The Good News

This is the last of the pieces mythologizing growing up in Cape Breton. Check the Village Stories page here for previous pieces in this series. There will be more next summer.

The Good News

my sister phoned to tell me

that the Atkins house had burned

right down to the ground

the four village fire trucks

hadn’t been enough to put out the blaze

the house had caught fire almost

every year for as long as anyone could remember

when I was a boy that fire was

an event like Halloween

that we kids looked forward to

the rush of fire engines

the bawling of babies

a rare glimpse of light at night

while the fireman squinted

through the smoke to douse the flames


no one knew how these fires started

even after the house was abandoned

was there some sort of curse

or was the house trying to burn itself down

unhappy with the family that lived in it

because I hated the Atkins’s

and their tribe of boys especially Billy

who took great delight in tormenting me

throwing moose shit at me

calling me ‘dolly fingers’

with his smirking face and leer


when they were exiled from our village

the house remained vacant

till another family dared to move in

even in those empty years

a fire would start

I was sure Billy was behind it

it was the sort of evil he would do

to keep the us aware of him


last I heard he had been sent to prison

for beating up the owner of a strip bar

who didn’t want him dating

the Russian girls he imported to dance

I like to imagine Billy behind bars

the prisoners kicking his broken ribs

to keep him from leering at them

it would serve him right

God just thinking of him

brings up all this hate

I thought I had outgrown


Billy was the first boy

who let me undress him

then he said he was too old to play

after that he was always mean to me

so when my sister told me about

the house burning down

all I could see was him naked

in his dingy little basement room

choking on the smoke

then his flesh bubbling

as the heat seared him to the bones


‘take that Billy Atkins’

I chuckled to myself

as I practiced his sneer in the mirror

‘take that you smug hateful prick’

then I went back to the TV show

I had been watching

before my sister had called me

with the good news


sew what

For the last of this summer’s Village stories is one of my favourites. Some these wrote themselves, some took more work & editing but this one flowed like a bloody nose. I indulge in schadenfreude. No, more than indulge, my hero wallows in it. Unlike most of the Village pieces there is some truth to this one.

I was bullied as a kid, but who wasn’t, right? There was one kid, a year or so older than me, who lived across the street from me & he did have a gang of goons that ran around with him. They did some juvie stuff. Setting fires? I’m not sure but it wouldn’t have been out of line if they did.


tree row

I also bring in the ‘bad house’ trope, used by many horror writers – the Shining for example. Here it’s not clear if the house was cursed before or by the Atkins’s. The scary empty house that wants to burn itself down is a fun notion too.


patio pink

I invest this with adolescent sexual resonance – how easily we develop an attachment to our tormentors only to revile at the same time – My hero’s mixed emotions about Billy are so real to me and the sadistic satisfaction my hero feels imagining Billy suffering is so bittersweet that I find it hard to read this one aloud with getting caught up in it too. I really enjoy the shift of sympathies, at least I hope what is the shift of sympathies – we feel empathy for our hero and then get distanced by his relishing the suffering of Billy. Another shift that comes, again I hope, as we understand the hero’s perspective, or lack thereof.

This is last of this year’s Village poems – more next summer.


September 3-6 – attending – Fan Expo


September 9, Wednesday – Hot Damn! It’s a Queer Slam – season 2 kick off – 8 p.m. The Supermarket – 268 Augusta Avenue, Toronto.hotNPG x37877; Queen Elizabeth II by Dorothy Wilding

October 18, Sunday – feature: Cabaret Noir: Inner Child Sacrifice


November 1 – 30 Participating NaNoWriMo


Like my pictures? I post lots on Tumblr



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