Eighty-five stories by one of Canada’s greatest writers are collected in this four-volume anthology. Several pieces of Morley Callaghan’s short fiction are collected here for the first time, while some which have been out of print for decades are now made available. Each volume contains a section providing the year of publication for each story, a question-and-answer section, and comprehensive editorial notes. As a whole, this series is essential reading for understanding the growth and importance of Canadian literature.
About the Author
Morley Callaghan was a novelist and short story writer. He is the author of numerous books, including A Literary Life, The New Yorker Stories, Such Is My Beloved, and That Summer in Paris. He is the recipient of the Governor General’s Award and was made a Companion of the Order of Canada. Anne Michaels is the author of the novels Fugitive Pieces and The Winter Vault, and three books of poetry: Miner’s Pond, winner of the Canadian Authors Association Award and short-listed for both the Governor General’s Award and the Trillium Award; Skin Divers; and The Weight of Oranges, winner of the Commonwealth Prize for the Americas. She lives in Toronto.
Read an Excerpt
The young man from the Historical Club with a green magazine under his arm got off the train at Clintonville. It was getting dark but the station lights were not lit. He hurried along the platform and jumped down on the sloping cinder path to the sidewalk.
Trees stood alongside the walk, branches dropping low, leaves scraping occasionally against the young man's straw hat. He saw a cluster of lights, bluish-white in the dusk across a river, many for a small town. He crossed the lift-lock bridge and turned on to the main street. A hotel was at the corner.
At the desk a bald-headed man in a blue shirt, the sleeves rolled up, looked critically at the young man while he registered. "All right, Mr. Flaherty," he said, inspecting the signature carefully.
"Do you know many people around here?" Mr. Flaherty asked.
"Just about everybody."
"The old lady?"
"Yeah, the old lady."
"Sure, Mrs. Anna Rower. Around the corner to the left, then turn to the right on the first street, the house opposite the Presbyterian church on the hill."
"An old family?" suggested the young man.
"An old-timer all right." The hotel man made it clear by a twitching of his lips that he was a part of the new town, canal, water power, and factories.
Mr. Flaherty sauntered out and turned to the left. It was dark and the street had the silence of small towns in the evening. Turning a corner he heard girls giggling in a doorway. He looked at the church on the hill, the steeple dark against the sky. He had forgotten whether the man had said beside the church or across the road, but could not make up his mind to ask the fellow who was watering the wide church lawn. No lights in the shuttered windows of the roughcast house beside the church. He came down the hill and had to yell three times at the man because the water swished strongly against the grass.
"All right, thanks. Right across the road," Mr. Flaherty repeated.
Tall trees screened the square brick house. Looking along the hall to a lighted room, Mr. Flaherty saw an old lady standing at a sideboard. "She's in all right," he thought, rapping on the screen door. A large woman of about forty, dressed in a blue skirt and blue blouse, came down the stairs. She did not open the screen door.
"Could I speak to Mrs. Anna Rower?"
"I'm Miss Hilda Rower."
"I'm from the University Historical Club."
"What did you want to see Mother for?"
Mr. Flaherty did not like talking through the screen door. "I wanted to talk to her," he said firmly.
"Well, maybe you'd better come in."
He stood in the hall while the large woman lit the gas in the front room. The gas flared up, popped, showing fat hips and heavy lines on her face. Mr. Flaherty, disappointed, watched her swaying down the hall to get her mother. He carefully inspected the front room, the framed photographs of dead Conservative politicians, the group of military men hanging over the old-fashioned piano, the faded greenish wallpaper and the settee in the corner.
An old woman with a knot of white hair and good eyes came into the room, walking erectly. "This is the young man who wanted to see you, Mother," Miss Hilda Rower said. They all sat down. Mr. Flaherty explained he wanted to get some information concerning the Rower genealogical tree for the next meeting of his society. The Rowers, he knew, were a pioneer family in the district, and descended from William the Conqueror, he had heard.
The old lady laughed thinly, swaying from side to side. "It's true enough, but I don't know who told you. My father was Daniel Rower, who came to Ontario from Cornwall in 1830."
Miss Hilda Rower interrupted. "Wait, Mother, you may not want to tell about it." Brusque and businesslike, she turned to the young man. "You want to see the family tree, I suppose."
"My father was a military settler here," the old lady said.
"I don't know but what we might be able to give you some notes," Miss Hilda spoke generously.
"Thanks awfully, if you will."
"Of course you're prepared to pay something if you're going to print it," she added, smugly adjusting her big body in the chair.
Mr. Flaherty got red in the face; of course he understood, but to tell the truth he had merely wanted to chat with Mrs. Rower. Now he knew definitely he did not like the heavy nose and unsentimental assertiveness of the lower lip of this big woman with the wide shoulders. He couldn't stop looking at her thick ankles. Rocking back and forth in the chair she was primly conscious of lineal superiority; a proud unmarried woman, surely she could handle a young man, half-closing her eyes, a young man from the university indeed. "I don't want to talk to her about the university," he thought.
Old Mrs. Rower went into the next room and returned with a framed genealogical tree of the house of Rower. She handed it graciously to Mr. Flaherty, who read, "The descent of the family of Rower, from William the Conqueror, from Malcom 1st, and from the Capets, Kings of France." It bore the imprimatur of the College of Arms, 1838.
"It's wonderful to think you have this," Mr. Flaherty said, smiling at Miss Hilda, who watched him suspiciously.
"A brother of mine had it all looked up," old Mrs. Rower said.
"You don't want to write about that," Miss Hilda said, crossing her ankles. The ankles looked much thicker crossed. "You just want to have a talk with Mother."
"That's it," Mr. Flaherty smiled agreeably.
"We may write it up ourselves someday." Her heavy chin dipped down and rose again.
"Sure, why not?"
"But there's no harm in you talking to Mother if you want to, I guess."
"You could write a good story about that tree," Mr. Flaherty said, feeling his way.
"We may do it some day but it'll take time," she smiled complacently at her mother, who mildly agreed.
Mr. Flaherty talked pleasantly to this woman, who was so determined he would not learn anything about the family tree without paying for it. He tried talking about the city, then tactfully asked old Mrs. Rower what she remembered of the Clintonville of seventy years ago. The old lady talked willingly, excited a little. She went into the next room to get a book of clippings. "My father, Captain Rower, got a grant of land from the Crown and cleared it," she said, talking over her shoulder. "A little way up the Trent River. Clintonville was a small military settlement then ..."
"Oh, Mother, he doesn't want to know all about that," Miss Hilda said impatiently.
"It's very interesting indeed."
The old woman said nervously, "My dear, what difference does it make? You wrote it all up for the evening at the church."
"So I did too," she hesitated, thinking the young man ought to see how well it was written. "I have an extra copy." She looked at him thoughtfully. He smiled. She got up and went upstairs.
The young man talked very rapidly to the old lady and took many notes.
Miss Rower returned. "Would you like to see it?" She handed him a small gray booklet. Looking quickly through it, he saw it contained valuable information about the district.
"The writing is simply splendid. You must have done a lot of work on it."
"I worked hard on it," she said, pleased and more willing to talk.
"Is this an extra copy?"
"Yes, it's an extra copy."
"I suppose I might keep it," he said diffidently.
She looked at him steadily. "Well ... I'll have to charge you twenty-five cents."
"Sure, sure, of course, that's fine." He blushed.
"Just what it costs to get them out," the old lady explained apologetically.
"Can you change a dollar?" He fumbled in his pocket, pulling the dollar out slowly.
They could not change it but Miss Rower would be pleased to go down to the corner grocery store. Mr. Flaherty protested. No trouble he would go. She insisted on asking the next-door neighbor to change it. She went across the room, the dollar in hand.
Mr. Flaherty chatted with the nice old lady and carefully examined the family tree, and wrote quickly in a small book till the screen door banged, the curtains parted, and Miss Hilda Rower came into the room. He wanted to smirk, watching her walking heavily, so conscious of her ancient lineage, a virginal mincing sway to her large hips, seventy-five cents' change held loosely in drooping fingers.
"Thank you," he said, pocketing the change, pretending his work was over. Sitting back in the chair he praised the way Miss Rower had written the history of the neighborhood and suggested she might write a splendid story of the family tree, if she had the material, of course.
"I've got the material, all right," she said, trying to get comfortable again. How would Mr. Flaherty arrange it and where should she try to sell it? The old lady was dozing in the rocking chair. Miss Rower began to talk rather nervously about her material. She talked of the last title in the family and the Sir Richard who had been at the court of Queen Elizabeth.
Mr. Flaherty chimed in gaily, "I suppose you know the O'Flahertys were kings in Ireland?
She said vaguely, "I daresay, I daresay," conscious only of an interruption to the flow of her thoughts. She went on talking with hurried eagerness, all the fine talk about her ancestors bringing her peculiar satisfaction. A soft light came into her eyes and her lips were moist.
Mr. Flaherty started to rub his cheek, and looked at her big legs, and felt restive, and then embarrassed, watching her closely, her lower lip hanging loosely. She was talking slowing, lazily, relaxing in her chair, a warm fluid oozing through her veins, exhausting but satisfying her.
He was uncomfortable. She was liking it too much. He did not know what to do. There was something immodest about it. She was close to forty, her big body relaxed in the chair. He looked at his watch and suggested he would be going. She stretched her legs graciously, pouting, inviting him to stay a while longer, but he was standing up, tucking his magazine under his arm. The old lady was still dozing. "I'm so comfortable," Miss Rower said, "I hate to move."
The mother woke up and shook hands with Mr. Flaherty. Miss Rower got up to say good-bye charmingly.
Halfway down the path Mr. Flaherty turned. She was standing in the doorway, partly shadowed by the tall trees, bright moonlight filtering through leaves touching soft lines on her face and dark hair.
He went down the hill to the hotel unconsciously walking with a careless easy stride, wondering at the change that had come over the heavy, strong woman. He thought of taking a walk along the river in the moonlight, the river on which old Captain Rower had drilled troops on the ice in the winter of 1837 to fight the rebels. Then he thought of having a western sandwich in the café across the road from the hotel. That big woman in her own way had been hot stuff.
In the hotel he asked to be called early so he could get the first train to the city. For a long time he lay awake in the fresh, cool bed, the figure of the woman whose ancient lineage had taken the place of a lover in her life, drifting into his thoughts and becoming important while he watched on the wall the pale moonlight that had softened the lines of her face, and wondered if it was still shining on her bed, and on her throat, and on her contented, lazily relaxed body.CHAPTER 2
Have you ever known a man you couldn't insult, humiliate, or drive away? When I was working in an advertising agency in charge of layouts, Lawson Wilks, a freelance commercial artist, came in to see me with all the assurance of a man who expects a warm, fraternal handshake. As soon as I saw him bowing and showing his teeth in a tittering smile, as if he were waiting to burst out laughing, I disliked him. Without saying a word I looked at his work spread out on my desk and, though it was obvious he had some talent, I wasn't really interested in his work. I was wondering what was so soft and unresisting, yet so audacious about him that made me want to throw him out of the office.
"I'll get in touch with you if I ever need you," I said coldly, handing him his folder.
"All right. Thanks a lot," he said, and stood there grinning at me.
"Is there anything else I can do for you?" I asked.
"Oh, no, nothing. But I've wanted to meet you, that's all."
"You honor me."
"I've heard about you."
"What have you heard about me?"
"I know people who know you, and besides, I've admired your work a lot. I can open a newspaper and spot a layout that you've had a hand in at once."
"Thanks. Now you flatter me."
"Are you going out to lunch?"
"I've a very important date. I'm meeting my wife."
"I've often talked to my own wife about you. She'd like to meet you sometime," he said.
"Please thank her for me," I said. "And now if you'll excuse me ..."
"Listen ... let's have a drink together sometime. That's one of the two things we have in common," he said, shaking with soft laughter.
I was so enraged I couldn't answer for a moment. All my friends knew I had been drinking hard and couldn't stop and in the late afternoons my nerves used to go to pieces in the office. Sometimes it was terrible waiting for five o'clock so I could run out and get a whiskey and soda. Every day it got harder for me to go to work and, besides, I was doing crazy things with friends at night I couldn't remember the next morning that used to humiliate me when they were mentioned to me. I thought he was mocking me, but I waited a moment and said, "Drinking, yes! And you might be good enough to tell me what the other thing is we are lucky enough to have in common."
"Why, I thought you'd notice it," he said. He was so truly, yet good-naturedly embarrassed, that I was astonished. I stared at him. There he was about my size, plump, dark, overweight, wider across the middle than across the shoulders, and with a little black mustache.
"What is it?" I insisted.
"People have always said I looked like you," he said with a deprecating, yet easy swing of his arm.
"I see, I see what you mean," I said, and got up and was walking him toward the door.
"I'll phone you sometime," he said, and he wrung my hand very warmly.
As soon as he had gone, I looked in the mirror on the wall and rubbed my hand softly over my face. It was not a flabby face. I was fat, but my shoulders were strong and heavy. I began to make loud, clucking, contemptuous noises with my tongue.
One night a week later my legs went on me and I thought I was losing my mind. My wife begged me to take some kind of a treatment. It was about half past eleven at night and I was lying on the bed in my pajamas trembling, and with strange vivid pictures floating through my thoughts and terrifying me because I kept thinking I would see them next day at the office and I would not be able to do my work. My legs were twitching. I couldn't keep them still. My wife, who is very gentle and has never failed me at any time since we've been married, was kneeling down, rubbing my bare legs and making the blood flow warm and alive in them, till they began to seem as if they belonged to me.
Then the phone rang and my wife answered it and came back and said, "A man says he is a friend of yours, a business associate."
I didn't want any business associate to know I couldn't go to the phone so I put on my slippers and groped my way to it and said with great dignity, "Hello. Who is it?"
"It's Lawson Wilks," the voice said, and I heard his easy intimate self-possessed laughter.
"What do you want?" I yelled.
"I thought you might want to have a drink with me. I'm not far away. I'm in a tavern just two blocks from your place."
I suddenly had a craving for a drink and felt like going out to meet him, and then loathed myself and shouted, "No, no, no. I don't want a drink. I'm not going out. I'm terribly busy. Do you understand?"
"Okay," he said. "I'll call you again. I was just thinking about you."
I saw him in October, about a week after I had taken three months' leave of absence from the office, trying to get myself in hand so I wouldn't have to go away to a nursing home. I really wasn't making much of a fight and sometimes I was ashamed. I looked shabby, twitching a lot. I sat for hours smiling to myself. I couldn't bear to have anyone see me.
On a dark windy day I was sitting in the Golden Bowl Tavern with a whiskey and soda, promising myself I would not have another drink, not until I had read the Sunday paper at least. Then I looked up and saw that Wilks had come in and was grinning at me with warm delight, as much as I've ever seen on a man's face. While I turned away sullenly, he sat down, ordered a whiskey, and nodding at my glass, said, "The same thing, you see. Didn't I tell you?"
"Didn't you tell me what?" I said. He looked pretty terrible to me. His dull eyes were pouchy, and he seemed heavier and softer. As he raised his glass his hand trembled. When he noticed me staring at him, his face lit up with fraternal goodwill. I wanted to insult him. "You better watch out," I whispered. "The heeby-jeebies'll get you. They'll have to take you outa here soon."
In a tone that maddened me, because he meant no offence, he said, "We're taking the same trip, my friend."
"You don't mind me sitting here, do you?"
"Sit here if you want," I said. "I'm reading the paper."
It was a pleasure to see him looking such a wreck. I was delighted sitting there turning the pages of the paper slowly, never looking up at him while his voice droned on, patient, friendly, dead. Surely anyone else in the world would have found it too humiliating, sitting there like that, yet he said, "Do you mind letting me have the comics?"(Continues…)
Excerpted from "The Complete Stories of Morley Callaghan Volume Two"
Copyright © 2012 The Estate of Morley Callaghan and Exile Editions.
Excerpted by permission of Exile Editions Ltd.
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Table of Contents
Day by Day,
Amuck in the Bush,
Last Spring They Came Over,
The Little Businessman,
The White Pony,
Loppy Phelan's Double Shoot,
On the Edge of a World,
A Little Beaded Bag,
A Cocky Young Man,
Let Me Promise You,
She's Nothing to Me,
A Princely Affair,
One Spring Night,
In His Own Country,
Dates of Original Publications; Questions for Discussion and Essays; Selected Related Reading; Of Interest on the Web; Editor's Endnotes,