It’s December, and Pulp Literature Issue 17, Winter 2018 is here! Featured author JJ Lee’s ‘Desdemone’ opens our winter issue with an exquisite Edwardian haunting of a most personal kind.
Multiple-award-nominated memoirist JJ Lee is author of The Measure of a Man: The Story of a Father, a Son, and a Suit. Every year, following in the footsteps of ‘Fireside Al’ Maitland, he presents a Christmas ghost story on CBC Radio in British Columbia, and ‘Desdemone’ was his Christmas 2016 oeuvre.
Pulp Literature Issue 17, Winter 2018
We’re delighted to be able to bring this story to a print audience. This is JJ’s third short story for Pulp Literature, the first being the dystopian Spec Fic piece ‘Built to Love’ in Issue 2 and the Yuletide Lovecraft, Moorcook, Nazi mashup ‘The Man in the Long Black Coat’ in Issue 8.
You can save $2 by pre-ordering our Winter 2018 issue here … and then get JJ to sign it for you when you pick it up at the Winter Launch Party, Monday Dec 11th from 5:00 – 7:00pm at the Cottage Bistro on Main St.
To get you in the JJ mood, here’s an excerpt from Issue 8’s ‘The Man in the Long Black Coat’, a holiday story with a Lovecraftian twist:
A Chthonic Christmas Tale by JJ Lee
I don’t remember if Mother’s eyes said it or if she spoke the words, “He’s just a boy.” I do remember feeling anger and burning shame. I was eleven years old, the eldest. Father had been gone for years. The weekly newsreel Die Deutsche Wochenschau showed boys my age working in factories, making shells and gun parts. In school we were told to be “slim and strong, swift as greyhounds, tough as leather, and hard as Krupp steel.” I thought I was until I saw Mother’s eyes that night in the winter of 1944.
Herr Mundt didn’t care. He had arrived from the larger, Lower Silesian town of G______ in search of what he called ‘recruits.’ He dressed in the makeshift manner of the Volkssturm, the People’s Army. He wore scuffed and muddy railroad boots, brown breeches, and an armband over his grey coat sleeve. On his collar, Herr Mundt had pinned officer pips. He topped his head with the kind of hat a butcher would wear. His attire was theatrical, ersatz, outlandish, wildly officious, and, because he seemed so out of control, menacing. From his gaze I wanted to hide.
“He has five minutes to gather warm clothes and boots, if he has any,” said Herr Mundt.
He stepped back into the snow and shadows and strode off in the direction of the neighbours. Mother shut the door. My legs trembled as I climbed up the stairs and went into the bedroom. I took off my pyjamas and folded them. I tucked them under my pillow. I began to put on as much clothes as I could. I stuffed more warm things into a canvas bag. I went to the other side of the bed and leaned down to kiss Lena, my sister, on her forehead. Her eyes opened.
“You should be asleep,” I said.
“Where are you going?”
“I don’t know.”
She pulled from under the covers a tin soldier, my oldest, most treasured toy.
“Where did you find it?” I fought the urge to snatch it from her and I held out my hand. She put it in my palm. I saw the chipped paint on its shako, the blue on its tunic nearly worn through from play, the bent rifle, and the blankness of its face. It made me think of Father.
“Keep it until I come back.”
I tucked her in, kissed her again, and went downstairs. Mother said, “You can hide in the forest.”
“I don’t think they will let me.”
A pistol cracked. A woman’s wail cut through the night. A minute later, Herr Mundt thumped on our door. “Frau Steiner.”
Mother clambered into the cellar and came back up holding hunting boots. “They’re still too big,” I said.
“It doesn’t matter. You need boots.”
“Frau Steiner.” Herr Mundt hammered on the door. I put them on. I didn’t have time to say goodbye to Mother.
I stumbled after Herr Mundt to a small truck idling in front of the church. He opened the back and waved his pistol. I climbed in. Three other boys from the village — Jens, Rudy, and Zeydl — sat shivering on the side benches.
“Stay in here until we let you out. If any of you try to run, you will wish you hadn’t.” Herr Mundt shut us in and we rode without speaking. At first I could hardly see, but my eyes adjusted to the dimness. The walls were wood slats with no space between them. A tarpaulin covered the top. In one corner, there was a small tear that flapped in the wind. Through it fell the palest light from the night sky …
Read the rest of the story in Pulp Literature Issue 8, Autumn 2015.