If Only

 

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Stockland's thirty-year career in national media—including a stint as editor-in-chief of The Gazette in Montreal and his current role as director of the Cardus Centre for Cultural Renewal—gives him a broad scope for his role as storyteller. In his debut short story collection, Stockland is attuned to the private desperations of both priest and junkie, hooker and housewife, urban and small-town life. These are quiet stories; their modest unfolding belies the violence at their core and the peril that lurks often in plain sight: on street-corners, in buses, on the steps of public libraries. Stockland's use of violence—often killing off characters as a sort of punctuating, despotic finale—seems rooted in a conviction https://www.viagrapascherfr.com/achat-de-viagra-generique/ that suffering is senseless: we don't always get what we deserve. But as his characters contend with this fact, Stockland also explores the quieter collisions of human longing.

In "Motel Raphael," a successful entrepreneur named Martin—a married Catholic man—reunites in Montreal with a childhood friend who had once, in their youth, offered him a glimpse of the bare skin of her back. The two of them begin an affair and Martin is again confronted with the wonder and strangeness of this woman: "Here she is again, showing him something new. At least, something that is new to him. The distinction, he learned while taking a McGill course called Proust for Entrepreneurs, can be a reason for love." In this story, revelation—in fact,seeing—relies on blindness, both the wound of it and the feel of a body beside you. The final story in the collection, "Where the Lions Are," turns its attention from the cultural aesthetes in Montreal to the down-and-outs in Vancouver. Like the stories of fellow Canadian Alice Munro, which seem to move along a hidden chain of cause and effect whose core concerns aren't immediately evident to the reader, "Where the Lions Are" employs a careful sleight-of-hand, shifting its focus from peril to peril and from one character to the next. When disaster comes, it arrives as something in our periphery, just enough off-center that we almost don't see it. The story is sensitive to the countless, impenetrable solitudes in a city; to the fevered impulse that gives rise to violence; and to the dogged refrain of life held in common. These stories might be accused of bleakness, if not for this: if we don't always get what we deserve, we might, at least some of the time, refer to the event as grace.
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Stories by Peter Stockland

Brothers


… I want to stand beside Archie when they hang us. I want the rope to be long enough, loose enough, so I can lean over and kiss his lips. The way Hector kissed Allan. How will they put me in the wagon? How many of them will it take to lift me off this floor? They won’t make me stand will they? Walk? They’ll see my leg’s broken. It is broken. I know the bone’s sticking through the skin. I can’t feel it, but I could tell the way Charlie pulled back and the way his breath came out and the way there was blood on his fingers after he touched my leg that the bone had come through.

I seen horses like that. When bones stick through a horse’s leg it makes you think of a knife with half the blade busted off. All jagged that way. After you shoot them, they always stand and look at you for a minute. Like you could have done something else for them if you’d really wanted to. Like you’ve betrayed them just for the sake of it. Then 6 they fall over onto their sides. Where’s Charlie now? Over by the wall. Shoulders still shaking? Yes, though not so much. Where’s Archie? I can’t see him through all this smoke. Where’s Hector? Wouldn’t come. Said no. Beat Allan senseless. Allan’s tongue is still lolling, thick and black. Where’s Hector? Where’s Hector now?…

Greetings From Papineauville


…She squints at the crowd. Names some of the people. Asks Jules if he thinks they’ll just let him insult the premier. If he thinks they’ll just stand with their hands in their pockets while he runs away laughing.
She turns away. Takes a step. Another. The quilted pattern of her jacket will disappear if she takes a third. If Jules lets her go, the next time he sees her she won’t see him. He calls to her to stop.

His ankle hurts from his tumble off the wall. He felt something grind inside when he fell. He doesn’t know how fast he could run anyway. He takes two hobbling steps. Turns to Roger.

“Juste cries fort d’ici, Roger,” he says. “Ça serait mieux.”

Roger has the loudest lungs and strongest throat in Papineauville. When he came in the arena drunk last winter and cheered for Hawkesbury, people in the seats around him covered their ears as if a car horn were stuck. But Roger has already stepped off the curb. His left foot already rests on rue des Patriotes…

Cicerone


…He had preached a homily once on the dangers of the daughters of Eve developing outward strength and neglecting inward grace. A deputation from Women Affirming Shared Ministry complained to the diocesan office. The bishop, a bully who permitted brutal post-Vatican II attacks on altar rails and statuary, sent Father Bernard a
curt note about inclusiveness. From the way Carmelia smiled when he railed to her about the influences of feminists running graduate schools of theology, he knew she was involved behind the scenes.

“My brother is going to be our guide in Rome,” she said now.

“He lived there for years. He speaks perfect Italian.”

The cut went over the head of their youngish lunch guest, anAmerican named either Ronald or Derik. It was not lost on Father Bernard. It was aimed directly at him, though why here, why now was a mystery…

Yom Kippur


Taylor’s life was not so great, but he was still able that Saturday morning to be out raking the September leaves off his lawn. He was even okay pausing, here and there, to flick curly-cues of dried dog shit into the gutter with the red tines of his rake. He would have
bet twenty dollars it was against the law in Hamilton for people to let their dogs take a dump on other people’s lawns. Still, it happened, and he was able, raking as he was, to work around it without feeling that someone had necessarily put the dog shit there on purpose.

Sometimes, Taylor did feel certain people did certain things on purpose. He could, when he was busy with a mindless task, go off into himself thinking about why certain kinds of certain people did the same certain things all the time, as if there was something in their
genes making them do it….

If Only


…Grant could, if he chose, use it to peep into the digital fossil record of his childhood friend’s life. Anything Eric has done on his computer over the years, believing it possible for everything to be safely erased, would instantly resurface. He is about to click onto his company’s website and tap in his security code when Angie comes downstairs.

She peeps in on Grant. She is out of her bathrobe, wearing black stretch pants and a cotton sweater with broad horizontal stripes of alternating red and white. The pattern emphasizes her breasts, which drift above the laundry basket in her hands. Her hair, pulled back now in a ponytail, remains the same cautious blonde it was when
she and Eric married. Her feet are still bare in the blue slippers.

“Will this bother you?” she says. “I’ll keep the laundry room door shut.”

The Family Accidental


Before I became an apostle of world peace – truthfully, a diplomat in the Canadian foreign service and a painter written about in The Toronto Star for the subversive geometries of his Universalist vision – I screwed the landlady who was the best friend of my mother and the mother of my best friend. She became a sad drunk with unbearable financial problems. I helped her as I knew how.

It was a Tuesday night in April. I lived in her basement and painted during the mornings in an old shed at the back of her property. Afternoons and evenings, I tutored the town’s floundering high school students in math and physics. It earned me enough to pay Mrs. Thwaite the rent, buy groceries, look after details. It gave me enough, that is, to be free to paint without drawing down on my bank account, which was fat and which I intended to keep that way for as long as I could….

Orange & Peel


Rope went through the plate-glass window at the Poulet Barbeque in Westmount right after Christmas, and the shard of glass that followed him out the window just missed stabbing him to death, and fuck those cops are dumb.

“So,” Rope said, “Christly fucking dumb.”

Daryn, though, wanted to talk about the door in the side of his head that let God in. Usually he listened to Rope’s stories, which was a good thing because it gave them both something to do. Today, Daryn had to talk about the door. It was staying open longer and he was afraid, really afraid, that if God could get in so could, you know, the Devil.

“I see your ears,” Rope said. “Is that what you mean?”

“I mean,” Daryn said, “the door. It opens and God comes in.”

“That,” Rope said, “is fucking impossible. That’s what that is.”

“Not,” Daryn said, “to me.”

Rope did not want to reason. It was January. It was Peel Street. It was mid-afternoon. His ass was freezing, and there was a bottle of Grey Goose vodka waiting for them on a shelf at the SAQ on Ste. Catherine. How much longer they’d have to sit on the snow-and-ice sidewalk outside the House of Seagram being ignored before they had enough to buy the Grey Goose, only God knew. And there was no such thing as God. End of argument….

Motel Raphael


…Martin’s businesses grow fat from the markups on men’s golf wear and women’s yoga fashions, among other essentials. He knows the risk of becoming one of those remnant caricature charitable Catholics who buy indulgences against the surplus indignities of the poor. Louise the Pigeon-Faced Blind Woman cannot see. Martin does not wish to be seen doing what he has been taught to do invisibly.

“Martin. Here. I’m here.”

He looks up Peel against the peat humidity of the late-spring day and sees Huguette. She is standing half a block away calling to him, her long arm reaching high as if to pick something off the roof of the old Seagram Building. The bright pink of her waving palm and fluttering fingers attract and compel. Behind him, he hears the yowl of Louise’s recorder. Around him he hears the rutting grunt of a backhoe uprooting pavement, the hectoring of car horns, the Doppler shift of conversations hissing on the terrasses of cafés. He is meeting Huguette in the heart of downtown for the first time. There is always the chance
of misunderstanding.

He watches her come down from above him, walking with her delta-water muscularity. Trained as a dancer, now an associate professor of kinesiology at McGill, she keeps her body in astonishing shape. Yet it is her white hair – white colour, white texture – framing the darkness of her African-Indian face that makes all the men who pass think what their sidelong glances show. He smiles – even he would acknowledge smugly – to all of Peel Street. There is no risk. They are meeting only for lunch. And she is his friend. His friend from childhood. What wrong could come?…

Where The Lions Are


Tiptoes brought Jenny outside again that summer. The word, heard by accident, let her believe she had finally come through the part of her life when she could only be inside. It was the time after the time when all the boys wanted to come inside.

“Just let me come inside,” they said.

They kissed her.

They said, “Just let me come inside.”

She let a boy into her room at her mother’s house in west Point Grey. People said Jenny got herself into trouble by doing that. They didn’t mean she got herself pregnant. They knew she wasn’t the Virgin Mary. At the same time, they did mean the trouble was of her doing. Someone else was involved, yet it was her fault alone. It was a time of things being what they were and what they weren’t at the same time.

Jenny and the boy crossed Main Street to live in a rented green-roofed house on Venables Street, but before long the East End wasn’t for him. The house was a dump, there were too many Chinks, what the fuck was he doing east of Main when his friends all lived on southwest Marine Drive?…

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