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New story “Henrietta” in Prairie Fire

What happens to friendships that explode into being in a hot burst of mutual love, only to flame out and wither away from some unforeseen force?

That’s roughly the terrain covered in my story “Henrietta”, which you can read in the current issue of Prairie Fire. The story’s narrator Steve looks back to the late 1990s and an intense and ambiguous relationship with a young woman named Henrietta, who may or may not be emotionally stable. It’s a funny and heartbreaking look at what goes wrong when neglect and avoidance take hold in a relationship and features some great period footage from late ’90s Vancouver.

Here’s a sneak peek:

While she told me her stories, I’d watch her, how the light moved across her skin, highlighting her grandma’s cheekbones, which seemed too fragile to me, as if she wasn’t getting enough iron. I’d imagine what she might look like old, her dark hair mixed with grey, the folds of skin around her eyes crinkling up, her spine hunched over. The sun in her apartment would begin to fade, inching across the hardwood, spotlighting motes of dust and loose cat hairs as if they were in some kind of art, making me feel exhilarated and nostalgic all at once. Almost without fail Henrietta would end up with her head in my lap, begging me to brush her hair. It was one of her guilty pleasures. I was always happy to oblige—one hundred quick strokes, counting them out like a jazzercise coach, while she purred and moaned.

            “How does that feel?”

            “Oh God. So. Fucking. Brilliant.”

(Interesting side note: Elliot, the narrator from my Journey-Prize nominated story “You Were Loved”, has a cameo but critical role in the piece.)

“Henrietta” is a new story and part of my short fiction manuscript When We Die. This is my fifth piece with Prairie Fire. I’m grateful to editors Andris Taskans, Heidi Harms, and Warren Cariou for being so great to work with and for their ongoing support of my writing.

I’m especially thrilled to have the story in the same issue as Gregory Scofield’s Anne Szumigalski Memorial Lecture, called “Conversation with the poet/who didn’t know my aunty”. I met Gregory a few times when I lived in Vancouver and have been a great fan of his work for a number of years.

Visit Prairie Fire online to order a copy of the issue, or check out your local bookstore or library.