Authors: Trevor Clark
ALSO BY TREVOR CLARK
Born to Lose
Dragging the River
Love on the Killing Floor
Escape and Other Stories
a novel by
Copyright Â© 2014 by Trevor Clark
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced
in any manner whatsoever without the prior Âwritten permission of the publisher,
except in the case of brief quotations Âembodied in reviews.
This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and
incidents are either the product of the author's Âimagination or are used
Âfictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons living or dead
is entirely coincidental.
Library and Archives Canada Cataloguing in Publication
, 1955â, author
8555.L373H35 2014 C813'.54 C2013â906593â8
Printed and bound in Canada on 100% recycled paper.
Now Or Never Publishing
#1101, 1003 Pacific Street
Vancouver, British Columbia
Canada V6E 4P2
We acknowledge the support of the Canada Council
for the Arts for our publishing program.
mon joli chat
, claws and all,
and to Patrick, RIPâinspiration for one of the sparkling characters in these pages, before coke put him under the ground.
“He saw a man who appeared to be on the verge of death stagger into a movie theatre that was showing a picture called
. He saw a ragged woman with an enormous goiter pick a love story magazine out of the garbage can and seem very excited by her find.”
“Louis had never been in combat either. No, but he'd seen two men shotâone running from a work gang at Huntsville, another climbing the fence at Starkeâand had seen a man stabbed to death, a man set on fire, a man right after he'd been strangled with a coat hanger, and believed these counted for something.”
âSickness is not only in body, but in that part used to be call: soul. Poor your friend he spend his money on earth in such continuous tragedies.
Under The Volcano
e couldn't draw on the roach anymore, so Rowe finished his drink and decided he was ready for the bars. His telephone rang while he was in the washroom, but he was too high to risk a complicated conversation while trying to get out the door. After the third ring, however, it was apparent that the machine wasn't on. Flushing the toilet, he zipped up on his way to the living room and answered it.
“Is Derek Rowe there?”
“Yeah . . . speaking.”
“This is Detective Myers, Fifty-Two Division. Do you know a John Malone?”
This brought him down somewhat. “No.”
“You don't? You don't know a John Malone?”
Rowe tried to concentrate. Why did that name sound familiar? It occurred to him that it probably had something to do with Lofton, an alias or something he'd once said he'd used. Earlier, when he'd dropped in at work, Lofton had mumbled something about planning to shoplift a bottle of vodka on his way home. “Oh . . . wait,” Rowe said slowly. “I think I know who you mean. It's just that I know him as Jack, not John, and I don't know his last name.
“Well, let's make sure we're talking about the same individual. Is he a heavy-built guy with a bit of a beard and Âtattoos?”
Lofton had given them his number, so presumably he wanted Rowe to ID him. Now he was supposed to negotiate fact from fiction, half-wasted. “Yeah, he's got a barbed wire thing around his biceps.”
“And zigzagging like lightning bolts on the insides of his arms?”
“Yeah, that's him.”
“What's his first name?”
“Well, you know, Jack.
John. I used to work with him and never really knew his last name, but Malone sounds like it. It's the same guy. I can vouch for him.” Rowe listened
to himself talk from a distance. He seemed to be enunciating clearly.
“As far as I know, he doesn't have a record.”
“Where does he live?”
“I don't know exactly. Just that it's around Harbord and Bathurst.”
“Do you have his phone number?”
“No . . . I think it's in the book.”
The detective used a different toneâconfidential, on the level: “Okayânow what's his
Rowe was having difficulty with the conversation, which was fucking up his mood.
“As far as I know, that is his real name, like I think I was saying. I've known him for years. He's all right, I can vouch for him, but he's been drinking a lot because his divorce just came through and he's been taking it hard. So . . . if there's anything I can do to help him out, let me know.”
After he managed to get off the phone, he realized that he didn't know what Lofton had been arrested for exactly. This cop Myers probably wouldn't have told him anyway since he didn't seem to believe him, and they liked to be the ones asking the questions.
It looked like there was time for another drink before heading out.
Rowe decided to take the subway to avoid a second DUI, and left his rusting Firebird among the more affluent cars on St. Clair. While he waited for the light to change, a Union Jack flapped lazily over the door of a home across the street. In the neighbouring park there were sculptures by two long-dead female artists, whose nearby house, visible from his kitchen window, was now closed and marked by an historic plaque.
He crossed the intersection and walked west toward Yonge, noticing a pair of raccoons on the north side ambling along the floodlit lawn of Our Lady of Perpetual Help. While Rowe paused on the bridge to light a cigarette, he wondered at the glow circling the moon. A few stars twinkled. Between the treetops in the ravine below, two white lights on a smokestack down near the lake shore blinked, while to the left, where the valley cut southeast, cars back on Mount Pleasant appeared to be driving through the forest.
At the bank, Rowe stood in a foyer between the heavy glass doors and worked the machine. A view on the monitor from the security camera mounted near the ceiling behind him revealed a dazzling line of scalp where he used to part his hair, which was now greying and cropped short. He turned his head, checking his profile, and straightened up as he flexed his shoulders to emphasize the musculature of a still-lean physique.
Lately it felt as if there was nowhere to go but down. After a string of no-account jobs and a record for assault, cocaine possession and drunk driving, he'd risked what little he had by robbing two banks. Rowe had also begun to ponder the fact that at forty-four he had never married or been in much danger of it, though he suspected that there was a child somewhere. Women of any quality were getting harder to come by. The last female he could take any real pride in was a twenty-three-year-old he'd met at a dance in Chinatown in the spring, who'd
marvelled that he was as old as Uncle. If he was ever to be with anyone that young again he'd more than likely be paying for it.
The small bookstore he managed didn't provide a pension plan, drug or medical benefits, and twenty-seven grand a year left little to save towards retirement. That meant that he was going to end up living in a box beneath an underpass. Coming to terms with this some months earlier, he'd gone beyond skimming from the till to buying a prop beard, wrap-around shades and a Blue Jays cap, and robbing a Scotiabank and CIBC with nothing more than a note. The second teller gave him a dye grenade which exploded in his stolen car.
Glancing at the monitor again, he punched a few more buttons and collected his debit card, cash and receipt.
After a drink at the Hard Rock CafÃ©, Rowe found himself at Yonge and Dundas leaning against the Currencies International window under a row of florescent tubing. He watched people walking by. Handbills were plastered to a dirty metal garbage bin by the streetcar stop. There was a pawnshop, a cheque-cashing operation, and an arcade nearby whose pinball sign was missing letters. To the east by the steps down into the subway some blacks were talking outside Mr. Jerk Caribbean take-out; a panhandler with a ripped cardboard box was sitting in front of the World's Biggest Jean Store across the street. Almost everyone walking past looked slightly off. While alcohol served to beautify the world, Rowe found that marijuana tended to zero in on every conceivable ugliness with an accompanying sense of detachment.
“Got a cigarette?” A woman with straggly blondish hair was suddenly standing in front of him. Rowe reached into his pocket. When he struck a match for her, he checked out her weathered face in the stark lighting: her complexion was pockmarked and her blue eyes devoid of flirtation, hostility, a spark of anything, really.
She was wearing a denim jacket over a pink sweatshirt, cotton-type slacks, sneakers, no socks. He figured her for thirty-eight, thirty-nine, and thought she was going to ask for spare change as she exhaled, squinting at him. “I'll give you a fuck for forty bucks, or a blowjob for twenty.”
“No. No thanks, I'm all right.”
“Can't afford it.”
“How much do you have?”
He found he was enjoying the exchange, but knew she was going to have to be discouraged. “Ten bucks.”
“All right. Ten bucks for a blowjob.”
“No,” he bluffed, “ten bucks for a fuck.”
The woman looked at him through narrowed eyes, and took a drag. “Okay, let's go.”
Rowe wasn't sure what to say. They were at a downtown intersection. He followed her a few doors east, wondering where she was going, when she turned to him at the entrance of an alley. “I need the money now.”
Opening his wallet, he was surprised to see that he really did only have ten dollars. Fuck. Looked like he was wasted enough to have deposited his pay cheque and then forgotten to take out any money. “Listen, I've been drinking quite a bit tonight, so to be honest we're probably not going to have sex. I'll give you five bucks right now, and if anything happens I'll give you the other five.”
“Listen for a second. I'll smoke some dope with you, we'll have a nice little chat, you'll get five dollars for nothing, and that'll probably be it. On the off chance anything happens, you'll get another five. You can't lose,” he said, holding out the bill.
She hesitated, and then took it.
The lane ran north behind some buildings along
Yonge Street. In the dim light a large rat scurried across the stained pavement, which was littered with trash.
About forty feet from the street she led him into a doorway that reeked of urine by some overflowing garbage cans, and tossed away her cigarette. Rowe looked around as he took a joint from his wallet and unwrapped the aluminum foil, kneeling gingerly on the stoop for a perspective level with her crotch. He couldn't foresee needing the condom in his wallet. “Where are you from?” he asked, lighting up.
Holding his breath, Rowe passed it to her, trying to overlook their lack of privacy. Anyone could walk by. As he exhaled, he said, “Listen, why don't you pull down your pants?”
She handed the joint back. Hooking her thumbs in the elasticized waist with her back against the metal door, she drew them down with her panties and stood with her legs slightly parted. Taking another toke, he looked at her flat stomach and studied her pussy in the light brown hair, touching her with his left hand and opening her labia. Awkwardly, he pulled down his jeans.
Ten seconds later she said, “Car,” and yanked up her slacks.
Rowe, still kneeling, was partially erect as headlights lit up the side of the doorway. A police cruiser pulled up behind him. Ah, a new fucking low. He flicked his joint into the corner and looked over his shoulder, unsure if his bare ass was covered by the thin coat.
The cop at the wheel studied him. “Are you proposing?”
He didn't know whether or not to laugh. “Yeah, she's quite the catch.”
“He just came in here to take a pee,” she said.
That seemed impressive. “Yeah, I had to take a pee.”
The policeman looked from one to the other, frowning. “Well, time to move on.”
Rowe tried to pull up his pants discreetly as he got to his feet. Zipping himself up as he stepped past the car, he said, “Thanks.”
At Dundas, he noticed that the alley had an actual street sign: O'Keefe Lane. He looked back at the cruiser, still parked behind them in the relative darkness near the rear of Harvey's restaurant, and put his hands in his pockets as he turned to the woman. “So, is that it?”
“All right,” he said. “Well, see you.”
She started walking east. He looked around for a bank machine as he went back to the corner.