Category Archives: Writing

The Dealer’s Apartment

The text read: 122 Hamilton Street. Apt 42. Bring a flashlight. Get the stash and go home. Easy.

I arrived at a six-story apartment building that was completely dark. All windows were black squares. No lights in the parking lot. No cars.

Was this place completely empty?
It looked like a utilitarian tomb, but that was under closer scrutiny than I would have given any apartment building on any of these streets. Hidden in plain sight, there was something definitely wrong here. I could smell it.

Bring a flashlight. So, the dealer knew about this. Of course he did.

I opened the front door to silence. No dogs barking. No babies crying. No life. I pulled the flashlight app on in my phone and held it in front of me as I went up the stairwell to the fourth floor. All was still. Eerie. A night museum.

I shone my light upon each door until I came to the right one and knocked.

“Get your light off my door.” I heard someone say from behind it.
“What?”
“Put your fucking light down. Do you understand English?” The voice sounded gruff, tired, angry.

“Okay.” I complied. The door opened to an apartment I couldn’t see as it was pitch black except for the echoes of light my phone reflected off the linoleum floor.
“Keep your light down. Don’t shine it in my face, so help me God.”
“No problem.” My hand was shaking slightly, causing the light to bounce around. I steadied it, but everything about this situation made me extremely nervous.

“Wait here,” he went into the bedroom and slammed the door behind him.
I heard the distinct sound of somebody sucking up a rail of cocaine (or whatever) up their nose. I heard a female’s voice.
“Shut the fuck up,” he said, almost at a shout. “Nobody fucking asked you.”

The man came back out and put something on the table. I shone my light on it. Pills in a Ziploc bag. I could see his stained white shirt momentarily before pulling my phone back down. I thought that he was going to berate me for shining my light on the table but, “go on, take it.”

I stepped forward and shoved the bag into my inside pocket.

“Get the fuck out. Keep your light down. Don’t shine it on anyone. You’ll be sorry that you did. You Shitbags never fucking learn. Scram.”

I gladly got out. In the hallway, from the opposite end towards where I was going, I heard a door close and footsteps start to come my way –heavy, awkward ones. I did what my immediate instincts told me to, shut the light off and plastered myself back against the wall until they passed.

Once I was outside, I could really feel the cold in the air. I punched in an Uber and waited, thinking that my problem –my whole new fucking situation– might have been a little understated.

And I wasn’t sure about these pills anymore.

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THAT’S NOT MY CAT

I was reaching for a melon
in the produce section
of the local grocery mart
when a paw shot out
from behind it to
vigorously swat at my hand
and the black head of a
growling cat appeared
with large excited yellow eyes.

A passing lady looked at me askew.
“That’s not my cat.” I said.

She quietly turned her attention
to the cucumbers. They were
rather big this year.

“Nice Kitty, go play.” I suggested
and went for another melon but
the cat stretched its long, thin body
out across the entire bin and started
swatting at my hand again.

“Go away! I’m not your play-toy.”
‘Meow.’

When I arrived at the register
the cat was there waiting for me
right on the conveyor.

The listless teenage cashier looked like
she was trying to paint her fingernails
with her mind.

“That’s not my cat.”
“What cat?” The girl said as she absently
grabbed it and scanned the cat through
right behind the potatoes.

As I left the store and was
crossing the parking lot
a lady came running out to me.
“Sir! Sir! You forgot your cat!”
She was obese and out of breath.

Other than why would I bring a cat
to the grocery store I said,
“That’s not my cat.”

“But Sir, it says so right here on the collar.”
She turned the purring cat over and
flipped the tag on its red collar.

‘I belong to that guy.’ It read.

I took the cat and tossed it in the cart
right beside the potatoes
wheeled the cart over and unloaded
the things into my hatchback then
brought it to the cart corral
with the cat still inside.

I ran back to my car and tore
out of the parking lot like I had just
robbed the store.

On the expressway halfway home
I felt a sudden soft batting on the
side of my head and heard a
meowing in my ear.

I almost crossed the medium
head-on into a tanker truck
on purpose but instead I
stopped at the nearest gas station
and let the cat out of the car
as a family of four watched.

“That’s not my cat.” I said.
The girl giggled.
The boy gave me the finger.

Arriving home as I pulled into the
driveway the headlights shone on the
same black cat with the red collar as
it sat and waited for me to arrive.

I sighed, “Nope. Nope. Tons of nope everywhere.
No way. Not again. Not a chance.”
But I picked up the cat anyway
and brought it inside.

Flicking on the kitchen light
I dropped the cat on the linoleum floor
where ten other black cats anxiously
waited to be fed.

Hey, Daddy

Big Jim was sitting by the fire
in a friend’s yard when he heard,
“Hey, Daddy.”

A girl’s voice
coming from the shed
right across from the fire.

The door was opened just a crack.

Big Jim looked around.
Tim was still inside.
He didn’t have any kids.
‘What the flying fuck?’ Big Jim thought,
‘Neighbourhood kids maybe…but…’

“Daddy, I’m so alone.”

Big Jim arose from his chair.
The girl sounded anguished.
Something about that voice, that girl.
It felt so familiar somehow,
like someone he knew
a long time ago.
Someone he longed for.
Someone
he wanted to see very badly.

“Come to me, Daddy.”

Big Jim almost stumbled into the
fire before catching himself.
Next, he was at the shed door
opening it further.
“Hello?” He called.

Big Jim felt the humidity of the night.
The sweat on his skin.
His want.
His need.
Everything
was for her.

“Come in and close the door, Daddy,
and then we can be together again.”

The girl’s voice was pleading but yet
there was a teasing there too.
Something familiar
a long time ago
just yesterday.

Big Jim stepped inside and was
closing the door behind him,
the absence of light
-the blackness of the shed
enveloping him when,

“Jesus Christ!” Tim shouted as he
pulled the door back open,
“No no no no!”

Tim yanked on a piece of rope
hanging from the ceiling
and a light bulb came alive.

There was no girl.
Instead there was a hole
over in the corner.

“Oh, fuck!” Tim said and went
to a heavy piece of pressed wood
that looked like it once
covered the hole but
was now flipped over to the side.

Tim pulled it down and
dragged it back over the hole.
He then placed his hands to his face
and shook his head.

“A guy was supposed to come this week
and direct-fill it with cement.
I thought this would contain her.

I am so fucking sorry.
We should have bolted it down.
I was only going to be gone for a minute
I didn’t think…

You have no idea what it’s like
to live here with her,
with that fucking thing.”

The light bulb above them
began to flicker on and off.
Tim started angrily flicking the bulb
with his finger.

“Fuck. I’ll have to fix this too.”

Billy’s Laura

Raining hard at the
mouth of the trail
where Shane was
waiting for his ex-wife
umbrella in hand.

“Nice day out. Isn’t it, Laura?”

Laura smiled, “Yes it is, Hon.”

She was already drunk
as usual.

Shane held out his umbrella
and walked holding it over her
letting himself get wet
until they reached Billy’s house.

No lights.
Billy wasn’t up yet.

“I’m sure Billy will be up soon.” He said.

Sometimes it was hours
before Billy got up
and Shane would hold his umbrella
over her as she lay her head in
his lap and slept.

“You still love me, Shane.”
She would say,
“You wouldn’t do this
if you didn’t love me.”

And when it was cold
Shane would put his warm jacket
over her
with nothing for himself
as they both waited until…

“Light’s on, Laura, Billy’s up.”

Billy would open the front door
without looking out and just
leave it open but
only when he had a fix ready for her.

Once Laura was inside
Shane would then go on
down the road to
Tim’s house to
drink himself to sleep.

Tim would see Shane
all wet and cold
and will give him shit
for the same old shit.

They used to be the
toughest around
in town back when it mattered
until there came along
fights that couldn’t be won
like plants shutting down
unpaid debts
miscarriages
divorce
and then there came the bottle
and other things that were worse.

“She’s Billy’s Laura now, Shane, Billy’s Laura!”

“You don’t understand, Tim.”

“I understand that you can’t let go.
That you’re killing yourself
just like she is and
I just can’t
watch it anymore.”

“Come on now, Tim.”

“It wasn’t your fault, Shane. It really wasn’t…”
Tim’s eyes were red, wet and he
slammed the door.

Shane grabbed his coat and
umbrella and headed back.

Maybe Tim finally had the
last of this
but for Shane it was
just another day to get through.

Just another day.

Little Wonder

I was diagnosed with
an illness that
they didn’t catch in time.

Doctor told me that I could be
in pain for months
perhaps years
and could face
permanent hearing loss
in my left ear.

It was at times
debilitating.

The vertigo and tinnitus
were Hell.
Days became Hell.
Life became Hell.

Even after
several months
I wasn’t getting better
and nobody was sure
if I ever would.

It wore me down
eventually.

I was just reaching
middle age and
had never felt
so vulnerable.

I sat downtown on a bench
feeling sorry for myself
when I heard,

“GET OUT OF MY COUNTRY!
TAKE YOUR VIRUS BACK TO CHINA!”

Three teenaged boys
harassing
an Asian woman and
her daughter.

They were right in their face.
The woman and child
were scared.
Nobody was helping them.

Before I knew it
I was across the square.

I grabbed the biggest one and
social-distanced him
right into the
central square fountain.

The other two turned
on me but I
shoved them down
hard
and they scattered.

I was sick
but I wasn’t weak.

“They’re Korean,
you Shitheads!”
I called after them.

All the excitement
made me dizzy.
I was unwell.
I shouldn’t be doing
things like that
and so I staggered
back to my bench
rubbed my temples and
closed my eyes.

I felt a sudden
warmth on the side
of my head
a flash of heat
and the pain
the dizziness
-the nausea that I had
suffered for months
were all suddenly gone.

I opened my eyes
to find the
young Asian girl
staring back at me
as she took her hand away
from my ear.

Her large beautiful
almond eyes
were filled with compassion
and such sadness
that I have never before
seen in a child.

I knew in that moment
that my sickness was gone
for good and that
she had taken it away.

The girl smiled.

She put a finger to her lips.
“Shhhh!” She said then
turned and
ran back to her mother.

I watched them
turn the corner and
disappear.

Afterwards,
I put my head
in my hands and I wept
because I didn’t
know what else to do.

Then I got up and I started to
walk straight
for the first time
in months…

then I started to run
and laugh.

The Intervention

Mother stood up first.

“I know the divorce and your father’s passing has been difficult for you and you have your ways to cope…but we feel that we are losing you. You’re the only son I have and I pray everyday that you stop hurting yourself and that you find Jesus.”

She sat down.

Yeah, I found Jesus, Mother. He was hiding underneath my fucking bed right beside the crack pipe.

My uncle stood up next.

“This is all up to you, Peter. If you say (like you said before) that you are done then we’re all behind you. But you have to really be done this time. You have to. Nobody else can do it for you.”

Whatever, put down the doughnut.

After a couple more verbal lashings from the family, Cousin Timmy got up last. This ought to be good.

“You’re a fucking asshole.” He said. There were tears in his eyes.

He sat back down.

As adept as always in handling these kind of situations, Timmy, as adept as always.

I looked around the Tim Horton’s. Everyone was looking at me. I thought I was just coming here for a fucking coffee and a wrap.

That was Monday.

Friday back at it again. The beast needed feeding.

Dan rolled up in his Benz. He held up a bag of pills.

“Wanna get high with me and my girl?” Tina looked over. Smiled.

We made out last time. Felt her up. So hot.

Dan doesn’t know or he knows and doesn’t give a fuck.

“Hell yeah I do.” I got in the car.

THE PROBLEM WITH US

The problem is that
people have to have more
and more
in order to fill in the holes
in themselves
in each other
in the hours
in the empty spaces.

And so we dig
and gouge
and scrape
and burn until
there is nothing left
with no regard
or respect.

We don’t want to know
how things work
as long as it
works for us.

We don’t understand
how to appreciate
a world
that we do not
live in fear of.

We have made
things far too
easy
for and on
ourselves.

We have forgotten
the lion
the bayonet
the plague
the hunger
the fire the scars
the blood dripping from
a thousand crosses
the terrors the deaths
the darkness
at the end of every street.

But these things
don’t just
go away they are
still there
so far back and
just around the corner
sharpening their
knives
their teeth
their resolve
they are honing in and
approaching like a
thick blanket
a moonless night
a killer in a crowd.

They’re coming
-it’s coming.
-It’s here.

And it’s about time.

THE MARVEL SUPERHERO ON PARK STREET

I was walking by a large Victorian house on Park Street when from up on the top floor balcony I heard someone calling out. I turned to see a girl –maybe ten years old– leaning over the railing so that her long hair hung straight down.

“Hey Mister, do you want to see a trick?”
I shrugged. “Sure, why not?”

“Okay!” She shouted and clapped her hands excitedly. Smiling, she turned and went back into the house only to appear at the front door three floors down not even a second later. She opened it, came out onto the porch, spun around with her arms held out and went back in. Next thing I know there is a knock on the top floor window where she waves and turns away. Again, before I could formulate a thought she reappears out the front door and this time she walks down to where I stood on the sidewalk.

“What do you think?” She asked and folded her arms across her chest. I didn’t even have the do the math; there was just no way was she faster than my eyes could travel from the ground floor to three stories up and back down.

“You have a twin. Throw the same clothes on and have fun with unsuspecting strangers.”

“Nuh-uh! NUH-UH!” She whipped her head back and forth viciously enough that the ends of her hair threatened to blind me and then shot me a glare like I was the biggest dipshit ever.

“Okay, then you’re a Marvel superhero.” I returned.

Behind her, a lady opened the door. “Who are you talking to, Cadence?”

“Absolutely nobody, Mother.” The girl stuck her tongue out at me and crossed her eyes before running back inside. “Noooboooodddyyyyy!!!”

“Hey!” I called to the mother as she was closing the door. “She has a sister, right?” I asked, curious.

“What sister?” The lady looked at me like I was a meth-fueled derelict and when the door was half closed she held it there and scowled at me as though I were the world’s most active pedophile.

“Yeah, I probably shouldn’t have asked that.” I said to myself as I continued on down the sidewalk. “This is why I try not to go outside anymore.”

And this was the second house I couldn’t walk by in this neighbourhood. The first one? Now, that’s a strange story…

The Window

“Did you take your medication, Hon?
The neighbours complained again.
The walls are thin and
they can hear you laughing and
talking to the window.

And now you won’t talk to me
or look at me; you just continue to stare
at the damn television.

I’ve tried yelling and even shaking you and
I’ve never touched a woman like that in my life.

I’m not comfortable with it, but at the same time
I am tired, I am frustrated, and
I am angry
-but above all I’m scared, okay?

I am really scared because I don’t know what’s happening to you,
or what happened to us.

Why won’t you speak to me?
I don’t remember doing anything but my best for you.
I’m sorry that I have to work most of the time at the factory
and that I lost my job in the city and that
we had to move to this town
in the middle of nowhere and into
this destitute ground floor one-bedroom apartment
with just a torn couch and a cheap TV set.

Remember our wedding day?
You were so nervous standing with me at the front waiting for the priest;
so beautiful, vibrant and free.
If only we could go back
to that day –that moment,
and just start over somehow,
somewhere else.

Now you never leave the couch anymore.
You won’t eat.
You won’t change your clothes.
I don’t even know if you go to the bathroom.

And when I hear you talking in the middle of the night,
it scares the Hell out of me.

Who are you talking to?
There is nothing in the window.
Nothing around it.
I’ve checked.

It’s just your voice.
Nobody else’s.
That’s right, there is nobody
ever there at all
…or is there?

Who comes to you?
Why do you only talk to them?

What the Hell is going on? I’m falling apart and you have to talk to me…”

Depleted, Gary left the room and his unresponsive wife, went back into the bedroom where he had once lain with her, and pulled out a bottle of whiskey from the bedside drawer. It was the only way to sleep these days. He had nobody to go to –no family, no money for a doctor and no friends in this town. He had run out of options, so until Gary could think of something –Good Ol’ Jack was there to help numb the pain until sweet beddy-bye.

But sure enough in the middle of the night Gary was awakened by her voice talking loudly and laughing like everything was some sort of insane inside joke. Gary threw off the covers and stormed into the living room only to find his wife lying on the couch with her eyes wide open staring vacantly at a television that was turned off. Gary shouted in frustration and punched the wall until faceless neighbours shouted for him to stop with threats of calling the police. That wasn’t him a year ago; that wasn’t Gary at all. Things have spiraled out of control into a deep, dark pit.

Gary returned to the bedroom, looked at the clock and began to get dressed for work. It was going to be another hard day on the floor. Best start early.

That evening Gary returned to an empty apartment. There was no dormant wife lying on the couch anymore. He stood there staring at the empty space where she had once been as the last of the overcast sky fell into the room like a dead weight.

She didn’t take anything, not even any of her clothes. There was no note. There was nothing. Gary went through the motions of filing a police report. He had canvased the neighbourhood and reached out to any old friends or associates that he could locate with nothing to show for it. But all along he had known that there was nothing to find because deep down inside Gary knew that she had never really left the apartment at all.

Even during that time Gary would some nights be woken up by his wife’s voice on the other side of the wall talking to nobody –her laughter laughing at nothing– and would dash into the living room only to find it empty.

Also during that time, Gary had attempted to logically reconstruct what could have happened to her and arrived only at further frustration. So, it was time for some crazy thinking because crazy was the only thing left.

Gary was forced to come up with a different approach altogether because no matter how far he could get away from this terrible place, if Gary couldn’t find out where his wife went, he would never truly leave here, and Gary could not bear the thought of living the rest of his life like that.

The next night Gary laid on the couch, turned on the television set, and started flipping through channels. Perhaps he wasn’t even aware of what he was doing at first. It wasn’t until he turned the volume down a little lower just like his wife had as not to disturb Gary after he went to bed. That’s when he began to hear it; to feel it. It was so faint at first, but soon it became clear to Gary that whatever the window was, this was its first handshake.

Gary reasoned in the end that if it came for her then it might come for him too. Maybe it couldn’t help itself.

“That’s right, here I am, so come on. Time for me to join the party.” Gary looked up at the insidious window. He could hear voices now along with awfully strange laughter and began to see colours and slight silhouettes dancing around the window frame. It was all gradually becoming louder and more real.

“Alright,” Gary whispered to the darkening room, “let’s do this.”

THE DEALER

“I’m going to tell you what’s going to happen if you go to the hospital in order to save you some time. First, they’ll take some tests, stick needles into you, give you some saline and sedatives, pump your stomach and slide a catheter into your dick. None of which will be pleasant under your current condition of duress. None of which will work.”

I got high with a couple friends eight days ago. Ecstasy and a little bit of coke, nothing crazy. But we haven’t been able to come down since. None of us. Drinking wouldn’t do anything. Sleeping pills? Forget it. Wasn’t able to sleep at all, barely could eat. Called into work. Couldn’t drive. And it was getting worse. Had to go back to the source, the source that was this voice over the phone.

“And when they don’t find anything physically wrong with you they’ll bring you to the next step: psychological evaluation. Welcome to the psyche ward. By this time you’ll be so aggravated that they might consider you a danger to yourself and others and that’s ninety days right off the hop. Either way, you keep up this ‘I’m high and I can’t come down’ story and they’ll keep you in for 72 hours at first for observation, then two weeks, then a month. Jesus, a month in the loony bin is enough to drive anyone insane, especially one who is already fucked up on what nobody else can see or detect and God knows what else they’ll make you swallow and how that’s going to react with what you’ve already ingested. The drug is a ghost. One that only you see. I made it that way.”

Went to Derek’s. He was way worse than I was. Kept shouting that he needed Christ. Yeah, got it. Sarah couldn’t even look at me; she was in some catatonic state. Kept pulling at her hair and clawing at her own face. Something had to be done. None of us wanted to go to the hospital and admit what we were on. Our episode would go on public record. Future employers would see it. Cops, family –it was a no go. But when it got to the point where that didn’t matter anymore that’s when the fucking phone rang. Guess who it was?

“Am I painting a somber picture here of how things are going to go? Because I can give you names of people just like you that are still there, wasting away in some hospital basement without the ability to even construct a sentence. Or what about the ones that saw it coming and decided to take things into their own hands not bearing the thought of eventually becoming a vegetable that nobody gives a fuck about. Nah, not them. Smart ones, you see?”

The dealer. Like he was reading my mind. Just like that. And things got worse the more he talked until it made the trip I was on the least of my fucking problems. But why? Derek and Sarah were already falling apart and would probably never recover. What was it worth to ruin people’s lives like this? The answer I got made me realize that my problems were just starting because if I was looking for empathy I was in the belly of the wrong beast.

“Why you guys? Motherfucker, why not? You got high off my shit and now I control you and that is the way it goes. I’ve built this. I’ve got designs. Nobody asks where it comes from anymore so this gets easier all the time and I’m aiming even higher. Ha, get it? Remember that I control you because I control how you feel now. I can make it good just like the very first time you ever dropped, or I can make it so bad that you’ll want to die. Just die. That’s all. We all know how lonely and final it can all be. Just one little tweak and your whole narrative will change.”

What do you want?

“Now we come to the point. What do I want? Well, that all depends on what you want, my new friend. You want out of this? You want to be able to go back to your job, your family, your girl or guy or whatever the fuck you’re into? I need you to do something for me and I’ll make it stop. Are you ready to listen? Do I have your full attention?”

Yes. I’m listening.

“Good, cause there’s this party coming up and you’re bringing the treats.”

 

Part 1 of 2. Catch Part 2 Here: The Party Drug