Thursday, 24 July 2014



"Desperate affairs require desperate measures." - Horatio Nelson


There had been no answer from his dad.  Marty checked his e-mail that morning, the same as every morning, before setting out with his envelope full of resumes.  He had no job interview yet, but was determined to keep looking, still feeling the fighting spirit.  There had to be jobs out there.  Right then he would take a grocery store job, or be a patio furniture salesperson.  Once he had the money (the flow as his friend Jimmy called it) then he could casually look for something better. 

“Beggars can't be choosers,” he had said aloud as he got dressed, thinking over his predicament.  Before heading out of the house he took a peek in his greenhouse.  The plants were all big and leafy now.  He recognized the features of each of them; the beans with their white little flowers and twisting thread-like branches, the orange flower of a squash plant with its large low-hanging leaves, and the upward-reaching light green leaves of broccoli.  In about nine or ten hours Marty planned to come back in and see if they had grown at all during the day.  Each day he had done that, feeling calmed and confident each time after.  Growing was therapeutic.  From within the greenhouse walls looking out Marty could see only frost on the glass and a blur of white behind.  The snow had fallen all night, it was a wonder it had not yet piled up on the greenhouse's roof.  Inside it felt like Autumn temperature.  Marty sighed, for once in relief, realizing that he had successfully built a working greenhouse. 
A loud thudding knock on the door shook his calmness.  He expected Ivan, but turned around to see Richard standing behind the clear door instead.  Marty opened the door a crack.

“Dude, what are you doing?  What if Ivan sees you?”

Richard, his face unshaven and his eyes baggy, gave a weak smile and shook his head. “No, he's out.  His truck is gone. I saw him leave from the window a few minutes ago.”

“Still,” said Marty, looking over Richard's shoulder, just barely making out the street beyond the gate. 

“Okay, well,” Richard said, his voice coming out hoarse, like he had a sore throat. “I'm going back to bed, got a job interview later today.”  He was going to say something else, but started coughing into his hand. 

Marty took a step back. “You okay, buddy?”

“Yeah,” said Richard, swallowing hard. “I'm a bit sick.”

“When is your interview?”

Richard coughed again, holding up a finger with his free hand.  Marty took a second step back, just putting the tip of his toe against the sliding door. 

“Today,” he finally said. "In about three and a half hours."

“Alright, good work!”

Richard reached up for a high five in reply, but Marty backed away.

“Sorry man, I don't want to get sick.”

Richard nodded. “It's okay, for sure, mate.  Anyway, I've got to go to bed again, still tired.”  He coughed as he turned around.

Marty stepped outside and called after to him, telling him to take some medicine before going to the interview, or at least some tea.  Richard called back: “I'm English, don't worry.”

Marty took one last look at the greenhouse.  As he turned about and headed to the street it started snowing again.  The streets and sidewalks had thin layers of snow on them from the night before.  Now the snow was falling hard, blocking Marty's vision completely when he made his way to Dundas.


He dreamed he was in the Beaches at first, the neighbourhood at the lake in the east of the city.  The Englishman stood on the wooden boardwalk, looking out at Lake Ontario against a morning skyline.  Suddenly the C.N. Tower, which was normally far from the Beaches, was looming over him, covering all of him in its shadow.  Seconds later he was walking along the Danforth, with its old Orthodox Churches with Greek letters and columns.  He reached into his pocket, pulling out a light green twenty dollar bill.  Then he reached in again and pulled out a red fifty, then a maple-brown one hundred dollar bill.  Richard dug deep into both pockets, bringing out a whole river of colourful Canadian bills.  The paper money got caught up in a whirlwind, floating up into an evening sky.

Richard's throat hurt.  It felt like a fire was burning in his larynx.  He woke up because of the pain, finding himself in his makeshift room again.  He glanced at his watch.  It was an hour and a half before his job interview.  He got up, ran to the shower, trying to ignore his burning throat and completely stuffed nose.  He couldn't breathe through his nose at all, taking big gulps of air in his mouth, hoping the warm shower might unclog his system. 

There was no warm water, only icy cold spray.  The water heater might have been damaged, he figured, shivering as he wiped himself with a tiny, overused bar of soap.  Within seconds he was out, shaking in the freezing air.  He dressed himself and headed downstairs, planning to get his breakfast at Tim's.

He turned the doorknob to the side of the house and pushed, finding he couldn't open the door.  Something was blocking it.  He pushed again.  It opened very slightly.  The tiny crack showed snow was the culprit.  Richard pressed his full body against the door, feeling a sudden pain in his bones, as he managed to get it half a foot open.

“Holy shit!” he cried out, and then coughed, feeling pain in his chest now, like a vice was clamping down on his heart. He bent over, spitting out something nasty onto the snow outside.  He managed to push the door open another half a foot.  The snow completely covered up the alley between the houses, piling up in higher hills further down towards the street.

He tried to step out, hoping that maybe the snow had crusted over and that he could walk over it.  His leg sank into the snow instead, instantly wetting his pants.  He pulled back inside.  There was no way he was making the interview now.  He started swearing, but it quickly turned into a deep cough, feeling to him like he was going to cough up his lungs themselves. 


He made it to Dundas Street, the lifeline of the Junction neighbourhood.  His feet were soaked, felt like he was standing in a marsh, each step he took he felt bubbles rising up between his toes.  Marty made it across the street and into a crowded Tim’s. 

“Christ, would you look at this bullshit,” said this big guy in an orange construction vest, looking out the window facing Dundas.

“They weren’t calling for it to be this bad,” said a blonde thirty-something woman with a baby stroller.

Marty lined up behind them.  The tables were all full.  It looked like a whole group of people were going to be late, or maybe even absent, from work today. “Alright,” Marty thought, trying to calm himself down. “So this is one of those days that slows everybody down from the daily grind.  I guess I can be forgiven for going home and sleeping this one off.” At the same time, Marty thought it might look really dedicated if he stumbled into a place with his resume ready, could make a good impression on a future employer.  Marty got his coffee and opened the door to what was turning into a blizzard.

“You going out in that?” someone called to him.  He nodded and jumped outside.  Marty got to a street called Pacific before turning back. “I guess I will have to see how tomorrow is for job hunting,” he told himself, shaking his head, feeling useless.  He looked down at his coffee, wondering how long until he was pinching his cash.


He had fallen into a deep sleep the moment he went back to his hidden room.  In his dream he was with some familiar people; three blokes from his unit back on the Falklands. “Nigel, Rennie, Jeremy,” he called to them.  The blonde one, Jeremy, a lad of twenty-two years, put a finger to his mouth to shush him. “Oh right, sorry!”

Nigel, the plucky nineteen year old fresh out of secondary school, looked as handsome as ever with his baby face and combed back chestnut brown hair.  He nodded over at Richard. “You look old today, Rich.”

Richard nodded, feeling his bald head above him with both hands. “Yeah.”

The four men stood near a golden vault, behind it was something they planned to steal.  It was a heist, one that they had trained for months to pull off.  Richard knew this once they were all in place.  Rennie, the explosives expert, strapped plastic wire and rubber to the front of the ten foot tall vault. 

“We wait on your word,” the demolisher said as he pulled out a remote control.  It looked like a television remote control, but Richard knew it was for the explosives.

He nodded, taking in the sight of the three others.  It had been a long time since he had seen any of them, especially Nigel who he hadn’t seen since the night of shelling.  Richard nodded a second time and then gave Rennie the go ahead. “Blow it mate, for all of us, for Nigel especially.”  Nigel smiled back at him.

Rennie pressed on the remote.  The vault exploded in front of them.  Smoke cleared out quickly, like it was being sucked out into outer space, into some unseen vacuum.  The four approached the vault cautiously as the smoke filtered out and the interior became clear.  There was a treasure chest, gilded with gold, sitting in the center of the room.  A red cross marked it's top.

As they entered the room and Jeremy pulled out a gigantic golden key a deep booming noise started, sounding distant at first, and then was all around them.  The walls and ceiling started shaking as Richard and the others looked around and then at each other.

“What is this?” Jeremy asked. “Did you know about this?”

“No!” Richard replied.

“You did!  It’s your fault!”

“No!” Richard pleaded. 

Nigel fell over, grabbing at his chest, fresh blood shooting out.  The ceiling collapsed.  The sounds of explosion were all around them.  Richard felt something pressing against him, crushing him into the floor like an insect.  He expected death, an overwhelming feeling of nothingness to take him then.  Instead he kept hearing loud booming in his eardrums.

“Aaah!” he yelled as he leapt off his cot.

It took only a few seconds of looking around the disgusting old dusty room to realize it was a dream.  He shook his head, falling down on the cot again, feeling terrible. “Nigel,” he whispered to the room, and then started coughing again.  His breaths were short and raspy.  He felt smothered.

The room was quiet, but the silence lasted only a moment longer.  Something smashed against something else.  It sounded like something was being destroyed either inside the house or right outside of it.  A few more crashes followed, and then it was quiet again.

Richard laid himself down, facing the ceiling, trying to take as deep breaths as he could muster.  He wished he could see a doctor, but imagined most clinics were likely closed due to the storm.  He heard footsteps, for a second worried that someone was coming upstairs, but then he figured out that they came from beneath the floor.  It sounded like Ivan, sounded like big thick boots stomping around.

Richard, feeling too sick to sleep again, turned over and peered down the hole to Ivan’s room.  The light in the room beneath had just been turned on.  There was no sign of Ivan’s suitcase full of cash, but he did see Ivan.  Behind the landlord were lines of brown liquid, likely slush he had dragged in from outside.  Ivan grabbed hold of a bottle of clear liquid and downed it like it was water.  Richard knew it was something else, something far stronger.

Ivan gulped down half the bottle before he suddenly jerked his face up.  Richard was looking down, right into his piercing eyes. “He can’t see me,” Richard thought.

“Motherfucker!” Ivan yelled to the ceiling.

Richard flung back up, hearing the slam of a door below and then the thick boots falling on the floor, making their way to the front door and then up the stairs.

Wednesday, 16 July 2014

No Story This Week

This week there will be no chapter.  I presently have some other projects I am working on.  This upcoming chapter will be the most hard-hitting one yet.  Please stay tuned.  Catch up and read the other chapters while waiting.

Thursday, 10 July 2014


"The possession of arbitrary power has always, the world over, tended irresistibly to destroy humane sensibility, magnanimity, and truth."


November was almost done and Marty still had no job.  Richard, looking worse due to his living conditions, would meet him in the front of the house each morning.  Ivan was always gone by this time, having left before anyone else was awake.  Marty started worrying about Richard, but he knew that he had his own problems to worry about.  While his friend headed to a different part of the city each day, Marty had been busy scouring the Junction and the general High Park area.  Each day his standards lowered and he found himself going into shops and bars asking if anyone needed help.  Even his security license didn't intice anyone to hire him.

"A few more days of this and I might need to go join some amateur security company," he said to Richard one morning as they sat at a coffee shop near Keele and Dundas, a fair deal west of the house. "Those companies are terrible, no benefits or anything and they pay minimum wage, but what choice do I have?"

"You're complaning?" Richard asked with a scoff. "I can't find anything anywhere in this city, not even some stupid telemarking job.  I went into six offices yesterday, nothing!"

"I can't believe there's nothing for two able-bodied guys in this city.”

Richard shrugged, taking in the last of his coffee. “The recession, I guess.”

“Okay, well, today I'm going to St. Clair, going to go all the way to Yonge Street if I have to,” said Marty. “Tonight I'm doing some laundry at the laundromat.  Do you want me to take some of your stuff?”

Richard nodded. “Thanks, buddy, appreciate it.  When I get work I'll buy you so much beer and coffee.”  They both stood up, ready to start their hunts of the day.

“Lucky thing I got the cheque from my dad, otherwise I would have maybe one more month's rent and that's it,” said Marty, thinking back to the time when he was planning to move out, just right before he got the call that informed him that he had been fired.

“I wish I had a dad with money.”

They parted ways, planning to meet up the next morning.  Richard would be coming home well past midnight.  Ivan was asleep by then usually.  While Marty made his way under the bridge on Keele Street towards the stockyards at St. Clair his cellphone started ringing.

“Hello?” he asked.

“Hello, is this Marty Goldman?” came an unfamiliar man's voice.  Something about his tone sounded very professional, almost like it was pre-recorded.

“This is he, yes,” Marty replied, thinking it might have been Jimmy doing a prank call. “Who's this?”

“This is Dan from Imperial Dominion Bank of Toronto.”  Marty rolled his eyes.  The man continued: “We have some news regarding you bank account.  Recently you deposited a cheque for one thousand dollars from a Doctor Goldman, correct?”

“Yeah, he's my dad,” Marty replied. “I deposited it in the bank machine at the branch at the Stockyards.  I only took maybe a hundred out so far.”

“Yeah, okay, I see,” replied Dan from the bank. “The problem is the cheque didn't go through.”

Marty let out a short gasp. “Didn't go through?” he asked as a TTC bus charged down the road beside him.

“That's correct.”

“Why didn't it go through?  My dad's loaded!”

“It doesn't look like that's the case.  It may have been a problem with the cheque itself, but either way, I am afraid it cannot be processed and the hundred dollars you took out has to be reclaimed.  The money you already had has deducted the one hundred dollars.  You will have to work out with your father what to do from here.”

“This can't be right.”

“I am sorry, Mr. Goldman, but the cheque can't be processed.”

“Finally some progress,” he thought as he turned down from Dundas street onto the smaller streets leading to his house (more accurately his hiding place).  It was late, just a bit before midnight. 

He had a job interview set for the next day.  It was for a barista job at a small coffee place at Etobicoke Lakeshore, not far from the Humber College complex.  The store owner was a big man in his forties with thick glasses and a pony-tail.  He had an accent that reminded Richard of a Dutch accent, but seemed slightly different.  He figured he might have been from South Africa or Zimbabwe.  Richard knew he had impressed him with his military experience.  The man had perked up once Richard had mentioned that he served in the royal marines. 

“Come in tomorrow at this time,” he said, giving Richard a buisiness card as he placed the resume beneath the counter. “We can talk about getting you started as soon as possible tomorrow.”

As he made his way up the stairs through the side-door entrance he started to feel the fatigue that came from the day of walking.  Blisters had developed on the bottom of his feet, making each step of the the final stretch home painful.  The snow and sleet that had fallen the previous day also made the insides of his shoes wet, causing the skin on his soles to get even crustier.  With his first paycheque he planned to buy TTC tokens. 

At the top of the steps he let out a huge yawn, starting to feel more light-headed as he stumbled into the storage room.  Once he had settled down on his cot he took a peek downstairs into Ivan's room, only seeing darkness and hearing deep snoring coming from a corner.  Richard smiled, falling backwards onto his cot.  He was ready to get out of this dump for good.  All he needed was to put in some time and hard work in order to hook himself a permanent position. 

“I can't wait to have the time to write again,” he thought, looking at a ray of light that ran along the ceiling. “Tomorrow life starts again.” He closed his eyes, falling into the best sleep in weeks.


As soon as get got home he went straight to his room and fired off an e-mail to his dad.  He wrote in a single paragraph, explaining the situation and asking if another cheque could be sent.  Marty had no idea why the cheque bounced.  It made no sense to him. 

Marty mumbled to himself once he had clicked 'send', leaning back in his chair against his bedframe. “This can't be right.  He's loaded.  It's a mistake.  Must be a mistake.” He shook his head, getting up and leaving the room to go to the washroom, almost stepping on a dead cockroach as he walked through.  A day before he had put down the roach-killing paste.  It looked like it was working.
“So, that's, like, six hundred you actually have now,” he thought, calculating roughly in his head as he did his business and then washed his hands in the washroom sink. “That's with maybe a few hundred overdraft in the account, so less than a thousand, enough for another month's rent and groceries.  If I don't supplement that with another paycheque in a month I'm going to be kicked out of here.  Oh wait, that's only if Dad doesn't come through.  If I get the thousand, no problem, since it's a mistake anyway, then I got under two grand.  That's okay.  Just get a job and I'll be fine.”

“I'll be fine,” he repeated aloud, leaving the washroom and returning to his bedroom.  After he closed the door he lightly brought himself down on his bed, looking up at the ceiling, wondering if he could say the same for Richard.  Marty shrugged, realizing he should focus on his own problem. “M.Y.O.B.,” he muttered.

He laid down, thinking about Richard in the room above. “Do you really think Ivan spies on his tenants?” he asked himself, feeling completely comfortable on the mattress, his body all numb and ready to sleep. “No,” he replied to himself. “That hole must have been drilled for some other thing.  He's always doing something.” Marty was beginning to wonder if Richard had some post traumatic stress disorder from the war that made him more paranoid. 

A knock at the door shook him from his thoughts. “Yeah?” he called.

“Marty?” It was Ivan. 

Marty brought his hands to his belly, feeling sick to his stomach. “I'm going to sleep,” he said to the door.

“I need just one minute.”

“Fine,” he said, getting back off the bed, grimacing as he wondered what Ivan wanted at the late hour.  He was worried that he might ask him about Richard.  Marty planned to feign ignorance if that were the case.

“Hi,” said Ivan, jutting his grinning face through the doorway Marty had just opened. “How are you?”

“Okay,” Marty said, looking back at his bed for a second. “Sleepy.”

“Okay, I only need one minute.  Marty, it is very hard right now, you know?  There are only you, me, and the kid here now,” Ivan pointed to Nick's door behind him. “So, now they raise power and water bills to fifty percent.”

“Alright,” said Marty. “Sorry to hear that.  I'll pay you on the first of next month.”

“Right now, I don't know, Marty,” he replied, putting one of his thick, calloused hands around his own shirt's collar.  He wore a white paint-covered grey t-shirt with more than a few brownish stains. “Look,” he said. “How about you pay me tomorrow for next month?”

Marty gasped out loud at him, completely taken off guard by the question.  Ivan widened his eyes slightly. “No, sorry,” said Marty, calming his tone as best he could, wanting to sound like he emphasized with Ivan's situation.  He really didn't.  It had nothing to do with him. “But I can't do that.  I know it's hard right now, but I am out of a job, so I can't really pay anything ahead of time.  I hope you get some more tenants soon.  Goodnight.”

“Wait!” Ivan called from behind the door as Marty closed it.

Ivan,” Marty said, pulling his door back just a little to see his landlord's apprehensive,red face. “I have to go to sleep.  Goodnight.”

Ivan smiled. “Okay!” he called, and then brought a hand up to stroke his thick moustache. “You can pay me next month.  Six hundred, okay?  Thank you.”

“Six?” Marty asked, suddenly irritated. “He's kidding, right?” he asked himself. “It's five hundred.  I've paid five hundred every month and when I came here your ad said it was five hundred!”

“Yes, but I am sorry, but the bills are too much and I have no room-mates.  You are a very good person, you can understand!”

“I'm paying five hundred, Ivan,” Marty stated, using his firmest security guard voice.  He stepped forward into the kitchen, causing the landlord to take a step back.

Ivan crossed his arms, sticking out his big chest. “Six hundred.”

“No Ivan, that's not how it works.  I won't pay that.  You won't even let me use your laundry,” Marty replied.  The words started flying out of him. “I think five hundred is even too much for this place.  I don't even have a living room or anything!  This place has cockroaches and bed bugs and you haven't done anything about it!  I had to go out and buy a poison with my own money!”

“Oh, why you say that?  I made this place!  This is my own home and I say what you pay!  You pay five hundred and fifty.”

Marty backed into his room. “Ivan, this is bullshit.  I am not negotiating my rent!  I pay five hundred!”  He slammed the door on him. “Motherfucker,” he whispered to the room. 

Thursday, 3 July 2014



"Suspicion is a heavy armor and with its weight it impedes more than it protects."


“Martin Goldman report to class!” came Marty’s teacher’s voice over the comm system.  He stood at his locker, unsure of what he was supposed to bring to class.  The inside of his locker was a mess.  There was a column of textbooks that rose from the floor to about where Marty’s chest was.  On top of the books there were rows of pens, pencils, rulers and protractors. 

“What do I need?” he called out.  Students rushed past him, some short like little kids, others looked like high school students.  He thought he saw a few familiar faces from university. “Any of you know?  What do we bring?”

It was too late.  The locker was far behind him.  He was sitting in class.  The teacher was his father.  He wore a bright green sports jacket with an orange tie, walking about the aisles of students at their tiny desks, giving out the tests.  He slammed a piece of paper in front of Marty.  Marty panicked as he realized that he hadn't studied for this.

“Ah shit, this is the test,” he thought as he looked over the questions.  They didn’t make sense.  He was not quite able to make out the words themselves, only able to tell that the questions were loaded with long, complicated words.  He managed to make out one of them: Where are the tense muscles? 

“What does that mean?” he asked.

“Quiet!  Do your test!” the teacher, now a middle-aged female, yelled at him.  It was his grade one teacher.  He was a child again.

He wrote a scribbly answer with his crayon. “No, write better!” he scolded himself. “I can write better.” He continued scribbling out nonsense, trying to slow it down, carving into the paper, ripping it apart.  There was only the desk in front of him now.

 “My test is gone.  I need a new one!” he called.  The person in front of him, a dark haired girl in her early twenties, turned her head back and scowled at him.  He looked down at his desk.  The test was back.  He started filling in an answer bubble with a mechanical pencil.

“If you pass the test we can go play at recess,” Richard said, suddenly standing over his shoulder.

A hand rubbed Marty’s back.  It belonged to Nicky, the spindly boy now at his other side, smiling down at him. “We can hang out if you don’t,” he said in his usual light tone.

Marty returned him only a half-smile and went back to his test, reading the next question out loud: “Is it wrong to steal a loaf of bread to feed your starving family?”


“Sorry teacher!” he called back and starting writing his answer.  Marty knew this was the type of question that would require a long, thought-out answer.  When he started to write it only scribbling came out.  He tried again, this time slowing down his crayon.  At first it just made more scribbling, but then he curved his hand downward, making a big circle on the yellow construction paper.  The crayon became a pair of scissors.  He cut out a square, and then painted a door on it and two windows on above it.

“My house!” he called to the teacher.  Loud footfalls started shaking the classroom.  The other students seem to be able to ignore it.  They just answered the questions with their pens, completely ignoring Marty, who now sat at the back of the room, the only child in a lecture hall full of university-aged students.  The teacher, now a white, blurry dot with arms and legs grabbed hold of Marty’s collar, forcing him along an enormous hallway, his feet slowly flailing as he was pulled.  The teacher brought him to a door and knocked on it.  Behind it Marty heard a loud thundering noise, sounding like the other side was full of mechanical cogs and conveyer belts. 

The teacher then pulled out Marty’s construction paper house and shoved it at Marty’s face.  For a second he felt like he was drowning, the water pouring down his throat and bloating his lungs.  The balloons in his chest deflated as he took in his new surroundings.  He was in the kitchen.  Just before he breathed out in relief he noticed the person who was hunched over the sink to his side. 

It looked like a person at first, just a black outline of someone who was washing dishes.  Green water splashed at his sides.  When he stepped back Marty noticed he had six arms.  He held something in each of them; dishes, a sandwich, a martini and a whole frozen chicken.  With one free hairy leg he held a Cuban cigar with a red star on it.

“You’re not a person!” Marty yelled at it.  The giant cockroach turned around, staring at Marty with bulbous eyes, parting it’s mandibles like the claw of a crab as it’s piercing shriek caused the room to start shaking.

The room continued shaking, even as he woke up from the dream.

He cried out loud to the dusty room.  As he leaned up he heard the now distant sound of the train engine chugging down the line.  The room's rumbling faded with the sounds.  He glanced at the his alarm clock.  It was five in the morning.

"Not like I got a job to be at," he said, wiping beads of sweat from his brow. "Damn," he shook his head. "I hate those back in school dreams."  The anxiety that had tied his innards in knots started to unwind, his muscles going back to normal. 

He got up, for once not wanting to sleep in.  Marty knew he should be looking for work.  After seeing nothing new on the websites he checked daily, he decided to shower and shave.  As he made his way to the washroom he noticed Richard's former room, the door wide open, nothing inside save it's original furniture.  He wondered where his friend was.  He had texted him a bunch of times but got no response, probably due to Richard being behind on payments on his cellphone bill. 

Marty felt relieved, thankful that he still had enough money to keep his cellphone up and running.  He had no idea how Richard would get a call back from a resume or a job interview without a phone.

After showering and getting changed into some nice clothes Marty put on his jacket, grabbed a small joint, and headed outside.  Ivan's pick-up truck was nowhere to be seen. 

Marty stood in front of the house a moment, thinking back to Richard.  It had been a week since Ivan had kicked him out.  No one new had moved in.  Nicky, who Marty had run into the day before, seemed pretty happy about it.  Nicky confronted Marty on the cat food tin that Richard had left in one of the cupboards.  Richard had told Marty one time that he picked it up from his former job as a prank.

"I presume that there's a cat in here!" he had demanded of Marty.

"You presume wrong," Marty snickered, thinking of the times when Richard and him had made kitten noises and pretended a cat was in the kitchen when Nicky was in his room.  Marty wondered if he was channeling some of Richard's Nicky-hating energy.  The kid was pretty annoying, he found.  In the past he had always been polite to Marty and Marty was nice to him in turn, but Marty found him annoying and his superficiality made him not want to spend any of his spare time with him.

He sighed, looking over the road.  Down the cul de sac, towards Maria street, he saw everything; the road, the sidewalk, the roofs of the houses and the trees, were all covered in very thin frost.  Winter would be on Toronto in no time.  Marty saw his own breath too.  He needed better winter gear, some gloves or winter boots maybe, but until he started a new job he figured it was best to put those things off.  At the moment the only important things were rent, food and the more occasional beer and joint.  Paying for transit was taking a big chunk of his money too.  If his dad had not written that handsome cheque he knew that he would be in the same predicament as Richard.

Marty hoped that Richard wasn't on the streets.  He couldn't recall if Richard had said his ex-wife was in Toronto still.  At the same time though, even if she was, Marty had no idea if they were on good enough terms for her to let him crash at her place.  She might, he figured, have a new husband or boyfriend who wouldn't appreciate his presence. 

Marty lit up the joint.  It was early, no neighbours, even the ones with kids, were out yet.  He usually never smoked in the morning, but at the moment he just wanted some.  It would help him get through the day. 


He smiled slightly at the sight of Marty's back.  Wisps of smoke floated away from the younger man on both sides.  He wanted to surprise him so he tip-toed over behind the younger man, looking at the ground to check if his shadow was projecting in Marty's field of vision. 


Marty spit out the joint and spun around. "Richard!  You shit!  What are you doing here?"

Richard put a finger to his lips. "Not so loud."

Marty grinned, clasping Richard's free hand tightly. "What are you doing here?  Where have you been?"

Richard laughed quietly. "I've been up there," he said, turning sideways and pointing up to a window on the top floor. "There's a storage room up there that no one uses.  It's got an old cot, full of bedbugs, but it's free rent so I can't be picky."

"Wait up, you're telling me you've been living  in the house this whole time?"

Richard nodded.

"Dude, if you get caught you can be arrested for squatting!"

"Again, not so loud," Richard said, patting Marty's shoulder. "Here, come in and see."


Richard led Marty to the side door (after Marty finished his joint).  The stairs going up were just as dusty and stained as the main stairs to the kitchen on the middle floor.  They were nearly fifteen steps in all.  Richard opened a door to a hallway area and switched on a light, a single dusty bulb that hung just ahead.  There were four doors, not unlike the middle floor, although the common space was just the four foot wide, ten foot long hallway.  Down on the other end of it was a single window that’s glass was fogged over.  Beneath it was an old side table with an antique-looking rusted lamp on it. 

“These are all bedrooms?” Marty asked, looking at the closed doors.

Richard shook his head, going to the first door on the left, pushing it open.  Marty stepped over to his side and looked in.  There was a small sink next to a toilet, an old bath-tub at the far wall.  Marty had never seen a tub like this.  It was porcelain, but not part of the room like most modern bath-tubs.  Ivan must have purchased it from an antique store, or found it on the side of the road more likely.  It reminded Marty of a bath-tub he would see in an old Western or a Victorian era based film.

“How old is this house?” he asked Richard.

Richard shrugged, stepping out from the bathroom. “I don’t know.  I thought these houses were more modern than a lot of the ones over at Dundas and Annette.  Maybe it’s older.  From what I knew this place was industries before houses.”

“So weird,” said Marty, following Richard back into the stuffy hallway. “So, who lives in these rooms?”

“No one, not recently,” said the older man, leading Marty to the next door. “This one,” he said, opening it and revealing a room that was shaped almost exactly like Marty’s. “Had someone in it who moved out a few weeks ago.  The one across the same; had a guy and a girl who just moved out.”  Richard led Marty back to the front of the hallway and opened up the first door on the right. “Here’s mine.”

The room was small, almost like a tiny hallway itself, long and thin like Richard’s former room.  Marty could barely see the far wall.  There were wooden chairs piled up on both sides, two desks and a hutch along one wall and what looked like an old cabinet along the other.  On top of the cabinet were a set of stools lined up beside each other.

“You can’t see it from here,” said Richard, taking a step inside, pulling in both his arms so he could squeeze between the furniture. “But there is a small mattress on the far side on a cot.  I got all my stuff in a big bag beside it.”

“Jesus Christ,” gasped Marty. “You’re living in Guantanamo Bay.  How does Ivan not find you?”

Richard shrugged. “Since I’ve been here he hasn’t come up once.  I look out the window at the wall there and I know when he leaves and when he comes back.  That, and there's another way I can see him.  This is the thing, Marty, this used to be his room.”


Richard nodded. “I know he lived here before Jordan moved out.”

“Damn, look, Rich, you can’t go on living here, he’ll catch you eventually and call the police for squatting,” Marty said. “There’s got to be somewhere you can go?”

“Nowhere,” replied the Brit, motioning for Marty to follow him through the maze of furnishings.  Marty held his breath, feeling the dust sting his eyes as he made his way through. “My ex can’t help me and all my family is back home.”

“Move back home then?”

Richard chuckled.

“Go to a shelter?”

He laughed again. “Yeah, imagine that, me fighting bums in a shelter!”

“Okay, well, what?  You’re just going to stay here then?”

“For now,” said Richard. “I guess until I get my first paycheque, or save enough for a new place.”

“I don’t know,” said Marty with a sigh, feeling defeated. “I wish there was something I could do.”

“There isn’t,” Richard said, turning about to face him again.  Marty knew it was true.  He was in a rough spot himself and could spare nothing to his friend.  They had made it to his tiny cot.  It was tucked away beside a coffee table.  Marty saw Richard’s bulging backpack at the foot of the cot, concealed from the front door by a hutch that towered over it. “It isn’t your problem.  Don’t worry about me.”

Marty sighed again. “If Ivan catches you anywhere else in the house, tell him you are visiting me, okay?”  Richard nodded. “There is no way you can go to a church or anything, Rich?”

“No damn way,” he replied. “Never going to some religious place for shelter, ever!”

“I guess,” said Marty, feeling a sudden cold chill.  He noticed in the corner of the room near the mattress there was a large crack along the wall, starting from the bottom and snaking it's way up halfway to the ceiling.  Marty pressed his hands against it, feeling cold wind coming in from outside. “You’re going to get sick staying here.”

Richard shrugged. “I already am,” he said and Marty could hear it in his voice now.  He sounded like his nose was plugged up and his throat more raspy than usual. “But, about Ivan, if he catches me, I know shit about him.  He is a terrible landlord.  Everyone is moving out.  He’s panicking now, that’s why he is acting weirder than usual.  I see him drinking all the time when he’s here.”

“How?” asked Marty.

Richard sat down on the cot, smiled at Marty for a second and then pointed to the floor under the window sill. “Look,” he said, motioning his head. “Right under the window, look straight down.”

“What?” Marty asked, moving over toward it, getting down on his knees and looking at the floor.  The wooden floorboards looked old, somewhat rotted, creaking a bit under his weight.  Then Marty saw what Richard was referring to.  There was a tiny hole in the floor, right between where two boards met.  He leaned over more, bringing his face to it, peering down with his left eye while shutting his right.

“That hole is perfect, not just a crack or anything.  It was drilled,” he heard Richard say quietly as he took in the sight before him.  There was limited light coming in from the window down in the room below, but Marty saw it, the bed with the now-closed suitcase, the one Marty had seen a week before with money filled in it.  It was Ivan’s bedroom, where Jordan had lived before.

“Oh my God,” he gulped.

“Ivan spies on his tenants.”