Here is a selection of short excerpts from my literary fiction. If you like what you read, or want to discuss writing, I would love to hear from you at .

     My last published work was in May, 2008, when the story “Staying In” was featured in the anthology In Other Words, published by Véhicule Press.

     In June 2008, I became a new dad. I had just hit my stride back into writing in 2010, when our second daughter came onto the scene. I now am officially on hiatus from writing, stories doing no more than percolate in my subconscious for the moment.

     When it is time to come back to the page, my next project is to put together a collection of short stories, and then find an agent to help me publish them. If Neil Smith and Gina Roitman could do it, why can’t I? You can read “Staying In” immediately below. Also below, you will find the full story “Turnpike”, which introduces the characters of my forthcoming collection; and two other full-length pieces, “The Wrong Angel” and “Bone Yard”, linked below.


                                                                                                        - July 18, 2015


Paul Edmond Robichaud lives in Montreal with his wife and daughters. He is currently putting together a collection of short stories. Among the winners of the 2006 Quebec Writing Competition, Paul is working to dispel the myth that engineers can’t write.

Staying In

We’re sitting in our living room, not quite facing each other in the slightly grease-stained, white wing chairs I brought into the relationship. It’s your idea to sit down here. You have something to tell me, and you tell it to me, your head tilted forward in a way that means I had better put aside the movie quotes and overblown accents. I listen to your bullet points. You’re outlining the ways we’re broken.

     After number two, I aim my eyes over your shoulder, out the living room window. The rounded treetops behind our building are full of golden light, dusty with the snow that’s blowing around.

     When these two chairs used to be in my old apartment, I would sit in one, lay my quarter chicken take-out on the other, and fire up the Space Channel. We may as well not even have a TV now. You’re sitting in that chair, and I can’t just switch off this conversation. The only thought possible in this room is that you’ll never want me to touch you again.

     You’re reconstituting something I said to you. Something I don’t remember saying. Later, you’ll tell me, “I didn’t mean what I said,” but for now I bake in it.

     The wind has blown the branches bare outside our window. I wish I could be among the trees in the mountain park, on my skis, like I was this morning. You were at work, and I wasn’t, and I climbed hill after hill. This morning, they all seemed steeper than usual. I tried to keep my skis straight and slide uphill with each stroke; but I kept slipping on the packed snow. I won’t slot myself into the fishbone slashes of other skiers; so I went off trail. My ski tips brutalized the carefully powdered bushes, their up- springing branches all around me.

     Resting at the top, I scanned the treetops. That was how I saw the woodpecker. He was huge, hanging on a maple trunk, dipping his blood-arrow head in and out of a hollow. I watched, steaming, snow dusting my jacket. He paused after every few pecks and cocked his head, as if asking himself whether all his digging was really worth the trouble. I stayed there beside the trail until my wet clothes got too cold to bear.

You could be in three and a half other rooms of our apartment, but you’re still facing me in the other wing chair, waiting for me to say something. I won’t be saying I’m sorry. I know that’s not what you want.

     Last week, when we skied together, your clothes were never right. First you had to change gloves, then your scarf. Stopped beside the trail, watching you change, I could almost count each calorie of heat the wind peeled off me.

     “Do you know another way you try to dominate me?” you said, pulling on your coat. “With your eyes.”

     That day skiing, making our final break across the lake toward the chalet, we had to lean into blasts of wind that could have knocked us on our sides. I glided along in the tracks beside you. Your Gore-Tex hood may as well have been a turbojet in your ear, and you made me repeat everything I said. I answered back more sharply than you deserved, until we stopped saying anything at all. In our parallel tracks, listening to the swish of our clothes, the things we’d already said rolled around in my head like the tiny metal balls in those hand-held games of my childhood. I could never get all those balls to settle in the right divots.

     The wind rattles our living room windows behind you.

     “Well?” you say.

     Not good. How much of this conversation have I missed? I can’t read your face because I’ve been looking out at the sun and snow. You’re a wife-shaped silhouette.

     “I was asking you a question.”

     Part of me is already telling you I need to clear my head—one of my patented walks.

     “I’m here.” I shift in my wing chair, but not to get up.

     I’m not usually around for this part. As the room comes into focus again, I can actually find your eyes. Softly, softly, I remind myself, and you don’t look away.

     You haven’t forgiven me yet, but you’re searching my face. I tell myself, we’ll be okay, after this conversation is over. Not right after, but maybe when we’re cooking together later; or when our dinner guests arrive. Maybe in bed after. We will be whole again, I tell myself, and I actually believe it.

The End

                                                                                  Buy Staying In at Véhicule Press  


From Tomás

...Your lunch tray smashed to the cafeteria floor, arms and legs flailing amid the spaghetti and meat sauce. Thank God for Louise and her freakish man feet, you would have said, had you been one of the people talking about your seizure over their cubicle walls after lunch. Louise was the girl from accounting who thought to wedge her feet under your head so you didn’t hammer your brains though the concrete floor.

     A week later you were sitting in the guest chair of my cubicle when I arrived for work. You said the scan had found a tumor the size of an egg behind your right eye. You sipped from your mug and then hurled into my recycling pail. I could see at that moment our morning coffee ritual would be severely curtailed.

     “I need you to understand this,” you said, naming the best and worst grades and types of tumors, using all the white board technology at our disposal. “Cytomas are better than blastomas,” you said. To me they sounded like super powers. The smell of the markers curled our nostrils. Your eyelids sagged, and you jumped from tumors to the house hunt—grades, rates of growth, semi-detached—until I lost track of whether you were talking about real estate or cancer.

     “So,” you said, leaning back and smiling. 

     I wasn’t yet thinking, thank God it’s not me. Our job in engineering was to find a way out of impossible situations. A week before, you would have jumped up and cried, “Let’s go see James in System Test!” But there was nothing to say as I looked from the white board tumors to your face. Our usual situations didn’t seem so impossible anymore.

     “I’m going for a smoke,” you said. I asked you if that was such a good idea. “The lung bone’s connected to the brain bone,” you sang, and walked out of my cubicle. ...

From Turnpike

(Click the title for the entire story)

... As they inched closer to the car fire, Jeff could see it was an older model Civic that had caught. Flames poured out all the windows and skated across the roof.

     “What could make it catch fire like that?” said Rachel.

     Jeff thought they had wasted enough time already around this car, but despite himself, his machinery kicked in, an autopilot asking why and how. An over-hot engine could melt insulation on the wires, or a bad gasket seal from an oil filter change. His dad had been a high school science teacher, and taught him to approach every problem with the scientific method. “Always have a system,” he told Jeff. Washing the car when Jeff was a kid, his dad taught him to start at the top, letting him aim the hose and spray the roof, and then lifting him up to scrub it. Jeff loved the way his dad had clutched him tightly to his chest. From one end of the roof to the other, Jeff made overlapping circles with the sponge, as wide as his six-year-old arms would let him. “That’s good. So you don’t miss a spot.” He could feel the scratch of his dad’s chin on the back of his neck. “See how the bubbles run down?” The best way, then, was to douse and soap the windows, then the hood, and finish with the trunk and doors.

     When Rachel washed the car, she started wherever she was standing. Rachel scoffed at gravity and entropy, as if they were hokey religions. Watching her scrub the doors and rinse them before washing the roof, Jeff fought the urge to grab the sponge out of her hand. It wasn’t as if his dad was even watching—he died long before Jeff and Rachel met—but Jeff couldn’t seem to make his wife understand how important it was to him, that they do it his way. ...

                                                                                                ... Read more of Turnpike

From The Wrong Angel

(Click the title for the entire story)

... The street lamps died as I walked back along Strada Academei. I bolted the door of our flat behind me, and removed my shoes, wobbling, as I had not done outside in the cool air. Still drunk. A disgrace. I teetered along the hallway to the bedroom door, and looked in to see Sonia, lying in bed, coarse white sheets bunched like a sling across her chest. God help me, I did not ache for closeness with her. At that moment, all I could see was the moonlight
bleaching her rough skin, a sack of potatoes in the bed. She opened her eyes and turned toward me as I stood watching her. For a second, I worried she had read my thoughts. I felt like apologizing.

     She whispered, “Stefan, you’ve never come home this late. Is everything all right?”

     I felt I had Nina’s scent all over me, that my skin must glow in the dark where she had touched my arm.

     “It was another Party member asking for a private encore,” I said. “It was nothing.”

     She lay back against the pillows. “Come to bed now, Master Petrascu.”

     As I unpeeled my tuxedo, I considered the improbability of her choosing to call me by the same name as Nina had. That kind of coincidence only happens in a dream. I slid into bed.

     “You smell like a distillery,” Sonia said into her pillow. “I hope these parties will go out of vogue some day soon.”

     Across the room, Angela was sprawled face down in her little bed, the sheets bunched up around her as if sucked under by vacuum force. So much energy, even in sleep. Her feet hung off the end of the bed. She will need a new one soon, was my last thought, before falling asleep.  ...

                                                                              ... Read more of The Wrong Angel

From Bone Yard

(Click the title for the entire story)

... So I forgot to mention I was watching my dad and his bulldozer antics through one eye, on account of my left one being swollen shut from the night before. I had been up in our attic, ripping away the last bits of paper from between the roof beams. I spent a lot of time up there when it wasn’t stinking hot, especially when my dad was home from the tavern. Under that attic paper it was all shiny asbestos. I liked to pretend I was commander of my own personal flying saucer, death ray guns set to vaporize everybody who had ever pushed me around. Unfortunately, I got a bit too fancy practicing my intergalactic kung fu, and tripped on a roof beam. Then I really was flying—down the hatch, just as my dad was climbing the ladder, saying, “What the hell is all that racket?” We both crashed to my bedroom floor. And then, Christ, he beat the crap out of me. I was wailing fit to shatter the windows, until my ma poked her head in. “That’s enough you two,” as if nothing would have pleased me more than to continue getting smacked around ...

                                                                                         ... Read More of Bone Yard

Thank you

My heartfelt thanks to all who continue to provide feedback and insightful contribution, especially my writers’ group Montreal Writes : Sarah Lolley, Maggie Kathwaroon, Gina Roitman, Derek Webster, and Elizabeth Ulin. You are an unwavering stand for all of us being the best writers we can be, and I love you for it.

     Ibi Kaslik, Wayson Choy and Ami Sands Brodoff, you have been a clearing for breakthroughs in my writing.

     Katherine Gombay and all at CBC, you are professional and delightful while doing an amazing service to Quebec writers.

     Lori Schubert and all at the Quebec Writers Federation, you provide much appreciated support and belief in the importance of Quebec writing.

     Isabelle, you are always my first reader, and the acid test of whether my writing is true to who I am.

Publication Credits & Reviews

The short story “Staying In” is featured in the anthology In Other Words, a collection of 2006-2008 Quebec Writing Competition winners, published by Véhicule Press (May 2008)

“Staying In” was referenced by Utne Reader in the section of their site called “Great Writing” (November 2007):

  1. Tell Me What You Really Think

  2. A “talk” between two lovers is a private affair—a nearly universal euphemism for an argument. The sort of talk that occurs in the confines of one’s home, over a telephone, or in an uncomfortable car ride. Such talks are rarely seen or heard by people outside of the tenuous relationship, but most everyone can remember having one. Even more personal than the conversation you’re having with your significant other, however, is the conversation you have with yourself during the dispute.

  3. Paul Edmond Robichaud welcomes readers into that private mess of thoughts in “Staying In,” which won third place in the 2006 Quebec Writing Competition and recently was posted on the Maisonneuve website. The short story opens as the narrator listens to his wife issue bullet points of redress in the relationship: “You're outlining the ways we’re broken,” he writes, but his attention isn’t long. “After number two, I aim my eyes over your shoulder, out the living room window. The rounded treetops behind our building are full of golden light, dusty with snow that’s blowing around.”

  4. Although the reader never finds out what the bullet points are, one quickly feels a heightened awareness of these characters because of the intimate details of an argument that almost always remain unspoken.

  5. —Cara Binder

  6. Posted by Julie Hanus at 11/8/2007 4:36 PM

“Staying In” was published in the Maisonneuve Magazine online edition (Fall 2007)

“Staying In” won 3rd prize in the 2006 Quebec Writing Competition, and on May 28, 2007, it was read on CBC Radio One’s “Cinq à Six” (an audio file of the reading can be found above). Here is what the jury for the competition had to say about the piece:

  1. “Staying In is a nuanced and moving portrait of a relationship in crisis. It is written in prose that is polished, assured and filled with images that linger and resonate in the mind’s eye.”

Other publication credits & reviews will be added as details become available


Paul Edmond Robichaud