Gregory weighed the oranges and typed some numbers into the register.  He was wearing a plastic name tag that said "Gregory".  Andrew nodded and gave him some money.  Nathan stood behind Andrew looking at Gregory.  Gregory put the money into the till and counted out the change.  He scooped each coin out with a flourish, throwing it from his right hand into his left.  He gave the change to Andrew.
  "Thank you," said Andrew
  "Thanks much" said Gregory.
  Gregory reached over to the printer and tore off the receipt.  It was the end of the roll.  Andrew looked at it and saw that it had pink stripes on it which ran the entire length of the paper.  He took it from Gregory's hand.
  "Thanks much" said Gregory.
  Andrew stood for a few minutes at the exit watching Gregory put a new roll of paper into the printer.  Then he watched him helping Nathan.  He watched him sweeping Nathan's items across the glass scanner and putting them into a bag.  He was rocking back and forth very gently as he worked, almost in time with the rhythm of the scanner's beep.
  Nathan finished paying and joined Andrew by the exit.  They left the store.  Andrew was looking closely at the receipt with the pink stripes.  At the very bottom of the receipt there were 2 rows of asterisks and between the 2 rows of asterisks a large amount of information printed in very small type, including some information about monthly chances to win $2000 and where to redeem store points.  It also showed the date and time and there was one line that said "Cashier Name: Greg".  Andrew folded the receipt carefully and put it into his wallet and put his wallet into his pocket.

Andrew was awakened in the middle of the night by the sound of a cat meowing in the apartment above his.  He sat up in bed, in the dark, listening to the cat.  He looked at the alarm clock and saw that it was 3:42 am.  The cat meowed.  Andrew reached down beside his bed and picked up his laptop computer.  He opened it and checked his email.  The light from the screen illuminated the corner of his room.  He looked and saw that there were no unread emails.  He closed it again.  He got up and walked through the dark apartment to the bathroom.  He urinated.  He went back and sat on the bed, crosslegged, with his eyes closed.  The cat was still meowing.  He sat that way for a long time listening to the cat meowing. 

In the breakroom, Andrew stood watching Nathan make coffee.  He was measuring coffee from a large tin using a soup spoon.  Some well dressed women came in to put things in the refrigerator or take things out of the refrigerator.  Andrew moved over to give them room.  He didn't speak to them.
  "I wonder where Gregory gets his hair cut," said Andrew.
  "He is so well groomed," said Nathan.
  "I saw that he cut himself shaving the other day," said Andrew
  Nathan poured water into the coffee maker.  A well dressed woman came in, looked at the coffee maker, then turned and left without saying anything.
  "I noticed that he had a very small cut on his upper lip which I assume was from shaving," said Andrew. 

Andrew chose 2 oranges and went to wait in line.  The person who was 2 places ahead of him in line paid Gregory with cash.  While Gregory was counting out the change and throwing it from his right hand into his left he dropped a penny.  He blushed and kept his head down.  He recovered the penny and gave the change to the person without looking at them.
  "Thanks much," said Gregory.
  The next person paid with a debit card.  While they were waiting for the transaction to be approved, Gregory cleaned his counter and barcode scanner with a bottle of Windex and a red cloth. He took great care in his cleaning.  After he had finished cleaning, there was still a period of waiting for transaction approval.  He put the bottle of Windex and red cloth back in their place beneath the cash register.  When the transaction was approved, Andrew stepped forward.
  "Hello," said Andrew
  Another cashier came up behind Gregory.
  "Greg, it's break time," said the cashier.
  Andrew watched as Gregory signed out with his security code and walked away.  The new cashier signed in with her security code.  Andrew paid her for the oranges.  On his way out he looked at the receipt and saw that her name was Naomi.

At home, Andrew sat crosslegged on his bed with his headphones on, eating noodles.  His laptop computer was beside him on the bed.  He was looking at it.  There was only one lamp on in the apartment, it was on the floor beside his bed.  There was no furniture in the apartment except for the bed that he was sitting on and 1 chair which was near the stove.  He ate the noodles and closed his eyes.  He nodded his head rhythmically.  He wrote an email to Nathan in which he stated, among other things, that 1 of the only 2 times he had cried in the last 3 years was when he was thinking about his cat and the other time was when he was thinking about Gregory. 

Andrew walked to work in the rain.  He dripped water on the floor of the vestibule.  He went up in the freight elevator with a well dressed young woman who got off at a different floor.  He leaned back against the fire-retardant padding on the elevator wall and left a damp print of his body.  
  In the kitchen he saw Nathan washing out his coffee cup. 
  Andrew said "I think I would die for Gregory"
  Nathan looked at Andrew.
  "Like if I saw him in the street and someone was pointing a gun at him and they shot the gun, I would jump in front of him and take the bullet and it would kill me," said Andrew.
  "You should tell Gregory that," said Nathan.
  "Or if I saw him in the street and there was a vehicle speeding towards him, I would run over and push him out of the way and let the vehicle hit me instead."
  "Would you intend to get hit by the vehicle?"
  "I just know I would do it."
  "Would you save yourself if you could?"
  "No."     4/8/2012


Anthony went to the open cooler and picked up a small pink styrofoam tray covered in plastic wrap.  It held 4 goi cuon and 1 miniature plastic container of nuoc cham.   Holding the tray in one hand he walked the length of the cooler looking at the other things wrapped up in styrofoam trays and stacked on the shelves.  He bumped into someone beside him.  A woman behind the counter was taking buns off the top of a pile and filling them with things and wrapping them in paper.  A young man wearing a tank top was standing at another counter behind a cash register.
  Anthony went and stood at the counter watching the woman make the banh mi.  Someone bumped into him.  He turned and saw a man with a moustache and a dirty T shirt.  He was looking at at Anthony and swaying back and forth.  His eyes were half closed.  The people behind the counter were watching him closely.  Anthony saw them watching the man.  They did not see that Anthony saw them.  
 "Hey," said the man with the moustache.
  Anthony looked at him and smiled.
  "Hey you got any money?"
  "Hey," said the woman at the sandwich counter.
  Anthony did not look at her.
  "How's it going." said Anthony.
  "How are you?  You got any money today?"
  "Let's see if I got anything," said Anthony.
  The young man behind the counter said "Hey, Stephen."
  Anthony took some money out of his pocket and looked at it.  He found a $2 coin and handed it to the man.
  The woman at the sandwich counter said "Stephen, what did we tell you?"
  The man with the moustache took the $2 coin from Anthony and held it tightly in his hand.  He swayed slightly and closed his eyes.  He was grinning.  He opened his eyes and looked at Anthony.  Anthony was looking at the pile of buns on the counter next to the window.
  The young man behind the counter looked at Anthony.  "I'm sorry about this sir."
  "God bless you." said the man with the moustache.
  Anthony nodded at him.
  "God bless white people," said the man with the moustache.
  Anthony smiled and moved toward the cash register, still holding his styrofoam tray with the goi cuon and nuoc cham.
  "Are you white?" said the man with the moustache.
  "No," said Anthony.

Erin walked through the produce section of the Loblaw's.  She was looking around at the different kinds of fruits and vegetables.   She looked in the open coolers where the green vegetables were kept.  She picked up a little plastic container filled with fresh thyme.  She put it back down.  She picked up a bundle of kale and put it back down.  She went to a table that was piled with cantaloupe melons.  She put her hands out and touched the cantaloupe melons.  She ran her fingers over them slowly, feeling the rough skin.  She looked around to see if anyone was watching.  She saw a woman in a Loblaw's uniform standing behind the deli counter.  She was looking at her.  She picked up a cantaloupe melon and held it in both hands, looking at the woman.  She looked away.  She lifted it to her face and smelled it.  She put it down and picked up another one.  She smelled it.  Then she held it with both hands, arms hanging straight down in front of her.  She walked around the baked goods section and looked for a long time at the baked goods, still holding the cantaloupe melon in both hands.  She moved her shoulders like someone who had a headache would do.  She walked along the deli counter towards the Natural Food section, which was near the side door.  She was sweating.  She held the cantaloupe melon with one hand now and with the other hand she rubbed the back of her neck.  While she was doing this she looked at a shelf of Almond Dream brand almond milk.  It was on sale.  She turned and ran out the door.  She shifted the cantaloupe melon into the crook of one arm and ran as fast as she could down the sidewalk.  She looked back.  There was no-one at the door behind  her.  She kept running.  She looked at the windows of the Loblaw's beside her and saw her own reflection in the mirrored glass.  She saw her arms and legs flashing against the dark street.  She ran to the end of the block.  She ran across the intersection against the lights, moving in and out of the slow-moving cars and trucks.  Someone honked at her.  She ran into a park and into a dark soccer field.  She kept running.  She heard people talking nearby in the darkness and farther ahead of her there was the sound of a dog barking.  There was a line of lights across the horizon at the far side of the park.  She was breathing heavily and sweating.  She shifted the cantaloupe melon into the crook of her other arm.  She ran to the edge of the park and vaulted lightly over a low traffic barrier onto a laneway between two garages.  She ran down the laneway.

It was hot out.  The sun was just above the roof of the brown brick housing project.  Anthony and Erin were walking on a path through the lot between two housing projects.  Behind them was a garden allotment with a plastic snowfence around it.  The path led out to the street.  Anthony was looking at his hands which were covered in dirt and there was dirt under his fingernails.  Erin was holding a plastic yoghurt container with holes punched in the bottom.  It was filled with dirt and there was a plant in it.  She was looking at it closely as they walked, touching some of the leaves with her fingers and then smelling her fingers.  Anthony looked at her.  He brushed his hands off on his shorts.  They passed some kids on the playground.  At the street, they turned left and walked past one of the housing project buildings.  They walked over some words that someone had written on the concrete in pink spraypaint.  On the other side of the building there was an abandoned school with metal grates on the first floor windows.  There was a woman standing on the steps of the school.  She was leaning against the railing.  She wore an extra large T shirt and had orange hair and small eyes and her face had a lot of pimples on it.   The skin around her eyes was red as though she had recently been crying.  She was sniffing.  As Anthony and Erin were approaching she straightened up and walked out to the sidewalk.   They were about to walk past her when she stepped out in front of them.  They stopped walking and looked at her.
 “Got a cigarette?” said the woman.
 “Sorry,” said Erin.
 “We don’t smoke,” said Anthony.
 The woman didn’t move.  She stood directly in front of them.
 "Give me your shit," said the woman.
 Neither Anthony nor Erin said anything.  They moved as if to step off the sidewalk and go around the woman.
 “You heard me,” she said.
 "What shit, we don't have any shit."
 "Ha ha you're a funny guy hey," said the woman.
 Erin looked at Anthony.
 "We don't have any money," said Erin.
 "Give me all your money," said the woman.
 "Or what," said Anthony.
 "Listen."  Erin held the plant in one hand and reached into her hip pocket with the other.
 "'Or what'.  You want to find out?" said the woman.
 "Listen.  We really don't have any money," said Erin.
 "We're fuckin broke," said Anthony.
 The woman was shifting her weight back and forth from foot to foot.  She looked around the empty street and ran her hands repeatedly through her orange hair.  Then she was looking at the plant in Erin's hand.  "What's that?"
 “Nothing,” said Anthony.
 "Here just take it."  Erin held it out to the woman.
 "Oh come on," said Anthony.
 “That’s right,” said the woman.
  The woman took the plant from Erin's hand.  She lifted it to her face and smelled it.  She turned and ran away from them, still holding the plant.  She ran along the sidewalk and around the corner of the fenced-in school yard.

It was late at night.  Erin was wearing her nightgown and Anthony was sitting on the edge of the bed with his shirt and shorts off.  His sweat had dried and made his hair look funny.  He was sitting with his head in his hands. Beside him on the bed there was a raw pork chop wrapped in plastic on a styrofoam tray, 14 packages of Excel chewing gum, a box of frozen burritos, 6 bagels and a clear plastic muffin container of chocolate chip muffins.  The container was open and one of the muffins was half eaten.  He was holding an empty beercan between his bare thighs.  He smelled strongly of beer.  Erin was standing next to him with her hand on his shoulder.  Anthony was
crying.  He cried for a long time.  Erin yawned.  She moved the container of muffins over  and sat next to him, rubbing his back with the palm of her hand and whispering to him.
 “Here finish your muffin,” said Erin.
 “It tastes like cake,” said Anthony.
 Still Anthony could not stop crying.  He was having a hard time catching his breath.  Erin got up and went into another room.  She came back a few minutes later holding a bundle of light green plants.  They were wound tightly into a short rope-like bundle, tied with string.  She went to a drawer in her bureau and took out a Bic lighter.  Standing in front of Anthony, she lit the bundle of plants on fire with the Bic lighter.  It flamed briefly and began to smolder.   It made a sweet smell.  The smoke rose, curling.
 “Go like this,” said Erin.
 Anthony was still sitting with his face in his hands.  He didn’t look up.
 “Go like this,” said Erin.
 Anthony looked at her and saw that she was bowing her head and using her hand to waft the smoked over her head.   She held the bundle of plants out so it was in front of his face.  He did the wafting motion with his hand.  Erin moved the bundle of smoldering plants up and down, side to side, forward and back.  Her eyes were closed.  Anthony wafted more smoke over his bowed head.  After a while he grew calmer.     3/6/2012


Minah and Gregory were walking on a busy street. It was night time.  They were approaching an intersection.  Minah started to say something then she stopped.  There was a kid up ahead of them on the sidewalk.  They walked closer and saw that he was holding a gun.  He held the gun up, pointing it at Gregory's face.  Gregory looked at the gun and looked at the kid.  He stopped walking.  Minah stopped walking and looked at the kid holding the gun.
 "Give me all your shit," said the kid.
 Gregory looked at the gun and then looked at Minah.  Minah was looking at the gun.  Gregory didn't move.
 "I ain't got all day," said the kid.
 Gregory reached into his pocket and took out his wallet.  He opened it and took out a 20 dollar bill and handed it to the kid.
 "Give me the whole wallet," said the kid.
 "This is all I have," said Gregory.
 Minah opened her wallet and took out 110 dollars plus 10 cents worth of Canadian Tire money all folded tightly into a small rectangle.  She handed it to the kid.  He took their money with one hand, keeping the gun pointed at Gregory with the other hand.  He turned and walked away slowly.  They watched him walk away down the street, going in and out of the shadows and bright spots made by the streetlights.  They didn’t say anything for a little while.  They looked around to see if anyone else had seen.  They went to the corner and saw several people walking alone or in small groups but none of them were looking in their direction.

Gregory and Minah stood on the sidewalk in front of a building.  Nick was standing with them.  Nick’s car was parked nearby with all the lights on.  Gregory was not wearing shoes.  He stood with his socked
feet directly on the concrete.
 “Are you sure you don’t want to do this inside?” said Nick.
 “We’re fine out here.” said Minah.
 Nick looked at Gregory’s feet.  “Do you want to run in and get some shoes?”
 Gregory shook his head.
 Nick said  "Well.  OK, so what happened.  Start at the beginning and be as specific as you can."
 Gregory said, "Well we were walking home."
 "Where?" said Nick.
 "Right there, going that way."  Minah pointed at the corner.
 Nick wrote something down in his notebook.  Some sounds came from the walkie talkie strapped to his shoulder.  He leaned his ear in close to listen to the sounds, then turned the volume down.
 "And what happened," said Nick.
 "Well a kid walked up to us and he had a gun," said Minah.
 "Can you describe the youth please.  What did he look like etcetera," said Nick.
 "He was black," said Gregory.
 Nick said something into his walkie talkie, turning away from them slightly.  He wrote something down in his notebook.
 “What are you writing?” said Minah.
 "And what was the youth wearing," said Nick.
 "I don't remember.  A hooded sweatshirt maybe," said Gregory.
 "How old was he approximately."
 "He was like 12 years old," said Minah.
 Nick looked up.
 "No, older I think.  Like maybe 16," said Gregory.
 "He was really young.  He was just a kid," said Minah.
 Nick wrote some things in the notebook.
 Gregory said “Hey you know the Chinese restaurant across the street there.  Do you think they have a security camera or something?”
 Nick looked up.  He paused. “Mm, probably not.  And even if he did he wouldn’t give us the tape.”
 “Oh.  Yeah.”
 Nick spoke again into his walkie talkie and wrote something down.
Gregory and Minah waited.
 "Did you believe the firearm was real," said Nick.
 "Yes I did," said Gregory.
 Minah nodded.  “Yes definitely.”
 "I mean, I've never seen one before but it looked real to to me," said Gregory.
 “I mean, we gave him our shit didn’t we?” said Minah.
 Nick turned slightly so they could see the butt of the gun
protruding from the holster on his belt.  He touched it with his fingers.  "Now if you just look at this.  Did it look like this?"
 "No, not really," said Minah.
 Gregory said "No, it was bigger.  I don't really remember.  I think there are lots of different kinds of guns though.  I don’t know what they’re called though."
 “Was it a glock?”
 “I’m not sure.  But probably it was, yeah.”
 "But it was definitely real?" said Nick.
 "Oh my goodness," said Minah.
 Gregory nodded.
 Nick nodded, lips pressed tightly together, and wrote something down.
 He asked them some more questions and wrote the answers down in his notebook.  He paused at intervals to say things into his walkie talkie.  When he had finished writing his notes he asked them if they would like to submit a formal written statement.  They looked at each other.  Minah nodded yes.  Gregory shrugged and and then nodded yes.
 Nick took several sheets of paper out of a clipboard and handed them to Gregory and Minah.  "So what I'm going to get to you to do now is I’m going to get you to just write down everything you just told me.  Please be as detailed as possible.  And then what I’m going to do is I’m going to check over what you wrote and maybe ask you a few more questions and add some things and then I’m just going to get you to sign your names on the bottom here.  Does that sound OK?  Do you have a pen?  I’m going to be sitting right over here in the car if you need me for anything."
 Gregory took two sheets of paper and a pen and walked over to a newspaper box.  He put the paper down on top of the newspaper box and began writing.
 He wrote: "When I had the gun pointed at my head I experienced a sensation of something very hard and bright like a diamond going into my head and exploding in the middle of my brain.  In addition to this I experienced a feeling of numbness in my extremities.  I wasn’t scared.”
 He stopped writing and looked over at Minah.  She was sitting on the front step of the building holding Nick’s clipboard.  Her head was bent over the paper and she was writing very quickly.  He went over to see how much she had written.
 “Are you hungry?  I’m hungry,” he said.
 She didn’t look up.  She was writing.  Gregory went back to the newspaper box and put the papers back down.  He tapped his pen on the metal surface of the box and looked down the street at the parked cars
under the streetlights and the storefronts and telephone poles.  There were some people walking in a group on the other side of the street and two men with moustaches coming out of a bar and lighting cigarettes.  One stood in the entranceway of the bar and the other one went and stood on the sidewalk, spreading his feet wide apart and putting his hands in his pockets.  He was holding the cigarette with his lips, thrusting his chin out and saying something.  The other man laughed and put his hand near his groin.  Gregory looked back down at the piece of paper in front of him.
 He wrote:  “He was black.”
 He stared straight ahead for a few minutes.
 He wrote:  “We were walking south.  It was 11.30pm.”
 He tapped his pen against forehead and stared straight ahead.  He closed his eyes.
 He wrote:  “Medium height/weight, medium build.”     12/22/2011


Gary was eating a muffin.  He went and stood at the garbage can near the entrance to the restrooms.  It smelled like urine there.  He was watching Teebe behind the counter and eating the muffin slowly.  He lifted it to his lips with one hand, while the other hand stayed in the pocket of his beige parka.  He took small bites, not taking his eyes from Teebe.  The muffin crumbs were falling down the neck of his parka and some crumbs were falling onto the floor.  People stepped around him to get to the restrooms.  Teebe looked over at him twice.  Both times they made brief eye contact.  Gary finished his muffin.     
  “Excuse me,” said a man.
  "Yes," said Gary.
  He stepped aside to let the man pass.  He crumpled his muffin paper, paper bag and wax paper and pushed them through the swinging door of the garbage can behind him.  He walked back over to the counter and went to the front of the line. 
 “Excuse me,” he said.
 Teebe looked up slowly.    
 “Yes,” she said.
 “I just wanted to let you know that it smells like urine over there.”
 Some people in the line looked at him.  Teebe did not respond.
 “I just thought you would want to know.  It smells like someone took a piss there.”
 “That’s where the washrooms are,” said Teebe.
 Someone in the line laughed.  Gary was quiet.
 “I know that,” said Gary.  
 Teebe went back to  her work while Gary continued to stand before the counter, hands in his pockets.  He was blushing.  He looked at the other people in line.  They were not looking at him anymore.  He made a low noise in the back of his throat.  No one looked at him.  After a few minutes he walked towards the door.  He opened it and went into the glass vestibule.  The door closed behind him.  It was warm and windy there. He turned and looked back through the glass in the direction of the counter and line of people.  Teebe saw him.  He raised his hands and said something, but no-one could hear what it was.

One night, on his way home, Gary took a detour through the parkinglot of the plaza where the Coffee Time was.  He was holding an LCBO bag containing a plastic bottle of Alberta Pure.  It was almost dark.  A smell of cinnamon mingling with cigarette smoke and citrus floor cleaner came out of the rotating ventilator on the roof of the Coffee Time.  Gary stopped walking and sniffed the air.  He stood between two parked cars looking at the large windows of the Coffee Time.  There were people sitting inside at tables under the bright lights.  
  He saw Teebe open the inner door of the Coffee Time and enter the glass vestibule.  She was wearing winter boots and men's Coffee Time uniform trousers under a robe of fine silk-like fabric, the hem of which hung below her overcoat and wafted on the air behind her.  She pushed open the outer door of the Coffee Time vestibule.  She stepped out on to the sidewalk.  Gary saw that she was wearing a backpack and carrying a stack of library books under her arm.  Garystepped forward from between the parked cars.  He waved at her.  She did not appear to see him.  Teebe turned and passed swiftly in front of the bright window of the Coffee Time, silhouetted for a moment there.  Gary watched her.   
  He followed her out of the parkinglot of the plaza onto the sidewalk.  She walked down the sidewalk toward some brown highrise apartment buildings and Gary followed her.  She walked alongside the hydrofield and at an opening in the fence she turned in and walked along a gravel bikepath that went through the hydrofield, underneath the towers.  Gary walked after her.  They walked toward some grey buildings that were grouped together on the top of a slight rise to the right of the hydrofield, across the grass.  Gary slowed.  Teebe got farther away.  At the edge of the path where Teebe turned off to walk through the grass, Gary stood still and watched her go.  He watched her get smaller as she got farther away.  She disappeared between two buildings.  

Gary received the cup of black coffee from Teebe's hand.  He received it without saying anything.  Teebe didn't say anything.  She put his money into the till.  He walked to the back of the Coffee Time holding the cup carefully with his fingers on the ridged edge of the cup’s underside and his thumb on the rim of the plastic lid.  He looked around the Coffee Time at the faces of the other patrons.  Some were seated at tables, some were standing in groups talking and drinking coffee.  He went and stood by the garbage can with the swinging door on in it.  On top of the garbage can there was a copy of that day’s edition of the Toronto Sun.  
  He put his cup down next to the newspaper.  He bowed his head, as though in contemplation of the picture on the cover of the Toronto Sun, but his eyes were looking to the side, to where some people were sitting at a window table, drinking coffee and watching television.  He took a small plastic bottle of Alberta Pure out of the pocket of his parka.  He uncapped it and drank. 
  On the wall above the garbage can was a framed picture of a pond with swans and lilies.  In the reflection from the glass he could see Teebe at the far end of the Coffee Time mopping the floor under the tables.  He stood for a long time facing the framed picture and drinking Alberta Pure.  He went into the bathroom and locked the door.  He vomited into the toilet.  He vomited again on the wall beside the toilet and then sat on the floor.  He lay down on his back. 
  A while later he heard voices outside the door.  He heard a man's voice.  He heard Teebe's voice but it was too quiet for him to understand what she was saying.  Someone knocked on the door with what sounded like their knuckles.  Gary rolled onto his side.  He heard the jingle of keys on a keyring.  He heard what sounded like someone searching for a key among many keys on a large keyring.  There were murmuring voices.  He heard what sounded like someone striking the door with the side of their fist and calling out.  At first there was the sound of only one fist, then a pair of fists striking the metal door. 
  "Sir, the police are coming," said Teebe.
  Gary got up and stood. 
  "Sir, are you still there?"
  "Why?" said Gary.
  There was no answer.  He took the empty Alberta Pure bottle out of the pocket of his parka.  He threw it and it glanced loudly off the wall and skittered along the tile floor.   He looked at his fingernails.  He went to the sink and ran some water from the faucet, splashing some on his face and the back of his neck. He stood with his hands clasped behind his back, leaning against the wall, face toward the ceiling, eyes closed.     9/30/2011  


Donny took a can from the fridge and gave it to Alexander.  Alexander opened it and took a drink, then he took another drink and held the can in his hand, looking at it.  Donny closed the fridge door and took his own can from where he had put it on the counter.  He shook it and listened for a noise.  He looked at Alexander and smiled.  Alexander took several more drinks from his can.  He took a a few short ones and then a very long one.  He shook his can to show that it was empty.  Donny laughed through his nose and patted him on the shoulder.  He took another one from the fridge and gave it to him.
 "Here," said Donny.
 "Thank you."  Alexander held it in his hand without opening it.  He looked around the room.  He saw Julia.  Julia held up her can and smiled at him.  He opened his can and smelled it.
 He said, "Ah, there we go."
 He looked and saw Kay sitting on the couch with Stavros.  Stavros had a laptop resting on his lap.  He was typing something.  Kay was leaning over to see what he was typing.
 "Are you going out?" said Julia.
 Alexander looked at her, then at Donny.  Donny was putting a cigarette into his mouth and nodding at Julia.
 Donny said, "Going to smoke."
 He looked at Alexander.
 "Want to come for some fresh air?" said Donny.
 Alexander followed them over to the door.  He stood to one side while Julia and Donny went out and down the steps, barefoot.  He put his shoes on.  He looked back at Kay sitting on the couch against the wall, under the fluorescent lights, with Stavros.  The coffee table was full of empty  cans.  Kay looked up.  Alexander made a gesture with two fingers against his lips, then pointed out the open door beside him and nodded.  Kay nodded.  He looked back down at the screen of the laptop.  Stavros was looking at something on the screen and laughing.
 Alexander stood on the sidewalk at the bottom of the steps.  He looked at the empty street and the intersection with the lights hanging over it.  It was hot out.  He took a drink from his can.  A person on a bike rode past.  Julia stood, smoking, one arm across her torso and wedged under the elbow of her other arm.  She took a long breath from the cigarette and blew it out.  Donny was sitting on the top step leaning back against the closed the door.  He was looking at something on his cell phone.
 Julia said, "You alright?"
 Alexander said "M-hm"
 He took another drink from  his can.  Julia coughed.   
 Donny looked up.  He looked at Julia and then at Alexander.  He looked tired.  When he looked at Alexander he changed the expression on his face to look cheerful.  
 He said, "Alexander.  What's up."
 Alexander shrugged.  "Nothing.  What do you mean?"
 Some time passed during which Alexander, Julia and Donny sat or stood around the front of the house, on the sidewalk or on the steps, or walked out briefly onto the asphalt of the empty street to look up or down it to see if anyone or anything was coming.  They were talking about things they had seen that day.  Julia smoked four cigarettes.  Donny smoked one and finished his can and threw the empty can on the strip of grass between the sidewalk and the chainlink fence separating the sideyard from the street.  Julia frowned at him. Alexander laughed.  Alexander looked at his wrist.  There was nothing on it.  He put his hand in his pocket and took out his watch, looking at it.  He put it back onto his wrist and buckled it up.  
 Donny said, "Alexander, where's your drink?"
 Alexander said, "I don't know."   
 He looked around.  "Where did it go?"
 "Let's get you another," said Donny.
 Donny went up the steps and Alexander followed him.  Julia followed Alexander.  They went through the door and into the living room.  Donny went straight to the fridge and opened it.  He took out a can  and opened it, holding it toward Alexander.  Alexander was standing at the door looking at Kay and Stavros on the couch.  They were sitting very close to each other.  They were leaning in to look at something on the screen.  The light from the screen was glowing on their faces.  They were singing a song.  Alexander walked over and took the can from Donny.  He held it in his hand without drinking it.  Kay looked up at him and smiled.
 "Do you feel like going home soon?" said Alexander.
 "Mm.  I don't know," said Kay.
 "OK, well, what do you want?"
 "Let's stay for a while."
 Alexander put the can down on the table.  Julia and Donny looked at him.  He walked over to the door and opened it.  He smiled at Julia and Donny.
 "OK I think I'm going to go home now," Alexander said.
 "Are you OK?" said Donny.
 Alexander went down the steps and around the fence enclosing the sideyard.  Donny stood at the door and watched him.
 "Alexander take it easy OK?" said Donny.
 He looked back and smiled. He waved.  Donny waved back.  Alexander walked up the street, then turned again to look back at the house.  Donny was still standing in the door watching him.  He kept walking.  As soon as he was out of sight he began running.  He ran up the street.  He was breathing heavily and sweating.  He passed some houses with lights on in the windows, then several that were dark.  Some of the houses looked brand new.  Then he passed some houses that were very old looking and covered with fake brick material and had yards that were full of garbage and old bicycles.  He came to a railroad crossing.  He ran over and stopped at the edge of the tracks, standing on the gravel there.  The tracks disappeared into darkness.  He had his hands on his hips and his breast was heaving.  He vomited into the bushes behind the cinderblock building.  He stood up, wiping his mouth with the back of his hand.  He was breathing hard and his face was shiny with sweat.  He vomited again, getting some on the toe of his shoe and on his shorts.
 He walked the rest of the way home, very slowly.  His feet and legs were aching.  It took a long time for his breathing to slow to a normal speed.  He walked up the hill towards the apartment building.  In the entranceway to the apartment he took off his shoes and socks and closed the door behind him.  He greeted the cat.  He walked barefoot into the bedroom and sat down.  He wiped his face with the front of his T shirt.  He took off the T shirt and threw it onto the floor.  He went into the bathroom and took a plastic cup off the counter and filled it with water from the tap.  He drank a little of it.  He looked at himself in the medicine cabinet mirror.  He looked at his bare shoulders and bare breast, his bare arms, bare neck and bare face.  He turned slightly and looked at his bare back and the back of his bare neck.  He opened the medicine cabinet and took out Kay's hair cutting scissors.  He opened the hair cutting scissors so they formed a cross shape.  He held the cross shape in his right hand, gripping it with his fingers going between the open blades and curling around, one blade sticking out of each side of his fist.

It was cold.  Alexander was wearing long johns, a toque, a sweater, one sock and a sweatshirt with a hood and the hood was up with the drawstring pulled tight.  He was sitting on the edge of a mattress on the floor of a basement room.  He was holding his bare foot in his hands, knee out.  He was looking at the skin on the bottom and sides of his foot and between his toes.  The skin was hard and and dry.  Parts of it were cracked and the cracks were filled with something black.  He wrinkled his nose, concentrating.  He bent down and looked as closely at  his foot as he could.  He heard something on the TV and looked up, nose still wrinkled.  He looked at the TV.  He reached over and took a drink of something from a small green glass sitting on the linoleum beside the mattress.  He looked back at his foot.  He took a box cutter knife and started to very carefully cut the skin on the heel of his foot.  He moved the knife slowly, cutting exactly between the dead skin and the new skin underneath.  A piece of dead skin came off.  He put it on the floor beside the mattress.  He took another drink from the green glass.  He cut another piece of dead skin from the heel of his foot and put it on the floor.  He cut three more and then had another a drink.  Then he had another drink and cut two more.  Then he had another drink.  He was watching TV.
 He looked down and noticed that one of the cuts had gone slightly too deep.  It was bleeding a little bit.  He got up and stood on one foot.  Holding his bare foot a few centimetres above the floor he hopped on one foot toward the bathroom door.  While hopping through the door he almost fell over but was able to catch himself by leaning against the door frame.  He unrolled some toilet paper and wrapped it around his foot, covering the part that was bleeding.  He turned and limped back through the room.  He saw little round drops of blood on the linoleum.  He took a roll of masking tape out of one of the drawers under the counter at the end of the room where the sink and fridge were.  He wrapped masking tape around and around the toilet paper on his foot.  He walked back to the part of the room where the mattress was.  He was limping.  He sat down on the edge of the mattress and looked at the TV. 7/25/2011