Walking into the room, the elevation changed and I found the air thin. I breathed deeper by instinct, and my lungs contracted on finding that they did not draw in more oxygen as a result. My chest felt heavy.

―You’ll get used to it, she said.

It took me a while. For the first month I walked as close to the ground as possible in an attempt to take in more oxygen.


Thomas Hates Peas

Thomas is five and he hates peas. He is given a class assignment to write about his favourite things. He writes:

“I like everything. But I hate hate hate hate hate hate hate hate hate hate hate hate hate peas.”


A girl grows up differently from a boy. While the boy is memorizing the names of dinosaurs, the girl goes to the grocery story with her mother who teaches her how to choose ripe, unblemished fruit. Later, as the girl’s husband picks apples without checking them for bruises, she will get angry and as he asks incredulously why it even matters, she will cry back, It matters, without fully understanding why.

Michael and Spider

Michael and Spider lived in a small house on Maple Street, two blocks from Kin’s Farm Market and four blocks from the bus stop for the number 7 going downtown. Michael had a little garden in which he grew tomatoes and radishes during the summer. Spider preferred the indoors, settling next to Michael’s bookshelf and lamp. She had a vague memory of living outside once, in some past life, but she could not remember how she had done it. Michael would leave the back door open to let in flies, and Spider would happily catch them. In the winter, Michael would sit in his kitchen, staring at the rain outside, while Spider wove snowflake shapes into her web. When Michael made coffee, the scent would waft through the house and make Spider’s feet itch. Spider sometimes had to resort to centipedes in the cold weather, but if Michael left fruit out until it began to rot, flies would breed in it. This made Spider happy, but not Michael. He would sigh at the molding fruit, let the stinking pile sit for a day or two as though it would disappear on its own, then throw it out reluctantly.

Michael liked spiders. He let other spiders live at his home if they came in, but Spider hated that. They were always small, black specks, or gangly thread-legged types that had no talent for web-building. They only made the house seem dirty, which caused their occasional guests to make remarks about cleanliness and housekeeping, and threaten to kill Spider, whose web was the most beautiful. So Spider made sure to push out all the other spiders whenever she could. That way, their house would always look tidy.

There was nothing she could do about the dust, though, which stuck stubbornly to Spider’s web and made it look tacky and old. When this happened, Spider would climb up on top of Chambers Dictionary and watch as Michael lugged out his heavy vacuum cleaner and swept through the whole house, making grunting noises as the vacuum banged into the walls and furniture in its path. When he was done, Michael would collapse onto the sofa as Spider climbed back to the lamp and began to string up her web again. Michael would watch with the sweat clinging to his back and neck as she set up her support threads and wove her hypnotic spirals, becoming drowsier and drowsier. After that they would have a little conversation, Michael half asleep on his sofa, muttering about what to make for supper, and Spider on her web, gesturing delicately about what a nice house they live in.

Maligne Lake

When I was young, there was a boy. He and I swam in the cold waters of Maligne Lake. The waters made us strange, so cold no sensible person would dare to swim in them. I was young and stupid. I told him that I would marry him, and he smiled at me with his big bright eyes and gave me a kiss. My father said I was stupid. I shouldn’t be thinking of marrying yet, and later when I’m older, I should be looking for a sensible man. My mother told me that I’ll later forget him. And when I became older, and my daughter began visiting every Saturday to keep me company, to make sure the nurse was treating me well, I began to see him again. So clearly in front of me: his deep brown eyes, always laughing and kind, shaded by dark little lashes under heavy, creased lids, and above them two soft eyebrows, thick with youth and happiness. His forehead was not too wide, and his cheeks were framed neatly by a proud jawline. At the centre, a rough, angled nose struck defiantly against the sun, the indentation below it, as small as the tip of my little finger, and red lips, inviting and warm, under which lay his round chin. As his face pulled away from me, I recognized his whispering brown hair, tossing carelessly in the cold summer air, dry from the swim we took an hour ago. His shoulders were just as strong and wide as I remembered them, his hand just brushing against my knee. His rough elbow leaned against mine. I breathed in the scent of trees and wild grasses, felt the sun against my bare feet and the prickle of twigs underneath my legs. And I saw the sun past the mountains, wondered what life would have been like if we had run away that day. Where we would have lived, who our children would be. If we would continue to swim in cold lakes together, or if we would live in a small house together, or if we would have eventually fallen apart because the world would not hold us upright. But we were children then and we did not run away.

As the sun set, his warm, smooth back against the cold air, and I rested myself against him, feeling how strong he was compared to me. In the end, neither of us proved strong. All I have left, of anything, is the image of our few days in summer spent together before both of us grew up.


Today I heard a round music. The pencil crossed over itself and drew a circle to ensnare me. A chime rang through. The earth was a perfect sphere. The air formed a perfect cone.

Yesterday I heard a sharp music. The chalk grated against the wall and broke itself in half. The needle etched a diagonal line. The dust was filled with broken glass. My ear filled with distant screams.

Tomorrow I will hear a perfect line. Forever it will repeat itself and will always be the same. The growing vine will appear round as a ball and shade me from the rain. A word will emerge in the distance, farther than the eye can reach.


Place a flat rock on the ground. Walk around it five times. A storm will fall and break the rock in two. One part will be collected by the sky
The other will be taken home. A boat made of sticks capsizes in the sea, bringing its two passengers into the grave.

The Sound of Bells

I once saw a bright spark in William’s eyes, a purpose wanting to be spoken, how bright his eyes shone, and our world so dark, his spark drew moths and critics so he dared not speak. Smouldered so long in the pit, it eventually grew faint, an idea at the edge of memory, nearly forgotten, its forgotten name, an object that occurred outside the body, away from his self, my eyes could not see where. There was an opening for a carillon player in Hamilton, many years later, as some weak apology against the sins of poor timing, its cruelty. I asked him about it, would he apply himself, take up a different fate than that which had come to him by accident. His eyes searched the distance, the spark’s new home invisible to him, searched, as if the light in the distance could be his. He thought, and decisions were always hard to make. The progression of time weighed on him, as his spark once did, a burden of existence, broken, as we are from our trials. The ground wept with realisation, we must age unlike it, and with it, we change faces though our lives cannot change, our passage inevitable, told to us through stories since the beginning. A semblance of control brightened the spark, then died. I left him after we ate and nothing had changed, but the ground a bit damper than we remembered, our feet a little heavier, our joints harder, our eyes dimmer.