Hieronymus Bosch

Posted on Mar 27, 2016

Hieronymus Bosch

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Because I am extremely excited to be lucky enough to be going to the 500 year anniversary of Heironymous Bosch’s death in  ’s-Hertogenbosch in May, I have decided to let you read my most Boschian of stories. The story is called “Will You Staunch the Wound?” and was originally published on the app Storyville, where it has won the inaugural Sidney Prize for Fiction (and possibly last; I may have actually broken that prize).

Here is an article about this amazing Bosch exhibit in Holland.

And here is my story (I plan to take it down and leave a stub in a week, so enjoy while you can, and please do respect my copyright):

 

Will You Staunch the Wound?

© 2016 Kathryn Kuitenbrouwer

It used to be that you weren’t allowed to take the deadfall branches but either the rules have changed or else no one cares any more about the rules. There are dogs everywhere, too, and I can’t remember the last time I saw one on a leash. They just roam around, and you have to watch your back.

Some of the gleaners call themselves survivalists and I’ve heard the new euphemism is eco-activist but really we are poor. It’s that some of us are self-consciously poor and some of us are just poor. In a good day, Robbie and I can cart thirty dollars worth of firewood, gathered from High Park, the Lakeshore and up through the Humber. We started this enterprise first with returnable bottles, but with the economy in its last plummet, the middle class got miserly. And as I said to Robbie, I’m not scrapping with a middle manager over an empty bottle of Chateau Neuf du Pape.

Robbie is eleven. I located him in a doorwell on Dundas West. A halo of filthy blonde hair, and just enough naivety in his clear eyes, and I was a goner. He wasn’t a replacement child, if that’s what you’re thinking.

 

Two viruses—one electronic, one medical—had culled the city’s population. And anyone with expertise in any field, excepting the very brave and the very altruistic, had fled. There were, quite simply, fewer people. And more dogs, more of them rabid—it was not uncommon to see frothing, staggering mongrels anywhere in the city. Darwinism at work, I supposed.

Robbie and I had Pavlov, the bloodhound. The animal was so nose-directed it was a miracle I found him and not the other way around. The miracle involved a festering gunshot wound, his left flank, which I stuffed, after disinfecting it with a salt packet ‘gleaned’ from the Ukrainian Deli at Quebec street and Bloor, and shoving it full with the cleanest leaves I could find. Dog meat was better than no meat at all to some, and poaching had become something of a youth pastime—many of the school gyms had been pilfered for bows. And guns?—guns were easily had if you knew whose palm to grease. This was no different than any other time in history, but it was new that grandmothers, and also very young children, openly carried.

Contrary to popular myth, we did not live in the park. We had a bedsit in the decaying condo project on the old Canadian Tire lot, abandoned some years prior. So we were in no way homeless. Robbie and I had hauled, and rolled, a parlour stove scored from a back alley up the fire stairs, then jerry rigged stolen pipe through a broken window—well, once we’d broken it. When I say stolen, keep in mind no commerce had taken place in that hardware store in some time. If they ever open up again, I will recompense, I assure you.

The downdraft was terrible as we were only on the 6th floor, so we pushed the pipe out as far as we could from the building, and with enough deadfall and dry twigs, along with a tolerance for indoor woodsmoke, we would regularly overcome this problem.

I find things.

I found Robbie. I found the bloodhound. And yesterday, another corpse.

(This is a stub of a long story. I published it first in Storyville and printed it here for a week to let people have a look for free. Sorry if you missed it!)