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BUSBY BERKELEY

by Stuart Ross Tizzi stood at the bus stop, beside the lobster. At first, she didn’t actually see the lobster, but then, feeling like one of her shoelaces was loose, she knelt down to tighten them, and there was the lobster. Just standing there like it had a bus to catch, too. It was red with blackish bits. Its protruding eyes were intense. Its giant claws lay flat on the sidewalk. Rain had fallen that morning, and everything was still dark with damp. A few tiny domes of water sparkled on the lobster’s shell. “Are you a sign?” said Tizzi, her hands fumbling with her untied lace. “Do you mean something, in that something significant is about to happen in my life?” The lobster’s antennae quivered almost imperceptibly. It was trying to tell her something, or maybe just sniffing the air. Tizzi tightened the bow on her shoelaces and leaned her head down closer to the lobster, intrigued by its beady black eyes. “I feel like I know—” she started saying, and then the bus pulled up. The ride home was slow. When Tizzi had first started working at the public library, almost twelve years ago, the number 7 bus got her in either direction in just under twenty minutes. Now it wasn’t unusual for the trip to take thirty-five minutes. Where had all the new cars come from? Where did they all park at night? In bed, Tizzi dreamed about riding on the lobster’s back across the Kootenay Pass. Mountain goats were gnawing on bits of brush that poked out of the snow. They glanced for a moment at the woman riding the lobster, then went back to eating. Tizzi didn’t mind the cold up there on the pass. Especially since she knew it’d be sunny and mild back down at the bottom. The light pink sweater she wore kept her comfortable. She had knitted it herself. On the front was a big red lobster holding a torch. The orange flame atop the torch looked like the sun. The lobster’s claws opened and closed slightly as it walked along the mountain road. Then the mountain was gone and Tizzi was kneeling beside her grandmother’s wheelchair at the old folks’ home. They were in the common area, and, as always, the TV was blaring infomercials. Tizzi’s grandmother, Molly, had pale weathered skin on her face and bright red lipstick. She had drawn on her eyebrows in big arches. Sometimes she’d draw a straight line, sometimes little stars, sometimes a line with strokes through it, like a kid’s drawing of a Frankenstein scar. Today, big arches. “They watch these dumb commercials all day. It pisses me off,” said Molly. Her voice was delicate, not scratchy like a lot of other old people’s. Tizzi petted the lobster on her knees. “Can I get you a butter tart from the cafeteria?” “I’m not that easily mollified,” said Molly. She said this a lot. The lobster perched on Tizzi’s knees chuckled. This lady from the bus stop had a pretty funny grandmother. The window to the common area swung open, and the curtains fluttered in the breeze. They fluttered this way and that, back and forth, up and down. Then they billowed, filling the room. The sound coming from outside was like an avalanche. Or someone banging randomly on the keyboard of a piano. “It’s a Busby Berkeley routine!” yelled a woman with yellow hair who Molly and Tizzi had never noticed before. Later, when the moon was just visible in the ebbing daylight, Tizzi and the lobster, in solemn silence, set each other free.



Stuart Ross is a writer, editor, writing teacher, and small press guerrilla living in Cobourg, Ontario. The recipient of the 2019 Harbourfront Festival Prize and the 2010 Relit Prize for Short Fiction, among others, Stuart is the author of over twenty books of poetry, fiction, and essays, most recently The Book of Grief and Hamburgers (ECW Press, 2022) and 70 Kippers: The Dagmar Poems (with Michael Dennis; Proper Tales Press, 2020). Stuart has taught workshops in schools across the country and was Writer-in-Residence at Queen’s University and the University of Ottawa. His work has been translated into French, Norwegian, Slovene, Russian, Spanish, and Estonian.

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