Paul Carlucci is the author of The Secret Life of Fission
Puritan contributor Paul Carlucci published his story, “Even Still,” in Issue 27, Fall 2014. He discusses cultural difference and the tensions that arise out of shifting privileges.
Blame and regionalism. First, they make pride, and not long after that, they make intolerance.
Canada’s a good example of that phenomenon, much as we like to conceal it beneath nationalist throw rugs, all thin with the threads of niceness, fairness, and welcome. But the West resents the centre. So does the East. Anglophones and francophones still manage, after all this time, to resent one another. Meanwhile, the north scorns the south—and that tricky little border travels upward with you, so that north becomes south becomes south becomes south, like a geographic pissing contest evermore in the middle of some thawing nowhere.
Then, within those regions, there are further schisms. Between islanders and mainlanders. Farmers and city-slickers. There are county rivalries. Duelling cities. There’s the ever-building pressure systems between natives, settlers, and immigrants. Between immigrants and immigrants.
Then you wander around the world a little, and you notice this dynamic at play everywhere, especially in countries more homogeneous than Canada. Really, most countries are. If you happen to be a visible minority, you’ll rub up against stark racial differences, often uncomfortably, as minorities tend to back home. And then there are the subtler ones based on language and tradition, harder to perceive if you’re a foreigner.
After awhile, you realize that it doesn’t actually have anything to do with income, race, nationality, religion, or any other discriminatory category you can imagine. At least, not directly. That stuff is infill. What it’s really all about are two simple groups: outsiders and insiders. The insiders are always suspicious of the outsiders, even if the outsiders used to be the insiders, which causes no end of resentment in the outsiders.
Luckily, not everyone is so entrenched in their group. Some people just have outgoing personalities. They’re curious. They like to travel from category to category. They ignore certain things and pay attention to others. They’re patient. They don’t get incensed by gatekeepers. Or maybe they do get incensed, but they get over it and try again.
Other people aren’t like that at all. Maybe most people, especially if they’ve been in one spot for too long. But there’s hope for them, too. It’s circumstantial hope. Stuff happens. Extra-local events. The insider terra firma rumbles, maybe even cracks. Cosmic events happen, and folks find themselves forced into interactions with outsiders, or maybe insiders, or is it now too hard to say?
“Even Still” tries to be about that. It’s region is British Columbia, with reference to Africa. Its groups are coastal types and their interior counterparts. It’s characters are two couples from each locale, brought together to commemorate the death of their children in Mali a year before. Their children were dating. They died in a botched kidnapping. The coastal couple—they’re academics and foodies and apologists. The interior couple are ex-police, salt of the earth, with no sympathy for anyone they can’t speak to in plain English.
Shrouded in that tension, they sit down to eat a meal together, and each of them is in search of a different place to lay the blame, targets chosen by perception and prejudice. Things don’t go so well. But, really, they don’t go so badly. There’s been progress since they met the year before, because you get progress when people take a little time to eat a little food and maybe yell at one another.
In the end, it’s a positive story, however plodding its sense of hope.
Paul Carlucci is the author of The Secret Life of Fission, which won the 2013 Danuta Gleed Literary Award. House of Anansi is publishing a second collection in 2016. Paul’s stories have been individually published and are forthcoming in Riddle Fence, subTerrain, Little Fiction, Descant, The Fiddlehead, Carousel, and others.