Gus Dupin, walking along the stillness of Stony Lake in the gathering night, recognized the sleek motorboat approaching his dock. A girl in a bright yellow sundress jumped off and sprinted to his mailbox, dropping in an envelope before running back. As she set off into the lake, she yelled “an honest-to-God letter” over her shoulder.
Gus Dupin was not accustomed to receiving letters or messages of any kind. His cottage lacked an internet connection and phone service, and that was exactly how he liked it. He had retreated to Stony Lake to escape the responsibilities of his job as a professor teaching crime and cyber fiction at the University of Toronto and the agonies of his recent divorce. So, as he watched the motorboat carve the water in fine white curves, the filament of human contact retreating across the lake, the disappearing boat provoked disquiet and excitement in equal measure.
The envelope smelled slightly sweet and pleasant, and the edges were jagged and uneven. Inside, the invitation was handwritten; the paper thick, luxurious, and handmade.
It is with great sorrow that we announce the passing of Peggy Firmin, whose contributions to literature have left an indelible mark on the hearts and minds of readers around the world.
As a token of our respect and admiration for her life and work, we cordially invite you to join us in paying our final respects at her funeral, which will take place on the twenty-first of August at 17 Colonel Road, Toronto, Ontario, Canada.
No black attire or somber faces here. This is a celebration of life, an intimate affair. Peggy Firmin will present her own eulogy, so you know it’ll be a good one. Only a select few have been invited. RSVP
For a moment, his mind was blank—Gus couldn’t quite grasp how to feel. He was a Peggy Firmin scholar, but he had been so cut off in his cottage that he hadn’t heard the news of her passing. Learning of Peggy Firmin’s death was like learning about the death of an old lover. It was like the closing of a great restaurant in a city where he used to live.
Every year, Gus lectured on her work to a new group of students at the university. He had even written a book about her novel, God, Inc. But Gus had never actually met Peggy Firmin. He would never have dreamed of being invited to her funeral.
He wondered what the invitation meant by Peggy Firmin giving her own eulogy. It wasn’t the first time he had wondered what Peggy Firmin meant.
Gus usually enjoyed the solitude of being disconnected from the internet and phone. He suddenly ached for news. So, the next morning, he steered his Boston Whaler across Stony Lake, relishing in its smooth surface as the warm sun beamed down and the gentle breeze cooled him. His pocket started buzzing—Gus’s phone buzzed every time he passed the line where his phone service reconnected.
He eased into the marina and made his way to the Regency Cafe, which was already crowded. With their faces fixed to their phones, the cottagers hardly noticed the white clouds scudding overhead or the pungent aroma of the placid lake water, absorbed in their own private information bubbles.
Gus sat down at a booth, opened his phone, and read the first news item that came up when he searched “Peggy Firmin”—a piece from CP24.
Canadian literary icon Peggy Firmin was found shot dead on a bridge on the Leslie Street Spit, a wilderness area on the East Side of Toronto, on August 14. The location was so remote that there were no witnesses to the crime. Toronto Police are treating the incident as a homicide.
According to sources close to the investigation, Firmin was shot once in the right temple. No gun was recovered at the scene. Firmin’s lifeless body was discovered by a group of cyclists early on the morning of August 14.
A prominent and influential figure in Canadian literature, Firmin’s sudden and violent death has shocked the nation’s literary community. Her agent, Beverly Bookman, released a statement: “We have no comment to make at this time. The apparent murder of Peggy Firmin should horrify anyone who cares about language.”