Short Stories

Do You Know Who I Am B’y?

Susie Taylor

I felt the car pull up beside me. I was walking down Water Street, looking out over the bay to Grace Harbour South. In Toronto, I would have ignored it, but I was home in Newfoundland and braced myself for a roadside inquisition: “Carly, you home for the wedding?” or “How’s things up in Canada? Ha. Ha. Ha.”

I kept walking but turned my head. A tiny hand levelled a gun at me and pulled the trigger. I watched the hand flip the gun up, cock, and shoot again and the same thing once more. It was by the second shot, when I wasn’t dead, that my brain picked up on the red plastic tip of the thing and I knew it was a toy. There wasn’t the crack of a real bullet, just the child’s voice saying, “Bang. Bang. Bang.” I never saw the face, I was busy staring down the gun, the practised flick of the hand and the small finger squeezing the trigger. As the car rounded the corner, the rear window rolled back up. I didn’t get the make of the car, only caught it was beige, old, nondescript—a calling card for rural poverty. It was a practice-perfect music video drive-by.

This was a record year for shootings in Toronto, and even St. John’s was having a spate of gun violence. I thought about the parents, one of them driving, probably laughing in the front seat. Probably mostly kids themselves, probably my brother’s customers.

There was no one else out on the street. No cars coming in either direction, no coffee shop to stumble into, no bus I could spontaneously board. No way to disappear fast out here except into the water or out to the woods. I felt like I’d felt as a kid, as a teenager: stuck. Stuck in the middle of fucking nowhere with no conceivable escape. “This is not your life,” I reminded myself, picturing my apartment in Cabbagetown, with its Ikea furniture and thrift-store finds; my office at the museum with my name on a plate by the door. I remembered my usual life was a flat white on the way to work, lectures on preservation techniques for ancient textiles, or the protocol for repatriating artifacts. I was working on a paper called, “The Dead Elephant in the Room: Does Taxidermy Still Have a Place in the Modern Museum?” I longed for the noise of the city, the streetcar, but all I heard was the waves rushing at the shore.

When I got back to Joseph’s place, I shut the door and leaned against it. I closed my eyes and saw the gun aimed at me. Shaking, I made myself a cup of tea with sugar in it, the taste of nostalgia. It just made me feel lonely.

Dad was away in Florida and I wasn’t talking to him anyway. We were on Christmas card and group-email communications only since he and Helen got together the year after Mom died. Helen was our neighbour. She yelled at us if we accidently threw a Frisbee over the hedge and onto her lawn. She watched me and my friend, Luanne, coming and going when we were teenagers and used to go for long, aimless walks. “You’ve been gone a long time,” she’d yell out from her front room when I returned or, “Keep frowning like that, Carly Finn, and your face might get stuck.” Once, she accused me of picking her daffodils. I hadn’t, but Mom made me go over and apologize anyways. “I know you didn’t do it, but it doesn’t matter because she thinks you did. Go on.” Later that day, I saw a bunch of yellow flowers in a Mason jar on Mom’s dresser.

Joseph’s house was a new build, a sprawling bungalow with big bay windows. He built it just after he and Luanne broke up. “A place for the kid to come,” he’d said. Inside there were lots of hard beige tiles and large pieces of brown furniture. All the appliances were stainless steel. The house backed onto the woods. Removed from the main part of town, it looked down over the harbour and houses and, although it was clean and modern, the yard was all Dukes of Hazzard: Joseph owned Finn Disposal and his garbage trucks got parked up there at night, along with his SUV and two pick-up trucks—one for hauling wood and the occasional load of trash when one of the compactors broke down, and the other his showpiece, an impractical white gas guzzler on oversized wheels. He kept Dumpsters up there too. There were two outbuildings with corrugated metal roofs and doors kept locked with heavy padlocks. And, of course, he had his toys: the ATV, the snowmobile, the motorbike shrouded in its body-bag-like cover, and the dirt bike Joseph bought for my nephew Joey. Joey hadn’t ridden since he fell off and broke his arm and Luanne threatened to go to the police since he was too young to be legally riding it. It was never exactly clear to me what they told the doctor at Emergency.

When Joseph came home, he brought Mary Brown’s for our supper. He didn’t notice I only ate the pickle off the top of my Big Mary and a couple of taters. We watched RuPaul’s Drag Race together for awhile, and guessed at who would win. Our one shared activity as teenagers had been TV-watching and we slipped into it comfortably, like in the old days when we shouted out answers to Jeopardy or tried to guess the next plot twist on Murder She Wrote.

I was home for Luanne’s second wedding. She was my childhood best friend, mother of my niece and nephew, and my ex-sister-in law. Joseph and I didn’t talk about the wedding. After RuPaul, I went to bed. I was sleeping in my nephew’s room, in a child’s bed the shape of a race car, low to the ground and red. I had to curl my legs up. The light fixture had cars on it too, and around the top of the wall was a border of fire engines, racing around the perimeter of the room in an infinite rush to an emergency they would never reach. Joey didn’t come stay the night anymore. Joseph saw him every other weekend, at least for one meal, usually breakfast: a quick drive-through at the Tim Hortons for hot chocolate and donuts. But the room remained ready with clean sheets; Joseph wasn’t storing boxes of old tax receipts or his weight machine in it. I think he thought there might still be time for Joey to come stay though Joey was too old and tall for that bed by then.

I came out of the bathroom in the morning, with my hair curled and a party dress on. The dress was a rockabilly number, the kind of thing middle-aged women like me buy on the internet, trying to hold on to some vestige of cool without resorting to dying the grey streaks in our hair purple or navy blue. I was wearing it with Blundstones. Joseph said, “Nice shoes.” I ignored him. What did he expect, I’d be teetering on a pair of hooker heels like Luanne’s second marriage was a do-over of my high school grad?

The only jacket I had was a bright blue North Face raincoat, and when I pulled it on over the dress Joe said, “Wait, you look like a fucking retard in that!”

“Jesus, Joseph, you can’t be saying that.”

“Come on, Carly. People will think you’ve had a breakdown or you’ve turned into a lesbian or something.”

He rifled through the front hall closet and pulled out his old leather jacket. I’d always coveted that jacket; when I pulled it on it had that supple feeling and I felt like James Dean. I looked in the mirror.

“It’s a bit aging rock star,” I said.

“Better than looking like a re…”

I put up my hand. “I’ll wear it. Thanks.”

I grabbed the things I needed from the pocket of my raincoat and shoved them into Joseph’s jacket as I headed down the road: wallet, key, phone, lipstick, emergency tampon. As I shoved the tampon toward the bottom of the pocket, I touched something with my fingers and knew from the shape it was Joseph’s old pocket knife. Our grandfather gave it to him: bone handled, with a sexy curve to its blade. I was so jealous. All my presents got chosen by our Nan and usually involved teddy bears, or were homemade, like a purse of old jeans, or a crocheted dolly to cover up a spare toilet roll. The last time I’d seen the knife was in high school; we’d been at a bush party and Joseph had carved his and Luanne’s initials deep in a tree with it. I’d yelled at him, told him the tree would die and he’d told me to stop being such a douchebag. I started angry crying and then ended up giving Dale Porter a hand job because he was nice to me.

It didn’t take me long to walk downhill from Joseph’s and hit Water Street. The wedding was at the United Church; they did divorcees. Every third car that drove by me honked. This time the greetings were friendly, most of the cars, like me, were headed to the wedding.

In the church, I looked around. Took in everyone’s faces, three years older than the last time I had seen them.

The reception was at the Loyal Orange Lodge, the L.O.L., on one of the streets in the “historic” part of town. I didn’t get that drunk at first. I was a good aunt—I danced with my nephew and embarrassed him. I participated in The Locomotion. After that there were so many people talking to me; emboldened by a few drinks they began asking me questions about my own life. I work at a museum, I’d say, and they’d smile, imagining I sold tickets at the entrance, or maybe dressed up in old-timey outfits and showed people around, and I didn’t disabuse them of this idea. Mostly people wanted to tell me how many kids they had, about jobs they’d gotten, houses they’d bought, parents in hospital, parents back from hospital, parents dead. There was gossip too: whose son was in jail, just back from jail, whose husband had left her, couldn’t have a baby, miscarried, wasn’t speaking to her sister, who was laid off, let down, lying low. There was a lot of diabetes and IVF going on amongst my peers. No one asked me about Joseph—they all knew how he was doing with his big house on the hill, his suits, and the rumours his money came not only from garbage disposal but from something else.

When Luanne and her new husband left the reception, Luanne threw her bouquet at me and I caught it on reflex. Of course I caught it. I switched from the champagne and got serious at the bar with Luanne’s Uncle Mort (the gay one) and some whiskey. Mort was only a few years older than me, but I still called him Uncle Mort. He lived in Montreal and joked how, there, he insisted on being called Mortimer, as Mort does not go well on bilingual dating sites. Then Mort and I were the only ones left at the bar. There were a few drunk stragglers on the dance floor and the bartender was pointedly wiping down tables.

I hugged Mort goodbye. His mother lived just down the street and he stumbled out the front door to her house. I went for a last pee. The whiskey hit me as I stood watching my swaying, red-faced reflection in the bathroom mirror and contemplated the walk uphill to the comfort of my nephew’s car-shaped bed. The booze, the flight from Ontario, the general exhaustion of being in my hometown had caught up with me and I needed sleep. By the time I emerged from the bathroom, the last of the dancers were heading out the front door and I was the only guest left inside. There’d be a party continuing on somewhere, but no one had invited me.

The parking lot behind the L.O.L. was famous for a murder. I was related to the murdered girl, Mary Catherine Finn. On September 4, 1824, she’d been raped and killed in the back alley that used to be where the parking lot was now. Dad had told me this story with glee. Mary Catherine’s death was famous, and he liked to crow about his connection to her, like her death was a sideshow act that made him look cool. He bragged about it the way the teenage boys I grew up with bragged about watching snuff films. There were ghost stories about Mary Catherine; Luanne and I had come here a few times at night looking for her, and once freaked ourselves out so much I’d peed my pants.

I could hear noise out in the parking lot. I thought I’d just go check. Maybe someone would be sober, or sober enough, to give me a ride home. I could check for an Uber, I thought to myself, and was laughing at this thought as I headed out the door. You still had to order cabs twenty-four hours ahead out here. I stumbled on the stairs as I was coming down them.

There was only one car in the parking lot, and about eight people, and when their faces turned to stare at me coming out of the building, I realized they were all young. In that odd space between teenager and adult. Maybe the oldest was twenty. Twenty years ago, Luanne and I would have been part of this crowd. They all looked familiar, I could have guessed at half of their last names, but I didn’t know them, and they did not know me, and they were not welcoming of a stranger. They glared, the wide-eyed stare they used around here to stake territory, then they ignored me. I was an adult, but a lone one and female. The smell of teenagers assaulted me: smoke, cheap alcohol, skunky pot, male body spray. I was ready to go, preparing myself for the slow march back to Joseph’s, the sobering cool air. One of the boats was in, and I could hear the thrum of its engine down by the cold storage. I was walking away when the fight started. I heard the noise of anger and a cry of pain and I turned to look, despite myself.

He was one of those boys: gym-hard, whitening-strip teeth, drunk and something more, although I couldn’t put my finger on it. He was crying, and it was like the small crowd was forgiving him his casual violence because of the tears pouring down his face. They were lit by the lights of the parking lot, and it was eerily theatrical.

“Tyra, you’re a fucking whore,” he shouted through his tears. His hand gripped the upper arm of a girl and was squeezing tight. Tyra was one of those girls without body fat. She was wearing a puffy winter jacket but it hung over a cropped white sweater and her pierced navel was exposed to the cold air. She was shrinking her head into her jacket trying to get warm even as she tried to pull away.

One of the other girls in the small group yelled, “Let go of her, Brad, you’re hurting her.”

“Mind your own business, Evie. This is between them,” one of the onlooker boys said to her. Calm, not wanting the spectacle of violence interrupted.

“Fuck off, Cody,” said another girl, her hand on Evie’s shoulder.

“Fuck you, Maria.”

Maria kept looking toward me, where I had turned at the edge of the lot, like she thought I could fix this, like it was a schoolyard, and I was expected to play teacher. Brad gave Tyra a vicious shake.

I avoided, whenever I could, being an authority figure. I had at least twenty years and two university degrees on top of this crowd. Maria looked at me again, waiting for me to act.

I started to walk over to Tyra and Brad. When I was about five feet away, the one called Cody stepped out. His jeans were dirty and his thin upper lip twitched slightly. He was giving me a fuck-off-outta-here stare. I was trying to remember if 911 worked in this part of Newfoundland yet. It never used to, I used to know the number for the volunteer fire department, I was trying to recall it. I wasn’t entirely sure I had cell reception.

I ignored Cody and yelled “Let go of her” at Brad, the words sounding ineffectual as they left my mouth.

“Mind your own business, Missus,” Cody said.

“Leave her, Cody,” Maria called out. I heard Tyra whimper.

“He can’t be shaking her like that,” I said to Cody. As I went to walk past him, he pushed me and I stumbled back and fell to my side. I caught myself on one hand—some instinct I left behind a long time ago came back and I sprang up fast.

Cody had turned away from me after I fell and part of me suspected he was ashamed. I grabbed him by the shoulder and swung him around. I looked him straight in the eye, put my face right up to his. My smoothed-out mainland accent went all Bay and any quiver that had been in my voice earlier was gone.

“Do know who I am b’y? Do you know who I am?” His hands were at his sides and I could see the hesitation, but he was thinking of raising them. I spit the last words at him, “I’m Joseph Finn’s fucking sister.”

I glanced over for just a moment. Brad had let go of Tyra and all eyes were on me and Cody, seeing if he had it in him, seeing if he was tough enough, bad enough to hit a woman, a woman who claimed she was Joseph’s sister. I reached in my pocket then, thought I’d pull out my phone and call the cops. Or at least try to. What came out was the knife, and without thinking I flicked it open.

“Shit.” I heard one of the previously silent bystanders exhale. I looked at the knife in my hand, vicious and sharp. I saw fear in Cody’s eyes. I felt the power I had, that I could hurt him if I wanted to. Then I glanced around in time to see Tyra, now free, turn and raise her skinny arm. She punched Brad square in the middle of his face. Blood and tears streamed down his nose.

“I’m calling the cops,” Evie said.

“I already did,” said Maria.

I was still holding the knife between me and Cody. I heard ragged breathing, like a sick animal—the breathing was coming from me.

“Come on, Brad,” I heard Tyra say, and she was guiding him, sobbing and holding his bleeding nose, to the car. Brad kept saying, “I’m sorry, baby. I’m so sorry.” A couple of other kids got in with them and the car doors were slamming, the engine starting up.

Cody backed away from me.

“Crazy bitch,” he said and started running.I heard the sirens.

I stood for a moment looking at the knife, looking around at the remaining kids staring at me and the car pulling out fast, until the Maria girl yelled at me, “Run. Fucking run.” And we all ran, me and these kids, heading down the lanes we knew the cop car could not go.

When I got to Joseph’s, he was sitting in a rocker, the rocker that Luanne bought from an antique store in St. John’s when she was pregnant. He was dressed for a business meeting in a suit and tie, but he was rocking back and forth with a shotgun on his lap.

“Jesus Christ, Joseph!” I was thinking suicide, until he looked accusingly at me.

“How’d you get home?”

“I walked,” I said. But I’d run, and I was out of breath and knew I looked like I’d been fucking someone’s husband in the janitor’s closet of the hall.

“Go to bed out of it,” he said.

“Joseph? I’m an adult, remember? Don’t tell me what to do.”

“Go to bed and lock the bedroom door and don’t open it, no matter what happens. Don’t open it for anyone.”

I didn’t argue, and I allowed myself to notice that the lock on the bedroom door was a dead bolt and there were bars on the window. Of course, I’d seen them before, I’d just pretended to myself that things were different. Like Joseph didn’t have video surveillance cameras set up all over the place and a baseball bat stuck in an umbrella stand by the front door. No one in the family ever played baseball.

I took off my party dress and pulled on a T-shirt. I put the jacket back on, pulled it tight around me and lay in bed listening. Joseph had the TV on, too low for me to make out words. Eventually, the front door opened and shut again. It was past late and into the early morning by then. Far in the distance I heard a shotgun ringing out. Bang. Bang. Bang. The sun was coming up and I pulled the covers over my head. I woke up smelling bacon, hearing gunshots again.

I packed my suitcase, tucking Joseph’s jacket in the bottom and stashing the knife with it. When I came out of the bedroom, the table was set. A pitcher of orange juice, a glass already poured at my place. Joseph was frying breakfast and Joey was shooting people on the TV screen.


Susie Taylor

Susie Taylor is a queer writer. Her novel, Even Weirder Than Before, was published in 2019 by Breakwater Books. Her work has appeared in Geist, Prism International, The Fiddlehead, Room Magazine and elsewhere. She was the winner of the 2015 NLCU Fresh Fish Award and the 2018 Lawrence Jackson Writers’ Award. She lives in Harbour Grace, Newfoundland and Labrador.


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.