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Last Modified: December 18, 2023
Feature Image for November 2023 Sunday Short: Sunday Shorts is written in white text on a green background. To the left of the text is the book cover for Tales for Late Night Bonfires (Freehand Books).
Sunday Shorts: Tales for Late Night Bonfires

Sheilagh Rogers says of Tales for Late Night Bonfires (Freehand Press, 2023) that Gord Grisenthwaite’s “writing is so vivid and fresh that the reader inhabits his characters, in their homes, on the land, in their talking cars. Gord has a great gift for dialogue and he writes with flinty humour and such love. I felt more completely human when I finished this book.” This month’s Sunday Short selection, “ball lightnin” comes from that collection and  … well, read it and see for yourself.

ball lightnin

she, maybe three, I guess

no, four she was, down Cisco

over there on the west side

wearing her shiny shoes and Sunday dress

for pickin berries? jeez you, says her gran

better keep it clean, or that Sunday school god’ll gechoo

and she cackles

you know the one, that old lady laugh?

but she don’t make her change

so yeah, she meant to keep it clean

anyways, I guess she tried

walkin the CP track with her gran

her gran and aunt and her stupid dog

over there, on the west side

at Cisco

near that place Fraser finishes swallowin Thompson

where them two rivers, one all green and sparkly

and the other all dirty, them two rivers roll into one

the three a them and that stupid dog

just comin back from pickin sx̣ʷúsm

yeah, sx̣ʷúsm, and wild raspberries, too

anyways, them three and that dog returnin home

her gran haulin a basket a sx̣ʷúsm

and her auntie, a pail a raspberries

and that little one chasin that dog a hers

that dog runnin, in a jingle dress made a burrs

and she, that little one? got a smile as stained as her fingertips

and that dog?

yippin up a storm

tail high and waggin, tongue lollin

she races up and back along the tracks

up and back, up and back

then this last time she runs up and up and up

tail folded up under her belly

paws barely touchin them ties

leavin them two-leggeds to fend for themselves

so that girl, she stamps a foot on a tie

calls after her stupid dog that disappeared around a bend

and from behind her, maybe a hundred feet

maybe a little more, her gran shouts, run!


and that little girl?

she turns, sees a fireball

ball lightnin, an electric tumbleweed

rollin her way

and that girl?

she runs

her gran and auntie screamin after her

their berries bouncin off the gravel between two ties

and them old women, all in one motion

hike up their skirts and chase the lightnin

chasin that little girl


up them train tracks that little one runs

with that lightnin ball right behind her

then that little one

she zigs off the track

and climbs that scrabbly hill

till Moses’ barbed wire fence stops her dead

so down she slides

kickin up dust and pebbles

down the hill

her mouth twisted into a scream she don’t let out

or maybe can’t

and she crosses them tracks again

jumps a patch a prickly pear

jumps that cactus all right

but trips, tumbling down

rollin like that lightnin ball

poppin out a little cry each time her butt touches ground

and that lightnin chases after her like mad on a mule

and then that lightnin ball fizzles, sputters

spreads that stink a ozone

and dies in a thunderous boom!


well! then her gran scoops her up

wheezin and cryin and holdin that child close

and that little one’s fancy dress?

all dirty, and torn

her fancy shoes all scuffed and dusty

and that girl cries

maybe more for them scuffed toes

and that torn an dirty dress

than that fireball nearly takin her


her gran carries the girl tucked up under one arm

her basket a sx̣ʷúsm up under the other

and her aunt, now all thousand-eyed

watches the hill, the sky


them three hurry home

where that stupid dog’s hid

under the house

hidin like a mole

they don’t see her for maybe three days

yeah, three whole days

the whole time that girl cries

thinkin her stupid dog got ett by that fireball

thinkin maybe she got ett by that Sunday school god


three days she cries

then that dog?

her fur a messa caked mudd and dust

her jungle dress a burrs

as runed as the girl’s Sunday one

all whimperin, hungry

and she jumps up on that little girl

scaredy-tail waggin between her legs

forepaws on that little girl’s shoulders

they hold each other

they hold each other tight

that little girl smilin a rainbow


and that stupid dog?

she tries lickin it off



Gord Grisenthwaite is nłeʔkepmx, a member of the Lytton First Nation, and has earned an MA in English Literature & Creative Writing at the University of Windsor (2020). His first novel, Home Waltz, a finalist for the 2021 Governor General’s Award for fiction, is now available.

His work has appeared in Prairie Fire, FreeFall, Exile Quarterly, The Antigonish Review, Our Stories Literary Journal, Prism International, ndnCountry, Offset 17, Bawaajigan: Stories of Power, and Food of My People andhas earned a number of prizes, including the 2013 John Kenneth Galbraith Literary Award.

Tw: @Frankntoad
Ig: @Frankntoad

Tales for Late Night Bonfires

G.A. Grisenthwaite (CA), Gord Grisenthwaite

Published: Sep 01, 2023 by Freehand Books
ISBN: 9781990601378

Accessible icon: a stick person inside a circle. Available as an accessible eBook