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Authors: Shawn Curtis Stibbards

The Video Watcher

BOOK: The Video Watcher
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The Video Watcher



Shawn Curtis Stibbards















John Metcalf



Windsor, Ontario




Copyright © Shawn Curtis Stibbards, 2015


All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher or a licence from The Canadian Copyright Licensing Agency (Access Copyright). For an Access Copyright licence, visit or call toll free to 1-800-893-5777.




Library and Archives Canada Cataloguing in Publication



Stibbards, Shawn Curtis, 1975-, author

The video watcher / Shawn Curtis Stibbards.


Issued in print and electronic formats.

ISBN 978-1-77196-019-9 (pbk.).--ISBN 978-1-77196-020-5 (ebook)


I. Title.


PS8637.T515V53 2015 C813'.6 C2014-907959-1



Edited by John Metcalf

Copy-edited by Jesse Eckerlin

Typeset by Chris Andrechek

Cover designed by Kate Hargreaves







Biblioasis acknowledges the ongoing financial support of the Government of Canada through the Canada Council for the Arts, Canadian Heritage, the Canada Book Fund, and the Government of Ontario through the Ontario Arts Council.











To My Grandmother









During the years when I found it necessary to revise the circuitry of my mind I discovered that I was no longer interested in whether the woman on the ledge outside the window on the sixth floor jumped or did not jump, or in why. I was interested only in the picture of her in my mind: her hair incandescent in the floodlights, her bare toes curled inward on the stone ledge.

—Joan Didon,

The White Album








Nobody talks to each other at UBC
. There are frat-house parties and Wednesday Nights at The Pit and faculty beer gardens, but nobody really talks. I remember I took Damien out there once to watch my car while I bought books, and he said that everyone looked so alone—and it was true.

But when I got back to North Van that spring, it wasn't any better there.


Don't think
, I told myself as I locked the front door and started down the driveway, swinging the bag with the Guinness four-pack and humming a riff from Sabbath's “War Pigs.”

On Capilano Road a red Beemer shot by me, then a Jetta. I took a deep breath and tried to empty my mind.

Cam will be back in three weeks. It will be different then.

A high-school girl with dusty blond hair was walking on the other side, going in the opposite direction. She walked quickly, her shoulders drawn back, and the gray Champion sweatshirt she wore was loose, and her breasts, round and full, bounced as she broke into a jog.

I was staring at her breasts when I realized that I wasn't thinking of anything else. That thought made the other thoughts come back.

But they were not as strong as before, and I knew there would be too much going on at Alex's to think too much. Green strips of dusk sky glowed between the hemlocks. I thought of myself as some character out of a movie, some angst-ridden character moving from scene to scene. It was always easier when I thought of myself as someone else.


Almost all the high school kids were outside smoking a joint someone had brought. That was Alex's mother's one rule: pot had to be smoked outside. Alex had joined them, and while she was out there I stayed in the kitchen with Diane (which is what her mother insisted we call her). She was making a pitcher of Tang. “So… you moved back to your aunt's house?” she asked.

My eyes fell to the small bulge of flesh between her tight T-shirt and jeans. “Actually, it was my parents',” I said. “We've been renting if for awhile. Now we're just… um… staying there long enough so that my aunt can claim it as her principle residence.” I was surprised how effortlessly these words—my aunt's—fell out. “Then sell it. It's some kind of tax thing.”

“She knows the angles,” Diane said, filling the pitcher with water. “How long she's been in real estate now?”

The sugar swirling in the orange liquid reminded me of a scene in
Citizen Kane
. “I don't know. Since before I can remember, I think.”

“Your aunt must be pretty successful. Seems like we always have something around here with her name on it. Or picture. Calendars… pens…”

“Yeah,” I said.

One of the girls at the table behind us let out a shrill laugh.

“She says—” I pulled my eyes off them “—if you want to be successful, you got to advertise a lot.”

“Do you think this is strong enough?” Diane poured some Tang in a blue Dixie cup and gave it to me. I took a sip. “Mmm. Good,” I said.

“I think it's really great that your aunt supports herself like that,” Diane continued, her tone making it sound like my aunt was some kind of rock star or celebrity, “Self-reliant. Independent. I keep telling Alex about those things. This—” she nodded to the group of kids huddled around the patio table outside. A boy with a red baseball hat strained to reach something and a tall boy shoved him back “—I hope, is just a phase she's going through.”


“I thought when Alex got the job at the library,” she continued, “she'd meet… a better group of people—though I guess she met you.”

Uncertain if this was a compliment or not, I gave a weak smile.

Diane needed to use “the little girl's room,” and I got one of the cans of Guinness from the fridge and joined the girls at the table.

The one who was talking the most (the short fat one) sat sideways in her chair, facing the other girl. Her bright red hair was short, and looked dyed, and her round fat face was almost white.

Her eyes fixed on me as I dropped into the chair. “No, I

The brunette opposite me, the one I found attractive, said, “Whatever.”

Silence fell on the table.

I felt myself growing tense.

“What are you talking about?” I asked.

The fat one bit the inside of her bottom lip. “Nothing,” she said.

“The apartment,” the one called Kirsten said.

The other girl glanced nervously at her and back at me. “It's nothing,” she said.

“So why aren't you two outside with the others?”

The short fat girl shrugged and started to chew on her little finger. “Pot sucks. It's juvenile. It's like—for fucking Grade 8s.”

“We've got some 'shrooms,” Kirsten said coolly. “We're going to do them later.”

“'shrooms?” I asked.

“Yeah, 'shrooms,”

She was watching as I opened the Guinness. I pretended not to notice and poured the beer into the glass, studying the head as it formed on the surface.

“What's that?”

“Guinness—you know, stout.”

“What?” the fat one said, leaning forward to look.

“Stout, a type of beer.”

“It looks like coffee.”

I remembered trivia my grandfather had told me about the Guinness family and began to say, “You know the Lions Gate—”

“Did you hear?” the fat one said, pulling both feet up on the chair. As she told Kirsten about a girl they knew, Sabrina, who went down on this guy in his late forties, I was suddenly conscious again of how tedious this party was. I wanted to get up and leave.

But the thought of the empty rooms, the silent hallways, the hours between now and when I might sleep, made me reconsider.

“So,” I said, forcing myself to speak, “what were you talking about before? The apartment—”

“It's nothing,” the fat one said and shot her friend an anxious glance.

Before I could think of how else to bring up the topic, she asked, “Do you go to Handsworth?”

“I graduated.”

“I haven't seen you there.”

“I went there last year.”

“Did you change schools?”

“I'm at UBC.”

“Like, who'd you hang out with?”

I took a large sip of the Guinness. “Cam White… Damien Burgess…”

“Cam White. Isn't he… that psycho?”

“Psycho?” Kirsten looked bemused. “You think everyone's psycho.”

“I heard he smashed the window of Tiff's Porsche.”

It had been Damien who'd broken the windshield.


“That wasn't him,” I said.

“Who was it?”

“I don't know, but it wasn't him.”

“I thought he was hot,” Kirsten said quietly.

“What! Who? Cameron White?”

Kirsten replied by raising her right hand and wiping a strand of hair from her narrow face, and recrossing her arms.

“You have an accent,” the fat one said, leaning over the table and tucking her feet under her. “Like, where are you from?”

“Nowhere. Here.”

“No, before here.”


“So you've lived your whole life here?”

I nodded, anticipating the next three questions.

“Okay, how about your parents? Where are they from? Do they have accents?”

“No. Here.”

“So you've lived here your whole life?”


Neither one had a response to this. A notepad advertising my aunt lay on the table and I pulled it over and began to doodle, drawing a moustache on Kris's face and filling in one of her eyes.

“I know someone
who has an accent,” Kirsten said, threateningly.

“Would you shut up about that.”

“So what goes on there,” I asked—I assumed they were talking about the apartment.

“Just this guy. He, like…”

“It's disgusting.”

Kirsten laughed. “You shouldn't talk.”

“Would you shut up.”

Kirsten glanced at me, and smirked. “Guess what she gave her boyfriend—”

“Don't,” the other one shouted. “Don't you fucking dare!” She leaned over and tried to cover Kirsten's mouth.

“—her boyfriend for his birthday.”


Kirsten leaned over. Pushing the fat girl's hands off her face, she said, “Nude ones.”

The fat girl collapsed back in her seat.

I added flames to Kris's mouth. The redhead sunk farther down in her chair.

“Did you?” I finally asked.

“You're such a fucking bitch Kirsten,” she said, then to me, “Yeah. But only breast shots.”


Alex did a twirl in the middle of the kitchen floor. She poured some of the freshly-made Tang and almost dropped the crystal tumbler.

“Alex. Be careful. That was your grand—”

“Sure mom,” Alex said, walking toward me. “So, where's that guy you said was in the mental ward? You said he would come.”

Damien sitting in the blue robe on the edge of the bed.


I said—there was something shiny in her tongue. “I don't know. I guess he's not coming.”

“Anyway,” she said and gulped all the Tang. “Let's go to my room.”

In the family room kids watched David Lynch's
Lost Highway
, rewinding and re-watching the scene in which Dick Laurent forces Alice to strip at gun point. Marilyn Manson blared from the stereo. A boy around twelve screamed (off-key) the lyrics to “Cake and Sodomy.”

We wove through the crowd and went into Alex's room. I sat on her bed. She closed the door and locked it.

“Aren't these cool?” She carried from her dresser a tray of white tea lights that her friends had bought her for her birthday. “Hey, do you want to see them?”

She lit nine or ten, then lowered the blinds and switched off the lights.

“Isn't this so cool,” she said, standing with her face over the candles.

“Yeah. Really cool.”

The two of us sat in silence, both of us staring at the eerie glow.

“Guess what I did on Tuesday?”

“I don't know.”

She leaned forward, reaching behind her with both hands. When she lifted her black T-shirt, the bra came up with it. “See?” she said, her fingers straining to pull the material higher.

I didn't see—at least not at first. Then as Alex shook her torso, a tiny silver ring jiggled in one of the nipples.

“Yeah,” I said.

“And this too,” she said, sticking out her tongue.

“I noticed. Why'd you get it done?”

The expression on Alex's face changed. She lowered her T-shirt back over her breasts, reached around and refastened her bra.

“I don't know. I just wanted to,” she said, staring at the floor.

“Isn't it, like, for oral sex?”

Alex looked at me surprised. “How did you know?”

“I don't know. Someone told me.”

“I want to be someone's perfect bitch.”

Feeling I should nod, I nodded.

“You know, my dad thinks you want to have sex with me.”


“But he's kind of dirty himself. He cheated on my mom.”

“That's not good.”

Alex stood up and turned on the light. She blew the candles out in one breath and put the tray on the dresser.

“You know what we should do? We should like, fake we're having sex.”


“Wouldn't it be cool?”

Before I could respond, she started. “Oh…
…” she groaned, contorting her face as if in extreme pleasure, “Yeah! Deeper!

Not sure of what I was supposed to do, I let out a perfunctory groan.

Alex stopped. “Come on! Louder!” she whispered.

We began again.

This time I tried to make the groans louder, more convincing, authentic, but at the same time, realized that doing this was even more embarrassing than if we were having sex.

BOOK: The Video Watcher
2.81Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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