About the Author

Leo McKay, Jr.

Leo McKay, Jr. was born in Stellarton, Nova Scotia and now teaches English in Truro, Nova Scotia. His short story collection Like This was shortlisted for the Giller Prize, and his first novel, Twenty-Six won the 2004 Dartmouth Book Award.

Books by this Author
Like This

Like This

Stories
by Leo McKay, Jr.
introduction by Lynn Coady
edition:Paperback
also available: Paperback eBook eBook
More Info
Twenty-Six
Excerpt

Death hides its face in winter, when trees are impossible to distinguish. The bony hands of branches clutch at the sky, waiting for the sun to rise high enough to warm them back to life. With so many elms sick, and some of them dying now, the only thing was to wait for spring before you put your hope anywhere.

Spring was a far-off place to Ziv as he stood in his parents’ driveway, his hot breath rising in clouds into the dark air above him. He looked up at the grey branches of the pair of elms that marked the boundary of his parents’ property and could not recall whether they’d been dead last summer or merely sick.

He put a mittened hand on the rear fender of his father’s car to steady himself as he stared at the translucent blind pulled down over the living-room window. “I hope the bastard’s dead,” he said out loud to no one. He was trying to detect movement inside the house, but he was good and drunk, and it was difficult to detect anything in his condition. He saw nothing but filtered light through the blind. All three bulbs in the pole lamp beside the couch were switched on; he could tell that. The tv was flicking the room light, then dark. But if there was any movement inside, he could not see it. The smell of furnace oil from the nearby tank hung in a thick layer over the more subdued smells of a cold winter night.

He took off his mitts, stuffed them into the pockets of his parka, and unzipped his fly in the biting February cold. “Shit,” he said as he pissed onto the snow. When he was finished, he zipped himself up again, put the mitts back on, and went unsteadily back to the end of the driveway to continue his aimless walk. It was now one thirty in the morning and it had been more than an hour since his last drink. Still, he was too drunk to go inside. He hated being drunk now. He hated himself for having got so drunk that he could not show his face inside his house. It was his parents’ house, actually, and he hated that, too. Five years ago he could have called it his house. But he was twenty-three years old now, he’d be twenty-four in a few months, and he could not bring himself to call it his house when he was paying room and board. He’d lived in this house his whole life. He’d been brought here directly from the Aberdeen Hospital in New Glasgow a few days after his birth, and except for a short time at university in the early eighties, he’d been here, a permanent resident of this address, ever since.

He walked to the corner of Hudson Street and looked down the channel the sidewalk plough had made. He’d passed through here several times already tonight, wandering around and around the neighbourhood, wishing for himself to sober up, or for the light to go off in the living room, the signal that his father had gone to bed, so he could go inside without setting off a row. His legs felt wobbly and weak. He was drunk, he was tired, he was hungry.

The neighbourhood he was walking through was called the Red Row, a half-dozen or so blocks of duplexes built by the Acadia Coal Company in the first decades of the century. The Red Row had originally housed miners who worked in the many pits that had pocked the landscape of Pictou County, Nova Scotia. Although the original pits had long been closed, a few elderly retired miners and descendants of those deceased still lingered in the company houses at the north end of the little town called Albion Mines. This is what Ziv was: a descendant of coal miners. And he was acutely aware of it. Even drunk, when the list of what he was aware of dwindled to a dozen or so items, being the descendant of coal miners was on that small list. He only had to raise his eyes and look at the company houses all around him to understand how completely submersed he was in that murky history.

close this panel
Show editions
close this panel

User Activity

more >
X
Contacting facebook
Please wait...