When I wasn’t writing miserable small town psycho dramas set in poor Wainfleet, Ontario, I briefly flirted with the idea of writing a loosely connected short story collection set in Toronto. This week’s story, “Eating the Rich,” inspired by the Lowest of the Low song of the same name, is one of four stories that I actually got around to writing in 1997 before I promptly abandoned the idea and returned to writing Wainfleet psycho dramas (and that’s exactly where this series will return next week).
Of all of the bands that influenced these stories, pioneering Canadian indie rock heroes the Low are probably the most universally beloved and unimpeachable. They’re also my personal favourites of the bunch. I love them as much today as I did when I tried to make them my muse and I feel absolutely no shame for it.
Unfortunately, this story doesn’t exactly do their talent, vision, and legacy justice. It’s just a ridiculous almost-romp that shares little in common with its inspiration beyond a name and some vague proletarian leanings. I think it’s supposed to be funny and impassioned. It is neither.
Although this story technically inspired by “Eating the Rich,” there are some other things that clearly had a greater influence on the story and likely deserve far more of the blame for whatever the hell is going on in these 7,000+ words. Here’s a list of some of the most important and embarrassing ones:
- I thought that the key to writing comedy was to create a bunch of weirdo characters, throw them into a weirdo situation, and then just let things fall apart. Hilariously.
- I had developed a completely inexplicable fascination with North 44, a fancy restaurant up the street from my grandparents’ apartment in the Yonge and Eglinton area. It had, somehow, managed to become both a symbol of aspiration and burgeoning class consciousness in my life and I responded to this heady ambivalence by… trying to write songs and stories about it?
- My mother saw a man shit on the tree in front of North 44.
- I had developed a completely and utterly healthy fondness for a spy show from the ’60s called The Man From U.N.C.L.E. (This might come as a shock because I have never once discussed my fandom in the following two decades.)
Shockingly, the results of this unique alchemy aren’t great.
(North 44 is still open, by the way. It has not, to my knowledge, ever been the scene of an aborted class war. I still haven’t eaten there.)
PART FOUR: EATING THE RICH
Marla could hardly contain herself, and her excitement was wearing off on me. She was running down Yonge, dressed to the 8.5’s, giggling like a schoolgirl, which she actually was. As she continued northward, she gained speed, and I found myself right at her side.
Without warning, she stopped suddenly, right in front of Starbucks. By the time the message reached my brain that she was no longer with me, I was stores away. I quickly halted, made a 180˚ turn and wandered back to Mar.
“Trish! Trish! Don’t be so obvious!” she exclaimed, leaving the rest of the explanation to her expressive eyes.
I watched attentively as they moved from me, to a teenaged couple in the window seat of Starbucks and returned to meet my own eyes. The look I gave her as a response must not have signaled the comprehension she’d wanted, for she returned to verbal communication.
“Watch your step, Trish. I swear to God, every damn thing has eyes around here.”
“O.K. Mar, “ I decided to push her a little more. “I guess that means we can talk loudly, though…”
“No! No! No!” she exclaimed. “Everything has ears too. And mouths!”
“You seem to be the only one making use of yours,” I said curiously. In no way was I taking a shot at her. Luckily, she was too involved in her own plans to jump to such conclusions.
“Trish.” She was almost in a panic. “Please try to be quieter. Blend into the woodwork, or something. Look, there’s no easy way to put this, I know this is the first time you’ve done this, but your amateur clumsiness is dragging me down in my moment of glory. Shape up!”
I was still having problems grasping the underlying point she was struggling to pass on to me in the same secrecy as grade school kids passing notes in class. I felt bad prolonging the anguish by pressing for a more simple explanation, but I really wanted to know. How could I experience the whole thing if I lacked the understanding of one significant moment?
She sighed impatiently, but gave out the gory details. “That couple, they’re spies. They work for The Man. I don’t know what I could’ve possibly done to lead them to us. It must’ve been you. Oh well, I suppose it’s natural. You’re a rookie. Let’s not dwell on what we cannot alter. Let’s move on. There’s no need to review our plans, is there?”
I said I was prepared and wished her well as she took off again, this time, without me. I meandered up the the street a bit so as to get farther away from The Man’s henchmen. Safely out of their way, I paused and soaked in the energy all around me. What a night it was! The street was bustling with all sorts of characters, and I was right in the middle, although I’m assuming that my agenda was worlds different from the others around me.
I bought an Outreach from a friendly man, and started to reflect upon the circumstances that had lured me into the lively night. It must’ve been fate, for I don’t usually go swimming, and neither does Mar, but we happened to meet in the swimming pool of the recreation complex that our buildings share. After some moments of the usual banalities people so often clog their conversations with, darling Marla took me into the strictest of confidences. She talked so hurriedly that I could only catch the bottom line, but what an exhilarating bottom line it was! Spies, conspiracies, exposes, all these things were new to me. I was thrilled at the new areas I could explore. When Mar asked me to help her, I jumped at the chance.
The fact that Mar only had a slight clue what she was getting into didn’t bother me a bit. Even though she gave me no more than a few delicious morsels of information so as to protect her top secret mission, it was enough for me to feed off her energy and it was an amazing feeling. To feel that you’re a part of something drastic and important, there’s nothing like it.
I factored into her plans at the climax, the North 44 affair. After following two very dangerous spies for months, she had decided it was time to expose them to the world, before they quieted her permanently. I’d never found danger quite so exciting. If it wasn’t for me, they might kill Marla. I was the only person she could trust.
With all this in mind, I went one day to study the battle grounds. North 44 is a lovely place really, if nothing else it gives off a whole different atmosphere to soak up. It caters to a different crowd than I’m used to, very upscale. For most of years, I passed the restaurant without paying much attention to it at all. When I went to study it, I was amazed at what I’d been missing.
I’d never thought about the contrast between the interior and exterior before then. Outside, you are greeted with a pleasant yellow, and frosted glass that bears a star pattern that matches that of the tiles in front of the door. If you peek in the unfrosted section of the glass, you catch a glimpse of something that, for lack of a better description, looks post-apocalyptic. The sculptures that adorn the walls are, to be blunt, dead fish. Imagine the mind that finds dead fish a good decoration to have around when you want to eat! People are so fascinating when you stop to think about it. Then, there’s the lanterns which, quite frankly, scare me. Upon closer inspection, I discovered that one of these lanterns out of hell has a piece of green gum stuck to it, like the bottom of a high school desk. That’s not something you’d usually associate with the rich and trendy.
On the whole, the dark parts of the decor don’t seem like something the wealthy would want around. To me, it seems like the type of environment I would save all my pennies to get away from. Maybe it’s their connection to the lower classes. To compensate for the horror flick accents, the rest of the place looks like something out of a claymation short. People who have visions like this place are sent to homes, it’s amazing.
I suppose the reason I made a comparison to claymation is that the chairs remind me of Gumby. I wasn’t the only one who noticed the chairs. As I soaked in the place, my neighbour, Eric, walked up behind me. He started talking about North, mainly it’s seating.
“I guess I’m not the only one that’s drawn to this place. I couldn’t even tell you why I come past here every day and look in, I even pressed my face against the glass a few times. The only thing I can think of is the chairs…”
I stood silent, surprised that my silent acquaintance had suddenly decided to speak to me.
“It’s the chairs,” he sighed. “I wish I could stop this, though. It sure does eat up a lot of my time. It’s not like I’d even eat anything on the menu, let alone afford it.”
“Really,” I couldn’t think of anything else to say. I was too shocked at first to even think of how great this situation could be. Another study into humanity’s quirks.
“Gotta be the chairs. If only I could just sit in one of them.”
As I stood there, he explained every detail of his fascination, from when it started, many years ago. I can only explain it as a chair fetish. I suggested a few pieces of psychological advice, but he wasn’t interested. I suppose I’m not the next Freud. So, I suggested something a little more simplistic.
“There’s one thing I can think of, but it just doesn’t sit right with me. I guess you’ll have to grow out of it.”
“That could take years!” he protested.
“I supposed if you moved away, that could remove you from the problem, and you could grow from there.”
“Is that your solution?!!” his face burned an uncomplimentary crimson. “First of all, I could never convince my parents to move. And if I could, it wouldn’t solve anything. There will always be other places with other chairs!”
“Like those?” I asked under my breath. “Good luck, buddy.”
His glare punished my vocal chords.
“OK, OK,” I gave in. There is one other thing, but it is outside of the law.”
This excited him. His reaction almost made me give up the idea. The thought of assisting some little boy bathing in his own hormones toying with doing something slightly wrong and getting overly stupid about the ordeal almost pushed me away from my idea. I decided instead to pursue the chance of adding to my already interesting night in front of North 44 by telling Eric my idea. I didn’t, however, leave my annoyance in the dust without a small shot.
“Do you laugh at words like peepee and boobie, too?”
The look he gave me was born of total confusion. People who don’t quite catch on to things can be, at times, fascinating specimens, but usually, only annoying. At that time, Eric’s reaction rubbed me the right way, so I continued.
“What you’ve gotta do is get one of those chairs for yourself. If you’ve got one, you don’t have to come back here everyday. No more wasted time. You may get over the fetish, you may not, but what would it matter? You wouldn’t have to get over it.”
Eric was ecstatic about the idea, so we made some plans about how to pull the thing off. I arranged for him to rip off the chair the same night as Mar’s thing. It would serve as a distraction to get him out the door, and it would also be more for me to watch from the window.
Eric was the reason I hadn’t assumed my post in front of the restaurant right after Mar went in. I didn’t want them to know about each other, I figured it might spoil their individual goals that night if they knew my attention was split between them. I was more concerned about Marla, really. She’d probably have assumed he was working for The Man as well.
Eric caught up with me about a block from North. I told him I’d be waiting with an Outreach, although I suppose I didn’t need an object to identify myself. He was all dressed up, and looked good. He wore the clothing a lot better than my poor conspiracy theorist friend. As we walked towards our destination, he asked me an important question.
“Which shade should I pick?”
You see, there were two shades of chairs. A lighter green, and a darker one, with a hint of blue, if I remember correctly.
“I think that should be your decision. Don’t rush into it. When you get in there, just sit in the one that appeals to you. I’m sure the decision will come instinctively.”
He thanked me for the advice, and went the way of Marla. That poor restaurant had no idea what it was getting into, or what was getting into it, that night. A delusional, paranoid conspiracy theorist, and a thief with a chair fetish all in one.
When enough time had passed for Eric to get in, I wandered on again, and finally assumed my position for the scenes awaiting me. I first noticed Marla, sitting at the second table in from the window. At the one closest to the window I saw only one of the spies she’d been pursuing. I knew that she wasn’t very happy about that, so I signaled to her that there was no problem with that. She mouthed that the other one was “on his way.”
With that situation under an abstract form of control, I looked for my chair buddy. Eric was safely seated close enough to the doorway for a quick getaway, and far enough away from Marla for all attention to be off of him when she started her song and dance. We made eye contact, and he pointed to the chair he was sitting in. He’d chosen the green shade.
I was so preoccupied with the sights inside the restaurant, that I had little attention to spare for what was going on around me in the cold night air. I stumbled into a man in typical business attire on his way into the place. He looked down at me, and I could practically feel his ego crushing my very existence. His condescending glare seemed to say What are you doing here? As he moved on, I stopped to look at myself in my beat up clothing with my dime store fashion mentality, and asked myself the same question.
I didn’t have long to dwell in self-pity, though. The night was just too exciting. I looked in the window again to see Eric cough, and pull his chair a few inches away from the table. Marla pulled a bun out of her purse, and started to pick feverishly at it. The second spy still hadn’t arrived, and although she was trying to hide it, Mar was getting nervous.
I turned my head from their direction so neither of them could see me laughing. It really was so ridiculous when I thought about it. As exciting as it was, I had to be honest with myself and admit the situation was bordering on disturbing as well. As nice as Eric and Marla were, and as grounded as they may have seemed to the naked eye, there was no denying that they were neurotic. I shrugged my giggling nervous observation off quickly. Neurotic or not, I was charged with their energy. It was great to be alive and with neurotic people that night.
The really strange thing was, Eric was the more stable of the two. At least he knew what he wanted. In fact, that’s more than most people can say.
“Are you protesting out here?” a voice called out from behind me. It made me jump. I turned around to see my pseudo-political activist neighbour, Dova.
She looked so excited at the prospect, that I almost felt guilty letting her down. “No, just watching some important operations. Sorry, Dova.”
Her first reaction was a pout, then she sprung back to life. “What kind of important operations?”
“Well…” she asked, and she was in it for the long haul. I liked the idea of having someone to talk to. “First, there’s the conspiracy to deal with. Then, there’s the chair.
“See the girl sitting at second table in from the window, on the right side?” Dova nodded. “Her names Marla. She lives in the apartment next to ours. We teamed up a few weeks back. The girl closest to the window is, apparently, a spy. Her partner in crime seems to be late tonight. When he arrives, it’s my job to see if they’re concealing any weapons, or if their are any other risks present. If the coast is clear and, based on my good judgment, things look favourable, I shall signal her that everything is in perfect order, and it is time to proceed.”
Dova started to grin. “So, you’re into some secret agent thing now?”
“Yeah, Dova,” I replied, feeling that she was going to start getting all heavy and self-righteous on me for no real reason. “I’m a regular Woman From A.U.N.T.”
“What?” she was more clueless than annoyed. I savoured the moment.
“It was a joke. Never mind.”
“You’re into one of those ‘your mission, should you chose to accept it’ deals?”
“You know, it’s wild that you’d say that,” she was starting to get sarcastic, but my buoyancy from the whole spy thing was keeping me up. “Because, that’s really how it all started. She said that, honest.”
“Your mission, should you chose to accept it?” She was already starting to groan.
“Yeah, isn’t that incredible? She really thinks she’s into something devastatingly serious. Can you imagine what kind of mind would let oneself believe in paranoid delusions? I can only begin to comprehend what’s going on in her mind!” I was really untouchable. I’d never been so excited. Talking about it, even to someone very skeptic and heavy, was only increasing my euphoria.
“So, she’s not really caught up in some exotic espionage or anything? No giant stride is being made in the name of humanity?” She was still inching down.
“No, of course not! Why would spies waste their time at this place? I’m not saying that the people inside have nothing crucial in their craniums, but I don’t think the secret to taking over the world can be found in North 44˚, or even Centro, for that matter.”
“Then what’s the point? What’s her point?”
“Her point? In her mind, she’s actually in serious danger, and if she doesn’t expose them as spies, she’ll be killed. She can’t explain what they’ve done, how she knows they’re after her, or why they would be. She never even came up with a real plan for this evening. Of course, my job was laid out in every possible detail imaginable, my prime function being inconspicuously loitering outside until the time was right, but she always described her part as just ‘doing her thing.’
“She’s a conspiracy theorist, Dova. A paranoid one, although I suppose most would be. Before you get your hopes up, she’s not worried about anything political, or even anything that deals with anyone but herself. You could tell her a small, mysterious agency was wiping small nations of people off the earth and get no reaction. Tell her that someone picked one of her hairs off of her coat for testing purposes, and all hell will break loose.”
“So, what’s THE point?”
“There is no point. That’s the point. Don’t you get it?”
“Why are you hanging put with such a nutcase?” she spit out.
“The energy, man!” I exclaimed, amazed that she couldn’t catch the vibes just hearing about it. “Don’t you think it’s incredible how she can think all this is real? What kind of mind would work up such a crooked fantasy in the first place? Nothing holds more mysteries than out own minds.”
“Who the fuck do you think you are… Kerouac?” For some reason, Dova has convinced herself that the only thing you need to do is swear and talk about the CIA and anarchy to be a political activist, you don’t even have to know what anarchy means in Dova’s world.
She was beginning to frustrate me. I started to lose my cool demeanour. “I didn’t know you read, Dova.”
“Well, I don’t, other than Chomsky. I have a friend who read it, though, and it sounds like what you’re being right now.”
I wanted to laugh, but I could see Mar looking at me, and didn’t want to think I was laughing at her. I had no way to tell her it was the pseudo-intellect that I found humorous. I can almost guarantee she doesn’t understand anything she’s read by Chomsky, and as for the Kerouac thing…” What do you mean ‘it’? Kerouac was a ‘he.’ He was a writer. Maybe your friend read something by him. But still, I don’t get the comparison, and I’m pretty sure you don’t either. You just like the sound of your voice.”
Dova became defensive. Looking back on the situation, I can’t blame her. “I do! I think my friend read something called Visions of Codeine, and you sound like his description of one of the characters.”
I was starting to get some neat vibes from Dova, so I continued. “Visions of Cody, maybe? Then say I’m like Cody, not like the author. There is a difference, slight as it may be in some writer’s cases. Unless, of course, you’re reading an autobiography.”
“Kerouac wasn’t Cody, he was the other guy.”
I turned away from her for a split second, admitting defeat in a way that she couldn’t really recognize or comment on as an act of self-preservation.
Dova tapped me on the shoulder. “Your conspiracy buddy’s wanting your expert attention.”
Marla was becoming frantic inside. The male spy still hadn’t arrived, and she wanted to know what to do. I signaled to her to wait a little longer. If he didn’t arrive after my allotted time, I was going to have to tell her to go on anyway. I didn’t think she’d be impressed with that idea, so I kept to myself for that moment, and just told her things would be okay with one of my charming smiles. This actually seemed to calm her down. She pulled another dinner roll out of her purse, and started to pick at it. I estimated it to be her fourth.
I was about to check on Eric when Dova started her rambling again.
“You know what would be good? To just go to all the big, fancy restaurants in town, eat the meals, and get up and leave. You could start a whole revolution, none of this phony conspiracy game shit. Show the rich motherfuckers who inhabit these places that we’re not going to take their filthy, avaricious ways anymore. It could be a whole edible uprising of the lower classes!”
“Avaricious. Big word, especially for you, Dova,” I said as a collected my thoughts to blast her properly for her brainless brainstorm. “What the hell is wrong with you? What kind of idea is that? The ‘rich motherfuckers’ won’t even know you’ve ‘made a statement,’ let alone have to pay for your public outcry. You know who will have to pay for it? The waiter or waitress who served your table, most likely, and they’d be in about the same economic position as us in most cases. So, you’d only be hurting your financial brothers and sisters. It’d be like sawing off your own limbs to make someone else’s arm hurt.”
Dova took a few steps back, and became red faced. “Fuck you, man. You’re on Yhe Man’s side, aren’t you. You’re just trying to stop me and anyone who wants to follow me. You’re afraid of making a difference. You’re afraid of change!”
I couldn’t help but bury my face in my hands and let out a deep sigh. Eric’s puzzlement was enchanting, but Dova’s was anything but. She missed the point, and was prepared to make that my fault.
“Why don’t you speak up for yourself now, Trish? Unless, of course, you do actually have something to hide.”
“What?” I pulled my face out of my hands. “So, you don’t actually think I have something to hide, you just came out and said it anyway? I think that’s libel.”
“Okay, look. I’m sorry, Trish. I just get passionate about some things.”
I forgave her so that her negative energy wouldn’t get in they way of enjoying my evening. I even decided to try and pick her up a bit. “You may enjoy my second cause, Dova. You know Eric, right?” I didn’t even wait for her answer, I didn’t even really need to ask the question. “He’s in there too. Stealing a chair. Now, it’s not for political reasons, so you’re not really kindred spirits, but it’s close enough to give you some hope, right?”
Dova nodded, and started to smile. I glanced in Eric’s direction again, and performed a gasp of sorts. He’d pulled his chair so far out into the aisle that he was blocking passage of waiters and patrons. I spazzed out, trying to tell him to move in a bit. When he did finally catch on to what I was saying, he blushed sheepishly and pulled in. I must admit, he was still in the aisle quite a bit, but it was an improvement.
Marla had seen my fit, and thought it was directed at her. I managed to convince her to remain as she was, when she caught on to the fact that someone was standing with me. Then, it was her turn to have a fit.
Through the glass, I could almost hear her. I didn’t even need to be good at reading lips. “Does she work for The Man?”
“No!” I yelled. She didn’t hear me, so I yelled louder. “No! Jesus Christ! She doesn’t work for The Man, she’s fighting the man as much as you are. I’d sure love to meet The Man, because he’s already given me plenty of grief tonight!”
I had succeed in attracting the attention of passers by for over a block. Luckily, Marla was one of those people. She made some kind of gesture to Dova, who responded by replicating it.
Dov smiled, then turned to me and muttered, “What the hell does that mean?”
I shrugged. “Beats me. Something along the lines of ‘You fight The Man, and so do I, right on, sister.’ It’s perfectly harmless.”
“So, why are you helping Eric steal a chair?”
“To help him. He has a chair fetish, he needs to solve it somehow. He can’t come and waste time standing where we are everyday. I’m out here to inconspicuously loiter around (sound familiar?) until someone, that being Marla, creates a distraction. It’s just pure luck that we met up. I can’t think of another episode that might distract people enough to allow him to get one of those seats out the door.”
Dova seemed impressed with my explanation, but had one more important question. “Why are you doing all of this, Trish?”
I shrugged again, and smiled. “It’s cheaper than a movie.”
“That’s it?” She sounded disappointed.
“Well, no, I suppose. But, you don’t buy when I say that it’s for the energy and the vibes I get off these people. It’s just the thrill of being alive, and some people do that so well that I borrow their excitement.”
I was beaming again, she was grumbling.
“What would it be that you’re doing now? Other than draining people’s vibes?”
“I’m in my inconspicuous stage.”
She stopped grumbling, and started warming up to me. I no longer felt negative energy, but friendly vibes. “A girl in ripped jeans, orange high tops, backwards hat, and a tie-dye t-shirt, standing with a girl in a jacket with an Anarchy A on the back wearing a ‘No Megacity’ button hanging in front of a wine and pasta restaurant with live piano. It makes perfect sense. As inconspicuous as it gets.”
“Don’t shoot the messenger,” I replied in the same agreeable manner. “In both cases, it was the people inside the place that picked that term.”
“Well, fancy that,” Dova laughed.
“No,” I said, pointing to a man standing a few feet from us. “Fancy that!”
The man, who was dirty, and obviously of one of the ‘lower classes’ that Dova felt so close to and passionate about, had pulled down his pants and urinated on the street. He then proceeded to have a bowel movement. Dova’s description lacked the attempted eloquence of mine.
“That man’s shitting on the street!”
“Yes, I can see that, Dova,”I said. “And everyone else around us can see it to, but thanks for the commentary.”
I could feel her vibes go skyrocketing as she watched his public defecation. Then, as easily as the man had pulled down his pants, he yanked them back up again, and was off. Dova was practically dancing beside me.
“Oh my God! Oh my God! That is just what I’ve been waiting for! He is a genius! That man is a guru! That gesture in front of this place is the perfect form of expression! A big ‘fuck you’ to the corporate structure and its cronies who have been keeping him down!”
“Maybe he just had to shit,” I offered.
“No!” she exclaimed, her eyes open wide enough to allow them to fall out of her head. “He is the real thing! That man is a saviour! If it was only a shit, why did he chose to do it here?”
“It’s as good a place as any. If you gotta go, you gotta go.”
Dova told me my explanation was not only immature, but unsatisfying. She knew the man was a revolutionary. I was beginning to find her as wacky as my friends inside the restaurant, so I told her so. “I don’t think you have any right to criticize Marla and Eric. Like them, you have only your toe dipped in reality.”
She got mad and lectured me on rebellion, and the groovy uprising of the masses. I didn’t seem to understand how important that man was going to be. He would head it all, and not only would our lives be happier, the rebellion would be the ultimate in cool.
She was really beginning to make me angry. Why did Dova always have to sensationalize things? If you do something because you believe in it, then you shouldn’t build a culture around it and make it hip.
Sensing my less than impressed vibes at that moment, Dova took off in pursuit of her new hero, the Shitting Saviour. “I know there was something to that act. He meant something by doing it right there. I believe in him, and now, I want to speak to him. So long, Trish.”
With that, I watched Dova disappear into the crowd farther north up Yonge. My anger cleared almost instantly, and I started to feel pity for Dov, she was setting herself up for disenchantment. The man had to shit. What Dova doesn’t realize is that the rebellions and protests of her dreams go against human nature. Things are done out of necessity, not desire. We’re just too lazy. If he was making any statement at all, it might have been that he didn’t like the food.
That got me thinking about the food, and my mouth started to water. Unlike the two people I knew inside the restaurant, I could find at least five things on the menu that seriously tickled my fancy. Talking to Dova had taken my mind off the subject of food, but with her gone, all I could think of was my empty stomach, almost sore with its desire for the pasta on the other side of the glass. I found myself jealous of Marla and Eric. Mar was picking at another dinner roll, leaving a gorgeous dish practically untouched. Eric had picked at some of the sundried tomato seeds garnishing his plate, but he downed them with a pathetic look on his face. You’d think someone was removing his limbs with a Texan chainsaw. I waved frantically to him to try and tell him to sneak some grub out with the chair, but I had no idea if he’d understood me correctly. He nodded, but I’m not sure what he thought he was agreeing to.
My thoughts drifted from dinner to dessert. I’d eating nothing all day, I’d been so stoked about the night ahead of me. I was so hungry that any substance would have done at that moment, and the junk at Sugar Mountain was starting to sound like the perfect substance. I lost control of myself, told Marla I’d be right back, and abandoned my position.
What seemed like mere seconds later, I was in the mostly pink store, just like a kid in a candy store (which was a pretty fair assessment). I loaded up on chewy things in the forms of bears, feet, and octopuses, and added a lifetime supply of blackballs to the mix. I ran to the cashier, quickly forked out my money, and left without my change. I wanted to be back as fast as possible. I was afraid of what Marla might do while I was gone.
Much to my surprise, she had done absolutely nothing in my moment of absence, bearing a striking resemblance to a wax figure. She had not even touched a piece of bun since I’d last seen her. I thought that was all for the best, though. Judging by the amount she’d already had, she was about ready to bring up enough bread to feed a starving nation.
Eric had moved around a lot more than Mar. Once again, I found him blocking the aisle. I decided not to move him back again, it was obviously where his soul felt comfortable, and I did not want to harm his premonitions about what would come next.
The male spy’s seat was still vacant, and as upset as Marla appeared to be about this, his partner in crime was 10 times as mortified. I looked at her closely and found a tear or two swelling in the corners of her eyes. Her thick mascara was already staring to run. I didn’t blame it, the circumstances to come were enough to make anyone want to vacate at light speed. I was catching on to what was really happening between Mar’s spies. I think they were in about the same emotional area as the spies in Starbuck’s, there was turmoil in the air.
I popped two blackballs into my mouth, hoping the sugar could sever my connection to the negative vibes on the opposite side of the glass. The colour from the candy started to bleed, marking the inside of my mouth. I pictured it looking a lot like the poor, heartbroken spy’s running mascara. To me, it seemed like she was only wearing that makeup so that, in case she had a reason to turn on the water and make it run, it would look more dramatic. I felt like telling her that the effect she had desired was flawless, but, you know, she worked for The Man and all.
So far the night had been held in the hands of sorrow, best demonstrated by the two pairs of spies falling apart at the seams, and poor Dova in search of a hero whom she’d fabricated an image for. I looked up the street hoping to catch some glimpse of her. She was somewhere beyond my slightly impaired vision, just another face in the blurry crowd. I hoped she was coming back towards me, not only for the company, but I did not want her to get too down. As angry as I might get with her, she’s a darling person, and I hate it when her naive, but not so innocent dreams are shattered. Plus, I’d thought of the perfect thing to wipe away her melancholy atmosphere. I’d never pondered the details of escaping after Marla’s big thing before, but upon closer examination, I realized that both Marla and Eric would have to eat and run.
As I popped a gummy octopus into my mouth, and came to the conclusion that it was already much later than I’d planned on for our big event, the insensitive male spy had really messed things up. Biting one of the eight gummy legs off, and attempting to do the same to the other seven without making too odd a face in public, I shook my head in a form of apology to Mar. I carefully scrutinized the female’s belongings, and found no dangerous weapons or spy gear. I was about to give Marla the go ahead when Eric noticed that I had blackballs. The only thing Eric was more obsessed with than the candy was the chair he was seated in. I saw him start to freak out, and knew there was no way to pacify him, so I gave him the ‘get ready’ signal, and hoped he’d take heed.
I spun around. looked Marla in the eye gave her the all-important sign, and crossed my fingers. It was with an emulsion of fear and anticipation that I watched her jump up on her chair and address the restaurant’s patrons.
For the first few moments, I could not hear the exact words being said, but I could guess what Mar was getting at. “Ladies and gentleman, I am sorry, but I must interrupt your dinner, my life depends on it. For over a month now, I have been followed by two people, one of which is the woman to my right.”
As my conspiracy girl rambled on, the poor woman she was speaking of became increasingly red. The wine glass she was holding was bearing the brunt of her anger. I looked over at Eric, whose attention was split between waiting for me to say when and the spectacle that I had just endorsed. I watched as he inched a few feet farther form his chair, and seated himself at a new table. His new dinner guests were too caught up in the free entertainment to notice.
I had no idea if the cops had been called, or how long it would be before some sort of security dragged Mar away. I knew that I had to get Eric out before any attention was drawn away from Marla, but she was supposed to help us make our getaway. I’d promised to wait for her. As excited as I was, I was also starting to get really nervous.
Mar’s voice started to drift through the frosted glass.
“You know why they want me dead? Because I am not blind. Unfortunately, so many of you are. Please, my fellow people, do not let THE MAN fool you, do not let him poke out your eyes, then reproach you for your blindness…” (At least she’d read a quote at the beginning of something Chomsky’d co-written) “If you join with me, we can fight. We’ll outnumber them, and have no need to be afraid anymore!”
I watched her finish with her head held high, triumphant. The woman beside her was a total mess. She squeezed her glass victim once more, harder than ever, and it collapsed under the pressure, so did she.
Eric glared at me, tense like everyone else involved in my concoction. I told him to wait, promised him blackballs if he did, as he moved about the restaurant.
The poor spy stood up and had her turn in the spotlight. “You sadistic bitch!” she yelled at Marla, setting a more violent tone than I’d imagined. “Can’t you see I’m having enough problems without you decided to play some sick and twisted joke on me? I’m sure it looks very funny to you right now, but I hope I’m there to spit in your face the first time you’ve been stood up! See how you feel then. I wish I did work for THE MAN, then I’d have him exterminate you!”
Things went downhill from there, and I started to think it was time for Eric to get out, while all eyes were fixed on the catty exchange of words between two women wearing sequined eveningwear standing atop Gumby chairs that gave some people fetishes. I hesitated though, and looked up the street with one last hope. My prayer was answered, for dragging herself back towards me was a very down Dova, so upset that she wasn’t even excited about the Che-style beret she’d acquired along the way back.
I yelled at her to hurry up, and turned back to Eric, who’d found yet another group to sit with. It was the most social I’d ever seen him. I looked up to the second level of the place, and saw a fight staring to break out between a couple near the railing. I gave Eric his sign, hoping he’d be out before attention shifted from the spectacle I had a hand in to the one spawned from it, at least I assumed it was.
I yelled at Dova again, and tried my best to move casually to the door. Dov caught up to me just as I was about to pass through the first door.
“Just a shit?” I asked rapidly.
“Just a shit,” she replied.
I left her at that, and opened the second door to let Eric through, holding onto his chair.
“Don’t fret,” I called to her. “Do your part, aid in this!”
I burst through the outer door, and displayed Eric with his new possession.
Dova grabbed onto one side with little question, and started to move.
“He’s dined and dashed, and brought some furniture with him, you should be proud.”
Dova nodded. I gave some instructions.
“Make your way to Keewatin, and then go down there, back to our apartment. There should be less people there, and there’s parking lots to cut through. Go now! I’ll catch up.”
“Blackballs?” Eric asked.
“I’ll bring them when I come.”
“What are you waiting for?” he had too many questions for a boy with a stolen chair in full view.
“The girl on the chair, she’s a friend of mine.”
I waved them off, confident that Dova would fill him in.
The scene inside the restaurant was even more exciting than I’d ever dreamed. Most of the focus was now on the couple upstairs. I recognized the man from somewhere. I heard Marla clearly through the glass, help me place the face.
“There he is! The male spy!”
I jumped up and down outside. “Holy shit!” I screamed.
The place was becoming a mess inside. The male spy and the woman he was with were yelling at each other, they were yelling at the female spy and Marla seemed to get a little piece torn out of her from all angles.
I could see Marla was perplexed, but things were staring to piece together for me. I’d always wondered the real reason Marla’s targets acted so secretive when we saw them. I can’t blame Mar for thinking there was something fishy about them, her only fault was thinking there were only hiding from her. The woman letting the male spy have it was the missing puzzle piece for me. Her name must also be Marla, which would explain why I once heard them saying something about Marla never knowing.
Well, Marla did know, and my Marla was slowly catching on. Unfortunately, her escape was almost impossible, seeing as she was in the middle of the whole ordeal.
I danced around outside, trying to think of a distraction, but coming up blank. I kept dancing around, hoping that might turn some heads away. I stopped, though, once more getting caught up in the real soap opera happening behind a frosted screen. I watched big Marla throw some wine in male spy’s face and try to push him over the edge. Even though it was a half-hearted effort, it was still exhilarating.
“Oh, man. Dig her!” I yelled. Then I realized, maybe Dova was right. I do belong in a Kerouac story, of some sort.
I wondered how she and Eric were doing, and thought it was about time to catch up to them. I was almost ready to find a saw to cut down the tree in a planter not far from where I was, and shove it through the glass to get Mar out, when I noticed the very stressed female spy pull some gum out of her mouth, and shove it onto the lantern beside her. It joined the globule I’d already noticed there. It was the same type of gum. Now, it wasn’t a huge crime, but it might turn heads for the split second I desperately needed.
I ran right up to the glass.
“The gum, Mar!” I yelled. “The gum!” I waved around like a fool and pointed to the lantern.
Mar grinned at me, and spoke up one last time.
“Oh, you wicked woman. Not that I approve of you either, up there, but she just put her gum on one of the lanterns. Detention!”
As eyes flickered for that one moment. Marla jumped off her seat, crawled under a few tables, and the next thing I knew, she was out the door, and by my side once more. She looked a little short of positive.
“No matter what the reason, you still exposed them,” I told her.
The corners of her mouth started to turn up, then she discovered she’d left her buns behind. I handed her some gummy candies.
“I’d give you blackballs, but I promised the to Eric,” I apologized.
I knew that was coming, I should have answered her before she asked. “A friend. You’ll be meeting him very shortly.”
We ran, and met up with Dov and Eric just around the corner of Yonge and Keewatin.
“It’s heavier than I thought,” Eric confessed. “Give me blackballs.”
I tossed a few of the candies in his mouth, and Mar and I each grabbed a corner of the chair. Poor Mar wasn’t quite sure what was happening at this point, but her interest was slightly tweaked.
“Happy?” Dova asked her.
She started to frown again. “Disenchanted.”
Dova smiled. “Welcome to the club.”
It was my turn to smile. Dova and Marla, a match made in heaven. We moved in silence until we crossed the street and entered the first parking lot in our journey. Then Eric thought of something.
“How am I going to explain this to my parents?”
Dova pondered, then answered, “I don’t know. Hold that thought. I’m more concerned as to how we’re going to explain this in the elevator.”
Even though there were some small worries floating in the air, everyone was satisfied.
I looked at Dova, who finally felt a part of some statement, and Marla, who’d successfully discovered a hidden secret, and Eric who gazed lovingly at his new artifact and accomplishment. They were all pretty impressed with themselves, but I’m pretty sure it was really me who got away with murder that night.