Return of the Trickster - Excerpt
Return of the Trickster

a novel by Eden Robinson

EXCERPT

WEE’GIT

YOU HADN’T EXPECTED TO LOSE YOUR MEMORIES when you took the form of an infant to watch over Anita. You expected to maintain your faculties in a baby’s body so you could make sure Albert behaved, that Anita was safe. But you really became Anita’s baby, her child, her kid. It’s embarrassing now how much you loved her house, being home, being the centre of her world. When the Trickster memories broke like a rotten egg, you tried to pretend you hadn’t remembered who you were, but it was all spoiled and she knew almost as soon as you did.

Jared will turn on you. People are selfish and ultimately self-involved. You knew that even as you were telling him stories in his bedroom, even before your sister, once so fair, but now more deformed than the last time you’d met, found you in your grave in the lonely woods.

Your baby boy realizes you aren’t going to pick him up and turns his head to Anita, but doesn’t make a sound. Kicks his legs and shoves his hand back in his mouth.

“Brother!” Jwasins had said. “Who killed you now?”

“You know damn well,” you replied.

“You and your angry witches.”

Her grinning old-woman skin hid the twisted thing she’d become. You knew she was ambitious. She’d used the Great Dying to marry her way up, taking names and status. But you never thought she’d cross the line between useful magic and harmful. It marks her: Her lengthened jaw, her gnashing teeth, her odd gait. Ogress. While you were cooling your heels in the woods, she’d been eating her way through smaller beings to become something much less human, radiating rotting, ill-begotten power, a flesh and blood Chernobyl.

“I’d love to resurrect you,” she said.

“But…”

“I want us to be a family again. You’re all I have, brother.”

The wolves surrounding her were bred with coyotes and probably dogs. Mutts with attitude. Alert. Ready to pounce. The familiar giggling build-up to cruelty. Your sister used an English name now, something generic and simple, but you couldn’t remember it at that moment, alarmed that she’s taken the next step in the villainy handbook and gotten herself some henchmen. Their teeth and growls were distracting.

“I want to know your children,” Jwasins said. “I want to be a part of their lives.”

Uh-huh. Yup. The vainest woman on Earth, who only started using magic when her looks faded, trying to stay young and beautiful. When that failed, she ate everything magical that moved to stay alive long past her best-before date, refusing her destiny as a lowly mortal. That Jwasins was suddenly feeling the love for him? She was plotting again, obviously. But you could work with that to get yourself free.

“Sure!” And you told her the name of all the children you knew of, except for Jared and two other random kids to cover up the fact that you were trying to hide him. You genuinely might have missed a few others. You can’t really remember the Seventies.

Pop.

But your sister found him anyway. When Jared disappeared, you felt him leave the Earth and assumed he’d died. You felt the universe without him. Jared, seriously, was no Einstein. He wasn’t going to revolutionize the world. He wanted to work as an ultrasound technician in a mid-sized hospital and buy a new car every ten years. That’s as big as his dreams got. The world didn’t lose a shining humanitarian, great thinker or renowned artist. He earnestly blundered into trouble like Mr. Magoo.

Your grandfather, the Trickster before you, sat down the beach as the masks burned, as the frontlets burned, as the button blankets burned. The fresh converts prayed as they watched their treasures destroyed. When the ashes from the missionary purge were cold, he walked into the forest.

You can’t save someone who doesn’t want to live.

Then your son returned. Here it was again, the distinctive, Jared-shaped tangle of empathy, self-loathing and power. The irritating klaxon horn of his panic split your skull as his organs frolicked on the hospital floor. You regretted your one-sided bond. You’ve offered to teach him, but he has issues with you. Mule-headed like his mother and his grandmother. The kind of stubbornness that gets you dead.

Baby Jared, kid Jared. How much he cared about his stupid train. How much he loved dancing around his bedroom to “The Ketchup Song,” even though it made his mom pull her hair and threaten to throw his boom box down the beach. How, when Jared went to sleep, he reached for your pointer finger.

Are your own dreams much bigger than his? Your small house in Kitsilano, filled with your treasures. A life that doesn’t include constant terror and harassment. A full fridge and the sky to fly through.

You like your life. You can hear your son, frightened, a tsunami siren blaring his location to the world. You want to tell him to shut up before he attracts the attention of any more severely crappy beings, but instead you pull up an article on the web. “The Comet Siding Spring will make a close flyby of Mars on October 19.” Ah, you’d forgotten about the total lunar eclipse on Wednesday. Maybe a quick trip to Vegas to gamble and then camp out in the desert to watch the show.

Jared’s made it very clear what he thinks of you. If he wants any more of your help, he can damn well ask for it.

 

 

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