Sydney Warner Brooman, Invisible Publishing
You can’t drink the tap water in the small city imagined by first-time author Sydney Warner Brooman in The Pump. You shouldn’t bathe in it either. It’ll give you rashes. If you go to the hospital to seek treatment, watch out for that emergency room hanger-on, Wren. His hospital intern girlfriend has turned him on to using out- of-towner blood as an all-purpose cleaner. And don’t bother going to the municipal offices for help — the mayor is too busy falsely incriminating his only son and promising the townspeople that he will turn their beloved beaver hunting into a profitable endeavour. If you get caught up in the frenzy and find yourself taking to the polluted bog on the edge city’s edge with an oversized butterfly net, be sure and say hi to Danny. You’ll find him knee-deep, patiently waiting for his dead brother’s medium to lead him to his promised reward.
Other writers have used some form of matter-of-fact horror mixed with leaden comedy (and plenty of pollution) to conjure up the bleak landscapes of post-industrial Canada. There’s Madeliene Sonik’s poisoned town on the banks of the Detroit River in Fountainbleau, or the fictional Chicoutimi, Quebec in Kevin Lampert’s explosive You Will Love What You Have Killed.
But Brooman’s remarkably self-assured voice remains singular, authentic and wry. The Pump will stay with you, leaving its taste in your mouth: dread and mossy yellow water.
excerpt from The Pump by Sydney Warney Brooman
When Jacob Jameson climbed out of his bedroom window, the beaver was waiting for him in the backyard.
Thick fluffy fur covered its pudgy skin. Its whiskers were white, clean, and straight like a housecat’s. Its front teeth moved slightly with its breath, rising and falling over its little chin. Tiny eyes scanned the area outside and its ears flicked back and forth. It stood up on its hind legs and looked at Jacob calmly.
Jacob sat down cross-legged in the grass, soaking his PJ pants with dew. He asked the beaver if it had ever heard the song Barges. Do you sing to one another when you go to sleep? Can you even hear songs underwater?
The beaver scratched its nose then began to speak: What’s a barge?
They’re boats, Jacob said, but we have songs about other things too. Like Johnny Cake. Do you know Johnny Cake? The beaver shook its head.
Jacob cleared his throat. Johnny Cake ho, and Johnny Cake high, no one can catch me as I roll by. He’s a cake that rolls out of the oven and the baker says You can’t run away Johnny Cake and the Johnny Cake says I’ve outrun an old man, a little girl, and I can outrun you, too and then he rolls off through the town!
Jacob paused. I should go back now. Will you be back tomorrow? I can teach you the song. The beaver nodded. Jacob climbed back through his window and rolled the muddy bottoms of his PJ pants up to his knees.
He dreamt of cakes with thick fur, floating in the water of the Marshes.