Table of Contents

Summer 2008

From The Editor

Letter from Sandra Ruttan

Short Stories

Amra Pajalic

The Game

The Old Man

The Vow

The Other Shoe

Patrick Shawn Bagley

Bank Job

John McFetridge

Overtime

Russel D. McLean

Her Cheating Heart

Steve Mosby

Fruits

Grant McKenzie

Out Of Order

Patricia Abbott

Pox

Leaving

Damien Seaman

Love In Vain

Ugly Duckling

Steve Allan

Hump The Stump

Stumpy's Revenge

You and Me and Stumpy Makes Three

Stephen D. Rogers

Head Shot

Richard Cooper

Simmer Time

Sandra Seamans

Predatory

Allan Guthrie

Freckles

Brian Lindenmuth

Gun

Tony Black

London Calling

Brian McGilloway

Spoonfull of Sugar

Interview

Damien Seaman with Tony Black

Reviews by:

Sandra Ruttan

Savage Night

The Cold Spot

Brian Lindenmuth

Kockroach

The Crimes of Dr. Watson

Half the Blood of Brooklyn

Crimson Orgy

Mad Dogs

The Resurrectionist

Sharp Teeth

Lawrence

Black Man

Tricia

Hip Flask: Concrete Jungle

Chadwick

At the City's Edge

Amber

Small Favor

Madhouse

Book Excerpts

Toros & Torsos
by Craig McDonald

Paying For It
by Tony Black

Dirty Sweeet
by John McFetridge

Feature

The Graveyard Shift: blog by Lee Ofland

The Other Shoe by Amra Pajalic


Lisa was in the shower when he said it. They’d woken up together and were getting ready for work. Mark used the bathroom first, shaving and then showering while she prepared her outfit for the day. He would prepare his clothes the night before, but she couldn’t do that.

It wasn’t until she woke and knew her mood that she could decide what she would wear for the day. When he was nearly finished with the shower he’d call her and she’d jump in. This morning he forgot and turned off the faucet. It wasn’t until she saw him entering the bedroom with the towel wrapped around him that she realised he’d finished.

When he saw her he jerked to a stop. “Sorry,” he said.
She decided to have breakfast first and then shower since he’d already broken the routine of their morning. She was shampooing her hair when he pushed open the door. He was wearing his suit and tie, his hair slicked back. She turned to face him as she twisted her head under the shower to rinse.

He looked up from the floor. “I want to go home.”
She stepped out of the water. “What?” she asked, checking if she’d heard right.

He met her eyes. He looked like a little boy lost for a moment, before he slid back out the door. She called his name, but he didn’t return. She quickly finished her shower and stepped out. She was wrapping the towel around her head when she heard the front door shut.

She ran out of the bathroom, dripping water on the carpet. Seeing the empty living room she ran across to the front door of their townhouse apartment and opened it, in time to see him disappearing around the street corner toward the train station.

Feeling the cool breeze on her damp body she shut the door and looked around the apartment blankly. She walked to the bedroom. The outfit she’d chosen was her favourite. The a-line burgundy skirt and white fitted shirt usually made her feel feminine and professional at the same time.

Today as she put on the skirt and shirt, she felt flat and dispirited. She wanted to change into another outfit, something less attention grabbing but looking at the clock she saw she’d be late for her train. As she dressed she remembered what had happened a week ago.

They’d been lying in bed. They usually started sleeping on their left side so that she’d lie away from the window. It was too hot to spoon so they each lay on the edge of the bed, keeping the sheet between so they didn’t intersect their sweaty bodies against each other.
She’d been about to slide into sleep. It had been a busy day at work and her body had been loose from exhaustion. She thought she’d actually fallen asleep for a moment, slipped into it like a child reaching the dip of a slide and rushing feet first to the ground, when he spoke.

“When you were a little kid playing, did you ever imagine that this would be the life waiting for you?”
For a moment she lay in the dark aware of her breathing. The way the air went from her nose, to her chest and back out again. The delicious edge of sleep tantalising her. As his words penetrated the fog of sleep, peeling it away from her brain so that she was once again completely alert, she groped through her childhood memories for an image of her playing. It was like she was being told a joke that she didn’t get the punchline to.

When she didn’t answer straight away she realised he’d thought she was sleeping and hadn’t heard him. He shifted on his pillow, his breathing deepened as he fell asleep. She turned to her right and faced the window, staring at the crack where the light seeped under the curtain.

The first time she’d met his parents his mother had shown her photos of his childhood she’d been unable to meet his eyes all night. He’d been a chubby little boy. In all the photos he faced the world with a gummy grin. There was Mark playing in the sandpit with his sister, Mark at the zoo, Mark at his birthday party, Mark at swim trials in high school, Mark at his high school graduation. As his mother flipped the album pages his life laid itself out in front of her in one technicolour Hollywood movie dreamscape.

After seeing the photos she felt like she was trying to put together jigsaw pieces of who she thought Mark was with the stories his family told about him, and no matter how hard she tried to force the pieces together, they didn’t fit. Instead she’d pretended she hadn’t seen the photo album, that those were photos of someone else not related to her life.

When she arrived at work she called him. His secretary, Annabel answered, her plumed British accent rolling down the telephone lines. When she asked for Mark, Annabel replied, “He’s in a meeting. Can I take a message please?”

After she hung up she stared at the phone. He hadn’t told her about a meeting today. Usually he liked to use her as a sounding board as he prepared for meetings with clients. She’d watch impassively as he showed her his presentation on the computer screen, interjecting questions that a client might ask.

He would answer with what she called his “Corporate Mark” look, his face earnest, his forehead slightly wrinkled as he replied seriously. The first few times she’d reached across to squeeze his cheeks. He’d jerked away in annoyance so she’d learnt to listen and nod.

Her co-worker Helen leaned over her partition “You want to meet in the staff room at 12.00?” she asked.
Lisa nodded, spreading her in-tray on her desktop.
When she met Helen in the staff room for lunch Helen’s first question was, “So what did the Activity Queen get up to this weekend?”

Lisa stopped with her spoon raised to her mouth, her lips touching the pumpkin soup as she groped for an answer. She swallowed with a hard gulp before answering. “Nothing much. What about you?” she asked.

As Helen spoke about her weekend she heard his voice as he called her Activity Queen. The former endearment now filled with venom lobbed at her like a missile. In the beginning he used to call her his “Little Activity Queen.” He’d say it with a teasing smile, “What does our Activity Queen have planned for us?” he’d ask in front of their guests. And after she answered he’d lean over and kiss her. “She brings the fun to the relationship,” he’d say.

She didn’t know when it changed. There was no one moment she could pinpoint as the moment when Activity Queen became a weapon. Each time they argued he used the endearment against her, the words sharp with sarcasm, his moody eyes glancing off her as he cut her with the edge of his tongue. “Well you’re the Activity Queen? We have to follow your plans.”

Once after they made up she asked why he always blamed her during an argument. “It’s all I have as ammunition to stop your rapid fire attacks,” he said. “When you look at me with your wounded eyes, I know that I scored a point.” She closed her eyes and burrowed deeper into his shoulder, hiding from the gleaming satisfaction in his gaze.

“How are the lovebirds?” Helen asked.

Lisa smiled widely as she collected her spoon and styrofoam cup. “The lovebirds are madly in love,” she answered as she threw the cup into the bin.

She got home before him, the silent flat cavernous without him to fill in the space. After showering and changing she started dinner, her eyes jumping to the clock every five minutes. When she heard his keys as he unlocked the front door, the tension eased from her shoulders.

“Hi,” she said, quickly glancing over her shoulder and back to the chicken she was cutting. He answered with a muted hello. As he stepped out of his shoes, she knew it was her chance to ask him about this morning.
“Mark,” she said, turning to look at him.

He was standing with one hand holding onto the wall, one socked foot toeing off the shoe from the other foot. “Hmmm,” he murmured without looking at her.
“Dinner will be ready in a few minutes,” she said, before turning back to the cutting board.

She heard the other shoe drop. Silence filled the kitchen as she felt his gaze on her back. She held herself tightly as she waited for him to speak. A moment later he left for the bedroom. She started cutting the onion, the fumes burning her eyes and causing tears to run down her cheeks.

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