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.

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