"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.
“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.
“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.