HAPPY BIRTHDAYIf you didn’t hear BC fiction writer M.A.C. Farrant launching her most recent collection of stories the breakdown so far (Vancouver BC: Talonbooks, 2007) at the ottawa international writers festival a few weeks back, then you really missed out on something important. The author of a number of other collections of fiction as well as a memoir (that she's currently adapting into a stage piece), Farrant's fictions are quick, quirky and wonderfully lively. Reminiscent of shorter fictions by such Ontario writers as Gary Barwin and Stuart Ross for their quick style and surreal movements, these seem more like little fictions than little stories, and read far stronger than anything I've read in the genre of very short stories. These are not stories she tells that fictionalize aspects of her own day to day, but instead work as compact little fictions almost like little myths, and far more compact than most. If you like Sheila Heti's The Middle Stories (Toronto ON: Anansi, 2001) or either of John Lavery's collections of short stories with ECW Press, then you'll certainly like the short bursts of M.A.C. Farrant.
For George Bowering
I had a baby but it refused me, was not interested in nursing, made no demands. I put it in a closet, in its carrying cot, and when I went to get it, it was gone. The baby was a girl. Briefly, I was upset, panicked, ran looking for help, someone to report to. Ultimately it was to my sister-in-law. She'd moved the baby to another cupboard. "I need that cupboard for towels," she said. It was her cupboard, her towels. Soon after I left my sister-in-law's house. Put the baby into the back seat of the station wagon. Even though the baby still made no demands, I worried she might be hungry and stopped to nurse. She turned her head away. Clearly we were not bonding though I had tried. At home my husband said, "It's hormones, or you're a klutz, or who knows?" Then he lit my right nipple. My right nipple was a candle wick. In fact, I had five nipples located down my right front like a dog's. My husband lit all five. "Got to celebrate something," he said. But what? Then I remembered. Your birthday! Now I am back in the station wagon driving around with five burning nipples, your Happy Birthday song still sweet on my lips, and a baby who won't give me the time of day. But here's the thing: because of those nipples you get to make one birthday wish.
THE WOMAN WITH NO LEGS
Someone has cut off an old woman's legs and it wasn’t a man. It was another legless old woman, one of many who live like rats in the basements of department stores. They're a dangerous group, always on the prowl for recruits and replacement legs. They pull themselves along on their elbows. Once, when they had legs, they were agile and hopped like monkeys onto dinner tables to serve the family meal. Or scurried up flights of stairs carrying baskets full of children, amazing everyone. Now their hacked off stumps are feared. And the sight of their hair which is worn entwined with snakes and wreaths of blood. No one wants to join their party, but you can't avoid them. Each day they commandeer the public airwaves and broadcast their savage music, a discordant clashing of cymbals, horns, accordions, and drums. This means one or more of them has become a legless corpse and the hunt for replacement is on. We put on our steel pants then, wait for the all clear…