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About the Author

Keath Fraser

Keath Fraser's stories and novellas have been reprinted in numerous Canadian and international anthologies. His essays on writing are reprinted in the anthologyHow Stories Mean(PQL, 1993). He is the author of two earlier acclaimed story collections, Taking Cover (Oberon, 1982) and Foreign Affairs (Stoddart, 1985). His novel, Popular Anatomy (PQL, 1995), won the 1996 Chapters/Books in Canada First Novel Award. He has travelled extensively throughout the world and has edited the best selling international anthologies Bad Trips (Vintage, 1991) and Worst Journeys: The Picador Book of Travel (1992). He was born and raised in Vancouver, where he lives at present, and is a director of Canada India Village Aid (CIVA).

Books by this Author
As for Me and My Body

As for Me and My Body

A Memoir of Sinclair Ross
edition:Paperback
also available: eBook
tagged : canadian
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Charity
Excerpt

Charity

 

It seemed as unlikely as the venerable Shakespeare actor once dating a Supreme. Never having heard of him Greta was certain she had heard one or two Supreme songs. “Baby love, my baby love …” Teasing us she laughed in her unruly way. “Is that the one?” I felt it better to say nothing more in case idle talk increased her willful attraction to this man four times her age and half her weight. If they were more than friends, neither Patrick nor I really wanted to know. A liaison like theirs might be plausible in a celebrity world of relaxed shack-ups, but to us it felt ridiculous.

“He’s peacocking!” said Patrick.

We liked Rudy, it was not that, even my parents had enjoyed his company, and we trusted him once to babysit Greta when our regular sitter had had a conflict. He melted her cheese bagel and dusted the den. At musical chairs she’d made him lift the needle off Baby Beluga so many times he cricked his wrist. He waggled it, that evening on our return, punctuating his account of their time getting acquainted. Like a house on fire? I didn’t ask. Before bed came Princess Mouseskin—although he confessed she hadn’t settled until they played Chinese checkers on her pillow. Younger, two decades ago, our old family friend was already balding and recently into a comfortable retirement.

So no, it was not his lack of trustworthiness, at least not quite. I was puzzled the next morning by what I found on Greta’s bedspread. His effect on her was coincidental. The prospect lately of imagining him bobbing up and down atop our daughter, who would be unable to stop laughing at his effeteness, discomfited us. Having to toilet him before she was thirty could well turn her compulsive laughter manic. She loved long swims, so it seemed grotesque to contemplate for her an abridged future of pre-palliative care. Patrick confided to me, and I wished he hadn’t, it would be like mating the family’s pet goat to a rubber raft. Shamefully then, every time Rudy arrived that summer to take her chopping carrots—once our front door closed, and we watched him in the driveway ushering her regally into his Nash Metropolitan, we fell apart on the floor.

Howling?

We could as well have wept.

“Vintage slapstick,” said Patrick. “He and that puddle-jumper!”

The fullback bulk she inherited from her father. Until she turned nine, I had cooked leanly for them both, after which, when they wouldn’t suspend their taco top-ups before bed, I gave in to more lamb roasts than were good for either. By fourteen she weighed approximately half her father’s weight, and by nineteen all of it. By twenty I turned to Pacific cod and deluxe veggie burgers, too late to reconstitute her chronic hunger. I knew she was compensating on campus with oriental fare—just not of the Japanese variety. Pork, I guessed, not tuna—thick Shanghai noodles instead of sushi. Patrick had her tested for diabetes and an underactive thyroid, prescribed a statin for cholesterol, and made a valid attempt to put things right by yielding to a better regimen himself. But he was unable to resist the snacks his clinic should not have provided its staff, but did, continuing on his own to measure between Important and Severe on the Body Mass Index and so proving a poor model for the younger doctors, their patients, his own daughter.

Greta herself wondered about bariatric surgery, to reduce the capacity of her abounding belly. Patrick poo-pooed this and checked her further for sleep apnea and atrial fibrillation.

A perfectionist about everything but her weight, she was sailing through college as she had through school. Academically, that is. She enjoyed snap quizzes as much as acrostic puzzles. Do No Harm proclaimed the guiding motto of her current faculty, and if an unexpected headwind blew up in her ethics course, her tack was squally but never unscrupulous. For example, one evening over dinner at Pastis, she put it to us: “When could eliminating sodium chloride entirely from the food you serve be called an act of love?”

“At Macdonald’s,” said Patrick, “definitely.”

She looked serious.

“Go on, sweetie.”

He knew from listening to patients it was better to establish a baseline than answer any query too soon. A case history required forbearance, especially in ethical riddles of the heart, of which Patrick was convinced this was one, and not a practical question about blood pressure. Margaret claimed it was an interesting conundrum if we could imagine the consequences in a world of older men like Kim.

“Rudy?” I said.

“His taste buds,” she explained, “have withered enough. Rudy’s.”

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Damages

Damages

Selected Stories 1982-2012
edition:Paperback
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The Voice Gallery

The Voice Gallery

Travels with a Glass Throat
edition:Hardcover
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The Luck of Ginger Coffey

The Luck of Ginger Coffey

by Brian Moore
afterword by Keath Fraser
edition:Paperback
also available: Paperback
tagged : literary
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Excerpt

Fifteen dollars and three cents. He counted it and put it in his trouser-pocket. Then picked his Tyrolean hat off the dresser, wondering if the two Alpine buttons and the little brush dingus in the hatband weren’t a shade jaunty for the place he was going. Still, they might be lucky to him. And it was a lovely morning, clear and crisp and clean. Maybe that was a good augury. Maybe today his ship would come in.

James Francis (Ginger) Coffey then risked it into the kitchen. His wife was at the stove. His daughter Paulie sat listless over Corn Flakes. He said “Good morning,” but his only answer came from Michel, the landlady’s little boy, who was looking out the window.

“What’s up, lad?” Coffey asked, joining Michel. Together, man and boy, they watched a Montreal Roads Department tractor clambering on and off the pavement as it shunted last night’s snowfall into the street.

“Sit down, Ginger, you’re as bad as the child,” his wife said, laying his breakfast on the kitchen table.
He tried her again. “Good morning, Veronica.”

His mother was just in,” said she, pointing to Michel. “Wanting to know how long we were going to keep the place on. I told her you’d speak to her. So don’t forget to pop upstairs and give our notice the minute you have the tickets.”

“Yes, dear.” Flute! Couldn’t a man get a bite of breakfast into him before she started that nattering? He knew about telling Madame Beaulieu. All right.
A boiled egg, one slice of toast and his tea. It was not enough. Breakfast was his best meal; she knew that. But in the crying poverty mood that was on her these last weeks, he supposed she’d take his head off altogether if he asked her for a second egg. Still, he tried.

“Would you make us another egg?” he said.

“Make it yourself,” she said.

He turned to Paulie. “Pet, would you shove an egg on for me?”

“Daddy, I’m late.”

Ah, well. If it was to be a choice between food and begging them to do the least thing, then give him hunger any day. He ate his egg and toast, drank a second cup of tea and went out into the hall to put his coat on. Sheepskin-lined it was, his pride and joy; thirty guineas it had cost him at Aquascutum.

But she came after him before he could flee the coop. “Now, remember to phone me the minute you pick up the tickets,” she said. “And ask them about the connection from Southampton with the boat train for Dublin. Because I want to put that into my letter to Mother this afternoon.”

“Right, dear.”

“And, by the way, Gerry Grosvenor’s coming in at five. So don’t you be stravaging in at six, do you hear?”

What did she have to ask Gerry Grosvenor up here for? They could have said good-by to Gerry downtown. Didn’t she know damn well he didn’t want people seeing the inside of this place? Flute! His eyes assessed their present surroundings as Gerry Grosvenor’s would. The lower half of a duplex apartment on a shabby Montreal street, dark as limbo, jerry-built fifty years ago and going off keel ever since. The doors did not close, the floors buckled and warped, the walls had been repapered and repainted until they bulged. And would bulge more, for it was a place that people on their way up tried to improve, people on their way down to disguise: all in vain. The hegira of tenants would continue.

Still, what was the use in talking? She had asked Gerry: the harm was done. “All right,” he said. “Give us a kiss now. I’m off.”

She kissed him the way she would a child. “Not that I know what I’m going to give Gerry to drink,” she said. “With only beer in the house.”

“Sure, never mind,” he said and kissed her quick again to shut her up. “So long, now. I’ll be home before five.”

And got away clean.

From the Trade Paperback edition.

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