Michael Hayward's Blog

Sisyphus Does the Grind

Michael Hayward

Arsenal Pulp Press will host a double book launch on Friday, April 27, for new novels from Kevin Chong (The Plague) and Charles Demers (Property Values). Venue: The Fox Cabaret. Time: 7:00 — 9:00. Chong re-imagines Camus’s classic novel in a contemporary Vancouver context. The start of a trend? Just in case, we offer another existentialist classic, Vancouverized.

Sisyphus paused at a bend in the trail, leaned against his boulder and looked around for something to wedge underneath, a prop to prevent its bounding down the steep slope and crushing the throng of people who’d been waiting impatiently for an opportunity to pass. Wiping his forehead with a ragged bandana, he tried to ignore their sarcastic comments: “What the fuck, buddie? Who in his right mind would want to roll a boulder up the Grind?” “It’s just absurd!” He smiled apologetically, nodded, and waited while the flood of other Grinders passed on, uphill.

He’d learned from painful experience that it was never worth the effort he once took to explain himself. His arguments were evidently much too complex, not “sound-bitey” enough, to be absorbed. And in actual fact he wasn’t entirely sure, himself, why he did it.

He’d tried: “It’s a performance art piece. I see myself as the Canadian Chris Burden.” He’d tried: “I’m trying to illustrate the absurdity of life; think of the boulder as a symbol.” But there’d never been even a glimmer of comprehension, and he always ended up simply feeling more alone. All he knew was that, before he’d started this undertaking, he’d been suicidal.

“What’s the point?” The point of Life, he meant. “Why not end it all?” He’d never been able to answer this question successfully; and if he couldn’t persuade himself, what chance did he have of persuading others? Better simply to put his head down, put his shoulder to the boulder, and keep on keeping on.

Sisyphus reached around, pulled a BPA-free bottle from his fanny pack and took a deep draught of water. That, and the light breeze blowing up the slope through Douglas fir and hemlock, cooled him, tightening his scrotum into a compact bundle.

Sighing, Sisyphus checked his Fitbit, but already knew that, at this rate, he had no chance in hell of beating his personal best. There was some comfort, then, knowing that he’d be back at it again tomorrow.

Up at 5:00 as always. A latté to go from his favourite Starbucks in the West End. Through Stanley Park along the causeway, over Lions Gate, heading north with two lanes open, the eastern sky lightened by the rising sun.

He always considered it to be a kind of benediction, a cosmic endorsement of his chosen life, to find the parking lot at the foot of Grouse nearly empty at the early hour. On a more practical note, it also meant that there’d be fewer onlookers to shake their heads in disapproval as he continued with his daily rituals: unstrapping the chipped boulder, his “faithful companion” in this absurdist undertaking, rolling it off the custom-made trailer onto asphalt, and through the parking lot towards the Grind’s lower gate.

Tomorrow, and all the tomorrows after that. This was, after all, the bright side of eternity: it offered so many opportunities for self-improvement.



Kris Rothstein's Blog
Kris Rothstein

VIFF 2019: MODES 1

A collection of experimental short films encourages immersion in image and sound.
Geist news

Winners of the 15th Annual Literal Literary Postcard Story Contest!

Announcing the winners of the 15th Annual Literal Literary Postcard Story Contest!
Michael Hayward's Blog
Michael Hayward

VIFF 2019: "Lunana: A Yak in the Classroom"

A young Bhutanese teacher, wrestling with his commitment to that career, is sent to the remote Himalayan village of Lunana, to fulfill the final year of his contract.