Canadian literature is serious. You know it, I know it, Rudy Wiebe DEFINITELY knows it. That is why the famous novelist recently said “It seems to me that laughter is too easy a way to face the ‘wilderness of this world;’ you can too easily laugh yourself past the difficulties. Laughter is not a way to understand; it is, basically, a method of elusion.”

These short stories get that, which is why they’re about Big Themes that confront the Deep Truths of Life. Truths like death by drowning, incest during World War II, and trees. Trees are VERY “The Truth.” Please read these Important Works and think about the dark Canadian night. Don’t avoid it, you can’t avoid it. For the night is dark, and full of voyageurs.

Jimmy “The Horse” Cavanagh had been trampled to death. By horses. The boys from Mr. Timmons’ farm found him lying in the road, his limbs mutilated into a sort of prancing pose. As they tried to cover his body, someone let out a fart, like a whinny. “Don’t you laugh,” their father said to them. “Don’t nobody dare laugh.”

At the hospital for consumptive children, a nurse slipped on a banana peel. Everyone prayed.

The men were tired. Hamilton was a hard place. So hard. Between everyone’s actual scars and the scars from their time in the Catholic school, people were tired all the time. The fact that they worked at an alarm clock factory never even registered. Why would it?

A new man moved to town. His name was Dr. Fingerbum, which was fine.

The nuns stared at each other, then out at the rough, wild seas. Wild like their sexualities, wet like their little nunnish vaginas. They held their coarse robes close for warmth and thought of Nova Scotia. Well, most of them did. One of them thought about getting dicked—hard—by Billy from down the road. She imagined his fat, pink face, sweaty above her, a droplet of sweat dripping from his nose onto her heaving breasts as he breathed, “Hiiiiiiiiiiieee.” Below, the sea churned.

The bear had been pawing at the campsite for hours. Hidden in the cave, the children peered out. “You know it’s funny,” one said, “We’re hiding in the cave, and the bear is sitting at our campfire.” “That’s not funny,” said another. “Not at all.” “Kind of is,” said a different child, how many children were in that cave. “No,” said the first one again. “Nothing is.”