Short Fiction

An short story written for CBC Short Story contest

Minor Transgressions

Robbie and Mikey

It’s summer and we are seven and still friends. There are only ten houses on our little street shaped like a bay. Robbie lives in the biggest oneall white with grey bricks on the front and navy shutters on the windows. The pavement burns my feet as I run across to his yard. On afternoons, like today, Robbie’s mom turns on the water sprinkler. They have the best front yard on the block with soft, wet grass. My mom doesn’t water our grass enough. She says she doesn’t like to waste water but really, I think she doesn't want the neighborhood kids hanging out at our house.

We all take turns running through the stream of water shooting up from the ground. Back and forth, back and forth. Sometimes the grass turns to mud and Robbie’s mom turns mean and sends us all home. But today she is not around. Robbie is biggest so he runs through first, and the rest of us follow in a conga line. Mikey is close behind me. A hand touches my neck as my bikini top comes loose, uncovering my chest. I stop in my tracks. Frozen. The muddy grass feels like it has turned to clay, holding my feet in place so I can’t escape. Laughter explodes as the kids follow Mikey’s lead, chanting like the church choir:

“Itty-bitty-titties. Itty-bitty-titties”.

I cover my nipples with my hands and race back home across the scorching street, this time not feeling the burn.

“It's just something boys do”, says my mom. “Be prepared”.

Michael and Robbie

Early spring and the gutters are already clogged as they struggle to keep pace with the melting snow. I zig zag down the sidewalk, stepping in every puddle along the way, knowing full well my mother will howl at me when I get home, asking me why I insist on not wearing rubber boots. Rubber boots are for little kids and moms; she should know. Now that I am ten, I am finally old enough to walk home from school by myself.

As soon as the bell rings and Mr. Steinke says we are dismissed, I sprint out of class like a cheetah, trying to get a head start on the other kids from the street. My mind is full of the stories I make up about me and what my life would be like if I lived in a different time, in another world. Today the “me” in my imagination is named Cassandra. She has golden hair and indigo eyes, neither chubby nor shy. Already grown-up, she has a job as an executive in an office on the top floor of the tallest skyscraper in Toronto. Of course she is also a mother, with two flawless children named Jessica and Justin, or Joshua and Jennifer.

Wrapped up in my thoughts, I don’t hear Mikey and Robbie behind me.

“Hey Fatty Patty - you think you are too good to walk home with us? What’s the rush”?

Cassandra vanishes and I am alone. I run, because I am a cheetah, and I pray to God my tormentors will choose not to give chase. But they do.


Finally I am wearing the back-to-school clothes I bought at the mall last month. Skinny jeans and a red and blue striped sweater. So cool. I have waited forever for this day. I mean, it was just so damn hot in September. Now outside our classroom window I see most of the leaves on the massive oak tree in the schoolyard are yellow, some of them orange, and others already red. I squint my eyes and the tree is on fire. Today I got up on the right side of the bed, so my mom would say. Most days I roll out on the left. I turned thirteen last month and got my period in the same week. My mom told me I am now a woman but seriously, I am only in the seventh grade.

Ms. Davies makes us start each morning doing yoga. She says it will focus our minds. There is not much space in our classroom so mostly we all just stand in what she calls “the mountain pose” with our heads straight and arms down, palms facing forward. She requires utmost stillness and silence, which usually proves to be an unreasonable expectation from thirty adolescents. My mind wanders back to that tree again: How many times has it lost its leaves?

Then I feel it: my bum stings. Someone pinched my butt. He just reached out and pinched me, like it’s allowed or something. Why would he do that? I feel the blood rush to my cheeks, but I don’t break my pose.

Mike and Rob

The blazing sun is high in the vast blueness of the winter sky, unbroken by a single tuft of cloud. The snow glistens; the trees sparkle. I see my breath, like a wisp of steam, rising up and disappearing into the frigid air. Could it be that we are all existing inside the painting of the winter skating scene I once saw with my mom at the art gallery downtown? Me and my two best friends are at the outdoor ice rink in the park close to my house. We are practicing the moves we learned from years of skating lessons: butterfly jumps and spins. But we stopped taking lessons two years ago, when we were fourteen and starting high school. Now I play the flute in the school band; Megan and Emily are in the drama club.

The rink is divided into two sides, one for hockey and the other for free skating. The thermometer must have warned the toddler set and their doting parents to remain indoors today; we have one whole side of the rink to ourselves. I notice that Mike and Rob from school have set up a net on the hockey side. As I glide around and around, I observe them. Rob is in the goal while Mike skillfully moves the puck back and forth with his stick, watching and waiting for his opportunity. Rob looks up and notices me checking them out. In one distracted moment his opponent makes his move and shoots the puck straight into the net.

Rob throws his stick at the net and shouts in my direction: “Patricia K. is a virgin.”

I raise my middle finger and yell right back: “Fuck you, asshole”.


I didn’t want to go to this party tonight. My mom says I need to get out, meet people, have funlike she did back about a hundred years ago when she was an undergrad. Not my scene but she doesn’t get it. So here I am. I raise the red plastic cup they handed me when I arrived in a toast to myself—my first legal drink. The crimson liquid is syrupy with flavours of strawberry ice cream and pineapple hard candy. The alcohol hits me smack in the head but it doesn’t help; I still feel as out of place as a aardvark in the Arctic.

I am standing in the corner of what must once have been the foyer, as they would have said back when the house was built sometime last century. Back then it would have been a stately manor with its crown moulding and hardwood floors. Now its walls, painted the hue of faded mustard yellow, grimy and stained, are clues that more recently its rooms have been occupied by a bazillion frat boys whose priorities did not include architectural preservation. I look around for someone to talk to but don’t recognize anyone, so I take another sip. Then, over by the far wall, leaning against a threadbare plaid couch, I see Mike and feel relieved. Finally someone I know.

Mike is in my chemistry class. I sat beside him on the first day and we chatted. Now he waves and smiles when I see him on campus.

“Hey Pat.”

I can barely hear Mike through the blaring music. We lean against the wall, sipping our drinks, pretending to enjoy the tunes, thankful for an excuse not to make small talk. I feel Mike’s hand behind my back. I stiffen but don’t move away. Then I feel his hand creep down my back, under my skirt towards my butt. Paralyzed, I don’t know what to say. Mostly I don’t want to say anything. But then I realize I like Mike. I like talking to him in chemistry. I like knowing someone around campus. I want to feel safe around Mike.

“Mike - that’s not cool. Don’t do that”


The air conditioning in my car is fried so when I arrive at work today, I am soaking wet, only to be blasted by the HVAC system that keeps our office the same temperature as a meat locker. I don’t even have time to grab a latte when my colleagues and I are summoned to the cafeteria for a company-wide meeting. I feel self-conscious in my sweat-stained shirt. This is not what I imagined my first job would be like. But my mom keeps telling me you have to start somewhere, especially when, at 22, the only certificate you have to show for yourself is a degree in English Literature.

I count the seven senior executives in the front of the room, indistinguishable in their dark suits, except for their patterned ties. Doc, with the red face, starts off on a somber note telling us sales are slow. Grumpy scowls. Happy thanks us for our contributions. Sleepy looks bored with it all (the rumour is he will soon retire). Dopey, stumbling over his words, says something about shareholders. Bashful doesn’t speak. And finally Sneezy closes it all off reminding us of the company’s values: words like passion and people; integrity and trust. Then it is over, and my colleagues and I go back to our cubicles, like cattle to our pens.

A few minutes later Rob, our supervisor, stops by.

“What did you girls think of that meeting?”

The look on his face tells me he has little interest in our response. I am shaking. I hold back the tears from forming in my eyes.

But I stand up.

“We are not girls. None of us here have been girls for several years.” I pause.

“We are women”.