COWAN by Kris Bertin

My story COWAN can be purchased in this month's WALRUS MAGAZINE (October 2015). This is my second story published with the Walrus, the first being THE EVICTION PROCESS. I'm happy to have placed it with them, and very pleased to have artwork supplied by the enormously talented Jillian Tamaki (featured below) which is amorphous and strange and exactly perfect for this story.

COWAN is about a group of kids who have selected one of their own to be their scapegoat, to absorb all the punishment and abuse they've been saving up in themselves, and the boy who willingly accepts it from them. It's about the unpleasant side of growing up, when you're still part animal and haven't yet understood the consequences of what you're doing. 

I wrote COWAN while staying with my brother in Belleville Ontario, where new developments were being carved out of old growth forests to accommodate the men and women who worked at a nearby factory. I'd grown up in a semi-rural environment, and so was unaccustomed to rows of identical houses, all pristine and off-gassing the same smell into the neighbourhood, all built by the same contractors, all occupied by the same kinds of people. It was strange to me.

It was even stranger after dark when there was nothing to light your way except the glow of TVs from big bay windows and a couple of triggered security lights, and I started to see people walking down those freshly paved roads. After some time worrying that they were burglars (Belleville, I was told, had more home invasions that anywhere in Ontario) I realized they were teenagers. Around this time I had been trying to write a story about something i'd noticed, about the way that a gang sometimes has a friend that isn't really a friend at all. When I saw those kids, lingering around an unlit house, I finally felt like I had something.

You can read Cowan here.


Three of my stories have been collected in Oberon's COMING ATTRACTIONS 14. This is a pretty big honour, considering the likes of David Adams Richards, Caroline Adderson, Linda Svendsen, and Mark Jarman have been published in their pages. Besides my friends who have been collected by CA in the past (such as Amy Jones, Eliza Robertson, and Alexander MacLeod), I'm also published alongside my pal (and unauthorized chronicler), Will Johnson.

The three stories published in CA14 are The Eviction Process, first published by The Walrus, Crater Arms, first published in Pilot Pocketbook, and A Man Might Work, which is being released simultaneously with The Fiddlehead (#262) this month. It looks like this: