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Morse Code for Romantics by Anne Baldo  

Wretched, reckless and haunted by the past, the men and women in Anne Baldo’s Morse Code for Romantics try to restart their sputtering hearts, seeking to turn their pain into pearls through connection, understanding and hope.

In Anne Baldo’s Morse Code for Romantics, patterns of life emerge—and break—in relationships both requited and otherwise. A restaurateur orchestrates a devious punishment for his wife’s lover. A desperate mother searches for her missing daughter, a modern-day Persephone who was lured away by a sinister boyfriend. An islander falls under the spell of a visiting researcher, whose insidious smiles and natural sangfroid mirror the serpent-like sea monster he hunts.

These wistful, darkly surreal stories, set in Southern Ontario, suggest that maternal instinct is not just a chemical lie but something bloody and painful; that one person’s clouds can rain on generations; and that true loneliness can be as clear as code written on a face, and as ominous as a dark, monstrous shape lurking beneath the surface.

Review quote

‘Throughout, Baldo’s prose shines. Her writing effectively evokes a world that is familiar and strange at the same time, pulling the reader into lives scarred by loss and loneliness. These are poignant, wise, memorable stories by a writer whose vision may be bleak, but it’s a vision that rings true on every page.’

—Ian Colford, The Miramichi Reader

Review quote

For the most part, these are standalone stories--the exceptions are a handful in which characters reappear--but they’re linked by geography, by recurring imagery, and themes which make this collection such a satisfying book. They’re linked too by being crafted to a standard of real excellence, and I’m thinking of the image on the book’s cover, of the power lines connecting the utility poles, without which I’d probably be employing a metaphor right now along the lines of beads on a string, one gleaming gem right after another.

—Kerry Clare, Pickle Me This

Review quote

‘Ontario summers are short, and love may be as fleeting as the fine weather. The stories in Morse Code for Romantics are full of human unkindness, infidelity, abandonment, and loneliness—and possibly even a murder or two. Even so, they aren’t depressing. Instead, they are luminescent, like the mermaids’ scales or the hummingbirds’ throats that shine so brightly in these moving tales.’

—Shara Kronmal, Necessary Fiction

Excerpt from book

From ‘Last Summer’

The summer we are nineteen, we are like the Velveteen Rabbit, waiting for a boy to love us enough to make us real.

* * *

We are unkind in love, and loved unkindly. We go out at night: floral combat boots, tattoo chokers, slip dresses. Or jeans tight and low as they can go on the hips, and platform sandals. Or pink-tinted sunglasses and rainbow-striped crop tops and Skechers, like the ones Britney Spears pairs with a denim maxi skirt in the magazine ads in YM, between articles about pop stars and purity rings. Who wears what? Sadie or Rhea or myself, it doesn’t matter. We share frosted lipstick and clothes. We sleep over all summer at each other’s houses, pass out in the same bed, still wearing our makeup. We share everything. Like an octopus, we are one body with three hearts. We are like the spheres of Newton’s Cradle—we look separate, but always move together. What happens to one of us happens to all of us.

* * *

There are three hundred and thirty-eight species of hummingbirds. Their names are striking—sunangel, glittering-throated, violetear. Brilliant coquettes, bees and emeralds, shining with gemmed agility. Their needs so wild they have a state called torpor, not dead but not alive, not really, a sort of hibernation where their hearts calm down, their breathing slows, and they finally get a chance to rest.

* * *

We drink in Sadie’s basement, sitting on the dusty rose sofas, Sadie and Rhea and me, our hair flat-ironed to an oily sleekness. Our silver hoop earrings and heart-shaped rhinestone necklaces from Ardene, glitter eye shadow pressed onto eyelids under brows we tweak until they are only thin dark crescents. Sadie loves Sex and the City so we drink candy-pink cosmos in martini glasses, vodka, lime, cranberry juice. Sapphire-spangled, we drink till we’re ruby-throated. Her mother’s wallpaper border, motif of yellow flowers over and over again. Shelves of her father’s racquetball trophies and on the wall by the stairs is a framed painting of Marilyn Monroe, James Dean and Elvis playing pool together in a bar, rockabilly trinity. Elvis staring at Marilyn, whose lips are perpetually parted in surprise, eyebrows arched. She is wearing the pink satin gown and elbow-length gloves she wore to sing ‘Diamonds are a Girl’s Best Friend’. James Dean looking out over the green felt of the pool table at us, mournfully, sculpted blond pompadour and jeans cuffed perfectly. Where are they, we want to know. Sadie says they’re in Heaven, but sometimes I wonder.

[Continued in Morse Code for Romantics...]


Credit: Jesse Soulliere

Anne Baldo’s short fiction has appeared in a number of publications, including Broken Pencil, Carousel Magazine, Hermine, Qwerty and SubTerrain. Her creative nonfiction piece "Expecting" was longlisted for the 2019 CBC Nonfiction Prize. Morse Code for Romantics is her first collection. She lives in Windsor, Ontario.

The Porcupine's Quill would like to acknowledge the support of the Ontario Arts Council and the Canada Council for the Arts for our publishing program. The financial support of the Government of Canada through the Canada Book Fund (CBF) is also gratefully acknowledged.

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FICTION / Short Stories

FICTION / Literary

ISBN-13: 9780889844568

Publication Date: 2023-03-03

Dimensions: 8.75 in x 5.56 in

Pages: 208

Price: $19.95