The Canadian Writers' Collective

Writing, and writerly tangents

Monday, April 30, 2007

Anniversary Contest Winners

Here are the winners of our Anniversary Contest!

First Place:

Anniversary, by Anna Quon

I've been dog-paddling back toward the shore of my 20's, but the rip tide has me. Next year I'll be 40.

Thirty wasn't so bad. It was scary as Hell and demanded a party but I still went into it wide-eyed and hopeful, as though I'd just graduated from college and preparing to hitch a ride on the back of a truck into the rest of my life. I was a late bloomer, you might say.

Forty is something different. Where are my kids? My husband? My job with benefits?

Not that I want them. Really, what would I do with them? I'd still like to live in Paris, to travel around the world, to write a novel that lasts. A novel, a novel that lasts, doesn't ask me to file this, to copy and collate that. A novel that lasts doesn't require breastfeeding or leave the toilet seat up.

And it's not like I haven't accomplished anything—a few things got done over the last ten years. I recognized I needed my antipsychotic and antidepressant and turned myself into the hospital for the solemn interviews, punishing cuisine and undistilled boredom that constitute therapy. I doubled my body weight, lost hair, moved in and out of the life and home of a good but troubled man, and finally, burnt myself out of a freelance writing career (like the dregs of a campfire, a sooty circle remains).

I even wrote the damn novel. As I speak, the first draft lies on the floor, clipped with a sturdy fold back clip. It's been there for the past week, staring up at me, like a sad-eyed spaniel.

So things have got done, no one can dispute that. It's just that 40 is looming like an ice berg on the horizon, and no matter whether I'm sitting on my suitcase in third class or sweeping down the grand staircase in first, it's all the Titanic, isn't it?

Ah, but I was swimming. It's cold in these northern waters, perhaps thankfully so. Youth is the oil of our times. We burn it like crazy and waste it idling in the line to the Tim Horton's drive through. And up it goes, into the air, making the whole earth hotter and hotter until in a long, suicidal summer, we melt, wilt and desiccate. Better to be swimming with the killer whales, maybe.

Yup. Forty might be better than I expect. I'm going to ignore the fact that it probably won't be and celebrate the damn thing. The best way to do that is to invite the Queen and have her swing a bottle of champagne at it. Then the Polish folk dancers can come on, and the Parade of Food. It will be like this- an endless line of dim sum carts, chip wagons and Dickie Dee bicycles. The comforting food of childhood.

And I'll be in the closet, bawling my eyes out. It's my party and I can cry if I want to.

Second Place:

The Threesome, by Tish Cohen

It was my first day at Ryerson University . I climbed the steps of an enormous lecture hall and slid into a seat between a beautiful girl with an avalanche of brown curls and sequin-spackled socks, and a guy who looked like he’d just stepped off a catamaran. They introduced themselves as Tim and Lisa.

The professor began to speak, but we couldn’t hear him. Our freshman jitters had led each of us too far back into the room. Looking around, we realized we were alone. One by one, we began to shake with laughter.

When class ended, Tim invited us for coffee. As quickly as I nodded, Lisa shook her head. “Go ahead. I’m going to read up for next class.”

It would become the rhythm of our threesome. Tim and I played at being business students while Lisa worked at it for real. She was too kind to ask about our grades. We were too embarrassed to ask about hers. It was understood that her marks were impeccable. And well deserved.

The last day of classes before winter break, Lisa approached us, grinning as only a Jew who loves Christmas can. She handed us each a small present wrapped in Japanese paper, tied with a complicated silver bow. Inside were gifts straight from Lisa’s heart—jazzy socks. Tim’s were argyle. Mine were covered in moons.

Over the next 18 years, Tim and I watched our sock collections grow. Lisa never forgot a friend at Christmas.

A few years ago, as I was getting ready for work, a voice on the radio reported that, "The body of a 38-year-old woman was found, brutally murdered, in a Yorkville-area office building Saturday night..."

He didn’t have to say her name. I knew it was Lisa. I dropped my brush and screamed.

Lisa’s funeral was heavy with media, friends, family, and the kind of horror that surrounds so terrible a death. I found Tim in the lobby of the funeral home. We held each other up until the service began. Every seat was full—so, just like our first day of college, we sat at the back. Only this time there was no laughter.

Our threesome was no more. Or so we thought.

In the hours, days, weeks, months that followed, both Tim and I spoke with Lisa’s mother more and more. Not only because we could offer her a taste of her daughter through our stories and memories, but because we found ourselves adoring this woman who had lived through the unthinkable and somehow found a way to laugh again. Together we share Lisa’s birthday and, without a trace of morbidity, the anniversary of her death.

Her mother is holding up Lisa’s corner of the threesome—which is a bit more banged up than it was back in college. But if Lisa taught us nothing else, she taught us to appreciate fancy gift wrap—but only for a moment. Save your real joy for the starry socks inside.

Third Place:

Remembrance Day, by Salvatore Difalco

Twilight and a couple cement themselves to the steps of the war-dead monument, statues but for the bobbing head of the man, eyes ablaze, fist pounding his palm, his poppy velvet-red. His points ricochet off the woman’s face, white as a mime’s but not exactly, and off her periwinkle dress, that blue rarely seen, and vanish into the fired ink of the sky above them, an altogether different blue. What is it? The man knows but words betray him. Sounds like quacking and maybe the green grass carpeting the riverbank entails ducks and other fowl. In the bigger picture they signify little, but the universe still squeezes their lungs and makes their heads fit to burst. They may be playing it up for me, surmising their plight, their intimacy, for I am alone and without destination on this day of remembrance. All these names died for us? When did I arrive? Shortly before I began to describe these events, this event, this moment in time, my head bare to the fading blue of the sky, eyes locked on the periwinkle dress. Another shape of my solitude: the curving line to the couple from my coign behind the—what are they called? In the end a bone tossed to a dog leads to a good chew, nothing more, nothing less. People circulating round the park, poppies pinned, keep their noses down and shut their eyes when they pass, guided by smell. Some greet the couple with soft words and nods. Over time they too would understand what the man had been trying to express for the last half hour, so passionate, so futile. Give it a rest at last. It’s easier. But the duck continues quacking. We think we know everything and try to fill in the other but all we do is bore them. I saw her sigh when the park lights flickered on and I saw her eyes dance toward me, behind the shrub or bush or whatever it was. What am I trying to say? That love is the glue that keeps us together? Not that. Try to scrub off the glue after it gets old. Be truthful then, say what’s really on your mind, admit what you would really like to do. I’m only in it for the experience, for the luxury to say I was alive at that moment, on that day, listening to people tell each other things they’d regret later. She isn’t staring into the void, she’s looking for an escape clause in the contract and if you’re too vain to notice that then maybe you should look her in the eyes to see what she sees.

We’ll be sending off a gift certificate to our winner. A heartfelt thanks from all of us to all the entrants.


Blogger J.A. McDougall said...

Congratulations to all the winners, and thank you to everyone who entered!

Mon Apr 30, 10:01:00 am GMT-4  
Blogger Tricia Dower said...

Yes, thanks, all, and congrats. Please comment and tell us a little about yourselves.

Mon Apr 30, 12:50:00 pm GMT-4  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Strange contest. Number three seems best. You are an earnest and strange group.


Sun May 13, 04:14:00 pm GMT-4  

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