“Henderson Has Scored for Canada” by Michelle Berry
An excerpt from the short story collection "I Still Don't Even Know You", by Peterborough author Michelle Berry.
Michelle Berry has been widely published in many Canadian literary magazines, national newspapers, and anthologies.
She is the author of seven books of fiction, two novels of which have been published in the U.K. as well as Canada. She has published two collections of short stories with Turnstone Press, I Still Don’t Even Know You and How To Get There From Here.
In the fall of 2012, Turnstone Press is pleased to publish e-book versions and re-release four of Berry’s previously published books: Margaret Lives in the Basement, What We All Want, Blur, and Blind Crescent.
Berry is a reviewer for The Globe and Mail, and teaches at the University of Toronto and Humber College. Born in California and raised in Victoria, B.C., Berry now lives in Peterborough, Ontario, with her family.
An excerpt from “Henderson Has Scored for Canada”, from Michelle Berry’s short story collection I Still Don’t Even Know You (Turnstone Press 2010)
They are seated in Maple Leaf Gardens, Maggie shaking a little from cold, from excitement, the air a live cloak of anticipation around them, circling them. Maggie wanting so badly to know where the gardens are-the pretty gardens. Maggie was promised gardens and saw maple trees and tulips and chrysanthemums. Instead it is cold and bare and white in here. There are no flowers. Not even pictures of flowers on the walls. The attackers, Tretiak, Yakushev, Petrov, somewhere in the bowels of the arena, under their seats, waiting to come out and attack. Russia. ussr. Esses. Hissing wind in the cornfields. The smell of cigarettes and cold ice and sweat moving around her, Daddy’s white knuckles cupped together.
“Not one crummy flower,” Maggie says. “Stupid Gardens.”
Mommy said last night at dinner, “Don’t bring Maggie into this, Frank. This is our problem. Not hers.”
“I’m taking her to Toronto is all,” Daddy said, shovelling potato salad on his plate. “We’ll go and see the game and then we’ll come home. You told us to go, didn’t you?”
“You will, won’t you? You’ll come home? I want you to come home.”
“We will. Together. You’ll be alone. You’ll be alone here at the farm and I’ll damn well bring Maggie home.”
Mommy was somehow satisfied at this. Maggie cringing under the steel in her Daddy’s voice, sucking the melted butter off her cob of corn, licking the salt and strings. The corn given to them by Mr. Malton on the next farm over. His corn grew big and sweet and healthy. Daddy won’t eat the corn. Daddy looks at the corn on his plate and his mouth moves into a tight ball, his chin hard.
Daddy squeezes Maggie’s hand tightly as they sit on the hard plastic seats in the arena. As they wait for the game to begin. Maggie doesn’t know what is to come. The Zamboni cleans the ice. A Dominion advertisement on the side of the large machine spells out mainly because of the meat. Daddy reads it to her because she asks him to. He’ll do anything for Maggie. She is four years old, five after Christmas, and the hockey game stretches before her like the rest of her life. Mommy shops at Dominion. She buys meat there. And potatoes and carrots and toilet paper.
Mr. Reynolds, his huge bulk filling up the patio screen door, hugging up close to it and peering in at Mommy as she washes carrots in the sink, Maggie playing by the kitchen table, moving Barbie onto the farmer’s wagon, taking Ken off because he’s been riding long enough. Mr. Reynolds’ eyes looking right through her mommy, peering through her clothing and her skin and bones, and her face blushing red, the freckles standing up.
“How are you doing, Janine?” His voice sending shivers around the house.
The corn didn’t do well this year. A bug. A blight. A caterpillar. They won’t tell Maggie what it is. They haven’t time to fill her in on details. Something happened. Things aren’t the way they should be. Mr. Reynolds runs the bank and her daddy owes him a lifetime of money. Mommy invites the man in for a tea and Maggie is told to go out to the barn, she is told to check on the chickens. Mr. Reynolds gives her a lollipop and a pat on the head.
Maggie, in the barn, thinks of Mr. Reynolds’ daughter, Marilee, and how she always has a lollipop sticking out of her fat mouth. Marilee with those red bows in her hair and her face puffed up from eating. Marilee at the grocery store saying, “My daddy says you’ve got no money for clothes. My daddy says you’re going under.” And Maggie imaging her daddy swimming through fields of mud. Going under.