Another Ventriloquist


In this excerpt from Adam Gilders' Another Ventriloquist, published by J&L Books in 2011, a father builds his daughter a swan's nest, a ventriloquist revises his act, and a beaver terrorizes a neighbourhood.


Shortly after my sister’s eleventh birthday our father built a wooden ledge outside her window that he referred to as “the swan’s nest.” On those occasions when my sister crawled onto the ledge—a narrow platform with a decorative railing—our father would run up and down the stairs crying “my swan is in her nest, my swan is in her nest.”


The ventriloquist crosses the town on his bicycle, singing loudly in French. He passes houses, factories, and swimming pools. His lips do not move.

The ventriloquist rides by on his bicycle, singing loudly in French. His lips do not move.

He gazes imploringly at his girlfriend. “Make love to me,” he pleads, “one last time.” She crosses the room with stiff, wooden movements. “Who do you think I am?” she asks.

On his bedside table the ventriloquist arranges his favorite possessions but purposefully leaves out his most prized item, a first-edition, 1947 manual on square dancing. These are the cherished possessions of the new me, he tells himself.

Suspecting, night after night, that his estranged girlfriend is in the hall, the ventriloquist changes his act. He will no longer play the straight-man to his cynical dummy. It is now the dummy who will take the fall, signifying his new capacity for self-reflection. The audience does not respond well.


It was like no beaver you had ever seen. You see that broken telephone pole over there? The beaver done that. Like no beaver you ever seen. My brother seen him come down the road, ripping and cackling like he was drunk. He runs right up to that pole, whips his five foot tail into the air and knocks the damn pole in two. My brother seen him do it. Then the beaver comes right over to Vern, that’s my brother, and he says, No one, you don’t tell no one you seen me. So Vern starts nodding his head and smiling till the beaver flies off over the lake, then Vern comes right home and tells me all about that beaver. Just when he finished telling about the beaver’s warning and all he starts spitting up these black balls, like hair balls or something, then he’s on the floor… rolling around holding his neck. We tried to reach in and pull out whatever was choking him but Vern kept biting our fingers. He rolled over onto his back without saying a word and died right there before us.



Adam Gilders’s fiction and non-fiction have been published in the National Post, the Paris Review and Walrus. His book Sunbird was a collaboration with the photographer Jason Fulford. He died in 2007.


Toby Sharpe


I don’t know where a person can go when they disappear, apart from underwater.


Young Earle Birney in Banff: September 1913¹

what a day!at the Basin2 dove from the tufa overhanginto the water, playing my trick ofseeming to drown, not coming up until I finish wrigglingthrough that underwater chimneyand burst into air. always startles the tourists.


Zamboni Driver’s Lament

i know hate, its line-mates. believe me. you kids have, i’m sure, wasted—all early morning anxious and weak-ankled—their first impatient shuffle-kicks and curses on me.