Joyland

a hub for short fiction

Getting Lost

 

Rainbo1 and Marie2 are both watching the same lone pigeon3 walk along the edge of the curb at the bus stop. Its left foot is curled and dead-looking.4 The pigeon walks with a limp, pecking at invisible morsels as late-night taxis with darkened roof signs5 whoosh down the mostly-deserted street.

            Visible just over the tops of the buildings on the opposite side of the street are the glittering condos of the Bay and, farther back, Downtown's crowded lightscape.6 The October moon is waxing gibbous.7 The temperature is eight degrees Celsius.

The Report Cards of Leslie Mackie

Jon Paul Fiorentino's first novel is Stripmalling, which was shortlisted for the 2009 Hugh MacLennan Award for Fiction. His most recent book of poetry is Indexical Elegies which recently won the 2010 CBC Book Club Award for Best Book of Poetry.  He is the author of the poetry books The Theory of the Loser Class which was shortlisted for the 2006 A.M. Klein Award for Poetry and Hello Serotonin and the humor book Asthmatica. His next book of poetry is Needs Improvement, which will be out in 2013 with Coach House Books. He lives in Montreal where he teaches creative writing at Concordia University, and edits Matrix magazine.

"The Report Cards of Leslie Mackie" is written in the form of report cards. Please read more to view them.

 

The Jammette

Sangita Gopalsingh paced back and forth before the wrought iron gates of her home, her white nightie swishing in the late evening breeze. The moon looked like a fat dull thumbprint in the sky, smudged between heavy clouds on either side. She thought of the god that had pressed the moon into the sky that way, trapping it, allowing it to languish among the moving and swelling clouds.

25,000 Wishes

    Julio and Amelia have done everything they can to ignore the ladybug infestation. As dozens multiply into hundreds, it becomes increasingly difficult. Amelia presses the knife against the cutting board, brings it through the soft white skin of the banana. For each swift cut she makes, she imagines there are 1,000 new ladybugs in the apartment. They live in the ceilings and walls. Some nights as she lies awake, she thinks she can hear them in the vent above their bed, clicking and crawling over each other. If she listens close enough, she can almost count them.

Excerpt from “The Lighthouse Road”

The Lighthouse Road is available now from Unbridled Books.

1.

(November 1896)

Some ancient cold had taken root in Thea Eide’s belly, a feeling she’d not yet had but one she knew meant the time was nigh to deliver her baby. She wanted to walk, felt she must walk. So she rose and stepped into the mess hall and lit a candle. She steadied herself with one hand on the long table, cradled her belly with the other, and began pacing up and down the hall, measuring her contractions by those laps around the board. The contractions started in the small of her back and reached around to her belly, where they paused and clenched. She paused, too, when the contractions burrowed in, and in the throes of each the absolute chill of the large room was brought down on her. In Norwegian, her mother and only tongue, she said, “My God, what now?”

How We Arrive

Steinur Bell's story How We Arrive won second place in the Summer Literary Seminars 2012 Unified Literary Contest, judged by Mary Gaitskill and sponsored in part by Joyland.

One Monday I stood in my kitchen thawing orange juice concentrate, wondering whether to fix a sandwich. It was noon, quiet, and then I heard the kids laughing. In my bedroom, I parted the blinds and watched three teens walk past my house. They should’ve been at school but instead crossed the street and stopped at the edge of the woods. As the first one headed in, another looked around—looked right at my house. He must not have seen me, must have thought they were safe, because he followed after them and disappeared.

Empty Nest

 

Excerpted from the in-progress linked collection, Joy, Somewhere in the City

Laine was in the passenger seat, her husband Gerald at the wheel, when he confessed he'd been sleeping with another woman. She folded up the papery New Jersey map, keeping the creases where they belonged, even smoothing down the seams before she started screaming.

Their car sped along the Turnpike on the way home from the airport, where they had just dropped their daughter Maya at the British Airways counter, yielding her to the Crown for a post grad year at Oxford. Their older son Alex, who had lived with them at home after college, had flown off to Berlin for a consulting job. Laine was alone—not just in the house, but on the continent. Gerald had used her long name: “Elaine, I’m sorry to tell you this way.”

God Time

Harrison’s sister pulls back her hair to show him the gill. A little opening like a mouth on her pale neck. He asks if she can breathe through it. She tells him to plug her nose and cover her mouth and put his ear next to the gill to listen for breath. But maybe she has to be underwater, so they jump in the pool and float in the blue world and watch each other. Harrison gives up first, swimming up toward the sun.

 

Harrison unfolds his palm. BUY MILK is written on his hand.

 

The doctor presses Record on the video camera. Harrison watches the red light blink on. He watches himself in the monitor.

 

I’m jumping on the bed with my sister, Harrison watches himself say. Her hair is sticking up.

 

Harrison’s son is jumping on the bed. His oldest son, the one who’s older than the younger one. Both of them jumping on the bed, their sweet screaming laughs, Get up, Dad, get up, Dad!

 

The Eyes of Spies

The double agent slid down the side of a roof and launched, arms waving, across an alley to the next building, followed closely by his pursuers. The agent and villains remained visible at all times because they existed in a movie. We watched this movie on gigantic twin leather sofas in a towering hotel’s private lounge, an unmarked floor near the top floor. Three other people sat on my couch and a disinterested man, most likely a spy, intertwined his legs with mine.

We had plenty of room, but the other couch held eight people sitting in the television’s skyscape glow as scenes from the movie flecked their rapt faces. Maybe that couch attracted the stupid spies because the movie wasn’t that great, with corny pratfall gags and a juvenile sexual undercurrent that placed scantily-clad women fighting or tricking the agents or being tricked; the spies mingling around us made fun of it, and the room grew rowdier, lookout-loud.

Eva's Room

Aggie Zivaljevic's story Eva's Room won third place in the Summer Literary Seminars 2012 Unified Literary Contest, judged by Mary Gaitskill. Joyland will be publishing several of the finalists over the fall.

After the sun sets behind the bakery, and the sky turns a dark Prussian blue, the children feverishly play their sweetest games before being called in. From the hilltop they see how the downtown lights cast a golden glow on the glass dome of the City Hall, in the center of old Sarajevo. They hear the rattling of the streetcars below, and the barking of stray dogs in the Mt. Trebevic suburbs. The twilight breeze lures them with the river’s scent. Brothers and sisters can always go home and play or fight, but children without siblings cannot.

Eva cannot go home now. The yellow jersey shorts, showing her bronzed legs to the boys, and her mother’s buying power to the neighbors, are ruined. Eva’s mother Stella bought them for her eleventh birthday.

Rivals

Julie McArthur standing next to a fire hydrant, painted in the jersey colours of Maple Leafs

1998 Pre-Season

My sister Wookie moved to Toronto to join The National Ballet. She arrived with a small suitcase in hand, leaving the bulk of her belongings back in Ottawa at Mom and Dad's.

I felt bad that my hermetic tendencies kept her from meeting new people, but I knew she'd get all serious and start hanging out with dance people soon enough. We spent days on end in my basement bachelor, playing poker and running to the Queen Convenience to satisfy cravings. I'd wear my lumberjack coat, long johns, and moccasins.

"At least put some pants on,”she'd say.

"It's Parkdale,” I told her. “You could be naked and no one would notice.”

We'd always buy an assortment of gummies for her and chips for myself.

Close quarters—my apartment—brought us back fifteen years.

“Remember the alligators?” I asked her.

“Yes. Then you tried to bribe me with money.”

Sappho Shtoltz Needs a Story

To tell her son. That she is not a blond beauty with black eyes is clear. That she does not shake hands like a man is too. That she is not a baroness or in any other way connected with the Russian or any other aristocracy is too. Nots, Sappho thinks, are easy.

She is stripping a king-sized bed. Its linen sheets are no dirtier than others, but they are more zigzaggy, as if the sleepers had tried to turn themselves into mummies.

She works in the grandest of the grand hotels in New Paltz, as a housekeeper. Her uniform is candy blue. The guests of this hotel, having a somewhat spiritual bent and liking to walk in the woods, tend to be decent tippers. Although many are not. The management of this hotel also having a somewhat spiritual bent (diluted by time and profit and, Sappho thinks, by the sheer cliffy gorgeousness of the view) tends to pay decent salaries although not the kind that keep up with inflation or with anything else.

The Picture of Feminine Corporate Sensuality

Excerpted from the forthcoming novel Executive Privilege: An Erotic Satire due this fall from Baby Robot Press.

Carolyne was a ball of frenzy. She wasn't usually like this and, in fact, she hated when she felt this way. She could already sense the tension of the day, and her much-anticipated meeting with Peter Mansfield, founder and CEO of Deep Tissue Nautilus Supply Co. Industries, creeping into her shoulders. Carolyne Feldencrest, even on a bad day, was a force to be reckoned with. But she pitied anyone who would try to pull one over on her tough-as-nails business savvy on a day like today. Carolyne knew she had to do something to ease her mind. She hurried to her Rolodex, formulating a plan.

Hotel Palestine

CC image courtesy of Flickr

JORDAN

A few days after the fall of Baghdad in April 2003, Ann Prendergast left the hospital after a miscarriage. She slipped over the border from Amman, Jordan and after a tough and often terrifying journey across the western Iraqi desert ended up at the Hotel Palestine. Her bed was last slept in by a journalist who days earlier had been killed by U.S. troops. The city was on fire, almost post-apocalyptic, as looters continued their sweep.

GORILLA PAINTING 26" x 32" ACRYLIC ON CANVAS

Present arrives from brother for 29th birthday.

Painting of Gorilla with hands raised, palms-up, sitting in marshy field. Dead and disemboweled Gorillas peppered around swampy landscape, half-sunken into mud like the beaches of Normandy.

Note attached: When are you gonna quit MONKEYING AROUND and GROW UP? Saw this and thought of you—perfect fit for the house. Francis.

See message as commentary on inability to settle down and find high-paying work or meaningful relationship. Carefully crafted jab about failed engagement with ex girlfriend, four exes ago. Note mention of the house, not your house, as if house purchased cheaply from parents doesn’t count.

Painting is monstrous, not even funny in campy way. All gorillas dead or in pain, main gorilla overcome with emotion: horror or pain or madness.

Pop

The first burst balloon was not entirely William's fault. The days had been getting shorter and the wind carried a chill, but he did not notice this as he walked home. Nor did he hear the people talking around him, the woman shouting into her telephone, the beggar asking for change. When there was a sudden release of air near his hand, he barely felt it. But a glittering frond caught his eye as it fell to the ground. He paused absent mindedly to look at it. That was when he heard the child crying.

Great Mind Destoyer

A desperation sits deep in her, something she longs to rid herself of yet whose origin she cannot wholly explain.  She lies in bed for hours reading, transported somewhere else, wearing another skin, a more desirable one, perhaps.  Something he might recognize.  She sees this man the way he doesn’t see himself, the way no one else does.  When she looks at him she looks into the very atoms that make him who he is, the way no one else can see him.  On a night like this she is usually masturbating to some internet pornography then talking to friends back home, telling them of her hopelessness with the opposite sex, how the “crush” has become more than a crush and how she thinks there is a chance they might have sex, that they might move to the next level.  Richard is coming to see her, and she spends time cleaning her room, putting things away and tidying up so that he might be impressed with her, even though she had to convince him to stop by after doing some research, after

The Convicted

When the women came looking for Robert in February, on the evening of our house's Valentines' Screw You and Your Politics party, we were surprised. Not that someone had come looking for Robert, or that someone had finally decided to deal with this problem which clearly needed to be dealt with, rather than simply talked about and debated over coffee and cigarettes. We were just shocked that it was actually happening. That Rachel was there, standing on our front porch in her parka and ugly brown cords. Taking initiative.

Shifting the knapsack that was always on her back, Rachel moved a Halls candy to the corner of her cheek, releasing a small puff of menthol into the air. She said, “I’m here to ask your permission to hold a mediation in your house.”

Mediation. We thought that was funny. Someone thought she said, “Meditation.”

“Hey, it’s a party man, not a yoga class,” that person said.

And we were all laughing at this.

*

From "The Bad Arts"

Bernard went to the nearest liquor store to buy a bottle of wine. He had been invited for a dinner party at Jeremy Croft’s in honor of his first solo exhibition at Galerie Buchholz in Berlin. For years now, it felt like a large portion of his social life revolved around events related to Jeremy. He would need to bring a bottle of wine. It had taken Bernard a few years to understand the etiquette of invitations, far past a socially acceptable age. When he figured out that he needed to arrive at all domestic social engagements with wine, even if he didn’t want to drink it, he also realized that he could not show up with a two-liter Pepsi, like George Costanza in Seinfeld, or even, as he would prefer, a bottle of bourbon. When the automatic door of the liquor store failed to open, he pushed, having to force it slightly. The clerk glanced in his direction. Buying food or beverages in general made Bernard nervous, but buying alcohol was worse.

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