Once a month we’re swapping articles and interviews with western Canada’s oldest literary magazine, PRISM international, to share our writers with a wider audience. This week, an excerpt from Trisha Cull’s essay ‘Warren’ from PRISM 53:2, due to launch this week. The essay explores Cull’s relationship with her stepfather over the course of her life.


You are dying.

You have Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma. The cancer eats away at your stomach, bladder and lungs. Now there’s the tumour in your brain that may be malignant.

We’re waiting for results.

Years ago: home in the Fraser Valley (after you left Cranbrook the summer I turned nineteen) between semesters at university, you seemed to regard me with disdain, resentful that I was once again occupying space in your home, moving in on the time you spent with my mother.

The disdain was subtle yet penetrating. It was your general aura, the rigidity of your jaw while talking to me, a slight sneer only perceptible by me, hardly a grunt at the dinner table as you consumed your food deliberately and methodically, elbows jutting out from each side of the robust barrel of your chest, gaze set sternly straight ahead at the tablecloth or stack of sliced white bread.

I felt invisible to you, or inconsequential. You neither loved nor hated me.

You were indifferent.

Now, when I visit you, the air in the valley smells of manure. Streets are grey, few trees, two shopping malls, strip malls, one pub, too many churches, only one sushi restaurant, horses, and cows for slaughter in farmland outside of town. I look at the cows and wish to save them, the way I wish to save you now too.

At what point does a little girl, adolescent, or young woman grow to love her stepfather, who has been there since she was five?

That summer I was home from university, I escaped from the city on my bike and rode into farmland, to berry orchards and wheat fields growing waist-high. I walked through wheat, my fingers grazing brittle stems that tickled my palms, and listened to metal lines separating rows of berry bushes, the zap of wind and whistling of air.

Some afternoons I biked all the way to the small airstrip where two-engine planes take off carrying parachuters. I lay on the grass at the edge of the strip under a solitary poplar tree, making war against the darkness in my heart that would blossom into despair and cripple me for years.

I shaded my eyes and gazed into the cerulean sky, watched small figures jump from planes, chutes opening into reds, greens, and yellows, domes descending toward Earth like jellyfish descending through blue waters.

Read the original post (and pick up a copy of the mag) here.

Photo by Lance Anderson