Thursday, 25 September 2014


"Men can starve from a lack of self-realization
 as much as they can from a lack of bread."


"I realize I did nothing for Christmas this year," he told Jimmy.  Of course the reason why he did nothing was because this was the first Christmas where he had to come to terms with the fact that he had killed his landlord.  He had not told Jimmy that.  He didn't dare tell him.  Jimmy was his friend, but he felt it was best that the secret stay between him and his co-conspirator.  He still had not seen Richard in weeks and it was already January 2014.

"Ah shitty," Jimmy said. "I didn't really do anything either."

"Do you usually do anything?" Marty asked, leaning back on the chair.  They sat in Jimmy's common space in his place in North York.  Spades slept on the couch across from their two chairs.

"Used to," said Jimmy, pulling out his cellphone from his pocket.  He read the screen. "Ah shit, the guy flopped."

"Ah great, so we got all our shit finally and all those drinks back home, but no weed," Marty moaned.  He was only at Jimmy's to pick up.  Nothing else could bring him to North York since his father had moved out.  He had no pot connection in the Junction.  Once or twice he smelt it as he went through some of the back streets near Maria Street, but most of the people smoking it were teenagers.  Marty would never feel right, being a man of almost thirty, going up to people of High School age and asking for weed.

"Wait up, I got one more contact," said Jimmy, pressing the keys in with his thumb on his phone. "We'll get some weed." The doorbell rang. "Pizza," said Jimmy.

"No munchies," Marty lamented as he got up, feeling the twenty dollar bill in his pocket.  Within seconds they had the pizza box sprawled open on the coffee table.

"Okay," said Jimmy, licking his lips. "I just texted another guy named Snizzle."

Spades stirred on the couch, either from the fresh smell of the pizza filling the room or the talk of weed...or both. "Don't pick up from that kid," he muttered, leaning up, rubbing his eyes.

Marty's stomach tightened at the sight of him. "Want a slice?" he asked. Spades shook his head.  Marty and Jimmy dug in.  Marty had the feeling he would enjoy the pizza even more if he had smoked first.  It had actually been a few days since he smoked anything, which was rare for him.  The weed sometimes made him feel anxious, making him half expect to see a fleet of police cruisers outside his window as of late. 

Spades stared at Marty as he and Jimmy ate.  His face looked expressionless, not a smile or a frown, just a blank look.  It looked as if he were surprised or confused by Marty's offer of free food.  It made Marty uncomfortable.  As he reached in for his second slice Spades stretched his legs in front of him and reached into his pant pocket, grabbing out a huge joint, one of the biggest he had ever seen.

"Damn, look," Marty said to Jimmy. "Spades has got some trees."

Jimmy nodded, chewing, a string of cheese hanging from the side of his mouth.

"Yo Spades, can we have a couple drags of that?" Marty asked next.

"You high?" Spades scoffed, lighting up the end of it and breathing in.

Marty looked at Jimmy, shaking his head. "No, that's the problem."

"You want weed?  I got some.  How much you want?"

Marty reached into his pocket and pulled out a fifty. "This much."

Spades eyes widened, breaking his blank face. "Alright," he said after a few seconds. "Give me twenty minutes, pay me when I get back."  With that he stood up and left the room, leaving a trail of marijuana smoke after him like a gaseous tail.

Jimmy smiled. "He's got some good stuff."

"Why didn't you tell me he had some for sale?"

He shrugged. "He's been sleeping for almost two days now."

About an hour later Spades came back inside, tossing his thick jacket on the couch.  By now the pizza was gone, a moist stain all that was left of it on the cardboard box.  Marty placed the red fifty dollar bill beside the pizza box and Spades reached into his pant pocket and pulled out a large, sandwich-sized zip lock bag full of kush weed.  He threw it in the middle of the pizza box, grabbed the fifty, and then fell onto his back on the couch in one swift move.

"Thanks," said Marty, grabbing the back to inspect the prize.  It was a deep forest green mostly, with some red and gold bits on some of the tiny leaves.  When Marty peered carefully he could see the leaves were covered in a layer of tiny white crystals.

"Ah shit!" stammered Jimmy, grabbing the bag next. "Merry Christmas, Marty!"

 "Merry Christmas."

  "Ain't you Jewish?" asked Spades, breaking the moment.

"Part, used to do Christnukkah when I was a kid, but not lately."

Spades nodded, pulling out the original joint, now half done and taking in a big tote.  When he breathed it back out he looked at Marty, once more with that blank stare that made him uncomfortable. "Yeah, Jews run the shit, don't they?  What's your last name?"


He laughed. "Yeah, Jewish.  Yo, there's old ties between the Rothschilds and the Illuminati, you know that?"

"Ah shit," Marty muttered in his mind. "One of those, another conspiracy nut; has political views at least, even if they're pseudo-bullshit.  I guess he read some websites or saw some videos on youtube and now thinks he's an expert on how the world works."

"The Illuminati runs everything," Spades declared, taking in another big drag, the red end of the joint running almost up to his fingers now.

 "Illuminati was an enlightenment era group," stated Marty. "They were only a secret group because the Bavarian Monarchy opposed their ideals, which were not ruling the world like the conspiracy theories go, but rather they wanted to spread education and more equality, acting as a bulwark against arbitrary monarchical and clerical powers."

"What the fuck is that?" Spades said.

"What?  I'm telling you, this was a group founded in the late seventeen-hundreds.  They were revolutionaries, anti-monarchists, not some secret cabal that ruled the world."

"Yo, why's this man talking to me like I'm some school kid?" Spades asked Jimmy.

Jimmy said nothing back.

"I'm just saying, man," said Marty.

Spades leaned back on the couch, bringing his legs over and resting his feet on the opposite end from his head. "That's some wicked shit, the illuminati."

"Let's roll," Marty said to Jimmy. "We got our high def screen and our playstation back at my place.  Let's smoke some, drink some, and have some nice belated Christmas celebration."

First they played a shooting game online.  Marty played on the high definition television on the left while Jimmy played on the identical screen to the right  Each of them sat on newly bought office chairs, the most comfortable ones they could pick out.  They also had two headsets and microphones.  Marty’s first kill brought a high-pitched squeel from some German kid.  He had cornered him at the end of an alleyway off a street that looked like Baghdad’s.

“Ah fuck!  Fuck—fuck!” yelled Jimmy, backing up frantically from a knife-wielding opponent at the other side of the virtual arena.  Once his avatar was dead he grabbed his next beer.  They had a twenty-four pack on the floor between them.

They were in the room that Richard had once been hiding in, the one full of old furniture at that time.  Jimmy and Marty had sold most of the stuff, all except a rotted old desk that they stored behind the two T.V.s.  Behind the screens there were also some old appliances; a toaster, a wood varnished seventies era stereo stand and what looked to be the very first model of microwave oven.  

“Fuck this game,” Jimmy said after he died for the tenth time. “Fuck Europe,” he said in the mic. “Let’s play a racer?”

Marty nodded and laughed, grabbing another beer and downing half of it at once. “I never knew I was good at shooting games.”

“Whatever,” he said, realizing that Marty had no intention of changing the game himself.  Jimmy got up to change it.  They had one actual system, but had found a technique to plug it into two screens.

“I guess I’m good at killing things,” Marty sneered, not thinking before saying it.

 Jimmy switched the games.  Some unrecognized logos flashed on the screens. “I’ll pick the network,” said his friend as he leaned back into his chair. 

“What’s up with Spades?” Marty asked, breaking the silence of the loading screen.

“What you mean?”

“He’s fucked, isn’t he?”

 “He’s alright,” Jimmy said with his usual shrug.

 “Like, he wouldn’t share weed with us, and when I offered him pizza he looked at me all weird, like no one ever offered him anything before,” Marty explained. “What’s up with that?  He never shares?  If you got weed and you’re chilling with people you should share it.  It’s just plain manners.”

“He’s broke I guess,” Jimmy reasoned as the online connection image came on.

“Then why did he not want free food?  It’s like he would think he owed me if I gave him any.  That guy is so messed up, man.”

“He’s okay,” Jimmy repeated, selecting their network and then the track.  They played for a few hours more, finishing the last beers as the last lights of the afternoon in the window gave way to a dark, wintery evening.  Marty stood up on wobbly legs after their last race.  They had barely made it passed the first lap they were so drunk, crashing into each other at one point.  Marty’s car spun out as someone yelled at him in Spanish.  Jimmy yelled back.

“Yo, want to smoke something?” he asked as he made his way to the hall.

“Hmm?  I don’t think I can move, bro.”

Marty made his way downstairs, gripping the rail tightly as he made his way out the side door and into the night.  He nearly slipped at first, but then managed to catch his balance and hobble over to the front of the house.  Marty took a quick glance at the street.  There were cars parked along the sides under a rapidly blackening sky.  As he turned into the front door he thought he caught what looked like Northern lights over the stockyards across the railroad. 

“It couldn’t be,” he thought as he trudged up the stairs inside. “We’re not north enough for that, and you could never see them here in Toronto with all our city lights!”

Marty stumbled into the kitchen space, humming loudly a drunken rendition of King Wenceslas:

            “Good King Wenceslas first looked out,

            On the feast of Stephen!”

He got out a bottle of red wine from the cupboard.

            “When the snow was all about,

            Nice and crisp and even!”

Marty got out two glasses next and poured them both.

            “Brightly glowed that moon then night,

            And his peeps were cool!     

            Running about, left and right, running out of fuel!

            Some peasant said ‘Bring me wine and food!’”

The door across from the table flung open as Marty sat down with his two glasses.  A familiar, yet lately seldom seen face poked out. 

“Richard!” he called, raising a glass. “Where’ve you been keeping your bald ass lately?”

“Shh!” Richard snapped, raising a finger to his lips. “I’m on a roll in here!  Stop singing!  It’s not Christmas!  Shh!”

 “You know King Wenceslas was a counter-revolutionary, eh Rich?  A real reactionary monarch if you ask me.  He helped a peasant the day after Christmas, but all the rest of the time he did nothing since it wasn’t a holy day!  I mean, really, feeding a peasant and giving him wine and firewood is a good deed, but he is not implementing any long lasting change to ameliorate existing inequalities in his kingdom.  I mean the fact that the peasant was freezing and starving is in itself an indictment of the king’s mistreatment of the commons!”

“I am on a roll here!  Don’t kill the moment!” the bald headed face replied, starting to look flush.

“I’ve missed you, Richard!” Marty declared, standing up and raising his glass higher. “Come have a glass with me!”

Richard grunted and slammed the door shut, disappearing back into his self-imposed isolation.

“What the hell is wrong with him?” Marty asked the room.  He poured another glass for himself, and then drank the other one that he had originally intended for Jimmy. 

Marty returned to Jimmy on the second floor, passing by another room that was empty of its contents.   Standing over his friend he glared at the two monitors.  Images of flashy cars racing down asphalt played in a loop. 

“Anything I want can be mine,” he said.  Jimmy mumbled a reply, shuffling slightly in his chair with his eyes shut and headed leaning back. “Come smoke a j with me,” Marty said as he shook his friend by the shoulder. 

“What if I told you we could get some new stuff to sell,” Marty told him as he lit the joint outside. 

 Jimmy rubbed his eyes. “Yo, I want to sleep after this.”

“Yeah sure,” said Marty. “Same.  I got an idea though, man,” he started explaining as he reached into his pocket.  For a second he thought he might have forgotten it inside, but then his fingers ran along the familiar metal.  He pulled out the key and showed it to Jimmy with one hand, while he handed him the j in the other.

“What’s this?” Jimmy asked as he took the joint and brought it to his mouth.

“The master key.  This opens every door at my old work.  Unless they’ve made some changes to the lock this should get us into anywhere, including this asshole named Harvey Franco’s luxury condo mansion on the top floor.”

The joint fell out of Jimmy’s mouth and landed in snow.  Marty laughed. 


Friday, 19 September 2014



"Conscience is a man's compass."


The woman leaned on the counter, looking over the typewriter, her one good eye on the blank, unlabeled keys; her other, the lazy one, looked to be on Marty the whole time, making him feel apprehensive, as if she somehow knew he had stolen the item.  At his feet were other antiques that he had already showed to the store owner, other things he had found in Ivan's basement storage space; a black-painted wooden stool with three legs, a brass desk lamp, a fireplace poker, and a small, porcelain horse figure that Marty could carry in one hand.

Jimmy had come over earlier in the day and the two of them had started scouring the house for antiques. Marty came up with the idea a few nights earlier when he was on his way to bringing some tea down for Tony and found himself staring at the stuff in storage. Some of the stuff looked very valuable. 

“You had all this stuff the whole time and didn't sell it?” Jimmy asked once Marty took him down that morning.     

“I don't go around selling other people's stuff,” Marty said, taking his finger off the light switch and making his way to his friend's side.

“And now? Now that your landlord has gone back to Russia you're going to sell it?”
Marty nodded. “By the time he's back I'll be gone. He only has my phone number, no other info, and if he calls I'll tell him it wasn't me.” 

Most of his friends would have carried on by questioning his morals, but not Jimmy. Jimmy was a thief himself sometimes. Whenever he got fired from a job, usually a restaurant job, he would take a bottle of rum or vodka as a parting gift. The people he worked for never called the police because Jimmy almost always had dirt on them, usually involving hiring illegal workers, or the manager's drinking on the job.  One time he caught a chef coking up in the employee washroom.

“There's a lot of money in this,” Jimmy said instead, taking in the sights around them. There were mattresses lined up against the wall, mannequins randomly strewn about (the few that had not been dropped to cover Ivan's body), but there were also valuable things, authentic antiques.

“God knows where my landlord got them from,” noted Marty. “Maybe it's Russian, some of the stuff. I don't know, the Junction's known for it's antique culture so it could be from anywhere.”
Jimmy nodded. “I'm no expert,” he laughed. “I only know old movies.” He went over to a small dresser, squeezing himself between two desks. On the dresser was an old clock, gold coloured, but unlikely real gold. He ran a finger over the frame. “Damn, this has got to be worth something.”

“There's plenty more upstairs,” said Marty. “I'm looking to clear one of the rooms out, maybe make a living room or something.”
 Jimmy looked back to him and smiled. “Now we're talking. You can get a real nice crib. Buy a big T.V., maybe a high-def thirty-six incher, a blue-ray player. Man, even buy two of them maybe so we can play online.”

Marty nodded. “That's the plan,” he said, feeling excited at the prospect. “We can go over to the stockyards right after and buy everything.”
Jimmy smiled, flashing a goofy grin. “Sounds great,” he said, lifting up the clock in both hands.          
“Where do we go first?”
“The Junction has plenty of antique shops,” Marty replied, moving in through the aisle between the desks, taking the clock from Jimmy. It was not very heavy, more evidence that it was not real gold. “How about we go in a few minutes, take whatever we can, start with the smaller stuff to see how it goes. You take some stuff and go on the south side of Dundas and I'll take the north? Then we sell as much as we can. If you think the deal isn't good, go somewhere else to get a second quote.”
“Okay, sounds about right,” said Jimmy. “How we splitting the money?”
Marty put the clock down on the nearest desk. “Well, how about this? We each get what we sell, but we put half of what we sell into a pool for things to buy in this house. You can come over any time and use the stuff.”

They clasped hands. “Now let's go upstairs and I'll show you the rest.”

As they walked out back out into the basement hallway Jimmy pointed out a chest on the floor near the archway to the stairs.  An old dust encrusted typewriter sat on top of it. Marty picked it up and placed it on the floor. The two of them then went for the chest, grabbing opposite sides of the lid. It felt heavier than it looked, causing both of them to grunt as they flipped the top open. Inside it was filled with quilts. A pungent, almost sour odour, reached their nostrils, causing Marty to cover his mouth and cough a bit as he breathed in stinky air.

“Ah, yuck!” cried Jimmy, taking a step back. “What the hell is that?” 

“Must've been in here for ages,” said Marty, leaning over cautiously and reaching for the quilts on the top, a deep crimson one and a white one. They felt soft and dry. Underneath were four blankets, folded perfectly into squares. “You think these are antiques?” he asked, pulling the first blanket up and out of the chest.

“If the smell indicates age, then maybe,” Jimmy answered. “What is this chest?"
Marty, placed the quilts and blankets back inside and reached to shut the lid. With a single tap of his fingers it slammed shut, sending more dust into the air, making his eyes sting again.
"I could fit in,” said Jimmy.
Marty thought of Ivan and sighed.
The old lady brought a magnifying glass to her good eye. “This typewriter looks Soviet,” she said in a voice that sounded stern and commanding for such a petite and frail looking person. “Probably about the sixties."

“Wow,” Marty said. “So how much we looking at for it?”
The antique dealer took another look at the item, turning it over to examine the bottom closer.         
“Hmm...hard to say,” she said. “These were mass produced so it's not quite the same if you brought in something from the Czarist era.”

Marty nodded. “A revolutionary may have written on it?"
 The old lady laughed. "Or a bureaucrat." 

Marty was glad to be around someone who got his jokes for once. He hadn't seen Richard for what seemed like ages.
 “I can give you three hundred for it,” she finally said after setting it down on the counter in front of her.
“Three? I'd think it was worth at least five,” Marty insisted, feeling a cool breeze beating down on him from one of her Edwardian ceiling fans above. “I mean, sure it comes from a society that didn't value money, but it's old, isn't it?”
She laughed again. “It's oldish, but younger than most things in here, including me. I'm sure many collectors would want to own it, but I wouldn't sell it for much more.”
“Okay,” Marty said. “Three-fifty let's call it?”

“The most I can do is three-twenty-five,” she replied.
Marty sighed, trying not to be too obvious in his disappointment. “Okay, well, how much is this in total then?”

“The stool is seventy-five, the horse fifty, the lamp and poker each fifty,” she said, opening up her old fashioned cash register with a 'ding'. She started pulling out the bills. Marty thought for a second of grabbing the bills from her, and then grabbing the cash register and running. He shook the thoughts from his head. “So, that's five-fifty.”
"Not bad,” Marty thought. “That's a week's worth.”

He knew there were a few more things in the house he and Jimmy could probably sell. He smiled as the woman handed him his cash. “Thanks!”
Once outside he stuffed the bills in his pocket. “There could be thousands of dollars worth of stuff in that house,” he said under his breath, noticing Jimmy coming out from the antique store across the street. They waved at one another.
“How much?” Jimmy asked as he came to Marty's side from the busy street.

“Five hundred and fifty,” he replied, not masking his grin. “How about you?”

“Six bills,” said Jimmy.

“You bastard.”

      “Damn Marty, since when could you hustle like this?” Jimmy asked as he flipped through his share of the money.
      Marty shrugged.  He moved his pawn, the second move of the game. They sat in the kitchen, an old wooden chess board between them. The pieces were white and red (instead of black). Marty naturally played as red. “I wonder if this chess set is early twentieth century Russian?”
 “I don't know,” said Jimmy, moving out a knight in response.
 “White versus red,” Marty muttered, unsure if Jimmy knew what he was referencing.
 “When is your landlord getting back?”
Marty's stomach knotted. He wondered how long he could keep it from Jimmy. 

Every day since the incident Marty half-expected to wake up to the sound of police sirens.  Instead he woke to the usual sound of a train rushing by outside his window mixed with the screeches of seagulls across from the stockyards. He figured that if no one had come by now then no one was coming. Ivan's disappearance was not even known. Every day Marty tuned in to the evening news on his radio and had heard no mention of him. 

Could he trust Jimmy enough to tell him?
“I'm not sure,” said Marty. “He told us around July and expects us to have our rent ready by then for the past few months. Yeah right, eh? I'll be gone by April.”
Jimmy chuckled. “Nice one.”
Marty looked at the board, choosing to move another pawn two squares forward. He would play conservatively, letting his friend bring out his big players early so he could concoct a trap for them.
 “So what was your other plan?” Jimmy asked after Marty's turn.
“You said you had another plan,” his friend replied, bringing out his other horse onto the board. “Last night when you came in you told me you had two potential plans for making some money, remember?”
“Oh yeah,” replied Marty, thinking back to the night before. 

He had gone up to Jimmy's place, back to the old neighbourhood he hated. When he had entered the house he saw someone sleeping on Jimmy's couch. It was Spades, the first time he had seen him in months.
“What's he doing here?” he asked Jimmy when he had come out from the washroom.
Jimmy shrugged. “He's crashing here again.”
Marty figured the police were after him. For a second he considered going home. If Jimmy was hanging out with types like Spades again, then he was exposing himself to potential danger and attracting eyes. The last thing Marty wanted was for the police to be watching anyone near him. Once Jimmy rolled up a joint and they started smoking in the living room he changed his mind.
“Thanks,” said Marty after taking his first drag. “Yo, so I got two ideas right now, two potential ideas for making some money. One of the ideas I think we can do for sure, the other one I'm still thinking about.”
“Oh yeah?” Jimmy had asked. “What, you want to start chopping weed now? You know there's not a lot of money in that. We can probably get something else.”
“Are you doing that?” Marty asked, suddenly feeling hesitant again.
Jimmy shook his head. “What are your ideas?”
Spades stirred on the sofa, probably due to the smell of the weed. Marty then explained to Jimmy the situation with his landlord (not the real situation of course, but the 'vacation') and his plan to sell off his antiques.  By the time he finished Spades was awake, looking groggy as he seated himself up on the couch.
“What's up?” Marty asked, pretending he was glad to see him.
Spades looked at him for a second and Marty wondered if he had forgotten him already. After a few seconds he nodded back. “Where the freaks at?” he asked Jimmy.
Jimmy shrugged.  Marty felt the key in his pocket and decided not to mention the other plan, at least not yet.
“So, what was the other plan?” Jimmy asked again, leaning over the chessboard. “It's your turn by the way.”

Marty moved out his queen from between two pawns. “Oh, the other plan? I'm not so sure it's such a good plan. Let's just see how much money we make doing this first then maybe next week I can tell you.”
“Come on, man.  Tell me what it was.”
 Marty shook his head. “Your turn.”

“Thanks!” said Tony, digging into his dinner. Marty had ordered an extra large pizza and had brought down some slices for him.
“No problem buddy,” said Marty. “Me and my boy just bought a high-def T.V., a Playstation 4, these huge bass speakers, and a blue-ray player. We're turning one of the empty rooms upstairs into a bit of a playroom.”
“Ah very nice,” said Tony. Marty wondered if it was in bad taste to mention this to a blind man. It felt like bragging about a flashing light machine to an epileptic.
“Anything you want? Maybe a radio or some audiobooks?”
Tony shook his head. “No thank you. I'm okay here. I got a radio  and a T.V. already and that's all I need.”
“Alright,” said Marty. “Well, just let me know. I'm really thinking you should probably get going out of this place still. Have you looked at all for another place yet?” Marty grimaced as he realized he used a poor choice of words again.

“No,” said Tony softly. “I'm good, thanks.”
Marty sighed. He really felt it would be better if Tony left, especially if Marty went ahead with his plans. He felt the key in his pocket again, still unsure if he should tell Jimmy about it.
“I'm making a new character for a campaign,” Tony said, finishing up the first slice of pizza.

“Oh yeah? When do you play?
Tony paused for a second, looking to be thinking it over. “It's been over a year.”
“Oh yeah? Why are you working on a character then?” he asked.
“Oh, I like it, it passes the time. I don't even know if I'll ever play this character. He's a thief, a human. I've never played a thief before. I can't decide on his alignment.”

“Oh really?” Marty asked, thinking over the irony of Tony's choice. “What alignment can a thief be?”
“Well, maybe anything not lawful good. He can be chaotic or neutral good.”
Marty snickered. “How can a thief be good?”
“Robin Hood.”
“Oh, I thought he was a ranger technically?”
Tony nodded. “I guess, but a thief who steals from the rich and gives to the poor can be chaotic good. A thief who steals to survive, but has a good heart and doesn't hurt people if it's not needed, at least not innocent people, can be a good thief. Of course, a thief who steals only to enrich himself is evil.”

Marty felt his fingers tense up around the key in his pocket. “How about a thief who steals because he's been pushed around by others all his life; one who steals out of revenge, and as a means of stealing instead of working his ass off for peanuts?”
Tony turned around in his chair, poised to look at Marty if he had sight. “Oh? I guess that could be a chaotic good thief, or a neutral thief. He could only be good really though, if he has redeeming qualities. If he gave the money to an orphanage, for example, or taught a starving village how to hunt and plant crops. He would have to do something else to make up for his ways.”
Marty nodded, standing up, still averting his eyes from the window even though the room was dark. Only Tony's desk-lamp provided any light.

“If there is anything I can do for you, let me know,” he finally said, turning about the leave.

Thursday, 11 September 2014


"Crime is a product of social excess." - Vladmir Lenin

"How old are you?  Wait, let me guess," the blind man said after Marty brought him his food. "Twenty...twenty something."

"Yeah, you're warm."

"Why, thank you!" Tony said with a grin. "You're, hmm, maybe twenty-five?"

"Well, thank you," replied Marty. "I'm twenty-seven, almost twenty-eight."

Tony smiled. "What do you do?"

"Like work?  I was a security guard for a while, just to make money.  Now I got no job.  Ideally I'd like to write for a living, but that's easier said that done."

“I never wrote anything, not fiction anyway.  I just read it a lot, especially fantasy and some science fiction,” said Tony.
Marty nodded, glad to hear he had something in common with his newest housemate. “I like science fiction, used to like fantasy a lot more when I was a teenager."
The blind man smiled as he leaned back on his chair. “I used to play Dungeons and Dragons.  I was a player mostly in the eighties, had two characters in a long campaign, a dwarf fighter and a half-elf mage.”
“I played a bit.  I think my generation kind of skipped that, those geeky ones of us.  Video games kind of took over in any genre.  It was just my buddy in his basement when we played.  We had to be the only teenagers west of Bathurst who played.  Everyone else was playing basketball or soccer all the time.”
“West of Bathurst?” Tony asked, facing Marty but staring into space as blind people almost always did when their eyes were unconcealed. "Like, away from the Annex?"
Marty smiled. “Who would have thought I would smile in this room?” he told himself, peering for a second to the rectangular window a foot down from the ceiling.  Tony sat right under it.  The room's light was off, the only source coming from Tony's desk-lamp that he strangely left on.  Marty only saw black in the window, Ivan completely hidden.
Heh, I guess I mean, there wasn't a lot of nerd culture at Jane and Finch.  Okay, maybe a bit.  Actually yeah, there were quite a lot of geeks in the hood actually now that I think of it.  I guess I never thought of us as nerds at the time.  When you become an adult the negative associations aren't the same.”
“Oh,” said Tony, his tone rising though still gentle. “I've never been in that area.  Well, I was a nerd too when I was in high school, I guess.  But then, I always remembered that when nerds grew up they'd be the ones with all the money.”  He turned his chair around to face his desk.
“Yeah,” agreed Marty, standing up from the tiny wooden chair he had been seated on.  As Tony started eating from the plate that Marty had brought he started wondering why Tony had said that comment on nerds having money. “Where is your money?” he wondered, but kept himself from asking him. "And where is my money?  Not the money I've stolen, but the money I've earned?"
“Thanks for dinner,” Tony said as he stuck a chicken leg into his mouth.
“Yeah, no problem,” said Marty, walking over to him. “I mean, I got the money so why not?”
Tony took a huge bite, taking the meat and skin off the chicken leg.  He seemed to feel Marty's presence looming over him as he turned his head up slightly and smiled.  Marty returned the smile even though he knew it would be unseen.  One of Tony's eyes gave him a sudden chill.  It was completely white, the pupil covered in a film, looking like his eye had been literally white-outed.  The right eye was an ordinary brown.
Marty started wondering if the blindness was the reason why Tony had no money at this point.  He looked to be in his forties about.  Marty always hoped that by the time he was middle-aged himself that he would be financially comfortable, maybe by then having a house and wife, maybe kids.  Most importantly he imagined that period of his life being absorbed in a career.
“No problem,” Marty repeated, patting Tony lightly on the shoulder as he started digging into some mashed potatoes with his fork.  Marty backed up, keeping his eyes on Tony, away from the window.  When he got the the end of Tony's little bedroom he leaned on the closed door to the basement hall. “Richard, the other guy upstairs, is a big nerd too.   He's a writer too."
“What kind of stuff does he write?”

“Science fiction mostly,” Marty said. “I'd like to read his stuff.  I should ask him, not sure why I haven't yet.”
 “Oh yeah,” said Tony.
“Yeah,” replied Marty.  He wanted to leave.  He had some errands he had to run before turning in for bed, but it was hard to close the door on a blind man.  He checked his watch.  It was almost nine. 
“This food is so good,” Tony said after thirty seconds of silence between them. "If you want to get going, go ahead."
“Yeah,” said Marty, placing a hand on the doorknob.  He sighed, opening the door slightly. “Tony?  Hey, are you thinking of staying in this place long?”
Tony turned his head slightly, 'looking' at the wall, showing half of his face to Marty. “I don't know,” he said, taking a gulp of milk from the big cup Marty had filled up for him. “I just got here,” he said after swallowing. “It's not very easy to move all my stuff again.”
Marty nodded, looking about the place.  He had a bed with a single sheet to the left, a few pill bottles and a tiny television on his desk.  There was also a small plastic hamper and a large cardboard box full of clothes near the front door. “I can help you move, call you a cab.  I don't think you'd want to stay here long.”
“Why not?”

Marty looked ahead at the window. “A bunch of reasons,” he said. “Mostly because of the landlord.  He's never here and he doesn't do anything.  Me and Richard hate it and we want to move out.  You can find a much cleaner, healthier place for the same price.  This place is especially not good, not safe if you're visually impaired.”
“Blind?  Hmm, I'm okay here.  I can't really hurt myself in a small room.  My room-mates, namely you guys, at least as far as I know, seem nice.  Are there other people here?”
Marty shook his head, opening the door slightly more.  Then he remembered his audience and spoke: “No, no, sorry, no one else.  Nope, just the three of us.  Ivan is never even here, so it's not even his place really.”
“Well, this place is in my price range.  I only get money from the government and it's not much so I'll just be here all the time.  Come by any time and visit.”

Marty sighed, relieved that Tony had given him the exit cue, but distraught to hear that he would be in his room all the time. “Yeah, goodnight.  We'll have some more food soon!” he called as he slipped out into the dank hallway, closing the door loudly behind him.   He could hear Tony calling good-bye back as he made his way to the stairs.
“Last thing I need,” he thought. “Tony down here while I try to pull off the most insane scheme I've ever come up with.  Well, at least he won't see anything.”
He reached the mid-floor, his floor, and went into the kitchen.  At the sight of the little table he thought of his last dinner with Richard, now almost a week ago.  It was weird. 
“Richard?  You there?” he called to his door.  He hadn't seen him since that meal.  He knocked on his door. “Eh man?  Mate?”  He put his ear to it, hearing some slight jazzy music. “Must be sleeping,” Marty figured, going to the fridge. 

It was almost empty, save a few condiments and sauces in the door.  Marty had given Tony the rest of their groceries. “What do I have left?  Two hundred? Shit, do I need to start working again?” He thought of his time at the condo and shuddered. “No rent, you can stay here.  No one's come yet.  Who's going to come?” He headed to his room.
He sat on his bed and picked up his cell.  For a second he looked about the room, thinking about what he could do with more money.  At his desk, right beside the huge hole he had sawed into the other room, he pictured a thirty-two inch high def T.V.  Sure, Marty never watched a lot of television anymore, but that's because most of it was junk.  If he had a cable box he could get some good stuff, including movie and documentary channels.  He could use the huge monitor for his computer too, play a bunch of online games and delve back into fantasy worlds.  His talk with Tony made him miss that part of himself.
On his dresser he pictured some video game systems.  He had not played a thing since he was twenty-two, but it could be fun to get back into gaming.  He could buy some art, nice stuff, maybe little sculptures or abstract paintings for the walls.  He could colour-code the room, perhaps a light blue or green?  He pictures flowers and other plants to compliment the colours.  Then he thought of a bookshelf full of a new collection of his readings.
Marty got up and opened the closet, looking at his few pairs of pants and shirts.  With Ivan's bag of cash he could get a bunch of new dress shirts, maybe even some sport-jackets and blazers.  He could dress nice, wear a tie with expensive looking shirts and pass as a Bay Street banker.  Marty smiled, thinking of dressing in a more expensive suit than Harvey Franco.
He made a repulsed face as he noticed his security uniform. “Yuck!” he said, shaking his head. “I should burn this.”
Marty closed the closet and checked himself out in the mirror, noticing he had put on a little weight.  He then turned to the wall to his right, taking in the hole in the wall again.  The image of a bench-press appeared in the center of the room, followed by a treadmill near the window, and then a set of free weights on the far wall.  Marty beamed as he made his way to the hole, sticking his head through. “Yeah, a gym,” he said, nodding to himself. “Move the bed, yeah, then the desk over there can go out, outside maybe.” 
He looked to this room's window. “No, not outside.  I can grow stuff out there, yeah, all kinds of stuff; tomatoes, potatoes, broccoli, beans, corn, squash, cucumber, weed...” He pulled back into his bedroom. “No one's going to stop me this time.  It's all mine.”  With that bag of money he could buy anything.
Marty had been searching more the past few days, finding all kinds of things in the upper rooms, all kinds of antiques that he knew could fetch a good price at one of the stores in the neighbourhood.  Although he had yet to find the bag other means of making more money were presenting themselves to him.  For the first time ever Marty, even as a staunch socialist, could feel a spirit of entrepreneurship stirring inside.
“And I can eat healthier too,” he figured, sitting back on his bed and grabbing his cell from his desk again.  He texted Jimmy: Let's meet A.S.A.P.  I got an idea.”
A few days before Marty was considering cutting Jimmy permanently out of his life.  At the time he envisioned he would be cutting mostly everyone else left out as well.  In the shadow of Ivan's death, it seemed he was destined to disappear, but Marty had not disappeared, even if he still felt invisible.  Talking to a blind man for three hours tended to produce that effect. 
Richard had vanished though. 
Marty's cell buzzed.  His text was returned.
“Come to my crib if you wanna talk.  I'm too tired for coming down there.”
Usually Marty would argue with him, in the end usually demanding they met halfway.  Tonight he would go though, so long as he got some coffee on the went.  As he got to the driveway and passed by Ivan's pick-up truck he realized he could buy a car himself soon if things worked out.  At the next street he saw a big black car go by.  It looked like a hearse.
“Yeah, I could get a nice car,” he said as he tuned down another road toward Dundas.  He would catch the Keele bus northward to Jimmy's place.  When he got up to Jimmy's in his hated old area he would tell him about the antiques and propose they sell them together.  Once that was done Marty was considering something more drastic.
The weather was nice this night, he realized, feeling a slight warmth in the hair despite the lack of sun.  Much of the snow was melted already, leaving whole puddles of brown on the roads where they dipped and rivers of ice water pouring down the driveways.  As he arrived at the bus stop he placed his hands in his pockets, feeling the tiny key in his right one.  Very soon he could have everything, all the money.  He was a nerd after all.  The one thing that put people like him apart from most others is their great mind, that thing that, if used properly, can bring all kinds of wealth to it's owner.