Maybe you’ve been away since May, or maybe you just took a couple weeks off to cottage it up in the wilderness somewhere, or maybe you need a little help getting in the mood to go back to school, but whatever the reason, we figured we’d warm up your reading skills with a Coles Notes catch-up version of our serialized novel Pawnshop Blues, by special-to-The Coast author Stephanie Domet.
The novel is set in downtown Toronto approximately 10 years ago (if we judge by the flannel plaid and combat boots our characters wear) as winter melts into spring. Take note of the weather: you’ll want to mention “pathetic fallacy” in any papers or learned discussions you have with friends about the burgeoning relationship at the centre of the story.
The protagonist of the novel is the lovely Stellah. Stellah is in her early twenties, working as a waitress and writing, in her spare time, a Harlequin romance novel that she only half-ironically hopes will be her ticket to fame and fortune. Stellah has two best friends: Mona, her trusted dream-analysis pal, and Peat.
Stellah and Peat have been friends since the beginning of her doomed-from-the-start relationship with Dug, an affair characterized by narcissism, excessive drinking, lies and eventually betrayal. Peat, less stodgy than his name implies, has been Stellah’s champion for quite some time, seeing her (not to mention loving her from afar, we learn later) through her painful break-up with Dug and several subsequent relationships with a variety of, well, they sound like weirdos.
At the beginning of our novel, Stellah and Peat are caught somewhere between friendship and loveship, to borrow a phrase from Alice Munro, and over the course of several days and nights and countless cups of coffee, slowly move towards a serious relationship. Of course, nothing is ever that easy, and our heroes face various complications along the way. Dug, for one, seems inescapable, and not just because he haunts International Donuts, Stellah and Peat’s neighbourhood coffee shop of choice, or because he’s got “contacts” at the pretentious-faux-literary journal to which Stellah keeps submitting short stories.
Dug’s late-night, alcohol-induced telephone calls of love and jealousy have finally ceased, only to be replaced by telephone calls from a mysterious caller who says nothing—doesn’t even “indulge in a bit of heavy breathing,” as Stellah complains. Is the mystery caller Dug? Is it a hapless telemarketer? A fax machine with the wrong number? As the calls continue and the creepiness levels increase, the answers continue to evade our heroine, who has taken to shrieking over the phone lines at anyone (including her mother) who doesn’t start talking as soon as she lifts the receiver. (You might recall that three weeks or so ago, Stellah dropped the f-bomb on her mom during just such a conversation. Yikes!)
In addition to being plagued by mysterious phone calls, Stellah has been having increasingly strange dreams. In the first, Stellah watches her sister get swallowed by a grave in a mysterious graveyard. In another, an infestation of ladybugs (Infestation doesn’t seem like the best word. Flock? Flurry? Pack? Passle? Horde? Well, anyway. I’m sure that you get the idea. They were crawling all over everything...but in a friendly way.), ahem, an infestation of ladybugs took over Stellah’s apartment. They, of course, vanished as soon as she woke up, but the image stayed with her for days.
In the most recent, Stellah was dive-bombed by a bird which lodged itself between her breasts. Fearful, she leaves it there, but dream-Mona pulls it out, and the bird leaves a perfectly round hole. (If you’re into dream interpretation, as Stellah and Mona are, you might want to look those things up. Although the hole-in-the-chest dream, which happened after Peat took the plunge and kissed (yes! kissed on the mouth!) Stellah but before she decided she was willing to risk her friendship with Peat for something more, seems pretty self-explanatory. I mean, come on. The bird left a hole right where her heart was, people!)
After various heart-to-heart conversations with Mona, a late-night cocktails and peach cake date with her cross-dressing neighbour, several fruitless attempts at novel-writing, and a shockingly satisfactory kiss from Peat, Stellah finally gets her “stuff” together and decides to take the plunge. Sitting down with Peat, she explains her feelings to him (and he to her) and they make plans to go on a date. An actual, real, grown-up date. (But not so grown-up that she shaved her legs beforehand.) We left her last week having coffee with Mona, whiling away the time until the special event.
This has been the Coles Notes version of Pawnshop Blues by Stephanie Domet. Yes, the one on *Info Morning.* To read the story in full, click here.