The stories in this, Lauren B. Davis’s first collection, have been called audacious, extraordinary, and an amalgam of deep intuitive perception, sly wit and candor that could strip paint by the Globe and Mail. Recognized as the work of an important new writer, this is where Lauren’s career began.
Lauren gives an overview of the book:
From the title story, RAT MEDICINE
I saw the first rat next to where we stored the chicken feed. It was a week before John used his fists on me. I was out by the sacks and felt like somebody was watching me. The hair stood up on places of my body where I didn't know I had hair. I put down the tin pail I used to scatter the feed and picked up a shovel leaning against the shed. We'd never had no trouble. Living so far out of town like we did criminal types didn't seem to have the gumption to haul ass all the way out to our place, but there was always a first time. I turned around and there he was, sitting back on his hind quarters like a little rat dog begging for a titbit, up on the shed roof. He didn't flick a whisker, bold as brass. Just kept looking at me, his little front paws tucked up in front of his belly, his eyes bright as black glass.
"What do you think you're doing up there?" I said, but of course the rat didn't say nothing back.
"Don't think you can get in and eat up all this good feed." The rat kept looking at me, straight and firm like.
"We got a big old tom cat round here. He's going be picking his teeth with your bones, my friend." If rats could be said to smirk, that's what he was doing.
Now, most people, they really hate rats. Not me. I don't hate anything about the animal kingdom. Not snakes, not spiders, not coyote, not buzzard. That's the Ojibway blood, from my mother's people. My Granny used to tell me, you dream about a rat, you dreaming about some sickness, maybe a bad one, soon to come on. Granny was usually right about these things. I set store in omens, in symbols and signs. It's all there if you know what to look for. So I looked at the rat, recognized it for a fellow who'd come to tell me something.
"You got news for me, rat man? If you do, you better tell me. I ain't got all day." The rat cleaned behind his ears. Then he turned and stuck his bald tail straight in the air and disappeared toward the other side of the shed roof. I tried to get around to see where he was going, fast as my size would allow, but when I looked there weren't no sign of him.
I didn't tell John about the rat because I knew he'd just blame it on me. Tell me I didn't keep the place clean enough. Which was a lie, but true facts never matter much to John when he got a good rage going. I got a couple of old oil drums John kept about the place and put the sacks of feed in there, put old boards on the top and weighted them down with rocks.
When John came back that night he was in a mood even fouler than the night before. His moods had been getting worse for some time. He slammed the screen door so hard I thought the wood frame'd splinter.
"Nell!" he yelled. "This place looks like a goddamn pigsty! What the hell do you do all day?"
There wasn't no point in answering. He was just looking for a fight.
"C'mon in here and get your dinner, John."
He sat down at the kitchen table, his filthy work boots leaving marks on my clean floor. He stank of sweat from working at the mill in this heat. 'Course he wouldn't have thought to wash up before dinner. I didn't dare say nothing. I served us both up our food and set the plates down on the table.
"Fat as you are," John said, "don't think you're going to be eating all that. Take half off, Nell. You need to lose some goddamn weight."
I just looked at him.
END OF EXCERPT . . . (but not the story!)
Lauren's new novel, THE EMPTY ROOM will be published by Harper Collins Canada in May, 2013.
Davis’s most recent novel is OUR DAILY BREAD, a compassionate look at what happens when we view our neighbors as “The Other”, and the power of unlikely friendships. OUR DAILY...