Sunday, 3 August 2014


"The path of least resistance is the path of the loser."


“Ivan?” he called as he saw his landlord storm out of the front door and charged about to the side of the house.  Marty picked up his pace to a jog as he followed him. “Ivan?  What’s going on?”

The charging homeowner turned around and gave a short wave to Marty. “Stay!” and then tore into the door on the side of the house.

“Don't talk to me like a dog,” Marty muttered, sucking his teeth. 

When he got inside the kitchen he noticed the skin on his hands was bright red, all his fingers barely movable, making it impossible to curl them all down in a fist.  He had to get gloves and a warmer jacket.  The winter had literally exploded onto the city.  Marty wished that he had a television to keep a better eye on the weather ahead of time.  He had downloaded an app on his phone, but his service was cut shortly after.  He went to the kitchen sink, leaning over to look out a completely snowed over window. 

He went into his room and flicked on the radio clock. “They're calling it the ice storm of a century and it's covered all of the Greater Toronto Area in a thick layer of ice and snow...” The broadcast seemed to fade away as Marty stepped back out and narrowed his focus on the briefcase on the kitchen table. 

“What the hell?” he asked aloud, confused as to why he hadn’t noticed it when he first came inside.  The sudden thought of Ivan’s bills made him run to it and rip it open. 

There was no money though.  A little marble rolled down the inside as he tilted the case slightly.  There was also an eraser and what looked like a perfectly round ball of bubble gum.  Marty saw two tiny brown spots too.  When he poked one it uncoiled into a cockroach.

He shouted as he backed away, dropping the case back on the table.  The other spot woke up and both of them scattered out of sight.  A third one slid out from beneath the briefcase. “Ah, fuck this place!”  He kicked the nearest chair as hard he could, sending it banging against the table.

The ceiling erupted in loud thumping.  Marty shot his head up.

“Idiot!” he spat out to the room.


“Get out of my house!”

Richard fell back against the wall, reaching out with both hands.  He tried to yell at Ivan to stop pushing him, but only hot wheezes came out of his throat.  His feet felt wobbly, like his knees had turned to jelly, making him fall over to his side.

“Why do you come back here?  You don't pay me anything for three months!” Ivan yelled, leaning over him.

Even though Richard's nasal passages were plugged he could feel the sting of alcohol on the skin on his face.  One ear went quiet as Richard slid away, just barely able to stand again, down the hallway toward the stairs to the side exit. 

Ivan, still shouting, came after him, his words not reaching him, everything sounding like he was underwater.  Reaching the stairs, he flung himself against the rail, glancing back at Ivan as he screamed down at him and raised his arms.  The Englishman tore down the stairs, his feet feeling rubbery and bendy each time they hit the hard steps.

“Richard!” Marty's voice shot out from one of his sides when he got out into fresh air.  Richard spun about, seeing his friend at the front corner of the house. He tried to call back to Marty, but his voice was gone.  His throat could only breathe, nothing else.  Ivan charged through the door as Richard ran towards his friend. “Marty!  Run!” he wanted to scream at him as they met.

“You are assholes!” Ivan shouted from the door. “Both of you!  Richard, you leave or I will the police!  Marty, you knew he was here!  You hided him from me!”

“No!” Marty shouted, his eyebrows arching and eyes widening while his face turned pinkish. “That's bullshit!  I had nothing to do with anything!”

“You knew!” Ivan snapped back, pointing an accusatory finger at him, his deep voice booming as he came outside, his bare feet, swollen with blisters and dry cracked skin, on the snow. “You knew and you not tell me!  And you won't pay me!  And you smoke drugs on my property!”

Richard cleared his throat.      

“I have bedbugs and there are roaches everywhere and you didn't do shit!  You are a completely slob!” Marty shouted back.


“Yeah!” Marty yelled, running over to him. “You are a slob, Ivan!  Everyone knows it and everyone complains about it, not just me!  You leave food out and you never clean up and we have to live in it!  And you think you can charge me more?  You're a terrible landlord!”

Richard cleared him throat again, trying to get the words out to tell Marty to back off.

“I make this house myself!  I make it all!  This is my house!” Ivan protested. “I have no family here, only me and this house!”

“Well, it's not my house for much longer!  If it wasn't for the greenhouse I never would've stayed anyway.”

Ivan shook his head, muttering some words in his language.  Richard walked over, getting some feeling back into his legs.  The landlord looked over at him, and then back at Marty before turning about to go to the backyard.

“What?  What is it, Ivan?” Marty called after him. 

“Wait,” Richard said, his throat feeling burnt already at one syllable.  Marty took off after Ivan.  Richard struggled to get another word out. “Stop.”

Marty turned back. “What is it?”

Richard shook his head, not able to get anything else out.  The fire was back in his throat.  He leaned himself against the wall of the house.  Marty went after Ivan, who had just opened up the fence to the yard.  To Richard it was making sense now, what the loud crashing noises were earlier, when he was inside. 

Marty screamed. 

Richard expected it, bringing himself back onto both feet and slowly waddled over through the alley, each step making him feel more like an old man.  He turned into the yard, slamming the fence gate shut behind him with the little strength he had left.  The sight in front of him was unreal. 

Thick snowflakes fell around everywhere, the scene giving Richard the surreal sense that he was standing in a giant snow-globe.  Marty had both hands on his head, tearing at his hair.  Ivan was standing to his right, both arms crossed, leaning against the wall beside the window well.  At Marty's feet his greenhouse lay in uncountable pieces.

It looked like a car accident.  Glass shards were littered on top of the two separate piles of metal door frames while clear shower curtain covered half of the destroyed structure, pots (in pieces themselves), dirty and ripped up plant bits were scattered about the wreckage.  Lying at out near Marty's side was a wooden baseball bat.

Richard watched Marty's face as it went from a soft pink a deep red.  For some time he just gawked at the sight in front of him, his face frozen in a blended expression of rage and shock. 

“Why?” Richard asked in a weak whisper.  No one heard.  He meekly averted his face from both of them. “Shit will fly,” he thought as he gazed ahead at a pile of big cinder blocks.  There were four of them, all standing on top of another like a concrete totem pole.

Richard looked back at the two challengers.  Marty now had shut his mouth, slowly turning his enraged glare to Ivan.  Richard took a step forward, unsure of what to do. “Marty, don't!” he wanted to yell.

“I tell you not to smoke here,” said Ivan, pulling out a metal flask from the pocket in his stained jeans. “What kind of man has a problem with drugs?  Not man, but boy! Boy like you, boy who can't pay.  I give you all a home!  I do all this work!  And what do I get?  I get niggers and you cheap Goldman people who never pay anyone!”

When Marty swung, smashing his fist against Ivan's jaw, Richard's heart started thumping wildly. 

Ivan fell back, the cask that he was about to drink flying out of his hands, landing over in the snow bank near the metal wall. Marty brought both of his fists to his sides, standing in place.            

“You fuck!” Ivan spat.

“Never talk to me like that,” said Marty slowly, pausing between each word.

Ivan reached for his lip, looking down at the blood on his fingers.  Richard smiled.  Ivan started frantically shaking his head. “You piece of shit--” he was cut off when Marty shoved him with his shoulder, flinging his whole body against him like a football player.

This time their landlord lost his balance totally.  His feet flung up from under him as he fell.  Ivan yelled “fuck!” and some Russian curse-words, flinging over, falling down the window well, his arms hoisted above him grasping wildly.

Richard grimaced as he heard a thud and a cracking sound.


Marty Goldman stood over the edge of the window well, staring down at Ivan's limp body.  His eyes were shut, his mouth contorted into a grimace of pain.

“Oh shit, oh shit,” he stammered, his rage and pleasure turning to pure panic. “Ivan!” he yelled, falling to his knees. “Are you okay?”

“I killed him!” he cried out in his mind.

Ivan groaned, his left eye flickering slightly.

A spasm of relief surged through Marty’s body. “You're alive!” he shouted down at him. “ Yes!  Okay, Ivan, shit—I'm sorry!  Okay?  I’m sorry!  I didn't mean to push you in!” he cried, quickly laying his chest on the well's lip as he lied through his own lips. “Here!” he called, reaching down with both hands, still a couple of feet too far from him.

Ivan opened his eyes, grimacing as he leaned up, clearly in pain as he moved.  He looked up at Marty's hands.  Blood streamed down his chin.

“Ivan, I'm sorry!” Marty called. “Look, just...let's just forget this happened, okay?  Richard will leave and I will leave and then it will be over.  Please.”

His landlord grunted, wiping his mouth again, looking at the blood on his fingers and then glared up at Marty.  For a second he looked scared, and then his bushy eyebrows turned downward and Marty knew that he was not going to let it go.

“You are going to jail!  Both of you!”

Marty felt hot tears well up in his eyes, his vision blurring up.  He wanted to scream, but instead he stood up and backed away from the window well, suddenly wanting to run.  He could go to Dundas Street, run down by the old Victorian houses south of it, then run all the way to Bloor and hop on a subway.  From there he could go to Kipling Station in the far West, then get on a bus to Mississauga and go west to Windsor, or he could go all the way east on the Bloor subway line and end up in Scarborough, and take a GO Train out to Montreal.

“Let me up!  Let me up!  I can't get up, you fucking shit!”

Anywhere is better than here,” Marty figured as the distant whistle of a train rang out on the other side of the north wall.

“Help me!” Ivan yelled again, some shuffling noise coming from the bottom of the window well. 

The whole yard started shaking.  Marty felt something hard rub against the back of his right hand.  He turned about, seeing it was a cinder block held by Richard, who was leaned over like a hunchback by the weight of the object in his hands.

Marty started asking him what he was doing.  The train blocked out his voice.  For a moment they just looked at each other like a pair of confused tomcats.

“Help!” he heard Ivan cry out again once the train started fading away into the west.

“Go for it, Nigel,” Richard said, gazing down at what was in his hands.

Marty, without thinking, bent over, grabbing a side of the cinder block, lifting it up while Richard took a step back, now holding up the cinder block by the opposite side of Marty rather than its middle.  The block was heavy, but the two of them managed to haul it over to the window well.

Ivan shouted out at them when they looked over.  He was still sprawled out on the floor, his left leg looking broken.  Their landlord reached up for them, only able to lift his upper body a half a foot or so off the pebbled floor.

“Help me,” he said as he eyed the two looking down at him. “Now!  Get me out of here, motherfuckers!”

Richard and Marty exchanged looks.  Marty swallowed hard, staring blankly at the middle-aged man's equally expressionless face.  They looked down at the cinder block at the same time, swinging it back once before heaving it off the side of the edge, sending it plunging down onto Ivan’s shrieking face.

His head and upper body slammed against the floor, the crack of his skull echoing as the train's horn sounded in the distance.

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