The im­age on the cover is by Kevin Lan­thier. See more of his work

Geist - - Contents - AN­DREW BATTERSHILL

From Marry, Bang, Kill. Pub­lished by Goose Lane in 2018. An­drew Battershill is the fic­tion edi­tor of This magazine. His first novel, Pil­low, was longlisted for the 2016 Sco­tia­bank Giller Prize and the 2016 Sun­burst Award, and short­listed for the 2016 Kobo Emerg­ing Writer Award. He splits his time be­tween Van­cou­ver and Quadra Is­land.

For Tommy, it was only pos­si­ble to rob some­one when they ap­peared to him a blurry, Cau­casian shape rather than a liv­ing, 3-D teenage girl whose life was just as unique and spe­cial-feel­ing to her as his was to him.

His bad eyes were a big rea­son Tommy had got­ten into mug­ging, as

op­posed to any other kind of theft, since it was the kind that didn’t nec­es­sar­ily in­volve night vi­sion. The kind where some­body with ex­pe­ri­ence will tell you your first time: just close your eyes and do it. For Tommy, that was per­fect, since he could stare peo­ple in the eye like a wild dog, and just be see­ing what most peo­ple see when they re­lax their whole eye­balls.

Tommy wasn’t sure what the ex­act def­i­ni­tion of legally blind was, but he felt con­fi­dent it would be in­sen­si­tive to call him­self that. He’d had too many pre­scrip­tions to keep track of, and none had fixed his vi­sion all the way. Most helped most of the way, got him see­ing straight with his glasses on or his con­tacts in, get­ting by, driv­ing a car. But he never got the per­fect pair— his vi­sion al­ways stayed that lit­tle bit askew, tilt­ing off into swirls and vague­ness. So he was not, prob­a­bly, legally blind. Just very, very shitty at see­ing things within twenty feet.

He’d pre­pared for the girl to be a bit of a tough nut, thir­teen years old, bright

blond hair and dark black eye­brows, leav­ing her crumbs on the table, shov­ing her way out the door and scowl­ing into the wel­com­ing bright­ness of the late af­ter­noon. Al­ready look­ing mean enough to teach mid­dle school, let alone be in it. He reached her in per­fect stride, at the per­fect spot, and slid an arm over her shoul­ders, sub­tly twist­ing his body around to block her (and the fact that he was cov­er­ing her mouth) from the street. She im­me­di­ately bit his hand, and Tommy sucked in breath quickly, removing the knife from his pocket and di­rect­ing her eyes to­wards it with his own.

“Okay, Bitch Face, give up the bag. Give it up. Give it up. I will stab you if you scream.”

He re­tracted the hand and wiped it on his shirt, only suc­ceed­ing in spread­ing her thick spit fur­ther across his hand.

The girl didn’t look even a lit­tle scared, just grudg­ing. She prob­a­bly re­acted the same way to movie theatre ads about turn­ing off her cell­phone. Her de­meanour bluntly de­pressed Tommy. If he couldn’t even put a scare into a thir­teen-year-old girl, it re­ally was time to get out of the game. She sul­lenly dropped the bag to the ground, and Tommy scooped it up with one hand, re­plac­ing the knife in his pocket with the other.

“It’s not even my com­puter. You smell like onions.”

What a lit­tle shit, Tommy thought, ev­ery­one smells like onions—call­ing peo­ple out on it was break­ing the agree­ment we all make with each other each day. He turned to go.

“And I know I have a bitch face. Peo­ple don’t need to keep telling me.”

This stopped Tommy, and he turned back to her. “How many peo­ple have called you a bitch face? I was just do­ing a thing here.”

There are two per­son­al­ity traits re­quired to stay in ac­tion as a street mug­ger for as long as Tommy had. The first is the one most peo­ple would think of: be­ing care­less or vi­cious or cal­lous enough to threaten peo­ple with a knife and rob them. The sec­ond is just as im­por­tant but more coun­ter­in­tu­itive: be­ing nice

and easy­go­ing enough to make and keep friends who are will­ing to help sell what one steals, and not dime one out if they get pinched.

These two traits ex­ist on a spec­trum, and Tommy was about as far as one could func­tion­ally be to the like­able side. He would have ab­so­lutely no prob­lem fenc­ing this com­puter and hav­ing a pleas­ant, per­son­ally mean­ing­ful af­ter­noon with Bill, his com­puter guy. He would also, it was start­ing to seem, have trou­ble leav­ing Bitch Face with­out feel­ing bad about him­self.

She toed the ground and tossed a heavy, limp chunk of hair over her shoul­der. “But it was the first thing you thought of, right? Like, ran­domly, it popped in your head. Ev­ery­one calls me a bitch face. Or says I have one.”

Tommy was spend­ing much too long in the open here, but some­thing about Bitch Face’s pre­ma­turely jaded man­ner tugged at him. He scanned the street, and find­ing it empty, he looked her in the face, a vague chi­nook of pa­ter­nal warmth waft­ing weakly through him. “You’re young. Just… uh… it’s also a pos­ture thing. Like, hold your shoul­ders dif­fer­ently, maybe.”

The Crow Com­mute. From Ur­ban Wildlife by Kevin Lan­thier. This on­go­ing pho­tog­ra­phy project ex­plores the ex­pe­ri­ence of the wildlife liv­ing amongst us in our ci­ties. Lan­thier lives in Van­cou­ver and at kevin­lan­thier.com.

Olympic Vil­lage Beavers. From Ur­ban Wildlife by Kevin Lan­thier.

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