About the Author

Eden Robinson

Eden Robinson is the internationally acclaimed author of Traplines, Monkey Beach, and Blood Sports. Traplines was the winner of the New York Times Notable Book of the Year and Britain's Winifred Holtby Memorial Prize. Monkey Beach was nominated for the Giller Prize, the 2000 Governor General's Award for Fiction, and was selected as the Globe and Mail's Editor's Choice. Robinson is a member of the Haisla and Heiltsuk First Nations.

Books by this Author
Blood Sports
Excerpt

Hi Mel,

If you’re not eighteen yet, I want you to put this letter down right now. Okay? There’s a whole bunch of shit you ­don’t need to deal with until you’re ready. Your mom (I call her Paulie, even though she hates it. Try it, and you’ll get her Popeye squint) and I talked it over. We agreed not to put the heavy on you because we’re trying not to fuck your head up too bad.

You probably ­won’t be Melody when you read this. I’m wondering what Paulie will change your name to. Paulie was stuck on Anastasia, after the princess, but I thought no one would be able to spell it and you’d get tagged with Stacy or Staz or anything but your real name. My top choice was Sarah, but Paulie thought that was going to bite you in the ass in school when you met up with the hundred other Sarahs in your class. We went through a whole bunch of baby-­name books, and ­couldn’t agree on a single name. Paulie’s picks were too fancy and she thought mine were dull. Her words in the operating room: “If you fucking stick my girl with Jennifer while I’m under, I will rip your nuts off.”

Paulie wanted an all-­natural birth at home. Her friends here are into hippie shit like giving birth in wading pools and eating the placenta. Besides, she hates hospitals, ­doesn’t think they’re clean enough and hated the thought of you in a germ-­factory. I’m not a big fan of hospitals myself, so we were all set to have you enter the world at home (no pool or placenta though). But things got hairy, and Ella, the midwife, called an ambulance. Paulie kept saying she’d spent enough of her life wasted and ­didn’t want any shit, but she ended up having every drug in the book. I’m sure when she’s mad she tells you what a pain you were to deliver.

Paulie exploded when they put the tent around her belly because she wanted to watch you coming, even if they were going to cut you out. Is your mom all ladylike now? Ha. I bet she is. You ­wouldn’t believe the things that came out of her mouth, but they put the tent up anyway and she asked me to videotape everything so she could watch it later. I saw the first incision and said, ­“Can’t do it, Paulie.”

The midwife ­wouldn’t videotape, but she said she’d describe everything to Paulie. Ella is this tiny fireball, a Filipina in her mid-­forties, and she had to hop to peek over. I went and found her a stool and then waited in the hallway because there was no way I could listen to that. I walked down to the vending machine and got a coffee. So I missed your grand entrance. But we have a tape of everything up to that point, even the ambulance ride. I’m sure Paulie’s made you watch it by now. I stapled Ella’s business card to the back of this page, so you can look her up if you want.

I could hear you crying. You were loud as an opera singer. I could hear you all the way down the hall. Sad fact: Your dad is a big old weenie. I got a head rush and had to sit down. When I finally got my rear in gear, the nurse and midwife were checking you out, cleaning you up and swaddling you in the corner. The surgeon was finishing up your mom. She was pretty wiped. We’d been awake for three days by then.

When Paulie asked Ella if she should nurse, Ella laid you on her and you latched just like that. No problemo. All the shit going down and you took it in stride. Your mom’s smile, all proud of you.

“Come around here, you’ve got to see this,” Paulie said. “It’s like she’s mainlining.”

The nurse beside her stiffened. We’d had to disclose about Paulie being in Narcotics Anonymous. I think we freaked some of the staff. The whole week we were in the hospital, they acted like we were going to break out the rigs and turn our room into a shooting gallery.

I never got the deal with newborns. You were bald but hairy, red and wrinkled like any other newborn, and I’m sorry, Mel, but man, that is not a good look on you. You were sucking at Paulina’s boob like there was no tomorrow, your eyes screwed tight in ecstasy.

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Monkey Beach
Excerpt

Six crows sit in our greengage tree. Half-awake, I hear them speak to me in Haisla.
La'es, they say, La'es, la'es.
I push myself out of bed and go to the open window, but they launch themselves upward, cawing. Morning light slants over the mountains behind the reserve. A breeze coming down the channel makes my curtains flap limply. Ripples sparkle in the shallows as a seal bobs its dark head.
La'es — Go down to the bottom of the ocean. The word means something else, but I can't remember what. I had too much coffee last night after the Coast Guard called with the news about Jimmy. People pressed cups and cups of it into my hands. Must have fallen asleep fourish. On the nightstand, the clock-face has a badly painted Elvis caught in mid-gyrate. Jimmy found it at a garage sale and gave it to me last year for my birthday — that and a card that said, "Hap B-day, sis! How does it feel to be almost two decades old? Rock on, Grandma!" The Elvis clock says the time is seven-thirty, but it's always either an hour ahead or an hour behind. We always joke that it's on Indian time. I go to my dresser and pull out my first cigarette of the day, then return to the window and smoke. An orange cat pauses at the grassy shoreline, alert. It flicks its tail back and forth, then bounds up the beach and into a tangle of bushes near our neighbour's house. The crows are tiny black dots against a faded denim sky. In the distance, I hear a speedboat. For the last week, I have been dreaming about the ocean-lapping softly against the hull of a boat, hissing as it rolls gravel up a beach, ocean swells hammering the shore, lifting off the rocks in an ethereal spray before the waves make a grumbling retreat. Such a lovely day. Late summer. Warm. Look at the pretty, fluffy clouds. Weather reports are all favourable for the area where his seiner went missing. Jimmy's a good swimmer. Everyone says this like a mantra that will keep him safe. No one's as optimistic about his skipper, Josh, a hefty good-time guy who is very popular for his generosity at bars and parties. He is also heavily in debt and has had a bad fishing season. Earlier this summer two of his crew quit, bitterly complaining to their relatives that he didn't pay them all they were due. They came by last night to show their support. One of my cousins said they've been spreading rumours that Josh might have sunk his Queen of the North for the insurance and that Jimmy's inexperience on the water would make him a perfect scapegoat. They were whispering to other visitors last night, but Aunt Edith glared at them until they took the hint and left.

I stub out the cigarette and take the steps two at a time down to the kitchen. My father's at the table, smoking. His ashtray is overflowing. He glances at me, eyes bloodshot and red-rimmed.

Did you hear the crows earlier?" I say. When he doesn't answer, I find myself babbling. "They were talking to me. They said la'es. It's probably — "

"Clearly a sign, Lisa," my mother has come up behind me and grips my shoulders, "that you need Prozac." She steers me to a chair and pushes me down. Dad's old VHF is tuned to the emergency channel. Normally, we have the radio tuned to CFTK. He likes it loud, and the morning soft rock usually rackets through the house. As we sit in silence, I watch his cigarette burn down in the ashtray. Mom smoothes her hair. She keeps touching it. They both have that glazed, drawn look of people who haven't slept. I have this urge to turn on some music. If they had found the seiner, someone would phone us. "Pan, pan, pan," a woman's voice crackles over the VHF. "All stations, this is the Prince Rupert Coast Guard." She repeats everything three times, I don't know why. "We have an overdue vessel." She goes on to describe a gillnetter that should have been in Rupert four days ago. Mom and Dad tense expectantly even though this has nothing to do with Jimmy.

At any given moment, there are two thousand storms at sea.

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Return of the Trickster
Excerpt

1. SLOPPY DEAD

The IV dripped cold into Jared Martin’s arm, a remarkably grounding sensation. Saline—he remembered the nurse telling him he was dehydrated, and that he kept throwing up the water they gave him. Bile scorched the back of his throat. An unseen ambulance warbled, growing louder. The lights were achingly bright. The hospital mattress was firm against his back and the pale curtains surrounding his bed were shut. Through these fabric walls, he could hear other patients in the Kitimat General Hospital emergency ward murmuring with their families, friends, lovers. A scream cut through the quiet as electric doors swooshed open somewhere near, bringing the smell of rain, then closed. Voices shouted information and instructions at each other as a lone male voice howled, guttural. He shivered.

Nausea hit again. Jared’s stomach cramped. The nurse had given him a little cardboard container for his vomit, but it was full and pungent, reeking on the medical table. Jared slid off the bed. The floor was cold against his bare feet. He yanked off the clear tape that held the IV in place and carefully pulled out the needle. The other bed curtains were shut, but through the gaps he could see patients listening intently as another male voice joined the first. He made it out to the corridor, where he watched two men fight free of the paramedics and a lone police officer to grapple with each other. A security guard ran past Jared as the men threw punches that landed with earnest thuds. Jared covered his mouth as he started to heave. He pushed open the heavy bathroom door and threw up into the toilet.

Blood, bright red against the white enamel, diffused in tendrils in the water. Copper in his mouth. The muscles in his throat clenched and released until he threw up again, this time a stew of blood and chunks. His stomach burned, a hot pain like accidentally swallowing a live coal. The searing intensified until it was as if he’d swallowed the whole barbecue pit.

Oh, God, Jared thought. I’m dying.

He could hear police sirens in the distance. He hurled, and could feel large, firm masses working their way up his throat, blocking his breathing. Dizziness hit as he fought for air. He crawled towards the door, spewing strange sacs of flesh, bloody and self-contained, shapes his biology classes led him to guess were organs, a spleen maybe. A kidney. Jared tried to scream, but it came out as a gurgle as he puked again. He felt his intestines shift, and then an intense urge to defecate.

God, he thought. Oh, God. Please.

Jared?
Not God. Only the voice of his biological father, Wee’git. The transforming raven was speaking to him as magical beings speak to one another, sharing thoughts. The insanity of the magic Jared had unleashed left him with no way to deny he was a Trickster himself, that he was a part of the crazy, that his amateur dabbling had created the shitstorm that had eventually landed him in Emerg. Again.

All his relationships changed now, except the rotten one he had with his bio dad. Normally, Jared would tell him to fuck right off, but his organs were running amok in the hospital bathroom and he had no pride left. Please help me.

You’ve pushed way past the limits of your magical ability, you lumbering dolt, Wee’git thought at him. Stop blubbering and call your damn organs back to your body.
I don’t know how.
Pretend it’s a dream. Will your organs back in your body. Will your blood and guts to behave. You’re the boss. Make them listen to you.

He still couldn’t breathe. The part of him that didn’t want to admit he was something other than a regular human fought the part of him that wanted to live at any cost. Fear metallic in his mouth, humming through his body, making him shake. He wanted to be whole. He wanted himself back together and he fought through his own panic and finally felt a connection to the bits of him that had escaped, an awareness like knowing that someone was near you in the dark. Like a film in reverse, his blood streamed back to him and disappeared when it touched his skin. The organs, naked, shiny and slick, continued to roll across the industrial-grey floor, while two of them splashed in the toilet like children in a kiddie pool. He touched the organs near him, and they tried to wiggle free but were absorbed back into his body, where they fluttered beneath his skin and then went quiet. He grimaced at the two organs swimming in the toilet bowl. You’re dreaming, he told himself. Just touch them, you big baby.

They were chilly to the touch, but obeyed. It was not so nice to feel them moving inside him. He slid to the floor, muscles spasming in rolling clusters. He hugged himself. The blood on his hospital gown disappeared.
From the corner of his eye, he caught movement. He turned his head slowly and saw a triangle-shaped deep-red blob of his flesh sprout tiny legs, tiny arms and a tiny, misshapen head. His liver transformed into a little person, the head budding ears and newborn eyes, fused shut, blind. The toes and fingers fused together into frog-like fans, slowly separating.

No, he thought. Oh, holy fucking God, no.

He crept across the floor. Despite his stealth, his liver saw him coming. He willed it back, but it hid behind the toilet, the head expanding, the arms and legs lengthening, until it looked like a fetus with a bloated, triangular torso.

Jared lunged and caught it by one plump arm. The mouth opened, but no sound came out. Jared hugged his liver-baby, willing it to stop. Right now.

A wave of yearning hit him, an endless curiosity to see the world and not be imprisoned in Jared’s torso, doing the same thing day after day after day.

I’m not having this conversation with you, Jared told it. You aren’t a person. You’re my liver.

The head and limbs withered. The surface of his liver undulated, fighting to free itself even as Jared lifted his hospital gown and pressed it to the hollow beneath his ribs, where it sank back into his body. He washed his hands and splashed water over his face, then checked out his abdomen in the mirror as it shifted around as if it hid a gestating alien. His saw that his neck was ringed with bruises he didn’t want to think about. The pain eased in his guts. He inhaled a shaky, relieved breath.

Good, Wee’git thought at him.

I want to wake up, he thought back. Please let me wake up.
Where are you? What kind of magic were you doing?

“Knock, knock,” a female voice said. “Are you decent, Jared?”

“Just a minute,” Jared said, his voice cracking.

Jared.

Thank you, Jared thought at him.

Silence, and in that silence in his head, all the things they’d screamed at each other, left unspoken even now, were a raw presence between them.

Don’t use magic until your organs stop trying to run away or you will reach the point where you don’t have enough energy to call them back and you will disintegrate. Got it? Is that clear enough for you?

Is this real? Jared thought. It doesn’t feel real.

Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

And then he was alone, nothing in his head but his own frazzled thoughts. He pulled paper towels from the dispenser and wiped himself dry.

The door opened and a nurse poked her head in. “Sorry, Jared. Mrs. Vasquez needs to use the washroom.”

“I’m done,” Jared said, trying to remember her name. Kelly. Karen. The tall blond nurse who’d put his IV in while telling him about the injuries her daughter earned learning to ride a dirt bike.

An old woman in a blue hospital gown with a walker glared at him as he exited. “Hoodlum.”

“Mrs. Vasquez,” Kelly or Karen said.

Mrs. Vasquez waved off Kelly or Karen. “No, don’t come in. I can piss by myself.”

The nurse held the door for her. “Use the buzzer if you need help.”

Mrs. Vasquez grunted. She turned and glared at them both as the door eased shut. The lock clicked.

“We got a hold of your dad,” Kelly or Karen said. “He’s driving down from Terrace to pick you up.”

“Really?” Jared said.

“Did you take your IV out? You silly goose.” Kelly or Karen tilted her head, smiling through gritted teeth.

Philip Martin stood at the foot of Jared’s bed chatting with a doctor. His dad, his stepdad, he guessed, anyway the dude who’d raised him when his biological sperm donor was, was, the thing Jared was, not human, not remotely human. Jared tried to pay attention to what the doctor was telling Phil, but his guts kept shifting and he had to concentrate to keep them still. He wondered if this dad was an imposter; he’d been fooled before by a shape-shifter or some other transforming creature. Phil usually schlepped around, gangly and unshaven, in stained jeans, a saggy T-shirt and beat-up sneakers. This Phil wore a pressed white shirt and dark-grey slacks. His tapered salt-and-pepper hair shone with product and his thin face was clean-shaven. Jared decided he really was dreaming. He was having a super-long snooze. And Phil was in his dream because Jared was feeling guilty about not calling him for a while. Phil nodded his head, stroking his chin as the doctor explained something to him. They both turned to stare at Jared.

“Is that what happened?” his dad said.

“Yes,” Jared agreed, not knowing what they’d said. Explaining the real events of the last few days was futile. Even in his dream state he didn’t want to have to undergo a psych eval. Better to play along.

“We all slip,” Phil said.

It was more of a bungee jump into hell, Jared thought. But he smiled, felt the fakeness of it, let it collapse. Still, if it got him out of the hospital, he was happy to pretend that he’d ended up naked and dehydrated in the basement of his mom’s old house because he’d fallen off the wagon in a big way. His dad asked him if he needed help dressing.

“No,” Jared said.

“Okay.” Phil put a plastic grocery bag of clothes and a pair of polished black dress shoes on the bed near Jared’s feet. “I’m going to grab a coffee from Timmy’s. Want anything, kiddo?”

“Sure,” Jared said. “Double-double, please.”

“I’ll be back,” his dad said. “Thanks, doc.”

“My duty, Mr. Martin.” Once he was gone, the doctor said, “You’re a very lucky young man.”

The doctor’s face tweaked something in his memory. “Do I know you?”

“Your mother and her boyfriend brought you into emergency a few years ago after a camping accident. I stitched you up.”

Ah, the fancy doc who’d stitched up his otter bites after one of them’d lured him out of the house by pretending to be his girlfriend and trapped him in a cave. “You wore a tux. You’d been at your daughter’s wedding.”

“Luck only lasts so long,” the doctor said.

“Unless it’s bad luck,” Jared said. “That shit has no expiry date.”

The doctor sighed. “You haven’t changed at all.”

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Son of a Trickster
Excerpt

THE FOOD OF WORMS

Jared hadn’t realized he loved his dog until they decided to put her down. His mom and the vet agreed on a time, like her euthanasia was just a regular appointment. While he went to school, Baby would stay at the vet’s, sedated. In a way, he wanted them to do it right now, so it wouldn’t be hanging over them all day, but he was kind of glad there were rules to follow. Jared scratched Baby’s head. She was the result of a pit bull mixed with a boxer, a heavy, deep-chested dog with scraggly ears from a fight with her brother. Her fur was mottled orange, black and grey, a squiggly pattern like a toddler had coloured her with fading markers. Her face looked like it had been flattened by a shovel. She farted constantly from a diet of cheap dog food and a tendency to eat whatever landed on the floor. She had once shat marbles. Baby wheezed like a hardened smoker and then coughed. Jared’s throat tightened. The room blurred as his eyes watered. He swallowed loudly. Baby roused from the exam table and licked his arm. Jared leaned his head against hers.

“I’ll give you folks a moment,” the vet said.

After he left, Jared’s mom sat, shoving her hands deep in the pockets of her leather jacket. The fluorescent lights hummed. His mom’s left leg jiggled impatiently. Jared wiped his nose on his sleeve. The harder he tried not to cry, the more he cried. The painted concrete walls echoed his sniffling back at him.

“I’m going for a smoke,” his mom said.

Baby thumped her tail when his mom came over to squeeze Jared’s shoulder. His mom’s eyes darted around the room, but she avoided meeting his. Normally, she’d be telling him sixteen was way too old to be acting like a big fucking wuss, but they could hear the vet and the receptionist talking in the front room, so she stayed quiet. She patted her jeans as she walked out. Probably forgot her lighter in the truck.

The world is hard, his mom liked to say. You have to be harder.

Baby licked his cheek.

“Gonna miss you,” Jared whispered in her ear.

Baby lifted a leg and farted. Jared laughed, and then it turned into crying that faded into more sniffling. His heart was a bruise because Baby’s heart was full of worms. The X-rays showed them curled in its chambers like glowing balls of wool. Time stretched and folded so it went both too fast and too slow. After his mom finished smoking, she’d come back and drive him to school. He hugged Baby hard and she grumbled. He wasn’t going to be alone after she died, but the world was going to be a lonelier place without her.

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The Sasquatch at Home

The Sasquatch at Home

Traditional Protocols & Modern Storytelling
by Eden Robinson
introduction by Paula Simons
edition:Paperback
also available: eBook
tagged : essays, literary
More Info
Trickster Drift
Excerpt

The clouds finally broke into a sullen drizzle after a muggy, overcast day. Jared Martin flipped up his hood as he turned the corner onto his street. His mom’s truck was in the driveway. The house he’d grown up in was two storeys high, white with green trim. The large porch was littered with work gear. His mom rented out two of the rooms and the basement to pay the bills. Most of her tenants were sub-subcontractors, in Kitimat for a few weeks and unwilling to shell out for a pricey furnished one-bedroom or a motel room. Or they were hard-core smokers who wanted to be able to light up in their rooms and found a kindred spirit in his mom, a dedicated two-packer who hated being forced outside.

He paused on the sidewalk, listening. Things seemed quiet. Which didn’t mean it was safe to go in, but Jared went up the steps and opened the front door. Not visiting his mom before he took off for Vancouver would save him a lot of grief, but it would be such a douche move. She’d never let him forget it.

“Mom?” Jared said.

“In here,” she said, her voice coming from the kitchen.
 
The kitchen windows were all open and moths fluttered against the screens. She was frying a pan of meatballs, her cigarette tucked into the corner of her mouth.

Her hair was in a ponytail. She wore her favourite ripped Metallica T-shirt over jeans and flip-flops. He could see all the little muscles working in her face as she inhaled. She was losing weight again. He hoped it was just coke.

Jared put his backpack down by the table and then hopped up to sit on the counter. His mom salted a pot of boiling water and cracked in some spaghetti.

“Nice of you to show up,” she said.

Jared swung his feet, staring down at them. “Where’s Richie?”

“He is where he is.”

Her boyfriend sold the lighter recreational drugs. They used to get along, but Richie seemed suspicious of Jared now that Jared was sober, like he had suddenly turned into a narc. When they were forced together by his mom, Richie wouldn’t talk to him for fear of incriminating himself.

Jared watched her resentfully making him dinner. She hated cooking. He wished she’d just ordered a pizza. He tried to think of a safe topic of conversation. His Monday night shift at Dairy Queen was normally dull, but his new co-worker had kept stopping to sob into her headset. “Work was nuts. I had to train my replacement. She does not handle stress well.”

“Not many people survive the soft-serve ice-cream racket.”

Ball-buster, his dad called her when he was being charitable. His adoptive dad? His dad. Philip Martin, the guy who had raised him when his biological dad turned out to be a complete dick.

She stirred the pasta. “What? No snappy comeback?”
 
“I’m tired.”

“Yeah, looking down on all us alkies and addicts must be exhaust­ing.”

“Are we going to do this all night?”

“Get the colander.”

Jared hopped down and grabbed the colander from the cupboard above the fridge.

When he handed it to her, she stared at him a moment. Then her lips went thin, the lines around her mouth deepening. “I don’t want you staying with Death Threat,” she said.

Death Threat was the nickname of one of her exes, Charles Redhill, a low-level pot grower who said it would be okay if Jared bunked in his basement while he was going to school in Vancouver, if he didn’t mind working a little security detail in exchange.

“People aren’t exactly lining up to let me sleep on their couches,” Jared said.

“He’s a fuckboy with delusions he’s Brando.”

“Stel-la!” Jared said, trying to make her laugh.

She ignored him as if he wasn’t standing beside her. She took the cigarette out of the corner of her mouth and let the pasta drain in the colander in the sink and then dumped it back in the pot. She poured in a jar of Ragú spaghetti sauce and stirred and then added the meatballs. She crushed the last bit of her cigarette out on the burner and tossed the butt in a sand-filled coffee can near the sink. He carried the pot to the table. She pulled some garlic bread out of the oven.

They ate in silence. Or, more accurately, Jared ate in silence. His mom smoked and picked at a meatball with her fork, slowly mashing it into bits.
 
“Where’s Death Threat’s place?” she said.

Jared shrugged. He was hoping against hope that Death lived near his school, the British Columbia Institute of Technology. Didn’t matter, though. Nothing beat free.

“Nice. I’m your mother and you don’t trust me enough to know where you’re fucking staying.”

“He’s away in Washington State right now. I’m booked at a hos­tel for the first week. Just text my cell.”

“He told you where he lives, right?”

“He’ll show.”

“He’s a fucking pothead. He’ll forget you exist. He forgets where his ass is until someone hands it to him.”

“I can handle myself.”

His mom sucked in a great impatient breath.

“Can we just have a nice supper?” Jared said.

“Can you not live with the spazzy fucktard who calls himself Death Threat?”

“Chill, okay? I just need a free place until my student loan comes in, then I’ll find a room or something.”

“Buttfucking Jesus on goddamn crutches.”

“Mom.”

“Don’t Mom me, genius. This is a crap plan.”

“It’s my life,” Jared said, pushing the plate away.

“Jared, you can barely manage warding. What’re you going to do if you run into something really fucking dangerous?”

His mom was a witch. For real. As he had found out definitively, just before he swore off the booze and the drugs. He’d always thought she was being melodramatic when she told him witch stuff. Then he was kidnapped by some angry otters and his shape-shifting father/
sperm donor stepped in to save him, along with his mother. He only lost a toe. Her particular talent was hexes, though she preferred giv­ing her enemies a good old-fashioned shit-kicking. Curses tended to bite you in the ass, she’d told him, and weren’t nearly as satisfying as physically throttling someone.

“Who’s going to bother me?” Jared said. “I got nothing anyone wants.”

“You’re the son of a Trickster,” she hissed.

“There’s a billion of us.” On one website he’d found 532 people claiming to be the children of Wee’git. Either Wee’git couldn’t keep it in his pants or a lot of people wanted to appear more exotic.

“You think you’re so fucking smart,” his mom said.

Jared recited the Serenity Prayer in his head. She shook another cigarette out of the pack and lit it off her butt before crushing it out on the full ashtray in the middle of the table. The TV went on in the living room. The recliner squealed.

“I’ll be out of your hair tomorrow,” Jared said. “You can forget you ever had me and party yourself to death.”

“You are testing my patience.”

It was always a bad sign when his mom stopped swearing. Jared focused on the tick of the kitchen clock to stay calm.

“You think I don’t love you,” she said. “Is that it?”

“I don’t think I’m high on your priority list.”

She got up and stood over him. She took her cigarette out of her mouth and he half-expected to get it in his face. He must have flinched, because her eyes narrowed dangerously.

She grabbed his chin. “You shoulda been a girl. Wah. Mommy doesn’t fucking love me. My feelings. My feeeeeelings.”

He shoved her hand away. “Get off me.”
 
“Are we done emoting?”

“I am.”

She backed up a step. “So I asked my sister if you could stay with her.”

Holy crap. Jared was stunned. His mom hadn’t spoken to her sis­ter since . . . forever. God. She really didn’t want him to stay with Death Threat.

“I dunno,” Jared said.

“Mave’s willing to put you up,” his mom said. “But be careful. She’s deaf to magic. Don’t bring it up around her. She’ll think you’re nuts and try to get you on antipsychotics.”

“I thought you hated her.”

“I do.”

She took a piece of paper out of her jean pocket and handed it to him. His throat tightened when he saw the name and number. His aunt, Mavis Moody, had tried to get custody of him when he was a baby, figuring her sister would be bad for any baby. His mom had married Philip Martin to avoid losing Jared. He couldn’t meet his mom’s eyes knowing how much of her pride she’d sacrificed to find him a safer place to crash. He dropped his head.

“Don’t say I never did anything for you,” she said.

Jared reached down, rifled through his backpack and gave her his grad picture.

She frowned. “Are you throwing it in my face? I only have grade eight and you’re a fucking high school graduate? You think that makes you special?”

“It’s just a picture,” Jared said. “Toss it if you don’t like it.”

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