Shimmer

By Alex Pugsley

Shimmer
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In ten vividly told stories, Shimmer follows characters through relationships, within social norms, and across boundaries of all kinds as they shimmer into and out of each other’s lives.

Outside a 7-Eleven, teen boys Veeper and Wendell try to decide what to do with their night, ... Read more


Overview

In ten vividly told stories, Shimmer follows characters through relationships, within social norms, and across boundaries of all kinds as they shimmer into and out of each other’s lives.

Outside a 7-Eleven, teen boys Veeper and Wendell try to decide what to do with their night, though the thought of the rest of their lives doesn’t seem to have occurred to them. In Laurel Canyon, two movie stars try to decide if the affair they’re having might mean they like each other. When Byron, trying to figure out the chords of a song he likes, posts a question on a guitar website, he ends up meeting Jessica as well, a woman with her own difficult music. And when the snide and sharp-tongued Twyla agrees to try therapy, not even she would have imagined the results.

Alex Pugsley

Alex Pugsley is a writer and filmmaker originally from Nova Scotia. His fiction has appeared in Brick, The Walrus, McSweeney’s Internet Tendency, and Best Canadian Stories, among other publications. His debut novel, Aubrey McKee, was published by Biblioasis in 2020. He lives in Toronto.

Excerpt

from "Deedee at the 7-Eleven"

“So what the fuck have you been doing, Veeper?” Wendell’s voice is all loud and angry in the empty parking lot. “What the fuck, man? Where is it?”
I’m out on the highway and I lift my head up and look at Wendell in the distance there. It’s Friday night and we always meet at the 7-Eleven but I guess I’m a little late. It’s pretty dark but you can see Wendell because of the lights of the 7-Eleven store. Well you can’t really see his face, but you can see his black baseball hat and his blond hair and his jacket’s undone even though it’s February.
“Veeper?”
Sometimes I feel like Wendell’s been yelling at me like that for the last three years, ever since he gave me that nickname in grade six. I kind of had this high-pitched voice back then. Wendell’s a couple years older than me, he used to hang around my stepbrother, but we’ve been in the same grade ever since he failed some stuff in grade nine last year and I got put ahead. Actually me and Wendell got in a fight once when I first came to his school. I hit him in the cheek with a snowball in this big snowball fight. I just threw it, I didn’t know where it was going, and I apologized and everything but he chased me for an hour saying he was going to get me. It was weird, because I could tell he was seeing if I was going to be afraid of him or not, and when he finally caught up with me he kind of went crazy and threw me down. We wrestled around in the snow and then I got on top of him and told him when I let him up I didn’t want to fight anymore. But then when he got up, he just stood there throwing snowballs in my face saying, “You don’t do that to Wendell Boudreau. You just don’t do that to Wendell Boudreau” over and over. And I couldn’t help it, I started crying and then everybody stayed there and I walked home by myself. That was the last time I ever cried in real life. I hated grade six.
So I’m out on the highway and I yell something back at Wendell and jump into these alders in the ditch. The alders are all covered in ice and start clicking each other as I’m walking through them. I drink what’s left in one of my beers. I’ve had two or three beers by now that I got from my mother’s and so things are starting to kind of swirl by me. I toss the empty bottle so it’ll roll across the ground without breaking. I always do that. I like that thing where you just stop and watch the bottle spin over the frozen ground, over the ice that’s frozen in old footprints. Because then it’s like only some weird coincidence that you’re seeing it.
“So Veeper,” Wendell says, looking at me, “did you get the two-four or what? What’s going on?”
We talk in this girl’s voice sometimes and I start talking in it. “Okay don’t say hi. Don’t say hi, you snob. You two-faced snob. ”
“So what’s going on? Fuck, man. What are you saying? I want to get going. ”
“I guess I’m saying I couldn’t get in. ”
“Oh, man,” Wendell says, shaking his head. “I don’t fucking believe it. Are you serious?”
“Of course I’m serious,” I go. “I’m totally fucking serious. I-couldn’t-get-in. What’s your problem?”
“Oh and that’s great. That is just fucking great. ”
“Excuse me for living. You got a hot date lined up or something?” There’s one of those big garbage dumpsters in the middle of the parking lot and I start flicking stuff from my pockets into it. Cigarette wrappers, receipts, old candy. “Take it easy,” I say. “I got Donny to go in for us. He’s bringing it in the Nova. ” Then I crack up like I can’t help it.
Wendell doesn’t say anything. He’s watching one of the cigarette wrappers blow off in the wind. “You fucking hope Donny’s bringing it in the Nova,” he goes. He turns around and puts a knuckle to the side of his nose and blows something out of it. Then he wipes his nose with the sleeve of his jacket and spits. Wendell can spit about four different ways. He’s got a chink in his front tooth he can spit out of and he can also make these little spit bubbles under his tongue and send them floating down streets or football fields or parking lots or whatever.
He sniffs something in his nose and looks at me. “Aren’t you just Mr. Fucking Comedian tonight,” he goes.

Reviews

Praise for Shimmer

"Looking at Shimmer as a whole, one is struck by Pugsley’s mastery of the short-story form, his ability to distil entire lives’ worth of meaning into a few short pages. He’s not just a writer to watch: he’s a writer to savour. "—Robert Wiersema, Toronto Star

"His greatest gift as a writer is, I believe, his ability to carry dialogue . .. a brave departure from the highly-praised Aubrey McKee. "—Miramichi Reader

"Pugsley brings out the confusion of life well. No one is in control. Everyone has doubts about themselves and others. His ability to show the twists and turns of our constant, anxious questioning of ourselves makes each story revelatory in a different way. A truly impressive collection!"Ottawa Review of Books

"[Pugsley's] story proves that the digital mode of communication, while frequently castigated as impersonal and dehumanizing, can, in the right hands, carry with it strong emotional resonance. "—Steven Beattie, That Shakespearean Rag

Praise for Aubrey McKee

Aubrey McKee is no austere, white-walled art gallery of a novel. It’s abundant, highly decorated, and unafraid of extravagance, of stylistic excess . .. From ordinary incidents — a childhood acquaintance, marital strife, a wedding — as well as a few extraordinary ones, Aubrey McKee builds a dazzling and complicated world, a childhood in Halifax as a vibrant universe in itself. While Pugsley’s literary performance is an immediate delight, the portrait of the early days of a 'wayward oddity' lingers long after. ”—Toronto Star

“Evoking comparisons in both style and substance to the work of John Irving and Robertson Davies in its assemblage of perceptive, richly detailed character studies . .. The life of a Canadian city is revealed with verve and insight. ”—Kirkus

“Although many peoples’ stories comprise the whole of Aubrey McKee, the city of Halifax is also a feature character . .. the reverence Pugsley provides about Halifax will resonate with anyone thinking about their own hometown, no matter its size or location . .. The richly defined personalities in Aubrey McKee are void of pretense or judgment and are, at once, knowable. Like a favourite song, it’s the hook that makes the adventures of Aubrey McKee and those he cares about so memorable. ”—Winnipeg Free Press

"Pugsley, equal parts poet and meticulous historian of his own private Halifax, has accomplished, with “Aubrey McKee,” a work of high literary art, remaking and claiming the city as his own once again in a sustained performance that pulses with that deep, radical love. "—John Delacourt, The Ottawa Review of Books

“The mesmerizing, kaleidoscopic Halifax depicted in Aubrey McKee is as enchanted as it is benighted, an adolescent fever-dream. This is a rollicking, strange and unforgettable coming of age novel unlike anything you've ever read. ”—Lynn Coady, Scotiabank Giller Prize-winning author of Hellgoing

“His prose style is among the finest anywhere: humorous, economical, deft without sacrificing accessibility, capable of laying bare the complicated depths, the tenderness, and the strangeness of personal relationships. ”—Roo Borson, Griffin Poetry Prize-winning author of Short Journey Upriver Toward Oishida

“Alex Pugsley’s novel, Aubrey McKee, is a whip-smart portrait of the artist at the end of the twentieth century. Funny and wildly intelligent, it captures a somewhat tragic cohort of young, ambitious Haligonians trying to become themselves, all seen through the eyes of the narrator, a young man of incomplete wisdom. In quicksilver prose, Pugsley shows us a whole generation, some of whom are lost, some found, but all viewed with a profound, comic humanity. ”—Michael Redhill, Scotiabank Giller Prize-winning author of Bellevue Square

“A wonderful book, it absolutely floored me. It's been a very long time since I've read anything like it . .. I found Aubrey McKee to be more reminiscent of Dubliners by James Joyce, not only because the sense of place is so strong, but because the narrative in this book is told through interconnected stories. ”—Bookin’

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