Paul ‘Sam’ Stostko (1977 – 2014) had written one unpublished novel and then successfully divorced his first wife of three years. He had been sorting manuscripts for free at a small press and just turned twenty-four. He had run into a woman, physically, as she carried boxes of donated clothes: Anne Gurdy, a professor of linguistics at the University of Toronto. This excerpt was written in an unpublished short story Paul read to me ten years ago as we waited for the bus in a February snowstorm:
I could have pinned her to the bed. Made her think. She was the right one for me, and for that she would have to pay. The beds were tough but she loved the way they felt under her back.
Paul was not a writer that had much support. He was influenced by Hank Williams, and he attacked you verbally if you criticised: “I could out run you,” he would say. I ran ten kilometre races on track in my early twenties. “Your work is a mangled mess,” he said. He always declared the word ‘mangled.’
I heard of his death from Anne when she was working municipally for the Government of Ontario in Toronto. We had spotted each other in a grocery store as she was telling her son to put down a knife:
Paul had been working in the small town of Innisfil selling antiques from home. He had stopped writing fiction. He emailed Anne almost every week for a month then would stop for a year. He drank, even after their marriage ended. In the last three years his mother was diagnosed with emphysema. She needed a man to live in house. January, 2014 he walked into a blizzard, drunk, and disappeared. Anne said that Paul mentioned two occasions he and I shared: The time that he loaned me fifty dollars and I never paid him, and the other of his lifting a scene from a short story I wrote. Anne mentioned the title. On my now retired laptop I found the story. On careful reading, the above paragraph was typed verbatim with red lines through their centres. Paul’s initials marked at each end.