Every week until our Issue 11, we’ll be posting excerpts of the upcoming issue to get your literary tastebuds salivating. Today’s excerpt comes from a short story by Daniel Perry, titled Tabaco Babies [sic].
Daniel Perry grew up in Glencoe, Ontario, and has an M.A. in Comparative Literature from the University of Toronto. His short fiction is forthcoming in The Nashwaak Review and White Wall Review, and has appeared in The Broken City, Hart House Review and Broken Pencil Death Match IV. He has lived and worked in Toronto since 2006. You can follow Daniel on Twitter @danielperrysays.
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from “Tabaco Babies”
I asked Ben once what had happened with his father.
“He left, I guess. I don’t know,” he said. “It just didn’t work out.” But in Currie, that’s not saying much. A lot of marriages don’t work out. Ben’s parents are just among the few that do anything about it. Splitting up here is tough because, right away, everyone knows it’s happening. Worse, they tell everyone they know why it’s happening. But for Ben’s mom and dad, I bet it was easy. Anything would be after walking down Main Street and feeling the stares: Mom White, Dad Black, and Baby Benson somewhere in between.
“Every year, someone falls for a Tobacco Picker,” Stella told me once. She may not have much to go on—she’s only eighteen— but she’s been going to Brewskie’s every weekend for a while now. I sneak out some Saturdays and meet her for a cigarette in front. I don’t tell Mom Stella’s not sleeping over at Sharon Foster’s house, and Stella doesn’t tell that I smoke.
“It’s usually a fat hick who works at the plant,” she said, “but every once in a while, it’s a young girl who’s going somewhere.” A bitterness crept into her voice. “Someone who might get out of here one day.”
She lit a second cigarette.
“The girl ends up head over heels, and the couple starts thinking they’ll be the ones. That this time, for this couple, things will be different. But they never are. The man goes home in the winter, before the girl even knows she’s pregnant, and then she gets to decide. She drives into London for an abortion, or she has the baby and hopes for the best.”
“The best?” I asked.
Stella swept drooping brown bangs off her forehead.
“For the man to never come back,” she said. “The girl lays low until the baby’s born, and then she tells people it’s adopted, or a nephew, or something.”
She pursed her lips and turned away, blowing the smoke out her nostrils.
“Look around this hole. There are four black kids at our school. Jeez, you’re friends with one of them. Nephew Ben. Have you ever seen his parents?”
Anger welled up in my eyes. I flipped her the bird and stormed off down Main Street. I don’t know what upset me more. Was it that she traced Ben’s lineage to Minute Rice and pancake mix? Or was it that she was right?
There aren’t any Black Families in Currie.
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