The Cult of Quick Repair

22 July 2009

The Cult of Quick Repair
by Dede Crane
Published by Coteau Books
Review by Shelley A. Leedahl
$18.95 ISBN 9-781550-503920

There’s a marvelous short story in Victoria, BC writer Dede Crane’s collection, The Cult of Quick Repair, about the bizarre circumstances that follow after a man’s one night-stand – the “act” is committed in his marriage bed – with a woman met at a staff party. Called “Raising Blood,” the tale begins with the man’s realization that a menstrual blood stain has been left on the $500 “pure Egyptian cotton” sheets his wife’s just purchased, and when he rinses them in hot water instead of cold, the stain, naturally, sets. The wife will be returning within hours from a business trip, and the race to erase the evidence is on. In the delicious romp that follows, the husband attempts to “raise his own blood” to explain the stain. One thing he tries is “a good hard trip up the stairs.” Crane writes: He “knelt down on the cement landing, and began to draw his knee back and forth. Scrape, scrape, scrape, he thought positively …” But this doesn’t work. An electric knife handily does the trick, but lands him in hospital for surgery to reattach tendons. Crane’s crafted a
brilliant surprise ending. What a play this would make: a sure sell-out.

If this side-splitting story alone isn’t enough to induce readers to pick up the collection, there are several other good reasons to do so. Aside from her obvious gift for humour, Crane’s also adept at writing about the more staid side of life. Many of her main characters – mostly women – find themselves in relationships that leave them wanting. They are mothers who perhaps shouldn’t be; wives who get birthday gifts from their husbands like “an Anne Geddes calendar, a renewal of [a] Canadian Living magazine, a duster made from ostrich feathers and Billy [the talking, Big-mouthed Bass]”. These couples eat “Dinner in front of the news,” and afterward, the husband might challenge his wife to “‘best out of three’ Yahtzee.” This is hardcore realism, and that’s why it works so well.

Crane’s range is admirable. In “Best Friend’s,” the wife of an NHL hockey player must deal with the emotional fallout after he scores a goal and spontaneously kisses a teammate on the lips; the game is televised and the media goes wild. In the title story, a woman’s terminally ill mother insists upon having her “buddha team” – three people who whisper “gobbledygook” into her ear – present as she departs. In the tragic “What Sort of Mother,” a woman leaves her alcoholic husband – the parent her children undeniably prefer – and Crane reveals how the world can be rife with irony and unfairness. “Next” concerns a spicy phone exchange between a woman and the technician who eventually (we’ve all been there) answers the computer helpline: “Now go to file, “the voice says, and before she’s had time to think, the young mother finds herself saying, “You have a sexy voice.”

Read The Cult of Quick Repair, and you’ll recognize thoughts and situations you’ve experienced yourself. Crane stick-handles human emotions like a pro.


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