canadian ~ twenty-first century literature since 1999

Three Love Stories by Rhonda Waterfall


Brad's Harpoon

The harpoon through Brad's chest was most inconvenient when he tried to open doors. He often asked strangers to hold doors open for him. Chairs posed a challenge to sit in, so he took to traveling with a foldout stool that he tied to his waist with a piece of rope when not in use. A friend of Brad's set him up on a blind date with Tiffany. Tiffany told Brad's friend that she wanted to go out with someone different; someone who was in a wheelchair or missing a limb or even blind or Nigerian. The friend said he knew a guy with a harpoon through his chest and he was single. On the date Tiffany chattered for an hour about her collection of Budweiser Beer merchandise and how she dreamed of being a champion two-step dancer. And then she asked Brad how he got a harpoon through his chest. Brad said that it was the January explosion that loosened the grip of a harpoon held in the gloved hand of the nameless Inuit man statue in front of the Art Gallery. The harpoon hurtled through the air and plunged into his chest. Tiffany's eyes went big and her Da Vinci Veneers glistened. I know that statue, I know that statue, she said and then touched the glossy weather worn wood shaft of the harpoon and asked if it hurt. Brad said it had at first but then over time it hurt less. He said there were doctors that wanted to remove the harpoon and give him what they called 'a chance at a normal life' but after some time Brad just couldn't imagine his life without the harpoon. Tiffany leaned forward and pressed her finger against the sharpened tip. Ouch, she said and pulled her hand away, you could injure somebody.

Brad started going to cowboy bars where Tiffany two-stepped. He stood at the bar and drank, glad that the harpoon through his chest prevented him from being asked to the dance floor. He chatted up the girl who poured the drinks but when she told him she couldn't talk he grabbed Stacy off the dance floor and told her he was going to go home. Tiffany stomped her foot and said, stay a little longer. Brad said she could stay if she wanted but he was leaving. Tiffany grabbed her cowboy hat and her tasseled jacket and went home with him.

Tiffany moved into Brad's apartment and went to Cowboy bars less and less. She set out her Budweiser collection on all the shelves and tables. Brad often skewered them on his harpoon or knocked them to the floor. Could you be more careful with that thing, Tiffany would say. Brad wanted her to put the Budweiser things in storage, he thought they were infantile, but when he suggested it she would cry for days and miss work. When she was fired she came home and said, see, see this is all your fault. Brad opened one of her collector Budweiser bottles and drank it. Tiffany screamed and threw a porcelain unicorn at him and yelled, you never make love to me. Brad, who had had just about enough, put the beer down and left. Was it his fault, Brad thought, that the harpoon through his chest created a situation where it was more feasible for Tiffany to please him than it was for him to please her?

At a bar, Brad ordered three Cuervo shooters and drank them one after the other and then ordered a whiskey. He was joined by a petite blonde with eyelashes that were clotted with thick clumps of black mascara. He told her what had happened with Tiffany and how she didn't give him any leeway even though he had bought her new cowboy boots. I wish someone would do that for me, the girl said and sighed. She would love me, Brad said, if only I didn't have this harpoon through my chest. The girl stepped back and said, don't change yourself for a girl, she has to love you the way you are. Brad covered his face with his hands and jerked his shoulders up and down and mumbled through his palms, I wish she did, I wish she did. Tears rimmed the girl's eyes and she placed her hand on Brad's back. She bought him another whiskey and then pleasured him in the alley beside a dumpster. Brad walked home with a smile on his face.

When he opened the door of his apartment Tiffany was standing in the hallway with a suitcase in her hand. I'm going to stay with my mother, she said. Brad pinned her against the wall, the harpoon tip jabbed her chest. Don't leave me, Brad said. It's the harpoon isn't it? His eyes watered up. Tiffany dropped her suitcase and said, I could never leave you. You don't love me, Brad yelled and forced the harpoon tip straight through Tiffany's chest and out between her shoulder blades. I do love you, Tiffany cried.

Brad was pleased to have Tiffany on his harpoon. Now he knew what she was doing at all times but often he wished she didn't talk so much.


An Office Love Story

Lacy left her desk to get a cup of coffee and upon her return found an envelope on the seat of her chair that contained a letter stating that several people in the office had taken offence to the bright colours Lacy liked to sport and there had been several requests that she please choose more subdued colours to wear. Lacy took to wearing light blues, taupes and chocolate browns but soon another envelope appeared on her desk that suggested she try black. Lacy slumped in her chair and sighed. Coworkers punched away at their keyboards, their shoulders hunched. Their corkboards decorated with photographs of children.

Everyday Lacy wore black. She cleaned out old files and relabeled them for new projects. Colleagues flattered her on her new black attire. Oh, she said. Carpet fibers drifted up into the air and caught in her throat where they collected and blocked her words. She rubbed her eyes and drank her bottled water.

When another envelope appeared on Lacy's desk she held it to her lips and then propped it between her phone and computer and left it unopened. After a meeting on creating balance in the workplace Lacy sat at her desk and held the envelope in her hands. She went to the human resources department and asked if anyone knew who kept giving her the envelopes. Everyone shook their heads and said they didn't know. Lacy went back to her desk and read the letter: Please note that we have had several complaints regarding the level of noise that has been coming from your cubicle. For the sake of the employees situated around you we would like to remind you of the high pitch sound that emanates from your mouth when you laugh. I am sure you have not meant to offend those who work around you so we are certain that you will take every precaution to be as quiet as possible in respect to those who have to work in the same environment with you.

Lacy dropped the letter in her trashcan and tried to laugh.

The next envelope appeared on a Friday afternoon. The letter indicated that maybe the colour of red that she dyed her hair was not the best for her pale complexion and that where she worked was one of the top corporations in town and if she liked her position, which she was lucky to have, she better start making a greater effort to fit in.

Several weeks later another envelope appeared. Lacy put the envelope in her jacket pocket and went for a walk. On a park bench she opened the envelope and read the letter, which described the offence some in the office had taken to the darkness of her hands and suggested that maybe there was something she could do to change it. Maybe she could wear gloves. Lacy tore the letter into pieces. Bits of paper clung to her jacket, some drifted away in the breeze. She covered her face and cried. Her body shook and she held up her hands with their slim fingers and trim unpolished nails. She bent her right index finger back until it snapped off and fell to the ground. She did the same to all her other finger, bones cracked and the flesh gave way. Seagulls swooped down and fought over the discarded digits. Wings flapped and the seagulls stole off with fingers clamped in their beaks. Lacy pushed her thumbs back, bones buckled and broke through the skin and then she pushed her whole hand back until bones separated at the wrists. She tossed her palms under a bush, covered her raw wrists with her sleeves and went back to the office.

Lacy devised ways to dial the telephone and type with a pencil held between the two stubs of her wrists. A coworker passed by Lacy's cubicle and commented on how quiet the area was. After a seminar on building creativity Lacy found another envelope on her desk. She put the envelope in her purse and then went to the washroom and cried. At five she gathered her things and went to the elevator. In the elevator there was a man from accounting his clothes were all black and the opening of his sleeves hung flat and empty. When they were in the lobby Lacy tapped him on the shoulder and he turned around. Lacy opened her mouth and carpet fibers puffed out like exhaust fumes. The man from accounting opened his mouth and he too exhaled carpet fibers. He blinked his bloodshot eyes. Lacy exposed her handless wrists and the man from accounting also displayed where his arms ended. Lacy put her arms down and rested her forehead on the man's shoulder. The man from accounting put his lips to Lacy's hair and held her tight. They stayed in this position until lobby security kicked them out into the dark city.



The wind was fierce and whipped through the city streets like the King's fool, lifting up Myrna's skirt so that construction men sitting on a cement retaining wall pointed and laughed at her. She pushed down her billowing pleats and synched them tight around her knees. The piano lesson book held in the crook of her arm fell and hit the sidewalk and unleashed a flurry of sheet music. She tried to gather the sheets but the wind snatched them out of her grasp. Fiddle sticks, she said and sat down in a doorway. Plastic bags and other flotsam swirled in the gutters, hanging signs snapped back and forth against their hinges. I never wanted to play piano anyway, she thought. Wind buffeted against the streetlamp in front of her. The structure swayed and the metal rivets creaked and moaned. Myrna got up and put her ear to the post, yes, did you say something, she said? The post was silent.

The street lamps flickered and then snapped on. She wrapped her arms around the post and hugged it tight, the metal cold on her cheek. The construction men threw half eaten sandwiches at her and called her crazy. She ran all the way home.

Her mother sat at the kitchen table, a Newport alight between her bony fingers, a mint julep and a Chatelaine magazine before her on the table. Her glassy eyes swiveled up to greet Myrna, how was piano, dear? I didn't go, Myrna said. That's nice dear, her mother said and then flipped a page of her magazine and took a drag of her cigarette. Your father is out fixing the car. Myrna went to the window. A Lincoln Town Car sat in the driveway with four flat tires; weeds had grown up through the engine block. Myrna poured herself a glass of water and went upstairs to her bedroom. She opened the window and got into bed. The curtains ballooned out and swished around the sides of the window.

In the night Myrna sat up in bed unsure of what had caused her to wake. She cupped her hand at her ear and heard someone say her name. She got out of bed and went to the window. The wind had uprooted trees and they lay on their side with their dirty roots pulled from the earth. Shingles broke away from the roof and clacked down on the street below. She heard her name again. She went down to the street and followed the sound of her name back to the streetlamp. The streetlamp shook and rattled. Myrna placed her ear to the metal post and was again sure she heard her name. Her hair whipped against her face and stung her eyes; she parted her lips to say, dad, but the wind filled her mouth and stole the word away. She slid down to her knees and eventually fell asleep.

Just before the sun was up a man in a flannel check shirt, bent down and touched Myrna's cheek. Rise and shine little bird, he said. Myrna opened her eyes and thought at first that her father was kneeling at her side but then realized it was a complete stranger. She sat up and pulled away from the man. I would never hurt you, he said and then explained that he worked at the construction site across the street. He took her out for eggs and bacon and then took her home to his bungalow on the edge of the city. In the corner of the sitting room he had a piano that over the years Myrna gladly plunked away on for his enjoyment. He would smoke his pipe and after every song hold her in his arms and say, I always knew I would find you. And Myrna would say, I searched for you everywhere. The smell of sawdust in his hair was familiar to Myrna and filled her with a warmth and nostalgia, although she never knew why.


Rhonda Waterfall has a certificate in creative writing from the Writer’s Studio at Simon Fraser University. Her work has been published in AdBusters, SubTerrain, Zembla and Geist.







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