HETHERINGTON, Michael




The Late Night Caller (Turnstone 2004 $16.95) is a debut collection of stories by Michael Hetherington of North Vancouver. "Although I wrote these stories in the middle of writing five (still unpublished) novels, this collection in some ways marks the finding of my voice, such as it might be," he said.

For The Archive Carpet (Passfield Press 2012), Hetherington wrote fragments of fiction every day for 2500 days between 1995 and 2002, selecting 600 strands, many only consisting of one sentence, for a bizarre amalgam, neither poetry or novel. The prologue to The Archive Carpet was published in Geist magazine and other excerpts appeared in The New Quarterly, Lichen, and Exile.

The Playing Card (Passfield 2013) is described as a suspenseful experimental novel in which a deck of playing cards is discovered, each card inscribed with a fragment of a story. The character of S has kept one playing card face down for 26 years without looking at it. Promotional literature states: "S studies daily in the threatened Dunsmuir House Library in Vancouver while the one-eyed Dean Truman sells a one-volume encyclopaedia door to door. Deborah possesses an obsidian mirror with mysterious powers. And on the Caribbean island of St Lucia another card lies guarded face down in the mud, preparing for an exotic patenting ceremony... The book includes two joker chapters."

Playing Card has been followed by the almost-as-strange-sounding Halving the Orange (Passfield 2014), a tale of a young woman named Isabella Allenbeigh who has been confined within the walls of a Vancouver college that her medievalist father founded, in keeping with an agreement made with him at age nine.

Michael Hetherington has bachelors degrees from Queen’s University and the University of British Columbia and a Master's degree in International Relations from the London School of Economics.

BOOKS:

Halving the Orange (Passfield 2014) $19.95 978-0-9879618-0-8

The Playing Card (Passfield 2013) $19.95 978-0-9879618-5-3

The Late Night Caller (Turnstone 2004 $16.95)
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The Archive Carpet (Passfield Press 2012)978-0-9879618-1-5 $19.95

[BCBW 2014]

The Latenight Caller
Short Story


from BCBW Summer 2004
After 16 years of perseverance, Michael Hetherington has published his first collection of surrealist tales, The Late Night Caller (Turnstone $16.95). “What Hetherington gives us,” says Ernest Hekkanen, a fellow surrealist, “is a salve for our humdrum human condition—a magic cure for conventional existence.”

'Standing in a Pool of Water', from The Late Night Caller:

I stood up to my calves in the pool of water, which would not have been so unusual except I was wearing a black suit and leather shoes. I had always wanted to know how people would react if I were to stand in one of these pools in front of the office tower next to where I work. At first I thought I should take something to read or something to sit on (a high stool?) but I decided in the end just to stand. And should I hold a briefcase and appear to be going somewhere? Yes, a briefcase at my side would add something.

I was acquainted with a number of people who worked in the building and I feared they would inadvertently spoil my experiment by calling out to me. I decided, however, that anyone who knew me and saw me standing in the water would probably not acknowledge me.

The water seeped its way up my pant legs. I hoped it would not reach above my thighs before my time was up. I had decided that fifteen minutes would be enough. From about 12:15 to 12:30. Plenty of time for lots of lunch-goers to see me but not enough time for too large a crowd to gather or for the security people to get anxious and ask me to get out. Undoubtedly, the fact that I was wearing an expensive suit would mean they would delay any request to get out. If I had been in jeans or dressed like a courier, I would have been hauled out in a flash.

At first I was disappointed that not many people did stop to look at me. Finally, a child said, “Mommy, look at that man in the water.”

“You mustn’t point at people, Janie.”

“But he’s just standing there. His feet are getting wet. Why is he standing there?”

The mother was doing her best and I felt guilty for distressing her, yet I didn’t think observing my little stunt was doing the child any harm.

Then the first of my friends walked by. To my surprise, he stopped and called out to me.

“How’s the water?” he asked. I didn’t respond. I had decided that was the way I was going to react to any attempted conversation. He seemed to understand when I merely bowed my head slightly to acknowledge him, and he went through the glass doors into the building. I continued to stand there silently, holding my briefcase.

The traffic began to slow down and one car almost ran into the back of another. My feet were getting cold and I wasn’t sure whether I could last the fifteen minutes. Another friend walked by and asked if I wanted a sandwich or anything; he was going to the fast-food place in the mall below. I responded by shaking my head quickly once to the side and back.

I thought of the time on a rainy day in Grade Four when Darren Jamieson pulled off my rubber boots in the middle of the school playing field. My older brother, who had always looked out for me, had gone up to high school that year, and my cousin—who could be pretty tough when dealing with bullies—was chasing a girl on the other side of the school. I stood in the field in my stockinged feet with water soaking through my thin socks. Tears mixed with raindrops on my face, and I felt helpless and ashamed.

So I stood there in the pool in front of the office building, as a voluntary act, knowing—in contrast to the schoolyard trauma—that there would be no great consequences to my actions. A security guard came out then and asked me to step out of the water. He didn’t ask me to get out, but to step out. I remained, motionless. He then said something into his walkie-talkie. People now have cellular phones, but security guards still have walkie-talkies.

Another security guard came out a few minutes later with a long-handled net for sweeping leaves and debris from the pool. A crowd had now gathered. I realized then that people had not assembled in any great numbers until after the security guards started making a fuss. I considered saying something like, “I jumped and this is where I landed.”

The same little girl with her mother walked past again; I guess they had been in the bank in the foyer of the building. The second guard, whose appearance reminded me of my girl-chasing cousin, started to prod me with the net and then he tried putting it over my head. Water dripped all down my neck.

The little girl said, “Mommy, do they think he’s a butterfly or something?”

That was all I needed to hear, and I felt satisfied. I fended off the long-handled net and then, mechanically, as if I were one of those robot-imitating mime artists, moved around a bit, opened my briefcase and emptied the contents—departmental meeting agendas from the last seven years—onto the water. I walked carefully away from the floating paper, lifting my feet out of the water with each step instead of making waves. I stepped out of the far corner of the pool and headed toward my own office building.

As I went through the door I looked back and could see the security guards trying to scoop the paper out of the pool. I went down to the food fair, bought and consumed a chicken sandwich, and twenty minutes later got on a crowded elevator to go back to my office, where I sat at my desk for the rest of the day.

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