Thursday, 26 June 2014



"Only the misfortune of exile can provide the in-depth understanding and the overview into the realities of the world."

He sat at his desk, completely drained.  At least a dozen times he had looked over his resume, wondering what it was that was so unappealing about it, why no one in Toronto's west wanted him as their employee.  Richard sighed as he clicked the word document that contained his resume closed and opened his novel instead.  Being unemployed would usually help him with his spare time, but as of late he felt no creative energy.  Every time he sat down to write nothing came to mind, only the thoughts of his predicament.  When the next month's rent was up in the air, the problems and challenges of his fictional characters ceased to matter.

Richard tried to imagine the money he could make one day if his work became famous.  Usually this cheered him up.  This time it made no difference.  Without money he could never get anything published anyway.  He couldn't even afford the paper to print a manuscript or the postage stamp and envelope to send it away in.  Before anything, he knew he needed a job.

A knock came at his door.  His stomach churned, dreading opening it up to Ivan's scowling face, his hands out to collect rent that Richard didn't have.  He was already overdue and could pay maybe one month's rent to catch up, but that was it.  He doubted Ivan would be very understanding about his situation.  Richard got up from his chair and made his way through his cluttered room.  Before he reached the door a second knock came.

“Rich, it's me,” came Marty's hushed voice from the other side.

Richard breathed out in relief. “Hey mate,” he called, opening the door. “Have you seen Ivan?”

Marty shook his head. “No, haven't seen him for a few days.  Want to go out to Vine Park and rip one?” he asked, revealing the thick joint in his hand.

Richard sighed, only partly in the mood for it.  The day was still young.  He declined it, albeit reluctantly. “Can't before setting out for the day, maybe after.  Don't you have to look for work too?”

Marty nodded, then shrugged. “The stuff motivates me.”

“Ah okay, not me,” said Richard. “Thanks anyway.”  He closed the door and returned to his desk, quickly looking over the internet before getting ready to head out.


He checked his plants before going to the park.  Each of the planters now had something; the ones that had tiny seedlings were now slightly larger plants, some already with leaves, while the planters that had nothing before now had seedlings.  Marty sighed, happy that, despite all his troubles, he at least had this little place.  It was like a glass oasis.

“Did Erin betray me?” he wondered as he stood there. “Is that what happened?  Was it all a set up?”

Ever since he was fired from work three days before, he had grown increasingly confused, trying to piece everything that had happened in those past few days together.  When he had first ended his conversation with Bob, after asking numerous times what the reasons for termination for, just to get no answer from his boss, he had gone for a long walk down to High Park. 

He knew it was Harvey Franco who had done it.  There was no doubt of it in his mind.  On the second day, when he had started walking aimlessly around the Junction, he started thinking that Erin had done something.  He went back and forth between blaming Erin.  He didn't know if her and Franco were in on it, that they were just rich people fucking with a working class person for fun, or if Erin had mentioned her conversations with Marty to Franco and Franco had him fired in a fit of jealousy.  He thought back to Richard and how he had warned him of getting involved with Erin.  Trevor too, he was right to warn Marty.  He didn't want to blame her.  He wanted to believe the best of her. 

“How could I have been so stupid?”

By the third day he was ready to start looking for a new job.  He was still wounded, but he knew he had to move on.  He felt like drinking and smoking weed all the time, even when he woke up, but he knew he would run out of money if he didn't find new work fast.  He had to first print out his new resume.  He had put it together on his laptop and saved it on his USB key, which he had now in his pocket.  He lit the joint, figuring he would just smoke it in the greenhouse, not caring if it was hotboxed.  Afterwards he would take the Keele bus up to North York and then head to his dad's place.  He had already e-mailed his father to let him know he was on his way.  His dad had the printer and he looked forward to finding out whatever his dad's big announcement was.

The smoke from the joint was all around him in seconds.  He wished he could grow some marijuana in the glass shed he had built.  That would be sweet and save him lots of money.  He thought about moving out of the city, way out in the country and getting a plot of land, even squatting if he had to and just growing his own food as well.  He knew some people did that; go out and claim land, especially out in British Columbia.  He could go to a hippie co-operative farm somewhere and just live.

As he finished the joint and started breathing in the marijuana mist around him to get a second buzz, he stared off into the backyard.  The fence started shaking as another train zoomed by.  The walls of the greenhouse shook too, looking for a second like they would fall apart and crush him inside like a cockroach.  He laughed.

A hand gripped his shoulder.

“Hey Richard, want some after all?” he asked as he spun around.

Instead he got a frowning landlord. “Why are you smoking on my property?”

For a second Marty considered telling Ivan that he built this greenhouse so it was his right to smoke inside it, but he refrained, knowing it was no excuse. “Oh, hey sir!” he greeted, covering his shock as best he could. “Sorry, I didn't hear you come in!”

“Why are you smoking?” Ivan asked, his nostrils taking in the smell. “And that is a drug.  Why are you smoking drugs on my property?”

Marty's felt the warmth coming to his face.  He noticed that Ivan's face was red and smelled something strong on his breath. “Sorry Ivan,” he replied sheepishly. “I am sorry, really.  I shouldn't have been smoking anything in here since it is your property.”

“Come out!” Ivan barked, opening up the door behind him and holding it for Marty.  Once they were both out Ivan started lecturing him. “I can't believe you would do this!  You seem like such a smart kid, why would you do this for?  Only losers need drug, why do you do it?”

“Sorry,” said Marty, hanging his head. “I know I shouldn't be.  I just lost my job.”

“You have no job too?  So what, now you do drug?”

Marty sighed. “Okay, sorry, it won't happen again,” he said, walking out of the yard to the side of the house.  Ivan was yelling something after him but he ignored it.  He texted Richard to let him know that the landlord was home.  Richard replied that he would be hiding in his room for another day.
“Geez, my landlord thinks he's my dad,” Marty thought as he boarded the bus to go north.  His dad once gave him a similar lecture, only as his father it was actually his place to do so.  Ivan, on top of that, seemed to have a substance issue of his own.  He had smelled like a distillery when he badmouthed him in the greenhouse.

Marty shook his head.  He wondered how his life could get any worse. 

As the bus made it's way northward he saw the familiar signs of North York.  The buildings became newer looking, each major intersection seeming to cover another decade.  Houses were more spaced apart the further up he went as well.  As he passed by the intersection of Keele and Shepherd, near a gigantic urban park, he noticed how far the Autumn season had progressed, noting all the trees were completely bare of leaves.  Winter was on it's way and fast.

When he got off the bus he made his way over to his old neighbourhood.  It was ugly, the place, full of cookie cutter houses with no difference between them.  The dirt plots in front of the houses were almost all empty, no leftovers of dead vegetables or flower beds here.  Marty, despite having small a nostalgia factor with the area, did not really miss it.

His dad's door was the only one that was different from any of the others.  Years ago his dad had painted it blue.  The condo corporation for the townhouse complexes had written him letter after letter demanding he change it back white.  He never did.  They never went through with their threats of legal action. 

He chuckled to himself, remembering that old battle his father had.  It was his fighting spirit and lack of apathy that had made Marty who he was as an adult.  He remembered once when the local board of education had taken away school bus service for the area his father had made a petition and circled it among all the parents who picked up their kids from his elementary school.  The school buses were never reinstated, but he sure made a stink.

Marty sighed, thinking of his new life, realizing that he had once felt a mix of optimism and pessimism when he had moved out.  Now he felt only the latter. 

“Optimism is better than despair,” he said with another sigh, thinking of Jack Layton's last words to Canadians before he passed away.  He knocked on the blue door.


As he had told Marty earlier, he spent the whole day hiding in his room, pretending not to be home.  Ivan was in the kitchen most of the time, first washing some things in the sink, and then putting on the pressure cooker.  The whole time he was humming annoyingly.

A whole day of job hunting was cancelled.  Richard felt miserable.  He had to relieve himself after a while, but Ivan was still fumbling around in the kitchen, singing louder, probably taking gulps of something strong between notes.  To ignore the need to get rid of his morning tea Richard sat himself in front of his computer and tried typing his story.  Writing about something taking place at the bottom of the ocean helped little.

He slowly tip-toed over to his door shortly after.  It sounded like Ivan had left.  Richard reached for the knob, wrapping his fingers around it in slow motion, just barely moving them as he titled the knob sideways and pulled in one silent motion. 

"Nobody here,” he thought as he snuck himself through the door soundlessly and ran to the washroom.  The toilet seat was missing, but Richard didn't care.  His only concern was that he would make too much noise shooting his stream straight into the toilet water.  Just as quick as he had run into the washroom he tore out of it and leaped back into his room, shutting the door behind him quietly.  He sneered once he realized that he had made it without being caught. 


He froze in his place. “What?”

“Richard, are you there?” Ivan's booming voice called again from the other side of Richard's door.

“Not here,” Richard thought, shaking his head as if it could help.

 “Richard?”  He knocked on the door.

Ivan's footfalls, heavy due to the boots he almost always wore, even inside, thumped back to his room.  Richard sighed.  Seconds later the landlord came back with something that made a strange sound, like Ivan was dragging something long and thick over the floor.

There was a bang against the door, and then the drilling noise started.  The door knob started shaking rapidly.  Richard realized what was happening and jumped up, spun around and made for the window.


Marty was back in the Junction and went straight to a bar.  He knew it was a waste of money at a time when he should be pinching his cash, but he still had failed to make up his mind over the news, the major bombshell his dad had just delivered to him. 

Dr. Goldman was moving out of the city.  He was taking Andrea, apparently his new life-mate, and taking her to plant their roots down in Thunder Bay.  He had thought his dad was joking as first.

“What's in Thunder Bay?” Marty had asked him when his dad told him across the dining table.

“Oh, lots of stuff, you're on the big lake, the Sleeping Giant,” Dr. Goldman said.  He was really doing it to get out of Toronto.  Marty knew it.  Even when Marty was a child his dad talked about moving to a small town, just to start over and live a simpler life.  Having Marty live with him had held him back all these years and Marty couldn't blame him. 

“I guess if it's what you want,” Marty said after a while.   He knew that once his dad's mind was made up there was little he or anyone else could do to change it.  The only thing about it that really bothered him was the loss of a potential safety net. 

Dr. Goldman wrote Marty a cheque for one thousand dollars.  It was enough to last him two months.  Marty never had the intention of making his dad feel sorry for him, but when he told him that he had just lost his job his dad became insistent on writing the cheque.  Marty was glad to get it.  He deposited the cheque at the stockyard bank on the way home.  The cheque, he knew, may very well be the difference between getting back on his feet or being out on the streets.  Marty shuddered at the thought as he downed his pint and called for the bill.  Before returning to the house he stopped by at a local Junction shop that had a poster in the front that showed a cartoon cockroach getting gassed to death by a big 'poof' of smoke above it.  The big-eyed insect grabbed it's own throat with all six of it's hands.  Marty could not wait to show Richard the tube he had bought.  This stuff, Roach-Murderer, was bound to work. 

“Richard?” Marty called as he opened the door to the kitchen.  He saw Ivan instead.

“Richard not home,” said Ivan, smiling as he stood.  Three pans were frying on the oven behind him, all over-flowing with sizzling grease, meat and egg yolk. 

Marty faked a smile. “Oh hey,” he said, not at all pleased to see him.

“Have you seen him?” Ivan asked, pointing to the door to Richard's room. 

Marty looked over and shook his head, noticing that the door knob had been completely removed.  In it's place was a perfectly circle hole. 

“Heh,” Marty laughed dryly. “Removed his lock, eh?  That's crazy.”  He laughed again and backed into his room. “This week just keeps getting worse and worse,” he lamented once he had closed the door behind him.  He knew big challenges were ahead, but felt worse for his exiled friend.

He gazed out the window.  What looked like snowfall had just started.  Tiny micro-flakes floated lazily to the ground, covering Ivan's hoarded junk in the backyard with a thin layer of powdery white.  On the porch was what Marty could only guess was an old industrial oven.  Ivan must have just collected it recently since Marty had never seen it before.  The oven's door was a little rusted, but still had a reflective surface.  In the reflection he could see himself in the window looking out.  The window to the left was Ivan's, wide open and revealing an empty bed with a big black suitcase on it.

“I hope this means he's taking a vacation,” Marty said, seeing himself smile in the reflection.  When he returned his gaze to Ivan's window he noticed that the suitcase was wide open.  Inside it there were a bunch of bright red fifty dollar bills and maple brown one hundred dollar bills lined up, completely covering the volume of the case.   

Wednesday, 18 June 2014



"If a man is proud of his wealth, he should not be praised until it is known how he employs it."

She wore a light yellow Springtime dress, setting her off against the dark midnight scene behind her.  

“Hey Erin!” Marty called, moving over to the far end of the lobby desk. “Nice dress!  Is that new?”
He expected her to smile, at least a bit; instead she gave him a blank look and kept on walking toward the door to the elevator lobby.  Harvey Franco swaggered in through the west door shortly after, frowning as he met eyes with Marty's. Marty’s mouth went a bit dry as the man made his way to the elevators. She turned around and looked at Franco, her face still completely frozen in an unsmiling expression.  

“You’re right, Erin!” the older man called after her, his speech blatantly slurred. “Marty is handsome, isn’t he?” 

Marty stood behind the desk, glanced at Erin, and then over to Trevor.  His partner had his head tilted to the right, viewing the monitor that showed the elevator lobby from above.  On the screen Marty saw Erin step into the elevator, picking up her pace as she turned about and pressed the button inside.

“Idiot’s drunk,” Marty realized, noting a dark brown bottle poking from his back pocket, its cap missing.  Marty couldn’t tell if the bottle was empty or not. “They’re can’t be much of it judging by his wobbling.” He turned to Trevor and whispered the words to him. “Drink, open drink in lobby.” 

Trevor turned his gaze to the next monitor, one that was planted above the west entrance, facing east to overlook the entire lobby.  Marty stepped over to Trevor and leaned over him, and then pointed to the screen.

“I see it,” Trevor acknowledged. 

“Mr. Franco?” Marty called to him.  He spoke without thinking, sounding like a prerecorded announcement. “Please take the drink upstairs.”

Harvey Franco stared at him for a moment.  Marty felt like shrinking, but kept himself stiff nonetheless, thinking of himself hardening like a rock.  His eyes glazed over, now only seeing a blur as Mr. Franco started to approach.

“Oh shit,” Marty thought, feeling the veins in his neck pulsating. “No, I won’t be afraid.  I am only doing my job, what they told me to do when they trained me!” 

Marty puffed out his chest and crossed his arms. “Please sir, there is no open alcohol allowed in the lobby.”   Marty knew that Trevor would not ask Mr. Franco to leave the lobby like he had just done.  He swallowed, keeping his eyes on Franco, the blur starting to fade, bringing him the sight of Harvey Franco’s wide eyes staring back at him.  The man’s face was red, his age showing in the wrinkles of his skin around his eyes and mouth. 

Marty felt the rich man's power for a moment, the unseen energy that came from his presence, pressing down on him. His dark pupils were like black-holes, the image of deep nothing.   

“Oh yeah?” Harvey Franco said then, leaning his face forward, placing both hands on the desk in front of him. “Is that the rule?” One of his eyebrows darted up into his receding hairline. Marty could not tell if he was asking for real or not.  He just nodded in response.  

Harvey Franco smiled, keeping his gaze pinned to Marty.  He reached behind him, grabbed the bottle, and then placed it on the desk.  It was something Marty had never seen before, some foreign looking drink with unrecognizable words, probably German, maybe Italian or Spanish.  Marty had no idea, but he read the alcohol percentage.

“Thirty-six?  What is this, hand sanitizer?” he thought.  Even he would never try it.  

Is that good then?” Franco asked, pausing between words. "No drinks allowed?"  

He looked behind Mr. Franco.  The elevator door finally closed.  Erin was gone. Franco started laughing hoarsely, sounding almost more like he was coughing.  His face got redderMarty smiled back, suddenly wanting to sit down.  He slid on the chair to his left, pressing off from the front desk. 

“Alright!  Alright, pretty-boy!  Why break the rules, right?” he asked, grabbing hold of the bottle again and waving both of his arms as he stepped backwards. “After all—rules are rules, aren’t they?  You don’t break rules, do you?” Mr. Franco took two steps back, barely able to keep himself straight.  Marty expected him to hurl the bottle at them then and there.  

Instead he dropped it into the small garbage can beside the elevator lobby entrance.  He grinned as he spun about and then pressed both hands against the door and pulled, causing the whole door to shake loudly.  It was still locked.  He tugged again.  Metal hit metal. 

Marty pressed the button to let him in.  The door lock clicked and Franco went inside.  As he waited for the elevator he called something back to the front desk.  Marty deflated, exhaling heavily, not able to hear it, probably for the better.

“I’m going on patrol,” said Trevor, standing up and grabbing a walkie.  

The night passed by smoothly after that incident.  Marty did two patrols; Trevor did one more.  They didn’t talk about Mr. Franco.  Marty was angry and confused the whole morning.  He knew Harvey Franco must have known that he was talking to Erin.  It shouldn't have mattered, he figured, since he had never done anything wrong.  Around eight in the morning, when Marty had sufficiently calmed down, Trevor looked over at Marty, looking like he was about to say something, but he was interrupted by a man approaching the desk.  He carried two paper bags with him. 

“Meals and Deals on Wheels,” the man said.  His ugly brown shirt said the same. “I’m here for Mrs. Whiteshire on the third floor?”

“Uh, yeah,” said Trevor, swinging his chair around to face him. “You’re not the usual company.” 

“Contract’s been switched.  We come an hour earlier than the last company.”

“Okay, you know where to go?”

“Unit ten on the third floor,” said the man.  Trevor gave him access. 

It looked like Trevor was about to speak to Marty again when security supervisor Bob entered the lobby from the east door. “Good morning, Bob!” Trevor greeted with a wave.  

Bob walked up to the desk, nodding at the two lower ranking guards, completely unsmiling. “Hey, Trevor, after debrief you can go.  Marty, I need you to stay for an extra half hour today.” 

Marty groaned inside. “Oh yeah?  What needs to be done?” 

“I need you to go cut the skeleton key,” Bob replied.  He disappeared into the back office, coming out seconds later without his briefcase.  He handed Marty a small silver key.  It looked plain; two tiny letters on its head read MK.  He handed Marty a shiny green twenty dollar bill next. “Bring me the change, shouldn’t be much.  It’s at the convenience store down at College and Bay, five minute walk.” 

Marty nodded, not minding the extra task.  He could use a walk and some fresh air anyway.  The morning was cold yet eerily crisp, the sun rising in the west, probably already shining over the Junction to the west.  The upper part of the sky was a dark blue, the lower part, just barely visible between the Bay Street skyscrapers was a deep pink.  The same homeless man that Marty had seen on this street for weeks asked him for change as he walked by.  He had nothing to give him.

Marty found the convenience store near the intersection less than a block south of the building.  An elderly store owner smiled at him as he came in.  He gave him the key and the man took it to the other side of the counter and quickly cut the copy, handing Marty two new keys and the original.

“We only need one new key,” said Marty.

“Don’t you know we do two for one deals here?” the man asked. 

Marty shrugged. “Okay, doesn’t hurt.”  He handed the man the twenty, got a toonie in change and then thanked him and headed out.  As he passed the homeless man on the way back he gave him the two dollar coin.  He figured he could tell Bob that there was no change.  The homeless man needed the money more than the condo.   

As he re-entered the lobby he saw a well-dressed man hunched over the counter, talking to Bob quietly.  Once he got closer he saw that the man was Harvey Franco.  As Marty made his way behind the desk, Mr. Franco noticed him and abruptly stopped his chatter. He then leaned up and gave a final nod to Bob before heading out the west doorway where Marty had just come in from.

“What’s that all about?” Marty asked.

“Do you have the key?" 

"Yeah," he said and reached into his pocket and picked out two keys, placing them both in Bob’s hand, unsure of which one was the original copy. “Here you go,” he said.  He forgot about the third one, probably due to his fatigue at having worked all night.

“Thanks Marty,” said Bob. “Now go home.”

All the way home Marty thought of Harvey Franco, wondering what he was talking to his boss about.  At first he thought it was about him, but then shook the thought from his head. “I’m not that important.  He can’t be talking to Bob about that.  Besides, me talking to Erin is nothing to do with my professional conduct.  I didn't date her or anything--even if I wish I could.  Stop worrying!”

Marty now had three days off to look forward to.  He felt a bit relieved as the bus charged down Dundas Street West, passing by Keele Street into the heart of the Junction.  The familiar area brought a smile to his face; the train shaped lights, the unique local businesses, the graffiti painted high up on the second stories of buildings that were built more than a century ago.  As much as he wanted to live in a different house, he felt it was worthwhile to stay longer in the area.  If anything he needed a new job, but his financial situation wasn’t quite strong enough to be switching any time soon.  He had bills and rent to pay.

Marty found Richard inside the kitchen once he got in his house.  His room-mate looked miserable, more so than usual. “Hey Rich,” he greeted, trying to sound cheerful. “Job-hunt not going so good?”

Richard shook his head. “Same as ever, searching every day almost all day.  Going again today,” he said with a sigh. “Oh, look in the fridge.”

“Hmm?” Marty asked, turning about to open it. “What’s up?”  He opened the door. “Holy shit!”  

The shelves were all stuffed, including the one Marty had claimed as his own.  Each level had groceries, most of them just placed in without bags or anything, just sitting there bare, ready to be nibbled on by roaches.  There were potatoes, pork-chops, whole chickens and partridges, quail, bowls of brown rice, chunks of some weird-looking reddish meat; all stuffed in every available space, looking like some edible game of Tetris.  Marty reached in and pried apart two pieces of raw meat to see his own stuff behind it.

“What the hell is this?”

“Who do you think?” Richard asked, sliding his pupils sideways towards the door that used to belong to Jordan.

Marty, at first confused, but then soon realizing what he meant, pointed at the door. “You mean?” 

Richard nodded, scowling. “He’s moved in beside you.  He’s on our floor now.  I spent the whole morning yesterday cleaning this bloody fridge and then this.”

“Oh my God,” Marty muttered.  He was mad. “Why would he move in next to me for?  What the hell?”

“Do you see now?  You know why he moved down here?  Because we keep the place clean.  That’s why.”           

“This is bullshit!  I moved in here so he’d be my landlord, not my room-mate!”

Richard stood up, pushing his chair into the table with his knees. “Well, that’s what I told you.  He’s an asshole.”

“Damn it!” Marty spat, slamming a fist down on the table. “This is such bullshit!  I already got enough of it at work!  And look at this,” he motioned a hand to the fridge. “This is disgusting!  He’s going to bring cockroaches all into the fridge now!”

“What did I tell you?” Richard said, moving over to his door, slowly opening it. “It’s time to move out.  At least you can actually get out since you’re making money.  I’m stuck here with him.”

“I’m moving then,” said Marty. “This is bullshit."

"Good choice,” agreed Richard. “Drop me a line from wherever you end up, lucky bastard.”  He slipped into his tiny room and closed the door behind him, leaving Marty fuming at the table.

Marty leaned back in his chair and took a peek inside the fridge again.  He saw something moving along on some of the meat in the lower shelf. “Bullshit!” he cursed in his mind as he slammed the door shut. “He’s moving in on my space, smothering me now,taking over everything, the slob!  It’s over.  I got enough for first and last rent now.  I can move.  I can go to craigslist right now and find a new place, doesn’t matter where, anywhere south of Eglinton, anywhere away from the suburbs is fine.  It can be a tiny basement, I don’t care.  I’m not living next to this guy.”

He got up and went to his room, laid down still in his security clothes, basking in the now bright sun glow that overwhelmed his room.  He thought of the past ten hours, all the drama and the tension.  Despite everything he managed to calm down a bit.

“I’ll get out of here as soon as I can,” he said, staring at the moldy ceiling. “A few days I get my next paycheck.  I will leave even before December.”  He ran a hand down his pant-leg, feeling the extra key he had received at the convenience store. “I guess I’ll have to bring that back next time I work,” he resolved in his mind. “By then hopefully I will already be moving my stuff into my new place.”

Marty Goldman smiled, looking forward to the change.  He only hoped he didn’t have to move too far.  All that mattered is that he got a better landlord.  As much as he hated his job sometimes, at this moment he was glad he had it, otherwise he would be stuck.

His cellphone rang and he reached down and grabbed it out of the other pant leg.

“Hello?” he asked into it.

“Yeah hi Marty, it’s Bob,” came his supervisor’s
usual monotone voice.

“Oh okay, you didn’t need me to come in tomorrow, did you?  I was looking forward to my three days off.”

Bob audibly sighed. “Marty, I don’t know how to break this to you, but you’ll be getting lots of time off.  We don’t need you here anymore.  Thanks for the time you did work here and best of luck in the future.”

Thursday, 12 June 2014


"The most common way people give up their power is by thinking they don't have any."


He spent the morning looking for a job.  Every morning was Richard's time to look for any new ads on each of the fourteen websites he checked daily.  There were not many new additions to today's listings. 

"Okay, here's a new one," he read aloud. "Entrepreneurial people needed, make hundreds for only a few hours of actual work, join the world of multiple-person marketing.  All you need is to come this week to our weekly meeting on Monday at the Don Mills Corporate Building."

He sipped his tea.

"Bullshit," he said, minimizing the window of the site with the mouse clicker.  He shook his head. "This city has no jobs."

Today he planned to find somewhere to walk, a route on a main street, and from there he would scan every shop window for employment signs.  The past few days he had gone around the area, but today he planned to go westward over the Humber River and into the suburban sprawl of Etobicoke.  He got his old suitcase full of resumes ready and finished his coffee.

When he left his room he saw Jordan standing over the kitchen table, his bedroom door wide open to reveal a near empty room.  On the tabletop there were two full duffel bags.  Jordan greeted Richard before going to his room to grab a knapsack off the bed and sling it over his shoulder.

"Hey, what's going on?" Richard asked, although he already had figured what was happening.

"Moving out," Jordan said quietly, stepping back out into the kitchen.

"Ah, I figured," replied Richard, toning down his own voice.  Jordan was probably avoiding paying him more money.  Richard planned to move out without notifying Ivan too, maybe avoiding the landlord for most of a month so as to avoid paying rent.

 "Yeah, my fam's taking me in, been a while since I been out in the Weston area," Jordan said, giving out his hand. "It's been nice living here."

He took his hand and Jordan quickly hooked their arms and brought him in quickly for a hug. "It's too bad you're leaving."

 "Yeah, and that new guy seemed like a nice guy," Jordan said as he reached for the two bags on the table, nodding his head slightly to Marty's closed door. "Tell him I said good-bye for me, will you?"

"Of course.  Yeah, for sure!"

 Jordan smiled, then headed for the door, turning back as he stepped through saying: "And good luck getting rid of those roaches."

Richard laughed, then waved as his now former room-mate closed the door behind him and stepped out the front door. 


At first he felt sick when Erin told him about Harvey Franco.  Later, when he thought about it on his way home, he had no idea how to feel about it.  As he walked along Maria Street with the pink glow of sunrise in the sky he felt lifeless, taking each step like he were sleeping.

"That kind of stuff really happens here," he thought, constantly reminding himself that he was naive still. "Of course it does!  It happens everywhere.  Is something wrong with Erin?  Why would you get involved with anyone like that?" He wanted to see the best in her, he rationalized. "You always put girls on a pedestal!  That's sexist in itself.  She's a gold-digger.  She's got to be." 

He thought of the way she looked at him as he made it to his street.  When he had sat down next to her their eyes met.  She had been crying, a single tear still clinging on her chin.  For a second he was nervous, feeling his mouth go dry and his mind lost for words.  Then he asked her what was wrong and it came out completely clearly.

Rather than go straight to the house Marty made his way to the backyard first.  He wanted to check on his plants.  About a week ago he had arranged planters in his makeshift greenhouse and filled them with soil.  The planters were various sizes.  There were three large round ones to the left of the entrance along the wall, four smaller round ones across on the other wall, and one large rectangular one at the far end. Nothing had grown on the sides yet, but he smiled as he noticed that the rectangular planter had a number of tiny sprouts coming up.  The tiny green bits looked different from one another and he instantly recognized them.  Here he had planted the three sisters; corn, beans and squash.  He had placed the seeds in sporadically, mixing them up as was the proper method with the three crops.  Marty had learned of them on the internet as a traditional First Nation's method.  He ran his fingers over the soil surface, recognizing the corn sprouts as the thin stems and the bean sprouts by the single stem with the parted seed rising up from it.  There was no sign of the squash yet.

He sighed, taking in the sight and the relative warmth of the greenhouse.  It was cold outside, the first signs of winter clearly present already.  It was an incredible thing, defying nature by growing in the winter.  Marty was grateful for the chance to do this, despite all the problems he had with the house and Ivan’s shoddy landlordship.  Marty turned to his right, eying the still earth in the pots at his feet, bending over to inspect them closer.  He plunged his right hand into the loose soil, feeling around for the seeds, finding one and bringing it up.  It was a pea seed.  The seed had split slightly; a tiny green piece of root had erupted from its center, the sign of germination.   He smiled as he re-buried the seed, his mind turning back to Erin. 

It took her a few minutes to wipe her eyes.  Marty, unsure of how to react, quickly left the room to get her a pop from the vending machine out in the hall.  He brought it back to her.  She refused it, but smiled at the offer.  He put it at his feet.

“What’s wrong?” he had asked.  He wanted to hug her, but held back, not sure how she would receive it.  He wanted to know also how she had gotten into the room, wondering if Mr. Franco possessed keys to it.  It wouldn’t surprise him.  The management treated him differently than others. 

It took her some time to get the words out, but eventually she said it. “Harvey.”

“Mr. Franco,” Marty muttered, shaking his head and looking at his feet.  He confessed to her, while apologizing for eavesdropping, that he had heard them while outside the penthouse.  He was about to ask next if he had ever hit her, but the thought of Trevor lecturing him, reminding him that they weren’t police officers, came to mind and he hesitated.  Part of him worried that Harvey Franco might find out if he asked that.

Marty shook his head, now turning in his greenhouse to the potted planters on the other side and digging his hand into the first of them.  He brought up some seeds.  They were too small to notice if there was any change.  He checked the other pots.  They turned up the same.  Before he left he gave each of the planters some water from the hose, bringing it into the greenhouse from the porch.  Tending the plants always soothed him.  He couldn’t wait until the day after the next shift when he was off again.  The drama of the previous shift could then properly digest in his mind.  After the watering was done he returned the hose and made his way inside the house, a little surprised to see Richard out in the kitchen cleaning the refrigerator.

“Hey,” he greeted, noting the few groceries on the table.

Richard waved his free hand, scrubbing the uppermost shelf with a soapy washcloth in the other. “Hey Marty, how’s it going, mate?”

“One more day then I’m off,” the younger man replied, side-stepping the table to go to the sink to rinse the wet soil off his hands. “Why are you cleaning the fridge?  Not that I’m complaining.”

“Jordan moved out,” Richard replied, moving to the next shelf.  “Lucky bastard.  He got a few free days in November.  That’s what I’m going to do when I got the money.”

Marty felt a little worse than he did already.  Jordan had seemed like a decent guy to him, one of the few good aspects about living in this house.  He turned about, leaning on the counter as he dried his hands with his shirt. “That’s too bad.”

Richard nodded. “He says ‘good-bye’ by the way.  He’s moving out to Weston area.  Lucky bastard.”

“That area is okay, at least for the suburbs.  They got the Humber River nearby, that’s always nice, to live near a park.”

“Anywhere’s better than this shithole.” 

Marty let it go.  He wanted to tell him how much he loved the Junction and did not miss his old neighbourhood, but shrugged it off instead.  He knew how Richard felt.  There was no need to have this conversation again.  He was about to go to his door to call it quits for another eight hours.

“How are you?  Anything interesting happening?” Richard asked, prompting Marty to pull out a seat at the table and slump down instead.

Sighing loudly, he rested his face against the table. “Man, I’m in serious shit.”


He shook his head at Marty, a little in disbelief, a bit in disgust.  It seemed unreal to Richard that his mate would get entangled in such a rotten situation.  Marty had told him about this Harvey Franco man before.  He told Marty to ignore him and just do his job, to not even think about him when he was not at work.  And now he could not believe that Marty would so foolishly plunge into someone’s personal life in such a reckless manner.  When Marty was finished telling the story he said everything that was on mind, consciously not sugar-coating his response.
“So, let’s get this straight,” he said with a heaving sigh, placing both hands in front of him on the table. “You spoke to this Erin girl maybe a total of ten times since you’ve been working there and you conclude that she has a thing for you because she seems to always want to talk to you and smiles at you and looks into your eyes whenever you both speak together?”

Marty nodded.  The kid seemed to be double-guessing himself from Richard’s point of view.  His tone sounded unconvincing.

“So, you run into her when she just got into a fight with her boyfriend.  She’s crying and talking about how much they’ve been fighting lately and how abusive his words are.”

“I asked if she wanted to make a report with security when she told me this,” Marty said, getting up and grabbing a glass from the cupboard.  He had cleaned out that cupboard earlier and had been wiping it down with vinegar weekly to keep roaches out. 

“That’s probably your first mistake,” said Richard.

“Oh yeah?  How?” he asked, filling up the glass with tap-water. “You sound just like Trevor, that Filipino guy I work with.  He said that it wasn’t our job to handle people’s personal lives.  Don’t you think it’s worthwhile taking a note so if anything does ever happen you have a paper trail?”

 Richard shrugged. “I guess that can be useful, but don’t you think that’s overstepping your job?  I mean, there’s a reason why you work in a lobby rather than in their condo rooms.  You’re there to stop outer threats from getting in.  Think of it as working at the border of Mexico in Texas.  You’re there to stop people hopping the fence, not to solve the relationship problems of the Texans in Dallas.”

Marty let out a little laugh, sitting back down at the table with his glass of water. “Well, either way, she told me ‘no’ anyway.  She didn’t want security to know her private life.  I asked her if she could tell me.  She said ‘yes’ to that.”
“I don’t know then,” said Richard. “Think about it though.  If this girl likes you—“

“Woman,” Marty objected. "Dude, she's older than I am."

“Okay, woman,” Richard said, waving a hand dismissively. “Or whatever, maybe she’d rather be called a girl because it makes her seem younger, but anyway; if she likes you but is dating this asshole rich man because he buys her things, then what chance do you think you really have?”
“What do you mean?” asked Marty. “Like she’s a gold-digger?”

Richard almost laughed. “Obviously!” he said, wondering then if Marty really had no idea of what he had meant. “Of course she is!  Why else would a woman as beautiful as you say she is, as young as she is, be with an older guy?  He’s loaded.  Did you tell her?  Did you tell Erin that you wanted to date her?”

“No,” said Marty. “I never did.  She hugged me at the end, but that was it.  I told her she could talk to me anytime again.  She told me this would be our meeting place.”
“Oh Jesus,” said Richard, bringing his palm to his forehead. “Marty, be careful.  Holy shit, be careful.”

“What?  First off, if she really is thinking that she wants to be with me, then why is it wrong?  Cheating is wrong, sure.  I wouldn’t ever do it, but if she does it because this assclown treats her like shit, is it wrong then?  And is it wrong for me to do it?”

“It’s not a matter of right and wrong,” Richard replied, staring right at Marty, hoping his glare would show how serious he was. “Marty, if this man catches you.”

Marty shrugged. “It’s not illegal.”

“And since when do the super-rich care about what’s legal?”

Marty sighed.
“Look, Marty, I’ve had a big mouth before.  I got in trouble many times at jobs.  Hell, I even lost the last one just because of my big mouth.  You have to know when to be careful, especially when it involves your professional life.”
His room-mate sighed a second time, then took a swig of water.

“Marty, you got to know by this age, you’re almost thirty, that you can’t get entangled in this kind of rubbish.  It’s not even about your job, but getting involved with a powerful man’s woman?  How many movies have you seen?  Don’t you know where that can end?”

"Is it about him or about her?” 

“What do you mean?”

He took another gulp of water. “I mean, is it Harvey Franco I should be scared of, or Erin?”

Richard shrugged, unsure of what Marty was getting at. “Both,” he said, realizing that Marty might have been taking offense to Erin being labelled a gold-digger. “Infatuation,” Richard muttered in his mind. “It always blinds us, especially when we’re young.”

“I don’t know,” said Marty, standing up from the table and finishing his water. “I guess I just got to go to bed and think things over.  I only got one night left anyway.  Maybe things will calm down when I’m gone.  Gives me more time to think anyway.”

“Just be careful,” said Richard, knowing that he was not one to talk.  At least getting fired had made him reconsider his conduct for his next job.  If anything else, the whole episode had reinforced his cynicism about people and brought him back to a previously lost vigilance.

Richard immediately got back to work scrubbing the rest of the inside of the refrigerator.  There were a few stains in the vegetable crisper that took a full ten minutes to wipe away.  After he was done with the soap he re-washed the cloth and then soaked it in vinegar.  He had earlier swept out the dead roaches and had no intention of seeing any more show up now that he had spent nearly two hours cleaning it. 
When he was done he went out to look for work, his daily hunt ending up as fruitless as before.  He returned to the house around six in the evening, bringing in two bags of groceries he had just picked up.  Despite his lack of success scouring the Etobicoke Lakeshore neighbourhoods, he felt some relief in coming home to a freshly cleaned fridge.  Having a clean place to store food was the first step of many in getting his life back in order.  It felt good to put away the groceries, putting everything that was his on the top shelf.

Richard felt better going to bed that night, thinking over what project to do in the house next to better get his life together while searching for a new job to fund it.  He woke up a few times, each time hearing someone in the kitchen moving around. 

The last time he woke up someone was just leaving.  The door off in the little space that led to the front door slammed shut.  He figured it was Marty leaving for work.  It was about two in the afternoon.  Richard had slept in all morning.  He cursed out loud as he forced himself up, feeling a little dizzy as he stood in his room.  He grabbed his briefcase full of fresh resumes, eager to take a quick shower and then leave while he still had sunlight for a few hours. 

As he showered he was thinking again of the day’s possible project.  He realized that whatever it was he had to postpone it until the late evening since he was up so late. 
“Maybe I’ll clean my room,” he thought as he shut the water off and stepped out onto the unusually stain-free floor.  He grabbed his towel. “Marty must have mopped the floor.  If it wasn’t for him coming in and cleaning the place I probably wouldn’t have cleaned out the fridge.” He was starting to feel much more warmed to Marty lately.  He liked hanging out with him.  It made him feel young again.  Marty’s optimism was inspiring, even if it was misplaced and naive at times.

As Richard Brewer got dressed and ready to leave, he felt more positive than he had since in a long time.  He hoped it would last and he would find a decent job.  As he made his way through the kitchen he decided to take a peak in his fridge to see if the other room-mate’s had seen his work and figured out to claim a shelf for themselves in their new ordered living space.

What he saw made him shriek out loud instead.

Wednesday, 4 June 2014

This week

There will be no chapter this week.  I apologize to the readers, but this has personally been a very busy week for me.  Chapter 13 is on it's way and will be a very heavy and impacting addition to this story.

In the meantime, get caught up if you are behind.

If you are caught up, please read another piece of fiction that I wrote and entered in The Toronto Star 2014 short fiction contest.  I choose to believe it was the judge's fourth choice.

It reads not unlike something Marty Goldman would write...

Click here to read!