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.   

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