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.

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