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Authors: Deborah Willis

Vanishing and Other Stories

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PENGUIN CANADA

 

VANISHING AND OTHER STORIES

 

DEBORAH WILLIS
was born and raised in Calgary, Alberta. Her work has appeared in the
Bridport Prize Anthology, Event
, and
Grain
, and she was a winner of
PRISM International
's annual fiction prize. She graduated from the University of Victoria, and has worked as a horseback-riding instructor and a newspaper reporter. She currently works as a bookseller in Victoria, B.C.

 

 

vanishing

and other stories

 

 

 

D E B O R A H  W I L L I S

 

 

 

PENGUIN CANADA

 

Published by the Penguin Group

 

Penguin Group (Canada), 90 Eglinton Avenue East, Suite 700, Toronto, Ontario, Canada M4P 2Y3
(a division of Pearson Canada Inc.)

 

Penguin Group (USA) Inc., 375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014, U.S.A.
Penguin Books Ltd, 80 Strand, London WC2R 0RL, England
Penguin Ireland, 25 St Stephen's Green, Dublin 2, Ireland (a division of Penguin Books Ltd)
Penguin Group (Australia), 250 Camberwell Road, Camberwell, Victoria 3124, Australia
(a division of Pearson Australia Group Pty Ltd)
Penguin Books India Pvt Ltd, 11 Community Centre, Panchsheel Park, New Delhi – 110 017, India
Penguin Group (NZ), 67 Apollo Drive, Rosedale, North Shore 0745, Auckland, New Zealand
(a division of Pearson New Zealand Ltd)
Penguin Books (South Africa) (Pty) Ltd, 24 Sturdee Avenue, Rosebank, Johannesburg 2196, South Africa

 

Penguin Books Ltd, Registered Offices: 80 Strand, London WC2R 0RL, England

 

First published 2009

 

1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9  10  (WEB)

 

Copyright © Deborah Willis, 2009

 

SUMMERTIME (from “Porgy and Bess”)

Music and Lyrics by GEORGE GERSHWIN, DU BOSE and DOROTHY HEYWARD and IRA GRESHWIN
© 1935 (Renewed) GEORGE GERSHWIN MUSIC, IRA GERSHWIN MUSIC
and DUBOSE and DOROTHY HEYWARD MEMORIAL FUND
All Rights Administered by WB MUSIC CORP. GERSHWIN ®, GEORGE GERSHWIN ® and
IRA GERSHWIN™ are Trademarks of GERSHWIN ENTERPRISES
PORGY AND BESS ® is a Registered Trademark of PORGY AND BESS ENTERPRISES
All Rights Reserved    Used by permission from ALFRED PUBLISHING CO., INC

 

All rights reserved. Without limiting the rights under copyright reserved above, no part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in or introduced into a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means (electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise), without the prior written permission of both the copyright owner and the above publisher of this book.

 

Publisher's note: This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents either are the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.

 

Manufactured in Canada.

LIBRARY AND ARCHIVES CANADA CATALOGUING IN PUBLICATION

 

Willis, Deborah (Deborah M.)

Vanishing and other stories / Deborah Willis.

 

ISBN 978-0-14-317022-8

 

I. Title.

PS8645.I565V39 2009 C813'.6 C2009-900173-X

Visit the Penguin Group (Canada) website at
www.penguin.ca

 

Special and corporate bulk purchase rates available; please see
www.penguin.ca/corporatesales
or call 1-800-810-3104, ext. 477 or 474

 

 

 

 

for my parents

 

 

 

 

CONTENTS

 

 

 

Vanishing

The Weather

Escape

Traces

This Other Us

The Fiancée

Rely

Remember, Relive

Frank

Caught

Sky Theatre

And the Living Is Easy

Romance Languages

The Separation

 

Acknowledgments

 

 

 

v a n i s h i n g

 

 

 

WEEKS PASS
and the police give up their investigations. The newspapermen who wrote “Local Writer Vanishes” find other stories. Months go by, then a year.

Marlene and Bea drink afternoon coffee and their conversation slips back to the everyday: the price of potatoes at Loblaws, who's a good doctor and who's not, what kind of pictures are showing these days. Marlene goes to
shul
more often, and stands for the Mourners' Kaddish.

But Tabitha imagines that her father stepped onto a bus, then onto a boat, and soon they'll receive a postcard from India. She imagines him showing up in five years, his hair greyed or gone, with stories of living in Oregon, or Alaska, or the Alps. She imagines he simply moved into an apartment downtown. Sometimes—and this really puts ants in her stomach—she imagines he is hiding somewhere in the house, behind the couch
or in the closets. She checks under her bed every night before she goes to sleep.

 

 

THE DAY NATHAN DISAPPEARED
began like any other Saturday. Marlene put a long coat over her housedress and dragged Tabitha to Honest Ed's. They bought a pie plate on sale, six pairs of nylons, some patterned dishcloths, and—after Tabitha pleaded—a life-sized ceramic bust of Elvis Presley. “Where will we put that thing, Tabby?” Marlene said as they stood in line at the till. “What will your father say?”

But Tabitha knew her mother loved the Elvis too—the realistic folds in his collar, the glassy brown eyes, that smile. During the streetcar ride home, he sat on Tabitha's lap and she wrapped her arms around his smooth, painted shoulders. He made it all worth-while—Marlene's housedress, the streetcar windows that steamed up from people's breath, and even Honest Ed's itself. The crowded aisles, high ceilings, and the sign outside that announced
Honest Ed's: Only the Floors Are Crooked!

When they arrived home, Tabitha went in ahead to find the perfect place for the Elvis, and that's when she saw the attic's open hatch. She stared at the ceiling's gape. Never in her ten years had she known her father to treat his office carelessly. She thought of calling to Marlene, but Tabitha knew how slowly her mother moved—how her hips cracked when she bent to unbuckle her shoes, and how she hung each coat on its proper hanger. And Tabitha didn't want to speak her worst fear aloud, wasn't even sure if a nightmare thought like this could be spoken.

“Dad?” she called up into the dark place where he did his writing. No answer, and before she could help it, she imagined her father hanging from the ceiling. She pictured it like the movies: his crumpled face and a sinister, creaking rope. She imagined that his swinging body looked long—not tall, long. She climbed the ladder, feeling sick and dizzy as she put her foot on the final step. Then, weak-kneed with relief—initial, foolish relief—she found the attic empty.

 

 

HE SEEMED TO HAVE LEFT IN A RUSH
. They know he walked out the front door and locked it behind him, bringing only his thick wool coat, his scarf and hat, his umbrella. He left his typewriter, his books.

They might have assumed he'd gone to the office for a couple of hours, or out for a walk, if he hadn't taken the time to tidy the attic before he left. The scripts of his finished plays were held together with paper clips, last-minute changes indicated in pencil in the margins. The more recent works were stacked on the floor. Marlene put these in a box and tied it closed with string, because he'd left a note that read,
Unfinished
.

 

 

THREE YEARS LATER
, the plays Nathan completed are produced in Toronto and Halifax. Marlene gets a job as a bookkeeper and discovers that she's good at it. At Tabitha's bat mitzvah, the rabbi says he's rarely seen such a dramatic reading of the
parshah
.

Life is as uplifting as a musical, except that sometimes Tabitha wakes at night to find Marlene humming Paul Anka songs into her ear. “You had a bad dream,” says her mother, and she touches Tabitha's forehead. “What was it? A monster? That falling feeling?”

No matter how hard she tries, Tabitha can't remember. All that lingers is sweat on her pyjamas and a bad feeling in her throat.

 

BOOK: Vanishing and Other Stories
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