Recent Short Stories and Essays

9781771510547“Finding My Grace” in A Family By Any Other Name: Exploring Queer Relationships, edited by Bruce Gillespie 

This anthology includes a wide range of essays on queer relationships and families. My own essay is a mother’s story about dealing with her daughter’s coming out, and the conflict between her own perspective and that of her church.

Poste Restante” in Freefall Volume XXI Number 2 Fall 2011

Salzburg Oct. 19, 1977

At a sidewalk café, butterscotch light spilling across cobblestones, me with coffee and strudel, you with pretzels and a mug of dark beer, we open mail from home. A whiff of my mother’s hand lotion rises from the page.

“Sad House”

Nashwaak Review  Volume 26-27

Sass is in the closet, not the one that was hers, Nick’s closet. She wishes it was crammed with boy clothes, bins of Lego, hockey sticks, all that baggage from long ago that belonged to her brother.  There’s nothing to hide behind but three bent hangers, her backpack and the quilt she dragged up from the floor in the laundry room. Only because the house is so bloody cold. The blue and white striped fabric stinks of urine. Other body smells too, but pee is the strongest.

She listens to footsteps through the kitchen, past the living room, stop at the bathroom door, into the big bedroom, around, out again, then the swish of the door in her old room. Halfway up this closet wall there is a snoop hole into her closet. When she presses her eye to blackness, she can make out a band of light under the door.

“Hello?” The voice is too timid to be a cop’s. Step step step out of her room, now into Nick’s.  Again a strip of light.  Creeping under this closet door that separates her from someone on the other side. She holds her breath, but wants more than anything to scream.

“Dressed for the Occasion”
Room Magazine Vol. 33.1

When my daughter calls, I’m dressing to go out for dinner, looking for some way to perk up a plain black skirt and sweater. I find myself holding my mother-in-law’s pearls. Not because of an affinity for the necklace, but because she’s ailing, and has been on my mind. …

Elisabeth has called to talk about the wedding. She and her partner – I’ve settled on “partners” as the descriptor for these two young women even though I hate the business-like sound – are worried that Bill C-38, which became law eight months ago, might be short-lived. We have a new Conservative government rabidly opposed to civil marriage rights for same sex couples.

The partners have set a wedding date in August. They’ve been together for almost four years, three years since my daughter choked out the news that she was in love, and it was serious, and the object of her love was another woman.

Today, though, we’ve moved far beyond that tearful declaration and my own private weeping, my heart’s misalignment with my head, my embarrassment at discovering that all the intellectualizing in the world couldn’t change what I felt about having my child move out of the mainstream. I feared that the world would no longer treat her as gently as she deserved. Today we’re talking about wedding venues and menus: a late afternoon affair with hors d’oeuvres and some bubbly wine? But what about their friends with huge appetities? Maybe better to have a full dinner reception: AAA Alberta beef, or cedar planked salmon?

I tell her any of those options sounds fine. I hold up the necklace, frown at my reflection in the mirror, think the pearls probably looked better on the oysters.

There is a bubble of laughter in my girl’s voice when she says they can have a slightly more extravagant wedding because their Alberta Prosperity cheques have arrived. She says there’s pleasing poetic justice to funding her gay wedding with bonuses from the glut of oil and gas money in the provincial coffers. Our premier, Ralph Klein, strenuously opposed gay marriage. I suggest a thank you note to Mr. Klein, telling him he’s buying AAA Alberta beef for the celebration.

“You Must Remember That”

The Antigonish Review Winter 2010

Lillian thinks the man on the phone said his name was Rob, but there’s a lot of static. And the television is on in the living room. She keeps it turned louder these days, not because her hearing is much worse, but because the sound fills up the house.

“You probably don’t remember me,” he says. Lillian was a foster mother for thirty years. She prides herself on remembering her children. Although sometimes she needs to jog her memory with the photo albums that take up two shelves in the book case. There must be a picture of a boy named Rob.

“I’m just passing through.” His voice isn’t familiar in the least. She thinks she hears a trace of an accent. Jus’ passin’ thru?  Where has he been?  “Thought I’d see how you’re doing. Still living in the same house, eh?”

He’ll have looked up the number in the phone book. Hank had the address suppressed years ago. I’d like some control over who turns up at our door, Lil.

“How old are you now, Rob?” she asks, trying to get a handle on him.

“The Queen is Coming” in Alberta Anthology
2005, ISBN 0889953317

Alberta Anthology coverCBC’s Alberta Anthology has been the premier writing contest for Albertans for 26 years. Past winners have included luminaries such as W.O. Mitchell, Tom Weyman and Marty Chan. In 2005 the entries celebrated the Alberta Centennial and were featured in this volume along with work from the judges, Vern Thiessen, Karen Connelly, E.D. Blodgett, and Gloria Sawai, all Governor General’s Award winning writers. The contest was produced and hosted by CBC’s Allan Boss.

Winning writers’ entries were professionally produced and narrated on CBC radio’s Wild Rose Country and Daybreak Alberta.

“Kick” in Dark Times, edited by Ann Walsh
2005, ISBN 1-55380-028-1

Dark Times coverThe result of a cross-Canada contest for the best short stories about young people’s experience of loss and grief, Dark Times is a superb anthology about a topic that often remains hidden but is crucial in the development of a child’s sense of identity. The stories develop highly contemporary situations: a First Nations boy mourns the death of his mother; a girl copes with the loss of her grandmother to Alzheimer’s disease; a boyfriend’s death takes a girl through the five stages of grief; a destitute family loses their home; a daughter loses a parent when her mother leaves; a fetal alcohol syndrome child is lost to his family when he is sent to prison; a boy loses the brother he loves to mental illness; the death of a small child challenges a girl’s belief in God; and a young girl discovers her father in an affair and confronts him – with devastating results. Well-known children’s writer Ann Walsh has chosen the stories and one of her own is included. The other contributors are Sarah Ellis, Lee Maracle, Alison Lohans, Diana Aspin, Carolyn Pogue, Gina Rozon, Jessie Mae Keller, Libby Kennedy, Donna R. Gamache, Patricia McCowan, Betty Jane Hegerat and Carrie Mac.

“A fine collection of gritty and compelling stories for young people about loss and grief, stories that will rivet the reader, and in the end, inspire hope because of the indomitable spirit of youth.” —Norma Charles