Excerpt (New)

It Will Happen

James d’Entremont had been running for the bus.

The No. 99 had never—in thirty years— arrived at the same time and on this day it was early. James couldn’t afford to be late for school, he couldn’t afford trouble, so he ran—hoping that the driver with the creepy-clown tattoo would not pull away, pretending, as he often did, not to see him.

It is hard to describe what it feels like to be hit by 3,500 pounds of metal, travelling at fifty kilometres an hour. The bumper of a 1996 Dodge Grand Caravan hit James’s right hip, sending him skyward. James’s spiral through the air felt to be in slow motion, and he could later recall the vague sensation of one Adidas track shoe flying off.

People turned their heads when it happened because the sound was awful: the sound of fear, the thud of the unforeseeable, a low lament from the pavement. They turned their heads as gawkers do, and they squinted. It was an uncommonly sunny day for Halifax, and the scene seemed over-lit as though someone was making a TV movie with Tom Selleck or Ethan Hawke.

Backlit by the strangeness of what had happened, James took on a surreal form. Motionless, no longer a person, he could have been a struck porcupine or a velour sofa that had toppled off the back of a delivery truck.

James had blond hair, that much you could see from the sidelines. Like many fair young men, he had yet to grow a real beard. If James was on a Florida beach forming a human pyramid, instead of lying broken on a grimy street, he would be in the middle row, but your eyes would be drawn to him because of his sun-streaked hair and his smile. When James’s smile escaped, it was as lovely as a chance encounter at the mall with your primary teacher, the nice one who brought a hamster to school and let you name it.

Face down James had landed in a bed of shattered grille parts, and he thought, for a moment, that he would jump up and walk away before people noticed. He tried to lift his right leg, but it was numb. As James lay on the street, his thinking was so scrambled that he worried about the pink-winged fairy floating before his eyes, all organza and glitter. Was she cold?

James was alone on the hot pavement, but extras quickly filled in the scene. In the costumes of college students, store clerks, and bankers. They stood apart from him, as though ordered by a director, and they appeared to go about their imaginary business, as good extras do, while the emergency people arrived.

Gravel was imbedded in James’s right cheek, his white earphones torn free. Inside his backpack was a laptop with a download of Giant Killing, the Japanese anime story of a struggling soccer team and its coach, the once-great Tatsumi Takeshi. Underneath was a textbook on Carl Jung, one sentence underlined: “In all chaos there is a cosmos, in all disorder a secret order.”

More to come

This story is from my upcoming collection and was first published in The Antigonish Review, which also published The Watermelon Social, still one of my favourite stories.