The Bukowski Agency - That Time I Loved You - Excerpt

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That Time I Loved You

fiction by Carrianne K.Y. Leung

EXCERPT

1979: This was the year the parents in my neighbourhood began killing themselves. I was eleven years old and in Grade 6. Elsewhere in the world, big things were happening. McDonald’s introduced the Happy Meal, the Ayatollah Khomeini returned to Iran, and Michael Jackson released his album “Off the Wall.” But none of that was as significant to me as the suicides.

It started with Mr. Finley, Carolyn Finley’s dad. It was a Saturday afternoon in freezing February. My best friend Josie and I were sitting on her bed, playing Barry Manilow’s “Copacabana” over and over again on her cassette player and writing down the lyrics. I was the recorder while Josie pressed “play,” “rewind,” and “play” again a hundred times, repeating the lines over to me until the ribbon finally snapped and we had to repair it with Scotch tape.

“Did you get that, June? Did you get that?” She kept asking me, as I nodded and wrote furiously on lined paper. We kept all the transcribed lyrics in a special pink binder marked SONGS in my balloon lettering.

I didn’t like the song as much as she did and wanted to switch to Le Freak to practice our new dance moves, but, Josie was determined to unravel the mystery of Lola at the Copa.

Josie’s brother, Tim, came in the front door, slammed it hard, and thumped up the stairs, shouting, “Josie! June! Mr. Finley’s dead. He’s dead! He’s fucking dead!”

At first I thought Tim was angry at Mr. Finley. We often were mad at him because he was our softball coach and mean. Then I realized by the sound of Tim’s voice that he was serious, that Mr. Finley was dead dead.

Tim burst into Josie’s room to tell us the grizzly details. Mr. Finley had offed himself with one of the hunting rifles he kept in a display in his basement beside his collection of taxidermied animal heads. His daughter Carolyn was in my class. The one time I had a sleepover at her house, we’d slept in the basement, dead deer and owl and bear heads had cast eerie shadows on the walls. She’d snuggled into her Benji sleeping bag and drifted off while I was as rigid as the snarling heads above me and didn’t dare close my eyes, fearing that even in their current state they’d go for my jugular. Josie and I had never been invited to a white family’s house before which is why I had said yes, and after I told Josie all about this horror show, we assumed all white people decorated their homes with dead animal parts. No thank you very much.

Mr. Finley’s suicide was the first person in the neighbourhood to kill himself. It gave me the chills, and not long after that, Georgie Da Silva’s mother got up before sunrise one glorious June morning, shuffled out to their double garage, and drank a jar of Javex bleach. At 8:30 a.m., Georgie went looking for her when he didn’t see her in the kitchen. He found her body sprawled on the oil-stained floor, a stream of white sudsy liquid pouring from her nose and mouth, her eyes looking right at him. That’s what the all the kids on the street said. We all began to worry: This was my and most of my friends’ first experience of death. It was kind of exciting at first, but then it got scary. Would there be another one? And another after that?

 

 

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