New Voices: “Copycat” by Susan Sanford Blades

July 24, 2023

In “Copycat” by Susan Sanford Blades, twins Bobby and Jordan Hagen are the pride of their town—rising hockey stars, confident, cocky—and, for the girls of Strathcona Composite High, objects of desire. But when Bobby dies by suicide in Grade 11, everything changes. Sanford Blades captures the moody angst of the mid-90s high schooler pitch perfectly in this excerpt, which you can read in full below.

Bobby and Jordan Hagen were perfection, doubled. They were blond-haired, blue-eyed twins at a time when Kurt Cobain’s angsty heroism still streamed through our veins. They played AAA hockey in a city that named a major thoroughfare after Wayne Gretzky, a city that demonized the man who sold him to the LA Kings. The twins exuded a quiet swagger that reverberated down the halls of Strathcona Composite High, like a whale song that affected all of us at our deep, watery levels. We all unconsciously stalked them, measured our worth against theirs.

In the beginning of Grade 10, Jordan started dating Amanda Prince, a girl with alien-wide eyes whose Bay-flyer fashion spreads were displayed on Scona’s Wall of Champions, as though good bone structure was worthy of congratulation. Jordan’s sexual prowess was already well known. We’d all heard that he’d lost his virginity to a puck bunny named Starr at age thirteen. Starr didn’t go to Scona, so she remained invisible to us—the mysterious, busty witch who made possible, then retreated from, Jordan’s legend. We were only familiar with Bobby in the circus-freak way that all twins become celebrities, by virtue of the thrilling oddity of replication. He was Jordan’s more serious brother. The hockey star, the classically good-looking of the two. Clean cut, short haired. Bobby was the Brandon to Jordan’s Dylan. But the girls of Scona didn’t want clean cut. We wanted Kurt, River, Thurston. The greasy heroin addict, the aimless musician. We wanted Jordan Hagen. And we wanted to be Amanda Prince.

When word got out that Bobby had hanged himself from his cabin’s rafters the summer after Grade 11, he rose to a beyond-Jordan level of fame. In the first few weeks of Grade 12, girls whispered longingly to one another about missed opportunities with Bobby. Amanda Prince, who’d been dumped by Jordan that summer, was overheard lamenting her choice of twin. Other girls moaned about where they were the night Bobby died, going over the minutia of their last interactions with him. One would wipe the moaner’s crocodile tears with the dangling wristband of her plaid flannel while the others kept a lookout for Jordan. When Jordan was around, people stopped talking. They contorted their faces into pity frowns, mimicked the sympathetic expressions they’d witnessed on any number of Degrassi High characters.

By October, a boy I remember only as Stroker was caught masturbating in a bathroom stall and the student body dropped their sympathy to suck at the teat of this new drama. Jordan was left to sweep the halls like an old security blanket, dragged by the collective fist of the popular kids.

* * *

I knew that February 24, 1995, was Jordan’s eighteenth birthday. I knew this because, in Grade 10, I overheard Amanda Prince tell Kim Johnston that his sixteenth was ten days after Valentine’s, while applying Remarkable Red to her bottom lip in the girl’s locker room. I was huddled on a bench in the background, pretending to struggle with a knot in my shoelaces so I could stare at Amanda’s protruding spine like an understudy to my fantasy high school experience. Amanda Prince was our version of Kate Moss. A rapturous, starved scorpion in ripped jeans. I was skinny and shapeless like a ten-year-old boy, but Amanda was skeletal with dashes of femininity—two scoops of fat above her ribs, and hips, like her pelvis had been tugged at on both sides to dig out the concave bowl of her belly—just enough to make her sexy and not enough to remind the boys of their fully developed mothers.

If only I could’ve held the dates of confederation or of the World Wars to memory like I could the date of this despondent Pisces’ flutter-kick into manhood. On the morning of Jordan’s eighteenth, I directed Lil away from our usual entrance near his locker. Every morning, he would lean against his locker like a towering laundry heap, with his back to that entrance. I didn’t want his attention, not in the morning, not inside the school, where he was king and I was the possibly-hot-if-she-took-off-her-glasses servant girl. All I wanted was the vision of his perfect little butt, two denim-draped pom-poms to cheer me through the day.

No Jordan McMuffin this morning, Lil asked.

It’s his birthday, I answered.

You forgot to get him a present?

No… like. It’s Bobby’s birthday too.

Oh. Shit.

Like, the first one. Twin-less.

Lil stopped and lit a cigarette. I couldn’t tell if she was legitimately addicted yet or just posing, adopting the routines of an addict. She blew a perfect line of smoke toward the brick wall I leaned against. I emulated her with a line of my breath in the frosty air.

Gotta admit, you look like a total babe when you smoke, I said.

Lil squealed. I’ve been practicing to the tribute to Kurt Cobain.


Lil nodded. I taped it. That interview with Erica Ehm? Lil buckled her knees and let herself fall into the brick wall. The way he smoked and stared into the camera? Melllllltinnnng.

What would Travis say?

Lil rolled her eyes. Fuck that sleaze, she said.

You broke up?


Lil put her cigarette out against the brick wall and let it fall to the ground like the badass she wanted to be. I picked it up after her. We rounded a corner of the school and stopped suddenly, slipping on a patch of ice and grabbing onto each other’s elbows for support. Around that corner was something more heart-stopping than the ghost of Bobby Hagen. Amanda Prince faced us, her body belted around Jordan Hagen’s. His arms hung at his sides, all of him stoic while Amanda convulsed into him.

When she lifted her head, her wet, giant alien eyes homed in on mine. I lost the staring contest immediately—Amanda Prince held absolute power. Imagine a fascist dictator with a modelling contract.

* * *

Queen Puss is after you, Lil said when we entered the school.

That was scary.

But this means Jordan’s, like, in love with you.

He was molesting Amanda.

Uh, she was molesting him. He was not into that.

I bit my lips out of a forming smile. Because I wasn’t thinking about Jordan or his feelings. I was thinking about Amanda, about her jealousy, about how it made me noticeable, powerful, infamous.

Lil squinted into her locker mirror and adjusted her Oilers toque to rest just above her eyebrows. When it had fallen over them earlier that week, Travis told her she looked like she had a giant, royal blue unibrow. Over Lil’s shoulder, Travis sauntered down the hall toward us like a prison guard—shit kickers stomping any stray headphones, backpacks, math homework in their path, wallet chain clinking against his thigh. I noticed a hint of terror in Lil’s eyes when she spotted his approach from behind in her mirror—the slightest widening, like a girl in a horror movie who sees the glint of a knife blade in a dark corner.

Babe, Travis said. He imposed a skinny arm around Lil’s waist. His fingers drooped over her crotch and she let them without even flinching, like there was no longer any private part of her.

Hey babe, Lil said. But she said it flatly.

You giving me the attitude?

No, babe. Lil turned toward him. We’re sad ’cause it’s Bobby Hagen’s birthday, she said.

Oh, shit. That’s rough. Travis trained every part of his face downward. His displays of emotion were always too on point, an affectation of humanity. I’m convinced his only authentic feelings were jealousy and rage.

Did you even know him, I asked.

I knew him since fuckin’ kindergarten.

Okay, I said. Sorry for living.

You think you knew him ’cause you’re Jordan’s little slut?

Babe, Lil said. She shot me a desperate look and tugged him down the hall.

* * *

Travis was right. I didn’t know Bobby. At times, I felt soaked in his essence through Jordan, but I never knew him. He was the boy who sat in front of me in Science 10, covertly reading Stephen King paperbacks spread across his lap, a strange and endearing rebellion. He always smelled faintly of Tide, which made him seem boyish to me, with a fealty to his mother—he’d rather smell of her drudgery than of Old Spice or CK One.

I saw Bobby outside of school only a few times. The first was on my seventeenth birthday, at the start of Grade 11. Lil and I were at Red Robin with a couple of boys we’d met at the Queen Elizabeth pool that summer. They were a year older than us, high school dropouts who worked the rides at Fantasyland in West Edmonton Mall. Lil and I called them The Carnies, which we thought was hilarious. We loved that they hopped the fence at the pool instead of paying entry, that they had popsicle money that did not come from between their parents’ couch cushions, that they lived together in a grimy basement suite where the dregs of the Millcreek Ravine settled into swampy puddles in which next summer’s mosquitoes would breed.

We didn’t want to have their lives so much as to touch their lives. We wanted to dirty our hands with as many people and places our parents disapproved of before the myopia of youth wore off. Before that dreadful grown-up moment when we could imagine ourselves as the mistresses of their swamp, weighed down by their spawn at our nipples, their pizza boxes at our feet, their loan sharks at our doors.

On that night at Red Robin, a parade of enthusiastic teenagers stood me on top of my chair and surrounded me, carrying a candle-lit slice of mudd pie and singing a cabaret-style, “Well, you’re seventeen, HEY! And isn’t that grand?” number while Lil and the boys laughed underneath me. From my perch, I noticed Bobby, tucked into a booth with an older man. The man was chubby and untended, aside from a heavily greased comb-over. His torso was stuffed into an ill-fitting Polo. I could make out the points of his nipples through his shirt. I remember that making me shiver. The man had his arm around Bobby’s shoulders, his face curled in toward Bobby’s while Bobby looked down at his hands, entwined into a fist on the table. It was the way a father would talk to his son about something discomforting. But if that was Bobby’s father, where was Jordan? And how could the father of the hottest guys in school look like he lived in his Datsun?

* * *

The next time I saw Bobby outside of school was at Travis’ Grade 11 Hallowe’en party. The theme that year was celebrity couples. Lil and I dressed up as Winona and Johnny in Edward Scissorhands. I opted to be Johnny, though it would’ve suited Lil better. She had the hair for it. I ended up looking more like Freddy Krueger.

Near the end of the night, I walked in on Bobby in the bathroom. He was pressed against the counter with his face about an inch from the mirror, clawing at his cheeks. At first, I thought, or I guess I hoped, that it was Jordan. They were dressed as the Olsen twins and their usual marker of difference—Bobby’s short preppie cut versus Jordan’s shoulder-length mess of hair—was concealed under a red pig-tailed wig.

Sorry, I said. I backed out of the doorway.

He turned his face my way and nodded.

I stood outside the bathroom door for what seemed like an eternity. I hadn’t yet broken the seal on my bladder that night and I couldn’t wait much longer.

I opened the door again. Bobby still stared at himself up close in the mirror.

Listen, Mister, I said. I need to pizzzzzzzzzz.

Go ahead.

No, you perv!

He turned to look at me and laughed. And that’s when I knew it wasn’t Jordan. Jordan had a scar on his upper lip, Bobby’s lips were smooth.

You’re Bobby, I said.

You thought I was Mary-Kate?

I shook my head and sighed out, Jordan.


I realized then that I had nail files taped to all my fingers and would not be able to pull down my own pants. I lifted the hem of my father’s oversized white shirt with my lower arms and said, Can you?

He stared at me.

Pull down my pants?

He put his hands on my hips and tugged at the elastic waistband of the sweatpants I was wearing.

But don’t look, I yelled.

He tilted his head toward the ceiling. Okay, he said.

Don’t look at my… I took a deep breath and whispered, My Regina.

Yeah, he said. Got it. He pulled my sweats down to my ankles.

But don’t look, I said. I sat down on the toilet.

I know why you’re staring, I said.

I’m not!

I mean in the mirror. You were.

I looked between my legs and laughed. I’m still peeing!


I had lawwwwwwts of beer.

Why was I staring in the mirror?

’Cause. I leaned toward him but slipped a bit off the toilet seat. He put his hands on my shoulders and guided me back on.

You think you look ugly, I said. But don’t worry. Isss only ’cause you’re drunk.

You think I’m ugly?

Even in my drunken state, I remember hearing a hopeful tone in his voice. Like he would rather be ugly than be mistaken for his twin. But now I’m sure there was a darker reason he didn’t want to be desirable.

I pursed my lips and laughed. Pfffffttt! Yer Jordan Hagen.


Thasss whadd-I meant. Bobby Hagen. Bobby the Hottie.

What’s the difference, right? Maybe you don’t need two of us.

Bobby. I grabbed onto his hand. Bobby. I need you.


Yeah, ’cause who’ll wipe my bum?

He exhaled a huffing laugh. Drip dry, crazy chick, he said. And he left me there.

* * *

The very last time I saw Bobby Hagen was on the summer solstice, 1994. There were only a few days left of Grade 11. Lil and I had been inspired by her mother—a true hippy who followed the will of her tarot deck and used Mercury’s retrogrades to account for all oddities—to celebrate our divine womanhood at this changing of the seasons. To us, this meant encircling Lil’s boom box with tea lights and screaming along to my Bikini Kill pussy whipped cassette at river’s edge by the light of the moon. It was there, holding hands at the base of the High-Level Bridge, that we noticed Bobby. We didn’t hear him over our ragged voices but we felt him like a thundercloud overhead. Lil stopped the tape in the middle of “Star Fish.”

I feel a ghost, she said.

It feels heavy, I said. I breast-stroked my arms through the air between us. It had been a hot day. The kind of heat that blocked our every pore, like the air was full of cotton balls, trapping us in our own oppressive sauna. But when Lil spoke, it felt like a vacuum had sucked all the heat into the sky and exhaled a breeze.

Thunderstorm’s coming, I said.

Lil shook her head. It’s a presence. We should get my mom’s Ouija board.

Wait. I pointed to the river, to the beer bottle that had plunged from the bridge, to its plunk and ripple.

Someone’s up there.

Lil and I walked along the shore, past the bridge. And then, like a bird of prey, Bobby’s hockey jacket soared above us and flopped into the river. We clawed each other’s knuckles and froze, thinking at first it was a person, a body sprawled across the surface and then being slowly gulped down to the North Saskatchewan’s muddy depths.

I think it’s Bobby Hagen, Lil said. She was a few feet ahead, facing me, her head craned toward the railing of the bridge, to the boy in the glow of its streetlights.

I looked up and saw him too. Yellow-blond hair brushing the tips of his ears, the oversized In Utero T-shirt he’d worn almost every day since Kurt’s suicide that April, the way he folded his hands over the railing—the same way he’d held those paperbacks in science class.

You think so?

I don’t know. It’s dark.

Was that a hockey jacket? I pointed down the river.

Maybe? A jacket. A shirt? It had arms.

Definitely arms.

Maybe there’s a bush party.

He’s probably looking for his friends.

Like, from above.

We should go before the cops come. Like, to break up the bush party.

Lil nodded, but kept staring up at Bobby. He was heaving his body over the railing then rocking back like he wanted to vomit into the river. I know what she was thinking—what we were both thinking—we should go up there, we should talk to him. But neither of us voiced this. We didn’t want to get involved, we didn’t want to intrude. Who were we to assume? Who were we to think we could help? It would be insulting, to assume. He was probably just looking for his friends.

* * *

I was able to avoid Jordan at school on his eighteenth. This wasn’t an unusual feat. He never spoke to me inside the school, as though each brick were a rule of conduct for our social hierarchy, mortared into the wall between a popular boy and a bespectacled, weirdo unclassifiable girl. But usually, there were looks. He walked past my locker twice a day, after French and social studies. I would fake conversation with Lil, words rolling straight off my tongue from some emergency back-up section of my brain, because my mind was entirely occupied with Jordan’s nearness to my body. He would cast his eyes toward mine at the last minute before passing and it was like an asphyxiation, a flash flood of sweat from every pore. A near-death experience. A near-life experience. A taste of what I wanted that was also all that I wanted. The ecstasy of eternal frustration.

After school, he waited at a lazy angle against his bumper. I would’ve turned the other way and walked home, having only catalogued him as a blur in my peripheral vision, but he was a car crash. I had to look. And he was looking when I looked so I walked toward him and into his truck. Our routine was set; there was no need for communication.

We were quiet inside his truck. I couldn’t wish him a happy birthday for fear of revealing my unnaturally acquired knowledge of his date of birth, my psychotic archive of even the slightest particles in his orbit.

Are you back with Amanda?

I asked this as his truck bumped over the ice-packed tire tracks in my back alley. He sped up. His truck fishtailed across the ice. He sped past my house, smiling, elated almost, like he was on the tube ride at Wild Waters. His open mouth betrayed the sickly scent of Hubba Bubba. Amanda Prince chewed bubble gum. Amanda Prince, her jaw constantly rising and falling like a metronome to the beat of her heels down our halls. Click, click, click. Amanda Prince blowing bubbles, giant bubbles larger than her own stomach, bubbles that could swallow the heads of her dissenters.

I knew bubble gum stayed fragrant for a maximum of thirty seconds. I knew Jordan was more of a spearmint Trident kind of guy.

Were you just kissing her?

Jordan exhaled a grunt, like he’d been punched under the ribs. He turned onto Calgary Trail, the road that led out of the city. He said nothing. I knew I had no real claim to him, no right to question him. I’d overstepped and my head was full of questions I thought I had no right to ask, so I kept quiet. I let him drive me onto the highway and down rural roads, past munching, snow-dusted cattle in their barbed-wire prisons, past run-down barns with moaning gaps in their siding. Finally, I stated the obvious.

You’re not driving me home.

Relax, he said. Trust me.

Once we lost the signal for Power 92, he put on a tape of altie dude music. Scratchy, guttural ultra-deep voiced wailing—Our Lady Peace maybe, or The Tea Party. The soundtrack for a boy’s epic journey to the liquor store.

I tried on a plethora of casual passenger poses. Trusting poses. I gently banged my head to the music. I gazed thoughtfully out my window, tried to embody Anne on her first horse and buggy ride to Green Gables—your driver is a kindly father figure without a dark side, every sight is a delight.

After we’d been driving for an hour, Jordan turned down a road lined with cabins to our right and a frozen, snow-covered lake to our left. A white, glittering expanse. For a second, the thought that a trail of blood would stand out on that ice comforted me, and then I brushed it off. The absurdity.

Jordan parked his truck off the side of the road outside a rustic A-frame. There was no packed or shovelled driveway—the entire yard was covered in dollops of snow. As we clomped through it, knee-high, I felt like a faerie trapped in a giant’s bowl of rice pudding. I had the same sense of foreboding, awaiting the spoon.

When we climbed up to the front deck, Jordan said, My cabin. He brought his fists to his waist like a proud hunter.

His cabin. As in, Bobby’s cabin. As in, these were the boards that held the feet of the boy who draped the rope from the tip of the A. These were the boards that held the shadow of the boy whose feet could no longer reach them.

Cool, I said.

Jordan let me in and busied himself lighting a fire. I tried not to look up. The cabin was homey. A smattering of sagging furniture slumped over a browning wool rug like members of a group therapy session for the faded and under-stuffed. Photos of the twins—at times joined by their mother, who smiled with distracted eyes—covered the walls. Beside the wood box, board games were stacked as high as Jordan. I thought about the tragic, never-ending two-person games of Monopoly Jordan might play with his mother.

Once he’d created a decent flame, Jordan held a hand out to me. Cupped, somewhat. A begging hand. Did he want coins? Mittens? I put my hand in his and that seemed to be the right response, because he curled his hand around mine.

It’ll take a bit to warm up, he said.

Should I call my parents?

He let go of my hand. No phone, he said.

Sorry. I shook my head.

I’m not kidnapping you or anything.

I nodded and lowered myself into a sad armchair that, too late, I noticed was covered in what I hoped were chocolate chips. I propped myself on the edge of the chair and bit my lips to avoid mentioning the way my parents’ anxiety levels rose as the sun lowered, that they were even less open to unexpected adventures on a school night than I was. I tried to be cool, hovering over the brown deposit. What would Amanda Prince do?

Jordan walked over to the kitchen, in a corner across from the fireplace, and rummaged through a cupboard filled with essentials—salt, flour, tea, maple syrup—scattered among bottles of liquor. He drank long, through four or five bobs of his Adam’s apple, from an amber bottle, then left it on the counter to return and sit cross-legged at my feet.

I’ll have you home by bedtime, he said. He pulled a crumpled piece of paper out of his wallet and handed it to me. I slid off the chair and onto the rug beside him.

I want you to know I tried. I spend every minute of the day trying not to die. But ever since I started the new team, I don’t know who I am or where I went. I’m just a body now. A zombie on ice. Hockey is all I have, but it ruined me. Or he did.

I picture my neck in this rope so much it’s sick, but the thought of hanging here is the only thing that feels good anymore. It’s the only choice that’s mine to make.

Jordan, Mom, I’m sorry.

I’m really fucking sorry.

Thinking of what this’ll do to you hurts almost as much as living. I’m selfish. I’m poison. I hate this body and this person I am. I can’t undo the things I’ve done and what I’ve let happen to me.

I know you’ll be better off without me.

I passed the note back to Jordan. All of my renegade parts—the sad and uncooperative, those that didn’t fit, those I hated—felt saturated with recognition. How many times had I felt like a dreary, toxic black hole, a violent accident, a tumour growing over my parents’ well-planned existence? How many times had I wished for a button of obliteration, for an easy and certain death, one last miserable exhale?

Kinda makes you want to die, Jordan said.


You’re the only person I’ve shown that to.


I worried I responded too enthusiastically. He’d just offered me the saggiest of tightropes. I couldn’t fuck it up. It would be so easy to fuck it up. You haven’t even shown it to Amanda? Do you think it was a Cobain copycat suicide? Who’s the “he” that ruined Bobby?

You treat me like I’m real, he said.

And my stomach sank for all the quiet stalking, the bated-breath anticipation of his eye contact, the way I’d been using him that whole school year, dropping my pants in his truck in hopes of absorbing his pain, his longing for his brother, as though I could syphon the emotion from his sweat into my pores, and from there into my detached heart.

I should’ve never quit the team, Jordan said.


I made AAA Midget with Bobby two summers ago, but I quit after initiation. They had us doing push-ups naked, dipping our balls into cups of beer, circle jerks… it was messed up. But Bobby was hungry for it. He stayed. I ran to Amanda.

He said her name with such disdain I had to fake cough into my sweater sleeve to hide my smile.

What happened to him on the team?

I wish I knew. He just kind of disappeared. He worshipped the new coach—this big shot from Manitoba. Bobby’s ticket to the NHL. He controlled Bobby’s life. What he ate, who he saw, where he went. I thought he was a putz. Maybe I was jealous.

I thought about the man I saw with Bobby at Red Robin. His putzy man breasts in his putzy Polo. His arm on Bobby’s shoulder, the curl of his spine, the look on Bobby’s face—a wincing, almost—the way it seemed the man was tucking Bobby into that booth, hiding a sinister secret.

I thought about telling this to Jordan, but I don’t think I needed to. It’s the sort of thing a brother would know and not want to know. It’s the sort of ugliness a brother would rather not see until he could no longer turn away from the proof. The way we would rather not see someone’s slant toward death until they’re gone. The way a man would rather not see a terrified silence, a disembodied compliance, as anything but consent.

I saw him once on the bridge, I whispered. And I didn’t do anything.

Jordan shook his head.

You think it would’ve mattered, he asked. You think you mattered to him? I should’ve fucking done something. Me.

I didn’t respond because Jordan was crying. His body curled into a silent, shaking fist. After a while, I rested a palm on his leg, my finger timidly poking into the hole in the knee of his jeans.

He sat up and inhaled deeply, wiping his face with the sleeve of his plaid flannel. I’m sorry, he said. Then he rocked onto his knees and he kissed me. We never kissed. Never. In his truck, he treated me like a wolf at a fresh kill. A circling assessment with his nose and teeth, a prodding, pawing at the notions keeping me clothed—buttons, zippers, elastic—and then the mount. But this was different. His kiss was soft and slightly unsettling—like kissing a wild rose. He nudged his wet nose into my throat and I lay down on the wool rug for him. I’d never been horizontal for him.

I wonder if every girl has a technical first time and then a real first time, when she’s with someone who looks her in the eye while thrusting. And her cold extremities mixed with her middle parts, pressed up against his warm body feels like being in an outdoor hot tub at a ski resort and he holds one of her breasts—a breast so small she hardly thinks it deserves the title breast—like it’s a baby robin that’s fallen out of its nest, and she thinks if he can show that much tenderness to one little breast, imagine how much he loves the rest of her. And maybe she thinks about that Romeo and Juliet song on her parents’ Dire Straits CD and she tries to make herself cry like Juliet does in the song, because what is happening to her is that romantic.

When he was finished—when we were finished—Jordan lay on top of me long enough to wind me. I coughed a little and he rose up onto his elbows.

Do you wanna really do this, he asked.

I nodded and smiled through my sex haze, thinking he was asking for consent, post-coitally.

Be my girlfriend?

Oh, I said. Yeah. Totally.



He cupped my cheek and said, You’re my Frances.

I was in shock. I felt victorious. Euphoric. I was somebody’s girlfriend. I belonged to somebody. I belonged to Jordan Hagen. This was what I’d wanted since the first day of high school. This was what every girl of Scona wanted. To be Amanda Prince. Wasn’t it? But was this how I should have felt? Victorious?

I looked at Jordan, this person who was mine. I noticed the puff in his face then, like a yeasted rising of skin from bone. And the sinewy lines of thick saliva that stretched between his lips as he spoke, like thin, gluey goblins bench pressing his jaw. And the little booger hanging from his nose ring that, during my real first time, when his heart was still slippery, I admired as though it was a dainty, sticky butterfly, twirling in and out of his nose with his efforts. I noticed them all then as a clench in my gut.

Amanda Prince’s ex hovered over me, fawning, even, but that didn’t make me Amanda Prince. She had Jordan when Bobby was alive. When Jordan was the legend, uneclipsed by his brother’s revered sorrow, unencumbered by his own tedious grief. What sort of a victory was this? To win a wrung-out heart, to be Queen of a desolate land, to score on an empty net?

Susan Sanford Blades lives on the traditional territory of the lək̓ʷəŋən speaking people, the Xwsepsum/Kosapsum and Songhees Nations (Victoria, Canada). Her debut novel,
Fake It So Real, won the 2021 ReLit Award in the novel category and was a finalist for the 2021 BC and Yukon Book Prizes’ Ethel Wilson Fiction Prize. Her short fiction has been anthologized in The Journey Prize Reader: The Best of Canada’s New Writers and has been published in literary magazines across Canada as well as in the United States and Ireland. Her fiction has most recently been published in Gulf Coast and The Malahat Review.


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