner was about the size of Archie’s shoe.

Though dismissed by Lila as “just another stupid toy,” once he got the hang of things, it allowed Archie to eavesdrop on firefighters and paramedics, on the banter of security guards, construction crews and bicycle couriers. But the hawker had been right: the police frequency was best.

After dinner most nights, Lila’s ample fanny parked in front of the TV, he’d lie in the dark listening to cops working stakeouts and drug busts, in pursuit of robbery suspects and car thieves. The action was unedited and often profane. Due to atmospheric interference, it could also be unintelligible.

Paradox

I’m at the corner of Bloor and Ossington and, all of a sudden, it's really hot. The sun is hitting me directly in the eyes. When I look up, all I see is the dullness of everything around me—the buildings, the sidewalk, the garbage cans. If this is what it’s like to come down, I have to get back up. I rest my head between my legs and for a second it feels good—until I remember I’m wearing a skirt. It’s 8:30 in the morning and my lace underwear is in full view of the intersection. My friend Tina, who is also in second year at York University, comes running out of an alley and the colours around her blur and she seems to be coming at me. If I didn’t know her, I swear, I'd scream "get the fuck away from me, asswipe!" I do know her though, so I say calm the fuck down, Teen. "Ok, beyotch," she says, slamming into my side. "I love you, Jenny."

Damage

The light glistened on the pane of broken glass when I woke up that morning. I hurried out of bed to jerk the blinds closed in hopes they would hold up against the gusting wind. The chill of January air bit at my skin as I looked for something to put on. I stooped down and dug through a pile of dirty clothes for some forgotten pair of underwear. I walked out of the bedroom door and into the living room of our apartment. It wasn’t really our apartment, actually. It was abandoned when we stumbled across it. But it was ours now.

The Sign of Jonah

“And Jonah began to enter into the city a day's journey, and he cried, and said, Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown.” Jonah, 3:4

Perhaps we’d strayed too soon from the great road bordered by signs and, determined as we were to explore the city’s outskirts on foot so as not to miss a thing, we began, without admitting it, to doubt the spot we’d reached was the best place to start. We pushed stubbornly forward over the cement, the view ahead hidden by a light fog. Two massive structures without openings flanked us—a good distance away yet—and seemed to rise from the ground as we grew closer. Suddenly the veil lifted, and a tunnel’s mouth appeared at a hundred paces. Seizing my partner’s hand, I pulled her away at a frantic pace; I’d just become aware of a danger lurking in the tunnel’s depths.

Emote Control

Let’s say you get hit with something. And we say get well soon and tell you that you’ll be running and working and flirting and screwing just like before, just as always, just as you deserve to. Because you don’t deserve this. You don’t deserve illness, injury or old age. None of us does, but especially not you.

I know we haven’t seen each other in a while. And I know last time we talked you were kind of done with me, and that was justified. You were right; I wasn’t accepting reality. I was still trying to get financing for my film, refusing to get a full-time job, and I know I didn’t smell so good. Or show up on time. Or wear pants.

After We Had Been Married for Seven Years

After we had been married for seven years we fell in love. Although not with each other. And not even with others. We fell in love with horses, with the track, with the way the horses, like beautiful women, walked to the gate, and this unexpected love affair of ours began on the cold day in May that our friends Luc and Odette invited us to go with them to the Hippodrome. They drove over the mountain to pick us up in their tiny foreign car and once we had squeezed ourselves onto its back seat, we were off, driving west. We didn’t know either of them all that well yet, but we hoped to become friends with them as a couple. After all, they both seemed to approve of both of us. This was a surprising thing in itself since most of our friends belonged to two opposing camps: those who couldn’t fathom what I saw in my husband and those who couldn’t fathom what my husband saw in me. These new friends were also older than we were.

A World of Flirts

The name of the lot was COOS AUTO BROKERS and the motto was Good Cars—Good People. Joyce used her weight to open the glass door. A girl who looked about thirteen stood behind the desk. She squinted at a toaster-sized television playing a British movie. The man on the screen crowded up to a woman holding a cup and saucer and said, “Are you quite sure there are no efforts I may make on behalf of your comfort?” Joyce announced that she needed a car immediately, that she was in desperate, pressing need of an automobile. The girl behind the desk said, “Me too,” and summoned someone named Garrett.

Joyce asked Garrett to show her the finest specimen on the lot, and he led her to a black Saab station wagon not two years old. The gleam of the wheels made Joyce avert her eyes.

“Is this a firm price?” she asked.

“Pretty firm,” Garrett agreed. “As firm as any.”

He looked like a Navy kid home for a holiday—crew cut, thin sweater.

Baby Teeth

When I emerged from the forest I was six years old, all tangled hair and scabby legs. Skinny. Everything had been so blurry, a wash of murky colours and shadowy landscapes that when I saw the sun, my eyes teared up.

The old woman that found me was small, papery and greying, but she bent down and picked me up and carried me into her house. I looked up at her face and thought she looked like a cartoon. She had deep wrinkles and black eyes and when she opened her mouth a stream of question marks poured out.

Jonathan Ghost

The man who isn’t really a man wakes up in the hospital bed. The light is so bright that at first he cannot see.

The sheets fold over him like the reflexive fingers of a hand.

An old movie plays on the tiny TV, silently.

He cannot hear it, and thinks perhaps the body he has slid into, like a vacant suit of clothes, is deaf. Perhaps it cannot speak.

He makes a humming sound in his throat that creaks like a door long unopened. He doesn’t say anything because he can’t remember any words.

There are pictures. He sees pictures projected in his mind, a magic lantern show. He cannot describe their meanings. He cannot form words in his mind.

Pages