Jane Eaton Hamilton

"I cannot and will not cut my conscience to fit this year’s fashions.” – Lillian Hellman

Tag: Easter

72 Canadian short stories available online!

image: Jane Eaton Hamilton 2016 acrylic on paper

Kevin Hardcastle put together a list of Canadian short fiction available online; I look forward to dipping in. So many great authors! Something to take our mind off COVID-19.

Something to Read While You Isolate, by Kevin Hardcastle

My short fiction “Smiley” won the 2014 CBC Literary Awards in fiction:

Smiley by Jane Eaton Hamilton

Here is a reading of “Smiley:”

Smiley by Jane Eaton Hamilton

“The Lost Boy” won the CBC Literary Awards in fiction in 2003. It’s about the uneasy relationship between a child and her mom during the internment and is based on a family story:

The Lost Boy by Jane Eaton Hamilton

“Territory” was the first prize winner in This Magazine’s short fiction contest.  It’s about a woman leaving her husband for another woman:

Territory by Jane Eaton Hamilton

“Hunger” won the Paragraph Erotic Fiction Prize and was reprinted in my book “Hunger.”  It’s about a lesbian street kid who falls in love with an older woman:

Hunger by Jane Eaton Hamilton

“Sperm King” won the Prism International Short Fiction Award:

Sperm King by Jane Eaton Hamilton

“Easter” is short fiction, quite short.  Truth:  An old woman lit her wheelchair-bound husband on fire for eating her chocolate Easter bunny.  The rest is made up:

Easter by Jane Eaton Hamilton

“The Arrival of Horses,” a short fiction that first appeared in Seventeen Magazine, and later reprinted in my collection “July Nights,” concerns a family caught up in the on-going battle between ranchers and the BLM over wild horses:

The Arrival of Horses by Jane Eaton Hamilton

“Social Discourse: 1944” was loosely based on a real fire connected with Royal Oak Dairy in Hamilton, ON, and the injuries and loss of life sustained therein. I made the arsonist the secret homosexual lover of my gay uncle Gordon, which in real life he was not (although Gordon was gay, and the first gay person I knew).

Social Discourse: 1944 by Jane Eaton Hamilton

 

Jane Eaton Hamilton writes across genres, and is the author, among other books, of two collections of short fiction, “JULY NIGHTS,” shortlisted for the BC Book Prize and the VanCity Book Prize, and “HUNGER,” shortlisted for the Ferro-Grumley and longlisted for the Lambda.

 

About Hamilton’s short fiction:

 

HUNGER

BiblioWomenAuthors, Hunger

Review of Hunger by Richard Labonte

Event review of Hunger

Painting the Baby’s Room Green

Hunger, Jane Eaton Hamilton, Oberon, 2002

The woman on the cover of this book is painted in vibrant tones of orange and red. Only one eye is visible, and it stares with an intensity that you feel might never quit. The other eye is obscured by her hands, clasped together in a vulnerable and disconcerting pose. And there, captured in the proverbial nutshell, are the stories contained in this excellent little collection. From the honesty, painfully contained and restrained, in “Accusation,” the opening story, where a woman tests the boundaires of her marriage when she draws her husband into her flirtation (read connection) with a younger man at work, to the closing story, from which the collection takes it title, where a manipulative lesbian lover physically and verbally intimidates her partner into staying with her, Jane Eaton Hamilton confronts the lies we may or may not choose to live with on a day-to-day basis.

Hunger is Hamilton’s fifth book, and the most assured foray to date into the genre by this multi-talented writer (she is a noted gardener and writer of poetry also). Her short stories have been nominated for numerous awards; they are included in anthologies; they have appeared in Best Canadian Stories and The Journey Prize Anthology, and in many literary journals, including The Fiddlehead. Hamilton has also been short-listed for the Best American Short Stories and The Pushcart Prize. Hunger was a finalist in the Publishing Triangle Awards NYC 2003.

The stories in Hunger are superbly character driven; the characters we encounter are not always lovable. At times demanding and selfish, they are searching for something more than what they have, and for that we find them interesting, perhaps even admirable. Hamilton’s wry observations on the human condition are poignant, and can be quite witty when they deal with those unfortunate lovers who are about to be dumped. In the darkly tragic, therefore slightly comedic (seemingly inseparable states), take “Goombay Smash,” one half of a lesbian partnership is desperately trying to keep the relationship together, and she takes both herself and her partner off to a gay resort. On the first morning, at breakfast, she is watching the other—apparently happy and contented—couples around her and tries to identify a common element in their seemingly successful relationships. She comes up with the wild notion that matching hairdos may be the answer to true coupledom bliss:

Maybe this is how American lesbians celebrate their anniversaries, you think. Never mind paper, silver, gold: American lesbians have hair anniversaries. If they make it two years, they part on the same side, five years and they spike, ten and they bob. Twenty and they both wear buns in snoods.

“Psst,” you say. “Marg, look over there.”
Marg says, “What, Joyce?”
You point out the women with the waterfall hair and try and explain about hair anniversaries, and how the two of you should get matching buzz cuts, but Marg just frowns and goes back to scraping out her grapefruit with a stumpy-handled spoon.

One of the most original stories is “Lifeboat” which, with complete clarity, catalogues the less than comforting reactions of a husband whose wife has lost a breast to cancer. She refuses to do anything cosmetic to disguise this fact, a situation he finds alternately selfish and frustrating, or gutsy and admirable. His life is significantly altered by his wife’s experience with the disease and the cancer machine of support groups, alternative therapies and the ubiquitous cancer convention. The author pulls no punches in her exploration of the husband’s character, yet we can feel sympathy for this man who cries What about me? The end holds a moment of redemption; anyone who has been there, cancer wise—done that, worn the t-shirt—with any member of her family, will certainly recognize it, and anyone lucky enough not to have been there will surely recognize and appreciate the sense of loss—acutely juxtaposed with the feeling of hope—for what might yet be salvaged.

My particular favourite in this bunch of marvellous incursions into the depths and occasional heights of human experience is “Kiss Me or Something,” the story of a gay woman who falls for a straight woman, or, as I prefer to think of it, the story of a woman trying on different identities to see which one best fits her. Unfortunately, when people experiment with people, someone usually gets hurt along the way, and this story reveals just how deep that hurt can be. The betrayal of one woman is presented to the other as a gift, as something that will bring them both closer together. As the relationship heads toward disaster, it is painful to keep reading, yet read on we must, just as the two women must keep up the charade between them until the bitter end. We may wonder at the cruelty of one human being who willfully dupes another, and we further wonder at the capacity of human beings to dupe themselves:

How could I resist her? She kissed my cheek and my chin, small adorable kisses, and I folded my arms around her, pressed myself against her still taut stomach, groaned.

“Please,” she whispered. “I’m so sorry. Please forgive me.”

Now I knew who it was, I wanted Dorianna in a territorial way. I wanted to mark her, claim her, leave my scent on her. Drunk and confused and overcome by instinct, I felt like an animal. I pushed Dorianna down on her bed and made love to her like a beast, without taking off my clothes, lost in a haze of insane, itchy carnality.

An instinctive response to loss and betrayal, drawn with the kind of honesty that Hamilton is able to wield, her stories chronicle lives we may find uncomfortably familiar.

–Paula Thomas, Fiddlehead autumn 2003 No 217

Absinthe Review, Hunger

Emma Donoghue, judge of the Ferro-Grumley Award: “Highly original, gripping, sharp and deepy moving”

“Most of the characters in “Hunger” – women and men, gay and straight – inhabit a world roiled by emotional turbulence. Love evades them; their relationships are disintegrating; partners betray them; their lives are defined mostly by loss, longing, confusion, uncertainty. In “Goombay Smash,” a Key West vacation meant to breathe new life into the dispirited domesticity of a lesbian couple instead disintegrates into days of wrong turns, crossed signals, long silences, and denied sex. In “Kiss Me or Something,” a lifelong lesbian disdains the cautionary fretting of friends, so sure is she that the once-straight woman who now proclaims a Sapphic love eternal will never leave her for a man. In this uniquely voiced collection, nothing about matters of the heart is easy, or obvious, or even settled. The magic of these 10 short stories, though, and of Canadian writer Jane Eaton Hamilton’s insightful, fluid – and often disarmingly witty – prose is that, in elegant, edgy fiction as in messy real life, sorrows of the soul are redeemed by a resilience of spirit.” —Richard Labonte

“Jane Eaton Hamilton is a superb writer. Those who know her deem her to be among the brightest lights on the Canadian literary landscape. Those who do not know this ought to read and judge for themselves. I wholeheartedly recommend her work.” –Joy Kogawa

“These stories will grab you by the throat and not let you go. Highly original, gripping, sharp and deeply moving, they deserve the prizes they have won, and those to come.” –Emma Donoghue

“Jane Eaton Hamilton is a fine and accomplished writer.” –Carol Shields

“Hamilton explores themes of longing and loss in the lives of lesbians, heterosexual men and women. …marvelously quirky. Hamilton successfully weaves humour with pathos in the lean, accomplished style reminiscent of short stories in the New Yorker.” —Nairne Holtz, University of Western Ontario

 

JULY NIGHTS

“These works ride the perilous ride the perilous border between prose and poetry–a place of timeless, breathless beauty.  These are stories to be read again and again.”–Vancouver Sun

“A fine new collection, one that I highly recommend.”–Monday Magazine

“Hamilton makes captivity to her word-spirits seem, at times, preferable to mere liberty.  To favour one story says more about oneself than about the writer.”–Prairie Fire

“This is a strong first collection that will leave readers eager to see Hamilton’s next.”–Quill and Quire

“A disturbing pleasure to read.”–Toronto Star

“Crisp and clean, tender and dangerous.”–Paragraph

 

 

 

Easter

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Easter

by Jane Eaton Hamilton

Him, my husband, that devil, a pitchfork under his teeth, a whole smelly Hell in his mouth. Wheeling his chair naughty into the kitchen where for thousands of years I have cooked his meals, the bedroom where for six hundred and sixty-six lifetimes I have frozen under his thick needs.

I have no hiding spots left.

No sugar. In all of this house, no Wunderbar, no Smarties, no Aero. Oh, the chocolate, bubbling in the tarnation of his gullet. The smell and colour of our marriage, his cancer yellow, my treats in his gut a deep violet like the underside of flame. And oh, the stink, the sickly sweet smell of putrefaction.

Alive, I am, perfectly, while that old doze oozes from room to room on the rubber wheels of his disease. Mama, Mama, he cries, give me chocolate! My bars are under the floorboards or sunk deep in the freezer chest or tucked up in the shell of a light fixture but he is intrepid, that old man who wafts, he finds them, fast and slippery out of his chair when I am gone. One more time, one more extension of that dying limb into my candy.

Oh holy. This time of year I can see Jesus knocked out every time my husband’s foul mouth parts; Jesus lying on the lawn while white bunnies clipper over the triad of his body. While inside our walls my sneaky husband steals what belongs only to me and will not stop. I hate him every second. Mommy! he cries.

How I have put up. Fifty-one years this next June and every day that husband, exudate slipping from every crevice in him. Out. Out and in. Look what he takes in, year after year, how I feed him, the animal, the greedy pig, the endless mornings of bacon fat, the noons and nights of beef. In and out until now the aureate smell of cancer and diapers, the slit devil’s eyes he casts upon me. Fire in his grasping, insatiate mouth, sparks on the steel of his wheelchair.

And Jesus on the lawn almost dead.

In the pharmacy I pick out a bunny for God, the biggest one. Dear inside her cellophane box, she wears candy pink ribbons, a yellow candy nose. She is so pretty, so sweet with her brown ears, her woven basket of tiny blue eggs in her paw. I love her enormously. And it is spring. I pick up a large bottle of rubbing alcohol; I have two more at home. Jesus will rise when he sees. Won’t Jesus walk? Our front door like the stones of his crypt and he will walk inside with frolicking white rabbits, so pleased with me. I count out change, doling the mean pennies of my husband’s pension to buy this tender body of God, the host, the blood. Then it is all mine. She is, my own chocolate Easter bunny clutched to my chest in benediction.

(Oh snaily husband, oh mincemeat, ruin, thing of nightmare, how you deplete me. Every breath is an agony as if cancer is the air and you are the bellows of my lungs, pushing your misery into me. We’ll just see. I’ll kneel in the flowerbeds this afternoon, weeding, tending, while Jesus’s breath rasps and the daffodils nod their Eastery heads. I’ll set hamburger to thaw. We’ll just see, husband, won’t we?)

Up the concrete path, up the three steps, turn the key. I call out, Darling, I’m home! I lie him tenderly out on the bed and change his malodorous wrappings, wash his wasted skin.

What a credit to womanhood I am, in Jesus’s eye. I cook his lunch like a slave. Oh petunia, oh hunchback, what can I get for you, what would your pebble heart most desire? He eats the soup and I think, Once he was young and did not have inoperable cancer and a tremulant, skinny, loose-fleshed arm and I have grown old. If there is redemption, later I will be young and unmarried, a girl with limbs as smooth as satin.

I have hidden the Easter bunny in a low cabinet. Stupid man, slime of Hell, lips opening and shutting on flame flickers of damnation, he eats and then I put him down for his nap. Like a baby he blubbers little Hell bubbles, a sick wheeze. Every day his nightmare opens as he goes under, a thousand years of sin slipping him down, down, down. Where he dreams afternoon dreams of his inevitable afterlife.

I set the house to rights. Dishes, dusting, straightening, the full-bleach bath of fabrics he has touched. Then into the shed in my floppy gardening hat to find my spade and kneeguards. In another three weeks, tulips, blood sentinels, but for now these oh sweet daffs like yellow candy and their floppy green stems. Ground covers like aubrieta, little holy purples in a downy maze, all of which Jesus appreciates, beauty at his feet like all the bunnies. Jesus’s bunnies don’t nibble at foliage, don’t even come near me, just romp in white puddles across him, loincloth and all.

Darn lucky the sky is overcast or I’d be burning up in the sun. Suffer the marriage, suffer the eternity with my husband, suffer the cancer that won’t kill him it seems no matter my patience. Here the smell of spring, clammy soil upturned, worms that aerate: is it true he’s inside and I have to go in there? I stand and brush dirt from the knee of my housedress. One of the things he inhaled: my youth, my middle age, even my decrepitude, snarfed inside that weasly, fire-spitting mouth like all my chocolate bars. Entirely gone, the old turd, the old blankety-blank, the old pitchfork penis. I move creakily, and past Jesus who now is right gone, I’d guess dead, with all the bunnies curled up for nappies under his arms and between his legs. If it weren’t Easter the son of God dead on my lawn would be a fuss as far as the neighbours were concerned.

Hush of the day. Three o’clock already. Six hundred and sixty-six bets on whether my husband’s raided the cupboards yet. Big surprise ahead. I smell like God, I notice, when I’m up at the door, all earthy and whole from the yardwork. And I’ve got to open it to him and his Hell smells stinking up the universe and too close by half to heaven. Bid Jesus adieu before I turn the knob.

Oh, and if the power of God anointed any inch of this forsaken house. He’s in the the kitchen of course, got into that wheelchair of his own accord and rolled like Hades onto the tile nearest my hiding place. Oh, I see that scared and doomed expression on his face when I catch him; oh, I see exactly that he has ripped my bunny’s cellophane, broken her box, snapped off her ears and her pink ribbons; oh, I see the smear of chocolate alongside his mouth like devil’s excrement; oh, I see his brown and guilty fingertips. Jesus on the lawn catching the sleep of eternity in a couple easy hours and this Satan in my kitchen, in my cupboards, in my chocolate Easter bunny, gobbling and glutting.

He drops it you bet when I douse him with the rubbing alcohol. You bet. My bunny tumbles in flammable liquids, knock of cardboard on the tile, crinkle of cellophane. Beautiful sound of alcohol spilling and I even get some in his mouth, upturned, crying Mama, what are you doing? No, oh Mama! And I expect he ought to self-incinerate he’s so full of the devil’s work, light up from the hot hippy flames he’s got inside. I just stand above him, slightly out of reach, waiting, pack of matches at the ready. What a picture! He’s out of his mind grabbing at me, trying to get the chair going anywhere on the slippery floor, grunting and puking up complaints and fear. Empty another bottle for resurrection. And a third for luck.

Looks like I’m going to have to ignite him. It’s not like my labour ever has been done, with this one.

Sound of the match scraping on the back of the match pack, sizzle into flame, and his ridiculous panic screams. I just hold it, let him look at it a minute before I throw it, casual toss that strikes his lap and sends him up, up, up, a human torch, a sparkler in my kitchen. I have to edge around him to pass by, for goodness sake, right close by the flames in their three-spiked climb up him.

In the living room I find I’m exhausted. I sag into my favourite chair thinking Jesus will just have to wake me up from a snooze. I could use a chocolate bar. Not that blasphemous bunny but a Hershey bar with almonds, dark chocolate. Lucky we don’t have a smoke alarm. Still, I have to get up and open windows so I don’t asphyxiate, if you can imagine, which lets, besides smoke, my sly husband’s screams out. Lord’s on my side if nobody hears. I lie on the couch, hands under my cheek, and try to ignore the dastardly smell. As if I’m cooking for a banquet, whole side of beef on a charcoal spit.

When I wake it’s after eight p.m.. I slept right through the supper hour. Jesus isn’t here yet. I’m stiff, so I move slow to see he isn’t on the lawn either, least as far as I can see in the dusk. Possible I could miss him, but not likely given he has white rabbits with him and they’d show up even in full dark. I suppose he could have had errands to run first.

I go check on my husband. He’s done to a turn after five hours, all right, but not dead, hardly dead, still puking and mewling under his bubbly black skin. No flame. All that’s gone though I see the ceiling’s filthy with soot, bad soot I’m not agile enough to get at anymore. I’d try torching him again if I wasn’t out of rubbing alcohol. I go past him – I think he doesn’t even notice me but I tell him I won’t call an ambulance for him till nine, till it’s been a full six hours – and pick up my poor, amputated, alcohol drenched bunny. Dear little lamb of Jesus, I cradle her in her busted box, and wait.

_____________________________________________

Santa Ana, Calif. -An elderly women doused her wheelchair bound, cancer-stricken husband with rubbing alcohol and set him on fire because he ate her chocolate Easter bunny.

-Vancouver Sun

 

 

 

Easter, a story

Easter by Jane Eaton Hamilton

winner Federation of BC Writers award

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