RUNNER-UP IN THE PROSE FICTION CATEGORY AT THE 2016 ALCUIN SOCIETY AWARDS FOR EXCELLENCE IN BOOK DESIGN IN CANADA
WINNER OF BEST BOOK COVER AT THE 2017 ALBERTA BOOK PUBLISHING AWARDS
In his debut story collection, Kevin A. Couture creates a world where the veneer of humanness stretches thin and often cracks, while burdened characters take on a variety of beast-like traits. In his desperate survival plan, a pre-teen "rescues" dogs in order to sell them back to their well-off owners. A hare-like marathon pacesetter reflects on the pace she sets, for others and for herself, both on and off the race route. A man confronts his drive for alcohol and the deadly and isolating consequences that leave him to risk his last scrap of control. And two kids, for different reasons, execute their plan to capture a bear cub.
Lost Animal Club combines the murky sensibilities of Lynn Coady's Hellgoing with the finely rendered, precise prose of R.W. Gray's Crisp and Alexander McLeod's Light Lifting. The writing is gripping, with metaphors and similes that are as startling as the harsh choices the characters make.
|Publisher:||NeWest Publishers, Limited|
|Product dimensions:||5.50(w) x 8.50(h) x (d)|
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Lost Animal Club
"Stay here. Understand?" I tell my sister. She's scowling at me from the sofa, scrunched up into an annoying little ball.
"You don't have to tell me every time, you know," she says.
I tie my shoes and ignore everything about her.
If we had a TV it wouldn't be so bad leaving her during the day, but we haven't had one for ages. No phone either, no games. Nothing in the kitchen that takes more effort than a can opener and nothing in the closet that isn't broken or meant for babies: a rubber duck with mould around the eyes, a useless pack of diapers, one half of a giant clothespin. Truth is every¬thing we own wouldn't keep a hamster amused for more than five minutes.
"Cezary?" she goes on, "I have questions."
I hold up two fingers.
"Why can't I come with you?"
"You can't keep up. Number two?"
"Can you tell me a joke?"
That was Mom's trick, jokes. The cheapest entertainment around. She'd tell stupid knock-knock stuff to Pillow but I'd get some good ones once in a while. Punch lines she'd have to whisper, starting with, "Don't repeat this to your sister, Cezary. This one's for grownups, okay?"
But Mom's not here anymore. And I have bigger things to worry about.
"No," I say. "There's nothing funny today."
I grab the leash and head to our bathroom, otherwise known as the holding pen. The latest dog--a lab cross with "Dude" written on his tag--lies on the bathmat. He wags his tail as I clip the leash to his collar. Another example of blind trust built on the principle of what other choice do I have? The reason this whole thing works.
"Okay, Dude. Time to go."
I lead him to the couch where Pillow's sitting. I usually don't do this but she's had the never-ending wrinkle on her forehead all week. "Take a second," I tell her. "Say goodbye." Her eyes shine as she pets the ridiculous animal, kisses his nose like he was hers all along. I make a hurry-up face but let her have this time with him anyway. I can read people the same as animals; the extra few seconds are worth it.
It's a bit of a walk to Dude's house but the dog doesn't mind, exploring bus stops and building corners, investigating mounds of trash along the way. Right now he's looking at me sideways, carrying a Starbucks cup in his mouth like it's free money. Dude's a bit of a moron and all I can hope is this isn't a reflection of his owners. Another hope I'm banking on--that his owners care about him as much as he cares about garbage. When I get close, I take the Lost Dog poster out of my pocket. Hold it up like I'm checking the address, like I'm lost myself. It's a good thing too, because there's someone outside patching up the front stairs. A man with a bandana on his forehead, a Raiders shirt, loose jeans with white, powdery stains. He sees me and walks over, pointing with his cement trowel.
"Hey," he says. "That's my dog."
I smile and hold up the poster. "Thank goodness," I say. And though it's over the top, I run with Dude the last little bit, clap my hands when the man takes the leash. I make sure he sees the shirt I'm wearing too, the one with the embroidered hockey skate that makes me look way younger than I actually am. I know from experience--people trust kids a lot more than they trust twelve-year-olds.
"Where did you get him?"
"He was wandering around by the bridge. Lucky I spotted him, I guess."
The man looks into the dog's ears, feels each leg like he's checking for damage. He keeps an eye on me the whole time though, suspicious as a 7-Eleven clerk. "I know what it said on the poster, but there's no reward," he says finally, raising one eyebrow and staring into my face. "I've got nothing for you."
"I'm just happy your dog is safe. That's good enough for me."
I turn and walk down the street, whistle that song from the Lucky Charms commercial, stop and retie my shoelaces.
"Wait," the man yells. He clips Dude to the railing and digs for his wallet. "I was only testing you. Here."
I take the reward and put it in my pocket, doing my best to look surprised instead of desperate. There's no question we need the money way more than he does, but this part--the tense few seconds of contact, the slow-motion handing over of cash--is where I really feel guilty. Where I'm actually embarrassed about this whole friggin' thing.