Tag Archives: Headstones

Oh What a Feebling: A CanRock Short Story Collection, Part 6

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On the right: A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Asshole

Previously:

The Drowned

Eating The Rich

Million DaysMillion Days

Birthday Boy

Fire in the Head

At some point in late 1997, I finally got over my wretched obsession with Joseph Conrad and ran straight into the equally dead white male arms of James Joyce. I spent the first half of 1998 reading Ulysses and screaming at Ulysses and going to the few parties I was invited to as a highly unpopular homeschooled teenager and talking about how much I both loved and hated Ulysses and when I finished it I declared that James Joyce was the greatest influence on my young life and that I would write the next Ulysses yes I said yes I will Yes.

This is not to say that I became a great modernist writer. Or even that I experimented with any modernist tendencies whatsoever. The thing I loved about James Joyce above all others was that he was a petty and vengeful writer. I read that he used to get drunk and sit in the corners of pubs, threatening to write everyone he knew into his books — and that the bumbling and awful character Private Carr in Ulysses was, in fact, based on some poor sod named Henry Carr who once had the temerity to argue with Joyce over a pair of pants — and realized that I had never admired or envied another human being more.

So when I stopped subconsciously working through my breakup with my best friend via stories about murder, death, and guilt on the shores of Lake Erie, I started consciously writing even worse thinly-veiled tripe about her and what I considered her “totally fake” personality. That is why this sad little story exists. Even the the musical inspiration was a shot at her, because “Smile and Wave,” from 1997’s Headstones album of the same name, was by her favourite band.

I don’t suppose Tom Stoppard will ever get around to writing a play inspired by this epic literary burn.

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Oh What a Feebling: A CanRock Short Story Collection, Part 3

Stormy waters

Stormy over the water

Previously:
Birthday Boy
Fire In The Head

My grandparents purchased a modest but charming cottage on Lake Erie in the 1960s. To this day, the rest of my family enjoy the property by staying there, sunning themselves on the beach, splashing around in the water, and having bonfires. At some point in my adolescence, I started enjoying it by staying up late, listening to creepy music, and writing stories about murder and guilt that were set at our charming little family cottage.

I was — and I remain — mesmerized by Lake Erie, the runt of the great lake litter whose unpredictability rivals that of its musically celebrated sister, Gitchigumi. It’s shallow and fickle. It can look absolutely stunning on a sunny day and like hell on a windy winter one. And the chunk of it that belongs to Wainfleet, Ontario, where our cottage is located, is so isolated from and forgotten by the rest of the world that I became convinced that all sorts of sinister things could go down there.

To the best of my knowledge, nothing like that has happened on the Wainfleet shore in the two decades I’ve been writing these ghastly stories. People have, tragically, drowned in Erie’s fatally deceiving undertow in nearby towns. Neighbours have come and gone, occasionally before their time. The carcass of what could have been a testicle-biting monster fish may or may not have washed up next door a couple years ago. But not once has anyone caused the death of a sibling or best friend and then engaged in untold amounts of psychodrama in and around the property.

But I have never let that stop me. To this day, I continue to write twisted stories about weird shit happening in Wainfleet, and I continue to insist that it can be the eeriest (sorry) place on Earth. If you let it.

“Million Days,” a story that I wrote curled up on the top bunk of what we creatively call “The Bunk Room” at the cottage, while I was listening to “Million Days In May” from The Headstone’s sophomore album, Teeth and Tissue, and reading even more Joseph Fucking Conrad, is the piece that started it all. I have no idea how I got this plot out of those lyrics. Or how I came up with it at all. Or how no one ever thought to take me to a therapist when I continued to write things like this.

I was so completely enthralled with my own talent and vision that I later adapted the story into a feature length screenplay. Which I then submitted in a screenwriting contest run by the Canadian Film Centre. I was so shocked and heartbroken when it didn’t win that I sobbed for a week straight.

I re-read the script a few years ago. The loss now makes perfect sense.

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