Friday, 21 November 2014



"Productivity is being able to do things that you were never able to do before."


He slept for forty-eight hours, all the while wrapped in his bedsheet like a germinating butterfly in the cocoon.  All of him felt warm and secure.  Marty’s eyes peered out through the thin gap in his sheet toward the bedroom window.  Thick snow fell down in droves, making his comfort greater knowing that he was thoroughly insulated.  He loved the sensation as he drifted through sleep and wakefulness casually.  When he was awake he just stared up at the window, growing hypnotized by the increasing patterns of frost that slowly spread out over the glass.  Outside was a blizzard.  Inside there was only silence, warmth and stillness. 

Whenever he fell into a hibernating state he saw through his eyes the world at different steps in his life.  At first he was helpless, staring up at blurry whiteness.  His strength grew as he flung upward and gazed about a sunlit room with baby blue walls.  There were white bars in front of him.  Soon after that he was running through a bright green field for a few moments before the grass blades jolted upward suddenly, shooting up toward the sky, suddenly trapping him in a forest of dark pine trees.   

As Marty tore down a vine-laden trail through the woods he noticed that he had become taller, now being able to see further away.  Up ahead there was a wooden door standing alone in a clearing.  He turned the knob and inside he saw a small room.  There were rows of desks with chairs and a large blackboard on the wall at the front.  He took a seat, looking about at his mates, seeing some familiar faces and waved at some of them.  No one looked back at him.  They all stared forward. 

A teacher pulled up a television set on a trolley and turned the set on.  The image of an open frog appeared on the screen.  Marty was now dissecting it, sticking his utensils into the dead creature’s insides.  He wondered if he would ever be preforming surgery on people.  Marty relished the idea of making more money than his dad.  He smiled, suddenly catching the reflection of a pimply faced adolescent boy in the lab’s window.  Outside it was raining.  The high school front lawn was soaked.  He walked to the street, trying to avoid the puddles on the pathway.  The strong smell of cigarette and marijuana smoke floated to him from the sidewalk, but he pressed on, ignoring it. 

And then he was in front of his house.  Two women walked out the door.  One was his mother.  The other was much younger.  Both of them walked away from him and disappeared into a mist.  Marty stepped into his door and was suddenly in a crowd on the lawn of the Parliament buildings.  Stephen Harper, Paul Martin and Jack Layton were on a stage, yelling at one another as the people cheered and booed alternatively.  Marty ran up to Jack.

It was no longer Mr. Layton.  Instead it was another older man in a suit that he reached out to.  The man smiled warmly and handed Marty a rolled up paper.  It was his diploma.  Marty stood on top of a column of books as he threw his graduation cap into the sky.  The black cap vanished in the air and so did the paper in his hand.   

Now he stood in front of his house in the Junction.  The snow was up to his knees.  He moved into the front door, stepping over a gigantic dead cockroach that had frozen stiff, a thick coating of ice covering it's carapace.  Richard stood in the doorway, wide-eyed and frightened as Marty passed.

He was in his room again, wrapped in his blankets, staring out at the window.  His legs started kicking wildly.  He parted his arms and started to unravel his cocoon.  When the first arm flung out he felt the instant change in temperature, shivering as he shot out his other arm into the cold, unwelcoming air.  He was changing.  His arm felt different, colder and longer, his fingers replaced with feelers.

He stood for a few seconds, shuddering.  And then he turned around and caught his reflection in the mirror on the bedroom door.

He saw a giant cockroach staring back at him.


Now that he stood at the end of the street a part of him wanted to turn back.  He had in his knapsack all the money he had made in the past two days off the merchandise from Harvey Franco’s penthouse.

The first things he and Jimmy had grabbed were the pair of vases on a hutch near the front hallway.  These were not simple glass or plastic vases that grace the insides of lower class apartments and homes.  These vases were the ones that those knock-off ones were trying to impersonate.  He noticed the glint off the sun’s light as he placed the vase in his bag.  He looked up then, seeing a ceiling window that bathed the hallway in a gold glow.

“Come on, let’s split and grab as much as we can,” Jimmy had called at him as he disappeared down the hallway.  Spades turned left into the first wide open room, a sort of lounge room with four big white chairs and a low coffee table.  On the table was a globe made of gems, each country had its own colour.  Canada was a big white space, likely ivory.  Spades placed that in the bag.  Nothing else in the room of value would fit in so he moved on down the hallway.

Next down the hall on the left there was what looked like a study.  A map of the world lined half the wall.  It was marked with red lines stretching from city to city.  Beside it was a map of just North America with even more red lines criss-crossing over it.  Beneath the maps was a long wooden desk with a laptop propped up with a cluttered desktop screen with various opened, overlapping windows.  Spades moved over to the desk, looking about the surface of the desk.  There he saw it, the diamond encrusted golden earpiece.  He picked it up and placed it inside the vase.

“Beyond bougie,” he whispered to the room.

Spades flung open the drawers underneath the desk.  Most of them contained envelopes, some fresh, others with writing and stamps all over them.  In the far drawer he found a gold and silver watch.

“Yeah, yeah,” he muttered as he noticed the letter opener lying on the desk next to the laptop.  He stashed both items into the vase.  There was an opened manila envelope on the other side of the desk.  On it read big block letters: Franco Shipping.   

Spades grabbed it and looked in.

“Oh shit!” he stammered once he tilted the envelope and emptied the colourful bills one by one into his palm.  There were five hundred dollar bills and four fifties!  He stuffed them in his back pocket.  He decided that it would be his personal tip.

“Mr. Franco?” a female voice interrupted his thoughts.

That was when he shouted for Jimmy.  His partner came tumbling down the hall, slowed down by the weight of the bag in his arms.  As Spades ran out to meet him he shot a glance over his shoulder.  A confused-looking woman’s face was on the screen.

They had stolen enough by then.  Jimmy had visited the main bedroom and scooped up some ivory statues, a silver flute, two brooches, three pairs of earrings, two rings, an ivory pipe and a rhinoceros horn. 

They had fled unnoticed from the building lobby.  There wasn't even a guard at the post.  Waves of police cruisers had rushed by, sirens blaring, when they were in the backseat of the cab.  Jimmy was red-faced with beads of sweat streaming down both of his temples.  Spades was already smiling.  They said nothing.

When they got back in the Junction and into Marty’s house they unloaded everything.  Spades counted the worth in his mind.

 “What about Marty?” Jimmy had demanded, finally breaking the silence.

“Wait,” Spades snapped, going back to tallying up the rest of his estimate. 

 “We can’t use the radio, he’s out of range!  Did you see him?  The police had him!”

 Spades grinned back. “This is almost three million at worst.  But damn, his stuff had to be more!  Look at this!” He grabbed the shiny earpiece. “This itself might be half a million!  There’s a whole African country de-mined for this!  We got it.  If they got Marty what are we supposed to do?  That’s two halves instead of three thirds!  We get maybe two million each if we’re lucky, maybe more!”

 “I don’t know!” Jimmy stammered, picking up one of the rings.  Spades could tell he was at a loss of what to say. 

“People get caught—move on,” he thought to himself, thinking of what a rookie Jimmy was. “Marty though—that guy is no rookie.  He doesn’t look like the kind of guy who talks.”

He had then started packing everything up again, telling Jimmy he was leaving to sell it all.  Jimmy protested, taking a few of the things back.  Spades let him keep the ivory pipe, an earring and the rhino horn.  He could sell that later on.

Spades was now outside Marty’s house carrying two bags now full of cash. It hadn’t taken long for him to call up some people.  One of his boy’s from a way back had all the connections.  Spades had cultivated a relationship with each of them over the past year.  They had networks that were always looking for luxury items.  Most of the time it was electronics and cars that they dealt with, but Spades knew they could find people who would buy the luxury goods that formerly belonged to Harvey Franco.

It took two days to get rid of all the stuff, but he made it with a clean three million.

“I could go now and have it all,” he told himself as he approached the front door. 

With the money he would leave town, head to Montreal or Calgary, get some fake ID and rent somewhere under the table.  His place would be modest at first but as long as he had the money for rent, food and anything else he wanted things would be fine.  He would move slowly in his purchases (the B&W could wait) just to make sure there were no loose ends in his previous life that would come back to haunt him. 

Most importantly, before jumping town he could deliver a stack of bills to two people; his mother and his son’s mother.  For all the things he did wrong in life, at least he could do this before he left them forever.

Spades sighed, watching his breath drift into the air, hearing the sound of a train whistle as the top of the train trailers sped by above the metal wall at the end of the street.  He wanted to turn around.  He had ignored his conscience plenty of times before.  When it meant more money for him he had turned his back on others who had helped him.  The first car he helped steal; his accomplice was arrested, but Spades never spoke to him once he was released.  He moved to another neighbourhood and never answered his phone.  He needed all the money. 

Now it was different though.  His life as a thief was over.  And Marty—there was something he respected about him.  He was a mastermind.  He had been cool with Spades since the beginning, had always seemed to show decent respect to him. 

It was decided.  Spades would go in. 

 A car-horn honked behind him.  The train rumbled down the track, fading as it made its way eastward.  The car honked again.  Spades turned around and saw the big black car idling at the end of the cul-de-sac.  The driver’s seat window rolled down and a large man stuck his head out.

“Cops?” he asked in his mind, tightening both hands on his bags full of money.

“Do you live here?” the man asked in a deep, accented voice.

Spades shook his head.

The shotgun seat door opened and another man, this one tall and balding stepped out on the other side.  He flicked a cigarette from his fingers, sending it streaking toward Spades like a comet.

“Who’s asking?” Spades asked, taking a step back toward the front door.

The driver opened up his door.  Spades wished he still was strapped.  He had not carried a gun in over a year.  It was too risky.

 Both men approached him. “We have some more questions,” said the bulkier of the two, the driver. “We hope you will answer them.”

Thursday, 13 November 2014


"Trust not too much on appearances,"


The officers talked loudly as they turned out of the driveway onto Bay Street.  Marty used his right and stayed quiet.  The cuffs tore into both wrists, distracting him from his hysterical thoughts.

“What am I charged with?  I am just some homeless guy!  If they take my beard off I will be charged with what, impersonating a homeless man?  I have no I.D., nothing on me!  They can’t know anything!  I saw it—Spades and Jimmy escaped!  What can they charge me with—being homeless?”

As the cruiser wended its way through Toronto’s snowy streets Marty started thinking about the makeshift prisons that were assembled in an old studio warehouse during the G20 demonstrations in the summer of 2010.  When the downtown core was effectively locked down the Toronto police had arrested over a thousand protestors.  Most were released without charges in the aftermath, but they endured a night crammed in tiny cages like poultry.  The scene looked like a gulag or an internment camp, Toronto turned into Beijing for forty-eight hours.

“All units!” came a deep voice from the radio up front. “All available units to 1200 Bay Street for a 211.”

“We just came from there,” replied the other, lighting up a cigar. “Jesus Christ.  Well, where are we now?”

“College and Church.”

“Let’s dump this bum in the hood and be on our way then,” the bigger of the two barked, and then took a deep drag of his cigar. 

After riding through an area called Cabbagetown the cruiser turned south.  The nice Victorian houses turned more and more dilapidated after every intersection.  This part of downtown Toronto was very old; some of the buildings made when it was still called the Town of York and Ontario called Upper Canada.

They came to a street where garbage and old furniture was strewn all about the front lawns of the houses.  It reminded Marty of Ivan’s backyard.  He saw the moment in his mind again when he stood over the smashed greenhouse.

“Here,” said the bigger cop.  The driver stopped the cruiser as they turned down an alley behind old buildings.  Marty noticed that they hadn’t been wearing their seatbelts as they both got up and swung their doors open.  One of his earliest memories as a child was of a policeman coming to speak to his class about seatbelt safety. 

Marty struggled to his feet as the big cop pulled Marty out of the car with one hand. 

“What were you doing?” asked the smaller cop as Marty took a step back from both of them.

“Just being homeless!” Marty blurted out.

The larger guy grinned, placing the cigar in his mouth, between his teeth. “Let’s go,” he said, pushing on Marty’s shoulder.  The other officer grabbed hold of his wrists and undid the cuffs, much to Marty’s relief.  They turned him around and pressed him forward together, further in the alley between an old brick house and a concrete three story building.  At the end of the alley was a big black garbage bin.  The brick wall behind it had a great mural of aboriginal inspired art, the scene of many animals, what looked like a coyote, a skunk, an owl and a crow.  They all hate bright hearts all painted red and yellow. 

As he admired the art for a millisecond he felt his legs fling out from under him.  He was being lifted, and then tossed down into the garbage.  The officer’s laughter was soon overshadowed by the stench. 

After a few minutes he had climbed out.  The police cruiser was gone.  If they returned to Bay Street they would no doubt have found out, along with the rest of their division that a rich man had been robbed.  Marty smiled to himself, but then started worrying that their cab may have still been picked up.

“If Spades and Jimmy are caught will they talk?” he wondered as he reached the street, confused as to which way was which.  He needed to get back to the Junction.  Spades was wanted before, he remembered, thinking of the time when he had said that it was "hot" outside in Jimmy's neighbourhood up in North York.

“You are welcome to come in,” someone said from behind him, interrupting his worrying thoughts.

Marty yelled out in shock, spinning around to see an old chubby man dressed in a big green sweater.  He had a massive head with a huge salt and pepper beard, looking like an off-duty Santa Claus.  Behind him Marty could see the spire of an old church.

“Come in for an early supper, sir,” the man said, gently laying a hand on Marty’s shoulder.  He then smelled it, the scent in the air of something succulent cooking.  To the man’s side he could see a line-up of people, most in raggedy clothes and jackets.  A thin man in a wheelchair turned the corner of the sidewalk and planted himself at the line’s end.  And then he saw two black-robed priests coming out of the great doors, the entrance to the church.

Marty smiled, and then reached up for his fake beard, tearing it off and grinning.

The older man veered back, his brows disappearing under his rugged bangs.  Marty laughed. “Sorry,” he said, tossing the beard over his shoulder. “I won’t be staying tonight, but I promise you.  I will make a handsome donation to your service someday soon!”

He strolled down the sidewalk, leaving the free meal and the confused Samaritan behind him. The bright white of the snow reflecting the sun added to his new joy.  Amongst the streets was a clamour of cardinals and other winter birds.  The sound of children’s laughter soon also reached his ears.  Usually he wouldn't have noticed.

Marty smiled as he looked up at the building he was coming up to on the street.  It was three storeys high with an open roof on the third level.  The walls were one fence and behind the fence were little children playing.  A small girl with a round face and long black hair gazed down at him as he passed at the far end.  Marty gave her a little wave as he passed by.   She raised both her arms and then hung her hands through the grill.

A chill ran through him as he remembered Spades.  He pressed on to the next major street.  As he started heading west down Queen Street he thought of all the things he would do with his new money.

He had a token that he had buried in his inner coat pocket that morning.  The whole ride along Queen's Street West, from the hip shops and bars near the old music building to the crowded streets of Parkdale, Marty’s mind was rife with two contrasting images, two scenarios:

One was the three of them, Spades and Jimmy and he, all gathered in the playroom tallying up the price that their newly acquired items will fetch on the market.  Soon after that they are surrounded with three ceiling-high towers of hundred dollar bills.   

In the other case the three of them are in a prison cell.  They robbed Harvey Franco.  They will be seniors when they are let out.

There were no police on the street, a good sign.  Marty stood at the end of his home street a moment before he cautiously made his way to the front door, eying his surroundings, expecting a cruiser to appear around the corner any second.

Once inside he raced upstairs to the playroom.  There he found Jimmy alone. 

“Where is he?” Marty asked as he shut the door behind him. 

“Marty, if only I knew where Spades went with all our stuff.  He disappeared hours ago.”

Nothing could have prepared him for this scenario.