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.”

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