When I was five years old, my mom gave me a hardcover journal with eight entries already filled in. All the entries are accompanied by a photo taken with a disposable camera. The first seven are blocks of text, printed on a dot matrix printer, then snipped to fit the page and glued in place. The last entry is handwritten in blue pen and dated December 24, 1995. Her loopy cursive says she is writing this final entry at work, so she can wrap the journal and give it to me in the morning.
The first seven entries are all from September of that year. She writes about the things we did each day: potting geraniums on the back deck, spending an afternoon with her friends who lived nearby and brought their own coffee mugs, dressing me in cream tights for a visit at my nan’s, eating a thrown together supper of canned beans and poached eggs, gluing sequins to a papier-mâché mask she made in art school.
There is an entry about a windy Sunday at Middle Cove Beach with my best friends, the Carters (a set of identical twins and their sister who is just ten months younger). In the accompanying photo me and the Carters stand near the edge of a cliff. The wind has electrified our hair and our mouths are opened wide to show off sprinkle-covered Timbits between our front teeth.
I recently took a photo of my sister’s two-year-old son, Leo, at the top of the slide in his light-up Paw Patrol sneakers. He has a wild smile on his face, he’s beating his heels against the aluminum, splashing the reflective surface with flashes of blue light. His giddy energy in the photo, the brazenness of his smile, reminded me of the journal and that photo of us on the cliff.
When my mom gave me the journal she told me to fill the blank pages, but I’ve always felt like it was too precious to mark in. A photo of my older sister polishing her Doc Martens on the front step is glued to the page opposite my mom’s last entry. Today, I’m thinking of printing this picture of Leo on the slide and sticking it on the next page.
Eva Crocker sees life in sharper focus than the rest of us. The objects, rituals, and scenes of everyday life take on an almost mythic quality in these stories, even while remaining intimately recognizable to us all. Crocker peers at the underbelly of poverty and work, ambition and apathy, loneliness and love, to find the sliver of beauty in each spot.Nothing is ever as simple as it seems: the boundaries between friendship and sex dissolve; power relationships are turned on their heads, if only long enough to examine them from all angles; transgressions and escapes become new kinds of traps. In “Auditioning,” a young twin makes a desperate attempt to reclaim her individuality. In “Serving,” a father and a son give parallel accounts of what it looks like when you let life eat you from the inside out. In “Star of the Sea,” a man watches his past get literally torn down before his eyes. And in the Cuffer Prize−winning “Dead Skin,” an after-school walk through the barrens leaves two boys forever changed.
In stories that ache with longing even as they pulse with new possibilities, Crocker gives us an unforgettable array of ordinary people, sometimes soaring, sometimes sinking, but always, ultimately, barrelling forward towards what’s next. Vivid, sexy, funny, and raw, this is a marvel of a debut from one of Canada’s most thrilling new writers.
Eva Crocker is the Associate Editor & Chief Staff Writer at the Overcast, an arts and culture paper in St. John’s. Her work has been published in Riddle Fence, the Newfoundland Quarterly, WORD Quarterly and the Telegram’s Cuffer Anthology. Her short story collection Barrelling Forward was shortlisted for the NLCU Fresh Fish Award and the Dane Ogilvie Prize for LGBTQ Emerging Writers. She has a master’s degree in English literature from Memorial University where she received the 2015 Medal For Excellence in Graduate Studies.