Thursday, 29 May 2014



 "What is now called the nature of women is an eminently artificial thing — the result of forced repression in some directions, unnatural stimulation in others."  - John Stuart Mill


He had missed Halloween.  No party, no giving out candies.  He had no costume anyway.  He had paid Ivan November's rent already.  Ivan asked him if he knew where Richard was, but Marty feigned ignorance. 

"Day five of seven," Marty said as he entered the front lobby from Bay Street.  He was relieved to be out of the cold air of the Autumn evening.  Trevor waved his free hand, the other one pressing the telephone to his ear.

Marty stepped behind the counter, heading to the backroom to change, hearing: "Okay Mr. Franco, thanks for your cooperation.  Uh-huh, yeah, no problem sir."  He hung up the phone and sighed.

"What's wrong with Mr. Penthouse?" asked Marty, now sticking his head out from behind the door to the employee closet.

"Just a noise complaint," said Trevor. "I would've gone up but I got no partner to watch the desk.  A neighbour from below him called in complaining about some loud yelling, probably in a fight with his girlfriend, or something."

"Erin?" asked Marty, suddenly feeling fluttery in his gut.

Trevor nodded. "Or one of his other girlfriends.  I've seen at least three women, all half his age, go up to see him." 

"Really?" the fluttering turned into a coiling knot. "Do they know about each other?"

 Trevor shrugged.

"Then he's a piece of shit."

"Shh," Trevor hushed him, bringing a finger to his lips.  He looked around, then said in a quieter tone: "He may be that, Marty, but his rent alone pays for a quarter of our paychecks in the long-run, so he's our boss too."

"Ain't my boss," replied Marty, feeling a warmth coming to his skin.  An image of Harvey Franco replaced Erin's in his mind's eye.  His imaginary fist came up and pounded the rich man's face next.  Marty tried to calm himself down, taking the first set of rounds voluntarily.

"It's not your buisiness," he kept telling himself. "This is your job.  This is Harvey Franco's home.  Your job is to protect his home.  That's it.  He has the money.  He pays.  What else can you do?  Nothing."

Erin too.  He knew he couldn't involve himself with her.  It would only lead to trouble.  In his late twenties Marty had learned by now which women not to get involved with.  He kept telling him these 
things as he made his way up each staircase.

"Not your business, not your business," he continued to say in his mind to intercept the thoughts.  He had to focus.  By the time he reached the penthouse the thought of knocking on the door and running away came to his mind.  He resisted the urge and instead walked up to the door and put his ear next to the lion head knocker.  It seemed quiet, or perhaps, Marty reasoned, the doors were completely solid.

When he was about to leave he heard a very faint male voice speaking quickly, unable to make out any words.  A female voice spoke every now and then, equally indiscernible.   He could tell it was Erin.  When the male voice became loud he knew they were fighting again.

"What the hell?" he said aloud.  He reached for his security radio, ready for Trevor to send him to deliver a noise complaint to them.  He wanted to grab the lion knocker and slam it down hard on the wood.

Thirty seconds passed with no radio call.  Marty shook his head, noticing that the arguing had stopped.  Instead he heard a thumping noise that started faintly and then rapidly became louder. He took his face off the door and dashed backwards across the elevator lobby.  Erin, clad in her usual tight jeans and small leather jacket, stormed out of the front door, rushing to the elevator button, not even noticing Marty.  He took in her face from the door to the stairs, noting slight trails of purple running down her cheeks.  The elevator must have already been stationed at the penthouse floor because the doors swished open almost instantly.  She got in.

Once they were closed Harvey Franco came out, wearing a purple housecoat. "Erin!  Open these doors!" he yelled after her.

"Everything alright, sir?" Marty called to him without flinching.  

Mr. Franco turned around, his eyebrows raised slightly when he noticed Marty in the corner.  He frowned. "Does everything look alright?" he snapped, shaking his head and turning back to his door.  He slammed it behind him, causing the gilded knocker to thump on the hard wood. 

Marty ran up to the door,  resisting the urge to slam his fists against it.  Instead he heard Mr. Franco running across the floor in his penthouse. "Rich prick," he muttered under his breath. "You got everything in the world you could need, but you want more.  There shouldn't be people like you."

He headed to the elevator and rode it down to the lobby, struggling to control himself, continually telling himself to calm down and do his job.

He wandered High Park that night, aimlessly following a pathway running though the eastern ravine, the shelter from the multiple layers of tree branches helping him forget he was in a city.  He couldn't think of anywhere in London quite like this place.  There were pleny of parks, some with castles and old fortresses, but no space quite as big and green and seemingly empty.  Whenever he was in High Park he could find spaces with no other people, especially at night.  Richard Brewer had three things with him, a ligher, a joint that Marty had given him, and a flashlight to see his way through the trails.

After a bit he sat on a fallen log covered in moss and lit up the joint, breathing it in deep, feeling instant relaxation.  The whole day he spent cooped up in his room, desperate to avoid Ivan.  At one point he heard the landlord enter the main floor; he could tell it from his deep, off-key humming noise that he often made.  The door next to Richard's opened up and Nicky, with his light footfalls, entered the kitchen.  The two of them started talking and it didn't take long before Richard knew they were talking about him.

He shook his head as he took another drag of the joint.  He distinctly remembered hearing Ivan say: "I need you to watch him, tell me when he is here." Nicky agreed to it. 

"Rats everywhere," Richard muttered, blowing out the smoke cloud.  After he got his next direct deposit paycheck that was the last of his money.  He wondered about Sean, wondered if he was an actual spy paid by the company to keep the workers in line or if he was a worker who delighted in bringing others down.  
He shook his head, feeling defeated.  He didn't know what to do next, but he figured he would need another job fast.  Once the joint was done he stood up and stretched his legs, feeling an ache in his back.  He wondered how much longer he would be able to do a physically demanding job, thinking maybe a telemarketing gig would be preferable.  His mouth never got tired.

As Richard started walking along the thin trail he found his way off of it and into the bush, heading upward, grabbing at the roots and branches that thrust up from the wooded hillside.  He caught a glimpse of the full moon over him, just barely visible between the overhead branches.  Once he started feeling the ache in his back again he took a pause, stepping aside onto more leveled ground, a kind of hidden terrace.  Richard beamed his flashlight about the ground, seeing that it was quite long, this platform trail, but just about five feet wide, giving him just a little space to move without dropping off down the slope.  Above him were nothing but large trees and bushes.

"Okay, time to get going," he muttered to himself, figuring he could follow the flat-ground a bit along the hillside, hopefully leading back to a trail.  Ivan was likely sleeping, he realized.  The house usually went quiet after midnight and the sky, from what he could see of it, looked black enough to be nearing that hour.

The space ahead seemed to go on forever.  There were too many over-hanging trees and foliage, even this late in the season, to be able to see clearly ahead.  Richard heard the dried leaves crinkling under his shoes with each cautious step.  The pot made him more careful and paranoid about falling.  If he had been drinking instead that night he likely would have ended up at the bottom of the ravine already, legs broken from the fall.

"At least I wouldn't have to work anymore," he thought, thinking of the disability checks he could get if he survived.  He shook his head, realizing how cynical he had become in his middle-age.  At times like these, times when he felt he was at the bottom, he yearned for the days of his youth, especially his university days when he set out to change the world, feeling invincible once Laura was at his side.

Richard paused as a shadow leaped out from the bushes to the side.  He raised the flashlight.

A black dog, it's teeth barred stood there.  It reared back a step as the light hit it's face.  Then it barked and charged.

Richard raised both arms instinctively, covering his face and falling into a cowering position.  The dog snarled loudly as it's snout hit Richard's forearm.

"Back!  Back!" he yelled feebly, his heart suddenly pounding .  For a second Richard felt himself teetering on the cliff-side.  He shut his eyes, ready to free fall into the black void beneath him.  In that second the fall felt better than the dog's jaws.

Something gripped his left arm hard.  He thought it was the jaws of the dog clamping down, but instead he was pulled forward gently, back onto the terrace. 

"You okay?" asked a man's voice.

Richard opened his eyes to see a large burly man with a thick dark beard.  The dog backed off at the man's side, it's tongue lolling out now.  Richard glanced at his left arm in the hand of the man, relieved it wasn’t covered in his own blood like he expected. 

"Sorry, you freaked him out," said the man.

Richard let out a laugh, both in relief and fear. "He freaked me out!"

The bearded man smiled.  Richard noticed the man had a raggedy old brown jacket on, looking like it had to be a decade old judging by the tears on it.  He lowered the flashlight, seeing the man's green and brown stained jeans and worn-out shoes. 

"Do you live here?" Richard asked.

The man nodded. 

"Sorry to come on your home."

"It's okay, sorry my dog almost bit you.  He gets like that when he's startled, especially at night.  Do you have any change by chance?"

Richard shook his head. "I am broke," he replied, almost saying that he was nearly at the same stage as the homeless man.  In a few months he could be not far off from that.  The man directed Richard back on the path, asking him to keep his home in the hidden terrace a secret.  Richard promised he wouldn't tell anybody. 


Before he left the house Richard told him about his strange encounter in High Park the previous night. 

"High Park has lots of homeless people living in it," he said as he grabbed an apple from his compartment in the fridge.

"They live like trolls," his mate replied.

Marty shrugged and left for work.

His sixth shift started the same way as the fifth.  Trevor updated him as he came into the space behind the counter.

"Nothing new to report tonight," he explained. "Just another noise complaint against the penthouse again.  Same story."

Marty shook his head, trying to stop his mind from going there.  After the first hour he was ready for a patrol.  Like the night before he went from the bottom to the top.  It was good exercise and always helped clear his head for the shift.  The whole time he was doing his best not to think of Harvey Franco or Erin.  Instead he wondered about his father and what this big announcement was.

At first he had thought that maybe his dad had gotten Andrea pregnant, but then he remembered his dad had a vasectomy.  It would be weird having a baby brother or sister at this point in his life too.  It made more sense that his dad was announcing a move and needed Marty's help.  If that was the case, he figured, there would probably be some cash involved.  He wouldn't think twice about taking up that offer, even if it meant sacrificing his days off.

Marty reached the penthouse elevator lobby.  The shouting coming from the other side of the double doors brought his mood back down.  It was Franco again, his words audible this time.  Marty went up to the door.

"--And how much do you contribute?  Really?  Oh yeah!  And you think I need that money?  Do you think that pays for everything here?  Do you think we live in a mansion in the sky because of your tips at.."

Erin cut him off.  Marty knew it was her voice, but hers was so quiet that he couldn't make out what she was saying. 

"Oh yeah!  Sure, you have your own apartment!" Mr. Franco's response thundered. "Oh yeah, a cute little pad to crash at when you've spent the night out drinking with those sluts and you know I won't take you back in here!"

She protested, probably about her friends being called sluts. 

 "Oh yeah, your idiot waitress friends are sluts!  They live off their bodies now, milking their tits and asses now, but when they hit thirty-five—fuck it!  They'll wish they'd stayed in school.  Look at you, you've already hit thirty and you actually have everything you need thanks to me!  Instead of doing what I tell you, you go and keep living like you're nine-teen!"

Marty knew that he was eavesdropping. "Well, you're security too," he told himself. "If a situation looks bad it's a good thing you're listening." He felt a bit better about it.

He decided to wait a little longer, backing up slightly from the door in case one of them came out suddenly like they did the night before.  As if on cue the sound of footfalls started emitting from behind the door.  Marty backed up more, getting himself back over at the elevators, pressing the 'down' button. 

Erin came out quickly, the doors falling closed behind her.  She wore a turquoise summer dress, a little thin-looking for the Autumn season, and he noticed she had two diamond shaped earrings in the same colour.

"Is everything okay, Erin?" he asked her as the elevator door opened.

He noticed how red her face looked as she wiped her cheek quickly.  She shook her head and entered the elevator, raising her head slightly, their eyes meeting just as the doors closed.  Marty heard the elevator move down the shaft, lowering his head with it. 

            He made his way to the staircase door, noticing Harvey Franco's head poking out of the door alongside the head of the golden lion knocker.  Marty gave him a blank look as the other scowled back at him.

"We got to do something," Marty told Trevor back at the front desk.

"Uh no, we don't," he replied, pausing to look over his shoulder as a resident came in through the western doors. "Oh hi there Mr. Green!" he called.

Marty waved and gave his usual superficial work smile as the man entered the lobby and made his way over to the elevators.  Trevor turned back to face Marty. "We're security guards, remember that.  Our job is to protect people's security, not solve their personal problems."

"Oh come on, Trev!  The man's clearly abusive!"

"Keep your voice down," said Trevor annoyingly, looking about.  Both men looked up at the bridge that led to the staff room at the same time.  No one else was on duty, but it was a habit to assume the worst about that spot.

Marty sighed when Trevor faced him again. "Okay, I know I can't get involved in anyone's lives."

"That's building policy and is the policy no matter where you work," said Trevor. "All we can do is keep an eye on it.  Unless we see evidence that he is assaulting her then there's nothing we can do about it.  Besides," he glanced around again quickly. "It's not fair to assume it's all his fault.  Just because she's a woman doesn't mean she's right."

Marty was taken aback at this. "Wow, that's sexist."

Trevor raised an eyebrow. "Sexist?  Man, Marty, let me be real with you.  First off, what's sexist is to think that it's your job, as a man, to save Erin, who is a woman, and to assume that as a woman she can't save herself."

Mary shrugged.  He hadn't thought of it that way. 

 "But more important, you don't know the situation.  I mean, look at it; big rich man like Harvey Franco," he said, looking about once more like a deer in hunting season. "Now what kind of a woman, especially one way younger than him, would want that?"

"You can't assume," said Marty, although he had had such suspicions himself.

 "Okay, well, assume this then.  If you got yourself involved with someone that's linked to a man you basically work for, then what do you think could happen?"

He was right.  Marty knew it and had been telling himself the same thing anyway.  It was just a bad idea.  The conversation ended there.  Marty went outside to go to a nearby twenty-four hour convenience store, bought a drink of coconut water, and returned to the front desk feeling calmed down again. 

The shift was halfway over.  He went on break.

Marty sometimes went to the weight room located on the second floor to pump off some steam.  Considering the drama that had just unfolded the weight room sounded like the perfect place to spend his mid-shift break at.  Instead, for some reason, he felt drained, both mentally and physically, so he went to the lounge instead.  Being security, he had the key to all the amenities. 

The lounge was nice, especially at night.  It was full of big, comfy chairs and plush sofas that were perfect to nap in.  At night no one used it, so it was a great spot to doze off.  Marty knew the managers probably wouldn't appreciate him using this space for napping, but that made him want to do it more.

With the light still off he made his way to his favourite couch, the only one that fit his whole body.  It overlooked a window where he could turn himself sideways and look over the lights of Bay Street and the cars as they drove by. Marty almost dove onto the sofa, but stopped himself from jumping when he noticed something in his way. 

Someone was already sitting on the couch, someone wearing turquoise.

Thursday, 22 May 2014



            "The propertied class and the class of the proletariat present the same human self-estrangement. But the former class feels at ease and strengthened in this self-estrangement, it recognizes estrangement as its own power, and has in it the semblance of a human existence. The class of the proletariat feels annihilated, this means that they cease to exist in estrangement; it sees in it its own powerlessness and in the reality of an inhuman existence." - Karl Marx


"Thanks for the bagel," said Richard as he wolfed it down. "I owe you loads of stuff once I get my next paycheque."
 "No biggie.  If I got money I can buy," Marty Goldman replied, gazing at the morning glory climbing vines on the walls as they made their way through the back alley.  Many of the flowers were withering, the first sign Marty had noticed of the impending cold season. "This winter is supposed to be really cold."

"Part of living in Canada," noted Richard, now licking the cream cheese from the wrap paper. "That's what my wife told me the first winter off the foggy island."

"When I was a kid I loved it.  Whenever we saw the first snowfall of the season, usually in November, we would love it.  It meant making snowmen and snow-forts and snowball fights.  Now it means freezing on your way to work, getting wet feet and slipping and breaking your head on the sidewalk."

Richard laughed as they arrived at Keele Street and turned north.  Richard's work shift started in half an hour.  Marty had one more day off, this day, before evening shifts started.  He had seven days ahead of him, two of them twelve hour work shifts.  He wasn't looking forward to it but he tried to think of the money he would have, even if he felt it wasn't enough considering the amount of hours working.  His pay wasn't much better than minimum wage. 

"Do you think you get paid enough?" he asked the older man as they passed under the railway bridge. 

 Richard shook his head and spoke, though Marty couldn't hear him over the passing traffic and train roaring by overhead.  He knew what he was saying anyway.  His job was minimum wage. 

"I hear they aren't great employers!" Marty shouted.
Richard shook his head again, raising his voice back. "Not at all, but whatever; a job is just a job!  I can't expect much from someplace called Deal-Mart.  No one's going to bloody stand up for me so I only got myself."

They cleared the bridge, now walking uphill on the sidewalk, the smell of a nearby bread bakery filling the air, causing Marty's stomach to groan.  He could get a bite to eat at one of the nearby food joints.  He wished he could afford to eat healthier, but saving money was priority for now.

Richard went on. "No one stands up for workers anymore.  You're just a cog in the system, a money making machine for someone else's profits.  We don't share in the spoils of work anymore."

"That's what made me join the NDP back in my college days," said Marty, thinking back to the first time he saw Jack Layton speak on television.  He had felt then that Layton was the only person speaking for the common people, those that worked the nine to five jobs and were feeling the squeeze of low wages and high hours. 

 "Yeah, same for me joining Labour before the Tony Blair era.  I guess I felt that to make a change it was worthwhile becoming a party member.  I spent so many years there, so much of time spent for that party, so much free labour going door to door and dropping off flyers."

"Yep, same," Marty said, thinking back to the elections, some general, some local by-elections (elections called in a single riding when a member of Parliament stepped down).  Some the NDP won, but not most.  Seats in Toronto usually stayed Liberal back then.  It was frustrating, always an upward struggle, especially in the suburbs where political apathy reigned.  The few people who were engaged in the democratic process seemed to only care about property rights, not community or creating more societal equality. 

Marty started thinking back to his time at the New Democratic Party convention where he and a friend travelled all the way out to Halifax to attend.  Jack Layton was there, noticeable by his unmistakable white moustache and warm smile.  He and Marty shared a beer briefly before Jack went on and hobnobbed with other people gathered at the pub patio.  During the day he had met with many other politicians and delegates at the convention centre in downtown Halifax.  Outside of the actual convention halls was a space where a number of different sub-groups within the party were tabling.  There was a marijuana legalization group (one that Marty gave thumbs up to as he passed), a few union tables, and one with a large red banner that said: NDP Revolutionary Caucus.  Marty stopped in front of it and started chatting to the lone man behind it.  He was a middle-aged bearded, balding man who introduced himself as Gary Bernstein.  He was a socialist and a Marxist, not a social democrat like most of the NDP.  He asked Marty if he would be interested in joining the NDP Revolutionary Caucus and turning the party more leftward.  Marty, feeling that the party was drifting toward the political right and losing it's labour roots, immediately accepted.

Marty shook his head as he and Richard passed by a large concrete catwalk raised by rectangular columns beyond the sidewalk at Keele Street, thinking back to the days when he would meet Gary Bernstein and a few others downtown at the OISE building near St. George subway station. 

"You ever been involved in any socialist groups, like within the Labour Party?" he asked Richard.

"Aye, back in the seventies, there were all kinds of Trotskyist groups, both within the Labour Party trying to steer the party back leftward, as well as outside of it.  I got involved with a bunch of them, usually spending a few months in one before realizing that they were nothing but sectarian partisans, fighting one another more than they were the actual capitalists."

Marty laughed. "Yeah, that's exactly it!  I was part of one, I guess it was Trotskyist.  It was called the NDP Revolutionary Caucus and it's goal was to turn the NDP into "a fighting party" in the words of it's leader Gary Bernstein, who pretty much was a dictator when it came down to it."

 "Ah yes, the vanguardists.  Those guys are the ones who pretty much think that they alone, and not the working class themselves, can create the revolution."

"Sounds kind of patronizing to me," said Marty, thinking back to the time when he realized that Gary was not worth associating with politically or socially.  He had brought Marty to his home for a meeting.  Only a few people, mostly older men, showed up.  Beforehand Gary had shown Marty his study room and stated "This is the nucleus of the revolution."  That comment alone made Marty rethink spending his time and energy in this group.  The idea that the revolution comes from within a room where one man types away at his computer, rather than coming from the people in the streets, just didn't seem right. What a waste."


As he loaded his cart with the store's products he was thinking back to the days back home when he started to become a socialist.  It was not long after he had come home from the Falkland Islands.  The whole experience made him want to go to university, to get involved in union strikes and other forms of activism.  The conservative backlash of the nineteen-eighties and the Thatcher-Reagan duo, he knew, threatened to undo everything that the generation before him fought for.  Richard had joined the Labour Party and met Laura not too long after. 
Bringing his loaded cart out of the Deal-Mart warehouse and into the air-conditioned store floor, he shook his head as he remembered what it felt like to give up on all of that.  All he thought of now was surviving.  Surviving, and getting the hell out of Ivan's house.  Those were his only goals now, the only things he forced himself up in the morning for.

The job was stressful, physically demanding and annoying, especially when customers continually interrupted his progress of stocking things with questions of where to find things. This happened constantly, making it hard for him to get all his items for the day stocked by closing time.  Colin had criticized him for this the other day. At times Colin would tell him to be more helpful to customers, take them right to where they wanted to get. "If I wanted to babysit I would've become a nanny," he thought.

By lunchtime Richard was less than halfway done his day's load.  He had been interrupted constantly, even more than usual.  He knew if he complained that Colin would recommend he work through lunch, so he kept his mouth shut. As he entered the lunch-room he sighed, slumping down on an empty chair.  There were two large tables in the room, both only had about half the seats full.  The lunch-times of the staff were rotated depending on the shifts.  Richard, feeling an irritating ache in both his arms, stood up to fetch his lunch from the staff refrigerator, which was packed with brown paper bags and white plastic bags.  It was nice to open a fridge and not see dead cockroaches.

His lunch was in a Deal-Mart bag.  He grabbed it and brought it back to his seat.  Across from him was a familiar face, a man maybe a few years younger than him that he talked to sometimes at lunch. 

"How's it going, Richard?" he asked with the usual shiny smile.

"It's going, Sean," he replied to the pale, dark-haired man, letting only a slight smile in return. "I'm tired as hell."

"Oh yeah, same here," said Sean, taking a sip of no-name brand cola he had gotten from the vending machine nearby. "And the day is only half way through.  Crazy eh?  Working here for minimum wage."

Richard shrugged. "I guess so.  I got bills to pay, so what you going to do, aye?"

"Yeah, that's true, got to pay those bills," said Sean, grinning. "But still, it's nuts here.  You got so much work to do, then people are constantly interrupting you for help, and by the end of the day you don't got your job done, but what do you expect?  You can't get it done in these conditions.  At least, if they paid us more it would be worth it."

Richard nodded, looking around him at the other employees in the lunchroom.  They were all in their cliques, some in pairs, others in threes or fours.  No one was paying any attention to them.  He looked forward, thinking maybe Sean was of a similar persuasion. "You are reading my mind," he said, then looked around once more. "What we need is a union."

He sat at the table, listening as another train went by.  A breeze of cold air streamed in through the open window, it's screen half-ripped with a spider web growing between it and the metal window-frame. 

"Spidey won't last long there for much longer," said Marty to the empty kitchen.  He took a swig of the ice coffee carton he had just bought at the grocery store.  In his mind he was going over his finances; he had a phone bill to pay (one hundred), upcoming rent (five bills), food for a week (fifty-ish if he watched for deals), new clothes (one hundred).

"Nah, I don't need new clothes," he figured. "I got enough to get by, not like I wear much other than my security uniform or my lounging clothes.  I got enough okay stuff to wear if I go out, which will be once every two weeks if I'm smart with my money."

Aside from occasionally going out for a drink with Richard or Jimmy there was not too much party life left in him.  He partied rarely in university, much more before in high school.  For the most part he hardly ever went to a club or anything.  It never really interested him much anyway.  He found the whole scene superficial and adolescent, remembering one time he went to a King Street club and watched some idiot drunk guys get into a fist fight, getting themselves promptly ejected from the premises. 

He shook his head. "No social life," he said to himself, picking up his cellphone to go through the contacts.  Sometimes this cheered him up, knowing he could call on lots of people.  Most of the names, he realized, were the names of people he had not seen in a while.  Most were students he met at university, some in class, others in activist organizations.  He still talked to a few, mostly online, but not often.  He "liked" their postings sometimes and vice versa.  He sent one or two of them messages every now and then, but rarely got any responses.

"Who do I really chill with here?" he asked, passing by Jimmy's info. "Well, there's one."

The phone buzzed in his hands, Marty at first assuming it was Jimmy who was texting since he was used to coincidences.  It turned out to be a text message just sent from his dad.

"Hey Marty," he read it aloud. "Andrea and I have some big news for you, but I want to tell you in person.  Do you want to come up some day soon and we can talk?  We'll make some nice dinner."

His stomach rumbled.  He looked at the fridge, starting to feel apprehensive for his apples and carrots in there, even if they were sealed within a plastic container.  Just the other night he saw another roach in the vegetable crisper.  He was glad his dad was helpful to him.  Despite everything Dr. Goldman was a kind of lifeline for him.  In case things really got bad financially for Marty, he knew his dad could at least loan him some money for a bit while he pulled himself back together.  He texted back that he would give a call next week sometime.  There was a big block of workdays coming up.  There would be a big financial flow coming in not too long a time.  No matter how tired and sick of the job Marty got, the thought of the money always kept him going.  He needed it, needed to just keep working and working, just to save and save.  Someday he would have enough to leave the house.

The door to outside opened up and Marty heard the footsteps coming up the small stairs.  He figured it was Richard. "Don't expect too much," Richard said in his mind.  Marty was finally contemplating leaving Ivan's house. The door to the kitchen opened up and the Englishman poked in his bald head, a look of utter fatigue on his face, worse than usual. 

 "What's up?"

"Fucking snakes is what's up!"


Richard sidestepped into the room, slamming the door behind him. "I'm fired!" he shouted, raising both arms.

"Ah shit!  You serious?  What happened?"    

Richard grabbed the chair across from Marty and tore it out from underneath the table. "I don't even fucking know!" he spat, then sat. "Damn, yes, I know.  They wouldn't tell me what I did, but I figured it out on the way back here.  This piece of shit named Sean, some guy I just met, and like an idiot started telling him what I was thinking, telling him that we ought to form a union.  I'm an idiot!"

"You said that?  Who is Sean, a boss?"

"No, he's a worker, or so he pretends to be!  Bastard!  I bet he's a plant; there to listen to the worker's grumble and find out who won't take shit from the bosses!"

Marty shrugged. "I don't know.  A year ago I would think you're paranoid, but after what I've seen, the kind of talkers I seen at work, I wouldn't doubt it, especially at a place like Deal-Mart."

Richard pounded the table with a fist.  A train engine muted the sound just in time. 

"Shit man, that really sucks."

Richard sighed, slumping his upper half over the table, looking sideways at his bedroom door, the top of his head in front of Marty, who in turn sighed back and reached a hand to his own head, his hair feeling thinner than usual lately.  In about a decade he knew he could be as bald as Richard. 

"I thought I finally had it," Richard muttered, bringing his head back up, placing his gaze down at the face of the table. "I thought I finally had a way out of here."

"You can get another job," said Marty, not knowing the best way to cheer him up.

He shrugged in response. "I guess, another shitty job.  This time I won't even pretend I have rights."

"We do what we got to do," replied Marty, feeling terrible for his friend.  He would be clueless as to what to do if he lost his job.  Sure, he could probably get another security job, but it would be hard to be hired in-house like he was by the place on Bay Street.  Most security jobs went straight through companies and the training, often unpaid, sometimes lasted weeks.  These were weeks Marty didn't have to be not making money.

"Those people are pieces of shit," said Richard, shaking his head, his voice shivering a bit. "I can't believe how badly they treated us.  I hope that place falls to pieces and every one of those petty fucks get turned out onto the street!"

Marty stood up. "Yep, same here," he said, trying his best to be reassuring.  It was his last night before another block of work.  He figured it was time to be generous. "Drinks are on me tonight."

It didn't take much convincing.  There are times when someone in a bad place isn't in the mood to drink, but this was not one of those times.  Richard Brewer wanted to drink.  They got up, put on their coats and headed to the nearest bar. Each round he used more curse words, using British slang that Marty had never heard before, learning new terms to use that few would understand in Canada. 

Marty was calculating each drink at first, subtracting money when the round came, and then adding his next paycheque on top of it, making sure it was affordable.  By the third round he didn't care.  Richard started telling their waitress about his ordeal.  She agreed with him eagerly, then he asked if they were hiring anybody.  He told her he could wash dishes and mop and sweep quickly.  She told him that they were fully staffed already.  If Marty hadn't pulled his friend up to go he would have asked for her number instead.

"I like her, Marty—I really do!" he bellowed loudly as Marty placed a friendly and steadying arm on his shoulder.  They drunk skipped down the back streets behind Dundas West. 

"Ah yeah," said Marty, too busy on the task of getting his friend, and himself, home.

"Too bad no one wants an old shit like me, eh?"

"Eh?  You sounding Canadian."

Richard laughed heartily. "You're funny.  Even Deal-Mart doesn't want me, but fuck them, eh?  Fuck them!  I don't need their shit!  Fuck them all!"

"Yeah man, fuck them!" Marty agreed, feeling relieved once he sighted the old synagogue up ahead.  They were almost home.  He turned to his drunker companion. "Hey, Richard man, I like chilling with you too.  Hey man, we should get an apartment, eh?  Once you get a new job and once I've saved up a bit more, we'll both move out."

Richard smiled. "Ah yeah!" he shouted excitedly. "You are ready to move out?"

Marty nodded, looking up at the house down the street. "Yeah, but I guess we still got a few months left.  We should move out by the new year, really start a new life, not this crap."

They made their way to the side of the house, Richard nearly collapsing on the door to the kitchen once they were inside.  Marty gently pulled him up the steps, guiding him to his door.

"Goodnight buddy," said Richard as he slid into his room.

"Goodnight Richard," replied Marty. "Count the days.  We'll be out of here soon."  He breathed in deep as he made his way over to his own bedroom, feeling the room start to spin as yet another train trudged on by the open window.  "We'll be...we'll be out of here soon."


Thursday, 15 May 2014


“Superstition sets the whole world in flames, but philosophy douses them.” - Voltaire

He set out the drinks in front of Richard on the little table. Two of the four beer cans were brewed in the Junction, the others were called 416 ale. Marty brought out the two bottles of wine next, from South Africa, good tasting and cheap for it's quality. A weird stork-like stenciled creature graced the labels.
"Damn, do the two of us need that much?"

"Sure," said Marty, shrugging. "And we got weed too."
"Not so loud! You want Ivan to hear you?"
"So," he asked, ignoring the question as he sat down in front of his mate. "What should we start with? Wine or beer?"
Richard scratched his unshaven chin. "I'd have to go with the Englishman in me and say beer."
"Englishman in you?" Marty laughed, handing him the Junction brewed beer and taking the other one for himself. He opened it and sipped, finding it too hoppy for his taste. There was some novelty in drinking something local. The past few weeks Marty had spent exploring the junction, it's streets and it's history, so drinking something that was part of it's culture was nice. 
"Too hoppy," he said aloud, deciding he wouldn't likely buy it again. Novelty alone couldn't convince him to spend more money.

"Hops are good," commented Richard, sounding refreshed as he sighed. "This other beer is lighter, you'll probably like it better." He picked up one of the 416 ales. They opened up the next pair of beer cans a few minutes later and commenced drinking. Marty did indeed find this one much smoother and easier to swallow. Now halfway done his second can Marty was starting to feel dizzy.
His muscles started feeling loose, the tension of the work week melting away. His mouth loosened up too. "So, how was your week?" he asked Richard. His room-mate looked tired too, having gotten through his first full week working at Deal-Mart. Marty had not seen much of him as a result.
Richard shrugged. "Can't complain. It's a job, right? That's what I wanted. I got a lot of money to pay off, but at least I'm going in the right direction finally. It's a hard job though. I'm constantly working since the moment I get there, stocking appliances. First I bring them out from the warehouse that has no AC, then I take them on a big cart to the aisle I need to be at and start loading them up. While all this is going on customers are asking me questions even though I can only answer anything directly related to appliances and nothing else. They get mad sometimes when I can't answer their questions and point them to someone else, but what can I do? The trainer only taught me my own section. Ah well, that's work, whatever."
"That sounds pretty rough," Marty said, gripping his near empty can of beer. "For everything I complain about in my job—and there's a lot to complain about—at least I am mostly just standing around at the front desk rather than constantly moving. I hate those kinds of jobs, the ones where you hustle the second you walk in there and have hardly any break for your body."

"Security is easy," said Richard, then chugged his second beer.
Marty mumbled something, not meaning to make any words, just a noise of acknowledgement. He sighed, thinking over his run-ins with Harvey Franco and Erin. As he opened up the first bottle of wine he started explaining the story to Richard. "There's this rich venture capitalist bourgeoisie douchebag that lives in the building I work at..."
As he talked Richard got up, looking not even slightly dizzy, and went over to his room to fetch a pair of glasses for their wine. Marty finished explaining the situation after his mate was done filling up both glasses.
"That's it?" Richard asked, grabbing his glass and clinking it to Marty's.
"Well, yeah," said Marty, unsure of why Richard had such a dismissive tone in his voice. He grabbed his own glass of wine and took a sip. It was smooth and fruity, exactly what Marty imagined it would have been when he bought it at the LCBO store further west on Dundas.
Richard shook his head, smiling slightly. "Man, I wish my biggest concern in life was if a girl liked me or not."

"Huh? You don't think of that much?"

"Oh God, no. I haven't even had sex maybe seven years, but still, I don't need it anymore. I had enough back when I was even younger than you. Those days are over. When you get to a certain age you just don't care anymore."

"Heh, well I'm far way off from there then," laughed Marty, leaning back on his chair, the very top of it's back hitting the fridge door. He watched a cockroach scamper up the wall behind Richard.

"Well, you'll get there someday. One day you just wont care anymore. This girl, Erin you said her name was?"
Marty nodded. "She's a woman, probably a bit older than me actually, but not much."
"Okay, well if she's with some bourgeoisie douchebag she's probably not your kind of girl anyway. She's got to be a gold-digger to stay with someone like him, so don't worry about it."
"Well," Marty shrugged, unsure if he believed that. He was about to say so when the door to the side, the one that led outside, opened up and Jordan entered. Behind him was a little kid, looking just like a miniature Jordan like Richard has described.
"Oh hey there, buddy!" Richard called over, turning about to face them. Marty reached for the drinks as if to hide them back in the LCBO bags.
"Nah, don't worry about it," said Jordan, seeing Marty scamper. "My son's seen me drink before!"
"Hi," said the son, smiling as he walked in front of his dad.

"How you doing, buddy?" asked Richard, making his voice higher and reached up to give the kid a high-five.

The little Jordan smacked his palm against Richard's and his smile widened.
"Where you guys coming from?" the Englishman asked.

"Daddy took me to the Museum today!"

"Oh, did you see lots of dinosaur bones?"
The kid nodded eagerly. "And we saw mummies!"
Jordan smiled, looking quite tired. He moved past his son and pulled the keys from his pocket, opening up his room's door. He carried two gift bags with him into his room. Richard reached out and gave the little boy another friendly high-five before the kid went in to join his father.
Jordan poked his head out before closing the door all the way. "You guys having a good time?"
"Ah yeah," said Marty. "First days off work for a while, just chilling. Want to join us?"

"Nah, I got to bring him to his mom's, then I'm going for a late shift. Thanks though."

"Another time for sure," said Marty.
Jordan nodded, then closed the door.

"Seems like a nice kid," Marty said to Richard.

He nodded. "Oh yeah, that kid's really well mannered. Jordan works his ass off for his kid and I'll tell you one thing, he'll still be out of here before I will."
"Probably me too," said Marty. They went back to their wine.

After a glass each Richard started shaking his head. "You can't be planning to stay, are you? You can easily go to a better place this this."

"I like the area," Marty said, realizing his tone sounded defensive even thought he was consciously trying not to sound that way. "Much better than where I'm from," he went on. "You don't understand, man. When I was up in North York I'd see the same shit, the same things day after day, no change. I'd see my old neighbourhood, my old high school, the old supermarket that's been there since I was a toddler, everything the same. I'd see some people I went to High School with and, for the most part, feel like there's nothing to say to them. It held me back, living there in the same place for so long in a place that isn't me, you know what I'm saying?"

"Sure I do," said Richard. "Moving to another country was a big thing for me, starting fresh in life, but there are still many places, even in this neighborhood, that you can move to rather than stay in this rat-hole."
"We have rats too?"

"Figure of speech."

"Ah, well, yeah. I guess I can move, but that would mean getting two months rent together again. How can we guarantee the next place wont have roaches too?"
"There are ways to look for it," said Richard, starting to point along the walls. "You see those brown spots all over the walls and floors? That's their shit. Just look thoroughly next time before you move in."
"Meh, I'll give this place another month maybe and see how things are by then."

"Another month? This place isn't worth another hour. Trust me, if I was in your place I'd be out tomorrow already. I'd ask Ivan for my last month's rent back and be on my way."

"How did you move in here to start with anyway?"

Richard put his glass down. "After my divorce," he said. "Was just a bit more than a year ago I was looking around for a while. I crashed at a friend's for two months, then found this place. My room is smaller than yours over there, so it's under four hundred a month."

"Ah, so it was the situation," said Marty, taking another sip of his wine, feeling more loose and bubbly than he did five minutes before. He thought it was pretty unfortunate, seeing a man in his middle ages broke and divorced and living in a tiny room. Marty didn't say so, inebriated though he was.
Richard slumped his elbows over the table. "Yeah, but if it wasn't for that I wouldn't be anywhere near this place, and trust me, on the last day I'm going to tell that petty bourgousie dick where to stick it, motherfucker. He's got to be the worst landlord ever and I've seen some shitty ones when I was younger, more around your age actually back in the U.K. My barracks was more luxurious than this place."

"Ah yeah, you were in the military, right? How can you go to war, being a Left-winger yourself?" Marty asked. "I mean, I got involved in politics, or rather in protesting, during the Iraq War. I got to say, September 11th really woke me up, that was the start. I remember being in high school when we heard about that. I turned to the guy sitting beside me and asked "What's the World Trade Center?" For some reason I was picturing the U.N. Building."

"Ah yeah."
"And then by the time the Iraq War was announced back in 2002 in the summer, I was pissed. All that goodwill towards the United States squandered for a bullshit oil grab. I went to so many demonstrations downtown. This was when I first started getting exposed to more parts of the city. Before that I'd only been downtown for Leaf Games with my cousins back when I was a kid and occassionally going to the Museum or Casa Loma or High Park with my mom back when she lived with us. When did you first get political?"
"I was always political," Richard replied, pouring himself another glass. "I guess even before the war I was. My family was always Labour, both being factory workers, strong union people, you know? I never paid much attention though, was too busy doing other things in my youth, like having sex. Younger than you back then, signed up for the marines, pleased my grandfather enough. We landed in the Falklands, got shelled really hard, almost died once. When I got back I got involved in the Labour Party, mad at Thatcher for dismantling all the social services that helped my family get by when I was a kid. She crushed unions hard; more strikes. I got involved in the National Union of Mineworkers strike, went to picket with a group I was involved with at the time. We lost that one bad."
Marty sighed. "I know the feeling. My mom went on strike a lot when I was a kid and only won once. Every other time they were legislated back to work and got nothing."

"You were involved in the anti-war movement here? Was there much of one in Canada during the Iraq War? I was here but wasn't paying that much attention. I mean, obviously I was against the war, but wasn't involved in the protests or anything. I guess I was starting to withdraw from politics around that time, mostly concentrating on my writing."

Marty nodded, thinking back to when he and some friends he had gone to high school with went downtown to demonstrate outside of the U.S. consulate on University Avenue, one of Toronto's main downtown streets. Back then Marty felt more of a nationalist or patriotic feeling, having been disgusted with the antics of George W. Bush and relieved that Canada's leaders had kept the country out of the war.
"The demonstrations in Canadian cities kept us out of the war," Marty explained. "And our current Prime Minister, then leader of the Opposition wrote a letter to Americans apologizing for it."
Richard grunted in disgust. "Stephen Harper, what a douchebag. Man, he's even worse than Rob Ford."

"Ford can't get anything done, he's too stupid. Harper's actually dangerous because he knows what he's doing. He's the most undemocratic leader we've ever had."
Richard nodded. "And then Tony Blair, aye? Can you believe a once progressive leftist party like Labour becoming as bad as Thatcher?"

"I can," he replied. "It happened with the NDP, same thing. Everybody goes to the right. I knew a guy who said that it was natural, that there was a neoliberal, corporate consensus amongst most people in Canada, and the world too. Like, as if it's a consensus that most people want social programs demolished; universal health care privatized like in the states; that tuition fees should keep getting higher, that our tax money should fund petro industries; that unions and worker's benefits should be nixed; that minimum wage not be raised...it's disgusting!"

Marty poured himself another glass, thinking back to the guy he knew. "This guy was in the NDP, just like me, was there back in high school protesting the Iraq War, then we both joined the NDP. He became a party hack, doing whatever the party brass, the behind the scenes people, wanted him to do. He supported even getting rid of Layton early on and putting a more centrist leader in charge of the NDP."

Marty saw this former friend as the epitomy of all that was wrong with the modern New Democratic Party of Canada. He was glad he got out when he did.
"Then there was occupy," Marty went on, his mind turning to more recent happenings. "That was something, the first time in a long while that talk about inequality in society became a mainstream thing. I mean, it was, at least to me, a break from the same old electoral politics, and a break from the usual apathy."
"Canada is apathetic, I got to say," said Richard. "I mean, typically compared to other places. In Europe if the government tries to ram through legislation that screws over working people the streets will be swarming the next day with protests, stopping the cities from functioning. Here the politicians cut and cut and no one seems to mind, or they mind but they wont do anything to change it."

"I know," Marty sighed. "We have marches a few times a year, the same people show up, give out flyers, and then we all go home like nothing happened. With Occupy something seemed different though. It was the first time when people who had previously not been political became involved, which is a sign that people are really starting to feel the squeeze. I remember with Occupy Toronto it started out really good. We had loads of people in St. James Park, all camped out for weeks until Rob Ford ordered us out. The Toronto Police were even nice about it, they didn't want another P.R. disaster after the G20 fiasco."

"Ah yeah," grunted Richard, pouring himself his fourth glass. "Good wine. I remember that. I wasn't downtown that day, but that was nuts."

"I know, that really woke a lot of Torontonians up, I think. But yeah, anyway, as I was saying, the Occupy movement was something else, a worldwide phenomenon that couldn't have happened without social media in this day and age. It was amazing. Unfortunately, after spending some time in Occupy Toronto's tent city I got a bit disillusioned there as well."
"Oh yeah, how so? I never went by myself, but was following it on the news a bit."

"Ah, a lot of things," said Marty, pouring himself a new glass and licking his lips. The deep red wine looked so refreshing. The bottle was done. He reached for the next one. "This one next, it's a bit more sour than the last. Anyways, as I was saying, I found that Occupy Toronto got hijacked itself by the whole pseudo-conspiracy crowd."
Richard groaned.

"Yep, you know the types, eh?"

He nodded. "I know what you're talking about. Let me guess, they were talking about freemasons, Illuminati, and lizard people?"

Marty nodded. "Not to mention their obsession with Building Seven in the World Trade Center. It's been more than a decade yet people are still obsessed with that. There were a few self-appointed leaders of the movement that emerged, mostly people talking about Illuminati instead of real issues of inequality. It was really bizarre."

"Those conspiracy theorists are nuts," Richard said, shaking his head. "I know people, everyday people who don't seem like ignoramuses, but then they believe in weird things like chemtrails. With all the things going on in the world, all the injustices and inequality, it doesn't need a big conspiracy theory to explain. People are greedy, that's it."

Marty sighed, taking in a deep swig of wine. At last someone understood his frustration.
"Some people would just rather chase shadows," Richard said as he took his next gulp, downing the remaining contents in his cup. "Ah, shall we finish the last bottle then?"
"Ah, game if you are," beamed Marty, tilting the bottle to fill his mate's glass.

Jordan came out of his room then. "Little guy's sleeping," he said, grabbing a seat at the table. He covered his face in his hands, running his fingers down from his forehead to his chin. "So tired."
"You got to work tonight too?" Richard asked. Jordan nodded.
"Have a drink," said Marty.

"Nah, thanks," he replied. "Will just make me more tired." He sighed. "I got to get out of here."

"That makes two of us," said Richard, then he looked over at Marty. "Or three of us."

Marty shook his head, pouring a glass himself. He turned to Jordan, wanting to bring him into the conversation. "Hey Jordan, would you say you're left wing or right wing?"

"Like, politically?"
He shrugged. "Don't follow politics too much. I guess I'd vote for whoever won't tax me too much. I got a kid to feed."
"Well, not sure if taxes are the problem as much as who gets taxed and where the taxes go," said Marty. He sipped the new wine. "Not bad wine."
Richard did the same, nodding in agreement. "Very strong flavour. This would be good with some proper food." He stood up. "Anybody hungry?" He opened the fridge and pulled out some hummus.
Within seconds he was frying it in some cooking oil in a pan over the stove.
"Mmmm," said Marty. "Smells good." He turned back to Jordan. "By left-wing or right-wing we mean, like are you more conservative or more liberal or socialist?"

"I don't know," said Jordan. "I don't really follow politics, as I said. What's left and right wing mean?"
"Well," said Marty, realizing how loaded the question he had asked actually was. It was difficult to explain it to someone who self-identifies as non-political. Quite a lot of people, in fact, the majority of people Marty had ever met had identified in such a way. "It's a hard thing to explain," he confessed, looking over to Richard for help. His friend was too busy frying up the hummus, which by now took on the form of a solid fried substance. Richard grabbed a plate from the counter and put the fried hummus on it and handed it to Marty.
"Yum," said Marty. "Anyways, I guess it started back in the days of the French Revolution, so the eighteenth century. After the king had been overthrown a new assembly had gathered, one that represented the people rather than just the aristocrats and the crown. Some people in the assembly wanted to make more changes to the system, they sat on the left hand side of the room, while those who favoured keeping things as they were sat on the right side. This is how the terms 'left' and 'right' wing first came to being. So, in essence, when it's all boiled down, what it means is the right tends to be conservative, that is they want to conserve things the way they are, while the left wants change. During the civil rights movement, for example, most of the people involved would be considered left-wing since they were fighting against old fashioned rules that needed to be changed."
Jordan nodded. "Oh okay, well, I guess it depends with me. I mean, what does the word liberal mean? I like how it sounds. It means, letting things be, right? Like, liberty?"
Marty nodded. Richard sat back beside him, now with his own plate of fried hummus. He pointed to it, looking over at Jordan as if to ask if he wanted some. Jordan smiled and shook his head.
"I'm fine," he said. "Thanks. Sorry I haven't been able to drink or smoke with you guys. Having a kid, even if you only see him half the time, is still a full time job."
"I could imagine," said Marty. He turned to Richard. "You ever had kids?"

Richard shook his head. Marty got up and got a fork for his meal. The fried hummus was really good, tasting just like hummus paste, just more solid and crispy. Maybe it was the beer and wine that made him like it more than he would have normally.
"But yeah, I like the word liberal," said Jordan.

"Yeah, like let things be, let people do what they want. Let people express themselves, talk about whatever they want in public, let people sleep with whoever they want, even if they're gay."

Jordan nodded. "Well yeah, if that's what they want to do. As long as I don't have to see it then I don't give a shit. So, I guess I'm liberal, definitely not conservative."
"Same," said Marty. "Although there's a big difference between the idea of modern liberalism and classical liberalism."
"Yeah, but that'll have to wait for another day," said Jordan, getting up and checking his wristwatch. "Damn, it's getting late. I got a big shift ahead of me. Later guys." He returned to his room, coming out a minute later with his kid in tow. His son rubbed his eyes, clearly still tired.
Once they were gone Richard poured him and Marty their second cup of the new wine and they clinked glasses. "Yeah, I think Jordan's going to get out of here soon. Lucky bastard. No one stays here for long. It's like a hostel, just not as clean."

Marty laughed. "No man, it can't be as bad as that. I mean, I don't know, just so glad to be somewhere else, I guess."
The wine was halfway done by the time Nicky came in. He was dressed nicely, wearing a purple dress shirt and black pants.

"You guys having a party, or what?" Nicky asked.

Marty laughed. "A bit, want some wine?"
"No, I can't! I have to go out in a minute! I just came home to freshen up!"
Marty noticed Richard was staring down at the table, realizing that he was ignoring Nicky. The younger man went into his room, then came out mere seconds later. "What are you guys talking about?"

"Politics," said Marty, giving a one word answer since he figured Richard wanted him to leave.

"Oh, I'm all into that!" said Nicky, waving a hand through his long, dark bangs. "I am all about the Illuminati. Do you know they control every bank and every government in the world? They're so sneaky!"
Marty shrugged, then looked at Richard. "Oh," he said to Nicky. "I am not too into that."

"I mean, I don't know too much about it, but I know they control everything in our lives! Oh my God, it's so freaky when I hear about them. They're so many videos about them on youtube."

Marty grabbed the remaining bottle of wine and bringing it toward his lips. "Oh, did you want some?" He asked Richard.
"No," he replied. "Take the rest. It's yours anyway."

Marty chugged what was left.

"I guess I can see what you mean about him," Marty said, rolling up the joint on the picnic table at Vine Park.

"Yeah, he's an idiot."

"Well, I mean, he's superficial," replied Marty, licking the joint sealed. "I mean, conspiracy theories like Illuminati are a superficial understanding of the world and politics in general. People who believe in that don't take time to learn the real, you know, whole complexity of the real world?"

Richard shook his head. "He's an idiot."
Marty laughed, pulling out his lighter and lit up the joint, passing it to Richard first. "Take the first puff. I guess I got very little I can talk about to Nicky."
Richard breathed in a trail of marijuana. He liked hanging with Marty. It made him feel young again.
"Ah well, can't be good buddies with all your room-mates."

"Yep," he said once he exhaled. "One time he saw the catnip you bought in the fridge and freaked out."

"Oh my God!" Richard made his voice shrill like Nicky's, waving his free hand around. "I'm allergic to cats!"

"He said that? Are you serious? If I had a cat why would I put catnip in the fridge?"
Richard handed Marty the joint. "I told you, he's an idiot and a bloody drama queen."

A train passed by then, engulfing the entire parkette in it's thunderous noises. It took nearly five minutes to pass by, one freight going by after another like an enormous convoy. It held huge trailers, a cargo train with no passengers. There were likely maybe two people on the entire thing, both in the engine at front. Richard imagined himself sneaking onto the train, going somewhere, anywhere else. 
"You know what we should do?" Marty asked as the caboose was all that could be seen trailing into the west. By now the joint was almost done. "We should pretend we have a cat that I'm keeping in my room."
Richard laughed, thinking of the cat Laura had brought into the house one day. "Yeah! Let's call her Angie."

"We'll talk to her when Nicky's in his room, be like 'Angie! Angie!'" Marty said, softening his voice when he mock called the cat. He whistled. "'Come here, baby! Come get num nums!'"

"Yeah! That'll freak him out. Then when he comes out we'll pretend he's going crazy."
The younger man smiled smiled, handing the now tiny joint to him. Richard, feeling the buzz of the weed coming on already, waved it. "Thanks, I'm good. You have the rest."

Marty placed the roach in between his two front teeth and sucked in, the fire in the end of it lighting up, smokes whirling out from all sides, and then going straight into his mouth.

"I can't wait to get out of here," muttered Richard. "I've only been here less than a year and I already need to leave. This place is driving me insane, bad enough the situation is as it is. I guess maybe a couple more months at most and I can leave."

"Yeah, you got your job," said Marty.
"Yep, that's it. A few paycheques and I can get out," he replied, thinking of Ivan constantly hounding him for rent. His plan, in truth, was to avoid his landlord and sneak out once he had enough for first and last rent for the next place. When Ivan was sleeping in the dead of the night Richard would gather up his few belongings and load up a taxi to go to his new place.

"Well, good luck to you."
"Thanks," he said, starting to realize how tired he once from the drinking and smoking. He stood up, stretching his legs, then turned to his mate. "I'm surprised you're staying here. You already have enough money to leave, don't you?"
Marty nodded as he got up off the picnic bench. "Yeah," he said, sighing as he turned to the railroad. "I like it here though."

"If I were you I'd be out so fast."
"Well," Marty said and smiled. "I'm me."