Cover

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Title Page, Copyright

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Contents

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About the Series

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Acknowledgements

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pp. ix-x

There are many people whose support of this project has helped to bring Hugh Garner’s Best Stories back into print. The research collaborations and spirited discussions that attended this work have been among the most energizing and fulfilling experiences of my career.
First and foremost, I am grateful to Barbara Wong for her support of this project...

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Introduction

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pp. xi-xxxvi

Hugh Garner’s Best Stories represents a quarter century of short prose that, taken together, develops a keen, careful view of Canada’s changing social conditions. Composed between the late 1930s and the early 1960s, these stories reflect the immense flux of the midcentury, including the Great Depression, the Spanish Civil War, World War II, the Civil Rights movement, and second-wave...

Hugh Garner’s Best Stories

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Acknowledgements

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pp. 3-4

Many of these stories were first published in The Canadian Forum, Canadian Home Journal, Chatelaine, Liberty, National Home Monthly, Northern Review, Saturday Night and The Star Weekly. Fourteen of them were read over the CBC radio networks on “CBC Wednesday Night,” “Anthology,” “Canadian Short Stories” and “Stories With John Drainie.” “A Trip for Mrs. Taylor,” “Some Are So...

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Acknowledgements

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pp. 5-6

It is impossible to acknowledge here all the editions, publications, broadcasts, etc. where these stories have appeared.
The collection won the Governor General’s Award for Fiction in 1963. “The Conversion of Willie Heaps” was published in Martha Foley’s Best American Short Stories, 1952, and “The Yellow Sweater,” “A Couple of Quiet Young...

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The Conversion of Willie Heaps (1951)

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pp. 7-15

I could see Willie coming along the road from his place, walking fast like he always did. His long legs were jerking back and forth above his broken shoes and his tangled hair hung in a bang just above his wide-staring eyes, where it had been cut by his mother, Mrs. Heaps. His mouth was hanging loose like it usually was, and even from a distance you could see his long brown teeth that...

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The Father (1958)

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pp. 15-24

It wasn’t the boy who gave him the invitation, but the boy’s mother, his wife. Somehow even a little thing like this had become a shameful chore that the boy had avoided. Over the past year or two father and son had drifted apart, so that a strange shame and embarrassment coloured every event that brought them into...

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A Couple of Quiet Young Guys (1951)

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pp. 24-29

There was a young fellow and a girl talking in one of the booths near the rear of the lunch room. As they whispered together their voices sounded hesitating and cracked. When it was late, or the place was ready to close, Slim had noticed that all the couples talked like that. All except the young punks who laughed too loud and said the silly things he never could remember saying...

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Lucy (1952)

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pp. 29-39

It was back in the mid nineteen-thirties that I first met Lucy Cullen, but it hardly seems that long ago. She must have been about twenty-seven then, a beautiful woman by any standards, not too tall but slim with a good bust and hips, and a pouting face that surrounded a small spoiled mouth and the whitest teeth I’ve ever seen. She wore her dark brown hair long in those days, and it gave...

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The Yellow Sweater (1951)

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pp. 39-47

He stepped on the gas when he reached the edge of town. The big car took hold of the pavement and began to eat up the miles on the straight, almost level, highway. With his elbow stuck through the open window he stared ahead at the shimmering greyness of the road. He felt heavy and pleasantly satiated after his good small-town breakfast, and he shifted his bulk in the...

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Make Mine Vanilla (1963)

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pp. 47-52

The change between the cool dimness of the public library and glare of the pavement-reflected sun made him squint. He paused on the library steps, his books under his arm, and breathed in the late June smell of the city neighbourhood.
It was too early to return home, and too fine a day. The mere thought of the apartment, quiet with the daytime absence of his mother, turned his feet in the...

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Our Neighbours the Nuns (1951)

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pp. 53-58

When we children were youngsters my family lived for a time in Quebec City, where my father had been posted by his company. Our house was a high brown stone affair, flush to the sidewalk, on one of the short curving streets which wind within the walls of the Old City. Next door to us was a small obscure convent hiding from the narrow street behind its...

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The Expatriates (1955)

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pp. 59-62

There were nine of us leaving the depot for home that night. Four of us had just been discharged from the Gota de Leche Hospital in Albacete, Smitty was going back to the States to conduct a propaganda tour, and the other four were being expelled as “Undesirables.” The International Brigades office had given five of us 150 pesetas apiece to eat on as far as Barcelona, but the undesirables...

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Red Racer (1950)

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pp. 62-71

The sun burned a hole in the sky and sent its thermal rays into the bare fields between the trees. The air was tense and still, as if every living organism was hoarding its strength for something vague but promised by the quiet day. Now and then Marcel Boudreau stopped his labours between the rows of yellowing leaves that topped the potato plants, and looked above the...

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Tea with Miss Mayberry (1956)

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pp. 72-82

When she received the written invitation, her first inclination was to tear it up, but there was something so archaic about its Victorian solemnity that she changed her mind and decided to show it around for laughs. The other girls in the sorority house would get a bang out of its quaint old-fashioned phrasing, and its almost regal tone...

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A Visit with Robert (1952)

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pp. 82-94

Charlie Thomas alighted from the day coach into the sweet green-smelling spring evening. The look of the small Ontario town was familiar, with the long-expected familiarity of a place worn thin with the thinking of it. Down the cinder road that connected the small station with the town could be seen the dark cool expanse of the St. Lawrence, its heavy sluggishness tugging at...

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No More Songs about the Suwanee (1953)

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pp. 94-98

The three of us sauntered down the street, munching the stale biscuits and trying not to lose too much of the dried-out icing. We were pretty shabby, even for November, 1933, and the grime was etched into our faces from riding the tops from Cincinnati, where Michigan and I had picked up Brownie. We’d spent the night before sleeping on some old car seats in the pumphouse in...

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One Mile of Ice (1952)

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pp. 98-107

Down here in our part of New Brunswick we have a great respect for winter, but not much liking for it. Snow has its uses: it makes easily traversed winter roads through the woods and covers the earth to keep the frost from penetrating too deep, but, to us, it is not formed of the gossamer flakes that fall upon a poet’s window. Sometimes it is blinding and cruel and...

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The Magnet (1954)

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pp. 108-117

He sat beside her in the cab of the truck as they left the small town behind and bounced along the narrow dirt road that wound seven miles through the hills to the farm. She did not look at him, but concentrated on her driving, aware at times that he was taking secret glances at her profile.
She said to herself, “I’ll begin right away to keep him at a distance, and then...

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Some are so Lucky (1949)

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pp. 118-131

I met Ethel Walton last week. It was strange, because it happened as I had always pictured it would. I left the office rather late, and was standing on the curb waiting to flag a taxi when my eyes strayed across the busy street. There she was, coming out of the doorway of a department store. I hurried through the rain to intercept...

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Hunky (1961)

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pp. 131-143

It was a hot August morning. The sun, still low against the horizon, was a white-hot stove lid that narrowed the eyes and made the sweat run cold along the spine. The sky was as high and blue as heaven, and the shade-giving cumulus wouldn’t form until noon. Before us lay the serried rows of tobacco, armpit high and as dull green as bile. Along with Hunky and the other members...

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Interlude in Black and White (1952)

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pp. 143-146

“What can I do for you?” asked the fat interne from his position against the white-tiled emergency room sink. The place smelled of iodoform and Lysol. In the next room the work-shirted figure of a man was lying on an operating table, his blue denim shirt contrasting sharply with the snowy whiteness of the linen sheets and the sterile walls. A pair...

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The Nun in Nylon Stockings (1963)

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pp. 146-153

The old-fashioned day coach was hot, with a musty, gritty heat that was carried by the train from one frequent stop to the next as it snaked its tortuous way through the evergreen hills and the elongated farms along the Gaspé coast. The faded plush seats held the heat while the train was still, only to diffuse it again as the torpid air took motion as they left each tiny...

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A Manly Heart (1955)

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pp. 153-161

Graduation Day morning was cloudy, and it looked like rain. Through the narrow window that I shared with my room-mate Archie Tomlinson I could see a corner of the quadrangle, grey-looking under the dark clouds that hung above the school. The sight of the threatening clouds made me happy, for if it rained they’d have to move the graduation exercises into the...

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The Stretcher Bearers (1952)

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pp. 161-167

The wounded man left the field dressing station as a walking casualty. He was not yet groggy from the antitetanus injection, and except for the line of dried blood running down his shirt into his back pocket you would not have known he was wounded. On top of his left shoulder was a small gauze pad held to the skin with adhesive tape, as if covering an aching...

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A Trip for Mrs. Taylor (1951)

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pp. 167-175

Mrs. Taylor got out of bed at five o’clock that morning; an hour ahead of her usual time for getting up. She moved around her attic room with the stealth of a burglar, making herself her morning cup of tea on the hotplate, and dressing quietly so as not to disturb her landlady, Mrs. Connell, on the floor...

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E Equals MC Squared (1963)

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pp. 175-184

There were two guys standing at the inspection bench when I came back from the water fountain. A short Bulgarian we called Joe had an angle bracket with holes at each end. I picked it up, glanced at the layout on the greasy blueprint, and measured the diameters and positions of the holes with my scale. Most of the operators liked to bring their work to the counter, especially...

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How I Became an Englishman (1953)

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pp. 184-189

Although I was born in England in 1913, of English ancestry, I didn’t become an Englishman until 1937. And the strange part of it is that my rebirth, if I can call it that, happened while I was serving in a Communist army.
I suppose that everyone at some point in their life meets up with a moment which helps shape his destiny. At the time it may have little or no...

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One-Two-Three Little Indians (1950)

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pp. 189-198

After they had eaten, Big Tom pushed the cracked and dirty supper things to the back of the table and took the baby from its high chair carefully, so as not to spill the flotsam of bread crumbs and boiled potatoes from the chair to the floor.
He undressed the youngster, talking to it in the old dialect, trying to awaken its interest. All evening it had been listless and fretful by turns, but now it seemed...

Explanatory Notes

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pp. 199-214

Textual Notes

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pp. 215-281

About the Series, Other Works in the Series

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