Thursday, 1 May 2014


"By bourgeoisie is meant the class of modern capitalists, owners of the means of social production and employers of wage labor. By proletariat, the class of modern wage laborers who, having no means of production of their own, are reduced to selling their labor power in order to live."


He had been out all morning looking for work. Anything, even a coffee shop job, or being a street sweeper, would be acceptable.  As long as Richard could pay next month's rent and still have enough for groceries and his cellphone bill he wouldn't complain. The day before he had gone west, crossing over the Humber River on foot at Bloor Street into Etobicoke.  He saw many shops and restaurants, but no Help Wanted signs anywhere. He went proactive, going inside and asking for managers. Nothing. Today he went east, starting out along Dundas West, and then going south when he reached Roncesvalles and kept going until Queen Street. Again, there were many buisinesses, but no one looking for new employees.
Once Richard got home he started cruising the internet for jobs, starting with Craigslist, the same place he had found his room.  Scrolling down the list of recent openings he saw a number of ones he had no experience for (mostly security jobs and bartender jobs that required licenses), but then saw one that had the words "no experience needed" underlined.
"Stockyards, newly opened Deal-Mart," he said, reading the rest of the ad. It was minimum wage and was probably a hard job; sales associate/stocker. He rolled his eyes, but clicked on the ad and forwarded his resume.

Richard sighed, leaning back in his chair, letting the warm, soothing sun from outside bathe him for a moment.  A train passed by, this one not large enough to shake the room too bad, but still breaking his tranquil moment. Just beyond that railway was the place he had just applied for.

His cellphone rang.

"Hi there, is this Richard Brewer?"

"This is Derek from Deal-Mart. We recieved your resume and we're wondering if you'd like to come over today for an interview?"
He leaned up, amazed at their speed, thinking they must be desperate for workers. Richard replied that he could be over there in half an hour and the appointment was arranged.

Jimmy threw the paper bag on the grass by the side of the sidewalk, bringing the bagel that Marty had just bought for him to his mouth. Marty knocked his shoulder with the back of his hand, yelling at him for littering, and went and picked the bag up before the wind took it.
"I'm creating jobs," Jimmy protested with his mouth full of garlicky cream cheese.
"Yeah, the guy who cleans St. Clair Avenue's sidewalks, right?"
"There's city workers that do that."
"It's especially a dick move when I bought the thing for you," Marty replied, tossing the bag into the trash can by a bus stop as they passed. They turned back onto Keele Street, just a half a kilometer or so from where the Junction started. To their right was an expanse of big box stores, most of them Canadian buisinesses, but some American ones too, the typical suspects in Toronto's chain store roster. There were also restaurants, mostly fast food joints, lined up along Keele. Between the stores and eating spots there were massive asphalt lots, huge parking spaces that could house up to five or six NHL arenas.
"See?" said Jimmy, pointing to a flock of seagulls hovering above the cement fields. "I'm feeding seagulls."
"Yeah, seagulls that are supposed to be at sea rather than eating garbage," said Marty.

Jimmy laughed. "It's one of those—what do they call it? Parasitic, no, uh symbiosis relationships between people and gulls."
Marty thought of his new house and felt dread on returning to it. "Oh, like our symbiont relationship with roaches?"
Jimmy shrugged. "I create jobs, which give working people a means of living, and I help the earth by helping the animals."
"Ugh," said Marty, disgusted with his friend's twisted logic. "You should work for the tar sands public relations committee with logic like that. Dude, stop littering or I wont be buying you any beer."
It was at times like these when Marty questioned why he spent so much of his off-work time hanging out with Jimmy. There were so many things about him that Marty found irritating. Jimmy was a nice guy generally, sure, but he could also be stubborn and thick-headed. His lack of ambition bothered Marty too. As much as Marty enjoyed smoking weed, having some beers, and sitting back and watching vintage movies, it seemed Jimmy was content to do this for the rest of his life. He worked jobs, but almost always quit or was fired within a month. Whenever that happened he moved on to another one and repeated the cycle. Every time he was fired Jimmy blamed everything on the managers, and even though Marty knew how ridiculous and unfair buisiness owners could be, he questioned if it wasn't a geniune lack of work ethic that got Jimmy in trouble.
Marty sighed, thinking back on the times that he and Jimmy fought over his atttitude. Nothing Marty ever said made Jimmy change his mind, or at least Jimmy never admited it if it did. At the same time though, Marty knew why he and Jimmy, even when they fought, ended up hanging out again. It was because Jimmy was the only person who called him to chill nowadays. Marty had lost much of his social life since leaving university. Working largely overnights in security didn't help either. He lost touched with a lot of people, and in many cases realized that the people he thought were friends were phonies, particularly some of his more politically inclined friends he met at university. He had friends from his childhood that he still kept in touch with, usually only online or occassionally he would go to a movie or a bar with them, but they all had careers by now, and about a third of them had kids.  

"We almost there?" Jimmy asked.
"Hm?" Marty asked, snapping back to the present. "Oh yeah, just up ahead."
They were approaching a bridge, this one over the street. To the left a towering brown condo loomed, a relatively recent addition to the corner of Keele and Dundas, a very different aesthetic from the surrounding area. As they passed under the bridge Marty noticed a man walking towards them. A train roared overhead.
"That's what I hear every day and night," Marty told Jimmy once it had passed. By now the approaching man was a few feet away and Marty recognized him. "Hey Richard!" he called.
"Oh, hey mate!" his room-mate called back. "What's happening?"
"Not too much," said Marty, running up to clasp hands. He turned back. "This is my buddy Jimmy. Jimmy, this is my new room-mate."
"Hey," Richard said, slightly lifting his right arm as if to shake Jimmy's hand. As Jimmy walked up he merely nodded back and Richard retracted his hand. "Where you blokes coming from?"
"My old area," said Marty. "We just walked all the way from the York University area up near Keele and Finch to down here. Took about two hours. Nice day for it."
"Yeah," agreed Richard. "I got to go now, got a job interview."

"Ah, where?"

Richard pointed to the north. "Deal-Mart. Whatever, beggars can't be choosers."
"I guess not," Marty said. "Later."


"Those are the kind of guys Marty hangs out with?" Richard thought to himself as he made his way up the road. Something about the guy his housemate was with didn't set well for him. His mannerisms, his somewhat shifty eyes; he seemed insecure, a user. People always told Richard not to jump to rash conclusions about people he just met, but over the years he tended to trust his instincts more. He had dealt with so many people in his life in so many places; the military, university, the Labour Party, here in Canada. He could tell who the geniune types were and who the snakes were.
He thought back to Laura. "She was geniune, but it didn't work out," he muttered to himself. "And now I'm applying to work minimum wage to support myself."
As he looked back to the bridge he saw the two younger men, now well on their way down the street toward the corner of Keele and Dundas. Richard walked further up, the big chain stores in sight to his left. To his right he saw some old buildings that looked similiar to those in the Junction, built maybe in the earlier half of the last century. On one building made of brown bricks he saw a mural ofAfrican elephants, life-sized, kicking up dust as they stampeded across an imaginary savannah.  He smiled. 


"Here it is, the Junction," Marty said as they came to the main intersection. "This used to be a town in itself before Toronto expanded and sucked it up. For a time it was called West Toronto, at other times it was called Toronto Junction, and at other times it was named the West Toronto Junction. It's got more names than a Tolkien character."

"Nice," said Jimmy. "Wouldn't want to live here myself."
"Why not?"
He shrugged in response. "Too old. I only like old movies, not old buildings."
"That's the best part of it, it's got character and history," said Marty, pointing to the building on the northwest corner. The ground floor had been converted into spaces for shops, looking relatively modern, but the upper stories looked old, likely from the 19th century. The bricks were faded, some were chipped away, or stained with brown or black. On the window sills entire colonies of pigeons sat, the spaces under them stained a bright white.
They turned west along Dundas, passing by a few bars and restaurants. The roads were not too crowded as rush hour was still a few hours away. There were many people on the streets though, many of them smoking cigarettes in front of store windows. Marty pointed out numerous antique stores, something the Junction was known for. His friend lamented sarcastically that he wasn't in the market for 1920's type-writers. After passing through a few smaller intersections they came to a pub that had advertised a daily special of discounted pitchers. Marty insisted that they go in, though Jimmy wanted to keep looking.
"There aren't too many bars down further west from here," said Marty. "And the ones that are are pretty danky."

"So, I'm paying and I'm on a budget and I say we go here and get the pitchers," said Marty. They went inside without further argument, Jimmy waving his hands at the nearest waittress. She brought them menus and Marty ordered the first pitcher to start.

"Nice place," Jimmy said, watching the waittress, an attractive brunette looking to be in her mid-twenties, walk away to the bar.
"See?" said Marty, leaning back on his chair. They had sat right by the window, watching people go by.
"Pure hipsters," laughed Jimmy after a few thick-rim bespectled, plaid-shirted, bearded early thirty-somethings passed by.
Marty ignored the comment. "Man, honestly, I'm so happy here. My new place is meh, but the area itself is enough of a reason to be here. Everything's here, a bunch of bars, nice restaurants, Tim's, other coffee shops, a fitness place that I might join, and there's also a bunch of places with vintage movies."

"Oh yeah?" Jimmy asked, perking up at the mention.
"Yeah, even if you don't like old appliances, there's video stores, which are a bit of an antique in themselves."
"Let's check them out after."
"I was thinking maybe we could go down to High Park," said Marty. "I've only been a couple of times since I moved here."
"Nah, I'm pretty tired already still."

"Okay, well, I can show you my place, but it's shit and there's nothing to do," Marty replied. The pitcher arrived with two glasses. Marty poured his, not angling his glass properly, causing the head to foam over the sides. "Ah shit."

Jimmy laughed, taking the pitcher and pouring his own drink properly. "You never learn."
"Anyway," said Marty once they clinked glasses. "Have you seen Spades lately?"

Jimmy shook his head. "No, not in a while. He was crashing at my place for a long time, but just a couple weeks ago he stopped coming around."
"Might've been arrested, you think?"

"Maybe, he's been before."

"Not suprised," said Marty, thinking back to another time the two of them had been with Spades. It was a few weeks after that first night when Marty had encountered him. Despite his initial coldness Spades had started talking to Marty a bit more. "Remember when I was telling Spades about my job?" he asked Jimmy. "I was telling him about Harvey Franco, that guy who owns the penthouse at my work?"

"Yeah," recalled Jimmy. "I remember that. He was pretty stuck up on you helping him rob the place."
Marty shook his head. "Yeah, he thought I'd let him in when I was at work. He's weird, man. It seems like, as if it never occurred to him that I don't do that shit."

His friend nodded, taking a big gulp of beer.
"Like, since he was growing up at Jane and Finch, I guess everyone he knew, or at least most of them, were doing that shit, like stealing, dealing drugs and all that. It just seems a given to him that anyone he talks to has led the same life."
"Yeah," said Jimmy. "Well, that's what happens when you grow up like him. I mean, I grew up around much of the same types, right? Like, I used to do a lot of that shit."

Marty nodded and took a swig of his own drink. It felt good on his parched lips and tongue. "And nowadays what? You just sell some herb on the side and steal shit from the bosses that fire you?"

Jimmy laughed. "Yeah, pretty much. That's it."

The only reason why Marty overlooked Jimmy's occassional thieving was because he knew that most of his employers were loaded to start with. An occassional bottle of wine or whiskey wouldn't be a terrible loss for a company that mistreats it's workers in the grand scheme of things.

"Imagine Spades in my building," said Marty. "He's walking trouble, that guy. He wouldn't get passed any of the guards, including me since I already know he's trouble."

"Well, his idea was that you'd be his inside guy," said Jimmy.

"Yeah, but that's not happening, not risking my job over that."
"If you'd robbed that rich asshole you wouldn't need a job," Jimmy laughed.
"That's not me," replied Marty. "He seems like he's all talk anyway."
"Yeah, he's soft," agreed Jimmy. "How about buying me another pitcher?"
"Why not?"


He passed by the building wall with the elephants again, thinking over how easily the job interview had gone. Years ago he would have been humiliated by the process, having a younger man about Marty's age overlooking his resume and reading out his qualifications.

"Her Majesty's Royal Marines; a fundraising director for Britain's Labour Party," Derek had read out as that sat at a tiny metal desk in the store manager's ad hoc office located in a dank storage space. "Very bold to put something political there."

Richard nodded. "Well, it's what I've done. A job's a job." Years ago he wouldn't have mentioned the Labour Party, but he knew that it wasn't associated with unions and worker's rights anymore, so no potential employer would see it as detrimental. Most people in Canada didn't know anything about British politics anyway.

Derek read on. "Let's see, various fiction published in science fiction magazines; winner of the London Science Fiction short story contest for the year 1999. Quite a lot of accomplishments."
Richard nodded again, feigning a smile. "My fundraising time developed communication skills and the writing helped very much in that regard as well. I also developed organization skills that started from my time in the military."

"Yes, I would imagine so," acknowledged the interviewer. He put the two-page resume down and folded his hands over the paper, looking directly at his newest recruit. "Can you stock shelves?"


"Can you help customers?"


"Can you start tomorrow?"

Richard felt the relief, thinking to himself: "A few months ago I would say no." He nodded.

"Come in at eight in the morning," said Derek, reaching out to shake his hand. "You start in the warehouse. Report to Colin."
By the time Richard passed under the bridge where he had run into Marty and his friend an hour before he was starting to feel fatigue. He felt glad, relieved at finally finding work again. As he turned down Dundas he thought of all the work he had ahead of him. The work would be menial, completely alienating to be working for minimum wage and be doing something he had no passion for, but that was the reality of his situation. It was also the reality for millions of workers around the world, so he could deal with it. As he turned off Dundas and made his way through the back streets leading to the house he noticed a familiar pickup truck turning about the corner up ahead. The truck slowed down as it approached him, and the familiar moustached face poked out.

"Hi Richard," came the deep voice. Richard's feeling of contentment vanished completely as he merely raised a hand and nodded back. Ivan stopped the truck and reached a hand out. "Do you have this month's rent? I haven't seen you in many days. Are you staying or leaving?"

"Staying," said Richard, not stopping.

Ivan started backing the truck up slowly, barely keeping their faces leveled. "I need rent. Gas prices are going higher. Can I have my money?"
"Yeah," Richard replied with a nod, picking up his pace.

"You say every time!" Ivan called after him. "When will you have?"

"I will!" he  replied, starting to jog, not even wanting to tell Ivan about his job. He had no time for this. The money was on it's way. He had nothing to say beyond that, owing nothing to a landlord who constantly demanded things from him but gave nothing in return. His only relieving thought was of getting out of this house, this slum of misery, this purgatory of his middle life.

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