Victory Meat by Martin James Ainsley
2020 CBC Short Story Prize longlist
Martin James Ainsley has made the 2020 CBC Short Story Prize longlist for Victory Meat.
The shortlist will be announced on April 15. The winner will be announced on April 22.
Martin James Ainsley's writing has appeared in Lemon Hound, Qwerty, PRISM international, the Malahat Review, the Arbutus Review and British Columbia Historical News. He is a PhD student at the University of New Brunswick and is writing a novel about colonial British Columbia, extinction, and the end of civilization. He lives in Fredericton with his wife and two teenagers.
Entry in five-ish words
Veteran tries to find peace.
The story's source of inspiration
My story, Victory Meat, began with the scene in the dentist's office, when I started thinking about the strange intimacy and controlled violence of dental work, as well as the effect of the surgical mask dentists and hygienists wear and how it is a kind of veil. I pretty much conceived that scene as a monologue — and then I had to figure out who the character was. A few converging preoccupations brought it together: the ongoing war in Afghanistan, from which Canada had only recently withdrawn, the Syrian civil war and the resultant refugee crisis and the xenophobic and Islamophobic backlash to Canada's admission of refugees. Thinking about the trauma of war and displacement led me to conceive of the protagonist as a veteran sympathetic to the refugees and also dealing with his own PTSD.
The snow is gone, apple blossoms are falling, elms and maples suddenly covered in green leaves. Once or twice a night, he sees the Muslim families out walking. Not many of them, but more than there used to be. Syrians, he thinks they must be. They don't have the same seasoned hardness of the Afghanis he knew. The men wear mustaches and wary looks. They smoke cigarettes. Their wives wear head scarves, occasionally veils. Their eyes are stern. Their eyes are soft. The children are children, like children everywhere at all times. Sometimes, he wants to greet the families with As-salaamu 'alaykum and maybe a few friendly words in Arabic, but he never does. He wonders which are recently arrived. Which have been here all their lives.
The winner of the 2020 CBC Short Story Prize will receive $6,000 from the Canada Council for the Arts, have their work published on CBC Books and attend a two-week writing residency at the Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity. Four finalists will each receive $1,000 from the Canada Council for the Arts and have their work published on CBC Books.