In the interim, I’ve been busy with, among other unrelated activities, another writing project - the publication of my first book, a short story collection: Loose Pearls and Other Stories which was launched in April.
Loose Pearls is a group of thirteen unrelated stories. If there is one connecting thread, it is the idea of secrets and things withheld from loved ones.
The life of coal miner Doc MacSween reflects the overburden of the disaster in which he played a part. Katia carries a secret child in her heart while her sister allows her to suffer in silence. Monica returns to her former school as a teacher to relive the pangs of a hopeless crush. An old man shields his wife from her best friend's penchant for walking off with other people's belongings. In the title story, Loose Pearls, Anna tries to pass on a disturbing chapter of family history before it is lost altogether.
While sometimes tinged with humour, the stories often slide into the dark side. A spinster deals with a neighbourhood stalker by trying to put herself inside his head. A well-meaning but slow-witted young man causes injury to those supposedly trying to help him. A boy is preyed upon by the very people in whom his parents place their trust.
But there is hope as well. A wife dealing with her brother's suicide sees her husband's wild schemes in a new light. The neighbour of a mother whose daughter is missing shows her how life goes on.
And sometimes it is up to the reader to decide, as when Susan, a long-suffering housewife, literally finds herself at a crossroads. Here is an excerpt from that one, titled: "Tuesday."
The fairground was soft underfoot from the early morning rain. Overhead, the puffy clouds were splitting apart, revealing snatches of brilliant blue promise. Weaving aimlessly through the bustling flea-market crowd, Susan could see three kites bobbing above the field. She admired the crafts, fingered old china, spent a long time gazing into a glass case of estate jewellery.
She hadn’t thought it through. She had left the laundry in the dryer. By the time Sam thought to look there for his good shirt he’d never be able to iron out the wrinkles. And the grocery money – she’d meant to leave it – honest she did. She didn’t need it, she had enough in her own account. That had been the point of her pinching and scrimping and scratching these past few years. To do it on her own. And now, here she was with the grocery money – his grocery money – in her purse, as if she had stolen it. And the kids. They weren’t kids anymore. Sam Junior and Carla were both married, Sam Junior unhappily, she felt. Benji was nursing a broken heart these days. Not his first. Each of them had enough life experience to understand. But would they?
To be fair, Sam had never struck her before. He raised his hand so often in threat. That was common enough. But somehow this morning he zigged and she zagged, and suddenly he was making contact and she was on the floor. An accident. Susan believed this with all her heart. She wasn’t even sure what it was about. Something trivial. A wet towel in the laundry hamper?
Whatever it was, it didn’t have anything to do with where she was now. Not really.
She paid for her purchase, a tiny crystal angel. Or maybe it was just cheap glass. It didn’t matter. She liked it. She got into the car and pinned it to her lapel, and already she felt protected. She checked her watch. An hour back to the city. An hour to pick up a few groceries – just time for the bare necessities – thank goodness she kept a well-stocked kitchen. Because she would need part of that hour to change back into that person she was when she got up this morning. Whoever that was.
Susan started the car. She had her hand on the gearshift when the kites floated into view. She took the boundary road along the back side of the fairground and parked there. Bending low, slipping through the stiled fence, she was reminded of something. Youth. It wasn’t gone. Not yet. Not all of it. She was still slim as a willow, lithe as a teenager. She hopped up, achieving an easy balance as she sat on the top rail, legs dangling.
A young father spooling a multicoloured butterfly kite was torn between his toy and his toddler. Running in aimless circles in the daisy-strewn field, the little girl was propelled by gravity down the slope.
Sensing Dad’s dilemma, Susan hopped off her perch. “I’ll take it,” she said. “Go after her.”
For just a moment she saw herself through his eyes. A woman his mother’s age, a little angel pinned to her shirt.
He passed off the spool, and then it was hers, the dancing, swaggering kite. Caught off balance, she wrestled joyously with the wind. And then, just as suddenly, the moment of bliss was manoeuvred back into his hands, both of them laughing. In her heart she was eighteen again, blushing roses.
Susan turned the car and backtracked down the rutted lane to the concession road. Same intersection, different approach. She squinted into a sunset trail of long, straight macadam. No traffic in either direction. No reason to turn one way or the other. No reason not to.
So far the collection has received two favourable reviews:
Literary pearls stand for our burdens and our triumphs
“Thanks to Cape Breton University Press, Glace Bay writer D.C.Troicuk’s talent is on display in a collection of short stories entitled Loose Pearls. The volume is a welcome addition to the literature and culture of this island.
Troicuk’s 13 carefully written stories are infused with intelligence, imagination and style ... The title ... has resonance. The loose pearls are like strung natural pearls — many-faceted, valuable, with some pearls of great price. Primarily, these literary pearls in one way or another stand for our burdens and our triumphs ... The writing is economical. Flashbacks are handled extremely well ... Loose Pearls represents a good beginning for an author whose writing career will flourish.”
- LeRoy Peach, Cape Breton Post: June 6
Cape Breton’s D.C. Troicuk pens triumphant first book
“This first collection of stories from D.C. Troicuk is quietly understated as life flows gently below the surface of daily life.
Family cold wars are buried deep, and sometimes the glue holding things together, no matter what, is tainted by dislikes and resentments and bound inextricably by duty. The boiling point is not an explosion but rather an understanding that takes hold, a clarity of vision which builds until her characters begin to see the reality of their truths ... Troicuk is an excellent teller of tales. She writes with a clarity of vision that brings focus to her stories ... Troicuk’s first book is triumphant, and surely an indication of things to come. The good news is that her next book, a novel, is
already in progress.”
- Judith Meyrick, The Nova Scotian, June 12
So no longer can I hide under the pseudonym Dana Troy. I am indeed D.C.Troicuk. You can see more background on my website: www.dctroicuk.ca