1999 short list:
Home from the Vinyl Café
by Stuart McLean
published by Penguin Canada
Published with permission from the author. This excerpt is copyright protected.
By the end of August, summer had settled so lazily upon the city that it was hard to imagine a different season. It confirmed itself every night, in the clutter spilling from the sidewalk cafés, in the chatter of neighbourhood baseball games, in the night-time hiss of a thousand water sprinklers.
Across from the Vinyl Café two young men, both wearing beards and assorted earrings, had erected a scaffold and were painting a mural down the empty brick wall of an old theatre.
In Jim Scoffield's backyard the last of the raspberries were barely hanging onto the raspberry bush. The afternoon Dave and Morley got home from the cottage, Jim brought them a bowl of berries and they had them for breakfast the next morning. Sam spent his first morning back in the city following the water truck around the neighbourhood on his bike. He rode in the rainbow at the back of the truck-in the driver's blind spot-laughing at the spray licking at his pedals, enjoying the sweet iron smell of cold water on hot pavement. There were worse places to be, in the dog days of summer, than back in the city.
Dave was not unhappy to be home, pleased that after its stuttering start this year's vacation had been declared a success. It was a far cry from last summer when he had taken his family on a road trip-something he might not have tried if he had read the survey that said 40 percent of Canadian children claim they would rather clean room and eat vegetables every day than go on a family holiday.