Excerpt from Barrelling Forward by Eva Crocker  


A group of women in jean shorts and bubblegum-pink T-shirts with “Bachelorette” in fat white cursive over their breasts were making their way down the street. The bride-to-be had a plastic tiara and a boa that was shedding feathers. The hot pink feathers floated in the women’s backdraft as they lurched down George Street.

It was Kayla’s first bachelorette and she barely knew most of these women. Half of them had flown out from Alberta, where her brother had been living for the past three years. There was a party at a house in Cowan Heights beforehand. They did jello shots out of little plastic cups — the same kind that Kayla filled with ketchup for people who requested it with their French toast when she worked brunch.

There was a game where you had to hold a cucumber between your thighs and pass it to someone else, who took it from you by clamping their own thighs around it. The point of the game was to create this awkward moment where your breasts were almost touching and you were looking into each other’s eyes with this phallic thing between both of your jean-short-clad crotches. Kayla successfully passed a cucumber to her future sister- in-law, Debbie, who she’d met for the first time at the airport that morning. Then she hid in the bathroom for twenty minutes.

Kayla had done a bit of the East Coast Trail, the chunk that starts up by Fort Amherst, a few days before her brother got in from Alberta. It was a grey day, cold for July — most people were wearing pants and long sleeves — but she went anyway because it was her first day off in two weeks and she had been planning to do it for months.

She ended up being glad to have gone on a cool day because there was no one around. The only people she saw were two men on mountain bikes in helmets and reflective sunglasses. She had to step into a bush to let them careen past.

She saw a pond from the trail and worked her way down a mucky path to a little cement platform. On the platform, she looked around for hikers on the hills above the pond. Although she was surrounded by woods, she could hear the wail of an ambulance sailing down from Shea Heights. She hadn’t seen anyone since the mountain bikers though, and they’d been travelling in the opposite direction. She stripped and lowered herself into the pond.

The water was warm, considering the summer they’d had. She was dreading the wedding: the effort of being welcoming to in-laws she’d never met; of dressing up, making small talk, telling everyone she didn’t have any plans for when she finished university. But alone in the middle of the pond, she felt excited to be seeing her brother soon.

She dried off with her T-shirt and then put the damp top back on. The sound of the ambulance had made her want to get deeper into the woods. Her wet hair dripped on her shoulders. Most of the trail was very clearly marked with pink gravel and little signs; there were narrow board- walks in the places where the path took you into bog. But a couple of times she became disoriented and had to back- track to find where she’d strayed off the path.

She found herself on a flat stretch of land with humps of yellow-grey rock rising out of moss. About ten feet ahead of her she saw a medium-sized dog standing on a small hill. She listened for its owner. The animal stared at her; it was caramel-coloured with a fluffy mane and a wolf ’s face. It was a coyote. She had seen lots of photos of coyotes on Facebook — dead ones, strapped to the backs of Ski- Doos — when the government first started paying people for their coats. The animal turned and ran into the woods.

She thought of the woman in Nova Scotia who’d been mauled to death by a pack of coyotes and realized that she had no reception up there. Even if she had reception, it would take anyone she called a long time to get to her. But she wanted a picture. She turned the phone’s camera on and walked toward the hill the wild dog had disappeared over. She got to the top, her phone held out in front of her, the screen a digital blur of pine needles.

At midnight they called cabs to take them downtown. Kayla sat in the back seat with her brother’s fiancĂ©e. Debbie took Kayla’s hand and squeezed it.

“Who’s getting married?” the cab driver asked, making eye contact in the rear-view. Debbie let go of Kayla’s hand so she could raise it like she was in school.

“So this is the last hurrah?” he said.

“I sure hope not.” Debbie flung the tail of the boa over her shoulder. The synthetic feathers brushed Kayla’s cheek.

“I don’t mind if you smoke as long as you put the windows down, seeing as it’s your special night.”

The windows went down on either side of the car and the women got cigarettes out of their purses.

One of the girls saw her boyfriend go inside Karaoke Krazy so they all joined a long line outside. After paying cover some of them headed for the bathroom and some of them started shouldering their way through the tightly packed crowd around the bar.

Someone behind Kayla stumbled and pushed her face- first into the T-shirt of a man who reeked of cologne. The zipper of his windbreaker scratched her cheek.

“I’m sorry.” Kayla backed up.

“Hey, don’t worry about it.” The man put a big hand on her lower back. Kayla looked around her; she saw the back of one of the Barbie-convertible-pink shirts in a throng leaning against the bar. She tried to move away from the man but he grabbed her hip and pulled her into him. “Hey, slow down, tell me about your T-shirt, who’s getting married?”

There was barely room to move; it was loud and no one was watching them. Kayla dug her elbow into the man’s fatty side and pushed herself away from him. She kept pushing until she was out of the bar. The man’s cologne had been overwhelming and she wanted fresh air.

When she got into the street she saw the man had followed her outside.

“Hey, want a cigarette?”

Kayla started walking quickly toward Water Street. She was planning to get a cab; she would text Debbie and tell her she’d gone home. The man was following a few paces behind her.

“You don’t have to be rude,” he was calling to her.

A clutch of people standing around a hot dog vendor laughed at the man as he lurched drunkenly down the street after her.

Kayla closed her hand around her phone in her purse. When she got to Water Street it was empty. The man was still behind her so she kept walking down the dark, empty street.

“Hey, slow down, I’m just trying to talk to you.” Kayla wheeled around and held her phone in front of her.

“I’m filming you.”

He turned and started back toward George Street, yelling insults into the night.

Finalist_Crocker, Eva

Eva Crocker’s short story collection Barrelling Forward was shortlisted as a manuscript for the 2015 RBC Fresh Fish Award for Emerging Writers. Her stories have been published in Riddle FenceThe Overcast, and The Cuffer Anthology. Crocker recently completed an M.A. in English literature at Memorial University. She lives in St. John’s.

Barrelling-Forward by Eva Crocker

This is an excerpt from Barrelling Forward.
Copyright © 2017 Eva Crocker. Published by Astoria, an imprint of House of Anansi Press Inc., Toronto.
Reproduced by arrangement with the publisher.
All rights reserved.


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