Every Minute Is a Suicide: Stories

Every Minute Is a Suicide: Stories

by Bruce McDougall


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A collection of short stories centred on a father's disappearance and his son's decades-long journey toward answers.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780889843776
Publisher: Porcupine's Quill, Incorporated
Publication date: 10/15/2014
Pages: 192
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.70(h) x 0.80(d)

About the Author

Bruce McDougall has been a freelance writer for more than 25 years. He has written or co-written sixteen non-fiction books, including biographies of Charles Mair, the Canadian poet; John Wilson Murray, Canada's first detective; and Ted Rogers. He has published essays in The Antigonish Review and short stories in Geist, subTerrain and Scrivener. His non-fiction novel, The Last Hockey Game, will be published in 2014 by Goose Lane Editions. He is a graduate of Harvard College, where he was an editor of The Harvard Lampoon, and attended the University of Toronto Law School before becoming a full-time writer. He lives in Toronto.

Read an Excerpt

A Dangerous Man

Our mother told us years later that she'd moved us away from our father because he'd hit her, and she'd begun to fear that he might start hitting us too. "I wasn't afraid of what he might do to me," she explained. "But I was awfully worried that he might hurt you."

At first, it felt exciting to ask our mother to tell us this story. My sister and I listened as if she was describing a close encounter with a train wreck. We felt lucky to have survived unscathed. But our mother never changed her story, and her one-note explanation of why she'd abandoned our father became a bit boring. Eventually, the excitement wore off, and we let the subject drop.

I never dared to challenge her story or ask her to elaborate on the details. I never asked her to explain why she'd married our father in the first place, what led him to become such a brutal man, or how she could have had children with such an oaf. I didn't ask such questions, because I knew that the answer had something to do with me, and I didn't want to remind our mother that she could have had a better life without me. With one of my parents gone, only she remained standing between me and the world. I wasn't about to give her the chance to abandon me the way she'd abandoned my dad. So I kept my questions to myself and made up the answers as I went along.

My sister and I thought our mother was a brittle woman. She let us know that she was doing her best to provide for us, but she also made us feel that, if we asked for too much, she might break down under the strain. If she broke down, my sister and I would have no one but each other to look after us, and by then neither my sister nor I really trusted each other to come through in a pinch. After all, my sister at the age of eleven had known for months that we would move away from my dad. Our mother had sworn her to secrecy, and she had said nothing about it to me. Who would keep such a secret from someone she loved and trusted? My sister was not my ally. She was my mother's daughter.

My sister and I both knew it was too much to ask our mother to explain in detail her reasons for abandoning our father. It wasn't her job to satisfy our curiosity, and we didn't press the issue. We just did as we were told. He was a dangerous man, and neither my sister nor I wanted any more danger in our lives. It took our dad more than a year to find us.

We'd moved in August to a house in the new suburbs west of the city. There was an empty field across from our house and a shopping mall at the end of our street with a drugstore and a grocery store, and a highway beyond that. On the other side of the highway, there were apple orchards and dairy farms and a creek where my friends and I went fishing for chub with hooks fastened to string tied around branches; we sat under trees and ate beans out of tin cans that we later crushed and buried under a rock.

At night I would lie on my sister's bed while she did her homework, listening to John Sprague, the disc jockey on CHUM. I liked songs like "Wolverton Mountain" and "The Battle of New Orleans" and "All American Boy", especially when Bobby Bare sang about sitting with the girls in the back seat of a Cadillac. My sister would tell me ghost stories, and sometimes we'd sneak out the side door of our house and creep around in the dark like commandos through our neighbours' backyards. It was a pretty good life, and I didn't think I missed my father.

(Continue reading in Every Minute Is a Suicide...)

Table of Contents

Mom takes a husband

Just ask her to dance

White lies

A dangerous man

Sunday dinner

An available woman


Ernie Bates goes golfing

The chosen ones

Break, break, break

Adventures, with dog

Billy's dad

The man on the train



How I spent my summer vacation

Men of honour

Every minute is a suicide

Other men's wives

What People are Saying About This

Steven Heighton

'At the heart of this book is a remarkable piece of writing, "Every minute is a suicide". Its emotional arc-from cyanide sarcasm to a tentative redemption, a deeply moving forgiveness of self and others-is brilliantly finessed. McDougall can be uproarious and heartbreaking in the same paragraph, even the same sentence. And none of it feels faked.'

Shelagh Rogers

'These stories are wonderful. They flow so easily. They have such a strong sense of place. These stories relate to and reinforce each other in the same way as themes and motifs do in a symphony. I felt a natural storyteller is at work here.'

Peter Carter

Like the songs on [the Beatles' masterpiece Abbey Road], McDougall's stories are easily savored one at a time but they're best as a collection. Abbey Road songs whip you through the human emotional universe as do McDougall's wonderful and surprising tales. It's his first collection. I hope it's not his last.

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